Dream Tunnel Part Two
Dream Tunnel Part Two by Robin Reed “I should get back to the Society,” Mike said after a reasonably comfortable night on the couch and a delicious breakfast of leftover rice and beans.
Mireya sat on the other side of the table in the kitchen while her mother did dishes. “Are you really sure about those people, Mike?” she asked.
“What do you mean?”
Mireya wiped her hands on a napkin and looked uncomfortable. “You said yourself, it was strange that people in New York were talking about Sun Man on TV before you even woke up that morning.”
“I was in the news,” Mike said.
“But why?” Mireya asked. She looked directly into Mike’s eyes. “You helped us with the bread container at three o’clock in the morning. Who knew to be in downtown L.A. to film you?”
Mike shrugged. “Cameras are everywhere these days.”
“And the name Sun Man? You said last night they picked it for you.”
“I was Starman until some old lady on the bus told me that was the name of a movie.”
“Why don’t you stay here?” Mireya asked. “We’ll help you find a job and a place to live, and you could really help the neighborhood heroes.”
It was hard to deny her anything. He couldn’t even look away when she talked to him. She was also pretty hot. She was no Missy, but still hot. He felt his face warm up as he thought about being with her.
He hadn’t thought of Missy since he left the Society building on Friday. But Mireya had been in his thoughts ever since he first saw her walking up the side of a building.
“I’m Sun Man,” Mike said. “I’m going to be a bigger hero than your little gang here. I might even be in The Protectors someday.”
“I see,” Mireya said. “Well can the big hero spare one more day? We meet every Sunday, discuss business, and have a party. I’m sure your Society can wait a little longer.”
“If it means more of your mom’s home cooked food,” Mike said, “I’m in.”
It was a pot luck superhero meeting. They came to the door wearing brightly colored costumes and carrying casserole dishes, chips, and soda. Some of the costumes were very professional looking, like the man in a red and white outfit with a cowl. Some of them looked home made, or even thrown together from thrift shop purchases.
The man in red and white was very fit, the image of a superhero down to the firm chin. Others would never make a comic book cover. There was a lady with a mass of gray hair sticking out from under her mask, and a pink costume that fit too tightly over her large rear end.
Mike wore his costume. Mireya told him that this was the formal meeting and everyone was in full gear. Only when he started smelling the delicious aromas coming from those casserole dishes did Mike realize that he wouldn’t be able to eat. Even if he was willing to show his face to all these people, he didn’t have a simple mask to take off. He would have to get naked from the waist up to be able to eat anything.
Mireya’s brother Hector came in. He wore only jeans and a sleeveless t-shirt. Mireya gave him a brief hug.
“Were you on TV?” a voice asked. The pink-clad lady looked Mike up and down. She held a paper plate piled with something gooey looking.
“Uh, Yes,” Mike said. “I’m M-, er, Sun Man.”
“Pink Poppy,” she said.
“Ah,” Mike said.
“Nice costume. Is that a Walters?”
Pink Poppy looked surprised. “Walters Costume Company.”
“Uh, no,” Mike said. He had seen a costume catalog at the Society. Was it Walters?
“Did Mrs. Morales make it?”
Mike had learned that Mireya’s mother made many of the costumes for the neighborhood heroes, on the sewing machine in the little room where he slept the last two nights.
“No,” Mike said. “Did she make yours?”
Pink Poppy snorted. “Why pay someone when you can find what you need at the Salvation Army? Except the mask, I cut that out of an old jacket.”
Mike was going to politely say that her costume looked nice, but he was spared from lying when Anthony, or Lodestone, came into the crowded living room of the little house, trailed by Dennis. Dennis picked up a cat that was occupying an armchair and sat down. The cat looked startled at first, but then settled down in Dennis’ lap.
“Everybody!” Mireya called out. “Quiet down, everybody!”
There were six neighborhood heroes, plus Dennis and Hector. This wasn’t a huge number, but they took up all the chairs, with four squished together on the couch. Mike stood, feeling uncomfortable, near the door.
“I’d like to start,” Mireya said, “by introducing a visitor...”
“Hi, Sun Man,” everyone said, almost in unison. Everyone except the red and white character, who folded his arms and frowned.
Mike smiled a little, though he knew they couldn’t see his face. He waved. “Hi,” he said.
“Anthony?” Mireya said. “Will you give us your report?” She sat down on one of the arms of the couch.
Anthony stood. His Lodestone costume was light blue, with white around the wrists, ankles, and neck. It hung on his skinny figure loosely, bagging around his rear end. He had a mask in the same blue and white that tied behind his head.
“We’re still getting attacked by villains everywhere we go,” he said. “If we stop a drug deal, or respond to a robbery, anything. They come out of nowhere.”
“That bastard Faster gave me a real lump on the head the other day when he knocked me down,” Pink Poppy spoke up.
“I fought Hard Target AND The Cleaner yesterday,” Anthony said. “Or more accurately, I ran away. All I did was wrap a chain link fence around this guy who has a warrant out for him. Before I could call the cops the villains showed up.”
“Is that why HE’S here?” asked the white and red hero. He glared at Mike.
“Are you requesting the floor, Petaurista?” Mireya asked.
Petaurista reluctantly stood and said, “I request the floor.” He had an accent that Mike couldn’t place.
“Keep it short,” Mireya said, “and we discussed your volume issues before.”
The red and white clad hero grimaced and then focused again on Mike. “Do we really need some fancy downtown hero to help us? All he’ll do is make the big league villains notice us.” When he gestured, Mike could see the costume included membranes attached between his wrists and ankles.
“Seems they noticed us already,” Pink Poppy spoke up. “Or what do you call Faster and his friends?”
“Look, I’m just here because Mireya asked me to stay...” Mike said, anger rising to meet Petaurista’s hostility. What kind of name was that? Mike thought.
“Poppy, Sun Man,” Mireya said. “Petaurista has the floor. Are you done, Petaurista?”
“I’m just saying, what if Void comes after us?”
The name sent a shock through the room. Everyone looked nervously at each other.
“Who’s Void?” Mike asked.
This caused another shock, this time of surprise. Petaurista burst out laughing. “You’re supposed to the big hotshot,” he gasped between laughs. He sat down among his surprised colleagues.
“Sun Man hasn’t been in town long,” Mireya defended Mike. “I haven’t had a chance to tell him the whole situation here.” She looked a challenge at the group. “Now is there any other business?”
Dennis blurted out, “Dennis Man!”
“Yes, that’s right,” Mireya said. “Dennis is formally changing his superhero name to Dennis Man.”
The heroes all nodded, as if this wasn’t the stupidest thing they had ever heard. Mike couldn’t believe these people could call themselves heroes and still string along a retarded kid like he was normal.
“Do you people ever DO anything?” Mike blurted out. “Or do you just talk?”
“Are you requesting the floor, Sun Man?” Mireya asked.
Was she really going to make him follow their stupid rules? He looked at her and she just let her question stand. Everyone else was silent.
“I request the floor,” he finally said.
“Go ahead,” Mireya said.
“Does this group actually do anything?” Mike asked. He kept to himself questions like, “How the hell can you call yourselves superheroes with home made costumes, stupid names, and no real powers?”
Petorista or whatever his name was began to stand up, anger twisting the lips beneath his cowl.
Mireya gestured to him, and he reluctantly sat down.
“Perhaps we can answer your question best by actually showing you,” she said, turning to Mike.
Then she said to the group, “I move we adjourn to the front yard.”
There were no objections. Everyone stood up and started moving towards the front door of the house.
“If this is over, I’m going back to my hotel suite,” Mike said as Mireya passed him.
She put a hand on his arm. “Not yet,” she said. She went outside. Then Hector passed and gave Mike one of his patented glares.
Mike was the last one through the door. When he saw what was going on, he stopped dead in surprise.
The tiny front yard, a patch of sandy soil with a little bit of brown grass here and there, was hidden under people. There were mothers carrying babies. There were very old people. There were kids, and even dogs.
Mireya and the rest of the neighborhood heroes moved out among these people and started talking to them.
Pink Poppy started talking to a glassy eyed mother, who looked to be about seventeen years old. Her baby was howling.
Mireya said a few words to an elderly lady who leaned on a walker.
Lodestone started talking to a young man who wore a sleeveless t-shirt.
Mike walked up to Mireya. “What’s going on?” he said.
“They know we meet every Sunday , so they come for help.”
“And what are you doing from abuelita here?” Mike asked.
“She lives alone, she just comes out every Sunday to have someone to talk to.”
“She needs a superhero for that?” Mike asked. He waved at the old woman. She smiled without teeth and said, “Muy Guapo.”
“She thinks you’re handsome,” Mireya said. “Or at least your costume is.” She pulled Mike away from the crowd, then turned on him.
“It isn’t always about the powers, Sun Man,” Mireya said. She was clearly angry. “We help them in any way we can.”
“What if someone needs your wall walking while you’re talking to granny?”
“Then I will get a phone call and I will go.” She produced a tiny cell phone from an unseen pocket in her costume. “That doesn’t mean I don’t talk to granny.”
“Just seems a waste, is all.”
“Helping people is never a waste.” Mireya pushed past Mike and disappeared into the crowd.
As he watched her, he felt a tug on the legs of his costume. He looked down to see a girl of seven or eight. “Can you get my kitty?”
“Uh, sure, little girl,” he said in his best superhero voice. “Is he up in a tree?”
“No, stupid, he’s on the roof of my house.”
Mireya’s voice called out, “Sun Man!” Mike turned to look. He felt the tug again.
“You coming?” the girl asked.
“Um, I...” Mike said.
“I got this one,” a woman’s voice said. “Mireya needs you.” It was one of the neighborhood heroes, a short woman in a violet costume who he had barely noticed during the meeting.
“Do you fly?” Mike asked her.
She shook her head. “I’m a house painter.” She took the little girl’s hand and walked towards an old truck that was parked on the street. Two extension ladders were mounted on the back.
“Oh,” Mike said.
Mireya called again, “Sun Man!” Mike turned and walked in the direction of her voice. When he found Mireya she was talking to a skinny teenaged boy.
“There you are,” Mireya said. “This is Miguel, he is the reason that I really hoped you would stay today.”
Miguel looked Mike over. “He can help?” he asked.
“He brought his bike last week,” Mireya said. But we didn’t have anyone with super strength at that meeting.”
What bike? Mike thought, then he saw it. It was a beat up old street bike, nothing special. Mike would have called it trash, actually. The bar that goes between the rider’s legs was bent in the middle. The bike was clearly not functional.
“Can you fix it?” the kid asked.
Mike almost told Miguel to just go get a new bike. He stopped when he saw Mireya’s look. “How did this happen?” he asked.
“My brother hit it with a tire iron. A lot.”
That explained that. “It’s worth a try, kid,” Mike said. He turned on his light. Mireya and Miguel stepped back and shaded their eyes.
Mike picked up the bike with both hands. He put a hand on each side of the bend. With his powers working, the bike felt light, like a toy. He pulled back and felt the metal bend back into place.
He placed the bike back on the ground. It looked more or less normal, but not quite right.
“Gracias!” Miguel said.
Mike held up a hand. “Not done.” He didn’t even know how he knew that he could straighten the bar further, realign the metal, make it as good as new. He did it anyway.
He gripped the metal bar of the bike, and ran his hand along it. The metal was putty in his hands. He smoothed it into position, until it looked like it had never been bent.
Mike stood back and looked at his work. “You’ll need to repaint it,” he said. “And tighten the brake cables.”
Miguel smiled broadly, and with about a dozen more graciases, grabbed the bike and pedaled away.
“You were great!” Mireya said.
Mike turned off his light. It did feel kind of good to help someone like that. It wasn’t a big dramatic rescue, but it felt good.
“You do this every week?” he asked Mireya. “You should get some reporters down here to write a story about it.”
Mireya’s sunny smile turned cloudy. “You have a lot to learn,” she said as she walked away.
Women. Mike never could figure them out.
Hector stayed real late that night, as a few of the neighborhood heroes, in regular clothes, chatted and watched movies. One was a Spanish language spy movie that Mike couldn’t understand at all. Hector kept looking at Mike, as if making sure there was a lot of distance between him and Mireya.
I have a hotel suite, Mike kept thinking. And people who are helping me become a world class hero. Why am I still here?
Another night on the lumpy couch was interrupted when Mireya shook him awake. It was early morning, with soft light coming through the windows.
“What?” Mike asked. Mireya just dragged him into the kitchen. A small TV on the counter was showing news.
“...tunnel is blocked off, causing major traffic backups downtown. The police have not issued any statement about the cause, but they...oh my God.”
The camera swiveled from the young female reporter to the mouth of the tunnel. Trees flanked the entrance, and mirrored glass of apartment buildings was directly above. The tunnel entrance was...
Mike glanced at Mireya. “What is that?” he asked. She shrugged.
The tunnel entrance was filled with a...bubble...a membrane...something. Something that pulsed, and moved. It came further out.
“No one knows what is happening inside,” the reporter said, “but a number of cars went into the tunnel and have not come out the other side. The bubble is also visible on the west side of the tunnel.”
Mike hadn’t noticed Mireya leaving until she came back. She laid the Sun Man costume on the kitchen table.
He looked at her, and nodded.
She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Buena suerte, my downtown hero,” she said.
He followed her directions: Take the ten freeway east, near where it meets the five is a warehouse district with many little stores. The tunnel is built through a hill that is so covered with tall apartment buildings you can’t see the hill any more. He poured on the speed as he flew, and got to the area in just a few minutes.
The traffic backups were his clue that he was getting close. Then the lights of police cars and fire trucks. Also, many news van with their tall microwave antennas.
People started to see him and wave as he got closer. He heard a few people shouting, “Sun Man!”
He flew directly over the head of a police official who tried to make him stop. The man shouted curses as Mike ignored him and headed directly into the tunnel.
The funny thing was, he couldn’t see the bubble that had been on TV. Past the police barriers was just the tunnel entrance. It was tall, even a semi trailer could get through this tunnel. Several cars were stopped. He spotted a black van that had run into the back of a Prius.
Then he saw a car that had burned. He couldn’t tell what kind of car that it had been. He turned to look at it more closely.
A tall, ominous figure in some kind of medieval knight’s outfit stood near the car. Here we go, Mike thought. I’ll just defeat this guy and the legend of Sun Man will have it’s first major success.
“Whatever you are doing in here, villain,” Sun Man said in a melodramatic voice, “it stops now.” Mike landed and, without really thinking about it, turned off his light.
The villain held up a hand and said, “Whoa, kid, I’m not...” The voice sounded mechanical.
He was cold. The truck bounced on the badly maintained road. It was dark. It was cold. The helmeted heads of soldiers around him were kept down. They all hugged themselves and shivered.
Mike was still in his Sun Man costume, but he was no longer in a tunnel in downtown L.A. He was in a military truck. A truck which hit a hole in the road and sent a shock through his spine.
A voice that sounded like it came from a mile away, a voice like a robot, said “You all right?”