I looked at her as she slept on my couch, all snuggled beneath the comforter I had given her. It was still blowing hard rain outside. I could hear it pelting the window panes and the door of my living room. Didn't seem to bother her one bit, even though it had awakened me. Something was odd about the rain. I couldn't quite put my finger on it.
I sat down in my easy chair and pulled up a comic book. Yeah. That's what I do when I'm worried. I read. Comic books. So?
It was Batman, the Caped Crusader. I loved his stories. Here was a mortal man facing off adversaries that many times were larger than life, and even terribly powerful. No complains, no I'd rathers, just grab the cape and go punch someone out, or head them off with a trick or two up his sleeves.
I grinned. Amazing how many gadgets he had. Not only was he clever, but brilliant as well. In the movies they had him getting his hardware from Alfred, but in the editions I had bought, the earlier ones, he didn't rely on anyone, but his own cleverness and quick moves.
I closed the book and laid it on my lap. The dim lamp I was reading by was killing my eyes. I was tired, so it didn't take much.
We had a terrible weekend fighting off that Zombie King at the shopping mall, and there's been hell to pay the night after, trying to explain to the police why we were killing people. The only thing that saved us from being accused of murder was they couldn't find any murder weapons and no one would testify against us, even though a reporter had caught some shots of us tearing into the zombies.
The reporter very kindly, later on, had admitted he never saw us killing a living person, which is the solid truth. Cartoon and I never kill the living, only the dead, near dead and the ghoulish, wicked and sinful demonic types. Which means everything that, basically, wasn't human and had been written about in comic books at one time or another?
I just prayed we didn't get any of those gigantic robots, the Sentinels that the X-Men faced off against. I hadn't a clue how to defeat things like that.
That was loud enough to not only shock me from my musings, but hurl me from my chair, reaching for the sword that had vanished when I put away my Thor comic book. I hadn't been able to get a handle on the hammer thing. Too heavy, so I had settled for a sword, which somehow I was able to manage. Maybe later a hammer or something similar. This comic book hero magic was very unpredictable, except that it usually provided me with the tools to defeat my enemies, but not always at once, and not always without a few lost ounces of blood or skin to boot.
That did it. I ran into the kitchen and came out with my butcher knife. No hero now, just cautious. Cartoon laid there on the couch, her skin giving off a golden comic book glow, her physical form partially in her world and mostly in mine for now. Didn't stir. Now that's what I call...tired.
Nothing else happened, so I was about to put my wickedly long and deadly butcher knife down...actually it was just a butter knife...but I have a great imagination...when the front door flung open and my brother stood there, dripping wet. He flung his hair back to shake off some of the rain, and managed quite well to wet my nice rug...well, second hand...but clean.
"Brother." He greeted.
"You could have knocked." I answered.
"I did. Thud. Thud." He grinned mischievously.
"I could have stabbed you with my butcher knife." I protested, waving my butter knife at him.
He broke into laughter. "You can't even make a real peanut butter sandwich with that thing and you're worried about killing me? Get real!"
I shrugged, then remembered that Cartoon was on the other side of the couch, he was facing.
"Look, it's the middle of the night. Why are you here?"
He shut the door, then placed his umbrella against my nice new...well third hand...coat rack. He sighed. "I have a little problem."
He grinned. "Louisa. Spanish doll. About five five."
He suddenly looked dangerous and defeated at the same time. Dangerous to him and defeated because for once he had a situation he couldn't talk himself out of.
"Look, bro, I don't do marriages."
He snapped out of it and snarled at me. "I'm not asking you too. I just want some moral support is all."
He took a deep breath, his temper on the edge of exploding. We were like that to each other, perfect mirrors. Me with my don't take prisoners attitude and his with take everyone prisoner.
He slumped to the rug and put his head in his hands. "I just don't know how to handle this anymore. At first..."
He began to sob.
I grew weary then. He never sobs. Suddenly, that knife felt like a weapon again.
"I was hoping you would give me a chance..."
He looked up and his eyes were blood red and horns sprouted from his forehead. "To eat you!" He screamed, then leaped from the floor, like a giant frog and grasped for my throat.
I sidestepped him and slammed the knife into the back of his skull, butt first.
He slammed to the floor, rolled over, and sprouted ten pairs of wicked looking claws that would give a butcher a nightmare.
"So you want to play before you die, wise guy?"
I shrugged. "Is that what they call it in hell? Play?"
He began to rise and slowly he grew taller and taller, until his head was knocking against the ceiling.
"Be careful of the paint job. I just finished it yesterday." I warned him.
He snarled angrily and rushed m e.
I backed up and my hand brushed the Batman comic book.
Suddenly I felt t his gray cape in my hand. I swung it in front of me, and sidestepped, letting him charge the cape instead. He passed through it into the kitchen, where I heard the smashing of glass.
I groaned. "I just bought those plates and glasses." I screamed.
I rushed into the kitchen and he was getting up from my fourth hand kitchen table which had been on its last legs, and now had no legs at all to stand on.
He grabbed a leg and rushed me with it.
I threw the cape at him and it wrapped around him.
He tried to unwrap it and stumbled, knocking a piece of my kitchen doorway into shatters, then went into the living room, like a dancing mannikin, blinded, but furious.
I went to the front door, opened it quickly, and then kicked him in the behind, so that he hurtled towards the balcony. As he struck it. Iron. He flamed on like one of the Fantastic Four, screamed, then tumbled from view, a holocaust of fire and smoke.
I stepped to the balcony railing and looked down. He was dissolving in the swimming pool several feet away, smoke and no flames now. The rain continued to pelt. The gray cape became a soft gray mist, and then drifted away, followed several moments later by the demon impersonating my brother. The pool had some ashes in it, but otherwise looked normal. Dirty.
I shut the front door and Cartoon sat up, rubbing her eyes. "Is it time to get up yet, Johnnie?"
I grinned at her, and then yawned. "Nah. Get some more shut eye."
I tucked her in again and she smiled up at me.
"I feel so safe with you." She said softly, her eyes growing heavy with sleep.
"Yeah. I do that to girls."
She laughed lightly, then her head rolled to the side and she began to snore lightly.
I tucked her in better, and then headed for my bedroom.
It's tough being the man with the gray cape. But its tougher still going all night without sleep. I jumped onto my bed, clothes and all, and went fast asleep.