Marvin stared into his closet, lost. Diana had known what to do with all of it – the clothes, the life, the saving him from himself. “I’m still color blind, Mother,” he said to the emptiness that used to hold his lovely wife. He pulled out a pair of slacks and a shirt and laid them on the bed. Marvin tried to remember the details of his clothes, reaching for anything that might show him he’d made a good pairing (instead of purple and green [like the Joker] or gold and orange [like a sunflower]). Nothing. Frustrated, he stomped off to the bathroom, rethinking last night’s vow to not die an old fart and make some friends here. When he returned, his striped polo had thrown itself out of the closet onto the rug. Marvin knew the shirt was blue as were his only pair of jeans. “Thank you, Sweetheart,” he whispered, not sure if his wife had intervened, but needing very much to believe that she had.
She shuffled into the kitchen, opened the fridge, and freshened her glass from the wine box. Sighing heavily, she returned to the couch. She knew that the Justice League bowling party was tonight and that everyone was going – everyone but her. She had waited all week for an invitation in the mail or a message in her empty inbox … nothing. This had happened to everyone in her family: the Gnat, the Mayfly, the Red Ant – they tried so hard to fit in, but never really belonged. She sighed again and changed the channel. “Looks like another quiet night for The Mosquito,” she said sadly, taking a sip.
“She really IS that beautiful,” he said while standing at the bar with the others, “but that’s only part of the magic.” They bought him another round and urged him on. “When I found her, she was drunk as a skunk on some cherry cordial from the pantry, dancing with a broom, and singing some cute little songs to the mice. Here she is, in this crappy situation, being kind to everyone – even her awful family – and burping the alphabet. How could I resist?” They cheered and clapped Charming on the back. “The glass slipper bit is way romantic but, for me, what clinched the deal is that Cinder has never played the victim.”
“But, Master, how could one who sat still for 40 years be one of the greatest warriors in the land?” Goh asked, confused. His master smiled. “Zao Li taught himself to travel outside of his body during meditation and sleep, engaging in ferocious battles with those who sought to do harm. Upon waking, his enemies did not have the strength to challenge him in this world and he brought peace to the valley.” Goh looked over at Ping, who had been making his life difficult for almost a year; Ping stared back, his eyes cold. “Thank you, Master,” Goh said evenly. “I would like to go now and meditate deeply on this teaching.”
“Our curriculum is significantly above all national standards,” Mr Rush continued as he returned them to the main hall at the close of the tour, “and we utilize every proven method of teaching, retention, and discipline to honor the needs of the individual student.” The Mercers looked at each other, anxiously wanting to believe that this was one school their Everett would never be kicked out of. Rush saw the silent exchange and pointed. “Over here is Mrs Tarbot’s classroom; Mrs Tarbot oversees our most difficult children.” They peered in and Mr Mercer gasped. “Excuse me, Mr Rush, but she looks like she’s a hundred years old! How can she possibly …” “Fish tank, Mr Mercer; please look closely,” Rush replied. “Are those … piranha?” Mrs Mercer whispered. Rush smiled. “Here at the Academy, we pride ourselves on using the right interventions at the right time to deliver the best results.” They walked back to his office quietly, shocked but smiling.
It was all over the news: Skipper, in an anarchy t-shirt and ripped tights with her hair dyed black and her makeup running, giving the photographers the finger as they dragged her away from the backwoods meth lab in cuffs. The videos always panned to the graffiti she’d done on the side of the cabin: a graphic depiction of what The Two of Them could do with their “hipster ridiculous shit”. Barbie and Ken could not be reached for comment until weeks later, of course, and were unaware of the incident for some time; they’d taken the glamour camper up the coast from the dream house to go clamming near Malibu.
He placed his environmental suit in the chamber for cleaning, wishing that he could put his soul in there as well. “I’d settle for being able to drink,” he whispered, trying to shake off his evening meeting with the Perfecta Imperialis, she through whom all of their power was channeled – the source, the queen, the abomination (the one who made Emperor Palpatine look like a friendly grandfather). Darth Vader shuddered. She’d taken no interest in him throughout the entire conflict, her mind bent on a far larger and darker strategy for the multiverse than their little scuffle, but he’d lost the Death Star and, if he was ever to get another one, … “I wonder how everyone else does it,” he mumbled, surprised by his despair and shame. Oh, how he loathed sleeping his way to the top.
Cleaning up after the baby shower, Marta glanced at the guest book. There had been a good crowd, but she didn’t remember meeting Pamela’s grandmother. “Hey, Pamela,” she said, walking over to her friend, “which one was your grandma?” She pointed to the lines in the book where Grandma Clara had written, “I love you very much and I will always be here. I am looking after you.” “She was the invisible one,” Pamela said quietly, her eyes filling with tears. “She died eight years ago.”
“After the tragedy, Miller wasn’t the same,” Father Burl said, looking down at his scotch. “And something else came to fill in all of the places where he was broken.” Father Weston felt a chill move through the room. “Miller placed white crosses near the site of the accident … and then began to put them throughout the town – even in people’s yards. He hung them upside down.” Weston gasped, his eyes wide. “The church was his primary focus, of course,” Burl continued, “and he would stand outside of the rectory and whisper most nights. ‘Priest! Priest! It’s dark out here. Dark and getting darker!’ he would call out in a sort of thin, whining voice. It was horrible.” Burl took a drink. “What happened?” Weston pressed. “He died of a heart attack not quite two years after the change. I’m not proud to say that we were all relieved.” Burl looked up into the eyes of the young man who would replace him at the parish. “But that doesn’t mean it’s over.” Weston downed the contents of his glass to steady himself for the rest of the story. Later that night, he awoke suddenly (covered in sweat) as if some terror had plagued his sleep. Outside, where the summer breezes were bending the tops of the trees, he thought he heard a sound. “Priest! Prieeeeeeeeeeest!” it hissed, and Weston wondered if he had courage enough to stay even one more day.