A man walks down the street. It’s a street in a strange world; maybe it’s the Third World, maybe it’s his first time around.
Actually, scratch that, it’s neither. I mean, yes, it’s a strange world, but it’s not the third world he’s been to nor is it his first time around. To clarify, it’s the thirteenth world, no, make that the thirteenth earth this particular voyager has visited and it’s the twenty-third dimension he’s traversed from his own.
And now I’m done with this. As a lifelong fan I can only rip off Paul Simon for a short while before my brain begins to bleed. Now on with our tale.
The days on this specific earth are strange; indeed, it’s cultural, economic and sociological development became stuck somewhere between the Forties and the early Seventies after a war between gods, demi-gods, superheroes and of course, super villains, so you’d only recognize it if you were of a certain age. But I suppose that really isn’t all that important. No, what matters is a certain diner located at the corner of Tenth Avenue and 22nd Street in the neighborhood of Chelsea in the grand metropolis humans across the Multiverse call New York.
It is in this storied establishment that two individuals are about to cross paths and set in motion events that will lead to… well, that would be telling, wouldn’t it?
“Almost finished, dear?” the waitress with the time-worn luggage under her heavily painted eyes quietly inquired of the youthful customer at the end of the dull grey counter crisscrossed with cracks. This greasy spoon, like the city, and for that matter, the world it was a part of, had seen better days. The row of fractured globes dangling from the ceiling only served to illuminate the obvious: This hash house was long past its prime.
Though it did have one redeeming quality.
“Not quite… in fact, I’ve barely started this delicious burger…” he sharpened his gaze while placing a half-consumed Empire Stack upon its plate before scanning the faded nametag that had been as battered by the ravages of time as her face, “Flo? Seriously?” he inquired back in a not-so-hushed tone.
“Yes. What’s wrong with Flo?” was her response, her hackles fully raised.
“Nothing. I guess you’re a bit behind the TV times on this particular mudball, aren’t you?”
“Not sure that that means, honey, but you’re proving my point.”
“What point is that?”
“You’re freaking my customers out… and people are squirrely enough around this burg as it is.”
The customer pivoted and took a good look around at the collection of peepers that were fixated on him.
Dozens of empty, soulless, organic ocular devices scanned him from top to bottom. The scrappiness that comes from living in a place where you have to fight every day for that last seat on the subway, that spot in line, that last slice of deep dish pizza, was gone. All that remained was… fear.
This eating house’s clientele was well and truly freaked out by the traveler in the green leather jacket, Aviator sunglasses, a black-as-night t-shirt emblazoned with a red lightning bolt and black jeans and boots. If the traveler was affected by the spineless crowd of patrons, he refused to show it. He pivoted back to the server with the moniker straight out of a sitcom no one on this world had ever seen.
“If it makes you feel any better, I’m not a super villain, Flo,” was the only comfort he could provide, though his next sentence undid all that. “But I’m not leaving, and no one here is capable of making me do so. You see, I’m waiting for someone, and I’ve come a long way to see him. A ridiculously long way.”
“So, you’re not a killer? Like one of ’em? Because they took my sister’s boy… they slaughtered that poor child like his life meant nothing at all.”
“Oh, I’ve killed before. Dozens of times, in fact!” he morbidly retorted with gleeful abandon. “But never anyone that didn’t deserve it.”
Flo looked back at her manager cowering in the kitchen. She was about to offer her unbelievably odd and unsettling customer a slice of pie on the house if he’d reconsider when the jingle jangle of the bell above the joint’s front door rang out as it opened, and it suddenly became clear why this strangely attired young man was there in the first place.
“Should I clear the joint out?” she asked the adolescent who had returned to scarfing down his Empire Special Blend Burger.
“That all depends on him, Flo. Is he as welcoming to tourists as everyone else around here?” was his snappy comeback.
The reason our hero with the dashing sense of style had crossed dimensions answered for himself – but his response was drowned out by the commotion of the weak-kneed cluster of diners fleeing for their lives, convinced they were about to be caught in the middle of their worst collective nightmare: A superpowered donnybrook that would consume everything its path.
They were right, of course.
And now, those words we all love and dread…
Hook’s Note: A lot has happened these last few weeks that I should probably share with all of you, but honestly, I’m just not in a proper headspace to do that right now.
So please accept this piece of fiction, set in my Infinite Crossover Crisis universe. It’s taken a monumental mental effort for me to crack my writer’s block and create/share this with all of you, so please… be kind but honest.