Previously: Flashback, Part Six
When the elevator squeaked open, Snake-Boy could hear nothing, all of a sudden, for the noise. It sounded like a cheering crowd. It was not. It was just the waterfalls crashing down seven of the lobby’s eight vasty sides. The eighth wall, the one above the bright row of glass doors that served as an exit, featured a mural, a mosaic of the Great Hunter, Beast Mistress, and Sky Lord, beneath a legend reading, “The Big Three.” The Great Hunter stood out front, smiling, crouching slightly, clutching the two ends of his cape in his fists — one fist forward, one fist behind him. He looked like he was about to execute some kind of fancy square-dance move. Snake-Boy had never seen the Great Hunter wear a cape. He had never seen the Great Hunter smile as openly and meaninglessly as this. The Beast Mistress held her arms out and up, making a “W” shape that echoed the abstract eagle design immediately beneath her cleavage. She smiled as well, but her eyes remained wide and frightened-looking. Her hands were open, fingers spread stiffly. She might have been getting ready to catch something larger and heavier than herself. Behind and above them flew Sky Lord, smaller than the others, waving like the harmless guest of honor at a holiday parade. But no smile. Just past his shoulder, a blurry little white-and-red blip that might have been meant to represent Sky Prince, trying to catch up — as if he could fly.
The superheroing life, it seemed, was a life of beautiful lies. This did not bother Snake-Boy. He liked anything beautiful, even a lie.
In the middle of the lobby, a tiny u-shaped security desk with a large security guard wedged into it — an anthropomorphic boar in a fake, gray cartoon cop suit. The guard looked very surprised to see a snake-boy coming out of the elevator in such a calm and uninvading manner. He put his elbows on the desk in front of him, watched Snake-Boy cross the lobby over tented, fingerless appendages that weren’t quite hooves, but weren’t quite not hooves, either.
“Good evening,” said Snake-Boy.
The guard gave him back an unenthusiastic “Yes, sir.” And didn’t stop watching him go. “Take care, sir.”
Past the glass doors now, outside, Snake-Boy stood on the steps leading down to the Plaza. His ears rang from the lack of waterfall noise. Other, more intermittent sounds quickened the air out here: sharp screams, followed by laughter and cooperative chant-like yells. Shouted instructions to “Go! Go! Go!” Superhero games, and superhero bodies, arms and legs and heads and speed-blurred, brightly-clad, muscle-knotted torsos, filled the sky above, the grounds below.
Snake-Boy realized that this was the first time he had been alone, outside, in the world, since the night he was born.
He took the steps down into the Plaza, into the freedom and the madness.
Next: Flashback, Part Eight