2022 minus 30: The heroic ideal

Posted: 2 December 2021 in 2022 minus, 2022 minus new fiction, fiction, new fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ runs, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that, every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, inspired by an image I come across entirely by chance.

And I’m carrying on that practice through ‘2022 minus…’

So, this week, a story about a hero, doing what is necessary, sparked by the following image.

The heroic ideal

From more than two thousand feet in the air, the hero pondered. He was not a vain man; he knew beyond question that his alien mind and his thinking processes were far in advance of the humans below. That was just a plain simple fact. he liked facts. And yet his plan, based upon those same facts, was failing. He could not understand why.

Humans were, he knew, a species with greatness inside them. Horror as well, of course; he had seen too much over the decades not to understand that.

But he had planned for that.

Decades earlier he had commenced, in secret. And yet… and yet. It was failing. They were failing.

The man in the cape knew it was impossible for him to have made a mistake, even more so back then, and so he thought deeply on what information he must have been lacked. Logic and reason; the two cornerstones of his sanity.

The decision that he had reached decades ago was logical, he was convinced, with the information he had then possessed. The inescapable conclusion, therefore, was that he had, somehow, lacked further better, more relevant, information. Or time, of course. He might have miscalculated the time necessary for his plans to come to fruition. It was possible. Not probable but possible.

He considered the four of them once again.

The first, he knew, was now a CPA; an accountant of all things, concerned with numbers and with spreadsheets and with balances. The man in the sky would have chuckled had the situation not been as serious. And had he possessed any measurable sense of humour. The accountant was married, with two children, and was…happy. Well, as happy as ordinary people ever were.

That made no sense to the hero. The subject of his present thoughts wasn’t even particularly strong on law & order policies, nor in making things better for people. The first subject of his experiment was content to provide for his family, his fitness regimen was merely to play soccer at the weekends with friends. And he spent his working life converting the mess and muddle of other people’s bookkeeping into something more acceptable to the taxation authorities.

Rotating to face north, the man half a mile above the ground considered the second of his experiments. The second of his failing experiments he was loathe to call him.

The second of them had gone into politics, and was at this very moment — he scanned the building far below with vision that could detect a blade of grass out of place — explaining a detailed policy on plastic recycling with knowledge and passion. And yet that was the limit of his public service: politics, with its compromises and hidden deals. At least the politician was honest. As much as he could be, anyway, and do well in the political arena.

Thirty hours ago, the man in the sky had spent almost an hour outside the man’s house slowly, with great patience, looking through the walls, and had been disappointed once again: no secret rooms, no workshops, not even a costume. And yet the man had seemed pleased with his lot and his family.

Once again, the hero rotated 90 degrees and faced east: considering the third. An apparent wastrel but that was not in itself damning. What upset the flying man was that the ostensible waste of privilege and money was exactly what it seemed: there was no secret cave below his large house, no interest in science and technology. Merely a wasted adulthood spent in hedonistic pleasures. He was happy – that was obvious – but no more than that.

The fourth of them though was the greatest disappointment. When the hero considered the template, it was almost painful, though it had been decades since the man in the sky had felt true pain, after his skin had gained its full invulnerability and he had come into the full intelligence his alien heritage had granted him.

There was nothing objectionable about the fourth subject; nothing objectionable for there was nothing special about him at all, thought the hero. Married with several children, one of whom was blind. He gave up two evenings a week to help his wife with various charities. He was the manager of a sporting good store; one of the smaller stores, in a large city with three other stores of approximately the same size. But outside his family, he made no real friends, no real enemies, no real problems. He was, however, content with his life.

The hero lowered himself to the ground, unable to understand why these four, his early favourites, had so disappointed. They all had so much potential.

Decades earlier, the hero had noticed that so many of his contemporaries were getting on years; also the lack of new heroes to take their place. Every generation of heroes was smaller, more disappointing. He had noticed one thing they had all shared in common, however, apart from the various injuries and bruises: they were all orphans.

Each of them had lost their parents, and moreover, had lost them to violence.

The next step was obvious. And logical. And entirely rational. FGor a whole year, every Sunday night, all over the country, he had murdered six of parents of children who were nine or ten years of age. It hadn’t been difficult once the logic had revealed itself; quite the reverse. A mugging here, a murder there… on several occasions the people simply vanished, with just a smear of blood and bone left to remember them by.

But now, twenty years later, almost none of them had chosen the heroic life; instead they valued their families, not people as he did.

Unless, maybe, that was it. He’d left them alone to create families. Maybe more tragedy was what was needed. It would take more work, more deaths, more decades, the hero knew.

But it would be worth it in the end.

The hero now knew what he had to do, for wasn’t that what a hero did? What was necessary for all?

He’d start this weekend.

The hero smiled, pleased at his logic and his decision, and his selflessness. And started the experiment again. As he had so many times before.

© Lee Barnett, 2021


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.

Just dropping this in here, as I was asked: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.

I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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