Prompt: A modern day vigilante takes revenge on the system that screwed him over.
Drowning. No, not drowning. Dreaming. This was all just memories. Bubbles belched up from the black bottom of his mind. It wasn’t even the right time to sleep, but he couldn’t control when he did it anymore anyway. His body slept whenever it felt like it, and his mind wandered about drunk and angry.
He knew he wasn’t in bed, because he felt his hands wrapped around a metal bar. He wore gloves too. There was wind… Was he standing on the edge of a cliff? No, that was one of the memories. That was how all this shit got started. It didn’t hit the fan; it hit the river. Everybody thought he dissolved with the current, that crawdads ate out his eyes before the brown algae got to him.
He was asleep, stuck in aggressive dreams throttling him like shaken baby syndrome, but he was alive. Another bubble burst and he was taken back there, to the national park, to the bridge overlooking the rapids. It was so bright that day, so hot. Everyone sweated through their clothes, and all the gel in their hair melted onto their ears and collars.
The executives’ trophy wives needed to be thrown in a vase full of water, because their wilting disturbed everyone as the afternoon dragged on. He was lined up with four other men who weren’t quite at the tier where they could earn trophy wives. He didn’t have a name anymore; the nightmares and the oxygen deprivation had gouged that out of him, but he remembered his position.
They were lined up like there was a firing squad in front of them, but there was just a chasm they were supposed to leap into. It was the third annual barbecue for their company. They made camping supplies and toys for khaki-shorts-wearers who thought themselves adventurers when they kayaked from one end of a national park to the other end of its first third.
They had all sorts of idiotic games to play between beers and cheap orange hot dogs. They were testing their products, and daring each other to do it. The five men lined up had bungee cords around their legs. They were supposed to go all at once, just as the inebriated crowd cheered the number three. They would stretch down to the river, wet their hair, and fly back up.
Another bubble burst in the nightmare. An older one. He’d told his superiors there was a problem with a batch of the cords. Somehow their component materials had been weakened. They’d have to do a recall. He remembered the higher ups thanking him, but it wasn’t real thanks. Their words were tight. They were too quick to close the door behind him.
He considered going to the press if they didn’t issue the recall. He knew their tactics by now, had even been complicit once before. They would just dump the merchandise somewhere in Asia and blame the shipping companies for keeping them in extreme heat… or something like that. Couldn’t let them know he thought about it. Had to go to the barbecue like everything was normal.
His eyes opened. He was awake. Apparently he’d settled on a plan of action in his nightmares. He’d done things without his own permission. That’s what happens when you’ve been without air for so long. A dark spot grows in your gray matter, and it can spawn a host of strange clawed things. His hands were wrapped around a metal bar. There was wind.
He even remembered the model number of the hang glider over his own name. He woke out of the painful memories and into the sky, flying between two tall buildings. He didn’t have time for fear. He had somnambulated his way into a mission. He’d even put on the costume he thought about two days prior.
His eyes opened into a mask covering the top of his face. It shuddered against his cheekbones with the force of his glide. He had a blue bungee cord wrapped around his neck, just tight enough to be uncomfortable, and it snaked across his entire get-up, constricting one arm and one leg. The rest was body armor he’d both ordered online and painted in some kind of fugue state.
His destination was clear. That dark spot in his mind had aimed him straight for the board room of his company’s building. They wouldn’t expect his return. They thought he was turtle food, after one of the bastards had replaced his cord at the barbecue with one of the compromised ones. It was their fault one of his hemispheres had gone dark and started calling itself the ‘High Jumper’. They were the reason he hurtled towards them right now, a line of cords on his belt.
The bubbles lingered even though he was awake, popping just behind his eyes and giving him micro-migraines. He heard his cord snap over and over again. He felt the icy rush of water, even under that blazing sun, as the side of his face smashed into it and he was dragged downriver.
The High Jumper had flailed his way to dry land nearly a day later, after all the executives had already said their piece about losing a beloved coworker and friend. Now they could do it to his face, assuming all the glass didn’t get in their eyes.
The High Jumper pushed his black boots forward and smashed through the window, colliding with the table in the middle of a meeting. Papers and pens went everywhere, as did sandwiches and their wrappers. Lunch. Perfect. Get them when they’re at their calmest, tell them they’re about to have some fun. That was the slogan after all right? Both the dark and light of his mind remembered that: You’re about to have some Fun!
The High Jumper ran to the door and barricaded it with the table. His strength was incredible. The parts that were supposed to be tired or unsure were consumed in the anaerobic void. Now the Jumper had what he wanted: the entire board scared out of their minds, backing up towards the ledge.
They didn’t hear him before. How could they possibly hear his warnings over the snapping of that cord, over his brief scream before it became a torrent of bubbles? He would demonstrate for them now. He ripped the cords from his belt and went to work. They tried to swarm him, push him down, but he’d bested a river. They didn’t stand a chance.
One by one he hog-tied them and tossed them out the broken window, affixing the cords to something solid of course. He stood there, looking out into midday, watching the helicopter already circling the building and angling cameras at him. Let them see. Let them shine their lights on the dark spot of his brain. The High Jumper. He would always be around, crashing your parties, making you eat your words.
A few of the executives screamed for help. They needed to be saved from their own work. The High Jumper had confiscated some of the bad batch. Rescue workers were still minutes away and they could hear the cords weakening. Soon there would be a snap, and no river to catch them.
Author’s Note: This flash fiction story was written based on a prompt provided by houseofdredd during a livestream. I hereby transfer all story rights to them, with the caveat that it remain posted on this blog. If you would like your own story, stop by twitch.tv/blainearcade during one of my streams and I’ll write it for you live!