Monthly Archives: March 2015

Superheroes and us.

I am amazed at how much superheroes permeate our culture presently. I remember back in the 60’s and 70’s (yes, I am that old!) that comic book heroes were essentially limited to television cartoons and nothing else. I vividly remember watching Spiderman on Saturday mornings. As for television, I remember that Batman was very popular in the 60’s and that later in the 70’s it was “The Incredible Hulk” that was at the top of the charts but I can’t remember a single movie made during the 60’s and 70’s about heroes from comic books that scored big with spectators. Prove me wrong dear reader! It was really much later that the genre took off with all spectators, not only the geeks and aficionado’s of comic books.

The movies and shows on television about superheroes now seem to take themselves very seriously and essentially take on an adult view of things. It seems now as if the world did depend on them defeating the villains. There is a big difference between the Batman that I enjoyed in the 60’s and 70’s and the Batman of today, dark and brooding. I do enjoy Marvel’s Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D and I do like the spin-offs of these movies, but I can’t help wonder what they are suggesting about these times we live in. We seem to need superheroes more than ever in our lives and in our imaginations. Some people will admit that they seem to live in a parallel universe, one in which superheroes can single-handedly save the world and then the normal world, where human idiocy dominates.

I am perplexed at the change in tone, as if the creators of these series imply that our problems are now so enormous that we now need the kind of help that only superheroes can give. But I am afraid that if we wait for them to appear we will wait till kingdom come. We seem to be waiting for someone to lead us out of the mess that this world is in but this wait is sterile.
No superhero will save us from our follies, but each of us individually is the solution to any problem that this planet has. Each of us can enact solutions individually that when put together can solve any problem, or at least alleviate it. The real enemy is not the absence of real superheroes, but indifference and lack of motivation to act and especially, to decide.

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The Defiant One.

When waiting for buses I often like to observe people. I like to be aware of my surroundings even if I am ready to fish out my electronic book at the drop of a hat if I sense that boredom is not far away, and often it is.

Looking over the horizon in the direction that my bus was to arrive I saw something else; a young woman slowly advancing in her wheelchair with the sun shining on her gleaming chariot. As she approached I decided to position myself closer to the curb as I wanted to see her face. I wanted to see what she looked like, whether she was young or old, wrinkled or not. I know, it is very superficial on my part. I will assume my humanity, warts and all.

The seconds flew quickly and the wheelchair was closing in. I felt the anticipation of the moment rising in me, as if something stupendous was to arrive. I was now faintly able to see her face but not quite. A few more seconds had to elapse before she suddenly appeared in front of me. As I looked at her face I took a mental snapshot of her as she passed speedily before me. What I saw shook me; she was young, no more than 20 or 25 years old and on her face was etched a defiant look that she offered to the world. It was a look that said that her handicap was no match for her determination to live her life in the way that she wanted. I admired her. I thought to myself that she was very brave, brave to face the cars on the road and brave to face the stares that inevitably must accompany her wherever she went in her wheelchair. She displayed courage, like a soldier going to war or a politician voting against his own party. And she was, in her own way, soldiering in her own life and fighting against prejudices and stereotypes. A giant of a woman she was.

I looked at my life and imagined myself in a wheelchair; could I do what she had done? Could I have looked at people in the eye with the kind of defiance that she had exhibited? Could I have soldiered on like her? I would like to think so, and yet the doubt remains. Hopefully this doubt will never be removed. It makes me more human.

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Time; the ultimate currency.

People say that it is better to live in the present rather that in the past. I would argue that the present does not exist, except as a figure of speech that is conveniently used, a handy tool used in polite society when in fact what we are talking about is something that does not exist. It is simply a human invention.

If one could stop time, then yes, there would be something called “the present”. That moment would be frozen in time so that indeed, there would be a before and an after moment. But in real life, no one can stop time and therefore, there is no time to reflect in the present moment. It is simply not there. Time still flows each moment that we take to ponder our lives, except that we now have less of it than before our pondering began.

We are like surfers surfing on the wild ocean of Time perilously perched on a giant wave. Behind us is our past while ahead is our future, and we are surfing that wave without time to compose ourselves or to reflect on what is going on in our lives. We simply do not have the time.
Time simply flows whether we want it or not. It is the ultimate player that we face everyday; it never rests and is always playing the game. We have no choice but to play, and if we decide to stop and reflect on what we are doing, the player facing us will still play. Time elapses whether we want it or not. What is worse of course is that this game that we call life will end, but we do not know when nor how. There is no certainty that we can play this game till we want it to as it might end at any moment, catching us by surprise as it often does.

The younger you are the more time you have, in theory. In fact, there is no certainty in this as one person might live to be 90 years old while another will die in his 20’s. Time is the ultimate currency. At the start we all have the same amount of it and yet, as people age, some complain that they have been short-changed, that somehow they do not have enough of it. Surely it is an illusion. Every day we all have the same amount of this currency. No one is short-changed on a daily basis and yet, it is true that some have longer lives than others and so, have more of it. But even if this were true, it is only after time has elapsed to such an extent that the recipient of this abundance realizes that less and less of his friends and family are around to celebrate with him.

Some would object that nothing has been said about the quality of life, and that it should matter in the equation. I agree, but how to define quality? What I would qualify as quality in living others would object to my definition. Once again, language rears its ugly head. We are trying to define something that is hard to pin down and that is intensely personal. Someone in a wheelchair might be content in their condition but for me, it would be a severe curtailing of the quality of my life. To each his own.

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Chapter 36.

The shadow, Horn and Strong.

 

 

The professor had been taken aback at how quickly detective Strong had exited the trap. He had hoped for a signal of some sorts but none had come. And then, as he was watching the scene on his screen, the shadow had appeared with Horn. There was definitely a presence with him but it was not yet solid. The professor put his hand up to Strong and pointed at the machine indicating that it was not the time to take Horn out. Within a few seconds the shadow assumed a corporeal form just as Horn had indicated that it could. The professor was astonished at what he saw on his screen.

“Now! Get him out!” shouted the professor at Strong. The three other policeman present had assumed a defensive position at the entrance of the machine, prepared to counteract the shadow with their canisters of nitrogen.

Strong opened the hatch rapidly, surprising Horn as he was looking at the shadow. He grabbed Horn by the arm and violently threw him out. The shadow had not moved in the few seconds that all that had taken place, still immobile in the center of the machine but looking in a puzzling way when Strong and Horn had exited the trap. Strong and the others quickly closed the door and sealed the hatch signalling immediately to the professor to start the pumps. The liquid nitrogen began to pour into the machine from the top and the sides, attacking the being who was still in its solid state. The professor looked at the screen to see what was going on but a heavy cloud obscured what he could see. He only saw arms flailing here and there but not the head of the being.

The pumps had done the job and liquid nitrogen was poured in for many minutes until the egg shaped machine was deemed to be full. Still the professor could not see inside as too much vapor was present. He left the liquid nitrogen settle in the machine for 15 minutes and began to wait. Meanwhile Horn and Strong were talking near the professor by the screen, both apprehensive about what would happen next.

“Its a dirty trick that you pulled there, getting me all worked up against you.” said Horn, still shocked at the turn of events.

“I didn’t have much choice. I had to get you angry at me at the right moment. Had I told you about the plan and warned you it might not have worked as your anger might not have risen high enough.” replied Strong smiling.

“Still, you risked my life. What if the shadow had seized me before you did, then what?” asked a still shaken Horn.

“I guess we’ll never know and that’s a good thing in my opinion.” said Strong, grinning.

“Gentleman”, said the professor, ” I will now operate the pumps in reverse to evacuate the nitrogen still in the machine and we’ll see if the being has been vitrified or if it did have the time to escape as a gas.” the professor said. The hum of the machines began to be heard again and slowly the machine was emptied of its deadly liquid. The screen showed that slowly the fog was dissipating being evacuated by the pumps. The three men were avidly looking at the screen, trying hard to discern what had happened to the being. Slowly the fog lifted and a head, and then the whole body of the being was visible. Clearly it had been vitrified by the liquid as it was still upright with its arms extended. Its face had an expression of surprise and horror, but it was still without any features and still looked as black as the night.

The machine continued to evacuate the liquid for another 15 minutes and by then everyone knew that the being was dead, without a doubt. To be sure of this, they had to open the hatch and let air from outside come in. That would probably shatter the being in a million pieces due to the difference in pressure between the inside of the machine and the outside according to the professor.

Strong indicated to the other policeman to stand around the hatch just in case the being had not been neutralized. The professor slowly opened the hatch and as it opened they heard a loud shattering noise. The hatch was then completely opened and what they saw confirmed the death of the being; a million pieces of glass littered the floor of the machine. Just as the professor had expected the body of the being had shattered. Everywhere one looked inside the machine shiny pieces of glass were present. At the sight of this the policeman retreated knowing full well that they were not required anymore. The professor looked at Strong who looked back at him. Relief was in his eyes.

“You know, pulling out Mr. Horn at the last minute as you did was fraught with danger. The being could have retained you and Mr.Horn inside, and the pumps could not have been activated.”

“Yes, I know, I was lucky that the being just froze. I guess it was caught by surprise and probably didn’t understand what I was doing, or why.” said Strong.

Everyone was looking at the pieces of the being laying on the floor. Everyone looked at it in awe. The being had been defeated by the ingenuity of many men pulling their minds together. It was not a certainty that the being could be killed, but the attempt had to be made and it worked.

Fisher approached Strong and congratulated him on ending this nightmare. “Yes indeed, it is finished. But who could have predicted that such a thing could happen, and what else lies in store for us. Humanity may still be at risk from totally unknown beings that could threaten it. I find this a sobering thought.” said Strong.

“Tell me detective Strong, what are we to do with the remains of the being, you know, all those lovely pieces of reflecting glass containing body parts?” asked the professor, who obviously in the name of science wanted to be the custodian of them.

Strong looked at him and at the pieces lying on the floor and said, “Professor, they are all yours. Let science examine what is left of this being and study him. It might become useful someday if another of these beings reappears.”

The professor smiled and put his hands together happy that he had what he wanted. He looked at the floor of the machine and bent down to pick up one of the pieces of the being. It was the left eye. It was looking straight up at the professor as he was examining it and then turned left as it saw Horn approach. The professor was shocked by this and promptly dropped the eye, shattering it to another million pieces. He looked to see where detective Strong was to alert him but he was walking towards the exit along with Fisher oblivious to what had happened.

The end.

 

 

Well this is the final installment of my book and I hope that you have liked it. My next book is not quite ready so for  the next few weeks I will start putting up some essays that reflect some of my thinking on life and society in general. See you next week!

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Chapter 35.

The trap is set.

 

 

Strong was happy that Horn understood he had to take risks just as himself and the others were.True, some of the crew could be risking their lives, but that was to be expected in the face of a being that for the most part was still very mysterious.

Strong then called the professor from his office and explained to him that all was well with Horn and that they could begin with the implementation of the plan. Therefore, Saturday was the day that the plan was to be executed and this meant that one day earlier, on Friday, the nitrogen was to be pumped in the tanks and pressurized. All was to be ready by Saturday morning. The professor readily agreed with Strong and promised that all would be done as planned.

Saturday morning arrived. The nitrogen had been pumped in the previous day and all had went well. Slowly the members of the team began to assemble in the room with the professor co-ordinating the whole operation. Strong was one of the first police officers to be on the scene.

“Well detective, satisfied with what you are seeing?” asked the professor.

“Indeed I am,” replied Strong. “You have done a fine job professor. The nitrogen is in the tanks, pressurized, and I see on your table the canisters to be used in case of emergency, correct?”

“You are quite right,” said the professor. “But tell me on your side, have you decided how to arouse the anger of our involuntary subject?”

“I assume that you mean Horn. No, I haven’t decided how to do it. I will probably tell him that we will sedate him immediately, or that I may accuse him of murder as an accessory to the various crimes. Something that will stir in him a desire for vengeance.”

“When is he due to arrive?” asked the professor.

“Any minute now as I told him at what time I would be here and so he should be here shortly.” said Strong.

Just at that moment Horn arrived looking very nervous. He saw the machinery that was in front of him and was impressed; the shiny metallic object looked like a giant egg with its seamless layers overlapping each other. He noticed the hoses connected to the ovoid shape and he let his gaze fall on the top part of it. The hose there was twice as large as the other hoses. He knew that it must be the main nozzle where the nitrogen would be pumped in. Horn advanced slowly towards the professor and Strong. They both looked unsure to him. “All is ready professor?” he asked.

“Indeed Mr. Horn, it was only you that was missing. I simply have to put my assistants on stand-by, and have the various policeman around the trap ready with the canisters and explain to you what you will have to do. Then detective Strong will have a word with you. Isn’t it right detective?” asked the professor with a smile.

Strong looked at the professor in a way that indicated that he did not need more prodding from him, especially now at this crucial time. “Yes Mr. Horn. There is still the matter of how to attract the shadow.” he said. “Mr. Horn, lets go in the back here and talk. I have some bad news for you. It seems that after all you will have to be sedated for a while at least.”

Horn looked at the detective wide-eyed as he obviously was not expecting such news. “Well, I don’t understand. Am I not cooperating with you? Am I not?” asked Horn rhetorically, his anger rising. “Am I not in agreement with you and didn’t we have an understanding? How can you do this to me now?” Horn was now quite agitated, pointing his finger at Strong and making circular movements with his arms. Strong tried to mollify him.

“I agree that you have co-operated with us but it is not enough. We have decided that the risk is too high and so this machinery that you see in front of you is to keep you safe inside. Come, let me show you, you will be comfortable I assure you.” said Strong as he walked towards the machine in the center of the room. Horn looked surprised and devastated.

“What? This will be a holding tank for me? Inside here? Are you crazy, never, no!” shouted Horn at Strong. By that time Horn was clearly angry: he was as red as a beet, with nostrils flaring and still gesticulating wildly as he if he was trying to hit someone. Horn did not understand that Strong was tricking him into the machine and arousing his anger in the process. It was hoped that the shadow would eventually appear with Horn in the egg-shaped contraption.

The professor had seen what was going on, and Strong had given him the signal to prepare himself and the team. It was only a matter of minutes before Strong and Horn would go into the machine to talk and perhaps to have the shadow appear.

But Horn was still discussing the matter with Strong and was refusing to go inside the machine. “Mr. Horn, let us go inside and talk some more and show you your new home.” said Strong in a soothing voice.

Horn said nothing but took two steps in and joined Strong in the machine, looking up and down at the inside of it. The machine was quite different inside as compared to its outside as it was not polished at all inside but was very rough. There were no bed, no lights, just 8 openings around with a large hole on top. Horn could not imagine how someone could lie inside sedated for days on end. He readily believed that he was to be held inside this machine under sedation.

“Look at this, there is no bed, nothing at all. How could I stay inside sedated? You got to be crazy if you think that I’ll submit to this.”

“Mr. Horn, you will simply lay on the floor, curved around the bottom like a dog I’m afraid. We simply have no other choice.” At these words Strong rapidly exited the shiny object and closed the door on Horn but did not seal it. Horn inside was banging on the window, saying that he was still wide awake and that a mistake had been made. From his desk the professor could see the anger and tension rising in Horn. The camera inside the machine clearly showed him to be in an angry mood. Suddenly as Horn calmed down something appeared in the machine with him.

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