Sometimes I wonder if more people have seen the film of Powerking’s death than have seen the Zapruder footage…
Really? You haven’t? It’s the only film of Kennedy’s assassination…. Come on, you must’ve seen it.
Jesus! PRESIDENT Kennedy!
Yes, that one.
I guess that proves my point right there. You’ve seen the Powerking video, right? All the way through? Yeah. I think everyone has seen it.
These days you only hear about the death of the hero, not the life. I mean, sure, sometimes they talk about how he used to save entire cities, and people are always saying “It was safer to walk the streets when Powerking was alive.”, but they say that sort of crap anyway. I remember what it was like. Every week, on the news, some jerky footage that someone took while a building was collapsing, or an earthquake was rumbling, this flash of red and blue, and someone’s life was saved. A fire was put out, a busload of kids got caught before it went off the bridge and into the river.
Over and over, people saved. Catastrophe averted.
And because someone filmed it, because someone was always filming, you can find the stuff online, if you go looking. I dunno why I started. Maybe it was soon after I watched the video of his death for the first time. I was petrified, even though I knew the outcome. Though I knew what was coming, and I could have stopped the vid whenever I wanted, I let it play, heart thumping in my chest, right to the very end.
Most people stop it, you know. She brings down the knife, and they stop it. They just want to see the blood.
After that first time, I started to track down videos of him alive. I found hours of footage, scattered here and there, and I organised it by time. Before long I could sit and watch ten years of rescues, take up a whole afternoon. I made lists, counted how many lives he saved. It was into the hundreds of thousands, if you want to know, and a lot of those were just individuals, people he saved one at a time, swooping in like an attentive parent catching a toddler.
After six months of this, I started to actually see him. Not the costume, not the muscles or the last-minute saves. I started to see his face.
At the beginning, he’s smiling. He grins a lot, even in the face of explosions or rockfalls. He makes quips as he saves people, delivers a snappy line as he places them gently down, out of harm’s way. A few times he even gives a jaunty little salute before he flies away.
A few years in, he’s not smiling so much. He talks less, and when he does speak, he’s commanding. He tells people to keep back, or to bring medical help. He’s stern. There are no salutes.
By the time you catch up to his final year, I would swear there are lines on his face. Creases in his forehead and around his eyes. He is taciturn, his mouth always turned down. Where he once stood proud for the cameras, he either races away or…Well, there’s one vid where he’s saved a couple and their baby from a car fire on the interstate. They are clutching one another and cooing over the baby (Now fifteen and trying out a pop career, in case you’re interested). He steps back, and before he leaps into the sky, he sighs. It’s not a big thing, but those muscular shoulders droop for a second, and his gaze falls from the people he has saved to the ground they stand on.
He doesn’t look noble, or heroic. He looks beat.
There’s no other footage of him before the video made by Delilah. There’s a few clips of her, charting her sudden rise to power, the atrocities she commits, but he never actually confronts her. He just turns up in that dark room, tied to the chair, looking dazed. The video pans down to the jewel she has sitting in his lap. It glows, even in the low-res video, a peculiar purple and it seems that beneath the material of his costume, his flesh is writhing, trying to withdraw from contact.
Delilah holds up a kitchen knife, the kind of thing you can buy for a few bucks in any store. The kind of thing that would have splintered against his chest if anyone had been stupid enough to try it on him. And yet…
And yet. She steps around behind him and places the point against his neck and… Just pushes.
Like I said, that’s where most people stop. Why go on? It’s become clear he’s not invulnerable, she’s won, she’s killed him, so what kind of sick puppet, what kind of person would carry on watching.
I’ve watched his life, over and over, and I watch his death too.
Because it doesn’t end straight away. The blood flows, the blood flies when she pulls the knife out again, but it doesn’t stop there. As she walks around him, heading for the camera, he sags in the chair, his life pouring through the slit in his neck and he says something. It’s hard to see, and impossible to hear because he has no breath left.
I’ve watched those moments again and again, slowed them to a crawl, trying to catch the motion of his lips before Delilah sweeps in front of the camera and shuts it off. And I think I know what he says. Worse still, I think I know why he says it.
Delilah killed Powerking, the defender of our planet. A man with powers so amazing, we believed he couldn’t be killed. She never gave a reason, or demanded anything in her video. After he died, Delilah was never seen again. Disasters have come and gone, and no one has swooped down out of the sky to pluck the victims from the death they face.
People still argue about who Delilah was, how she found his weakness, what she intended by his death. I wonder if I should tell them about his last words, if knowing what he says would help people or hurt them.
I don’t think I will tell. After all, those words weren’t for me, or for any of the people watching the video.
Delilah found his weakness, trapped him, and killed him. And as he died, he spoke to her. His last two words.
I’ve obviously never heard of Powerking, he must be a Canadian superhero living in Quebec, or somewhere like that where news never gets out..or in..a bit like Brigadoon where you can only enter or leave every 100 years, but I now feel both sorry for him and pleased at his release at the same time. This beautifully written life (death) story begs the question, ” Why why whyyyyyyyy, Delilah?”
Thanks Simon – you’re right on all counts! If I survive NaNoWriMo with any part of my brain intact, I’ll dive into the world of Powerking and answer all your questions! Or go on holiday. One of the two.