Sunday, January 31, 2021

The Great Brain Robbery

The Great Brain Robbery

Mark A Davis


The sound of water dripping from rusting pipes echoed off concrete.  Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, opened his eyes.  He saw a dimly-lit warehouse -- an underground bunker of concrete and steel like a parking garage.  The ceilings were cobwebbed and grime-covered.  A tattered Nazi flag hung from conduit.

Somewhere in the gloom, rats scuttled about.

Immediately before him were several old operating tables.  Three appeared to have female bodies on them, but two were completely covered in cloth.  The third's face was exposed -- that of a lovely blonde girl of maybe seventeen.  She appeared to be sleeping peacefully.

In the distance, tall cylinders of steel and glass loomed in the shadows.  There were two rows of these, each about nine feet tall, like round fish tanks in an aquarium.  Shadowy bodies floated inside a dark green liquid.  Each tank was emblazoned with a swastika.

Grandpa tried to move, to sit up, but found this impossible.  He tried to look about.  Slowly his field of vision rotated, until two brains in jars on a workbench hove into view.  These were glass jars in brass frames, with a greenish liquid within.  One lay directly in front of Grandpa's view, while the other, off to the side, had a small brass camera placed before it, and a speaker at the base of the jar.

It took Grandpa but a moment to realize that one of these brains was, in fact, him.  His view was from a similar camera placed in front of his own jar.

Footsteps echoed.  A young woman strode forward.  She was about seventeen, with long blonde hair, fair skin, and piercing blue eyes.  She wore a white lab coat, beneath which was a German military uniform.  She greatly resembled the girl on the slab.

"Ah, Herr Anarchy, you are awake!" she said.  "Guten morgen!  You are no doubt wondering where you are and what has happened to you...."

"This is about Hitler's brain, isn't it?" Grandpa said.  His voice sounded oddly mechanical.

The woman frowned.  "It is most rude of you not to return my greeting," she said.

"Lady," said Grandpa, "you've stolen my body and placed my brain in a jar.  I'm not here to exchange pleasantries."

"I am no lady," she said.  "My name is Heinz Hanneman.  Perhaps you've heard of me?"

"Nope," Grandpa replied.

Anger filled her face.  "I am the foremost scientist of the Third Reich!"

"I'm sure you were," Grandpa said.  "By my count at least three hundred former Nazi scientists claim that title.  Really, it's hard to keep track of them all."

"Indeed?" she said.  "But I am the genuine article, Herr Anarchy.  Where others have failed, I shall succeed.  I have perfected brain transplant technology, and am also perfecting the ability to clone human beings...."

"Lady, I hate to break it to you," said Grandpa, "but brain transplants and cloning have been around for decades...."

"Grandpa?"  This was a second voice, as mechanical-sounding as Grandpa Anarchy's.  "Is that true?  I'm just a brain in a jar?"

Grandpa's camera swivelled to take in the second brain in a jar.  "Remain calm, Panic at the Dance Hall Boy.  This is only temporary I'm sure.  Miss German scientist here...."

"Call me Isolde, if you must," the woman said.  "It is a name I have used for over fifty years."

"Isolde here will return us to our own bodies when this is over," Grandpa said.  "Probably."


"Let me lay it out for you," Grandpa said.  "We've got brain transplants, clones, and evil Nazi scientists, right?  They're going to steal Hitler's brain and transplant it into a new body.  These types always want to revive Adolph Hitler."

"Well done, Herr Anarchy!  You have grasped the very essence of our plan," said Isolde.  "Even now, my compatriots Zacharias Deutscher -- known as Nina Marianne -- and Alma Isabel Schönherr -- are retrieving the brain of the Führer.  In the body of the greatest hero of your United States, it will be child's play to gain access to the facility you call Liberty Estate in Greensboro...."

Grandpa Anarchy groaned.  "Liberty Estate is a top secret maximum security vault," he said, "where dangerous items of power and magic are entombed -- including Hitler's brain."

"Yes!  We will bring it back here to our secret bunker, transplant it, and the revival of the Third Reich will begin!"

Isolde pressed a button.  Lights flooded the warehouse.  Now it could be plainly seen that Isolde and the girl on the operating table were identical -- as were all the bodies in the rows of cylindrical tanks.

"You know," said Grandpa Anarchy, "you're a bit late on the revival of Hitler train.  You realize that he died 75 years ago?  It's 2020; Hitler's brain...."

"Hitler's brain still exists!" the woman insisted.

"Yes, I know," said Grandpa.  "I've fought many Hitler clones.  I even fought Hitler's brain in a great white shark once.  That gave me nightmares for weeks, let me tell you.

"The point is, his brain has been around the block a few times already.  You ask me, you don't need Hitler to recreate the Third Reich.  Does nobody remember that you lost the war due to Hitler's incompetent leadership?  If I wanted to resurrect the Third Reich, cloning Hitler is the last thing I'd do."

"Excuse me," said Panic at the Dance Hall Boy, "but why are all of your clones female?"

"I was wondering that myself," said Grandpa.

"There have been... difficulties with the cloning process...." Isolde began.


  "These are clones of Eva Braun, I'm guessing?" Grandpa asked.

"No," said Isolde.  "These were cloned from Eva's sister Ilse.  Do you know how difficult it is to get genetic material from Adolf Hitler or Eva Braun?  Their bodies were burned by the Germans, and then exhumed by the Soviets and burned again then crushed and tossed into a river.  It's a wonder that the brain of the Führer survived."

"Especially since he shot himself in the head," Grandpa added.

"Exactly!" Isolde replied.  "Unfortunately, we are still unlocking the secrets of cloning technology.  These clones of Ilse Braun are all we have managed so far."

"What, you haven't stolen Eieio Empire cloning technology yet?" Grandpa said.  "I thought everyone had that."

"No, Mister Anarchy, we have not!  We are developing these techniques on our own!  We do not have access to the superior alien tech that you do!"

"So let me get this straight," said Grandpa.  "Your plan is to place Hitler's brain in the teenage clone body of Ilse Braun?"

"Only as a temporary measure!" Isolde insisted.

"Listen, I don't want to tell you how to run your Next Generation Nazi Dictatorship," said Grandpa, "but I don't think Adolph Hitler is looking forward to being a teenage girl in 2020.  I'm all for getting more women into leadership positions, but this is not how you do it."

"They're going to accidentally destroy my body," said Panic at the Dance Hall Boy, "and place my brain in Ilse Braun, aren't they?"

"No," Grandpa replied.  "That'll never happen."

"Grandpa..." said Panic at the Dance Hall Boy.  There was panic in that mechanical voice.

"Well... probably it won't happen," Grandpa added.  "Highly unlikely.  Although, if I were a betting man...."

An inarticulate wail echoed throughout the warehouse.

Doors slammed in the distance.  Footsteps echoed throughout the warehouse.  Grandpa Anarchy and his sidekick strode into view.  Grandpa wore his usual rumpled gray suit with the silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  His face was contorted into an evil grimace, and he carried a large steel case in one hand.  The boy beside him was muscular and wore a multi-colored spandex outfit decorated with flashing lights and glow sticks.

"Aha!" Grandpa Anarchy's body exclaimed.  "Herr Anarchy, you will never guess what we have hidden in this very case...."

"He already knows," said Isolde.

"Yup," Grandpa said.  "So I guess now I'm wanted for stealing Hitler's brain from the Liberty Estate Maximum Security Facility...."

"No matter!" exclaimed the Nazi in Grandpa's body.  He placed the case on one of the operating tables.  "Prepare the body, Isole!  We will commence the operation at...."

His voice trailed off as he stared within the case.  Inside was something small and wrinkled swimming in green liquid, like a single rotting raisin in a massive vat of green Jello. 

    Fake Grandpa Anarchy said, "There must be some mistake.  This dried, shrivelled thing cannot be the brain of the Führer...."

"He's been dead 75 years," said Grandpa.

"But... without the brain of the Führer," said the faux Grandpa, his voice rising in a panic, "all of our plans are for naught...."

"Look," said Grandpa, "I keep telling you, you don't need Hitler...."

"Seventy-five years of planning," said the faux Grandpa.  "Seventy-five years of hard work -- seventy five years to perfect our technology... and at least half of that time I was forced to live as a young girl... and for what?"

  "Look on the bright side," said Grandpa.  "Totalitarianism is a crappy political model.  You ask me, you dodged a bullet."

"This is all your fault, Heinz!" the faux Grandpa exclaimed.  "I wanted to steal the brain in 1964, but you insisted that we perfect our brain transplantation techniques first...."

"Zacharias, you fool!" Isolde shot back.  "You know we weren't ready at that time...."

Fake Grandpa Anarchy drew a pistol and fired.  Isolde screamed.  He fired again, and the young girl collapsed on the floor.

"No!" exclaimed Fake Panic at the Dance Hall Boy.  "Zacharias, what have you done?"

"Only what needs to be done," Fake Grandpa said, turning the gun on the fake sidekick.  "The dream is over, Alma.  We have failed.  All that is left is to end it."

He fired again, killing the boy, then he turned the gun on himself.  A shot rang out.  Then all was silent, save for the echoing drip of water and the scuttle of rats.

After several long moments, Grandpa said, "Well, that was predictable.  But the good news is that we don't need to worry about being transplanted into clones of Ilse Braun...."



Sunday, January 24, 2021

When You're Dead

When You're Dead

Mark A Davis


"The thing about being dead," said Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero.  "The thing that you've really got to remember about being dead, is that you're not actually dead."

Grandpa Anarchy sat in a crowded room that was part dentist's office, part DMV.  The walls were white.  The carpeting was white.  The ceiling wasn't visible, but light shone down -- the sort of painfully bright, cold white that came from flourescent lights.  The chairs, however, were an odd shade of plastic teal.

Transparent people sat in these chairs -- ghosts waiting endlessly for their number to be called.  Tables were piled high with out-of-date magazines -- Chariots of Fire Montly, Golden Harps Review, and Scenic Tours in the Elysium Fields.  A PSA poster on the wall read:  So Now You're Dead -- What Comes Next?  Below was a lengthy description of your afterlife options, along with cartoonish illustrations.

Grandpa Anarchy and Spyro Gyros were likewise transparent.  Grandpa wore his usual grey suit with the silver anarchy symbol over the left breast -- although the suit was marred by blood stains and a large wound in his chest.  Spyro Gyros, meanwhile, was a young boy with dark, curly hair and a spandex suit with a swirling pattern and the image of a gyros sandwich on his chest.  He appeared to be likewise badly injured.

"I think," said Grandpa, "that my first mistake was allowing the atomic molemen to flank me.  That made it easy for Death Medal and Growly Monster to trap me while Kid Gloves kept you busy...."

"Grandpa," asked Spyro Gyros, "if we're dead then why are we in a dentist's office?"

"It's always like this," said Grandpa.  "The way I see it, the afterlife is so amazing that your mind can't comprehend it.  So you mentally replace it with something familiar -- a kind of hallucination of something your mind can handle...."

Spyro Gyros frowned.  "A dentist's office?  And we all see the same shared hallucination?"

Grandpa Anarchy shrugged.  "I don't know, Kid.  Maybe?  Your guess is as good as mine.  The point is, all of this is temporary."

Spyro Gyros frowned.  "In what manner is it temporary?"

"I mean," said Grandpa, "we may be dead, but we're not dead dead.  You see?"

"Grandpa," said Spyro Gyros, "Death Medal fired fifty rounds into your torso, drove an Eldritch Black Blade through your heart, and then decapitated you with it."

Grandpa glanced down at the massive, festering hole in his chest.  His head, unconnected to his neck, began to pitch forward.  He caught it with his hands and carefully balanced it atop his shoulders once again.

"You got me there," he replied.  "Death Medal did a real number on me.  It's funny, too -- Death Medal has always been one for forcing me to watch as he orchestrated his grand scheme to bring about Armageddon and end the universe.  You know the type -- always craves an audience, always wants to explain his master plan, always wants you to appreciate how he's going to bring about Ragnarok.  It's unlike him to kill me, first thing.

"But that was a pretty amazing magic sword, I'm not going to lie."

"The point is," said Spyro, "you're dead.  You're very, very dead."

"Ah," said Grandpa, "that's where you're wrong.  I've faced much worse than this."

"Death Medal set fire to your corpse!" Spyro Gyros exclaimed.

"Did he, now?" said Grandpa.  "I must have missed that part, on account of being decapitated."

"Grandpa," said the sidekick, "we're dead!  We fought the bad guy and we were beaten!"

"Well, sure," Grandpa replied, "but that was just round one."

"We've been murdered!" the sidekick said, hysteria creeping into his voice.  "How many rounds do you think there's going to be?"

"As many as it takes for us to win," Grandpa replied firmly.  "Good always triumphs over evil.  Always."

An angel appeared before them.  It was very tall -- perhaps nine feet -- and brilliant white.  There were wings, and long white robes, but you could hardly look at the creature's face; it was like staring into the sun.

"Theodore  Harold 'Paul' Smith, known as Grandpa Anarchy, and Lazaros Constantiniades, known as Spyro Gyros?" said the angel.  "The Arbiter will see you now."

"You just wait, Kid," said Grandpa.  "We'll be back fighting Death Medal in no time.  You'll see."


The Arbiter of the Dead looked like the stereotypical angel of death -- skeleton in a black robe, with dark blue eyes as deep as the Mariana trench.  There were wings the color of ash against a gray sky, and on the desk, a coffee cup depicting a cute kitten. 

"Grandpa Anarchy," the Arbiter intoned.  "According to our records, you have been resurrected twenty-seven times since last June, and three times already this week."

"I know," Grandpa replied.  "It's hard to dodge impending death at my age.  My reflexes ain't what they used to be."

"The problem," said the Arbiter, "is that you're not allotted another resurrection for at least a week."

"I'm not?" Grandpa asked in surprise.

"No," said the Arbiter.  "Management is on a mission to reign in unwarranted resurrections.  Seems the big boss came down on them like a ton of bricks, and now we've got quotas that we're not allowed to exceed.  You know how it is."

"But it's the end of the universe if we don't get back and stop Death Medal!" Grandpa exclaimed.

The Arbiter held up a bony finger.  "The end of one universe," it said.  There are countless more where that came from."  It sighed.  "Even so, I don't want destruction of a universe on my record, so... I'll see what I can do.  No promises, and it won't be a resurrection because I'm not allowed to do that for you until at least next Thursday, but...."


Torches burned on a barren mountaintop.  Death Medal -- a man dressed like a Nazi S.S. officer with silver skull buttons and a chest covered in so many medals that it resembled scale armor, and also by the way his head was a burning skull -- held out a large magical tome with theatrical flourish.  Beside him stood Miss Kid Gloves and Private Growly Monster, while a circle around these three was made up of Death Medal's storm troopers and his new atomic molemen shock troops.

"And now," he said, "with that annoying Grandpa Anarchy out of the way, we shall commence with the spell that will rain down destruction upon... well, everyone."  There was a loud cheer, after which Death Medal called out, "Cue the music!"

Private Growly Monster pushed the button on a very large boom box and held it aloft.  The first strains of Metallica's The Call of Ktulu began to play.

A burning skeletons appeared, along with Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick Spyro Gyros.  The skeleton was nine feet tall, wore black armor etched with glowing runes, and had burning bone wings.

Death Medal dropped the tome.  "Oh.  My.  Demons!" he breathed.

"Surprise, Brimstone Breath!" said the skeleton, in the voice of Grandpa Anarchy.  "I'm your avenging angel, here to stop this ceremony and kick your ass all the way back to hell!"  The creature glanced at its burning bone arm.  "Wow, this is pretty cool," it added.

Death Medal appeared to be crying tears of joy -- which was quite the trick, seeing that his face was an unblinking burning skull.  "It's more than cool," he exclaimed.  "It's the most beautiful thing I've seen in ages!  An avenging angel, here to fight me?"

"That's right," said the angel.  "But let's make this quick.  I'm on a temporary avenging angel visa and I've only got an hour to do this...."


Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Clichemonger

The Clichemonger

Mark A Davis


It was a crisp winter day.  A chill wind blew over the crest of the Frosthaven Dam.  Here stood a dastardly villain, easily recognized by his black ensemble, by the twirling of his moustache and by his billowing opera cloak, the likes of which would have made Dracula proud.  The boxes of TNT stacked behind him with a very obvious bomb attached, and with a young woman tied securely to it, confirmed his villainous intent.

He had a large hooked nose, a prominent pointed chin, and wore a dark suit and a silk top hat.  He cackled and rubbed his hands together in perfect villain fashion, obviously pleased with himself.

Two heroes dashed towards him.  The younger pointed.  "There he is, Grandpa!  He's got the Mayor's granddaughter!"

"Grandpa Anarchy!" the girl exclaimed.  "You old fool!  Save me already, or you'll answer to my grandfather!"

"Ah ah ah!" the villain cautioned, holding up one finger and in the other hand, an object which appeared to be a detonation device.  "Not one step closer, Mister Anarchy, or the girl gets blown to kingdom come!  Gone but not forgotten, as they say!"

"I have a name, you know," the girl called out.  "It's Vanessa.  Vanessa Doomhollow.  My grandfather is the mayor and a former villain, remember?"

Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, pulled up short.  "The Clichémonger!" he breathed.  "No villain is more textbook villainous!"

"In the flesh, Mister Anarchy!" the Clichémonger called out.  "At last we meet again -- but this time, the advantage is mine!  I am indeed the man with more clichés than you can shake a stick at!  I see you brought your sidekick -- the more the merrier, I say!"

"I'm Kid Obvious!" the boy exclaimed.  "And I'm Grandpa Anarchy's sidekick.  We're here to oppose you, villain!"

Kid Obvious was dressed in a form-fitted suit of red, with Kid Obvious written on his chest in large white Impact font letters.  Grandpa Anarchy, as usual, wore a rumbled gray suit with a silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.

Kid Obvious glanced at Grandpa Anarchy and added, "Does he always talk like that?"

"Always," Grandpa said.  "He never met a cliché he didn't like."  Raising his voice he called out, "You cliché-spewing fool!  What are you trying to accomplish here?"

"That's for me to know, and you to find out!" replied the villain.  "My motives are a riddle wrapped up in an enigma.  ignorance is bliss, Grandpa, but if you play your cards right and read between the lines I'm sure my plan will be clear as day!"

"There's no enigma here," said Kid Obvious.  "He's planning on blowing up the city dam, and the mayor's granddaughter along with it!"

"Stop screwing around, you ignorant fools," yelled Vanessa Doomhollow, "and save me!"

"You've hit the nail on the head!" the Clichémonger exclaimed.  "Don't worry, we're going to have a blast!  Mayor Doomhollow's granddaughter is about to become a blonde bombshell!"

"I'm a brunette, you villainous dork!" Vanessa retorted.

"Why are you doing this, Clichémonger?" Grandpa Anarchy asked.  "What do you want?"

"All is fair in love and war, Grandpa Anarchy!" said the Clichémonger.  "I thought, if we hit that bullseye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate!"

"This sounds like mixed metaphors," said Grandpa, "not a cliché...."

"What?" the Clichémonger said in mock surprise.  He danced about in glee.  "You've never heard of Zap Brannigan?  I'm shocked!  Shocked, I say!  That man has a way with words!  I’ve never heard of such a brutal and shocking injustice that I cared so little about!

"As for what I want?  How about one... million... dollars!"

Grandpa Anarchy folded his arms.  "Sorry," he said, "but no dice.  I've been authorized by the mayor to offer you fifty thousand dollars, no more.  Final and only offer.  If you refuse, I'm to take you down."

"You are in no position to bargain, Mister Anarchy...."

"Fifty thousand?" Vanessa cried out.  "That wrinkled cheapskate has-been...."

"As a former supervillain, Mayor Doomhollow does not negotiate with small-time criminals," Grandpa Anarchy said.  "Those are his exact words.  So it's your move.  You can agree to our terms and free the girl, or...."

The Clichémonger sneered.  "Second-rate, am I?  Has Doomhollow never heard that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar?  Very well!  I'll show him!  I'll show them all!   Hell hath no fury like a villain scorned!  They laughed at me, but who'll be laughing once I'm done?  You leave me with little choice...."

Kid Obvious drew back a wrist rocket slingshot and let go.  A steel ball struck the detonation device in the Clichémonger's hand; it sailed out over the downstream side of the dam wall and disappeared.

"Great shot, Kid Obvious!" Grandpa exclaimed.

"I shot the detonation device out of his hand!" the sidekick pointed out.

"Exactly!" Grandpa Anarchy said.  He raised his fists.  "Now comes the part I enjoy the most -- the fisticuffs!" 

"Very well!" the Clichémonger sneered.  He produced a cane and drew from it a sword.  "I see. your bite is worse than your bark, but the time for talk, Mister Anarchy, is past.  You and I have a score to settle.  All talk and no action, Mister Anarchy.  Let's get down to brass tacks, shall we?  All the world's a stage.  Let's dance!"

"You're the only one who's talking," replied Grandpa Anarchy.

"Kill him already!" said Vanessa Doomhollow.

The Clichémonger lunged forward.  Grandpa Anarchy jumped back, avoiding the blade.

"Grandpa!" said Kid Obvious.  "He has a sword, and you don't!"

"Thanks for that information," said Grandpa Anarchy through gritted teeth.  He dodged and weaved as he backed up, avoiding the lunging sword again and again.

"I'm a bull in a china shop, Mr. Anarchy!" the villain yelled between sword thrusts.  "I'm a bolt from the blue!  Yours is an uphill battle, and I'm dealing from the bottom of the deck!  When I'm finished with you you'll look like death warmed...."

Grandpa Anarchy drew a pistol and fired.  The bullet struck the villain in the shoulder.  He collapsed to the ground.

"Curses!" he said.  "I've been struck!  I see now that I should never have brought a sword to a gun fight...."

"You shot him!" exclaimed Kid Obvious.  "With a bullet!"

"I hardly call that fair," said the villain.

"Oh," said Grandpa, "but you did say it was fair... in love, or in war...."


Weeks later, the Clichémonger twirled his moustache as he surveyed the woman seated across from him.

"I am never one to show my cards, Mrs. Sondheim," he said, "and I do not like to beat about the bush.  I am prepared to offer you this exclusive, one-time offer, the deal of a lifetime -- right here and now, quicker than a New York minute.  What would you say to five days and nights at the Frosthaven Hotel and Casino for you and your extended family, air fair for them included, with access to a very exclusive beach the likes of which would tempt the gods themselves?  You will be queen for a day -- nay, queen for five days!  Oh but do not answer yet, for I will throw in an additional two days and two nights at no extra charge!  That's a savings in excess of a thousand dollars, Mrs. Sondheim!  It's a sweetheart deal!  If Mayor Doomhollow discovers I'm making deals like this he'll have me out on my ear!  He'll throw the book at me, Mrs. Sondheim!  He'll kill me, and he's a former villain so I do not speak metaphorically...."

From across the room in city hall, Grandpa Anarchy and his sidekick watched.

"Mayor Doomhollow made him Tourism Director of Frosthaven why?" asked Kid Obvious.

"The mayor likes hiring former villains to run the city," replied Grandpa.  "They're more honest than politicians, he says, and I can't argue.  Plus he didn't want to jail him, only to have him break out again.  He said he's tired of that old cliché...."


Sunday, January 10, 2021



Mark A Davis


Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, burst into Frosthaven Police Department Headquarters and stormed up the stairs to the second floor.  He flung open the door to the office of Police Chief Copernicus.  A coffee cup -- with the legend World's Greatest Detective on the side -- was halfway to the chief's lips.  Grandpa slammed his fist onto the desk, scattering paper and donuts.

"Chief Copernicus!" Grandpa Anarchy exclaimed.  "I protest!"

Behind Grandpa, the room just outside the chief's office became unnaturally quiet.

The police chief leaped to his feet.  "Grandpa Anarchy!" he yelled.   "Barging in here?  What's the meaning of this?"

"You've nabbed the wrong man!" Grandpa Anarchy growled.  "Nebuchadnezar Jones would never murder four women -- and I can prove it!"

"Ah," the chief replied, calming down.  "Is that what this is about?  Well, I'm afraid you're wrong, Grandpa.  We caught patrolman Jones red-handed."

"There must be some mistake!" Grandpa insisted.  "Nebby would never do it!  He's one of the good guys -- one of us!"

His chair squeaked as Police Chief Copernicus sat down.  He sipped his coffee.  "Early this morning," he said, "the body of Janet Wojokowski, 25, was found at the corner of 12th and Sycamore.  She'd been slashed with a knife as many as fifty times.  This is, as you know, the fourth murder of this sort in four months -- the work of the man the press dubbed the Frosthaven Slasher.  Only now we know it was one of our own -- police officer Nebuchadnezar Jones."

"Murder!  Officer Nebby?" Grandpa replied.  "Impossible!"

"Grandpa Anarchy, you do know what being caught red-handed means?" asked the police chief.  "He was found standing over the corpse, covered in blood, and with a hunting knife in his hands.  His hands were literally red."

"But...." Grandpa began.

"Grandpa," said the chief, "his DNA and fingerprints match those from the three previous murder scenes.  Hair samples from his moustache were also found at the scene...."

"It's a setup!" Grandpa exclaimed.

"As well as the butt of a Saúl Noboa Limited Edition Cuban cigar -- a rare brand which officer Jones smokes exclusively.  I'm sorry, Grandpa, but our case against Nebuchadnezar Jones is airtight.  He is the Frosthaven Slasher."

"Hmmm."  Grandpa Anarchy stroked his chin.  "That does indeed sound like an airtight case."  He grimaced, and added, "Which is why I refuse to believe it!"

A pained look crossed Police Chief Copernicus's face.  "Mister Anarchy...." he began.

"It's too neat and clean!" Grandpa protested.  "Obviously we were meant to find Nebby in the act of murder.  It's a perfect frame job if I've ever seen one!"

Police Chief Copernicus stood.  He strode around his desk and carefully shut the office door.   Then he leaned in until his face was inches from that of Grandpa Anarchy.

"Grandpa Anarchy," he hissed.  "Around here we adhere to a little something I like to call the rule of law.  Perhaps you've heard of it?  We do things by the book, understood?  When the evidence overwhelmingly points the finger at a suspect -- even when that person is a close friend -- we arrest that person.

"Unless, of course, we can blame some loser we don't care about," the chief added.  "In which case we arrest that person and pin all the blame on him.  But in this instance that would appear to be impossible, so I'm going to have to ask that you step aside while we proceed with our case."

"Perhaps the murders were done by some sort of malevolent spirit," said Grandpa.  "One that only appears when you say it's name.  Or it came out of the mirror, or... you know, it could have been a spooky clown that hides in the sewer, or maybe a creepy doll...."

"Not this time," said Police Chief Copernicus.

"Or, you know, Nebby might have been possessed by an evil spirit," Grandpa said.  "Happens all the time, you know.  They make you punch your best friend, and they never let you forget about it...."

"No," said the chief.

"Nevertheless, I will not rest until I've found the real culprit!" Grandpa growled.  "This I swear to you, Chief Copernicus!"


Police Chief Copernicus and Sargent Shakespeare stared into a crystal cabinet -- a piece of furniture of brass and wood that stood six feet tall, and which held at its center a glittering crystal column.  Inside of this could be seen a ghostly gentleman in Victorian dress.  He appeared to be angry, yelling and hurling insults and curses that could not be heard, but whose meaning was quite clear.

"So," said Chief Copernicus, "this is the actual spirit of Jack the Ripper?"

"Absolutely," Grandpa Anarchy replied.  "I've tangled with him a half dozen times.  I'd recognize him anywhere."

"And he's capable of possessing anyone, and causing them to commit murder?" asked the chief.

"He's famous for it!" Grandpa said.

Police Chief Copernicus smiled.  "Amazing work, Grandpa!" he exclaimed.  "I can't believe that you've cracked the case!  We'll book him this afternoon!"

"Then officer Nebuchadnezar Jones is free?" Grandpa asked.

"I'll sign his release right now," replied the chief.  "Again, good work!  Now, I think the newspaper and television types want to see you outside...."

"Oh?  Sure," Grandpa said.  He shook the chief's hand, then stepped outside the office.  The door closed behind him.

Sargent Shakespeare glanced to Chief Copernicus.  "Then the Frosthaven Slasher was really the ghost of Jack the Ripper?" he asked.

"Well, just between you and me," said the chief, "all the evidence still points to Nebby.  But as I told Grandpa, if we can blame some loser we don't care about, we'll do it.  And what better fall guy than the most famous serial killer in history?"


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Escape Goat

Escape Goat
Mark A Davis

"Don't get me wrong," said Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero.  "I'd love to escape from our current predicament.  But escaping is, fundamentally speaking, not a core trait of a hero."

Rusting steel chains creaked.  Suspended upside down in a dimly-lit cavern, Grandpa Anarchy, world's oldest hero, slowly spun about, helpless.  Water seeped down the walls, and clung to a rusting platform that encircled the outer wall.  Beneath lay a black pit.  The only other sound was a dull thump of music muffled by distance and walls.

Grandpa wore a rumpled gray suit with a silver anarchy symbol stitched over the left breast.  Black gloves and a black diamond mask completed the look.  His fedora had drifted into the depths below long ago.

"Escaping is my core trait," replied Grandpa's sidekick, a boy in a shaggy gray goat outfit with breeches, a long frock coat and a bow tie.  He was chained back to back with Grandpa.  He strained against the chains.  His goat horns -- no more than stuffed fabric -- flopped about.

"In the early 1900's, Harry Houdini would have himself strapped into a straightjacket and suspended by the ankles from a tall building or crane," said the boy.  "He would make his escape in full view of hundreds or thousands of onlookers.  This, Grandpa, is essentially the same thing.  Give me a minute, I'll have us out of here."

"That's nice," said Grandpa.  "All I'm saying is that the Escape Goat sounds like a bad guy."

"In what way?" the boy demanded, struggling to pick a lock.

"Because," said Grandpa, "you escape!  You escape from jail, you escape from the police -- people who escape are generally bad people!"

"I'm a goat that escapes criminals!" the boy exclaimed.  "I'm heroic!  And we happen to be in a situation where my skills are paramount!"

Bright light flooded the room.  Power chords blared.  A door flung open, and soldiers in black military uniforms that strongly resembled those of the Nazi Germany Schutzstaffel -- the infamous S.S. -- marched in, followed by the villain Death Medal, whose own uniform was covered with medals as if they were armored plates meant to protect his whole chest.  His face was a grinning skull that was engulfed in flames.  He spread his arms as the music continued to play:

Close your eyes, look deep in your soul
Step outside yourself and let your mind go
               Frozen eyes stare deep in your mind as you die

Finally he made a slicing motion across his neck, and the music abruptly shut off.

"What can I say?" Death Medal exclaimed.  "Gotta love the classics at a time like this -- a time that brings the end of your two lives, and then the end of all life on earth!"

The storm troopers cheered.  Death Medal performed a mock bow.  "Now," he said, "what you two fine gentlemen may not be aware of is that the pit beneath you is no normal hole into the earth, oh no!  You may in fact be wondering how deep is this hole that I've suspended you over.  Well, my friends, this baby goes all the way down.  That's right, you are looking at the genuine article -- a bona fide bottomless pit!"  Death Medal spread his arms to raucous cheering from his soldiers.  "Eh?  Eh?" he said, waiting for a reaction from the two heroes.  "Oh, come on, you can't tell me you're not impressed.  It took me weeks to work out the spells and cast them just to create this thing.  You have to admit, this is freakin' awesome!"

Grandpa stared downward into the abyss.  "There is no such thing as a bottomless pit," said Escape Goat as the two spun.

"Look who's an expert!" Death Medal replied.  "I see that Grandpa has got a lot to teach you about the way a superhero universe works."  He paused to hold up a crumbling leather-bound tome.  "Care to guess what this is?"

"Another magic tome," said Grandpa, "with a spell to end all of existence, or summon Ragnarok, or somesuch?  Never fails."

"What?  No!" exclaimed Death Medal.  "That comes later!  Right now we're talking about my bottomless pit -- please try to keep up.  No, this book includes the spells that I used to create the pit.  It's a magical pit, see?  Because you can't literally drill a hole through the center of the earth, that just doesn't work.  There's the molten core to think about, and what happens when you get to the other side?  You just fall back to the center again?  Not to mention with the rotation of the earth you'd splat into the walls after only a few dozen kilometers at best.

"However, the spells in this book take care of all that.  What we've really got here is magical freefall for eternity."  Here Death Medal managed to look thoughtful -- quite the feat considering his face was nothing but a rigid skull with empty sockets for eyes.  "I suppose one would eventually starve to death, barring a sudden heart attack or similar end.  Nevertheless, it is a true bottomless pit, which you can only get via magic.  And really, we don't have to stray too far from science, because it works like an event horizon...."

"So as I was saying," Grandpa interrupted, "Escape Goat is the guy in a crime ring that takes the fall.  He stays behind for the cops to catch.  Then they put him in jail and he escapes.  See?  You've got your Scapegoat and your Goat-Themed Escape artist all in one package.  Two birds with one stone!"

Death Medal appeared to frown.  This was quite the trick, since he had no facial muscles.  "It works like an event horizon..." he began again.  "Time is compressed, as in a black hole...."

"Wasn't Two Birds, One Stone your sidekick from last year?" asked Escape Goat.

"Yeah, he was," agreed Grandpa.  "That kid had real talent -- he could hit two objects with any single rock.  Plus his costume really looked like a bird, you know?  None of this Robin, Boy Wonder crap."

Death Medal frowned.  "Hello?  I'm trying to explain my evil plan to you two...."

"So your position," said Escape Goat, "is that escaping is a criminal act, and Harry Houdini was essentially a bad person?"

"Look," said Grandpa, "I met Harry Houdini.  He was a  good showman but a superhero he wasn't."

"Aha!" exclaimed Escape Goat.  "I've picked the lock!"

"Great, Kid," said Grandpa, "because I'm just about to...."

There was a click.  The chain loosened.  Grandpa Anarchy and Escape Goat fell.

"Wait!  Not yet!" called out Death Medal as they fell away.  "I was going to play From the Pinnacle to the Pit by Ghost for that part!"

For several moments Grandpa Anarchy and Escape Goat fell in darkness.  The wind buffeted them.  Fabric goat horns flopped and flailed.

"Well," said Grandpa Anarchy eventually, "I'm guessing that Harry Houdini never escaped from an event horizon...."

"Not that I'm aware of," replied Escape Goat.

"Yeah, didn't think so," said Grandpa.  "Now that would be heroic...."