Haf of HERO8 – Episode 3

October 29th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Previously on Haf of HERO8…

While Haf searched for clues to NAC’s missing toilet paper, a fast moving shadowy figure hit him on the head and hung him upside down in a barrel of rising water. Let’s see if Haf can draw his way out of this one…

In the toilet paper warehouse uncomfortably close to permanent water damage…

The metallic pieces of my ink-fed circulatory system pressed into my head. The pain throbbed and thumped at my skull as though it wanted a life outside of me before I faded away.

I’ve got to get some waterproofing.

I sketched a bull whip and snapped it toward the girder holding the strap stapled to my legs. My first crack was short. I tried to blink the blur out of my circle eyes; the pressure from hanging upside down for so long made even thinking a problem.

I swung the whip in an arc; it wrapped twice around the beam. I tugged to secure it and, flipping the end around my wrist, I pulled myself as high up as I could to check the wounds leaking around the staples. “That’s gonna leave a mark.” I tried to laugh it off, but the water’s threat ate at me. Its musky smell carved at my sinuses. I can’t believe humans drink that crap.

My bull whip disappeared before I could get free and I swung hard toward the barrel.

SFX: BOOM!

The water rushed out across the bare cement floor; tiny shimmering images of myself stared at me in the reflection.

SFX: SPLASH!

Droplets of pain misted over me. Water didn’t just make my ink run; it etched into my skin like melted drops of plastic green Army men suicide bombing a sand castle city.

My head hurt on the inside and a lump the size of Kansas bubbled on the outside. A dark, zippy shadow of paper dolls had punched staples through my calves, my skin crawled and oozed and third-degree burns yelled out in fourth-degree pain.

I swung, tick-tock, above the overturned drum. The ABC Oil Refinery logo rocked with the barrel side to side. The staples threatened to tear through my legs from all the jerking; what had been my painful captor might be my only lifeline. I swear the thin pool of water laughed at me as it waited for my unwilling death-dive.

My legs ripped free and I plummeted toward the wet floor. For a split second, I panicked. Maybe this would be the day my short reality would be over. Maybe I couldn’t catch the TP thief and help NAC citizens wipe cleanly again.

That was just the ink rushing to my head talking.

I mimed out a rough square of what I hoped would be plastic wrap. My imagination wasn’t always on target. I wrapped it around myself, prayed that it would hold, and splashed to the ground. I rolled like a fireman’s stop, drop and roll and couldn’t stop until I hit the wall at the far edge of the warehouse. The water called to me mocking my fear.

I felt weak, sleepy. I pulled a new bottle of Higgins Black Magic ink out of my pocket; a note, folded in half fell to the dusty floor. This better work, I thought. I lean against the corner, a nearly beaten and crumpled piece of paper,  and gulped the ink in one long swallow. My clenched eyes, nearly formed in X-shapes, started to relax and fill into the dark circles that allowed me to clearly see the black and white of this gray world. The ink replenished my energy and started the healing process.

As my strength returned, and I could regain focus, I picked up the note at my side. The note was simple: “H., We need you. Meet in Tent City after dark. S.”

Sina? It can’t be. The other HERO8 members didn’t make it through the transition. Sina and the others are dead. I saw her die.

On the outskirts of town in tent city…

Orange flames from barrel after barrel reached up to lick the night sky. Out here, away from the lights of NAC’s nightlife, the stars were the only things that made Tent City feel like a home. Rows of government-issued tents, cardboard box bedrooms, and tattered clothing lean-tos were crammed together forming the narrow and muddy streets of the internment camp.

When I walked the streets in the open, I wore a black hoodie pulled down over my face. No one in Tent City cared who or what I was, but I had my share of enemies; cover was the easiest deterrent.

“Spare some TP, mister?” A thin man twitched in front of me, he reached out to me for help. I could wipe NAC of its criminals, but I felt helpless when it came to addicts. I could draw a lot of things, but drawn toilet paper wouldn’t satisfy the physical dependency.

I patted him on the shoulder. “Sorry, bud. I’m fresh out.” The man whispered something I can’t repeat and shuffled back to his box.

As I walked deeper into the camp, tents became ratted remnants of canvas flapping in the breeze. Small campfires dotted the pathways instead of barrels and the smell of human leftovers lashed out at me from every hovel.

“Haf.” A girl whispered from a shadow and pulled me to her; she hugged me tight. “Oh, Haf. I thought I’d never see you again.”  She sobbed.

“Watch the threads, doll.” I pulled back to look at her. It was Sina, my Sina. I said, smiling, “Wouldn’t want to get your inky tears all over my camouflage.”

“I’m just happy to see you,” she said. “The others will be, too.”

“Others? How many made it?”

“Most of HERO8 made it out…” She looked away for a second. “All but Elric. His comic was burned in a fire before he could get away.”

Damn. Elric was just a boy, the youngest of us.

“Sina,” I held her close. “I saw you die and I was sure no one else made it.”

“There’s no time to explain. I need to warn you.  Street junkies are saying Paper Doll is coming for you. And she wants you dead, Haf.”

I rubbed the throbbing knot on the back of my head. “I’ve already had one run-in with her. She could’ve killed me.”

“She’s testing your abilities, Haf. She will come at you again and you need to be ready.”

I’ll be ready. Now I have something to fight for.

Tune in for Episode 4. Will Haf find the clues left by Paper Doll? Will he find her first? Or will she ambush him again and tear him apart?

[ Episode 2Episode Index | Episode 4 ]

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©2010 Keith Dugger

  1. October 15th, 2010 at 15:20 | #1

    I salute the childhood of the man who can write a line “like melted drops of plastic green Army men suicide bombing a sand castle city.” Bravo!

    Looking forward to the final installment

  2. October 19th, 2010 at 12:18 | #2

    Another fine episode. Every time I read, I’m stunned by your originality and deft language play. Very well done, sir.

  3. October 19th, 2010 at 14:54 | #3

    The writing is fantastic, Keith, beautiful imagery. I love the little quirks about Haf, like his eyes almost turning to X’s and having to drink the ink. He’s a fabulous character. Looking forward to reading more about his new buddies. 🙂