The Invincible Bastard – Michael Santiago

The resounding, deafening cries rattled the interior panels within the cylindrical titanium rotunda. Screams emanated through the adjacent halls while blinding rays of teal light flooded the structure. The temperature dropped and increased without notice, and the entire floor reverberated as the screaming ensued, heightening in pitch. Such was the routine for Logan, former hero and figurehead of the Vindication.

Across the room, a tempered glass box elevated 40 feet off the ground housed the control room for the central dome. Inside, lab coats operated panels intended to quell the trapped titan. Head Chief Monroe, the overseer, pressed a large, flat button to initiate a loudspeaker inside the dome and softly stated, “Do you understand the composition of the human body, Logan? An intricate, interwoven network of fibrous tissue confining muscle to bone and bone to bone. The myocardium beating and pulsing blood, delivering oxygen and vital nutrients to every intentionally placed organ. With a cerebrum firing synapses at unfathomable velocity.”

As Monroe continued to speak, Logan sat up and fixated his attention, gazing upon the glass box with intensity. His feet planted firmly on the glossed marble tile. He stared at Monroe with utter hatred, and the vibrant teal hue in his eyes grew brighter. An enormous shockwave rattled the interior as he began screaming, rippling the panels across the ceiling. And then, launching a teal beam from his eyes, aimed directly at Monroe, he grew angrier. And, to no avail, the barricaded encasement remained intact against his calamitous tantrum.

“Now, imagine a god walking among such delicate, fragile forms. A whisper would be enough to decimate organic life into a pile of viscous goo. A single twitch capable of obliterating cities. A mere mental breakdown is enough to disrupt the forces which adhere to natural law. Absolute decimation. Human extinction. All within your grasp, Atlas. If you so willed it,” Monroe stated.

Rage compounded and conflated within Logan as he recalled his moniker, Atlas. Aware his ocular photon blast could not crack the structure; he began pounding his hands impetuously onto the marble floor. Each thud rippled and splintered the surface, yet titanium sheathed the entire dome. Then, he placed each hand onto the ground and began to fluctuate the temperature from a scorching 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit to -100 degrees below zero. Neither range was enough to melt or shatter the prison. The scope of his ability was a spectacle on display, with every show of power solidifying the position of Monroe’s stranglehold.

Once more, he spoke, “And as the world cheered and applauded your arrival, your ego proliferated. The world embraced you for the nobility you masqueraded, not for the calloused heroic antics that marginalized you from the rest of your team. However, those who inhibit logic knew something like you could not be contained. That it was simply time abiding your true nature. You do remember your true nature, Atlas?”

Sapped and frustrated, Logan sat onto the floor, locking a steely-eyed leer with Monroe.

“It was Tuesday. A gaggle of patrons embraced you and your Vindication. Do you even remember them? Those you once called friends,” he said.

As Logan placed his head on his forearm, he spoke, “This parade of power you berate me with is no different than the one of which you are about to speak, you insignificant peon. Yes, I remember that little show and those sycophants.”

“Care to tell?” he asked.

“Rosenberg. Calling upon us one by one from behind a curtain like a band of circus freaks. Showboating us. So, yes, I remember that day well along with those super fucks,” Logan shouted.

“Can you describe that day to me, Atlas?” he inquired.

Shifting his gaze back to Monroe, he stood up and began to speak, “we had just located a white supremacist group who was responsible for the bombings of several black churches on the southside of Chicago. The formerly living mayor, Rosenberg, threw this little parade to celebrate what the Vindication had done to save the city. One by one, we marched on stage to make our required appearances when shit like this happened. Star Child, Atom of Dawn, Credence, War Siren, and Serpentine were there, but that band of stupid fucks never pulled their weight.”

“Is that why you killed them that day, too? Because you felt you were carrying the team single handedly?” he provoked.

“Is this a joke? Rosenberg set up these terrorist events to pull votes. Oh, and that little ordeal at the church, well, I killed everyone there, by myself. If you want the real story, Star Child was banging War Siren in the alley outside the church, Credence was busy marketing himself on social media, and Atom of Dawn and Serpentine could not shut up about the results of Wimbledon. I mean, arguing over tennis when on the job? I took out everyone in that church, alone,” Logan uttered.

“And that was enough to massacre them in front of a relished crowd of supporters?” he prodded.

Logan grew increasingly furious and yelled, “War Siren was my fucking girlfriend, and Star Child was my best friend and both betrayed me, so, yes, I lasered them in half in front of the crowd. Credence was a pompous, superficial flatterer who never did a single heroic thing yet took credit for my actions. Atom of Dawn had the most obnoxious ability to rearrange atomic structures ONLY at dawn. What kind of power limits you to a single time of the day? Also, Serpentine was what? 2,000 years old? It was her time. Aside from that, they were scheming, figuring out how to kill me, as they were terrified of my abilities. Oh, and before I forget, I was Rosenberg’s puppet. So, I had enough and flexed my abilities a little. The crowd was an accident. They were collateral damage. They shouldn’t have even been there.”

“This is how you justify your narcissism? Through ill-equipped, inabilities of those around you? Blaming others for the actions that transpired by your hand?” he questioned.

“Don’t you… don’t you dare label me that. She used to project that same thing onto me, but I was just a child.” Logan yelled.

“Who are you referring to?” he asked.

As Logan’s gaze shifted downward, a glint of remorse compounded with sadness skewed the maniacal, frenetic state by which he was consumed. Dropping his arms to his waist and focusing on the floor, a tear plummeted to the titanium surface. He began to reflect on the question asked, forcing him to look within and dial back to the moments defining his upbringing.

Envisioning his youth, he recalled the myriad of abuse Clymene, his mother, doled out.

“You good for nothing, little shit. Get over here! I told you that you could not just say whatever you wanted! This is my house, and I demand respect. It will be given to me one way or another or so help me, god,” his mother screamed.

The nude adolescent Logan was kneeling on a bed of raw rice, with the pressure of the grains piercing his skin. Weeping silently, the cruelty exerted was unequivocal to his action, yet she only focused on raw rage. It satiated her agony with an unbroken cycle of abuse; she did not offer a reprieve for the young boy. Punishment in place of compassionate discourse formed the basis of his youth.

“Now get up. Put on your clothes, and the next time you give me a disrespectful look when I speak to you, it’ll be worse,” she shouted.

Clasping the ground, he pushed himself up as his knees were embedded with rice. A bloody trail of crimson despair followed Logan to his bed, and as he sat down, he wept in solitude, naked and afraid. These tears were not due to the pain inflicted upon him but for the person his mother was. Clymene shattered cemented ideals of how a true mother should be, but Logan still tried to justify the actions hurled toward him. His internal dialogue convinced him it was just and deserving. That he was exactly what his mother told him he was. The perpetuated anguish passed through the ages, with Logan as the passenger of her pain.

Before he could pull every grain from the wounds they formed, his mother yelled, “this rice and this pity party trail you left isn’t going to clean itself.” Sliding on his undergarments and grabbing a rag with dried blood, he began to clean the scarlet drops from the hardwood floor. Sweeping up the rice, he glanced at his mother as she spoke to herself aloud, regurgitating religious passages and further demeaning her offspring.

Pacing back and forth, gripping a crucifix around her neck, she muttered, “God, why did you give me a girl masquerading as a boy? He is lazy, disrespectful, useless, and acts like he is the one in charge. And then when I get mad, I am the bad mother. I’m tired of having to deal with such a disrespectful child.”

“Logan… Logan, calm down,” Monroe’s voice echoed.

Once more, a teal hue emitted from his eyes as he began slamming his head into the titanium cell walls. “If it were not for her, I wouldn’t be this fucked up. I didn’t mean to kill anyone. I wanted to lead, be a hero, but I became exactly what she told me I was. It just never stopped. Until one day it did,” Logan replied.

Smashing his skull against the interior, a flood of memories verbally poured out. He offered vague mentions of his abuse aloud as he said, “all of the times she berated me. She told me I was a girl because I did not carry my weight in the house like a man. She would then tell me to stop acting like a big tough man when I was silent. The back and forth. Forcing used bars of soap and jalapenos down my throat when I spoke against her abuse. Then she threw my recently deceased pet into the trash instead of burying it with me. The older I got, the more calloused I became until she threw me against the wall so hard my spine cracked, which was the first time I realized I was more than just a helpless child.”

“Is that when Atlas emerged? When she threw you?” Monroe questioned.

Pulling back, he offered a single nod and said, “yes. I picked myself back up and looked right in her eyes as I scorched concaves through each eye socket. The years of anguish manifested into raw, unrelenting power.”

“Atlas. Logan. You decimated the entire city. Murdered your comrades. Exerted godlike power onto innocent bystanders who offered you nothing but praise. This travesty cannot be misconstrued as a trauma response. You were a herald who wielded unfathomable capabilities, which instilled terror. You can’t be allowed to do whatever you will, nor can you continue walking among us to commit such an act again,” Monroe said.

Monroe backed from the panel and offered a stern nod to a man sitting at a switchboard, who then proceeded to push a series of buttons in sequence. The titanium encasement was not a prison; it was a death chamber, Logan’s iron maiden. Toxic fumes spilled through a vent adjacent to his bed, and then he placed his hands onto the floor as rage consumed the unruly hero.

The temperature rose vigorously, eventually exceeding his initial limit of 1,800 degrees. The cell began to liquify around him and then he howled as the temperature output now surpassed the sun. Through the thick black plumes, globs of boiled titanium pooled around his feet. Inching each step forward, he raised his left fist and catapulted through the glass box above the room.

Looking at the lab coats drenched in fear, he said, “did you think you could kill me? Shame, you must not have given my dossier a thorough read. I cannot be killed. I’m invincible.”

His hollow gaze-evoked dread as he demanded Monroe’s presence. Terror paralyzed the lab coats as not a single word was muttered. “Do you think this is a fucking game? Where is he?” Logan demanded.

Logan picked up one of the lab coats by the base of his skull and applied an insignificant amount of pressure, which was enough to combust the man’s head. Splattering fragments of skull and cerebral goo across the room. “Now, will you tell me where he is?” Logan demanded.

The evincive titan gleaned upon every lab coat; his gaze jutted as the teal hue in his eyes began gleaming. Exerting his ocular blast, he tore flesh from sinew and ravaged the interior of the control room. A crimson brandishing coated the space. He took a few hollow steps forward and noticed a dossier on an adjacent console. Grabbing the file, he read to himself, “Project Lapetus: The Deity Destroyer.”

As he perused the document, he noticed an antiquated black and white photo dating to 1967. In the image, a chiseled, muscle-bound man was clasping onto the hands of what appeared to be his mother, Clymene, as they were both standing next to Monroe. They appeared gleeful as it was apparent that Clymene was pregnant. Behind them, an old Greek ruin littered the background.

Unable to comprehend the imagery, he gazed upon the dossier once more and said, “I’m going to find you, dad, and you’re going to tell me everything.

Michael Santiago is a serial expat, avid traveler, and writer of all kinds. Originally from New York City, and later relocating to Rome in 2016 and Nanjing in 2018. He enjoys the finer things in life like walks on the beach, existential conversations and swapping murder mystery ideas. Keen on exploring themes of humanity within a fictitious context and aspiring author.

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