by Brandon Krempec
Emotions are the vessels that hold the blueprints for humanity. They
guide one’s decisions based on joy, eagerness, empathy, love; however,
decisions are also guided by fear, anger, resentment, hatred. These are
what led to the lives lived today. A student with a desire to seek the
truth, an undermined employee waiting for the chance to prove himself.
A child hoping for the gifts she requested for her birthday, a parent
knowing their next paycheck will determine if she will get any gifts at
all. A woman, on her way home from work, the sky calm yet vibrant, as
silent lightning blinked in and out, a dance of flashes brightening the
night with its sporadic behavior. A group of troubled people, lingered
behind the lightning, hardly able to reserve their impatience. The
woman, surrounded by troubled men, sinking their eyes into the
innocence before them. A subtle reach for self-defense in a purse, the
realization. Then the realization that they were not alone. The
troubled men turned, my mask terrifying as the lightning illuminated
its pattern, blinding them with fear.
Three friends made their way to their dorm, made of red bricks and
stone pillars guarding the front door. Although the main focus of their
conversations included debates on the current year’s Oscar nominations,
theories based on upcoming blockbusters no one could have imagined
actually appearing onscreen, this day they had a new discourse, one
based on something no one could fathom to be real, a vigilante.
“I mean, there’s no way the guy’s got any superpowers,” Jaime insisted,
approaching the front door.
“Oh, of course,” Tony and Patrick agreed. Jaime scanned his door key.
“But does he have abilities? Like, is he super smart, is he
some kind of martial arts master, what can he do that the police
can’t?” Tony argued.
“Well, all he really did was beat up a couple a dudes and save a
woman.” As Patrick said this, all three of them give each other a look.
The front door led to a lounge, with a pool table sitting idly in the
corner dimly lit. The friends sat down on the uncomfortable lounge
sofas that haven’t been broken in because no one hangs out in the
lounge. They were exhausted from their schoolwork, however, and
couldn’t find the strength to take themselves up the stairs into their
“I don’t know how they can do it” said Jaime, “Spend every other night
getting beat up just to do what the cops should be doing. That dude’s
gotta have a ridiculous amount of willpower to keep that kind of life
up.” Patrick nods in agreement. “Definitely can’t be easy. Wish I was
cool enough to be Discount Batman.” The other two snort loudly.
“Maybe Discount Batman’s sidekick” Tony retorted, causing Jaime
to erupt in laughter.
“Discount Boy Wonder.”
More greed, more hatred. This world is full of people willing to give
everything to others, to those they care about. But it is also full of
people who will take from those unwilling, thieves who are unable to
give to themselves. Five of these people with their guns drawn, pointed
at civilians and employees alike. They demand for what is not theirs,
for what others have worked so hard to gain. It is not an easy world:
and I will make it hell for those who make it worse.
Slipping in unnoticed, I took down the first thief. The others found
out quickly, reacting almost simultaneously. They fired, but each
bullet never landed. I dodged and hid with perfected timing. But I was
outnumbered, and the civilians and employees were at risk. I knew this
would happen, but I thought I changed that. I guess four thieves is
just as troublesome as five. Glass shattered, and in a split second
there were three. Someone else came in, a bit more theatrically than I
had, and more efficiently. Before I could figure out what was going to
happen it had already happened. The third thief went down, two left,
then one. He tried to run, but I could read the cowardice on his face
before he even turned around. Everything was silent, the customers and
employees began to realize their salvation. I looked and saw a hood,
black gloves, a demeanor unlike anything I had ever seen. I could tell
it was a she, her feminine physique hidden underneath the carbon fiber
armor. She gestured, and I left with her, as the employees called the
Five men apprehended, none seriously injured, one at risk of a minor
concussion. An officer assessed the situation, as the last thief is
shoved into a police vehicle. The officer turns to the restaurant,
where civilians and employees were answering questions. No one else
was injured, one broken window, no other signs of a fight other than a
few chairs knocked over. The officer spotted a glimmer, very brief,
but obvious nonetheless. Underneath an overturned table: bullet
casings. Shots were fired, but no one was injured. He
approaches the detective, who had just finished with the eyewitnesses.
“So, we got five goons who entered and threatened everyone with guns,
then, uh, according to several of the witnesses, two masked persons
snuck into the restaurant and knocked ‘em all out.” The detective shook
“Sounds like we got some vigilantes running the streets,” the officer
stated, looking at the chaos that ensued.
“Looks to me like they did it right, in any case: no one got hurt
except the bad guys, there was minimal damage to the premises.”
“Regardless, we need to find them, we can’t have randos running around
risking lives like that. Besides, these people would’ve been just as
safe giving them the money and calling the police.”
“Well, now they get to keep their money.”
I was perturbed to say the least when I discovered I wasn’t the only
one. Her mask was mechanical in nature, the rest of her outfit armored
in black. She carried no weapons, like myself, but what intrigued me
the most was her demeanor. Her stance, it was as if she wasn’t even
real, like some kind of celestial being send from the gods to exact
justice on humanity. I tried to think about what she would say or do,
but she was unpredictable.
“You picked a bad night to get involved,” she told me, her voice warped
by some device in her mask, “you might want to lay low for awhile.”
“I’ve never considered robberies a bad night,” I replied, “just another
day in the life of people like us, right?”
“We are not the same.” I could feel her cold eyes through her mask,
something unreadable about her that I have never experienced with any
other human being I have come across. “You want to stop crime, while my
goal is a little larger.”
“Oh yeah? Fill me in.” I was eager to get involved, sounded to me like
a potential team up. She was not someone I would want to go up against,
and she clearly knew how to efficiently take care of dicey situations.
Plus I need to get out more, it is 2025 after all.
“I didn’t help you and bring you here to have you join me. I’m going to
warn you, lay low, otherwise you’ll regret it.”
“So now you’re threatening me?” I wanted to see what she’d do.
“I’m not the one threatening you.” She approached me, and for the first
time in my life, I had no idea what was going to happen next. “Trust
me, if you reveal yourself again to those guys, there will be
consequences… and I might not be there to save you again.” At that, she
took off, faster than I could react.
“More like help than save.” I muttered.
The next Saturday, rain began to batter the ground, quickly soaking
everything in sight. The three friends got caught in the downpour after
their lunch, and they were in a hurry to find the comfort of their dry
rooms. Typically they would just follow the sidewalk, but they knew of
a shortcut down an alley that would shorten the time to get back by a
few minutes. Their desires to get home were cut short by another
desire. In a cyclic manner, a gun was pointed.
The three friends were approached by a group of three, one was armed.
Jaime and Tony froze immediately, raising their hands to prevent
confrontation. But Patrick ran before the thugs could react.
“Dammit! Ya let him get away!” One of the thugs exclaimed.
“No matter,” the one with the gun snickered, “maybe it’s one of you.
Guess we’ll have to find out. If you both would join us please, we have
some questions for you.”
“Questions?” Jaime and Tony looked at each other, wishing they had run
“Yeah, see, we don’t want your money or anything. We’re already getting
paid just to find you, and we did. Come along, now.”
Jaime and Tony slowly moved towards the men, fear and the cold rain
making them shiver. The man with the gun laughed.
“Oh don’t be afraid, we’re not gonna-“ his sentenced was cut short by
an abrupt greeting to the ground with his face. The two behind him
exclaimed in shock, realizing they found who they were looking for.
I stood atop the man’s unconscious body, kicking the gun away from the
other two. I turned to look at the civilians, who were just as shocked
as the thugs before me, my mask and trench coat already soaked.
“Run.” They didn’t have to think twice, as always.
“Let ‘em go. It’s this guy we want.” One pulled out a knife, the other
a pair of brass knuckles. Just as I had thought. I saw everything
coming from a mile away. The wide slash with the knife, the winding
swing from the other side. I moved so fast each hit moved the rain
around me. These guys were different, somehow. I could see what they
were doing, but their movements were more sporadic than anyone I had
ever faced. They seemed to have just as much of a drive as I had, but
what was pushing them to their limits?
I should have beaten them three hits ago. Never has a fight with common
thugs lasted this long. One of them managed to slash my side, I could
feel my split skin burning with each drop of rain that made contact
with the wound. I made sure that my resolve was beyond any comparison.
With a predictable disarming and a fierce strike, I put down the man
with the knife. The brass knuckles found an opening, somehow, and I
felt the metal crunch against my skull.
Collapsed, the world became a wet blur, the rain blinding me. I have
been hit before, but never that easily. Who are these guys, how do they
know who I am, and what do they want from me? I couldn’t predict that,
nor could I predict hearing the sound of a gunshot in the air, the
sound of a police officer shouting “don’t move!”. I couldn’t predict I
would get caught, as a police officer kneeled over my body, red and
blue lights creating a silhouette of the man who saved my life.
The pain and rainwater blinded me, preventing me from seeing who was
approaching. All I could hear was the sound of raindrops barraging my
body and the world, the officer shouting “freeze!”, a metal fence
shaking as two of the thugs ran away. I needed to get up. As soon as I
moved my side screamed aggressively, my wound spilling onto the
I froze, not because I was told to, but because the pain made me numb
with anguish. I knew in that moment I wasn’t going to be able to get
out of this. I heard him call in an EMT as cuffs were zipped onto the
thug I took down. I felt the rain fade away, and I could finally open
So this is the vigilante. The officer observed the injured
character’s clothing: a trench coat, leather button-down shirt stained
with blood on his side, and a mask that frightened the officer. It
wasn’t anything one would find during Halloween. It’s likely he
made this himself. It appeared to be a single cloth, like gauze but
more metallic in color, wrapped around the vigilante’s head like a
mummy. How can he breathe? Or see? A silver pattern marked the
face of the mask, with the cloth somehow matching up the pattern
perfectly with the way it had been wrapped on.
“Stay put, I’ve got an ambulance on the way.” The officer looked again
at the bloodstain. The cut wasn’t deep, just deep enough to be a
problem. He rushed back to his vehicle, grabbing a first aid kit. He
returned to the vigilante.
“That cut needs to get taken care of,” the officer was wary of this
mysterious person, who had been involved in so many cases in the last
few months. He began tending to the cut, wondering what this man was
thinking, and why he wasn’t speaking. “You mind explaining to me what
you were doing? You know you can’t run around fighting crime, we don’t
live in a cinematic universe.” Nothing. Who is this guy? And-
“Where’s your friend?” The officer noticed a slight reaction, but
still, nothing. “I figured you two weren’t working together, not
intentionally anyway, most of the cases we get only have one person
doing what you do.” The wound was covered, and the sound of sirens
slowly filled the air. The officer looked again at the mask, the
indecipherable pattern on his face. Reaching at the neck, he fiddled
for a way to unravel it.
“I didn’t design it to be taken off by anyone.” The words that finally
came out of his mouth shocked the officer. He backed up, placing his
hand on his holster instinctively. “Well, we’ll get it off you
In a flash of grey and black the officer was on the ground. The sirens
bellowed louder as they got closer. What the hell? He comes to
his senses too late, as he stares at the place where the vigilante’s
body used to be. I guess they are friends.
“I warned you to quit showing yourself,” she told me as she finished
sewing my wound shut. She found me somehow and brought me to a rooftop
a few blocks away from the crime scene. The sun was setting, painting
the clouds with orange and pink colors, making the damp street sparkle
with a fading vibrancy. “If they already know who you are, then you
need to leave.”
“I thought you said you wouldn’t be able to save me again?”
might not, plus the last thing that will help me is letting you
get arrested.” I wish I knew what she was going to say next. She was
still wearing the mask, like a helmet worn by a sophisticated but
deadly soldier. She had taken her gloves off to sew, and her hands were
small but strong, yet they looked different from one another somehow.
She said, “You’re lucky the authorities didn’t figure out who are, but they
know, and you might as well not even return to wherever you’re from,
because they likely also know where you live.”
“First off, who’s ‘they’, and second, why do ‘they’ give a shit about
me? Are they butthurt that I keep kicking their ass?”
“Yes. They are,” she put her gloves back on, and they seemed to click
into place, as if it was an astronaut suit. “A criminal I have been
assigned to take care of has been making deals recently that would have
extremely negative effects on the well-being of the citizens living
“Let me guess, I was accidentally on purpose thwarting this guy’s
“He’s the only organized crime around.”
“Alrighty, how are we gonna stop him?”
“We don’t. You are going to leave this town and wait for the news. I
don’t have time to debate, and I don’t have time to waste on you.”
“And yet, here we are.” She didn’t care, she was gone in a split
second, and there was no way for me to stop her. I still couldn’t seem
to figure her out.
Jaime paced back and forth in front of Tony, who could barely stand in
shock. Patrick hadn’t returned to the house surprisingly.
“Should we call the cops? He could have been chased by more of those
“I was.” Patrick stumbled, clutching his side as he approached his
friends. They help him to a seat.
“Jesus, what the hell?!” Jaime exclaimed, “what happened?”
“A couple more of them jumped me a block down. One of them sliced me
but the cops showed up before they could kill me. I’m so sorry guys, I
didn’t mean to leave you there.”
“Hey man, don’t sweat it…” Jaime’s voice trailed off as he looked at
what Patrick was wearing. It wasn’t what he had on before they left,
and he didn’t recall Patrick ever owning a trench coat. “Hey, Patrick-”
Jaime was suddenly interrupted by an explosion that sent the friends
sprawling on the floor in rubble and smoke.
Dust and smoke filled the room like steam in a sauna. I got up, my side
still screaming at me, and I saw the wreckage. A chunk of the building
had been destroyed, by what I was soon to find out. A dozen men guarded
the outside of the new hole burnt into the wall, with a leader standing
front and center. He was tall, wearing a dark grey suit with a neon
green tie, a neon green glass eye sitting in his left socket.
“You want to be a hero?” the villain shouted, “how about a little
rescue training?” He lifts up a device, and with the press of a button
I felt another explosion. To my right I saw the campus bell tower begin
to lean forward, smoke rising from the bottom. There were people
screaming, running from the destruction that was caused by my
decisions. I wasn’t going to stand for that. I wanted to rush over and
help as many as I could, but I knew they would shoot me the moment I
took a step. Nothing I would do could change this outcome. Then the
thugs began to fall. There were a dozen surrounding me, then ten, nine,
eight. The villain turned to look at a boot, its sole giving a painful
kiss in his mouth. I recognized that hood, that mask. I didn’t have any
time to put mine back on.
No thought was running through my head when I ran. All I saw was a
child, young and terrified, staring at the mass of bricks falling upon
her. She put her hands over her head, letting out a shriek that would
have stayed in my nightmares for years to come. I didn’t have years, I
had just one moment. A moment where the shrieking stopped, and the
child looked up at the bricks merely a foot away from crushing her. She
looked up at me, awe and pure shock in her expression.
I have no explanation for how I was able to hold it up, all I know was
that I had to. It didn’t matter that everything was on fire, my muscles
were burning so much it felt like my blood was magma. I wasn’t a
vigilante, not in my heart. I wanted to give people a peaceful life,
one without fear or hatred. In the end my goals led me to this moment
of heroism, but at a cost too high. I watched the villain aim his gun
at me as I held the tower, and I knew his shots would land. He pulled
the trigger, and we were both surprised to realize the bullets hit
someone else. The hooded woman knelt in front of me, red and blue blood
dripping from the bullet holes. I couldn’t see her coming when the
shots were fired. She grabbed the child, the wound in her hand
revealing wires and gears hidden underneath the skin. She glanced at
me, and I couldn’t tell if she was admiring my sudden strength or
silently scolding me.
“You should have left…” her words faltered as she died right in front
of me. The child began to weep, releasing herself from the stiff grasp
from the hooded woman’s frozen body. The villain laughs at the chaos he
has wrought, only to have his fun sabotaged by a bullet through his
The bullet shattered his green eye, the fragments contrasting the smoke
around him. The authorities had arrived, with the majority of the
villain’s men beaten, and the others dropped their weapons immediately
at the sight of their fallen leader. They had so much tenacity
before, why are they giving up now? The officer analyzes the chaos.
Several injured and in shock, multiple men unconscious, two
explosions. He spots the vigilante underneath the fallen tower.
Somehow, he is holding it up. How? The child remains still with
fear besides the vigilante, and the other one in kneeling beside him,
but something didn’t feel right. The officer rushed to the tower,
realizing that the other vigilante was dead.
“Run!” The vigilante screamed at the child, and she ran in tears to the
officer, who took her in his arms. Before he backed up he saw the
vigilante’s face. A kid? It was a college student, the strain on his
face telling the officer that he wasn’t going to hold up much longer.
The officer got away from the tower, and the vigilante yelled in an
effort. The stress was too much for any person, super or not. The
strain released from his face, and he closed his eyes, ready for the
tower to finally come down on him. He let go, but the tower did not
collapse with him. Handing the child over to an EMT and observing the
tower closely, the officer noticed that the tower was pushed to the
side enough to allow the weight of the base to hold up the front end.
“What a mess. At least this won’t happen again, for a long time I
hope.” The detective stood beside the officer as he watched the EMTs
take care of the injured.
“That Influencer guy has been a problem for a while now. Now that his
glass eye’s shattered along with the rest of his head, I hope for the
best as well.”
“I heard he was a manipulator, got into people’s heads and triggered
their emotions to the point where they become willing henchmen.”
“That is absolutely ridiculous.”
“I mean, after today, it doesn’t sound so far-fetched.”
“What about the vigilantes?”
“Both of them are deceased now, unfortunately,” the detective shook his
head, “one of them seemed to possess some kind of bionic limbs, but the
other one is a perfectly normal guy.”
“Didn’t seem normal to me, no one in their right mind would do what he
“Not everyone sees themselves as superheroes.”
Wearing a mask does not make one a hero. It is the actions, the
decisions made by the right people in the right moment. The ability to
look beyond what is happening now and perceive all possibilities that
may occur can only give so much knowledge. The intellect to do what is
right does not make one invincible. Evil cannot manipulate the hearts
of good people, no matter how much it persists. The law is final, but
it is not infallible. In the end, it is one’s decisions and emotions
that govern one’s life. To combat the evils terrorizing the world, to
uphold the law, and to help those who can not protect themselves. To be
wary of emotions is to question the heart of humanity, and in turn
perceive the way humans act.
My friends learned that lesson as they donned their own masks, the
moonlight illuminating the patterns on their faces.
© 2019 Brendon Krempec
Bio: Brandon Krempec is an aspiring filmmaker and the director of
the 2019 Miami University Capstone Pictures short film Plague. He is
set to graduate May 2019 at Miami University with a degree in Media and
Culture and Creative Writing. Brandon is also a recipient of the Chick
Evans Scholarship for Caddies, which provides a full tuition and
housing scholarship at multiple universities across the country.
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