Going Back On His World
This is going to hurt, thought Doctor Skin.
The rock-hard fist was moving at several times the speed of sound and Skin couldn’t do much about it as it slammed into his jaw.
The impact of the blow lifted him high up into the air and he flew backwards above the desert, unable to slow his movement as the pain from the punch hit him fully.
Skin came back down to earth hard. He bounced twice as he tumbled uncontrollably, only stopping when his leg caught on a cactus and dragged him to a halt.
Lying in a cloud of dust, Doctor Skin rubbed his jaw. By any measure, the blow should have taken his head clean off, but he was only left with an aching face, the pain already fading.
The change in his durability had come the instant he had arrived on this latest Earth. After the child in the sandbox had dismissed him, Skin had felt himself floating formlessly through the multiverse again, only to be drawn strongly towards this one particular world. He had no say in the matter and although he had put a little effort into resisting the flow, he had soon decided to let it take him where it would.
Skin had materialized on top of a mountain with a permanent covering of snow on its peak, wearing his customary dark suit, the same clothes that he always seemed to end up wearing, even when there was no logical reason for them.
After a moment to collect his thoughts, he had realized that, quite simply, he had never felt better. He felt energetic and well-rested. Flexing his arm, he had felt coiled pressure in his muscles, just waiting to be released. He had not even felt the cold of the air on the mountaintop, he felt insulated, protected from the world.
After getting his bearings, Skin had decided to move on. He stepped out off the peak, intending to make a small leap, but found himself jumping hundreds of meters down the mountain, landing on his feet on a rocky outcrop with no harm caused.
The rest of his descent down the mountain went just as smoothly, although he stumbled on one leap and fell head over heels for another portion of the mountain before gaining his balance again. Even though he had tumbled over jagged rocks, his clothes and skin were undamaged.
Doctor Skin reached the base of the mountain in a matter of minutes, finding a large grassy plain covered with farmland stretching out before him. In the far distance he could see a city rising up on the horizon and with only a few nearby cows for company, he set off towards it.
This proved even easier than coming down the mountain. Doctor Skin bounded across the plain, leaping high into the air and covering kilometers with each movement. As he came closer to the city he passed more signs of civilization, with farmhouses and other buildings making more frequent appearances.
Eventually he stumbled across a road and began following that. As the city grew on the horizon Skin could see more vehicles on the road. He continued bounding along beside them, waving happily at a red-haired woman with three kids in the back seat who stared back at him in horror.
“Fair enough,” shrugged Skin as he leaped off again. This jump took him higher up into the air than any of his previous ones and he felt a little unsteady as he aimed for a bridge over a deep, dry canyon.
But as he landed on the bridge, the force of his impact drove him right through it, the concrete shattering beneath his feet. He fell through the bridge as chunks of it came down with him, landing awkwardly on the dry riverbed far below.
He looked back up at the damage he had inflicted, just in time to see a large slab of concrete before it landed on his head. He barely felt it as it shattered over his skull.
“Uh-oh,” he said as he realized the damage he had caused. The structural integrity of the bridge was gone with a gaping hole right in the middle of it. A suspension bridge, it was starting to come apart before his eyes and there were still a dozen cars trapped on it.
One of the cars slid towards the hole and Skin was about to leap up and try to help when he saw something streaking through the sky towards the bridge. As Skin watched, the bridge’s deterioration slowed, then began to reverse as a figure in bright blue tights and a red cape moved around it, fusing broken links with beams of heat that came from his eyes, pushing the bridge back together with sheer force of will.
Skin leaped up, landing on the bridge with more care than his last attempt, just as the hero finished his repair work. Satisfied that the structure was again secure, he turned to Skin, his eyes still shining a subtle shade of red.
“You should be more careful, friend,” he said in a voice that was both calm and forceful. “You could have caused a lot of trouble.”
“Oh well,” said Skin, shrugging. “Shit happens, you know? You fixed things up good, didn’t you?”
Unimpressed by Doctor Skin’s nonchalance, the hero’s eyes narrowed slightly. “That’s not the point. People could have been hurt.”
“Aw, people get hurt all the time. They don’t need my help.” Skin paused, leaning in close to examine the symbol on the hero’s chest. “Hey, I know you…”
The hero stepped forward and put his hand on Skin’s shoulder, so quickly Skin did not even see him move. “I think you had better come with me. I’ve been watching you ever since you arrived and I don’t think you have any idea of the damage you could cause.”
Something in Skin’s stomach began to churn. He didn’t want to fight the hero. He didn’t want to fight anybody he had admired since he was a little kid. But he also didn’t want to be restrained.
“Get your hand off me,” he said curtly.
“There is no need for that tone, friend. I just want to-“
“Get you hand off me!” screamed Skin, striking out at the hero with the back of his hand. The hero’s skin felt like steel and was exactly as hard as Skin had always imagined it would be, but to his surprise, the hero was knocked back several feet.
The superhero looked just as surprised as Skin, but the look on his face soon turned to grim determination as he formed his hands into fists. “All right. If that’s the way you want to play it.”
He lifted up off the ground and flew at Skin, who lashed out, but the hero ducked under his clumsy blow, grabbed him around the waist and flung him away off the bridge, high into the air. With nothing to stand on, Skin flailed around wildly in the air, until the hero followed through, ramming his outstretched fists directly into Skin’s chest, sending him flying even further out.
As he spun through the air, Skin saw the hero’s blows had sent him deep into a desert, with no signs of life for miles in any direction. He hit the ground hard, landing awkwardly on one shoulder, but rolled onto on his feet, just in time to see another fist heading straight for his jaw.
This is going to hurt, he thought.
When he came down again from the shot, his foot was entangled in a cactus and Skin gracelessly tried to pry his leg free. Just as he did so he saw the hero coming in at him again. But Doctor Skin was ready for him now.
He pivoted and leaned backward, so the hero’s momentum saw him shot right over his shoulder, then grabbed him by the ankle, getting a firm grip on his bright red boot. Still using the other man’s momentum, Skin swung him around and slammed his face down into the desert floor, stamping his boot down on the back of his head.
“Ha!” laughed Skin, but he had no time to savor his triumph as the man spun away from under his boot and leaped to his feet. He punched Skin hard in the chest, but Skin stayed standing, the dirt bunching up beneath his feet as he was pushed backwards. He stepped forward and tried to poke the hero in his eye, but was blocked and caught in an arm lock.
Doctor Skin flipped backwards to escape the arm lock, landed on his feet and jumped straight back up, drop-kicking the hero in his side. As he staggered a step back, Skin punched him in the side of his head and the hero spun away into the air.
But he did not stop spinning as he flew and still spiraling at high speed, the hero suddenly dove down into the ground, disappearing under the desert.
“Oh crap,” said Skin. The hero had vanished, but he could still him digging away beneath his feet.
The next thing he knew, the ground around him exploded, sending Skin flying up into the air again in a huge cloud of dirt, sand and rocks. He flailed around hopelessly and saw the man in the red cape shooting up towards him through the muddy cloud, punching him back down to the ground.
Doctor Skin lay still for a moment before shaking his head and staggering to his feet. The hero landed calmly beside him and held out an open hand.
“Come on now,” said the hero, almost tenderly, “this is getting stupid. Just take it easy, come with me and we will sort this whole mess out.”
Skin stared at the hero, before nodding his head and sighing. “Yeah, I guess…”
The hero stepped forward and Doctor Skin kicked him in the stomach, following up with an elbow in the side of the head. Grunting, the hero went down on one knee and Skin kicked him in the face.
The hero fell backwards, but Skin knew he would now be down for long and jumped on top of him, pummeling him with his fists as he screamed happily. “Why should I stop now? This is just too much fun!”
Doctor Skin began cackling, unable to stop himself as he continued to pound the hero. He didn’t even stop laughing when his opponent managed to get a foot under him, push up and send them both hurtling upwards.
“It’s all a bit childish,” cried Skin directly into the hero’s ear, ”but what’s so wrong with that?”
The hero tried to pull Skin off, but he was holding onto him for dear life. Skin tried to block the superhero’s vision by covering his eyes with his hands, but the heat vision came on again and started to burn through the fingers.
“Ah bloody hell!” screamed Skin, locking his legs around the hero’s torso and blowing on his burnt fingers. Suddenly inspired, he pulled the cape over the hero’s head to blind him.
Unable to see and even less able to break Skin’s grip, the hero started flying around in a tight circle in an attempt to throw him off. With the cape held firmly over his opponent’s head, Skin dug in and held tight.
The hero flew faster and faster, until Skin’s eyes began to water as his face was pushed in strange directions by the gravitational pull. He still held on with his eyes tightly shut, even as the pressure that threatened to tear him away got stronger and stronger.
And then something snapped and all the pressure vanished. Doctor Skin opened his eyes to see that the hero’s velocity had been too fast for reality and they had torn a hole in space itself and flown straight through.
Doctor Skin was familiar with the multi-coloured tunnel they were now traveling down, he had been here before and it looked exactly like the movies had always told him a vortex that spans all of existence would. But he still couldn’t help looking around in awe. It was just so pretty.
But that proved to be his undoing as the hero wriggled free from the cape over his head and tossed Skin off. Skin caught a glimpse of him waving at him before he disappeared back up the vortex towards his home.
Skin fell through the vortex, with no chance of control, but did not panic. He knew the way out was more of a state of mind than a movement and concentrated accordingly. He saw himself free and clear, and made it so. He closed his eyes and only opened them again when he felt the ground beneath his feet.
He was standing in a dark, grimy alleyway, surrounded by stray cats and the stench of rotten rubbish. Suddenly a little dizzy, he leant up against a trash can, but caught his hand on a jagged edge.
“Damn,” muttered Skin as he watched the cut ooze blood. “I guess nothing lasts forever.”
“Who you talking to, dude?” asked a young, harsh voice behind him. Skin turned to see a group of surly teenagers, all wearing gang patches featuring a white leopard, advance on him. Most of them were unarmed, but several pulled out short blades.
“You’re kidding, right?” said Skin. “I just fought motherfuckin’ Superman. What more can you offer?”
“Slick Dick,” sneered the lead teenager, pulling his own blade out. “Slice and dice.”
Doctor Skin stood up straight and cracked his knuckles. “Okay, but I have to warn you. This will hurt you a lot more than it will hurt me.”