As you are no doubt aware I have a very high-powered, high pressured job where every decision I make can mean life and death. I also am sometimes called upon to save a damsel in distress when the printer malfunctions.
To alleviate this pressure my boss gives us a monthly task. For February 2014 we had to design our own superhero (based on ourselves) and provide a costume, power and nemesis for said hero. I, of course, took this too far and what follows is the short story I submitted along with my entry. I didn’t even win.
Rather than being a sore loser I have instead decided to share that story with you.
The Wrong Writer: Once Upon A Nemesis (an extract)
From his vantage point at the top of the Whispering Gallery he could make out the meeting perfectly. One hundred feet beneath him two figures in matching black jackets, their collars popped up against a wind that simply wasn’t there made pretend that their proximity was purely coincidental. He of course knew otherwise. If there was one thing he was sure of, it was that the briefcase being shifted along the floor with the innocent-looking twist of a foot did not contain office work or carpet samples. There were thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pounds in crisp, untraceable notes in there and he still didn’t know exactly what was being purchased. He was operating on a hunch.
His mind fleetingly headed back to the thought of his own in-tray, his own paperwork which would need completing. The issue with hosting dual personalities in a single body is that it was impossible to remain entirely inside one of the two heads. There were always pressing issues from the other side. As Paul Schiernecker, the mild mannered clerk he was often at the beck and call of his handsome, charming and suited boss. He was gifted when it came to the written word and harboured aspirations of one day writing a great novel.
As the Wrong Writer however he was the protector of whatever innocence he could find in the dinge and dirt of twenty-first century London town. Following the death of a friend he had decided to subscribe to the Mahatma Gandhi quote; “be the change you wish to see in the world”. From this realisation, this moment of clarity, he knew he had the right the wrongs he saw all around him. Sometimes these were superficial, like tripping up the middle-aged man in the poorly cut suit who had not held the train doors for the struggling mother with the pushchair. Sometimes they were much more involved, and much more dangerous. He was sure he would count this as the latter.
The Wrong Writer blinked focus back into his eyes and noted that the meeting was coming to an end. The two men had stood and were on their way out. The caped crusader adjusted the ivy green eye mask to rest correctly on the high points of his cheekbones and then took off, his cape fluttering behind him.
While the gallery had served as an excellent observation point, he realised he was two-hundred and seventy one steps away from being able to apprehend either of them, two-hundred and seventy one steps away from being able to stop the money from disappearing off into the seedy underbelly of his city.
By the time he reached the bottom of the spiral staircase the two men were gone, the only point of reference still held being the slamming of the door at the far end of the room behind the font. The Wrong Writer ran the length of the room showing little regard for his own safety and the possibility he was heading into a trap.
He pulled the door open and winced against the February night as a gale hounded in. It explained why the meeting men had kept their collars up to meet their sideburns. He took off at pace down the steps outside the cathedral, keeping his eyes out for any sight of a man walking away, probably at pace with a briefcase at his side.
Of course he was in central London, a place where if you aren’t a man walking away at pace with a briefcase at your side then you aren’t really considered to be much else. As he ran his head turned and his eyes scanned the various side roads and alleys down to the river or up into town. There were only a number of places they could have got to in such a short amount of time but the longer the chase continued the larger this number became and the smaller his chance of retribution. He hated the thought of dragging himself out of bed at six am having not been able to stop some kind of crime on the previous evening.
Something caught his eye. He stopped. Ahead of him, perhaps two-hundred feet away was the man with the suitcase. He knew it in his gut and he always trusted his gut.
The man turned and broke out into a run. Having not yet recovered from his quick descent from the tower the Wrong Writer breathed a rattling sigh and took off once more, the heels of his boots clipping against the wet pavement.
The chase led him through ducking alleyways, along the side of an industrial estate and eventually to a fire escape, his prey clanging heavily against the upper rungs as he attempted to make his escape easier via rooftops. The Wrong Writer continued up, slipping casually and unable to gain ground as he had when racing on the ground.
When he got to the final straight, the last angled stretch of ladder, he knew something was amiss. He was no longer chasing the heavy footsteps of someone on the run. There was silence in the evening air. The enemy was waiting.
On the top of an abandoned stationary factory Xander aimed the barrel of his Beretta at the tip of the building where he knew the masked man following him would soon appear. He had to fire. Shoot first and ask questions later. He gripped the briefcase tighter as his finger settled on the trigger, his arm shaking slightly under the cold and the wet. As soon as a head appeared from the side of the building he would shoot.
Before he was able to contemplate what was happening Xander was gripped around the throat by a coarse and wet cord. It pulled him up as though trying to disconnect him from his body. In the madness of his thoughts he dropped the gun but held tight to the briefcase, managing to bring it closer to his body as his legs coiled up and shook out, his lungs desperate for oxygen.
Realising there was no way he could risk putting his head over the precipice the Wrong Writer had made a dramatic leap for the building’s edge and had then shimmied around as far as he could before pulling himself up. When he did he saw Xander aiming the gun at the exact point he would have emerged from. The Wrong Writer took a length of typewriter ribbon from the utility belt he required; as there was no place for pockets on his lycra suit, and pulled it taut between his fingers. He approached silently and thrust the garrotte over Xander’s head, pulling him into an unusual and deadly embrace.
In the ensuing struggle the pair fell backwards against one of the roofs many triangular skylights. The impact made the glass splinter. The Wrong Writer pushed them both up again but Xander’s legs thrust hard against the gravel floor and they were thrown backwards into the glass once more. This time it gave way.
In what could have been his last moments his survival instinct kicked in and the Wrong Writer gripped the shattered frame of the window, watching below as Xander fell in what seemed like slow motion to the factory floor. The crash was sickening, that of twisting bone and expelled life forces.
Pulling himself up once more the vigilante ran from the scene, unaware of the series of events he had set into motion.
While the fall had been terrible it had not in fact killed Xander. He had landed on a display of correctional fluid pens, a number of which had pierced his skin causing the liquid to course into his blood stream and mix with his DNA, giving him the power to erase with a swipe of his hand. The ability to remove points of history or facts or even people. He had become the Wrong Writer’s greatest nemesis; Tip-X.