We met again, weeks later. Pizza this time, the shadows and red neon of the joint seemed appropriate. He was there first this time, leaning over the counter in whispered conversation with the bearded cook. I don’t know what they were talking about, but the cook clutched his pizza spade as if it was the mast of a sinking ship. The villain spun to greet me, bright smile flashing. He flicked his brown cloak in an unnecessarily dramatic way and left the pizza guy to drown.
“Hey, I got us a pitcher and a pizza with Too Much Goddamn Meat on it. You’re buying.”
I sighed and dug out my wallet.
After paying I slid into the wooden booth. My lunch date had his eyes fixed on the large flatscreen TV on the archway behind me. I noticed that his eyes were no particular color. Was that because I couldn’t remember or because I’d never decided when I wrote him? I stole his hair from May’s Adversary and his nose from an old black and white movie, but his smile was all mine – some bright, shining shark-thing from my interior.
“So, what does it mean to be a Villain?” I asked.
“Shh,” he held his hand up. “Wait until after this play.”
“You don’t know anything about sports. I don’t know anything about sports, so it stands to reason that you don’t either.”
“Ahhhh,” he waggled his eyebrows, line of sight still locked to the TV. “but I can convey a knowledge of sport. Just like I can burn children and fly. You can’t do those things, but you make someone who can. Just the tiniest note on the piano – ‘Our Defense is looking strong’ – and suddenly the reader accepts me as an expert, a true fan. They imagine all the knowledge that you can’t give me and I have it. I’m just an echo chamber.I reflect more light then I emit — HOLY SHIT, THAT FUCKING REF. He had control of the ball! Damn it.”
“Are you done?” I took a sip of the watery yellow beer.
“Never, ever done. That’s what it means to be a Villain,” the brown-cloaked man grinned. “But that’s not what you came here to ask.”
“It is something I’ve been thinking about,” I said defensively. “I think I only write villains – Jonas and Rime included. Some hard-hearted thing, some hatred of everything that shines – I think it comes from younger days, feeling outcast and alone. The good people are the popular, pretty ones – so who wouldn’t be drawn to a life of evil in the halls of Middle School. Anyone who doesn’t understand the darkness in the human heart had a good puberty.”
“Oh, fucking shut up.” the villain leaned forward and took a fistful of my shirt. “Fine, you want to talk? Let’s talk.”
The brown cloak spun and he tossed me through the thick plate glass that separated the pizza joint from the sidewalk. I choked and stammered, my head full of empty vibration. The glass had cut up my left arm, but not too bad. My lunch date stepped through the shattered portal and leered at me. He snapped both fingers and his palms began to shimmer, then burn with a green fire tinged with vomit-yellow.
“Do you remember how to run?” the villain asked.