NEXT IN LINE
by Jeffrey Marsick -- JMarsick@comdt.uscg.mil
I stand over your sleeping form, counting the slow breaths. You look so
comfortable, nestled in layers of bedsheets. I don't want to wake you, I want to watch
you all night, but I don't have a lot of time. A soft, tanned shoulder is exposed and I lean down to kiss it.
You stir gently. Kneeling, I kiss your lips, and you open your eyes, wide in
"Hi, Little One," I say. You blink your eyes rapidly several times, trying to
discern if this is really happening or if you're still lost in a dream. It's an understandable
reaction at 2:30 in the morning.
The curtain in front of your balcony door flaps in the early morning breeze. You look at it, confused. It was closed when you went to sleep.
I follow your gaze. "I came in through the balcony, that's why it's open."
Your apartment is five floors up.
You sit up, brow furrowed, not understanding. Your lips move as a dozen
questions vie for voice but you don't know where to start.
I'll start for you.
"There's something I have to tell you, baby." I look at the floor and play with my hands. I have a right to be nervous about this.
Sensing my apprehension, you whisper "Honey, are you all right?"
You are so beautiful. I love you so dearly. And I want to tell you, I want to show you. I want to brag about what I've become. But that knowledge will put you in danger.
The others told me so.
The curtain rustles again, flapping open, exposing the sleeping city beyond.
"Last night I was walking home late from the Zie Club," I start, getting up. "I
passed this alley and saw it was all lit up. There were metallic sounds and sounds of
breaking glass and grunts and groans and sick, wet sounds. Sounds of a person being hurt badly. Sounds of a person being killed." I trail off, remembering the blood, the screams, the sight of bones puncturing skin and cloth.
"I don't know why, but I stepped towards the action, thinking that somehow I
might be able to help. Above me, I saw the residents looking out their windows in fear,
hiding behind curtains. Afraid." I look at your beautiful hazel eyes. "But I wasn't. For
some reason I wasn't."
You don't say a thing. You just watch me, interested, absorbing every word.
Noise on the balcony. They're getting restless. I don't have much time.
I turn back to you. "Angel, something wonderful happened to me last night.
Something..." I fade off. Will you be as happy as I am? Will you worry about me?
Most importantly, will you still love me?
You swing your feet over the edge of the bed, concerned.
"Sweetheart, are you okay? Tell me what is wrong," you say.
Nothing is wrong. Everything is right in the world. I am alive. I have a beautiful girlfriend that I intend to marry. When I get back.
And now I have responsibility. Great responsibility.
I look into your eyes and take a breath to tell you, but suddenly my tongue is as large as a pillow, and the words fail me.
The breeze blows again. The sound of the curtain. Like a cape.
I take a step back from you. It's best that you just see for yourself.
"Little One, I have something to show you."
Here it is, the final decision. Should I do this? Will you be all right while I am gone?
I look down at my hand, at the ring, and make a fist. All that's left is a little
Emerald fire consumes me for the briefest moment. I control the explosion of
light so that it doesn't leave the room. If they find out, baby....they'll kill you.
The green light dissipates and I am left standing in the moonlight through the
open balcony door.
You gasp, incredulous.
The ring glows faintly on my finger.
The costume is a myriad of hues of green, both light and dark, interspersed with blacks and whites. Like camouflage. I created it with but a thought. It is my own. The only thing copied is the techno looking mask I wear. The mask of my predecessor. A way for me to pay homage to the man who fell in battle last night.
You stare, wide-eyed. "You're...."
"Green Lantern," I finish.
A hand reaches out to touch me, to verify I am real. You touch the emerald and black emblem emblazoned on my chest.
"Lantern," a rough voice mutters from outside. We both look to the balcony. His cape flutters in the breeze, and he is silhouetted briefly against the moon.
Like the shadow of a bat.
"Little One, I love you. But I have to go away for awhile. Out there," I say,
looking and pointing to the heavens. "Please don't ask any questions right now. There
isn't a lot of time. I shouldn't even have come here, but you had to know. Just in
case...you know, if I don't return. But trust in me. I plan on coming back. Don't worry." I kiss you softly.
You don't kiss me back. I think you're still in shock. That's okay. So am I.
I pull you close and hold you for a long moment, then go to the balcony.
They're all waiting. This was risky, the taking time out for them and for giving you knowledge that you probably shouldn't have. But if I am going to die....
Your hand grabs my arm and you spin me around.
Tears are falling.
You hold me tight and tell me you love me.
You kiss me hard then slowly let me go.
Suddenly, I think this sucks. My hands are shaking. I look up and there he is, standing in front of me, over me, regal and imposing. Like nothing can hurt him.
He's the Man of Steel.
"Someone will watch over her when we go," he says, nodding to my right.
Your guardian shakes my hand. I smile. He's the one I told you about on our first walk together. The one I told you I wished I could grow up to be like. The man who rides the lightning.
They all take off, heading for the stars except you, me, and Wally.
I don't want to go. I'm suddenly very very nervous.
And a little afraid.
On my hand, the ring's glow fades slightly.
So I say the words I need to hear. The words that put goosebumps down my spine as I held a dying man in my arms last night.
"In brightest day, in blackest night,"
The ring came to me for a reason.
"No evil shall escape my sight,"
Kyle Raynor, the former Green Lantern, died for a reason.
"Let those who worship evil's might,"
And I am not letting him down.
"Beware my power,"
I look at you as the final words tumble from my lips.
I love you.
Love supplies a kind of strength that can withstand even death.
And suddenly I'm gone.
Standing beside heroes.
Wish me luck.
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