The Heart of a Hero

The parking lot of some godforsaken shopping center. PETER stands there, looking at a car in which a COUPLE are currently engaged in a bit of medium petting.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) Peter Protagonist, a thirty-something nobody, stood in the parking lot of some godforsaken shopping center in the sort of Californian city where people with far too much money buy overpriced things from people with far too little of either.

And by “stood,” we mean in the sense Peter intensely watched on as his girlfriend, Ann Plot-Device, had coffee with another man.

And by “had coffee,” we mean, of course, in the sense that they engaged in some form of sexual intercourse in the backseat of a twenty-year old, mostly primer-colored Honda Civic.

But then the sky opened, Hell followed, and the hideous car – and its preoccupied occupants – were instantaneously vaporized as someone falling from said Hellhole in the Sky subsequently landed on – and, I suppose, through – all of this.

A HELL HOLE IN THE SKY opens. Someone falls out of this, onto and through the car. There’s a bit of fire, a sort of explosion. Peter is shock-waved several yards through the air. All fantastically gratuitous, we’re sure.

A crowd of LOOKIE-LOOS gather around and tend to the poor, helpless smoldering hole in the ground.

LOOKIE-LOO #1: Are you okay?

LOOKIE-LOO #2: I think they’re moving.

LOOKIE-LOO #3: Someone survived that?

LOOKIE-LOO #4: Is anyone getting a signal?

Peter drags himself bleeding and internally bleeding to the smoldering hole, sees what all this not-calling-me-an-ambulance business was all about.

REVEAL: a CLOWN in the bloodied, tattered remains of some kind of fancy Halloween costume, wriggling about and crying.

CLOWN: They’re coming! They’re coming! Good God, someone get me out of here, they’re coming!

PETER: Who? Who’s coming?

Clown points a broken, mushy stub to the sky.

CLOWN: Them!

REVEAL: an ALIEN ARMADA more or less gathers on this side of the Hellhole in the Sky.

LOOKIE-LOO #4: Alien invaders!

LOOKIE-LOO #3: They’re going to kill us all!

LOOKIE-LOO #2: It’s the end of the world!

LOOKIE-LOO #1: Everyone duck and cover!

CLOWN: (pained dying noises)

PETER: Sorry. What was that?

CLOWN: I said, the Libertitans aren’t here to kill you.

PETER: Then why are they here?

CLOWN: To conquer you… to steal your world, strip mine it… and enslave your people in soul-crushing, backbreaking low-paying jobs as they profit and feed off your perpetual misery and labor.

Peter blinks at this.

PETER: Uh-huh.

CLOWN: I think I’m a bit too far gone now…

Clown coughs, spits blood and viscera.

Only you can stop them now.

Clown opens their chest cavity with far too much ease, revealing a beautiful GEMSTONE where their heart should be.

PETER: Ew.

Clown coughs, spits again. 

CLOWN: My name is Heckles… I was just a party clown from Anaheim. Until I got this.

PETER: What is it?

CLOWN: A piece of the Black Star.

Peter blinks at this as well.

PETER: Okay.

CLOWN: When you take this, it will grant you power beyond imagination.

PETER: But?

CLOWN: But what?

PETER: What’s the catch, the gimmick?

CLOWN: (sighs) The Black Star will replace your heart and consume your life force until you either die in battle… or you burn out like a battery.

PETER: Why would I ever agree to something so ridiculous?

CLOWN: Because this is your chance to become a hero and save the world!

PETER: Yeah, but I don’t see an upside for me.

CLOWN: Are you shitting me? There’s an alien armada directly above us, and all you can think about is how this situation can benefit you personally?

PETER: Now. See? That’s not fair. You’re the one that came crashing down atop my cheating girlfriend and wrecked my car. And now here you are, a literal clown in some spandex getup…

CLOWN: Supersuit.

PETER: Thank you. A literal clown in some spandex supersuit insisting I give up any semblance of autonomy for the sake of saving a world that has proven time and again to not give a super-shit about me, themselves, or much of anything else, really, even when repeatedly faced with one self-inflicted global crisis after the other. Quite frankly, we could use a change in management around here.

CLOWN: Bit cynical, don’t you think?

PETER: Maybe. But we’re not only talking about choosing between one form of lifelong, cosmic indentured servitude over the other. We’re talking about unfair expectations of selfless self-sacrifice from others when, really, you’re coercing someone to act on pure emotion – in this case, fear – without all the facts.

CLOWN: That’s fair.

PETER: And even worse, you’re handing over the equivalent of a doomsday weapon to a random stranger on the street. Do you go around handing out guns and bombs at the local park on weekends? What makes you think I’m not only emotionally mature enough to wield such power without proper training, but to also do so without any selfish inclination to use such a weapon to force my own will on others?

CLOWN: I… I didn’t think about that.

PETER: Of course not. You didn’t think about this at all, did you? I suppose you’ve been gallivanting all about the multiverse, having one detached adventure after the next, oblivious of any consequences for swooping in and utterly upsetting the natural order of any particular corner of reality, and then being so utterly incompetent as to ensure that your troubles followed you home, where we are incapable – militarily, psychologically – of comprehending such threats, let alone actually fighting with such things.

NARRATOR: (voice-over) But before the clown in the Halloween spandex supersuit could fully process the fault in his logic and the string of mistakes that brought him here – in fact, just a few short miles away from where he had wasted much of his previous life on hard drugs, cheap liquor, and one open mic and dating app after the other – the alien armada unleashed their veggie-ray across the globe. And as the collective consciousness of humanity was locally deleted, but backed up to a server somewhere on the other side of the galaxy, Peter took solace in the fact that, at the very end, his and everyone else’s life was a complete waste of time.