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...."


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