Flash Flash Fiction

You know that old "pick two" joke? It hung behind the counter at every three-man auto repair shop, right next to the calender with a funny cartoon designed to sell premium spark plugs. Before that, the calenders used to have trashy pin-up girls selling premium spark plugs, but even the greasegunners bowed to the inevitable winds of change.

Winds of change...

But the joke - you know it, right? "We can do it right, do it fast, or do it cheap - pick two!" It's funny because it's true. Wrapped up in that joke is the essential truth of the world you live in. Laugh if you want to. Ha ha ha.

The dangerous thing about truth, though, is that it's only funny in small doses. Start to think it through and pretty soon you're not looking at a funny little truth; you're looking at a scary-assed big truth. And if you keep looking, it becomes a universal truth, and you'll weep yourself to sleep every night for the rest of your life.

"Pick two."

I didn't even get to make the decision as to which two. Not that it would have mattered, since I can't believe that I would have chosen differently, even if I'd been able to make the choice, or if I'd known that a choice was being made. Me, being who I am, I always would have wanted to be a hero. What else would I be?

Think about it: the lighting hit that rack of lab chemicals, ionized them all and dumped them on me, engulfing me in a reactive plasma field. Why didn't it just kill me? Just the exploding bottle of boiling 10N sulfuric acid should have burnt me to the bone, but that witch's brew of reacting solvents? Plus a hundred thousand amps from the lighting bolt? Dump acid on yourself and stick your finger in a light socket, see if you get superpowers. The fact is, I should have died.

Another fact is that I wish I had.

When I did my hero stuff, I did it right and I did it fast. All well and good, sure... but nobody told me that I wouldn't be able to do it cheap. The price wasn't apparent right away, but that's always how they get you, isn't it? They let you run and run and run, never telling you how much debt you're accruing. And they damn sure never tell you up front what kind of "interest" you'll have to pay. Now, as  the centuries, the millennia, the eons roll on and on, the price I've paid weighs on me so heavily that I can hardly move.

Everyone is dead. Iris, Bart, Hal, Bruce, Clark, Diana... no one is left. I am a ghost, wandering through a world of strangers, barely recognizable as human anymore.

I realize now why I didn't die. Across a hundred million billion trillion infinities, that lightning bolt and those exploding chemicals killed me. I died fast and I died slow, died from acid in my lungs, died from glass puncturing my throat, died from electrocution, died from a broken neck as I tripped backward. I died silently and I died in screaming agony. I died in every single universe... except this one.

In this sliver of reality, I lived because the multiverse needs an anchor point. There has to be one place where all the infinite entropies of space and time come together, one empty line on the balance sheet where a single entry can balance the books.

My speed was never anything more than an illusion, a side effect of all the discontinuities coming home to roost within my body. I didn't move fast... the world's frame of reference slowed around me. In that respect, I didn't even get to pick two. I didn't do it cheap or fast. And did I do it right? When the world I "saved" so many times is centuries dead, what did it matter? Did I do right? Or did I do nothing? All I did was make the equations come out right for the rest of the multiverse.

Right. Fast. Cheap. Pick none.

||| Comments are welcome |||
Help keep the words flowing.


  1. You can't do only one thing. Push a dent into one one side of the universe, you make a bulge on the other side. All the things that should have killed our hero didn't kill him... and now, he cannot die. Great symmetry in this piece, especially for the speed (heh) at which you produced it!

  2. I love your hero pieces (though the Grammarian will always be my favourite) and anything that includes the multiverse gets my vote.

  3. One cannot be everywhere at the same time...or can one?
    Thanks for the brain workout, Tony!

  4. "Right. Fast. Cheap. Pick none."

    Ouch! The tone of this builds up to this one, last line. Immortality is overrated and provides ample opportunity to "repent at leisure."

    Excellent take on the superhero genre, Tony. An interesting angle to explore.


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