The 52 special

In Pursuit of Death

by Fareed Sariego

BIALYA, MARCH 15 — 

I was in the middle of enjoying a rather large fruit salad and an involving chapter of Hemmingway’s A Farewell to Arms when I heard the explosion. I looked from the now shattered glass window of the café I currently occupied down to my novel, noticing a red drop on the formerly immaculate pages. And then there was a second one. I reached up and pulled out the small shard of glass that had imbedded itself in my forehead. I hadn’t felt the wound yet, and I wouldn’t for the next few hours. There wouldn’t be time.

Aware only that the situation was serious, I was on my feet and out the door in the next few moments, trying to see through the smoke to my nearby hotel. I had it in my head that if I could get to my room, I’d be safe. As if the familiar paper-thin walls of a hastily constructed Best Eastern could keep out whatever danger was causing the chaos in front of me. Or assumed chaos, at any rate. Through the smoke, I could barely make out a thing. Except for the screaming. That I could hear quite easily.

My reporter’s instincts finally kicking in over the ones I was born with, I began to head towards the originators of the noise, pressing myself against the nearby walls in order to feel my progress since sight seemed no longer to be an option. I had been in Bialya only a few days, but I was familiar enough to realize that I was heading towards a usually busy square nearby, a traders’ market of sorts visited by tourists and locals alike.

I began to see a few shadows among the smoke. Men and women, out only for a bundle of fresh asparagus or a unique bread for their early lunch were now fleeing the square, content if only to make it home with their lives. But I couldn’t see what they were running from yet. So I continued on.

About a block later I saw him. Or his silhouette, rather. He was a huge mountain of a man, holding what looked to be a limp doll in his hands. As I got closer, I realized it was in actuality a small, frail man. The mountain discarded him as if he was a child disgusted with a broken toy, and then stepped forward into a break in the smoke. It was enough that I could see the emblem on his otherwise black chest. A lightning bolt. And suddenly I knew who this man was. Black Adam, the warrior king of Kahndaq. I had no doubt in my mind that this was his response to the death of his wife a few days ago. And I also had no doubt that I would be dead within the minute.

I was close enough to him to see his face now. Some stranger’s blood dripped down his brow, as he looked up in my direction. I knew of his enhanced abilities. I knew he could hear my heart attempting to escape my chest. I knew he could see the tears forming in the corners of my eyes inside my skull. And he began to walk towards me.

But he stopped. Something on the ground caught his eye. He stooped and picked it up. I couldn’t see what it was. There was still too much smoke. I began to shuffle back towards where I came, survival renewed as my top priority. But I couldn’t take my eyes off this man. I just couldn’t bring myself to.

Then there was yelling. Someone braver than myself was shouting at Black Adam from behind him. I heard enough voices to know it was a crowd of some sort, revolting against this murderous tyrant destroying their hometown. And they started throwing things then. Bricks and bottles turned to dust upon hitting his chest. It was hopeless, but not pointless. They were standing up to this man.

And Black Adam turned away from me, and into a black streak moving faster than my eyes’ ability to follow. So I ran away, back to my hotel room, to cower and cry and try to catch my breath. But I could hear the screams behind me as a ran. And I’ll hear them tonight as I try to shower off these things I’ve seen.

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