I saw him a few other times. I carefully averted my eyes or tucked my chin to my breastbone. He knew I was there of course, but gave no sign. His narrow shoulders square in his brown cloak, his grin cutting the light from traffic signs, from reflected glass, from the glow of smartphones. After my narrow escape at the pizza parlor, I figured we were done with each other. He leveled a small shoe-store with his might, Chuck Taylors screaming in agony – I was in no hurry to repeat that encounter.
But still. You can’t just ignore your creation, villain or no. So yesterday when he swaggered into Popeye’s and took the booth catty-corner to mine I wasn’t truly surprised.
I finished my mashed potatoes and gravy before I acknowledged him. I would need the energy if it came to battle and it gave me a moment to collect myself. Plus I really like mashed potatoes and gravy.
“What?” I laid my plastic fork on the table.
“Why does their have to be a what? Maybe I’m just here to dine,” the villain scratched his stubbled cheek.
“Bullshit, what do you want?”
The villain hissed through his teeth, sucking in air. He seemed uncomfortable, pressing his abdomen against the garish plastic table. Waves of malice began to radiate, and his grin forced itself wider.
I did my best to remain calm. I looked him in his no-color eyes. “What do you want, Izus Torossian?”
“What do I want, what do I want? Oh nothing, nothing.” he crooned. “Or at least nothing I’ll admit to, nothing you’ll ever really give me. But I have come to bend knee, like the Daemon following the good doctor on that ship in the ice. Isn’t that what you wanted?”
“I…” A pang of sympathy and fear. “You…you want a new story, don’t you?”
The villain sprang to his feet, scattering napkins and packets of salt. His brown cloak coiled around him like a hungry thing. His grin was so bright and fierce it split the world in two. He did not respond, but the empty hunger in his eyes was answer enough.
“Uh..okay. I guess I can do that. A short story, a long story, a song? Cowboys, ninjas, corporate America? Where can I send you, Browncloak? What world can I lend you that you won’t break?” My forehead throbbed, but suddenly I knew. I heard the melody.
Izus leaned forward, the villain and fast food. We are close, he and I, he could see the road unspooling in my head. His curly hair crackled with eagerness.
“Okay, hear me out. You’re going to have to change a bit, of course. No magic where you’re going — and can you drive? How do you feel about vans…or station wagons? And I don’t think the cloak can come–”
“Cloak has to come,” the villain grunted.
“Okay, okay…we’ll work on that part. But, that’s not the really hard part.” I folded my hands with unease. “Izus, I think this time you may have to be the Hero.”
“Oh man,” he chuckled. “This is a terrible plan.”