I never thought I’d be friends with Darkseid. He had his own crew anyway. They were a pretty rough sort, and I saw the way he treated them. But, still, he had an attraction to him, a kind of craziness that had a gravitational pull. And he was crazy – single-mindedly crazy. I heard a lot of things about him. That he vaped a guy with his eyes. That he barked like a dog in a lost kid’s face. That he beat a man to death in Austin over a five dollar debt, bit a woman’s finger off when she was waving it at him. His craziness seemed strange and unfathomable, like it mattered.
I never thought I’d be friends with Darkseid, and I didn’t think I wanted to be either. But when he called me, I answered. It was always favors, mostly rides. His crew could probably have done it, but he didn’t like them much. Eighth and Vine Street. Riverside and Pleasant Valley. Twenty-Second and Main. There would be days where I’d be holed up in the apartment, dodging phone calls or emails from friends and family, sometimes just lying in bed and trying to pass the time away, but if it was Darkseid calling, off I’d go.
This time, he didn’t tell me where we were going. He tossed a duffel bag in the back and took a seat, told me to start driving, and barked out directions every few minutes. I kept glancing over at him, and his eyes were sometimes smoldering red coals, sometimes just white slits. It was getting darker and we were getting further from the city, but he hadn’t told me to stop yet. We’d pass a farm house or barn every few miles, and he’d just shake his head and grunt. Eventually, he told me to stop, and I hit the brakes. Slowly, laboriously, he unfolded himself from my car – it was a marvel he even fit in my Civic. He started unpacking his duffel while I looked around. A few hundred feet from the road was a little rundown shed, still important enough for its owners that a lock was on the door. A few hundred feet beyond that was a little house. Nobodies for Darkseid.
The duffel, it turned out, had a bunch of tins of lighter fluid, a few packs of matches, and a pair of mismatched old shoes. Over the next twenty minutes, he popped tin after tin and sprayed it on the shed. I sat there on the hood of the car in silence, trying not to inhale the acrid scent, kind of wishing I were dead. It took him ten or fifteen tries for him to get a match to stay lit when he threw it at the barn, but when it did, oh boy. I wondered for a second why he didn’t use his eye lasers or micro-mark nanobots, but then I knew why. It was the same reason he wasn’t sending his cronies to do this and came himself.
A couple minutes later, when the fire was really going, I heard a door slam. I guess the shed’s owner had seen the flames, and he came running out in a sweatshirt and boxers. Then I heard it, like screaming, but too high pitched, a squealing whine that made my bones judder. I heard a door slam – the shed’s owner must have seen the fire from the house – and he came running out in a t-shirt and boxers. He was screaming, too, about his babies, about his bunnies, about his babies. He paced around the shed, flailing his arms, tearing out his hair, too scared, too smart to try to get in. His face was covered with snot and tears. I looked at Darkseid’s face, a stony crag, expressionless, silent, not even a smile.