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Illumination is a perpetual work in progress, so please pardon our dust. The intent of the place is to provide space where I can lay down my thoughts and observations about the world around me and the things I do. That means it could be filled with nearly anything, from silly accounts of my gaming antics to thoughtful political discussion and anything in-between.

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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Heroes (on Hang On A Minute, I've Got An Idea...)

Sometimes writing for writing's sake is the best kind. It's pure catharsis, free from obligation or expectation. I need to do it more often, because sometimes it produces something memorable, something worthwhile... something with potential.

Whether or not these are any of that is up for some debate, but I quite like the way both of them came out. I might do a few more in this "series" and see if it bears out.

So without further ado, here are the first two of these odd little pieces. Enjoy.

High Flight

In flight, she glitters like a jewel. It’s something about her aura; makes her shine and shimmer and dance like a shooting star through the midnight sky. High above she comes to a pause, striking a pose in midair as she catches her breath, sequins studding her outfit still sparkling in the bright moonlight.

Sequins. She’s the only one of us I’ve ever seen wear them, the only one of us who wholly embraced the aesthetic pop culture stuck us with. Every movement, every breath sets off a new cascade of silver down her body. On anyone else doing what she does it would be childish, ridiculous. On her it’s breathtaking instead.

She’s in her favorite outfit tonight, a black leather one-piece that leaves one shoulder and both arms bare. Most of us dress down, wear what we will or what’s right for the job. She’s in stiletto heels and a gala mask that matches she bracer on her arm, both paneled like a disco ball, brighter flashes of light among the waves of silver. She has a bra that’s made of the same stuff; says it’s her favorite piece of clothing.

Sequins. I once heard her comment that she was going to take over the world, one sequin at a time. Two years later, I’m not sure she was joking. The effect works: she is power and elegance and mystery, and a little flirty and a little fun. Some people try to sell a look, play up mystique or intimidation. She does the opposite, makes the look work for her, this modern-day Lady Godiva. When we’re out doing our thing, a lot of us take steps to hide our identities -not her. She doesn’t care, and nobody would believe it anyway, if she were outed.

Or maybe they all would believe it. A lot of us stay low-key, try to keep our heads down, off the radar of our tabloid-fuelled, instant-access, scandal-obsessed media world. A few of us embrace the idea of hiding in plain sight -she turns it up to eleven. She turns everything up to eleven.

Having regained her poise with the grace of a born performer, the way I’ve seen her do dozens of times in front of fifty-thousand people, she rockets back down toward the streets, becoming a dazzling streak of light, falling like a comet down on some unsuspecting head.

Even to us, who share a rare gift with her, she is an ideal; a flawless excellence, unattainable, that most of us can only dream of. Even more so those of us unable to free ourselves from the shackles of the earth. Not so her; she dances in the skies as though on laughter-silvered wings.

We’ve had many names in history, some deserving and some less, but what they call us today... I can’t think of a better way to speak of her. She is an ideal, a paragon; quintessence of what we all strive to be: a hero.

Before she meets the fray, someone else rockets up to meet her, pitting brutal power against matchless grace. They collide in a burst of radiance and a shower of sparks -another trick of her aura.

As the light fades and the two forms, locked together, arc away from their collision, I remember the tattoo I’ve seen she has. A simple peace sign, a reminder to herself of “why.” It’s part of that ideal of excellence: she is free of the petty concerns that weight on the rest of us; of country or company. She is one of the few true independents, insulated from the repercussions of working alone by her status as a world-wide icon.

The two forms roll around each other, fighting for control of their curving climb, swirling her dazzling silver with a dark, rich purple from her attacker. She would have approved of the spectacle -I think it’s her favorite color anyway.

She’s one of a few ‘classics’ left in the world. Her particular gifts -graceful speed, catlike agility, prodigious strength, and most of all her ability to soar free of the surly bonds of earth- are getting rarer. She may be the youngest of those left, she may be the last of her particular kind.

Some of us realize our gifts earlier than others. Most as teenagers, some as adults... I think she has always known. I think this -everything, really- is all part of her grand plan, some design on the fate of the world.

An arm’s length from the side of a building she gains control her aerial battle, dazzling silver flashing again as she drives her opponent before her. The wall doesn’t slow either of them down much and the both vanish into a cloud of dust and powdered glass that becomes trails of glittering tears falling away from the building.

An instant later she reappears, still pushing her counterpart along, from the other side of the tower, erupting through glass that becomes a rain of diamonds around her. She climbs free of it, swooping upward again to silhouette herself against the moon while her opponent falls away, still trailing wisps of purple and concrete dust.

It’s easy to forget how small she is in the wake of her performance, and it’s hard to imagine this as the same girl I’ve seen trip off a stage more than once, but I suppose stilettos on hardwood is a different matter from the freedom of flight. Tonight she is flawless; maybe the clumsy slips are part of the act.

All of our kind who aren’t gifted with her freedom are a little jealous, I think. They jokingly call our gifts a lottery, and she with the winning ticket. I can think of no man or woman better to wield her talents. She takes what is given and embraces it fully, without hesitation or reservation, wraps herself in it, makes it her own... and never loses herself in the middle. The paparazzi say what they will, of course, accusations and rumors and vitriol for the sake of a byline, but to those who are willing to listen rather than simply hear, her message and her motives are clear: freedom -choice- is all.

Putting her back to the full moon she looks in my direction, and waves. I lift my arm overhead, curling my hand into a claw -her sign- and the others around me, all of us here chained by gravity, do the same.

She darts off, rocketing west toward the glow of the city and we follow, a cheer rising in our voices. We may not be able to fly, but we can certainly join in her purpose. This isn’t about the battle, or or even about showing off -though she does a little of that, too. Ultimately, everything she does is in celebration of life; the beauty and vibrancy of humankind, maybe embodied best of all in herself, a riotous explosion of light and sound and color and movement, ultimate freedom, ultimate joy.

That’s what she really fights for. Maybe that’s why she can fly.

"I'm a shooting star leaping through the skies 
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity 
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva 
I'm gonna go go go 
There's no stopping me"
-Queen, "Don't Stop Me Now"

Live Wire

It’s like she’s everywhere, y’know? All at once. Above, below, behind, beside, then just gone like the wind. She’s on the ground chasing some dudes who’re gonna be hella screwed in a minute but then one of them gets the bright idea to split from the alleys and hit the streets, and I blink and she’s up, doing the electric slide along the power lines over his head. I blink again and hear her hit him and him hit the pavement. Ouch. Major road rash, dude. I kinda wanna feel sorry, but I don’t because I know it’s gonna get worse in a minute. Still; sympathy, my brother. I been there, man. Totally been there.

So the dude’s face down on So-Cal Summer Sidewalk, cheek frying while she’s standing on his back. Poor dude’s not in nearly good enough shape for this -she isn’t even breathing hard and he’s pooped. Living baked like a potato kinda makes it suck when you gotta outrun somebody. Trying to outrun somebody like her is like leaving your car on some streets at night, anyway -you just don’t do it.

But damn she’s hot right now. And I don’t just mean it’s like a million degrees outside -cause it is- but man... it’s redheads, y’know? She’s not like model figure or anything but that’s not bad, cause she’s a total hard body. I’d melt if I was wearing black in this heat but she totally is and totally doesn’t care a bit. I don’t think she can even feel it.

Now she’s yelling at the dude, one big shitkicker planted on his cheek while she grinds his face into the sidewalk, hands on hips. Dude’s totally bein’a whiny little bitch about it but so was I the day I met her, so it’s cool. She gives him a little jolt -maybe a hundred volts- right on his ass and he starts yelling and trying to get out from under her boot but it’s not budging and he’s just making the road rash worse. Man, and I thought razor-burn sucked.

Dude’s still not making the kind of sounds she wants to hear -where his supplier is- so she decides it’s time for some fireworks and reaches an arm up toward the power lines. There’s nobody around so it’s okay, and she’s far enough from any cars that she’s not going to make them explode this time. That was a totally wicked awesome day, though.

Her arm comes up and the closest one of those transformer things explodes and she turns into your worst nightmare, lightning arcing off her and scorching the pavement around the poor dude on the ground. He curls up on himself, screaming now trying to not get fried, but he’s not gonna get hurt -if she wanted barbecue she wouldn’a ever bothered to tackle him.

She kicks up a wind when she does this, I dunno why, probably something to do with electricity burning the air or something, but now it’s whipping around her, making her hair and those strappy-things on the bondage pants she’s wearing snap around while lightning dances off her. After a minute one of the like eight things she’s got around her neck catches fire but it must not’a been important anyway cause she just yanks it off and tosses it.

Dude on the ground is just about pissing himself now but that’s what she wants anyway and his eyes are huge by the time she lets up. She keeps crackling for a minute while she leans down to whisper something on his ear that I’m too far away to hear. He nods at her really fast and still all kinds’a fucked-up scared and names a building over on Compton that I sorta know where it is.

I feel for you, Bro. She’s fuckin’ Death itself when she’s angry and she’s been on the war path ever since she found out about those kids. I mean what the hell, Dude? They’re just kids, they don’t know better. I remember it, I was one of ‘em back in the day.

She’s got what she wants now, though, so she crooks a finger at me to come over with the camera -I gotta carry it because she cooks anything with more moving parts than a spoon- and snap a picture of the guy, because she makes sure she remembers every single one of them so she can really mess them up if they get in trouble again. There’s cops and shit for this, but I think she can smell it when you’re afraid and I think she likes that.

She points up the road and gives him a kick in the ribs to get him going, and he’s off up the street like a stoner to a Twinkie sale while she smirks at his back until he hits a corner and hauls ass around it and gone. Some of them show up again later, but I don’t think this dude will -he’s runnin’ too fast.

I hear a lot of stories about other guys like her -who can do the same crazy kind of shit, but I’ve never seen any of them, but it’s a hella big city so I’m not surprised. She says she’s not even one of the really good ones who can fly and punch through walls and throw cars and shit, but I think throwing lightning is pretty badass anyway, so she’s cool to me, and she can skate on power lines and electrical shit too and I’ve seen her catch up to cars that way more than once.

And then it’s time for munchies because she says being a walking Tesla Coil makes her mega-hungry but I think it’s because she’s secretly still smoking weed like the rest of us, even though we all try to hide it (but we totally fail, ‘cause all of us know that all of us still do, but we don’t care, ‘cause we’re funny like that). Either way it means I get to stuff my face at this totally amazing little like hole-in-the-wall place she knows that has the best chili dogs in the city; no kidding, man, they’re like four pounds of toppings each.

It’s on the way to Compton anyway, so she says we can grab some for the road and mack on it while we go find Dude-man’s dealer and add another notch to her belt with his face. She says that those big-leaguers who fight like international terrorists and stuff are too busy to do the kind of shit she does, down here on the streets, in the middle of Turf War, USA. She says they all have, like, private jets and their own fuckin’ islands to train on and stuff and they’re too busy stopping nuclear bombs and face-melting chemicals and giant space lasers to come and help out clean up the streets of drug dealers and pimps and stuff, so that’s why she does it.

I think there’s something else, though. When you’re from the hood, you always know it when you meet someone else who is, too, and she is, even if she don’t admit it. I think it’s something personal. She’s not half as bad as she says, she could run with the big dogs if she wanted, but there’s something, someone down here in the alley trash that’s keeping her here.

It’s cool to me, though. I don’t got the stuff that she does, and I got no chance on my own of making shit of myself without her help, so I’m glad she wants to stay. My ‘hood may be a piece of shit, but it’s my ‘hood, and I’m not leavin’ it to the dogs for nothing.

So it’s cool that she keeps me around to help her, ‘cause it makes me feel like we can actually make a difference here, like we can actually take out some of the trash and make it so that kids don’t have to grow up like I did. And because she’s smokin’ hot. Can’t miss what you never had, but... dayum.

"Come on down to the other side,
Come with us through the gates of hell,
Where we'll drag you from where you are 
to where you belong."
-Pendulum, "The Other Side"

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