Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Ghost Rider

Nobody seemed to notice Ghost Rider’s flaming skull head as he dismounted from his chopper after parking it on the sidewalk in New York City.
Silent except for the constant roar of his fiery head, the former super hero entered a revolving door at the base of a giant office building, located his target using a directory in the lobby and entered an elevator along with several smartly dressed businessmen. One was using a cell phone. The men didn’t appear to notice him either, but they died on their way to the 30th floor. Ghost Rider’s head had turned the elevator into an oven.
But he had more pressing concerns.
Reaching his destination, a receptionist, without looking up from a paperback, instructed Ghost Rider to take a seat in the lobby, and someone would be with him shortly.
Ghost Rider sat down and waited, along with several other unremarkable people who were silently paging through magazines. A painting of a sailboat on the wall behind and above him slowly turned crisp and brown and unrecognizable as one by one, the people in the waiting room were called into the office.
Finally when it was Ghost Rider’s turn, he went in to the office to face a balding man with a brown mustache and brown suit. The man looked at Ghost Rider for a minute, scanning his flaming head, leather jacket and leather riding chaps.
“You’re gonna be a tough one,” the man said. “I’m not sure we can do anything for you.”
A small burst of flame, like a plasma stream shooting from the surface of the sun, erupted from one of Ghost Rider’s temples. He said nothing.
“First, you’re going to have to lose the leather,” the man continued. “People are looking for more of a professional look these days. I’m afraid casual Fridays died out with the dot-com craze.”
The man looked down at his desk and shuffled through some papers.
“I’ve gone through your file here and you don’t make it easy on me. You’re too old for manual labor, and you don’t have any office skills. In fact, from what you’ve sent me, I’m not sure you even know what a computer is.”
Another small eruption of fire burst from Ghost Rider’s head, both temples this time. But he remained silent.
“Looks like your people skills are lacking too,” the man said, writing something on the papers in front of him.
“They’re making a movie about me,” Ghost Rider said.
“I’d heard that.” The man frowned. “But I’m afraid that won’t help you much. In fact, it may hurt you. Especially if it’s bad. Want to know what the real Hulk is doing these days? Bricklayer in West Virginia. Nobody wanted anything to do with him after that movie. The real Daredevil committed suicide.”
“Affleck,” Ghost Rider said.
The man nodded and looked back down at his paper. “But you seem to have disappeared for the last 30 years. What have you been doing?”
Ghost Rider was silent for a moment. “Riding.”
The man looked up at Ghost Rider. “Writing?”
“Oh.” The man made another note on his paper.
“All right. Here’s the situation,” the man said, after finishing writing his note. “You’re a super hero who can’t be a super hero anymore because they canceled your book thirty years ago. Besides, all the super villains have been captured or killed for years, and anytime a new bad guy pops up, there’s a slew of super folks who still have books ready to pounce.”
The man tapped his notes with his pen. “Fortunately, we have something here for you.”
Ghost Rider was only a week into his new career. And though he didn’t particularly enjoy it, it helped pass the time. Doing something after just riding the back roads for three decades felt good. He gunned the engine on his chopper, then kicked it into gear and drove through the doors of Gigantic Bank, Inc., a facility he planned on robbing and then burning to the ground. This type of work wasn’t what the man in the employment agency had lined up for him, but Ghost Rider couldn’t stand the thought of driving a charter bus. In fact, the balding man with the brown mustache had been this new super villain’s first intended victim.
Once inside, Ghost Rider was about to dismount when a giant rocky orange fist slammed onto his back wheel, sending Ghost Rider flying into the air. He landed with a fiery thud. Getting warily to his feet, Ghost Rider turned to face his assailant.
“It’s clobberin’ time!” shouted the Thing, who then punched Ghost Rider so hard that his head was nearly extinguished. As it was, Ghost Rider flew through a wall, landing in a back alley. He was hurt, but determined to go down fighting, a fitting end to what had been a stagnant life. But as he staggered to his feet, the Thing climbed through the Ghost Rider-shaped hole in the wall and walked over, whispering, “Follow me.”
Bewildered, Ghost Rider followed the Thing around the corner. The Thing turned around and punched a building, sending masonry flying in the direction they had come from.
“I must fight you,” Ghost Rider said.
“You got it, bubba,” said the Thing. “Again and again.”
Flames of curiosity burned in Ghost Rider’s face. “I don’t understand.”
“You were a hero, like us in the Fantastic Four,” the Thing said. “So you get treated different.”
“They’re making a movie about me,” Ghost Rider said.
The Thing pulled a cigar out of his underwear. “You got a light, flame face?”
Ghost Rider was silent.
The Thing mouthed his cigar and began searching for a lighter. “Us too. Me ‘n Reed and the rest.” He punched another wall, sending bricks flying towards Gigantic Bank. “We figured we’d better keep busy, otherwise we’ll end up like the Hulk. Hell, even Spidey’s having a tough time these days, and people liked his movies. So we figured we’d find us a new enemy. Haven’t had a good one since Doctor Doom’s heart attack.”
“And that’s me?” Ghost Rider asked.
“You’re smarter than you look, Zippo. You in?”
“I suppose. People see me now.”
“That’s right, and they’re gonna keep on seeing you. And us. But we’re never gonna be able to capture you for good. At least for a while.”
“And I will go easy on you as well,” Ghost Rider said.
The Thing chuckled. “We’ll see about that. Next time I’ll let Stretch duke it out with you. For now, I’m gonna hit you again, send you back into the bank through this wall, so you can get your bike and high tail it outa here.”
Ghost Rider was about to respond when the rocky fist hit him in the chest.
“Hope your movie is a real hit!” he heard the Thing say, chuckling.
And Ghost Rider groaned at the pun, ignored the screams of the people in the bank, got on his chopper and drove away.

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