Friday, January 22, 2010

Alone at the End of the World with the Bell Bottom Blues

I normally don't post any fiction or anything like that here, but I'm listening to Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs Derek and the Dominos and was reminded of this short story that I wrote in the fall of 2006 for my creative class. It's a superhero story, so it does relate to comics. It's been sitting on my computer for a while collecting dust (or whatever files on a computer collect), so I figured I'd share. It's just a quick throwaway story for a laugh or two. Enjoy.

Alone at the End of the World with the Bell Bottom Blues

The world was in turmoil, on the edge of oblivion, but that didn’t matter because Julian Baxter was in love. Of course, the object of his affection didn’t return it. That would be too simple and Julian did not lead a simple life. He led an unnecessarily complex and difficult one full of strange challenges and obstacles. What he did lack was a sense of priorities, which is why instead of suiting up and saving the world from certain destruction on that drizzly Thursday morning, he was lying in bed, listening to the same song over and over again. The song was “Bell Bottom Blues” by Derek and the Dominos. Julian didn’t exactly have the broadest or most original taste in music, especially when you consider that Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs was literally filled with songs of heartbreak and crushing rejection, most of them less dated and obvious than “Bell Bottom Blues.”

Lying in bed, singing along to Eric Clapton, Julian reflected on his lady love and grew more heartbroken every moment. The woman Julian loved was, on the surface, nothing special. She looked like many other women, and would never be considered the most beautiful woman in the room except to that one fellow who fell under her spell. Julian was that man, but because he was Julian, she did not fall under his. Thus, Julian lay in bed listening to the same song over and over while thinking of her. He ignored the various phone calls from friends and allies begging him to save the world, turning up the volume and singing along louder and with more passion.

Julian’s love didn’t intend to break his heart or cause the end of the world, but she simply did not fancy him. At all. In fact, she was gay. Or, at least, that’s what she told Julian and he secretly suspected was a lie to let him down gently. Whether or not that was true wasn’t really the point as even if it were true — which it was — Julian would still be sobbing in bed to classic rock. He had that sort of personality.

After all, this wasn’t the first time he was in this position. There had been dozens of others, and all with their own unique song. For Jill, it was “Femme Fatale” by the Velvet Underground. For Naomi, it was “Heartbreaker” by Led Zeppelin. For Lauren, it was “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” by Neil Young. For Beth, it was, surprise surprise, “Beth” by Kiss. There was even “Julia” by the Beatles for Julia. Not exactly original choices; that was just the way Julian’s mind worked. But, what made this time unique was that it was the first time the world was actually destroyed while he was huddled in bed, listening to the same song over and over, pining over a woman who had rejected him.

Normally, Julian would be in this funk for anywhere from twelve to thirty-six hours, and during that time, the others would pick up the slack a little, making sure nothing got out of hand. Except this time, it was one of those large, apocalyptic events that required everyone to team-up and overcome certain doom in the face of impossible odds at the very last second, and without a key player like Julian, Earth was, well, fucked.

It had only even gotten this bad once before when Julian was bed-ridden with a case of the “Behind Blues Eyes” and the Doomsday Machine from the Black Hole Sun had invaded the solar system, but Armageddon was averted when the Black Hole Sun version of Julian arrived and helped shut down the Doomsday Machine. Luckily, Black Hole Sun Julian had never heard of pop music. No such luck this time around.

Three minutes or so before the world did indeed end, Fleet-Foot arrived at Julian’s home in a last minute attempt to rouse him into action and thereby save the world once again. The sight of the one hero everyone looked up to, curled in the foetal position, crying and sobbing repulsed the speedster. But, they needed this wreck of a man if the world was going to see another sunrise.

“C’mon, man, the world is gonna fuckin’ end out there!” Fleet-Foot shouted from the foot of Julian’s bed. “You’re the only one who can save it!”

Julian looked at him with red, puffy eyes and mumbled, “Let it. Let it all rot.”

“You can’t possibly mean that! You, you, you, you have to save the world! My god! You—you just have to!” The speedster was out of his mind with panic. What if Julian didn’t get up and save the world?

Julian ignored him and began singing along again. The sound was more of a scream, a pained yell than actual singing and Fleet-Foot knew that the world was going to end. How could Earth’s most noble and honourable hero just lie there, singing to “Bell Bottom Blues” instead of saving the world from destruction? The idea was completely absurd and nearly incomprehensible. For a moment, he thought that maybe some sinister plot was causing the depression. Maybe this girl was really working for the Cadre of Criminals and had been sent to break Julian’s heart. Or maybe Dr. Disaster had some sort of depression ray that was blasting the sobbing hero into submission. Or maybe Julian’s heart really was broken and he was going to let the world end.

Dejected, Fleet-Foot sat down on the bed, joining Julian in horrible, soul-crushing depression. Seconds later, however, he stood right back up, not about to just sit on the edge of a bed while the world was ending. No, if the world was dying, he was going down with a fight, not like the man he idolised who would rather wallow in self-pity. Leaving Julian, Fleet-Foot disappeared in a rush.

Julian barely registered the fact that he was alone again, mostly because he barely registered the fact that anyone had ever been there to begin with. The song played on and he sang on until moments after the second run of the chorus, the world ended. There was a bright flash of light and then nothing.

Julian found himself all alone in a vast white emptiness. He was still curled up, but he was now naked. The music was gone, too. Only he had survived. He always knew he was tough, but he never imagined that he was survive-the-destruction-of-the-universe tough. He didn’t imagine it then, either, as he didn’t really notice that he had survived the end of the world. He just kept on singing, all alone.