The Man with the Empty Face
"A Cartoon Story"
By John Pirillo
Johnnie went into the comic book store, his eyes hungry for the first edition of X-Ray Man, an old golden but oldies comic book written by Jacob Bentley, an unknown artist and writer, who funded the book on his own. He was the forefather of modern comic book graphic artists, who own and do it all. But back then in the thirties, such types didn't always end up on top, but sometimes on the bottom, especially if it was the Great Depression.
X-Ray Man was a very strange hombre. He could see through walls and also walk through them. He could transport himself at the speed of light from one point to the other. The only problem was that sometimes he would exit inside a wall or bridge, or car, or whatever. Being an X-Ray Man, it wasn't devastating, but it was always funny...to others anyway...when he'd materialize in a toilet bowl basin, with only his had poking out of it. Made for some frightened people, as well as jokers who thought it funny to get stuck inside a toilet.
Johnnie had no illusions that he could pull off such a stunt, nor would he want to. Toilets just weren't his thing.
"And they better never be." Cartoon said into his right ear, whispering so softly she made every hair on his body stand up. She never failed to get him excited at her touch, or voice. She was a comic book queen...literally...who glowed in the dark, could see in the dark...and had magical powers, many of which she wouldn't tell him about, such as reading his mind.
"Hey!" He complained, gently pushing her back from him. She made a pouting look with her lips, and then giggled like a little girl and went to search comic books in the Wonder Woman section of DC Comics.
"See you in ten." He told her.
She nodded, already lost in the fifteenth edition of Wonder Woman and her exploits with her invisible jet.
Johnnie surveyed the comic shop's interior, looking for the Oldies, But Goodies section he'd seen advertised on the Internet, then spied a tall man with a hood over his head, thumbing through a stack in the corner. Above him it read. "Oldies, But Goodies."
Johnnie went over there, ignoring the man's rudeness at blocking most of the stacks. Instead, he reached around him and began sorting through stacks too.
The man bumped into him roughly, almost knocking him down.
"Hey, cut that out!" Johnnie shouted at him.
The man turned around. Beneath the hood was a pair of glowing red eyes, but nothing else. "Mortal!' Was all the face, if you could call it that, said.
Johnnie wasn't about to get into a fight in a comic book store, instead he backed away, the red eyes following him as he did so. He had forgotten he had a comic book in his hand as he did. Suddenly, he felt the shelving behind him, but instead of stopping there, he found himself looking out from inside the shelving, part of him immersed in the stacks of comics, and part looking out.
Several female customers and one man turned to look at him, thinking it was some kind of stunt. They giggled, laughed and pointed. "That's really emo!" One said, and then they went to the cash register to check out.
The man with the empty face stared at Johnnie. "You're the one."
"Maybe." Johnnie said, as he stepped back out of the shelving.
"You're the one." The man with the empty face insisted.
"Cartoon!" He said loudly. "I think it's time to check out."
"I'm still reading about Princess Diana and the Amazons." Cartoon said, ignoring his pleas.
"You're the one and you must come with me." The man with the empty face said in such a tone that it made his blood freeze.
Johnnie side stepped the stranger and headed for the front. He slapped down a twenty. The man at the checkout eyed the bill. "You'll need eighty more."
Johnnie slapped down a hundred. "Keep the change."
"Thanks! " The employee said. "I will."
The man with the empty face came up and grabbed the employee. "You will come with me too."
The employee grabbed the arms to break free, thinking it was some kind of nerd joke, but when he looked up into the empty face, he screamed and then his entire body turned to a ruby red smoke and was sucked into the man with the empty face.
"Johnnie!" Cartoon shrieked from behind him.
He turned and saw a second man with an empty face gripping her. She was kneeing him in the crotch, but he didn't budge. His grip held her like a vise.
Johnnie stuck the comic book he had just paid for in his back pocket and rushed the second man with an empty face. As he was about to strike into him, his body shivered with a weird energy and he actually passed through the creature. It shuddered violently a moment, then its entire body deflated like a balloon, allowing a glowing red dust like substance to flow into the shop.
Cartoon hurriedly backed away and Johnnie rushed to her, but when he tried to touch her, his hand passed through her. She gave him a surprised look. "I'm X Ray Man." He told her grinning, and then turned to face the first man without a face. "You got two choices."
Johnnie held up one finger. "Actually, only one."
He rushed the man without a face and passed through it. The man without a face roared like a dying lion, a fine red mist exploding from its body and vanished as it deflated, leaving just a smoldering pile of red ashes on the hardwood floor of the shop.
"You all right?" He asked Cartoon, as he turned.
She nodded. "What manner of creatures are these?"
He pulled out his comic book, flicked through some pages, and then stopped, pointing a finger at a drawn figure there. She leaned over and took a look. "It's the man without a face."
"Afraid so." He uttered, glancing nervously about them.
"Let's get out of here while we can." He suggested, concerned for her safety.
"But what if there's more. We can't just let them loose in the world!"
"You're right." He answered, making a hard decision as he spoke.
He ripped out the page from his comic book with the man without a face, and then several more, until no more pages of the creatures existed. As he did so, the back of the shop made a loud sound, like small cannon shots, then a horde of men without faces erupted into the shop.
Johnnie glanced around, not sure if he could handle all of them, and then spotted a Bic on the employee's counter. He grabbed it, flicked it, and then lit the ripped pages. The men without faces closed in on them from all directions. "You're the one. You will come with us!" They all spoke in unison as they closed in.
"Not likely." Johnnie said.
She took the burning pages and tossed them into the horde. They all screamed horribly as they caught fire, burning as furiously as the comic book pages.
In moments there was nothing left, but piles of smoking red ash.
Then the fire alarm blasted and water began pouring from above.
Later as he and Cartoon walked home to his apartment, she stopped him, alarmed at his silence. "You were hurt, weren't you?"
He looked at her and wiped a tear from one of his eyes. "Yeah. Big time."
"Anything I can do to help?"
"Only if you can replace the Number One copy of Batman, Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and a ton of other oldies but goodies that got washed into oblivion by the sprinklers.
They continued towards his apartment, she in amazement at how such trivial things could wound him, and he trying to figure out why he was cursed with bringing pain and suffering to all comic book lovers and death and dying to real people at the same time, while he transformed into various Comic Book heroes or with their powers. It didn't make any sense, and then he relaxed as Cartoon pulled him around and leaned into him, fixing a bright kiss on his lips. "Cheer up, Johnnie, its only paper."
"So were you once." He said.
She smiled. "Was I?" She asked and got in the last word, leaving him stunned and amused at his good fortune to be in love with such a cool girl.