By Glenn Verasco
There was a 7 inch shard of windowpane lodged in Rhinoman’s right ribcage. It was thick glass from a shattered sliding door on the balcony of a 32nd floor hotel room. As he burst through the glass, his foot caught the door’s frame. It tripped him up, and gravity pulled nearly all of his 235 pound mass downwards, squeezing the upward pointing shard between his flesh and the tile floor.
He was fine, of course. Few materials were hard enough to pierce the leathery coating of Rhinoman’s vital organs. The flesh wound was excruciating, but would heal in due time.
Rhinoman cracked open a beer, flipped the television on, and slowly and carefully sunk into his couch. He grimaced with every slight twist of his torso, the shard mangling every nerve it touched. Rhinoman gently placed his beer on the couch’s arm, and drew in his hands towards the impalement.
The evening news was covering the event Rhinoman had put to an end minutes earlier. The pundits were promoting their policy agendas predictably.
The shooter’s face flashed through Rhinoman’s memory. His arms ceased and dropped down to his thighs. His face drooped, which was unusual for the stoic character.
Denying criminals their ends was not out of the ordinary for Rhinoman. Just a day earlier, he had rammed a suspect through a brick wall to save a damsel in distress. The suspect wanted to rape, the teenager was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the unthinkable would have occurred had Rhinoman not sensed the trouble. One plus one equals two.
Rhinoman knew his contemporaries, men, were weak. He understood the creature beneath his own skin long before becoming aware of his superhuman abilities.
But the shooter in the hotel room did not correspond to the evil Rhinoman typically faced. There was no visceral release, no vengeance, and no bounty to be had. He had not fallen prey to desire. Surely, death would come for the shooter. He must have known this. Had Rhinoman not gotten there first, the police would have blown him away. And surely nothing would be accomplished by the hornet-sized missiles he buried in his victims’ backs and limbs. Nothing signified efforts to achieve hallucinations of a greater good.
And this is what made Rhinoman’s leathery heart sink: it could have been him. If just once, just one day, just for a moment, Rhinoman stopped doing good, the bullets could be flying from his fingertips. Absent duty, self-esteem, devotion, and routine, Rhinoman’s capacity to inflict torment unto himself and others was tremendous. All it would take is a flinch.
The motive for evil is built into the man, and Rhinoman knew this. Man was not made to be a blessing. Man blessed the world by his own accord. Rhinoman was a traitor to his nature. And that, far more than his unusual abilities, made him a superhero.
Across the ticker at the bottom of the news broadcast were reports of a hostage situation across town from Rhinoman’s place. A glass shard, soaked in the blood of a hero, lay next to a crushed beer can on a vacated couch.