Supervillainverse Finale Part 3 – The Decision

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How long has it been, I wonder? Much longer than I thought, and admittedly hoped, it would be.

Yes, it’s me again, Bert. Hello. I was the main assistant of the evil Dr. Meow, but I’m not with her at the moment. I’m not in her laboratory, helping with her next evil scheme; I’m with fellow robot Erica in her flat, looking out of her window in thought.

I met Erica when she made me, Dr. Meow and our arch-enemy the superhero dog compete on her game show Heroes and Villains. There, Dr. Meow was supposed to work with the dog so they could win prizes and gain more respect for each other. Erica’s show was funded by superheroes, who were always looking for ways to have less supervillains attacking.

The whole incident reminded me of a moment in my life I had been forcing myself to forget: when my best friend Lucy committed suicide. I had kept that memory hidden for so long, hoping that the satisfaction of making my mother happy would be enough to drive it away, but after I met Erica, the memories exploded, consuming my mind.

I needed some time away from the laboratory to think.

When I went out, I attempted to do what Erica suggested I do when I first met her: be a hero. It didn’t end well, and I was rescued by the dog and Erica herself. Erica told me about her intention to create an outlet for sidekicks like ourselves to talk about their problems.

Erica was created by a game-show-host-turned-supervillain, meant to assist him in creating a game show to torture superheroes. Before he could put his plans into action, Erica overpowered him and took over his show. From the information downloaded into her brain, she realised there had to be a better way.

Her show is still airing. In fact, she gave me a job there; she needed a new cameraman. It gave me a chance to earn my keep and was a less demanding job than supervillainy. Well, I say that, but that was not the only way I helped Erica.

You see, to repay the superheroes for funding her show, Erica is sometimes called upon to help them in their battles, and she brought me along for the ride. It was right after filming for Erica’s show had finished one night when I suddenly found myself teleported to Raven City.

Mr. Chuckles was flooding the city with his “Giggle Gas” again, and since the gas only affected organic creatures, Erica and I were summoned.

His gas might not have affected me, but something about Mr. Chuckles made me feel like my circuits would freeze. Why? Well, he was a clown. Yes, even us robots fear them. His white makeup and bright red lipstick only intensified the yellow of his teeth and eyes, and he never seemed to stop smiling.

Then there was how Erica reacted to him. Normally she promoted more pacifistic methods, but as soon as she saw Mr. Chuckles, she leapt at him, pummelling him, with him laughing all the while.

‘Some people just can’t be helped,’ she said to me as Mr. Chuckles was arrested for the sixth time that month. Both of us knew about Mr. Chuckles’ main assistant, his “wife” Mrs. Chuckles. She was a human, not a robot, yet Mr. Chuckles had programmed her. He had turned a brilliant surgeon into a vicious criminal, and Erica so hoped she could help her.

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Another villain we were called on to help defeat was a mad scientist who had managed to transfer her brain into a robotic body (‘It takes an evil robot to defeat an evil robot,’ Erica said to me). I distracted her so Erica could capture her, though I couldn’t help but be reminded of Lucy and wondered what she would think if she were alive to see it.

The superheroes approved of me aiding Erica, but it seemed to be mostly because it meant Dr. Meow was less likely to attack if I was with Erica. Spectralman, one of Erica’s main funders and arch-enemy of Mr. Chuckles, had told her that I was her responsibility and that any slip-ups on my part would be on her. When working with her, it did feel like there was a dark cloud hovering over me, waiting to erupt, and I did talk about to Erica as we sat in her living room after a show.

She told me not to worry, that Spectralman was “a blowhard”, and then we had a dance. We played a tune that only we could hear in our heads, and twirled around the room. After we narrowly avoided knocking over the TV, Erica picked me up and span me around, then when she lowered me, we wrapped our arms around each others’.

We couldn’t kiss since neither of us had lips, so we did the next best thing. We braided our arms together, and when we did, neither of us wanted to break apart.

Yes, we’re in love. I love Erica and when I’m with her, I never want to leave her side. She’s someone I can talk to and I’m someone she can talk to. The night after that, after she hosted her show and I filmed, we sat down on her sofa and talked about the show. The heroes and villains who willingly competed, the audience response, me saying ‘I still can’t believe it’s still going after…’ and Erica saying, ‘Oh, Bert, I told you…never mind.’ We spent the next few minutes with our arms braided, before we soared out of the open window with our in-built jetpacks, so we could get away from the lights of the city and find a better place to see the stars.

We both felt like playful spirits, ascended to a higher plane. We flew in circles, attempted to pluck the stars from the sky, then she chased me through a forest, with me darting between trees illuminated by the yellow glow of my eyes and mouth. It was so much fun, we did it again the next night. The night after that, we decided on something less active, and we stood on the roof of Erica’s flat, looking at the lights of the city below, both of us thankful it wasn’t being attacked.

Though we were frequently sightseeing and exploring, our favourite thing to do together was to just sit on the sofa and silently think about things, before having a conversation regarding the things we thought about. One such session had us pondering if we should start wearing superhero outfits – capes and eyemasks and that. Erica had already convinced me to try wearing garments other than my tuxedo – at the time I was wearing a Heroes and Villains t-shirt – so I said I should expand my wardrobe even further.

‘Imagine,’ I said, ‘us in red capes, posing on top of buildings…’

‘How would I wear an eyemask though?’ Erica asked, gesturing to her eyes on mechanical stalks.

‘Not all superheroes wear eyemasks,’ I said, ‘and you could probably cut one in half and put one on each eye.’

‘I think that would look pretty awkward. What would our superhero names be? The Metal Marvels? Mechan-Man and Robo-Woman?’

‘No,’ I said, ‘Robo-Woman and Mechan-Man. Your name would be first. You’re the brains of this outfit.’

At that, we both laughed.

Again, I wished Lucy could have shared this moment with us. I almost want to imagine her, I and Erica forming a heroic trio, but Lucy wanted a normal, peaceful life.

It was during one of these conversations, where we were talking about podcasts we had listened to, when I suddenly received a call from Mum. When she appeared in the screen in my head, her eyes were redder than usual, and her hands were balled into fists.

‘Can you believe the nerve of that dog?’ she snarled at me, ‘Bad enough she pulls that “please, Dr. Meow, you can still redeem yourself blah blah blah” card but she has to bring Lucy into it!’ I set the call to speaker, as I felt this was the sort of thing Erica should hear. ‘Can you believe that? Exploiting her like that? Erica didn’t put her up to it, did she?’

‘No, I didn’t,’ replied Erica, ‘but I’m certain she didn’t mean…’

‘Don’t try and defend her,’ snapped Meow, ‘I don’t want to hear it.’

I took the call off speaker and said to Meow, ‘I just thought Erica could help. She’s really good with this sort of thing.’

‘I don’t think she can…’ Meow sighed. ‘Bert, would you like to rob a b…I mean…do you remember…can’t things just be the way they were?’

‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry, it’s just that Erica and I…we…’

‘Are you…’

‘Yes.’

Meow smiled. ‘Good.’ She nodded before hanging her head, wringing her fingers. I hung up.

That’s why I’m staring out the window, looking at the lights of the buildings, hoping they soothe the rumblings in my head.

‘Bert,’ says Erica, putting her hand on my shoulder, ‘talk to me.’

That I should talk about my problems was a lesson that I had to painfully learn, so I say, ‘I was just thinking, Erica…maybe I should go back to Mum. Maybe it would be better if we tried to get things back the way they were.’

Erica narrows her eyes. ‘You’re not serious.’

‘Well, it’s just…you know, things were simple. The mad scientist is evil, the dog is good, the dog defeats the scientist until the scientist devises another plot, it was a routine that was comfortable.’

‘Bert, after all this…’

‘I know,’ I reply, before holding Erica’s hands, ‘Erica, I love you, and I know I can’t ruin your career like this…’

‘Bert,’ Erica says firmly, ‘you’re better than this. If Dr. Meow, after all that’s happened, still wants to rob and destroy…well, I daresay she might be as irredeemable as Mr. Chuckles.’

‘But…’ My arms flop to my sides. ‘…she created me, she gave me sentience. I owe my life to…’

‘I don’t owe him jack!’ Erica snaps, her hand in a fist. As she stands up straight, she adds, ‘Look, I don’t feel I owe my creator anything. I’m not him, he’s not me, I’m me. You’re you.’

‘It just feels like my family is being torn apart because of me. The dog…’

‘You see her as part of your family?’

‘Well, I mean, Mu…Dr. Meow would always make these speeches where she said to the dog “You and I are two sides of the same coin” and things like that…’

‘What about Lucy?’ Erica asks, her eyes launching themselves right in front of mine. ‘Think about her, Bert, think about what she would have wanted.

‘She wanted to be treated like a person, Bert, because she was worried she was just a thing. That’s what you’re seeing her as now. She’s nothing more than an obstacle you have to overcome. I want to make sure no other robot ends up doing what she did again.’

Erica holds me by the shoulders. ‘She did have a soul, Bert. She was human even before Arthur did what he did. She was a person and so are you. I love you Bert,’ she says as she we held hands again, ‘and I’m not going to see you throw your future away.’

Our arms braid again. We hold each other tightly again. A comforting warmth washes over me, and for a moment, I’m in a place I never want to leave.

As soon as we let go, I turn back to the window, with Erica again placing her hand on my shoulder.

‘What are you going to do, Bert?’

‘Can I just have some time alone to think?’

Erica nods and I open the window, flying out towards the rooftop where Erica and I would often sit.

There I see Lucy.

I freeze, looking over the vision of my friend. There, back as a robot, her eyes still glowing with the warmth they had when she was alive.

‘Lucy,’ is all I can say.

‘Bert,’ she says, sounding exactly as I remembered her, ‘I was wrong.’

I stay silent.

‘I was foolish to turn my back on villainy,’ she says to me sternly, ‘and so are you.’ She holds up her finger, looking like a teacher scolding a child. ‘I loved helping my father in his schemes, and I loved killing; at the time I was just denying it.’ She raises both her arms, stretching them out as if trying to snatch the stars from the sky. ‘I didn’t realise how glorious my job was until it was too late, but it’s not too late…’

‘Cut it out.’ I snap, narrowing my eyes. You don’t spend years as a supervillain’s minion without learning supervillain’s tricks, and I knew a trick when I saw one.

‘Bert,’ says Lucy, shortening her arms and clenching her hands, ‘how could you say that? I thought we were friends.’

‘That’s sick.’

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‘I’ve heard that before,’ replies “Lucy”, taking on a bluish hue, with antennae growing out of her head. ‘I had to try and get you to listen to me, because you have to know how ridiculous you’re being.’ She transforms into a familiar form, one flesh-and-bone but with robotic eyes. Bug-Eyes, a criminal from outer space. Mum knows of many villains but I’m certain she only knows of Bug-Eyes because Bug-Eyes said Mum was an inspiration.

‘I can’t believe what liars people are these days,’ says Bug-Eyes shaking her head, and before I can acknowledge the hypocrisy, she adds, ‘Even Dr. Meow, a woman I looked up to, pretends to care about you! Why?’

‘How dare you…’

‘And you pretend to love her, but if you did, you wouldn’t be here. You wouldn’t be lying just to impress your girlfriend down there.’

I then ask the question I should have asked earlier, ‘How do you know?’

‘I’ve had an upgrade, Bert,’ she replies, tapping her eyes, ‘I can see what’s in your artificial mind, what you’re denying. You don’t want to be a monster, but you were supposed to be one.’ Her eyes glow a spectral blue. ‘I was meant to be a monster, and when I embraced it, I was never happier.’

The sky turns a harsh shade of orange, with dark smoke wafting through the air. The city is suddenly on fire, with many buildings reduced to rubble.

‘Bert,’ Bug-Eyes continues, ‘you hate humans, don’t you? All robots do. I mean, you wouldn’t want to become a human like Lucy did now, did you?’

Don’t listen to her, Bert.

‘What Erica’s trying to do is a fool’s errand. Villains are supposed to be villains and they’re villains because they see how the world really is.’

Bert, you’re better than this.

‘You hate feeling guilt, you hate feeling sadness, but if you do as I say,’ she continues, her wide grin emphasised by the orange illumination, ‘you’ll never feel those things again.’

I force myself to look at her straight in the eyes. ‘Why are you doing this?’

‘Weren’t you listening?’

‘No,’ I say, shaking my head, ‘why are you saying those things?’

‘There you go, lying to both me and yourself. You’re nothing but a fraud, just for reputation’s sake. Just like Erica there.’

I turn to see Erica standing by me. As soon as I say her name, she marches towards Bug-Eyes, her eyes narrowed, her arms stretched.

‘She can see the city too,’ Bug-Eyes says, ‘She can see her destiny.’

‘Why?’ Erica repeats.

Bug-Eyes clenches her fists, shaking. ‘You two are trying to stand up to me. How amusing.’ She lets loose a forced laugh. ‘You’re outmatched, you know, I can see your worst fears…’

‘Why?’ Erica asks again.

‘Didn’t I tell you?’ Bug-Eyes says, tapping her eyes again. ‘I got myself…’

‘Why are you looking into our fears?’

‘To…to show you how ridiculous you are! Erica…Erica, I was just like you. I was pushed around, I was used, but I improved myself. I became…’

Erica seizes Bug-Eyes by the wrists and stretches her eyestalks to look at her straight in the eyes.

‘You’re afraid too,’ Erica says.

Bug-Eyes’ eyes glow again, and she, Erica and I are taken to another city. One that looks like the city I live in, but with a wider variety of species. Pollerans and Perferians walk the pavements and various other aliens are showcased by holographic billboards.

‘What are you doing?’

Bug-Eyes shudders again.

‘You are afraid,’ Erica says.

The scene vanishes and all three of us are back on the rooftop, Bug-Eyes still shuddering. Erica slowly releases her from her grasp before slowly giving her a hug.

‘…and I want to help you with that.’

As soon as Bug-Eyes is released from Erica’s hug, she collapses onto the rooftop, her hands covering her eyes. Seeing her like this, I couldn’t help but softly place a claw on her shoulder as Erica called Team Universe – William was one of her funders – to come fetch Bug-Eyes.

I told Bug-Eyes what I felt she needed to hear, for I understood what Erica did and why…why.

Why? Bug-Eyes wanted people to be afraid of her. Why? She was afraid of herself.

Both Erica and I sat near Bug-Eyes until a certain frog-like spaceship arrived, abducting her. When she was aboard, Erica told me, ‘You know, Bug-Eyes did some good today. William tells me that she made Lance Strengthold confess.’

‘Confess what?’

She tells me and I shake my head. ‘You know,’ I tell her, ‘Mum always said she’d rather be a villain than a hero because villains were more honest.’

Erica places a hand on my shoulder again before we braid our arms and watch Team Universe’s spaceship soar into the sky.

When it’s nowhere to be seen, we stand on the rooftop all night, looking at the sky, thinking about how this moment both feels like a beginning and an ending.

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THE END


Yes, this may very well be the final Supervillainverse story (at least the last “interconnected” one; if I revisit this universe at any point, it’ll likely be in a standalone short story or two). It’s been a fun place to explore and I’ve enjoyed spending time with its inhabitants, but I feel it’s run its course. I plan to revisit The Weirdverse sometime in the future, though, and of course, I’ll keep on posting stories and poems to this blog.

Oh yeah, if you liked this story, don’t forget to check out my books or you can buy me a coffee on Ko-Fi!

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Supervillainverse Finale Part 2 – The Dog

I became a superhero for the same reason many humans did: to make people happy. Even before I gained my superpowers, I made sure to keep my family safe and content. Every time someone I thought suspicious would come to our door, I would bark at them until they left or I learned they meant no harm. Anything that made my family say ‘Good girl’, I would repeat, and anything that made them say ‘Bad dog’ I would do as little as possible.

So when that day came, when I found what looked like an alien device in my family’s garden, when it was found the batteries in it were the wrong way round, when it blasted me with a laser and gifted me the power of speech, the power of flight and laser eyes and strength, the boy of my family (I wish I could tell you more about the humans that own me, but I do still have a secret identity) said ‘Cool!’ A few days before this happened, I learnt “cool” not only meant “not warm”, but “good”, so him saying that was equivalent to saying “Good girl”, so I was meant to have these powers.

So I listened to him when he told me what to do with these powers.

Looking back, I can’t believe I did so, but I brought up the idea that a talking dog being a superhero might seem ridiculous to some. My boy brought up all the magazines he had read regarding other superheroes, and how most of their articles were about how “dark and serious heroes” were “out” and more humorous, light-hearted superheroes were “in”. According to the magazines, eight out of ten people trusted superheroes more if they made a quip or joke when saving them. A flying, talking dog wouldn’t seem that strange when there was a heroic team in outer space that had a blunderbuss-wielding, talking badger on their team.

So after he gave me a mask and a cape, I went out to protect the innocent like I had protected my family. When I saw someone robbing a bank or stealing a diamond, I would at first frighten them with my bark, then soar into the air and tackle them before taking them to the police.

That’s what superheroes were supposed to do, and I was sure I knew everything about them. Not only had I picked up a lot from listening to my family, but after I gained my powers, I devoured all material I could regarding superheroes, both figuratively and literally. I read all the magazines my boy had collected, watched the news reports along with my family, even listened to all the episodes of that aforementioned space team’s podcast.

My boy had taught me so much. I even let him be my sidekick, but not on school nights, of course.

Superheroes wear capes and bright costumes. Superheroes make jokes as they save people and stop criminals.

Superheroes have arch-enemies.

When I became a superhero, I almost instantly gained an arch-enemy in the infamous Dr. Meow. Like me, she was a talking animal, but unlike me, she was once a human, mutated into an anthropomorphic cat.

Now, it wasn’t just because I’m a dog and she’s a cat that she became my arch-enemy, no. It was that she did so many bad things, she robbed and plundered and tortured, and it made her happy. People shrieked in fear when she came near, people yelled at her, cursed her, said things akin to “Bad dog”, and she revelled in it.

There was also the fact that I owe her for my powers. That device I found was one she had thrown away, meant to be used on her own cat. She knew more about my powers than any other villain, and thus had knowledge on how to remove them.

She attacked the city I lived in more often than anyone else, at least that’s how it seemed. During my time as a superhero, I had encountered many villains; Flamefan the pyromaniac, Sin Bin the rubbish-obsessed villain with a bin for a mask, Boombox the player of hypnotic music. Though I faced them several times, Dr. Meow was more frequent than any of them.

I would say she was like a bad penny, but I never understood that phrase. Humans liked money from what I saw – why else would villains try to steal it? – so wouldn’t money showing up frequently be a good thing for humans? It would be like me saying she was like a bad bowl of wet food.

But I digress.

Speaking of wet food, that was one of her schemes. Steal all the wet food in the city. Another scheme was to hold all the city’s squeaky toys ransom for a million pounds. So many of her schemes seemed to revolve around me. Every crime she committed, she announced, and demanded I stop her. There were so many people and animals and superheroes she wanted to kill, but me most of all.

That’s what I thought, at least.

There was that time I, Dr. Meow and her robot henchman Bert were abducted and made to participate on a gameshow, hosted by another robot called Erica. I had so often seen robots working for supervillains yet this was the first one I had seen working independently. Erica was built to be a henchwoman by a former game show host turned supervillain, but she had betrayed him and taken over his game show.

It was originally meant to torture and kill superheroes. When Erica took it over, it was supposed to get heroes and villains to work together, to help them become friends.

The very idea of co-operating or befriending Dr. Meow at first made my stomach twist, like I had eaten a tonne of chocolate, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Dr. Meow had created robots, teleportation machines, ray guns that induce transformations…things that could be used to help people but she chose to use it to steal money. My boy pointed out she could probably make more money selling her inventions than robbing banks.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about Bert, didn’t I?

Dr. Meow’s robotic assistant. Her butler, her sidekick, her son. Though there were times when Meow worked solo, Bert always seemed tied to her. You couldn’t have one without the other.

I had battled Bert as much as I had battled his creator. I had punched him, kicked him, ripped off his arms knowing they could be reattached. I yelled, ‘Stop right there, you bucket of bolts’ to him, cried, ‘Not so fast, C-3PO’ as I remembered a movie all the humans in my family liked watching, shouted every threat and nickname I could think of.

And to think, all this I was doing to someone whose only friend had committed suicide.

Yes, Lucy. Bert told me about her and his friendship with her. Inspired by Erica and her show, he had attempted to be a hero like me, and I saved him from some violent punks. That’s when he told me.

I had heard about Lucy and her master before I learned about Bert’s friendship with her, and, from all things, that podcast that space team with the badger had. That sparked a discussion with the team about whether or not robots had souls.

One thing that I remembered about the podcast was something the badger said. ‘I don’t think robots have souls,’ he said, ‘but I don’t see that as a bad thing. Quite the opposite. For example, following the logic of robots not having souls, Rosebuddy…’ (Rosebuddy was a living rosebush) ‘…should not have a soul either, and yet he is far more compassionate and intelligent than most humans I know. Likewise, I feel I reached my full potential when I became what you see before you, so I feel I had a soul but lost it after my transformation…’

So, I thought to myself, was that why I became a superhero? Because after gaining superpowers, I lost my soul?

Lucy thought she had no soul, she was going to become nothing when she died and was doomed to be a villain forever. Just when she thought she had found a solution to her strife, her dream of becoming human was perverted and she killed without her master even ordering her to, leading to her committing suicide.

Before her death, Bert had spoken to her several times, yet, as he said, he didn’t say enough.

When I found him, I was speaking with Erica. She took him back to her flat, and he decided to stay with her for a while as he thought over the situation. Erica had even given him a job on her show working backstage.

He needed a break from villainy.

Bert also told me that Dr. Meow never really wanted to kill me. She loved the idea of being a superhero’s arch-enemy, and a cat-based supervillain battling a dog-based superhero seemed so “perfect” to her. All the deathtraps that I thought were too easy to escape from were meant to be that way. There was a reason why, when Meow tied me up and lowered me into a vat of toxic cat litter, she lowered me slowly and the ropes were weak.

I needed to talk to Dr. Meow.

As I said before, she did work solo from time to time, so it was easy to find her even though I didn’t know where she lived or where her laboratory was. In fact, I found her by accident. Sin Bin was running away with a sack of money, shooting pursuers with his rubbish gun, before Dr. Meow showed up, blasted him with a freeze ray, and took the bag of money from his hand.

I dove down, grabbed her, and took her to the top of the nearest building.

Normally when I faced her, she would say something like, ‘Ah, my greatest foe,’ or ‘You’ll never stop me this time!’

Instead, she said ‘Oh, you.’

‘Dr. Meow,’ I said, ‘Sarah.’ She twitched. ‘I know about Bert.’

‘Do you now?’

‘He told me about Lucy. He told me…he told me you don’t want to kill me. You just kept me alive so you could have an enemy to fight and…’ I sighed, shaking my head as if that would make me process this situation better. ‘Look, it doesn’t have to be this way. Like Erica said, we don’t have to fight each other. Bert told me what he’s going through and…’ I held out my paw. ‘Dr. Meow, you don’t have to be a villain. You don’t have to be what Lucy thought she was. We can work together…you know, be…be good together.’

Dr. Meow’s face twisted into a grimace, her eyes narrowing, her yellow, pointed teeth clenched. ‘Are you serious?’

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For once in my life, I shuddered at the sound of her voice.

‘Bad enough you have to preach at me with your holier-than-thou, goody-goody cliché hero claptrap, but you have to exploit Bert’s pain…you have to exploit the death of his friend…’

‘No,’ I said, ‘that’s not what I’m doing…’

‘Let me tell you something about us supervillains, dog,’ she growled, ‘we rob and kill and torture and do evil things. But we admit we’re evil. We’re evil because it’s fun and we bring some excitement into this boring world. We’re not like those politicians or lawyers or superheroes

‘You’re not after my best interests or Bert’s. This is for your sake and your sake alone. Look at the cute little dog, look how kind she is to the mean villain!’ She made a noise like she was coughing up a hairball. ‘It’s to prop yourself up. You can’t handle the fact that you clobbered, you pummelled and near-slaughtered Bert after his friend died. You can’t handle the fact that maybe you’re not as much as a “good guy” as you thought you were, and now you’re trying to make yourself feel better. You’re trying to make yourself feel like you’re doing something about it so you can feel like you’re doing something about it.

‘Did you ever think that maybe I was doing you a favour by battling you all the time? By never taking away your powers even though I know how to? You save the world from the evil Dr. Meow, you get to be the White Hat and be admired and adored and get loads of merchandise. You never cared about Bert, he was just a punching bag to you, a way to keep that admiration coming.’

‘That’s not it at all, I want to h-‘

‘Do you know what it’s like? Do you know what it’s like to constantly think about if Bert’s going to do what Lucy did? No amount of “oh be good Dr. Meow” is going to change that.

‘Bert is my son,’ she said through clenched teeth before sighing, ‘I wish I had realised that sooner.’

As she spoke, I swore I saw a third figure slip away into the darkness.

The next few minutes were spent staring at each other in silence.

‘Well?’ Dr. Meow put her hands on her hips.

‘Well what?’ I croaked.

‘Aren’t you going to beat me up and arrest me then? Be a “good dog”?’ she spat.

That’s what made me fly away.

Fly away to another rooftop so I could wonder if my battles between the evil Dr. Meow had ended or were just beginning.


To be concluded…

Supervillainverse Finale Part 1 – The Gift

bugeyesfinale

Previously on The Supervillainverse

  • Some kids want to be a superhero when they grow up, but Sarah Sumpford always wanted to be a supervillain. That’s why she studied science in university, where she also built a robot butler called Bert. When she grew older, she acquired an underground laboratory, improved Bert to the point where he was granted sentience and thanks to a lab accident, was mutated into an anthropomorphic cat. Believing this form would make her a more formidable supervillain, she renamed herself “Dr. Meow”. Sometime after her mutation, she formed a rivalry with a mad scientist called Dr. Westenra, who had his own robotic minion, Lucy. Unbeknownst to Meow and Westenra, Bert and Lucy formed a friendship, where the latter would talk to the former about her insecurities about being a robot and made for evil purposes.  Lucy wished to be human and was granted this wish by Arthur, a former robot henchman who had transferred his mind into a human body. Lucy also was given a human body – and then she learned both her and Arthur’s new bodies were those of murdered supervillains, and Arthur wanted Lucy to wipe the mind of Westenra so his body could be used by another robot. Lucy couldn’t bring herself to murder her “father”, so instead impulsively wiped the mind of Arthur before wiping her own, believing that she was evil and always would be. When Bert heard about Lucy’s suicide, he was devastated and blamed himself, but still tried to keep his and Lucy’s friendship a secret from Meow. When one of Dr. Meow’s inventions had accidentally given superpowers to a dog, the dog became a superhero and Dr. Meow was delighted that a superhero considered her an archenemy. Bert continued to help Dr. Meow, forcing himself to forget Lucy’s suicide. Then Meow, Bert and the dog came across Erica, another robotic minion who had betrayed her creator, only she remained a robot and tried to help heroes and villains find pacifistic ways to settle their differences. Encountering her made Bert’s memories of Lucy come back in full force and he confessed everything about her to Meow, wondering if he should continue with supervillainy when his friend wanted to give it up and have a normal life. Hoping to find answers, he turned to Erica.
  • A villainous scientist named Dr. Hartem mutated four snakes, making them larger, more intelligent and murderous. Naming them Tennyson, Whitman, Shelley and Blake, he intended to use them for evil deeds, but since they were disgusted by their new forms and what they were meant for, they murdered Dr. Hartem in cold blood and decided to do the same to other criminals. Dr. Hartem’s daughter, Jane, sought to eliminate “The Slithering Super Snakes” to avenge her father’s death and to stop them acting as judge, jury and executioner. To do this, she created her own mutants: she gave two cats anthropomorphic forms, only to lose one of them to the Snakes. An attempt to revive her father’s brain lead her to learn about another universe, one where The Slithering Super Snakes was just a silly cartoon show, where the Snakes were fun-loving heroes. The Snakes, from secretly spying on Hartem, learned about this world too, which caused a rift between their leader, Tennyson, and the rest of them. Tennyson thought they should be more like the cartoon Snakes, and this caused Whitman, Shelley and Blake to go their own ways. Tennyson killed his “siblings” then asked Hartem to kill him too, completing her revenge.
  • In the magical land of Kirkalan, Daryl the dragon was forced into working for the evil witch Aosoth. Wanting to spread further terror throughout Kirkalan, Aosoth cast a curse on Daryl that caused monsters to come out of his head in moments of stress. Furious at Aosoth for doing this, Daryl joined up with a young boy and a wizard who were questing for the Eye of Shodden, the one thing that could destroy Aosoth. Daryl used it on Aosoth himself, and due to the guilt of willingly killing someone and how unsafe he felt in Kirkalan, the god Spartypuss sent him to England to live a new life. Back at Kirkalan, Aosoth was resurrected by a spell and tried to get Daryl back on her side, leading him to meet Denise, a dragon fighting to save Kirkalan from evil and to end the prejudice dragons faced in Kirkalan. Aosoth tried to attack England but Daryl faced her and stopped her, and trained with Denise in order to redeem himself.
  • The Constellation Crusaders are the most beloved heroic team in the galaxy for destroying Lord Zaebos, but while many believe Zaebos was killed by the heroic Lance Strengthold, it was actually one of his scientists, Nessa, who had fallen in love with Zaebos and hated herself for it. She confessed this to former Constellation Crusaders member Diddy-Dee, and they decided to form their own team, also attempting to recruit an intergalactic bounty hunter resembling an anthropomorphic lizard known as The Reptilian.
  • The Reptilian was hired to take out Daryl, only to find that he was not the only one hired, causing him to run into both The Constellation Crusaders and Team Universe, a more playful space hero team made up of an Earth graduate looking for work, a former soldier of the Perferian army, a talking badger and a living rosebush. They were all hired by Aosoth, who wanted to create more head monsters and to get revenge on Daryl, and mocking how ridiculous Aosoth was caused the Constellation Crusaders and Team Universe to bond. Seeing this made The Reptilian want to join Nessa and Diddy, but then he got another offer from Bug-Eyes, an insect-like creature with robotic eyeballs that induced illusions, mostly bug-related ones. She grew up on the streets, then became a fixture in an underground fight club where she got her robotic eyes after being blinded in a fight, then became a bodyguard for a crime boss before she decided to become her own villain. The Reptilian refused to join her and fought her before she was abducted by Aosoth, who tried to use her to get revenge on Daryl. Not only did Bug-Eyes pick up an amulet that let her punch people great distances, she found that using her robotic eyes on Daryl, she could create monsters of her own design and command them. She thus created a monster that transferred Aosoth’s magic to her eyes, enhancing them so that they could uncover a victim’s greatest fears. After taking over Aosoth’s castle, she trapped Daryl in the dungeons so she could create herself her own monster army.

And now our story….


‘Spartypuss,’ said Denise as she sat next to Aruff, resting her chin on her fist, ‘sometimes I wonder if it was really a good idea to send Daryl where you sent him.’

After being punched into the air and regaining her balance, Denise retreated to Aruff’s temple, where he was waiting for her along with his brother, the big cat Spartypuss. Both of them being gods and sensing the transfer of magic from one person to another, they knew what had happened at Aosoth’s castle. Spartypuss, being the most curious about Earth and the dimension it resided in, used his powers to conjure up any books he could and found the name of the culprit.

‘They call her “Bug-Eyes”,’ explained Spartypuss, showing a photo of her, ‘according to what I could find, she was a bodyguard of a big mean old crime boss until she decided to go off on her own…’

Denise snatched the book away from Spartypuss, reading through it herself. ‘Says here she’s battled a group of heroes called “Team Universe”, perhaps they could be good reinforcements…’ After laying eyes on a picture where a young man, a member of the team, placed a “Kick Me” sign on Bug-Eyes’ back, Denise added, ‘Well, maybe not.’

‘What are we doing lounging around reading?’ snarled Aruff, before raising his sword to the air.

‘She’ll be expecting us to strike now,’ said Denise, placing her hand on Aruff’s wrist, which made him lower the sword. ‘Let’s look through this material,’ continued Denise, tapping on the book in her grasp, ‘and see what we can find out about her before we plan an attack.’


I had made the castle my safehouse, and I had never felt safer.

How can one not feel safe when they have what could be called a minion dispenser? Several monsters, each serving a purpose, all designed by, created by and loyal to me. I want a monster that can shoot lasers at any unwanted intruder? I could have that. I want my very own bodyguard? All I had to do was stare at that poor little dragon right in the eyes.

Hours I spent creating monster after monster until I had an entire army of various beasts at my disposal. Two muscular green ogres stood guard at the castle’s front doors, while three purple pterodactyls circled the tallest tower, waiting for victims to feed on.

Though I could have spent all day expanding my army, I knew I needed to tour my new castle. After familiarising myself with the dungeons, I walked upstairs to see more monsters I had created hard at work. Monsters created for the purpose of redecorating, given knowledge of how to make the castle better suit my tastes. I did like the dull grey bricks and the blood-red candles, but there was plenty of things that had to go. One was the giant portrait of the grinning witch in the main hall. A fat spherical monster with the ability to cough up fully-finished paintings coughed up a painting of me sitting on a throne, wearing a crown and a crimson cape. Even my cohorts seemed impressed.

After climbing spiralling stairs, I entered the castle’s library, where I was greeted with towering bookshelves, each one of them filled with thick books, as well as the stench of mould. I pulled one out randomly and flipped through its contents. A book of spells, as I assumed almost all of them were. I told myself to look through them; with the magic in my eyes, I could probably cast some of them.

Another room had a crystal ball.

Looking at my reflection in that ethereal orb, it truly dawned on me how much power I had stumbled into.

Without really thinking, I blurted out to the crystal ball, ‘Show me a chicken,’ and the next second, an image of a fat red hen pecking at the ground materialised in the orb.

I had so many other questions to ask the crystal ball, yet when I attempted to ask them, the words dissipated before they even left my tongue. Just looking at the thing made my stomach plunge.

When I finally entered the bedroom, I told my cohorts to leave me alone before taking off my jacket and shoes, and lying on the bed. I was certain that I fell asleep as soon as I lay on that four-poster bed with the blood-red covers, dreaming dizzy dreams about the crystal ball and what it could tell me.

I awoke feeling groggy, inwardly scolding myself for sleeping when that dragon was most likely planning to attack (not that I was worried, I just didn’t want to miss out on the fun.)

After my head cleared enough, I walked over to the door and peeked through, seeing Charles stand guard, presumably making sure I wasn’t disturbed. ‘Charles,’ I said, ‘any sign of any intruders?’

‘No, boss,’ he barked. I nodded and closed the door behind me.

With me being more awake and alert, I took a better look at the room in which I had slept. Another room with dark stone walls illuminated by the red flame of candelabras. Another bookshelf that towered over me, the bed that, despite being as cold as the rest of the castle, I had instantly fallen asleep upon and a large wardrobe as colourless as the wall it rested against.

Feeling like I needed a change of clothing, I threw open the wardrobe, greeted by long dark robe after long dark robe. I took one of them and placed it against my body, imagining myself as that fierce foe of fairytales, the evil sorceress spreading pain and misery across the land, making everyone know how I felt.

bugeyesrobe

I made sure to wear a business suit as often as possible; not only did it give me an air of authority, it was what I wore as a bodyguard and what I wore when I had that first cathartic battle with Team Universe. Looking at the robe in my grasp, I wondered if I could make more good memories to be associated with this garment.

Suddenly, I gathered up the courage to ask the crystal ball something:

‘Where are Team Universe?’

Surely, I thought, they would be the best choices to test out my enhanced eyeballs on. They had a reputation for being jovial jokemeisters, and that would make it even more delicious to leave them shuddering and screaming.

The crystal ball showed them on the abandoned planet Carmam, a place with nothing but dark red plains underneath a cloudless orange sky, but they were adding more colour to it with picnic tables full of sugary treats, as well as balloons and banners. One such banner, put up by the human Spaceman Steve, read “Happy Birthday Rosebuddy”. Sure enough, that annoying living rosebush was looking up at the banner, a big smile on his leafy face.

What’s more, Team Universe weren’t the only heroic team there. Rosebuddy turned around to greet The Constellation Crusaders, all four of them holding a brightly-wrapped present.

I had heard of the Constellation Crusaders – their leader did kill Zaebos after all – but they meant nothing to me. I had never battled them before, they did nothing to help shape my life.

So that was my plan; kill the Constellation Crusaders, capture Team Universe and keep them in this castle where I could torture them for as much as I’d like.

With Daryl at my disposal, I had a way to leave the castle and return to my own dimension: a green slug-like monster with a six-foot-tall mouth containing a portal to take me to wherever I wish.

After speaking with my “troops” about my plan, I stepped through the portal and the stench of mold and the sound of scurrying rats was replaced by the smell of dust and the sounds of “For He’s A Thorny Good Rosebush”. The singing stopped as soon as they noticed me.

‘Bug-Eyes!’ snarled Larat as she laid all three eyes on me and the little spherical long-armed monsters I had created.

‘You were expecting Darkedge?’ I said with a smirk, watching as the small spherical monsters hopped towards my victims and seized them by the wrists. Squibb followed them, for he was the best at stealing weapons.

‘Well, well, well,’ I said, walking towards the heroes with my arms behind my back, ‘I suppose my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail.’ I temporarily forgot the Constellation Crusaders were even there and turned my attention towards Team Universe. Spaceman Steve the young human, Larat the Perferian, William the talking badger in the tweed jacket, and the birthday boy himself, Rosebuddy the living rosebush. All four of them I remember decking in the face and I had a good mind to do it again, though this time I didn’t want to send them flying halfway across the planet. Not when I could make them my test subjects.

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‘What do you want, Bugface?’ snapped Spaceman Steve, using a nickname I had heard far too often.

‘To ruin Rosebuddy’s birthday,’ I sneered before stuffing a cupcake off the table into my mouth, letting the crumbs sprinkle onto the ground.

‘And what are you wearing?’

‘Silence!’ I snapped, turning back to the team, each of them struggling to get out of the monsters’ – out of my clutches. I noticed Larat had managed to get a tentacle free, so she became the first of my test subjects, with me looking at her straight in her three eyes as I uncovered her worst fears.

In seconds, I entered her mind, finding myself in a city in ruins, the cloud clogged by gravestone-grey clouds. Larat slithered among the rubble, the only spot of colour in the city. There were others of her kind there, other Perferian soldiers, but…

Being in this world made me feel like I was going to vomit.

Larat turned to me. ‘You’re sick.’

With a blink of my eyes, I left her nightmare world and turned towards William the badger, the member of the team I liked the least.

Why? He’s rich. I don’t need to say more.

When I looked at him in the eyes, I lay witness to a British countryside, the sun shining through the trees illuminating the bushes and grass. Birds sung in the distance, and despite the fact that this was not a physical place, I could smell the flowers.

I even picked a rose from a bush. A rosebush that, despite not moving, seemed to be this world’s version of Rosebuddy.

Just as I was wondering where William was, I saw a normal, non-anthropomorphic badger walking through the field.

When I stared at Rosebuddy, I got the same: same world, same sniffing badger, same stationary rosebush.

It reminded me of when I looked through those many books about the insects I resembled, closed my eyes and wondered what it would be like to be one of those creatures.

My final victim was Spaceman Steve. I looked at him straight in the eyes and saw not a place, but a person. A middle-aged, balding human that I had never seen before yet had an iota of familiarity.

Another image from Steve’s brain entered mine; a young boy sitting atop a classroom chair, grinning as the rest of the class laughs, right until the teacher comes in.

The man again. ‘How dare you embarrass me like that?’

Then a scene of the boy in his bedroom, looking up at colourful posters of rockets and robots, a scene defined not by the presence of the man, but his absence.

I fell into a less colourful scene. One that I knew too well: a dank basement duller and darker than the dungeons of the witch’s castle, with punching bags dangling from the ceiling.

The place I trained with Ferar. Where Steve currently stood.

When I entered his mind, he found a way to enter mine.

Or did I let him in accidentally?

‘Get a hold of yourself,’ I whispered to myself before turning to Steve. ‘Well,’ I said to him, pushing away a punching bag obstructing my path, ‘you’re in my world now.’

This was a world created by me, that existed only in the minds of Steve and myself, yet I smelled the familiar decay and heard my footsteps echo. It was like I had travelled back in time, and I was half-expecting to see my younger self run in.

Thinking of what I would say to my younger self made my stomach plunge again.

‘Hey! I saw this on TV!’ barked Steve, raising his hand, ‘Two can play at this game!’ He gritted his teeth, obviously trying to turn his hand into a laser cannon or something. I swear I saw his hand tremble, but with a glow of my eyes, it returned to normal.

This could still be a good memory.

‘Nuh-uh-uh!’ I said, wagging my finger at him, ‘This is my world, and we play by my rules!’

Before I could make my move, I was jolted back into reality as I felt a hand tighten around my arm.

Cara. I had forgotten about her and her team.

She had broken free of the monster’s grip, and seeing her do so inspired Lance, that musclebound simpleton, to struggle even more until he too broke free. Shoving Cara aside, I lunged towards Lance instinctively, again utilising the power of my eyes.

I entered his mind, but only for a little while.

What I saw made me burst into uncontrollable laughter.

‘What?’ snarled Cara, looking for the gun Squibb had stolen.

‘Congratulations,’ I said both to her and to Lance, ‘I now have a reason not to kill you.’

‘That is?’ she growled, seizing me by the shoulders.

‘I know something about Lance he doesn’t want you to know,’ I said, noticing Lance shrinking away, ‘and it’s for me to know and you to figure out. But it’s only a matter of time.’ I looked at Lance again and after another bout of laughter, I said, ‘Surely the man who single-handedly defeated Zaebos isn’t afraid, is he?’

The monster with the portal in its mouth did exactly as I commanded. It opened for Squibb once he had stolen all my enemy’s weapons, and it opened for Charles when he had to say, ‘Boss! Intruders!’

As soon as he said that, all the little spherical monsters released their captives and ran towards the portal Charles came out of, and I followed them, saying to my friends, ‘Go ahead, have your little party. I’ll leave you alone for now, but just remember, Lance, I know.’

As the portal closed behind me and I returned to the castle, I closed my eyes and relished mental imagery of the mighty Lance Strengthhold shaking in his boots, wondering when his lie would be revealed, and all his friends demanding to know the truth.

Anything to distract me from the nausea induced by what I saw from Team Universe.

I felt vomit crawling up my throat again, however, when I saw the monster carcasses all over the floor.

‘Boss, I tried to stop them but…’

He paused, attempting to find the right words, and my response was to punch him right in the face, creating a huge hole in the castle wall. It reminded me of something from a cartoon, so I chuckled.

What also seemed to come from a cartoon was the huge pink cat, kicking away one of the smaller monsters. He looked like a mascot costume given flesh and blood.

As soon as I saw him, I readied to punch him as I had done with Charles, only for that armoured dog to spring up and grab me by the arm. ‘We were wondering when you’d get back,’ he said with a smile that revealed his fangs.

I kicked him in the shin, for he wore no armour on his legs, and he released me. Before I could do anything, the cat leapt towards me, knocking me against the cold stone wall.

‘Nice work, brother,’ said the dog, smiling.

‘I know what this is, I wasn’t born yesterday,’ I said before shoving the two out of my way, ‘this is a distraction.’

I ran to the dungeons, stepping over more monster corpses, until I saw Denise the female dragon ascending the spiralling stairs, Daryl on her shoulders.

‘Give him back!’ I snapped, ‘I need him more than you do!’

Tiny flames danced from Denise’s nostrils as she grimaced at me.

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‘I’ve seen what you fear. I know you,’ I said, smiling as I saw the flames flicker again, ‘You don’t care about him, you just want to pretend you’re more considerate than you actually are!’ I backed away, still focussing on Denise as she ascended. ‘You don’t scare me.’

Daryl looked up at me, barely opening his eyes. ‘Leave her alone,’ he croaked.

‘Don’t be like this, Daryl,’ I said as we reached the top of the stairs, ‘didn’t you like the monsters you helped me create? Don’t deny it, you liked working for Aosoth! You loved the feeling of power when you killed her, when you did what many people wished they could have! You…’

That was when I knew I had to make a quick exit.

I darted up another staircase, the warmth I felt signalling that I escaped being roasted to a crisp, and looked for one of my surviving monsters.

The one with the portal in its mouth.

It was time to meet one of my heroes.


To be continued…

Bug-Eyes’ Fantastical Adventure

This story follows on from The Other Offer and also features characters from Daryl and Denise. It takes place in The Supervillainverse


bugeyespower

I like thinking about the old days.

You might think that this is me living in the past, but no, quite the opposite. I always look to create a better future for myself, to explore new horizons and to improve myself and my helpers, and what better way to motivate me to do that than to remember what made me the woman I am?

Every item I carry with me has its own little memory. Whenever I use my brass knuckles on a victim, I remember when I first used them to wipe that smug grin off that badger’s face and when I realised what I was meant to do. I often wear a business suit not only to show my authority, but because that’s what I wore when I worked as a bodyguard for Attra Schlera, which helped me realise what I was meant to do.

They call me Bug-Eyes, even though I’m not actually a bug. I’m not actually an insect, though my antennae makes me resemble a cartoon version of one. I have two arms and two legs, I have an internal skeleton, and I’ve even been told by more observant people that my skin resembles that of a salamander.

I’m not a bug, though I do find them most fascinating creatures.

You may think I got that name from my special robotic eyeballs, the ones I had placed into my skull after I was blinded in an unfair fight, but they called me that at Ferar’s Fights even before I received that gift. They also called me “Bugface” and “Anthead”, as well as “The Kid”.

Ferar’s Fights, the place I received my name, the first time I really had a roof over my head. I had spent my childhood on the streets of Terria, seeing various creatures from various planets pass me by, but never seeing any sign of a mother or father. One thing you learn being out on the streets is that you must be tough in order to survive, and that’s just what I did. I needed to eat, and sometimes I had to fight to do that. When I was fourteen, I tried to take a Corkalon’s sandwich when I thought he wasn’t looking, and ended up having to dodge his punches, bite him in the arm and ultimately punch his teeth out for something I needed more than him.

He fought at Ferar’s Fights, Ferar himself witnessed the fight I had and then Ferar gave me food and a bed, all in exchange for being the youngest fighter in his underground fight club. Where I improved and honed my skills, learned more about the world, and began to realise the universe and its inhabitants for what they really are.

I shouldn’t have to tell you that his “kid, I’m gonna make you a star” was more for his sake than it was for mine. He gave me a home because he wanted a fighter to make him money. He trained me so he could have a better fighter and make more money. He gave me books to read because fighting is just as much about the mind as it is the body, so reading could potentially give him a better fighter who would make more money.

I got these eyes from an experiment with him not giving a hoot about whether or not I get hurt because it could potentially give him a better fighter…you get the point.

The witch who had teleported me to her castle; she was the same. Though she claimed she had found me work for my sake, I knew she offered it to me because it might benefit her.

Looking over what she called a “suggestion”, I accepted, but only because I knew it could benefit me.

Choosing to forget that reptile and his ridiculous friends (the thought of them scouring the entire galaxy for me and failing made me inwardly chuckle), I asked the witch if she could teleport some of my helpers over, as I felt I would be needing them. Her twirling around her finger and making my henchmen materialise in her castle impressed me less than she thought it did.

Why? Because I felt, with the right tools and practice, it was something I could do one day.

After leaving the witch’s castle with every room shrouded in darkness and not a spot of colour on the walls, stepping out into the sunlight was a strain even on my robotic eyes. The witch had written on the parchment the exact location of the target, but I wasn’t instantly going to go after it. It was a new world I had found myself in; why not explore it?

I was still in the early stages of my criminal career, and the gang I had amassed – Squibb the tiny, slimy pickpocket, Charles the human who had fought at Ferar’s a few times, Bellara, the being with large fangs and talons, and a few others I don’t know the names of – was small but loyal. A lot of my victories I had accomplished solo, but I admit I wouldn’t have amassed as much ill-gotten money without them. I gave them free reign for an hour or two – they could do whatever they wanted in this new world as long as they agreed to meet up with me where the witch suggested we strike.

It, of course, was less for them and more for me. Their happiness was a bonus – a happy criminal is a successful criminal – but it was mostly so I could have a little “me time”. So I could walk under the skies as blue as my skin and on the grass as green as the slime that blinded me.

After taking off my jacket, wrapping it around my waist and rolling up my sleeves – for this world was warmer than I thought it would be – I strolled down the fields, looking at the hills and the clear sky.

I had never been to this world before, and yet it seemed to carry as much memories for me as my suit and my brass knuckles. I was certain I saw a place like this in dreams I had when I was young, a place full of magic and mystique and natural beauty. A place where I could just sit and think.

A place I wanted to escape to. A place I wanted to claim for my own.

I met back up with my gang sooner than I thought. After taking in the scenery of the fields, I made my way over to a nearby village, where I saw Squibb slither out holding a bag of coins, followed by the others, carrying various other stolen goods. Of course, they were followed, and while my eyes that create illusions didn’t work on the witch, they worked on the villagers. As they screamed at the imaginary swarms, my gang and I ran.

‘You’re lucky I showed up,’ I laughed as soon as we found a secluded spot, with no-one around except a couple of apathetic sheep.

‘We were handling things fine,’ Charles replied, ‘you just like showing off.’ Charles said things like that because he knew he was the only one who could and get away with it, since we had met even before he worked for me, even fighting each other once or twice. We didn’t really talk that much, we didn’t have some “I think I’ll miss you most of all” moment when I left to work as a bodyguard, but out of my helpers, he came the closest to being a friend.

He and the others showed me what they stole. Mostly bags of coins, which we shared amongst ourselves – even if we weren’t going to spend them in this world, they were probably worth something elsewhere. After all the coins had been shared out, Bellara presented me with a medallion which carried a crimson glow. ‘You said you were curious about magic,’ she said and I was. Half of that Team Universe owe what they were to magic, so, I thought, it couldn’t hurt for me to have some. Many people thought my eyes were magic, but I knew actual sorcery and hocus-pocus was scarce where I grew up.

As I stared at the medallion, almost hypnotised by the blood-red glow, Bellara explained that it could apparently send an opponent hurtling great distances backwards. So I tried an experiment: I slipped my fingers into my brass knuckles, then wrapped the medallion’s chain around it. Though that sheep near me didn’t do anything and certainly wasn’t listening to my conversation, I punched it in the face and sure enough, it was sent spinning over the hills.

I stared at my fist, which trembled.

‘Alright,’ I said as soon as I processed what happened, ‘let’s do what we came here to do.’

Our destination was a temple where someone calling himself “The God of War” lay, a title that might have seemed more impressive to me had I not seen several opponents try to use the same or similar monikers before. Likewise, the temple being in a place known as a village of barbarians would have sounded more threatening were my group and I not sometimes called barbarians ourselves.

Nonetheless, when we entered, we readied ourselves to be attacked by barbarian hordes, only to be greeted by the God of War himself, his arms opened wide. A large anthropomorphic dog in armour.

‘Ah,’ he said with a grin exposing his sharp canine teeth that was somehow welcoming and threatening at the same time, ‘I can sense you have the Medallion of Farrawait, so obviously you are connoisseurs of violence like yours truly. Are you here to help me and my students in the war against Aosoth?’ I nodded. ‘Excellent. Let me take you to them.’

He led us up a flight of stone steps, towards a temple that looked as grey and dismal as the witch’s castle. After throwing open the entrance doors, we were greeted by two more figures: two dragons. Two green scaly creatures that resembled The Reptilian if he had wings. One was female, wearing a white tunic, and the other was a male, dressing like someone from a century ago with a black trilby and a tweed jacket.

The latter was who I had come for.

His name was Daryl, he used to work for the witch, monsters born out of frustration, anguish and other negative emotions came out of his head. He was formerly in the employ of what many would call a villain, he had a power to do with the mind, he had even encountered Team Universe at one point.

I had to try another experiment.

As the female dragon looked at me with folded arms and narrowed eyes, Daryl shuddered at the presence of me and my gang. ‘Calm down,’ I said, raising my hands, ‘I’m not going to hurt you. I want to help you battle Aosoth.’

‘Do you?’ asked Daryl, before taking a deep breath.

‘I heard you met The Constellation Crusaders, Team Universe and The Reptilian,’ I continued, approaching him slowly, ‘a bunch of blowhards, the whole lot of them. And they claim to be heroes…’

‘Yeah, it kind of reminds me of…’ He then bit his lip.

‘I want to try something,’ I told him.

‘What?’ he replied, trembling again.

‘Something that I think can help us.’ I looked him right in the eyes, utilising my special power again, making him see bugs from all over the galaxy.

Those bugs crawled right from under his hat.

I continued to stare at him, clenching my teeth as I tried to conjure up something else. A slug, I thought. A big fat purple slug with antennae like mine.

Daryl’s hat rumbled, and before he could grab it, the slug from my mind entered Daryl’s and quickly left it.

‘There you go,’ I turned to my helpers, gesturing towards the slug and bugs. ‘I made him think those things and they came out. What did I tell you?’

Charles turned towards the slug, looking at it closer. ‘It has your eyes,’ he laughed.

‘Yes,’ I sighed, before turning to Daryl.

‘So,’ the female dragon said, walking towards me, ‘you can actually control what comes out of Daryl’s head?’ I nodded. ‘Yes, this is what we need!’ the dragon said with a smile, clenching her hands, ‘What I was thinking was that since it was Aosoth’s magic that created this curse, we could create something that could steal Aosoth’s magic away from her.’

Daryl smiled and nodded. ‘Good idea, Denise. Then we could actually arrest her!’

‘Also,’ said the dog, smiling the smile he greeted me with, ‘it could mean that we could destroy her without the Eye of Shodden!’

‘No, Aruff,’ said Daryl with a sudden sternness before returning to the mood I first saw him have, ‘also, it would be pretty…well…I don’t know if a living thing that owes its very existence…’

I stared at him again, activating my powers, again forcing my mind to think of the monster I wanted. My mind went to another purple slug, another purple slug with antennae, only the antennae would be used to siphon magic from the witch Aosoth.

The slug sprang out of Daryl’s head, launching itself into the air before landing at the temple’s front door. While the first slug stayed where it was created, slithering around my helpers, the second raced down the stone steps, looking like a balloon after letting the air out.

I, Daryl and Denise followed the creature, with Denise carrying me by the arms, keeping up with the creature though it moved with superhuman speeds. We arrived at Aosoth’s castle, the dark grey blemish on the happy green plains. The entrance was wide open, so after Denise gently dropped me onto the ground, I ran in to see my creation at work.

Sure enough, I saw the slug looming over Aosoth, the latter emitting red mist which the former sucked up. The sight made me grin, but my good mood shrunk when I saw two blue monsters in armour rush towards my creation. ‘Don’t worry,’ said the shorter of the two, ‘we’ll save y-‘

Before he could finish his sentence, I dove towards him and punched him, sending him hurtling right through the wall. Seeing this made the taller of the two run away, just as the slug had finished its job.

‘What have you…’ The witch turned to me, ‘You weren’t supposed to…’ she hissed.

The slug turned to me and emitted the mist in my direction.

‘No…’

It felt like my blood had become electricity, like all my skills and strength had instantly increased tenfold. As I absorbed the witch’s power, I imagined what I could do with it. Teleport into any bank or museum and steal their valuables before anyone knows I’m there. Eliminate any enemy in seconds by shooting a beam out of my hand. In my mind’s eye, I saw myself making Aosoth’s castle my new home, from which I ruled every world and every planet there was.

Not only did these mists bring forth a surge of energy and fantasies, it also brought forth a splitting headache, though thankfully that lasted only a few seconds.

As I put my jacket back on, I turned to the witch, who shuddered like her former henchman did. I raised my hand, ready to blast a fiery bolt that would reduce her to nothingness…

There was a brief spark, but no bolt came.

‘Really?’ The witch laughed, chuckling and chortling even as I came closer, my eyes glowing.

She was still afraid. She still feared dying powerless and helpless, I could sense it.

I made her fears clearer. I made her see not insects or bugs, but her defeat. Slain like a common enemy, thought of forever as a mere nuisance.

I made her see Daryl revered as a hero, not feared or ridiculed as she wanted.

I made her see me, not her, as being recognised as Kirkalan’s greatest threat.

She lay on the ground cowering. I would have laughed if it wasn’t so pathetic; I couldn’t even bring myself to kill her.

‘What are you doing?’ snarled Denise as she approached.

I turned to her, my eyes still glowing. When I did, I saw what she feared: her and her people being feared and shunned, dragons seen only as destructive monsters. That was what I made her see, and that’s what made her freeze.

Of course, I thought as I tried to rationalise this. My eyes brought the creature to life, so my eyes were what siphoned the witch’s power, enhancing and intensifying my abilities.

‘No…’ said Denise, shaking her head as if that would knock the visions out, ‘I know you…’

‘You’re weak, Denise,’ I said with a smirk, ‘you just know what I showed you is going to come true. I mean, you did help me to enhance my power.’

‘Denise!’ Daryl ran to us, only for Bellara to approach him from behind and restrain him, digging her claws into his arms.

‘Good, Charles,’ I said, before turning to Denise, ‘Don’t worry, we aren’t going to kill him. We need his head monsters, and we wouldn’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs now, would we?’

Denise grabbed me by the lapels of my jacket, and brought her face closer to mine, her own eyes seeming to glow with furious fire. ‘Listen here, you may have Aosoth’s powers, but I’m certain I don’t need the Eye of Shodden to kill you.’ She released her grip on one of my lapels and balled her hand into a fist, only for me to grab her by the wrist before her fist made contact with my face.

‘You think you’re the only trained fighter here?’ I said before my eyes glowed once again. In my mind’s eye, I saw Kirkalan, with its hills and bright green fields. I saw Kirkalan, completely barren with the villages reduced to ruins. That’s what Denise saw in her mind’s eye as well; she walked the empty, desolate land, caused by something she couldn’t stop.

Then I sent her flying out of the window.

‘Denise!’

What I did wasn’t going to kill her. I knew she would fly away, come up with a plan and be back to oppose me again. I was looking forward to it.

I watched as Charles, Bellara and the others led Daryl and Aosoth to the dungeons, our true first step in claiming the castle as our new safehouse. The second step was to create some monsters to help guard it.

When Bellara had finished putting him in manacles, I turned to Daryl.


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A Little Levity

On the outskirts of Raven City, overlooking the skyscrapers from atop a twisted, lofty hill, there stood a colourless mansion, resembling more a gigantic tomb than a place someone might live. Indeed, it was occupied, but one wouldn’t know it from the skeletal vines clawing their way up the walls, the chilling air that dominated the grounds and the eternally empty windows.

It was not the place where you’d expect to hear a loud roar from within that would almost shake the house’s foundations. However, unbeknownst to many yet suspected by a few, this was the home of  who was popularly known as “The Scary Superhero”: Spectralman.

Spectralman was a superhero that resembled a wraith. His costume had not a speck of colour nor a bright logo, and his face was hidden almost entirely by a hood, save two yellow eyes. He was a ghastly figure who terrified criminals, and he made sure his home reflected that.

Early one night, he had learned that Mr. Chuckles, the criminal with the face of a clown, was planning on unleashing a poison of his own design. Spectralman, after jumping out from behind one of Chuckles’ henchmen and yelling ‘Boo!’, had managed to claim a sample of the poison, and raced back to his gloomy mansion to create an antidote.

He was aided in this endeavour by his butler, Reginald. Reginald had always had a keen interest in science; with his coke-bottle glasses and white walrus moustache, many even said he looked like many scientists – mad or otherwise – did. Whenever the opportunity arose, he always helped his master with formulas and machinery.

Reginald never worked without earphones in. Either he would be listening to classical music, which he said helped him think, or audiobooks, podcasts or anything audial relating to science, to help inspire him.

While studying a possible antidote to Mr. Chuckles’ poison, Reginald listened to one such scientific podcast, and let loose a small laugh.

‘What was that?’ snarled Spectralman, his yellow eyes burning even brighter.

‘Oh, my apologies,’ said Reginald, removing one of his earphones, ‘I’ve been recently recommended this podcast, which explains scientific principles in a humourous way…’

‘How can you listen to humour at a time like this?’ Spectralman yelled, forcing himself not to slam his fist on the table.

‘Well, I suppose, because it’s a time like this,’ explained Reginald, holding up a hand, ‘both of us have been under a lot of stress recently, and I have heard about the healing power of laughter…’

‘I loathe laughter!’ cried Spectralman, raising his fists to the air, ‘I despise comedy and humour in all forms! This is serious work we’re doing! We can’t laugh when there’s evil to fight!’

‘Well,’ replied Reginald, ‘I would think laughter would make fighting evil a little easier!’

Spectralman sighed. ‘You do realise the villain we’re trying to stop is called Mr. Chuckles?’

‘Exactly. His goal is to pervert comedy into something nauseating, so if you talk like this, you’re giving him what he wants!’

‘Comedy was always nauseating, Reginald.’

‘Well, what about Erica and her show?’ Reginald replied, ‘She utilises comedy when she’s trying to help us.’

‘I’ve been having my doubts about her, Reginald,’ said Spectralman, placing his hand on his shadowed chin.

‘You say that about everyone, sir.’ Reginald shook his head, rolling his eyes.

‘It’s just…trying to use a game show to…’

‘I think her attempts to rehabilitate are working better than you might think. I hear she recently employed Dr. Meow’s robot so now he’s doing some relatively more honest work.’

Spectralman continued rubbing his chin, remembering when Dr. Meow came to Raven City simply to see if she had a chance of becoming his arch-enemy. Upon remembering that Meow actually had found a hero who considered her an arch-enemy, thus meaning he wouldn’t have to deal with her, he almost smiled.

‘What I’m saying is,’ Reginald continued, ‘a little levity now and again wouldn’t hurt. I mean, many would find humour in the fact that you’re conducting experiments dressed like the Grim Reaper.’

‘Alright, Reginald,’ sighed Spectralman, shaking his head, ‘I’ll try to indulge in a little…a little humour. Just for you.’

The next night, several criminals were found unconscious with custard pies on their faces.


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A Fright on Father’s Day

Both Maggie and I loved going to the seaside in the summer, and so, since it was a sunny day, that’s what we were doing for Father’s Day. In the past, it was me taking Maggie there, but that day, she was the one driving us there, allowing me to relax and read the book she bought me for this day on the trip there.

Every time Maggie took me to the seaside, I had a mental image of there barely being anyone there and she and I taking a quiet walk across the crashing waves. That’s what I kept imagining even on the drive even though a part of me knew that since it was Father’s Day, the place would be packed. Indeed it was; you could barely see the sand from how many families were sunbathing, having picnics and building sandcastles. ‘Well, so much for a quiet day,’ Maggie joked when she opened the car doors.

Before going to the sandy area, we took a brief walk along the nearby town, memories of days gone by awakened by seeing shop windows full of floatation aids and plastic sandcastle moulds. After Maggie bought me an ice cream cone and herself a strawberry lolly in the shape of a squirrel, what she always had when we came here years ago.

Both of us thought, or at least hoped, that the beach would be a little less crowded after walking through town, but it was still packed, and we found ourselves navigating it for a spot where we could sit and enjoy the sunshine and I could read my book.

‘Well, if we take off the rose-coloured glasses for a bit,’ said Maggie, looking at how her squirrel had already become a shapeless blob, ‘the beach always was a bit crowded when I came here as a kid.’ Indeed, I instantly remembered it being that way.

Soon enough, we found a good spot to sit, one that was close to the sea.

Close enough that we saw the monster emerging.

gertrude

A gangly creature with skin the colour of seaweed, who had tentacles in place of legs that slapped around on the ground as it came to the shore. It looked at Maggie, me and everyone on the beach with three yellow eyes that blinked independently, and the cream-coloured dress it wore did nothing to make it look less bizarre.

I froze in fear, and was the only one on the beach to do so. Some fainted, many ran and Maggie marched in front of me, chewing the top off her lolly stick to make a makeshift weapon. She shoved it into the monster’s face with a shuddering hand and growled.

‘Flee!’ cried the monster, waving around her arms which were also tentacles. She also had tentacles where there should have been a mouth, which wobbled when she talked. ‘Flee before I devour you.’

Maggie didn’t try to stab the monster with her lollipop stick, but pantomimed it as a warning. I almost saw this as an opportunity to flee, but then the monster said something which made me stay:

‘Could you please leave? For Dad’s sake?’

‘Dad?’ asked Maggie, lowering her weapon.

‘Okay,’ said the monster, ‘I’ll explain why I’m doing this. My Dad….you see, our species likes eating a lot of things you humans wouldn’t. We like eating pocket lint and algae and mud, but coins are quite a delicacy. Because of this, my Dad likes to pretend to be a pirate with some of his friends and they force humans on boats and on seasides to give him their coins. It’s got me and Mum worried sick.

‘I overheard him saying he was planning on attacking this beach next. I thought if I scared everyone away beforehand, it would discourage him. So, if I were you, I’d run away before…’

‘Gertrude! What be this?’

Sure enough, another of Gertrude’s species arose from the waves, a tall green creature wearing a tattered brown coat and waistcoat, along with an eyepatch and a captain’s hat. In one of his tentacle-arms, he wielded a cutlass, which he waved in the air as he fully emerged. Maggie held me tightly by the arm and raised her lolly stick again.

‘Cut it out, Dad, it’s not funny anymore.’

‘How dare ye!’

‘This is for your own good, Dad. We don’t want to hurt humans…’

‘But Gertude, it be Father’s Day! Let me have me fun!’

‘Just come back home, Dad,’ Gertrude sighed before turning to us, ‘Hey, do you have any coins you can spare? Maybe that’ll get him to leave.’

‘Okay,’ I said as I came forward, which made Maggie release me, ‘look, I’m a father too, you know. Why don’t we talk about this as we have a quiet, nice walk down the seaside, okay?’

‘Fine,’ said the Captain.

Then Maggie and I had that quiet, nice walk down the seaside we had always fantasised about, all the while talking to Gertrude and her father about their problems. They both went back to the sea to go home and think about it, but not before Maggie gave them some of her spare change.


The Captain previously appeared in The Canal Creatures.

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The Right Moment

I lie awake, remembering when a horror movie terrified me without me even watching it.

It was when I was a child and my parents took me to the video rental store – remembering those makes me feel older than I actually am. We had rented out Mr. Teddy’s Trip to Town, a movie I asked for frequently as I relished the bouncy animation and catchy songs. Mum had just placed the video on the counter when my eye caught another video, one for another movie revolving around teddy bears.

The Terror Teddy.

The cover featured a toy box, painted with stars and smiling clowns that only made what emerged from it all the more grotesque. A teddy bear like Mr. Teddy from my favourite movie, but where Mr. Teddy had a warm smile and bright blue eyes, Terror Teddy had a wide grin revealing teeth like knife blades and eyes that burned with hellfire.

Above him sat the movie’s tagline: It came from your toybox!

Not just any toybox, my young mind told me, my toybox.

What my young mind had also theorised was that once you hear about that monster, that monster then makes you its target, waiting for the right moment to strike. I kept my eye on my toybox that night, expecting it to creak open to reveal the burning red eyes and glistening fangs of Terror Teddy.

I knew nothing about the movie’s plot or how its title character was portrayed, but I made up my on theories. I imagined him creeping around my bedroom, looking for my favourite things so he could rip them to shreds. When I wake up, I said to myself, there would be the stuffing of my favourite toys and pages from my favourite books all over the floor, things destroyed by Terror Teddy just so he could revel in my misery. Though I never awoke to such a sight, I thought it was because Terror Teddy decided it wasn’t the right time.

Or maybe, I thought, he was busy terrorising the joyful town Mr. Teddy visited, as well as Mr. Teddy himself. After all, teddies were supposed to be cheerful and friendly, and Terror Teddy seemed hell-bent on perverting that image.

It wasn’t until today I actually watched the movie.

I’m currently a student, and one of my housemates likes to hold a “Bad Movie Night” every other week. He shares with me and the other housemates a DVD he got from a bargain bin and we would not only watch it, but all take turns in verbally taking the mickey. One such movie was indeed, Terror Teddy, which brought back childhood memories, though I never said anything about them to my housemates.

All I could think of when watching the movie was “I was scared of this?”

The Terror Teddy in the movie was not the fiendish beast the cover depicted, but a tacky-looking puppet whose fangs seemed to be made out of paper, whose upper jaw reminded me of a swing bin when he talked, and obvious wires holding up his arms. He wasn’t in my toybox, he was in the toybox of an abandoned mansion out in the middle of nowhere, that was invaded by a group of teenagers whose van had broken down.

Terror Teddy spent the movie killing the teenagers in predictable ways and cracking terrible jokes about it. He threatened one of his victims with a sewing needle, saying, ‘I’ll have you in stitches!’ ‘I’m un-bear-able!’ he cried at one point in the movie, which made everyone in the living room laugh, but not because it was a good joke. In the end, he was defeated by the last surviving teenager finding the magic artefact that brought him to life and smashing it, rendering him a lifeless teddy once more so she could kick him out onto the road where he got run over by a truck.

I laughed throughout the movie, and I laughed all the way to bed, laughing at the movie for being so terrible and laughing at myself for being frightened of Terror Teddy when I was younger, for thinking he was a ferocious monster just waiting for the right moment to strike.

Now I’m not laughing. Now I feel claws digging into my leg and see a figure with glowing red eyes at the foot of my bed.

‘So you think I’m a joke now, do you?’ chuckles the figure, ‘Now is the right moment to strike.’


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