What Does it Mean to be a Hero?

I’ve come to realize that I enjoy writing just as much as I enjoy drawing. I enjoy the idea of creating stories and pictures or bring ideas to reality. This is probably the longest story I’ve wrote and I’ve sat on it for so long. It is still a work in progress, but wanted to get it out there so it doesn’t just lie around in my hard drive. Hope you all enjoy it!


 

As a kid, I was always inspired by the heroes found in comic books. Batman, Superman, Iron-Man, Captain America. It didn’t matter who they were, but the actions they performed helped to define what a hero meant to me. I was naive as a child, and soon learned that reality was a lot harsher than what comics made it out to be.

—-

“Drake.. Get back”

 

I see my dad covered in blood, he reaches out to me and attempts to shove me back with his one working arm. The other arm already bruised and broken. His left eye was closed up and covered in blood. His mouth wide open as he struggled to breath in as much air as he can.

 

“Dad.. please don’t do this!” I’m already in tears, and the sound of my voice quivering as I pleaded to my dad.

 

We were surrounded by shattered glass, and overturned tables and furniture. A man about 6 feet tall, dressed in black, stood directly in front of us, blocking the way out of our own house.

 

A deep, rumbling voice came out of the man, “I didn’t want to do this Jack, but you left me no choice.”

 

My dad, struggled to talk, but managed to get a few words out, “I am truly sorry, but I had no choice.”

 

“I’m sorry Jack… neither do I”

 

The man began moving forward, and the little light from the outside shines on his face. I can still barely make out his face, but I see a large scar on his face. It stretched from his chin to his forehead. The man’s fist came into the light and it was covered in blood… my dad’s blood. My eyes are flooded with more tears as the man continued to approach us. My dad pushes me to the side and then rushes towards the man and attempts to punch him with his one working arm.

 

The man dodges to the side and grabs my dad’s arm then breaks it like a piece of twig. The sound of his arm breaking sends me involuntary rushing towards the man. The man slaps me and sends me flying back towards the wall.

 

“Damn it! Keep my son out of this! He’s just a child!”

 

My vision began to fade.

 

“Then it’s unfortunate that your son had to grow up with a coward of a father like you.”

 

The man walks closer and crouches down in front of my dad. I see my dad take one more look at me and mouths the words…

 

“I’m sorry Drake”

 

My eyes begin to shut and then I pass out.

 

 

Everything fades to black and then all of a sudden I’m awoken by the sound of sniffling. I look to my left and see my best friend, May.

 

“Mommy! Drake’s awake!”

 

A woman, dressed in a long t-shirt and jeans runs in and wraps her arms around me. I see the tears in her eyes, and could just hear her sobbing in my left ear. She finally lets go and soon after May goes in for a hug, but unlike her mother, wouldn’t let me go.

 

“How are you feeling?! Do you need anything?? Are you hungry??” The mother asked hysterically.

 

“Calm down Jill, I’m sure he’s just adjusting to everything right now,”

 

I see May’s dad, looks like around his late 40s, walk in.

 

“I know Bruce… but I just thought… we lost him too”

 

Bruce quickly hushes to Jill, but it’s too late. It took a few seconds for it to register in my head, but soon my eyes begin to widen and then, with what little energy I had left, I ask..

 

“Where’s my dad?”

 

I see May’s parents glance nervously at each other. May begins to sob even harder and hugs me tighter.

 

I see Jill finally muster up the courage and say, “Drake… I’m so sorry..”

 

She struggles to finish her sentence as the tears begin to roll down her face again. I didn’t need May’s mom to finish that sentence because I instantly knew. I knew that my dad didn’t make it.

“Drake?… Helloooooooo?…. DRAKE!”

 

I was instantly snapped out of my deep thought by the loud screech of an all too familiar voice. My mind is brought back to the crowded streets of Chinatown and then I glance to where the voice is coming from and see May.

 

“Oh.. Hey May. Sorry about that… I was just thinking about something.”

 

May just glares at me. “I know! But I’ve been trying to get your attention for a while!”

 

“Oh come on, now you’re just being dramatic. It can’t have been that long.”

 

“Fine it was only for a few seconds…” She then sticks her tongue out at me and made this cute “humph” noise. Some things really just don’t change.

 

“Hey I’m sorry. Come on, let me grab you that bowl of udon I promised you”

 

Suddenly May’s face lights up with a smile and she starts bouncing up and down in place.

 

“OK! Let’s go get that udon!” May exclaims.

 

“I swear May… it’s like you’re still a child…”

 

“And you’re an old fart! But you don’t see me complaining….”

 

Then we began walking over to our favorite udon place in town. When we arrive, the restaurant is still empty. I breath a sigh of relief because now I don’t have to worry about dealing with crowds and long lines; I shudder at the thought.

 

May and I go straight to the counter and begin grabbing our food from under the heat lamps. They had all kinds of tempura, Shrimp, potato, onion, you name it. Then we reach the end of the line and I begin to see May drool.  There’s nothing to do but watch them cook the udon in front of us.

 

After a few minutes, we grab the nearest open table and start slurping away at our udon. Our mouths were still full, but that didn’t stop May from talking.

 

“Sooooo how’s everything going? We barely hang out since you’ve started working at this job…”

 

“I’m fine. Just adjusting.. And I’m really sorry but it’s been busy since I’ve started.”

 

May quickly swallows the soup from the bowl, “No excuses! But seriously Drake.. I know this job is killing you. You barely hang out with me, let alone your family. You also look.. Tired and exhausted everyday.. I’m a little worried.”

 

“Come on May. You don’t have to worry about me! I mean like I said it’s just taking time to adjust. Eventually things will settle down and things will get better.”

 

I don’t know how long I’ve been rehearsing that line, but it comes out nice and smooth. I didn’t want May to worry about me and I truly wanted to believe that this job would help me in the long run. I mean it’s paying the bills and keeping the lights on, so what do I have to complain about?

 

May’s eyes start to shrink as she stares at me. Trying to scan my face for anything that would show that I was lying. May always saw through me, but this time I couldn’t let her.

 

“Drake… I know you have your reasons for not telling me everything..”

 

Damn.. she could see through me no matter what I did.

 

“I want you to know that I’ll always be there for you, and I’ll support you in whatever you choose to do.”

 

May continues to look at me with those eyes. Those big brown eyes that would always make my heart sink. I stare back for a bit and then tell her.

 

“Thanks May. I’m glad I have you.”

 

Just like that, time quickly flies by and it was time for me to return to work. May walks me back to my building.

 

“WooooW, look at you going back to work at the corporate offices. Little Drake finally decided to put on his big boy undies!”

 

“Yeah yeah yeah… ok so I’ll see you later.”

 

May suddenly gives me her trademark pouty look and she would use this a lot when we were kids when she wanted something from me.

 

“I promise.. I’ll do my best to keep in touch.”

 

I went in for a hug and then we parted ways. Just like that and I catch myself already missing her.

 

 

I quickly run through the maze of cubicles to get to my desk. I lost track of time and now there’s only 2 minutes left to log in to my computer and clock back in from lunch. 30 seconds left and… all good to go! I sit at my desk and take a quick breath and then it was back to the emails. Oh look.. An email from my favorite employee.

 

 

 

Hi Drake,

 

Thank you for your help with this, but this isn’t what I was looking for. Could you please go back in and make the following edits and then send it back to me as soon as you can?

 

Thanks,

Bob

 

“Fucking A…” I whispered to myself.

 

One part of my job is to assist employees with verifying their employment. Normally, the process is straightforward. I receive a form, usually from the bank or some new employer, then I fill out their dates of employment, their job title, and then send it off to the requested address.

 

Then there are people like Bob. Bob who needed things to be written out in a particular format, font, and whatever you can think of. This time he needed me to completely rewrite my letter because apparently it wasn’t “professional” enough… I take a deep breath and look at the clock.

 

“Only 3 more hours… shoot me…” My hand now at my forehead.

 

I really hope no one heard me say that… I’m sure I was quiet enough. Whatever.. It didn’t matter anyway, so I continue to slog away at my emails… and just like that it was 4:50PM. By then, I’m already over work so I start packing up and in a couple minutes I’m ready to head home and drink that cold beer waiting for me in the fridge.

 

5:00PM on the dot and I run as quickly as I can towards the elevator to avoid any and all human contact with my coworkers. They were all nice people, but the last thing that I wanted to do is spend another 5 minutes in a conversation about their kids. All I really want to do after a long day is shut down and keep to myself. Unfortunately, luck was not on my side, as the VP of my department was waiting at the elevator as well. I try slowing down so that the elevator closes before I get there, but it was too late and she already notices me and holds the elevator door open for me, so now I’m nervously standing next to her.

 

“Any plans for the weekend?” She asked politely.

 

“Nothing really..” I meant for my voice to come out, but instead it was a strange, unrecognizable high pitch voice. All I could think to myself was.. What the fuck.

 

The elevator door opens to the ground floor and I quickly run out.

 

“Have a good weekend!” The same strange voice comes out, but this time I said it quickly and didn’t even bother to look back.

 

Outside was already pitch black, but it’s December, so no surprise there. Parking in downtown was shit. The closer you are to your office, the more you paid. Being an entry level worker essentially meant parking 4 or 5 blocks away from your actual office, but on the bright side, I was only paying $150.. Compared to paying $300 – $400… that definitely was a bright side. .

 

The streets are full of people heading towards their expensive, but conveniently located parking structures.  I envy them as I begin my trek towards my cheap, but inconveniently located parking structure. A sigh of relief escapes me when I see my parking structure in the distance, but all of a sudden, I hear a large crashing noise. I turn to my left and notice far down the alleyway, a group of people and in front of them was a man on the floor.

 

The man is covered in bruises and then all of a sudden my memory of the that night comes flashing through my head. I see my dad.. Hurt.. and covered in his own blood. My trip down memory lane comes to a screeching halt.

 

“Hey kid! You better get the fuck out of here before you’re next!” One of the men from the group stares me down.

 

My legs and arms are shaking. I know what I have to do. I know I should call the police or try to help that man on the ground. Then the man who was yelling decides to walk towards me and I panic. My mind goes blank and I find myself running.. Running like a coward.

 

 

I finally arrive home and I slam the door shut. I can feel my chest rising up and down, and my breaths are still short from the running I did. I decide to close my eyes and end up slumping down to the floor with my back against the door. I tell myself that I’m safe. I’m home. There’s nothing to worry about anymore and I open my eyes.

 

I find myself sitting in the darkness of my apartment. I slowly get up to avoid bumping into anything and I start feeling against the wall for the lightswitch. My apartment is a small studio, with my bed against the far wall and the kitchen immediately to the right as you enter, and that’s about it. I find my way towards my bed and jump right into it, with my face in the pillow.

 

I begin to recollect everything that just happened, and the guilt begins to sink in. I just left a man alone… to get robbed. I ran.. And I ran without looking back. What the hell is wrong with me. I contemplate whether or not I should call May, but I decide against it and instead walk towards the fridge to grab my beer. I struggle to remove the cap and accidentally send it flying underneath my bed.

 

“Arghhh… fuck!”

 

I lie down and start reaching underneath my bed and attempt to navigate my hand through the stacks of unfinished books and piles of storage bins. I find the cap underneath an old comic book that I used to read as a kid. I pulled both of them out from underneath my bed and it was Batman the Long Halloween. It was one of my favorite issues as a kid. I skim through the pages and then come across an old drawing of mine. It was me as a hero… I definitely over exaggerated the muscles. I drew myself all clad in black and I was wearing a cape that would wrap around my body. Behind me were two katanas and my face was covered with a mask, similar to Batman’s but no pointy ears.

 

I begin to tear up and memories of old come rushing in. Memories of how I always wanted to be a hero. And memories of the day when I realized that were no such thing as heroes. I throw the comic aside in a fit of frustration and go back to drinking my beer.

 

—-

 

“Fuck… fuuuuuuuuuck…”

 

Work just started, but my head is already killing me. I probably should’ve stopped after the third beer. Whatever… I guess I’ll just go on Facebook for a bit. I mean, it’s not like anyone is going to notice.

 

I scroll through Facebook while stopping for the occasional meme, and then skipping through the various work/love updates. Can’t help but wonder why I’m following all these people from high school. Then I come across a live stream of one of the local news stations. The live stream is showing a building on fire and my heart stops… that’s May’s building. I quickly grab my phone and frantically dial May’s number.

 

“Come on.. Pick up.. Pick up.. Please May, tell me you’re all right..”

 

The phone stops ringing, and my heart continues to beat at an irregular rate. The phone is giving off nothing, but crackling noise. Then I hear her voice.

 

“DRAKE! PLEASE HELP!”

 

“May! Where are you?? Please tell me you’re still not in there!”

 

“Drake.. I’m sorry.. I’m stuck on the 9th floor. I tried helping my neighbor out and I got stuck instead.. Talk about dumb luck..” I can hear her struggling to talk and she begins to cough.

 

I immediately run. I run as fast as I can. Pushing people out of the way to get into the elevator before it closes.

 

“May, stay with me. Listen to the sound of my voice! I’m heading there now to let them know that you’re still in there!”

 

I exit the building and I can see the smoke rising, May’s apartment was only 10 minutes away, so I continue to run. There was no time to observe the law, so I run across crosswalks, paying no attention to the signals. In front of her building was a large crowd of people, but I start pushing and shoving, trying my best to find the nearest authority figure.

 

I see one trying to keep people back from getting any closer.

 

“Officer! Please! You have to help my friend! She’s stuck on the 9th floor!”

 

“Breath son. It’s fine. The firefighters are making their way up as fast as they can.”

 

My heart still continues to race… Will they make it in time?

 

“May. Are you still there? They’re on their way up. They’re almost there!”

 

Silence. I no longer hear May’s voice. My heart drops.. What do I do? What do I do? I take a look at the building. I see that the cop is busy trying to hold people back and so I take this opportunity and jump across the barrier and run into the building.

 

“HEY COME BACK HERE!” I hear the officer yelling at me from behind.

 

I ignore it and enter the building. The lobby was empty for the most part, so it looks like the fire is still in the upper floors. I push back the entrance to the fire escape and start my ascent up the stairs.

 

“Oh shit..” I begin gasping for air and have to pause for a bit. Looks like my body is paying me back for all the drinking I did last night. This continues the whole way up and then I finally arrive at the 9th floor. I take a deep breath and then pull the door open.

 

 

I have never truly experienced being in a fire before. The only “experience” I have had were from movies and video games, so it only then hit me. What the hell was I doing here?

 

I swing the door open and a burst of heat comes blasting into my face. I feel the moisture on the exterior of my body dry up and I find myself struggling to breath. I decide to crouch down to avoid the smoke and then, to best of my ability, I start yelling.

 

“MAY! Where are you?!”

 

I bring my shirt to my face to avoid breathing in the smoke. This is crazy! What the heck was I doing? But this was May.. I can’t lose her. I just can’t. I make my way around the corner and there down the hallway was May behind a pile of rubble. I run towards her as fast as I can.

 

“May.. May!”

 

Her eyes open and then she looks towards me. Her ‘dazed and confused look’ all of a sudden turns into shock.

 

“Drake! Why are you here??”

 

“Why else? I’m going to get you out of here.”

 

A giant wooden beam is blocking the way. Debris was on top, so that’s probably why May struggled to lift it. There was a small opening in the bottom right corner.

 

“May, help me lift this. You may be able to get out through the opening in the corner.”

 

“Ok I’ll try..”

 

May slowly gets up. She was covered in ash and it looks like she was still struggling to breath. I have to get her out of here as soon as possible.

 

“Ok… on the count of 3! 1..  2.. 3!”

 

May and I lift with all our strength. I can see it move a little and now there was enough room to get out.

 

“May, I’ll hold it while you come through!”

 

“Are you sure??”

 

“Positive.”

 

She lets go and all of a sudden I feel the full weight of the debris and wooden beam coming down on me. My arms and legs begin to ache.

 

“Hurry!”

 

May quickly crawls through, but all of a sudden I feel a stinging sensation on my left arm and I react by instantly letting go of the beam. The beam falls and lets off a loud crashing noise and more debris falls right off blocking the once open corner.

 

May looks at me and sees my arm. “Drake.. Oh my god.. Your left arm…”

 

I look to my arm and see that the entire forearm has been burnt.

 

“I’m fine.. Let’s just get out of here.”

 

We begin running towards the stairs, but I begin to feel lightheaded. It looks like the dehydration and headache is beginning to kick in. My vision is beginning to blur and I see myself falling a little farther behind from May. She notices and stops for a bit.

 

“Drake are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine. Don’t worry bout me…” Of course I’m lying, but what else can we do.

 

We begin moving forward again, but then before we get to the stairs. I hear a large rumbling noise and just like that.. The ceiling caves in. Without thinking, I react by pushing May out of the way and then the debris separates us once again, but this time.. I’m trapped on the other side.

 

“DRAKE!”

 

I can hear her voice calling from the other side. I struggle to lift myself up and I respond back.

 

“I’m okay! Just get out of here!”

 

“No! I’m not leaving you! I can dig my way through!”

 

“Damn it May! Don’t! The building’s coming down. Every minute you’re in here means the both of us getting trapped!”

 

“But… I can’t leave you!”

 

“It’s okay. There are fire fighters on their way up. I should be fine till then!”

 

I could see her face and she was in tears.

 

“Ok! But please… don’t die! Come back to me!”

 

“I promise!”

 

I see her run towards the stairs and I lay back down on the ground.

 

“Looks like… I lied to her again..”

 

I feel a huge pressure on my foot. I look down to it and see a pile of rubble on top. I’m stuck and now there’s no way out. I feel lightheaded again and my vision starts to blur more. Is this it? Is this how it really ends..? At least she’s safe. At least.. I finally did something right.

 

My eyes begin to close and then all of a sudden I hear a large crashing noise behind me. My hearts begins to race. At the end of the hallway is someone dressed in what looked like a black jumpsuit. His entire is being concealed by a black mask. I see him walking towards me, and all of a sudden my memory flashes back to the man in black who killed my father. I try to keep my eyes open, and now he was right over me and then he looks down at me. He raises his fist and then I cross my arms in an effort to block myself.

 

“What the fuck was going on..?”

 

But in an instant he punches and the debris goes flying in all directions.

 

I rub my eyes in disbelief and then he grabs me from underneath my arms and pulls me out of the debris like I was a piece of paper stuck under a paper weight. He puts me over his shoulder and then carries me towards the stairs.

 

“Who are you?.. What are you?”

 

The man doesn’t say anything.

 

“How..” I struggle to talk and then this was it. I couldn’t stay up any longer and then my body finally decides to pass out.

 

 

Am I dead? My body feels like it’s floating. How did I end up here? Oh right.. I was in that fire. Then the man in black pops into my head. I was.. Saved by him!

 

I slowly start to wake up and I notice that I’m no longer in the fire, but I’m in a hospital. Well now this seems familiar. I look to my left and I see May with her head down on my bed. I gently caresse her face and then move her hair out of her face. She starts to wake up and then looks at me and tears begin to fill her eyes.

 

“Drake.. I really thought I was going to lose you again..” Tears begin to roll down her face and I stare deep into her eyes.

 

“I’m sorry to make you worry…” I use my fingers to slowly wipe away her tears. It was really good to see her and I’m happy that we both made it out, but how did I make it out?

 

“So what the heck happened? How did I get out of there?” I look towards May, hoping for an answer. Did she see the man in black too?

 

“That’s the strange thing.. I finally find someone to go back for you and when they get into the lobby.. You were there.. Just lying on the ground.. Do you know how you ended up there.”

 

I debate in my head as to whether or not I should tell her.

 

“I… don’t know. Last thing I remember was passing out on the 9th floor and then I’m here.”

 

“There was no one else..?”

 

“Nope.. I don’t think so.”

 

I can’t believe I’m lying to her again, but I just couldn’t be sure of what I saw. Last thing I needed was to be sent to the therapist office.

 

“Drake.. Please don’t ever do anything that crazy again..”

 

I worried her again..

 

“I’m sorry.. But I just couldn’t stand by and watch. I just didn’t want to lose anyone else in my life.”

 

May stares back at me and then she launches straight into my chest. I hold onto her and she talks into my chest.

 

“I’m really glad you came for me..”

 

 

The hospital grew quiet as night arrived. I told May to go home and get some rest. She refused at first and then she smelled herself and then realized that she should probably shower, so she told me see you tomorrow and leaves for the night. So now I’m alone.

 

I decide to pull out my laptop that May brought for me so that I could entertain myself with Netflix. Instead I decide to do some research into this man in black that rescued me. Nothing comes up on the man, I mean where do I even begin? I go through news articles, reddit, tumblr, Quora, anything that I could find and so far there was nothing.

 

After an hour of searching, I finally come across an article from some obscure blog. The blog talks about a man in black who saved her just a few months ago. Apparently she was being chased by some stalker and then all of a sudden a man in black appears and beats the living shit out the stalker. Just like me she couldn’t get his name and then the man in black  disappears with a trace. I close my laptop and climb out of my bed and walk towards the window.

 

“Incredible… somewhere out there is an actual hero… I have to find him.. But how? Where do I even start?”

 

I stare out into the window and see the city glowing.

 

“That’s strange.. Was the city always this bright?”

 

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