After a decade of fighting crime, the city’s first hero was forced to wear his cape as a sash. The goldenrod dye used during its manufacturing had faded to gray from years of exposure to direct sunlight and acid rain. Though knives and bullets could not pierce his skin, they left jagged, butterfly patterns in the knitted cotton. Eventually, the time came to bury him, and there was nothing left with which to cover his coffin.
The police found his corpse sitting in the lotus position behind the fractured face of an abandoned clock tower. His body was mummified within the tight confines of his tattered uniform, withered and parched until the skeleton was clearly visible beneath his translucent skin. There was no sign of conflict anywhere inside, or any wounds on his body; the coroner ruled his cause of death to be starvation.
They found his wallet next to a folded pair of blue jeans nearby, driver’s license still inside. His secret identity seemed at first to be a cruel joke once revealed, but there was no denying it upon review. During daytime hours, he had been Fritz Markos, a professor of journalism at the local community college whose anti-hero editorials were routinely featured in the local tribune.
The last of these diatribes was published just a few days before his disappearance:
Our supposed defender seeks to destroy the city itself. He does not know it yet, but at any given moment, he is failing to see his enemy for what it truly is. He ignores the hundreds of broken-glass mouths that line the faces of our abandoned buildings, the growling of wild dogs possessed by garbage spirits, and the prayers offered by vagrants to their strange new gods. There are deeper diseases at work here that cannot be cured by breaking the bones of the impoverished and desperate.
Surely, by now, he realizes something to this effect- that the cultural, spiritual, and yes, even infrastructural conditions of the metropolitan area are not the result of crime and corruption alone. Something cruel has been imbued within the smog above and the bricks below, and he is accessory to it. The steel that reinforces his skin is just another beam in the invisible skyscraper that blankets us all in its shadow. We’ve all felt its presence in some way or another in our lives.
Much debate has taken place among us critics as to his weakness. I believe, if there is one, it is that there is a human being inside of him, that much-speculated ‘secret identity.’ The human that he plays when he takes off his mask must be aware of the forces and institutions that he represents, for this second self is trapped within their influence. As such, he is in constant danger of this alter ego rising up and overthrowing him- for in order to still exist, it must have obtained autonomy beyond the costume’s reach. Any persona mundane enough to have been believed for this long must be more real than the legendary other.
His cape barely manages to cover his shoulders anymore; we can all see our hero coming unraveled. It might take days or it might take months, but I am certain that we will see the end of his reign very soon.