Monday, February 25, 2013

So Now What?

Now that the blog's initial purpose has been fulfilled, I not sure where we should go from here. I assume you're interested in continuing the adventures of Cicada-Man, and possibly might enjoy other submissions of mine. Here are some options.

- I just keep posting chapters of Cicada-Man here until it's done. This isn't a bad option.

-We start a new 52 Week Project, but take steps to assure that we don't have such a high dropout level. I know some people who might be interested, and we could re-invite previous members of the blog. I'd probably have to repost the chapters all over again at intervals, though, since giving them in a huge block would likely scare people off. Also, we'd have to brainstorm on exactly what steps we'd take to increase the success ratio.

-I have ideas for a blog project titled "Feedback Guaranteed." It'd be a way for writers to post their work for critique from within the blog's community. In order to submit a candidate for the daily story or poem (under 3,000 words), you'd have to send the story to my email alongside a link to an substantial comment you posted on another person's entry.  I'll post, I'll comment, people will comment, more stories will be submitted. Happiness abounds. Again, this would require reposting of Cicada-Man (plus, as this method is untested, it might go off not well enough or too well).

-I just realized we could combine some of these. We start another 52 Week Project or Feedback Guaranteed, I'll post old Cicada-Man stuff there while I write new Cicada-Man stuff here.

I'm anxious for your feedback! Words cannot express how much your companionship has meant to me in my writing life.

The Greatest Villians: Act II, Scene XIII

And, with this entry, the 52 Week Project is completed! Eric, I can never thank you enough for your constant support and invaluable feedback on this quest. That has meant more to me than most can imagine.

Scene XIII

“Bad to the Bone” begins playing. ANOTHER ANNOUNCER steps onstage.

ANOTHER ANNOUNCER: And now, children of all ages, the moment you’ve been waiting for… the Prince of Darkness, the Lord of Evil, the Head Honcho of Horribleness. He’s the innovator who gave us, among other things, pain, freewill, suffering, and burnt toast. He’s pleased to meet you… I hope you guess his name!

As the music kicks into gear, a parade of devil-themed dancers leads in SATAN, who’s strutting down the dancer’s prepared path like a rock star. The dance continues until 0:24 of the song, at which point the music fades out and the dancers dance out.

SATAN: Hey there, losers! Pretty spiffy opening, huh? I don’t like to br… ahhhh, who am I kidding, I love to brag! Worth every penny! The old entrance was getting old… I think “Sympathy for the Devil,” was a bit overused, didn’t you?

No response from the heroes.

SATAN: Well, would you look at this. Wow. What a mood whiplash, huh? One moment, you’re riding high, starting to feel good, then bam! You’re brought down to my level. A real pity, that. But now it’s time for business.

SATAN snaps his fingers, and a HENCHMAN arrives carrying a pizza box.

SATAN: I figured you’d be hungry after the trip, so, being the nice guy I am, I figured this would be a great way to seal the deal. Simply eat a slice and the contract is binding. Oh I can’t wait for all the fun we’re going to have. We’re going to draw all over houses, destroy churches, and completely run over this wasted creation. And, as a special favor to you all, we can start with Judea. Ask yourself… what better way to fill your black hearts than with vengeance? So who’s with me? Don’t be shy, just come on over.

After a while, RAMSES II stands up and walks over next to SATAN (though not touching a slice)

SATAN: Excellent, excellent. Who’s next?

After a while, GOLIATH stands up.

GOLIATH: …why?

SATAN: … come again?

GOLIATH: Why would I want to go back? This trip has become a disaster, certainly, but did you know what it was like before? I had no real friends! I was stuck with bullies in warclothes telling me to beat up some poor farm boy! The only reason I did not leave was I was too weak to stand up! There are no ‘glory days’ for evil, no pride to be found stepping on others to reach an invisible pedestal. That is what made my old friends fake. I do not care if anyone else joins me… I will find friends on my own terms. I will find them for me.

GOLIATH nervously walks away and stands so that the rest of the group is equidistant to either side. After a while, JUDAS stands up.

JUDAS: You think I suffered back there under Jacob. I felt much worse when I killed the world’s hope for thirty silver pieces. But, with these people, I’ve learned to forgive myself a little. I learned true repentance doesn’t just change you: it changes the world around you by your hand. With The Christians, I made a world I can live in. Whenever I was doing good, with either group, I forgot myself. I almost considered joining you after Jacob, but then I remembered that feeling. I know what I must do… For Him.

JUDAS joins GOLIATH. MARTHA stands up.

MARTHA: “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed- or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.” I understand it now. The key was in the word ‘things.’ God enjoys it if the things you do create a great novel or a delicious meal, but he really cares about the person you become as a result. I am not a villain for hosting a party; I was a villain for letting the party take over me, for forgetting that people, always fleeting, are what make you. So this quest will not take over me.

MARTHA joins JUDAS and GOLIATH. PILATE stands up and searches for something to say for a long time.

PILATE: … I hate pizza!

He runs over to join MARTHA, GOLIATH, and JUDAS, high-fiving them once he arrives. As SOLOMON begins to stand up, RAMSES II steps forward.

RAMSES II: No. I don’t want your prize anymore, Satan. I wanted to restore my family glory, make Moses forgotten under my new power. But I saw what happened to these brave, loyal people. They’re like the Israelites my father, the pharaoh, bullied into submission. Brother Moses saved them, and I cursed his name like a fool. That’s my family legacy. I don’t want that anymore. I want a new family.

RAMSES II walks over and joins GOLIATH, JUDAS, MARTHA, and PILATE. SOLOMON stands up.

SATAN: Solomon… lie again to your friends, if you desire. But the gold and women I offer you is too great a pull for you to resist. The team is broken, but you don’t have to suffer because of it. Just take a bite, and all your worries will disappear forever.

After a while, SOLOMON takes two steps towards SATAN, and then stops.

SOLOMON: … you sent Jacob after us.

SATAN: What?

SOLOMON: The man who caught us. Though he’s not even Jacob, but one of your henchmen.

SATAN: … how did you figure that out?

SOLOMON: First of all, that imposter dropping us off at your doorstep is suspicious. Second of all, Jacob didn’t become a trickster “for his entire life…” as he got older, he changed his ways. Now that alone isn’t enough… but you saying, “how did you figure that out?” That somewhat “seals the deal,” doesn’t it?

SATAN: (seething with rage) You…

SOLOMON: But what you said was somewhat true… I lied before when I told Judas I would not accept your deal. I will now fix that. For I learned there’s no shame in falling into evil when there’s joy in picking yourself up again.

SATAN: Solomon, if you dare

SOLOMON: I am no longer Solomon.

He walks over and joins the rest of his party, standing vigilant between them and SATAN.

SOLOMON: I am Solomon the Wise once more. These people you have hurt are no longer villains. No longer villains… (To group) I call you friends.

The group stands triumphantly together against SATAN for a good amount of time.

SATAN: …have you fools been so intoxicated off of each other’s ‘love’ that you’ve forgotten who I AM!? How DARE you refuse me! ME, who gave you so much! What Jacob did to you is only a TASTE of the wrath I will unleash!

SOLOMON: You’ll have to come through me first!

Suddenly, everything stops as both sides watch JADAU CARO run onstage and meet them in the center.

JC: (panting) Sorry I’m… late, I… had ta… take care of… somethings first.

JC blows a loud whistle. On command, the CHRISTIANS pop out and grab SATAN and the HENCHMAN. One of them stands in front of the evildoers.

CHRISTIAN 6: Good job boys. We’ll read ‘em their rights in the van. (Takes out cross necklace) For Him!

ALL OTHER CHRISTIANS: (still restraining the pair) For Him!

They begin to drag SATAN and the HENCHMAN away.

SOLOMON: Hold it!

They stop. SOLOMON approaches SATAN.

SOLOMON: It doesn’t have to go on like this, Satan… you can redeem yourself and start anew. I plan for us to continue working together and doing good. Will you join us?

SATAN: … perhaps you’re right. I will join you.

SOLOMON: You promise to swear off your evil ways?

SATAN: I promise.

SOLOMON: (to CHRISTIAN 7, who’s standing behind SATAN) Well?

CHRISTIAN 7 pulls out a device she was holding behind SATAN’s back.

CHRISTIAN 7: (reading the device)…yup. Definitely lying.

SOLOMON: Freewill doesn’t mean we have to be stupid. I guess we’ll give you more time to think.

SATAN: Bah! As if! I’d rather swim in this garbage as its king than serve under a loser such as you!

SOLOMON: So that’s a no then. Take him away!

THE CHRISTIANS begin dragging the duo away.

HENCHMAN: Wait! Wait!

They all stop and await a response.

HENCHMAN: … can I have some of that pizza first? It looks delicious!

SATAN: What!? Of course not!

The two of them bicker as the rest of the CHRISTIANS drag them away.
There’s silence for a while, then…

PILATE: We did it!

There’s much cheering and laughing as they all celebrate and hug each other for a the needed amount of time.

JUDAS: So what’s this about us ‘working together and doing good” that I never signed up for?


JUDAS: (laughs) I’m just messing with you. It sounds great!

Everyone else in the group laughs and affirms JUDAS’s position.

RAMSES II: We really owe much to Jadau Caro here… though I don’t know why he’d go and betray his master.

JC: Well, that’s simple. He wasn’t my master at all!

JC removes his gloves and shows up his hands. Everyone stares at them and gasps in shock (except JUDAS).


MARTHA: It can’t be…

SOLOMON: (in exclamation) Jesus Christ!

JC: That’s me all right! Thought tha nail holes would give it away!

GOLIATH: Why did you decide to do this?

JC: Ya guys kept bein’ left out, so I thought that that was the root of tha problem. The devil’s plan jus’ happened ta work with mine.

RAMSES II: Yes, and that hokey accent was to throw us off!

JUDAS: No, he always spoke like that.

The party looks at JUDAS and JC in confusion.

SOLOMON: …you knew…?

JUDAS: From the start. I didn’t know how to act until He gave me a code:…

JC: “Jus’ go along with it. I’ll explain later.”

JUDAS: And that He did.

PILATE: That accent is still bugging me. How can he pronounce ‘brilliant’ correctly, but can’t say the word ‘you?’

SOLOMON: (to MARTHA) Did you know?

MARTHA: No. Somehow I had forgotten. I must have really been lost. (To JC) There’s so much I need to talk to you about! Did I choose the right path? How’s Mary? Is my sister ok?

JC: Guys, I’ll answer anythin’ ya need. But know this first: ya all have the answers ya need ta know. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need ta phone my dad.

GOD: (as voiceover) I get lines in the play? Oh wonderful!

SOLOMON: It’s good to here His voice again… (To JC) But what on Earth is he talking about?

JC: Erm, omnipotent things. Don’t worry about it!


“The Avengers Theme,” from The Avengers plays as SOLOMON brings everyone in the group but JC (who’s closing his eyes in meditation) into an open huddle.

SOLOMON: There are a few things I think we should decide on. I’m serious about us sticking together as a team to help Judea on its feet and fight evil, but we need a name. Not just any name… a name to drive fear into our enemies and inspire those around us. I know just the name. I suggest… The Avengers!

JC: (the music cuts suddenly as he says this) (without opening his eyes) Taken.

SOLOMON: … The Devil’s Rejects?

JC: Taken.

SOLOMON: Goody Deeds Done Dirt Cheap?

JC: … let’s not.

GOLIATH: I believe I know. The Christians took the symbol of their darkest moment- the cross- and turned it into a symbol of hope by their actions. We can do the same with the word “villain,” a word that haunted us and locked us in place until we met. I suggest… The Greatest Villains!

A pause. Then…

ALL EXCEPT JC: Naaaaahhhhh…

JUDAS: (as he starts to leave) Sorry, it won’t catch on.

MARTHA: (as she starts to leave) Too cheesy.

RAMSES II: (as he starts to leave) Just no.

JC: Well I like it!

PILATE: (as he starts to leave) Maybe next time…

GOLIATH: (as he starts to leave) Well, all right…

Everyone leaves as a group except for JC and SOLOMON. Lights off, spot on JC and SOLOMON. SOLOMON stands awkwardly for a while, until JC opens an eye.

JC: You can head back ta join them.

SOLOMON: You know I won’t be able to go back. Not after this.

JC: Perhaps this is best. My story wouldn’t have much flare ta it if I flopped on ta ground and just died off. It was painful, but… it was a story. No, more than that. A covenant. And that’s somethin’ heavier than gold. But what did you want ta say?

SOLOMON: Well, I just wanted… wow. I mean, I’ve come so far. I just wanted to thank you, but the words aren’t enough.

MARTHA enters and grabs SOLOMON by the arm.

MARTHA: C’mon, Solomon, we’re waiting on you!

JC: That’s how.

MARTHA and SOLOMON run out of the spot together as JC watches approvingly. Spot cut. End scene, end play.

Copyright (C) 2013 by Nick Edinger

Cicada-Man: Chapter 11

The lock was still on the bleached garage door when David arrived under piercing sun, but the wind was knocking a side door back against the wall in beat. He peered inside; there was no lantern anymore. He brought his hands into sweatpants pockets, and sighed when he found only a single key and a few bills inside.
                After feeling along the clusters of dust on the floor, his fingertips arrived at a scratchy piece of wood. Once moved, a swell of smoke cascaded out, and David threw his head to the side and coughed.
                From the pit, he could hear hyperventilating and could see a flickering white light deep down. A massive man with little hair was hanging onto the rock stairs with large fingers, flailing his legs behind him. With a hand over his mask to slap it back on, David scuffled to the stair’s top and grabbed each hand of Mr. Morality.
                It took several grunts and heaves, but Mr. Morality could eventually roll over into the light from outside, where the crimson smoke flew out. He breathed against something in the back of his throat. David hovered over him; his face seemed to be shoved to the center, leaving a pale canvas of cheeks and forehead.
                Mr. Morality finally opened his eyes. “Who- what are you!?”
                “What happened here?
                “Goddamn woman went crazy!” he choked out, cotton still in his throat. “First she keeps talkin’ to me, says she wants to know more about me, keeps interrupting, then she’s screaming about me never paying attention to her! I turn around for one moment and she- she- she buried my laptop! It was some kind of black goo! Then she’s gone, and all the doors are open and smoke’s comin’ from every room! And no fire!”
                David gasped, “Did the kids escape?”
                David supported his hand on the belly.  “Your child labor. Did they get out in time.”
                “I thought she did all the work. Got me the money, at any rate. Didn’t see nobody.”
                The smoke had stopped. With a careful swivel, as Mr. Morality groaned, David got off his knees and shuffled down the steps until the hand in front of him reached something soft and burning.
                With a yelp, he held his wrist and took a step up, letting his eyes adjust. A wall of stringy earth was at the stair’s bottom, emitting little vapors underneath that would quickly vanish. David put the back of his hand close; it still emitted a round heat.
                A throaty scream came from above. Sprinting up the softening steps of earth, David saw Mr. Morality sitting up, with one hand clutching his bottom and the other holding a phone to the dark. Turning his head, David gasped; the wall away from Mr. Morality had dried dripping of deep, purple lettering.
YOU      ARE
                A blue contact fell from Mr. Morality’s eye as he held his head and shuffled back into the wall shaking. He cried out as David started to approach the lettering, which was enough for David to grab his arm and back away from the source of the burnt steak smell.
                Mr. Morality soon got up on his stained dress pants and hustled out the door, going only to a bare fence before David caught up with him.
                “How do you remove a chip?”
                David pulled out his photograph, held it straight in front, and then swallowed as he read its back.

                “Why am I returning your mind-control chip to you? It works fine, but I realize-“

“Oh fuck you. I’m not here to listen to a speech.” The big man grabbed on to the fence in front of him each time he moved towards the street’s shade. “I don’t know anymore.”
“You invented it!” David lifted his mask for a moment to wipe away the sweat.
“That was college. Those information packets are trapped down there,” said Mr. Morality, with a quick itch on his side scratched.
David looked back at the squatting garage, then to Mr. Morality, who had turn to the jagged sidewalk at a brisk pace.
“Well, my employer needs one removed, and I’m not paying for that one!”
Mr. Morality froze stiff, grasping invisible balls with his fingers, then turned around pale. A pigeon continued to peck at the bare grass beside him. “Do you all look like that?”
“The golden skull masks? She told me that there’d be “meanies in black,” frequent buyers that kept complaining. Or maybe you were that other masked man.”
David itched at the edges of his plastic disguise, then sighed. “It’s an old Halloween mask, actually. There are some I’d rather not be recognized by. Look, I’ll… I won’t tell anybody about your business if you help me.”
“Look, I can’t. I gotta get back to my folks’ house. I should be on break anyway.”
“But I-“
“Look, it’s over! Finished! There’s nothing more to talk about here.” Mr. Morality nearly tripped on his turn back, but kept going at irregular intervals, reshifting his hoodie when not zipping or unzipping it. Birds jabbered and rustled dry green leaves above.
Mr. Morality revolved.
“You could at least get me directions to the library.”
“Well, my employer is looking for something, and he’s a low-tech guy.”
Mr. Morality hid his head as he rubbed his temples. “It’s not gonna work, you know. She told me each chip has safeguards.”
“Oh really?” David gave a silent grin. “Something tells me I get these chips better than you do.”
At the library checkout between two flags, David got a path to the other masked man from a flush-faced teen with a long ponytail. As he took taut steps away, she called to him. “I think he wants to be left alone,” she muttered before going back to her keyboard.
The moisture in his mask had begun to drip to his chin as an escalator pushed him to a grid glass ceiling. Once off, David walked past ten knotted shelves and a group of scampering children, then put his shoulder to a row and peered alongside.
The back of Cicada-Man’s head stretched to the ceiling, next to a tower of thick textbooks teetering alongside. He was alone on a row of desks. The other desk strips in between shelves were overflowing, some with books to chin, a couple staring at the goggled man with titled gaze. David’s lean caused the shelf to creak, and Cicada-Man shot his neck up to find David’s eyes.
Jetting his breath up to hold, David swiveled into a walk past the faded array of colors and dog-ears, spacing out each step in forced interval. He gave a quick glance through an empty section after the middle of the shelf; Cicada-Man’s scarlet eyes were following him. Once David could peer to the other side, however, the armored man was flipping through his book, muttering and letting spit fly irregularly.
David’s hand caressed the photograph beneath the sweats. He steadied his breath, straightened the mask, then stepped out.
Some of the gawkers at computers pointed at David for their friends. David stepped past the clicks and rustles, and Cicada-Man crashed his book shut before tossing it aside and standing for another, to which David scrunched behind a blue bin. He counted the breaths and felt his blood pump. Minutes after the new book had been slammed down and the others had started staring at David instead, he stood, then crept along the varnished wood to the blue pimple on the brown mask.
In the midst of turning the page, Cicada-Man ripped his body from the chair and latched onto David’s shoulders, pushing him down into the edge of the desk. “I was promised no more disturbances,” he snarled. “Have I wronged thee, ‘hero’?”
“Forgive me,” said David, his voice like a cough. “There’s something sticking to the back of your mask.”
Cicada-Man brought his hand around the metal ball, then froze, twitching his head to bring it closer to David’s. “Who are you?”
“I’ve been sent to help you. The government- The government wants you to achieve your dreams. Cleaning up your mask is a good place to start.”
With straining fingers, Cicada-Man finally pinched the blue ball and peeled it, threads still sticking to the magnet. Moments later, he pulled David’s body up and close.
“I am uncertain why I became so inclined to trust you moments ago, strange one,” said Cicada-Man. “Reveal your secrets, ere you be cast out as a malicious sorcerer.”
“No secret. When you can’t understand intention,” David then slipped up his mask and took in sharp breaths in between coughing out his gravel voice, “you can really- fall for- anything.”
Cicada-Man pushed David back, and held his arms out.
“David Tolkien! I admit we did not part on good terms, but I thought in that moment (though why, I cannot imagine) that you no longer-“
“Look, I need to tell you some things, ok? Just please, don’t run or be angry or anything.”
Cicada-Man put his hands on the itchy chair and leaned in.
“I… put a mind control chip on you. The evidence of the business I got it from was destroyed, but they gave it to me as an experiment of sorts. That blue thing removes your ability to perceive intent in some places,” said David, glancing at Atlas of Human Anatomy on top of the textbook pile. “I partially wanted to take a break, but it also had to do with your- homophobic beliefs.”
Cicada-Man opened his mouth and raised his head, but quickly shut and lowered it, looking up.
David slipped his photograph out and held it in front. “But I recently had a change of heart.

Why am I returning your mind-control chip to you? It works fine, but I realize that I’m approaching it the wrong way after all this time.
I don’t know why some people are homophobic, or racist, or any other evil. I don’t know why I took up this impossible challenge, or why I’m still around. And maybe that’s the reason.
We learn nothing without dialogue. I will talk with Cicada-Man about his stigmas, and we will learn from each other, though I hope to teach him more than he teaches me. We will both benefit from each other, and I will go nowhere without someone to challenge me.’

When David looked up and quickly crumpled the photograph back, Cicada-Man was standing straight and smiling.
“I suppose I should be insulted,” he said, followed by a little laugh. “But I’m glad you acknowledged your mistakes.”
David smiled back, and then picked up the mask. “I fixed my first superhero failing too.”
“David Tolk-“
“Actually, can you not use my real name? In front of these guys?”
Cicada-Man surveyed the enraptured audience and the timid ponytail intern on all sides. Seizing his head, “You mean you’ve been using your real name all this time?”
“Dav- my former apprentice, do you not see the foolishness of this? How your enemies could use this information against you!”
“Look, I didn’t need- we’re getting off topic. I want back in.”
Cicada-Man clasped his hands in front of him. A grey-haired, jittery man walked in and began whispering to a friend and pointing at the two heroes.
“I could not be so cruel as to deny you the chance to do good. However, the task beheld by superheroes is not flexible; it is likely sin will tempt you once again.”
David picked his head up. “Well, that’s where you’re wrong. I’m not going to charge in. I’ll start with two hours a day. We’ll meet at Union Station at noon. As time goes on, I’ll increase the amount of time I spend with you.”
“Look, after saving your livelihood, you could grant me at least this.”
“And whose-“Cicada-Man’s mouth hung open, then closed slowly and tightly. “You would dare blackmail me so?”
“I’m blackmailing you to help you,” David raised his arm and hand out. “I thought you were looking for apprentices. I’m curious about you and want to be me again. Either way, you’re keeping me around.”
Pinching together the skin of his forehead, Cicada-Man grunted and tapped a packed boot rapidly.
“You shouldn’t trust me,” offered David. “But I can fix that.”
Cicada-Man scrunched his hands and let out a yelp, bringing in more onlookers across the reflecting floor.
“Just as I return on my glorious quest, I must accept my own undoing! But I need not pray to understand that this is what Jesus would do. And you did return to rescue myself from denying the true path… very well. Unnamed One, we shall work together to save this world… or rather, you will work whenever you feel like it,” he grumbled. He took two steps forward and snatched David’s hand as David’s wilted hair was mirrored off of the polished goggles.
“Unnamed One.” David beamed. “Unnamed. Not a bad moniker, really.
The grey-haired man started a soft applause, and let out a ‘whoo!’ before blushing and stopping. The gatherings on the tables giggled at that.
Copyright (C) 2013 by Nick Edinger