They clash in complementary colors–superpeople–hero versus villain spandex versus leather, ideal versus the outside world. They clash, knuckles meeting flesh, bone crushing concrete, the surrounding air crackling, ionized with spite. They clash for the entire neighborhood to see, as if for the right to claim the carcass of a long-lost love.
“Fuck. Fuck!” one of them screams as a laser goes awry. There’s a thump; then an expanding bubble of black cloud that takes a minute to clear. Finally the hero stands, one hand to the villain’s throat, the other cocked back in a fist. He looks around, waiting for a sign, for some kind of silent approval.
As if in response, Prudence Street opens itself, pierces a vein. Everything crystallizes, everyone takes notice: out of windows people peer, in hideouts they freeze, from dark corners they rise. Bottles and lighters crack. Needles drop and bend. Prudence Streetknows him: the hero. They know him. He’s one of theirs, all grown up.
The hero turns back to the villain. “Never again. The drugs, the gangs, the death, my parents died because of this shit. Never again!” he says, his voice straining against the air. The street fights him, pushing against his chest like an antibody. He doesn’t understand. He feels a tap and he’s a boy again, just orphaned, tiptoeing as if at a fair, trying to reach an invisible mark of depravity You must be this tall to ride, to survive in hell.
A bottle is thrown. It hits his head and the smell of alcohol brings reality.
He looks around again at the faces of Prudence Street, black, white, all the color of rot, and remembers the most important lesson he’d long forgotten, when those same faces idly watched a little boy become a man, when those rotten circles watched his parents burn:
Heroes don’t come to Prudence Street, because there’s nothing left for them to save.