Thursday, August 30, 2012

Colorless: 999 Words About Hueman & Womangirl

It's the first time I've taken part in Chuck Wendig's flash fiction competition at his [fuckin' delightful] blog, Terrible I've been dutifully following his blog since reading his book 250 Ways to Be a Better Writer, which you must read. Immediately. Don't make me say it twice.

Anyway, I forced my friend Sarah to write a flash story with me this week because that's the kind of awesome friend I am. I don't know how she's fairing, but her story did have a great start. I hope mine has a great start, too...and middle...and end, but I've been a little flash-rusty lately. This challenge was an awesome way to get back in the habit before COFFIN HOP 2012!! :) There was a 1000 word cap, and I miraculously squeaked in at 999 words. Next time I'll aim for 9.

Alright ramblers, let's get ramblin'.

by Jessica McHugh

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today, in the presence of these witnesses, to join together this coffin and this dirt in holy matrimony. If any of you has a reason why these two should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

The minister surveyed the crowd until a man stood, furrowing his brow.

“Don’t you think this is a bit inappropriate?” he asked. “Your incorrect opening aside, shouldn’t we be at a church instead of a sleazy motel?”

“This is what the deceased wanted,” the minister replied. “This was his home for the past few months, and he wanted to stay right here.”

“But Hueman was a superhero. His ability to create beams of colorful light helped rid the world of darkness,” the man said and then, looked up at the charcoal sky. “Not anymore, I guess.” The other mourners shook their heads sadly.

“Look, do you want to lead this funeral, because I’m perfectly happy stepping aside. The last thing I want to do is speak about some washed-up superhero who probably slept with more than half of my parishioners,” the minister snapped.

“That’s not true,” a bold voice declared. The crowd turned around to see a masked woman standing in the back, her cape fluttering in the breeze. Because of the darkness, it was difficult to see the details on her costume, but as she marched down the aisle, notes of purple and red peeked through.

“It’s her. It’s really her,” several people whispered to each other. “I didn’t think she’d show. But it’s her. It’s Womangirl.”

The minister stepped aside, giving Womangirl the podium. The crowd was rapt as she looked back at the coffin waiting to be lowered into the boggy backyard of Jensen’s Motel. Even though they knew her true identity, they were on the edge of their cheap folding chairs when she started to remove her mask. Because of the recent scandal, everyone already knew Womangirl was really Maxine LaFemme, daughter to Guy LaFemme, President of the Heroic League of Heroes, American Chapter. It was also public knowledge that Hueman, now deceased, had had an affair with her. She’d been Hueman’s sidekick for almost ten years and never revealed her true identity to him, as was protocol in such arrangements. Perhaps that mystery is what pulled their bodies together and pushed their clothes to the floor. At least that’s what TMZ speculated after snapping photographic evidence of the superheroes’ tryst at the Jensen.

After that, the hero who’d brought color to dark cities and overthrown supervillian The Gray Gardender became a joke. Sleeping with one’s sidekick was a big no-no, but sleeping with LaFemme’s daughter was even worse. Hueman was excommunicated by the Heroic League of Heroes, evicted from his home and secret hideout, and forced into seclusion. Why he chose the Jensen Motel as his new home, no one knew for certain, but several sources claimed it was to hold onto that one night with Womangirl. Even though it broke her heart, Womangirl secretly wished it was the truth.

She brushed away her tears and bowed her head. “Hueman was a good man, a man who promised me he’d always be around, that he would never leave me colorless,” she sniffled. “Even to the end. Even if he had to hide out in places as horrible as this one.”

“Hey, easy…” Mort Jensen cried from the crowd, but Womangirl continued over his protest.

“Today, I honor a man who filled my life, all of our lives, with color and light; not a man who died of autoerotic asphyxiation while masturbating to ‘Touch of Evil.’”

“I thought he shot himself in the head,” one of the mourners said, while yet another asked, “Didn’t he choke to death on a ham sandwich?”

Womangirl looked to the minister, who shrugged. “There wasn’t a body,” he replied. “I hear it’s because he threw himself into an industrial-sized grinder. Nothing left but hamburger meat and bits of rainbow cape.”

A stiff breeze made a few empty bottles clink together, sounding like church bells, and caused the gray canopy of clouds to dissipate, if only for a few minutes. Sunlight poured through the rundown motel, turning each shard of broken glass into spotlights that covered the crowd in Heineken green and urine yellow. But to Womangirl, those colors were as innocent as Easter Sunday, and she knew why. She lifted her head and peered beyond the mourners, through the rotted out hole in room four that Jensen dubbed an “air shaft.” There, with arms outstretched and color shining from every pore, stood Hueman, more vibrant than Womangirl had ever seen him. She wanted to abandon her eulogy, push through the crowd, and throw herself into his arms as she had done only once before. But she couldn’t. He had faked his death for a reason, and she refused to ruin his chance for a new beginning. He had brought color into so many lives, and she was sure he would continue that pursuit. But not as Hueman. He would leave, he would change, and in turn, he would live to fight another day—without her. God, with all of the press, all of the secrets spilled, Maxine LaFemme didn’t even know his real name.

“I loved him,” she said, looking past every gaze but one. “We dedicated our lives to the law, to protecting this country from evil, and promoting peace. Yes, we broke one of the HLH’s laws, but that defiance was the only way I could know peace for myself—for one night, in his arms.”

Hueman smiled at her and turned away, taking the color with him. But Womangirl knew it wouldn’t be the last time he painted her in blushes of joy. Someday, she would seek out the darkest corner of the world, and again, find a vibrant peace.


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