in Which I Post an Assignment from Class: "Vigilante Club"

By Anniforscia
Foreword: This was an assignment I wrote as a final project for my Intro to Lit class. The assignment was to do something creative with any of the themes we covered over the semester. The last two novels we read in class were Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk and Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons. When I originally began writing the story, I intended to fuse the plots and themes of these two novels. However, it became very difficult to fuse the plots, so I ended up mainly with a Fight Club plot that included a few Watchmen-y themes. It's odd, but I promised a lot of people that they could read it when I finished, so I decided to post it here. Enjoy!

Sometimes the ending is just like you expected.
You’re in a chokehold and you’re being told that this is the end.
You’re on the edge of a building and it looks like a long way down.


The beginning is less exciting. Maybe even more predictable though.
I work for the government. The IRS, to be more specific. I start crunching numbers at 8 a.m. and by 5 o’clock my eyes burn from the constant intensity of the computer monitor’s glow. I come home to my dark apartment and make dinner, just going through the motions of cooking and hoping it’s done in time for my girlfriend’s arrival home from work.

Did I say “my dark apartment”? I meant “our dark apartment,” and even that is a stretch. The whole place is covered in flower-patterned pillows. The curtains are made of something called damask. I heard somewhere that damask burns quicker than paper. That doesn’t seem right, though.

A few weeks ago the couples therapist told us we should take a class together. Said learning a new skill in each other’s company would not only give us more in common, but allow us to see each other in a new light. I wanted to take something easy, like a drawing class. I could completely zone out and no one would notice. Carol wanted a workout. The couples therapist sided with her, saying that a workout might help me with my insomnia. Carol brings in $500 more a year than me. Because of this, she wins every argument.


The best thing about our adult karate class is that I rarely have to interact with Carol. I’m a big guy. Carol’s no pixie, but I still tower over her. The instructor pairs me up with the only other big guy, a dude named Drake who seems to be taking the class on his own. Carol drags her partner, a uni-browed troll of a woman, over to us on the combat floor so we can be near each other for class. I pretend to be focusing all of my concentration on the instructor and Drake. I talk to Carol as little as possible.

For a certain amount of time I actually liked the karate class. Carol and I still had nothing in common, but it was nice to get rid of some of my frustration physically. I was able to sleep through the nights following classes. Drake wasn’t much of a talker, but I still felt as though he and I had formed a kind of karate-partner bond. I think I read once that fighting someone is the best way to get to know them. Does that seem right?

I use the past tense when talking about liking the karate class because there came a day when it wasn’t enough. I was sitting on our floral couch, watching a group of red ninjas beat the shit out of a group of black ninjas on the Kung Fu Network, when it hit me that I needed real life experience. The controlled, tightly monitored sparring on the combat floor at Sensei Tim’s School of Karate was no longer going to cut it for getting out my daily dose of aggression. I wanted to really fight. I wanted to see blood.

I started by trying to convince Drake to have a real fight with me. I got him to go out to the back of the building with me after class and tried to start something. Dude wouldn’t bite. He blocked every hit I tried to take, only letting me get close enough for my fists to slam hard into his swiftly blocking forearms. Feral yells escaped my lips. Drake made the grunting sounds that Sensei Tim had taught us. He batted my clumsily balled-up hands away from his face. He was tame, a man locked in a cage that he can’t even see.

Two weeks later there’s a story on the news about some crazy fuck who’s been reported several times for verbally harassing female tourists at night. This idiot wears a black ski mask over his face and has a knack for only going after women with hulking boyfriends. So far, no fights had actually been started. Cops intervened once. The hulking boyfriend’s friends stopped it another time. A third time the harassed female herself stopped the potential fray. There’s amateur footage of her with her red-edged lips pressed into a pout, whining at the men not to hurt each other in front of a lady. The shot turns into slow-mo and you can see the orange lettering on the harasser’s black shirt: Dr. Terror.
What the hell?


Seems to me like this “Terror” asshole is looking pretty damn hard for a fight. I could get used to the idea of fighting in the name of honor. And, hey, if a beautiful woman begs me to be with her after I save her from the harsh words of a foul needler, so be it. Everyone knows the quickest way to the heart of a woman is through defense of her honor. Don’t they?


The streets are still damp from the rain that pounded them earlier in the evening. I’m prowling around Dr. Terror’s part of town. I’ve been watching every clip of him I can find to ready myself for a fight. I probably should have sheathed myself in spandex for this, but instead I have on red sweatpants and a black t-shirt. Not too classy, but I need to be able to move. My red ski mask is from the early 1990s, but it covers my face and thus serves its purpose. I could’ve sworn I had a black one. Carol must have tossed it.

My overly-casual garb and covered face get me a few looks from passing tourists. Most seem to brush me off as a homeless guy, probably insane. I see a kid whose eyes widen when he catches sight of me. He points me out to his mother and whispers in her ear. She grabs his hand and pulls him quickly past me on the sidewalk. He cranes his neck to look at me for as long as possible as he is dragged past. I wonder what that was about.

Two hours of wandering the crowded tourist district has gotten me nowhere. I slip into a back alley to take a piss in back of an old brick warehouse. Most of the buildings in this area have been renovated into bars and chain restaurants, catering to tourists. This one hasn’t. It seems deserted through the broken window that’s in front of me as I pull down the sweatpants’ elastic waistband. I’m pulling the waistband back up when I notice a glimmer of movement in the building. Probably just a homeless person. I’m a defender of justice and honor now, though. I should check it out.

The window with its empty panes is low enough for me to climb through. I jump down from the sill. The sound of my feet hitting the warehouse floor is muffled by years of dust. I look around. No sign of movement. I start to walk along the wall of windows. Enough light streams in from the streetlights in the alley outside for me to see that there’s nothing to see.
Suddenly there’s a voice in the dark.
“I know why you’re here,” he says, taunting me, “You’re telling yourself it’s for noble reasons, but you just want a fight. You just want to feel alive.”

The first fist against my jaw is like seeing God.


The fight with Dr. Terror has my blood boiling. I need more action.

I buy a police scanner. I go out on patrol a few nights a week. If I’m closer to the scene of a petty crime than the police are, I go for it.

The fighting gives me a rush. When I come crashing back down from it I sleep at night. I dream of sex and violence. Sometimes the sleep leaves me even more tired and sore.

I’ve gotten pretty good at bloodying up bad guys. There’s been some media coverage. A week ago, I was fleeing the scene of a mugging just as the cops and news van skidded up. The perfectly made-up reporter who situated herself in front of the two knocked-out muggers shouted after me as I ran, asking for my name. Her question stopped me in the middle of fleeing.
“You know what?” I said, “Just call me The Vigilante.”


In the past week’s patrolling I’ve seen two other people in sweats and ski masks. One woman in a bodysuit of spandex that fit her like a second skin. A dude in jeans and a leather jacket with a hockey mask over his face. I made eye contact with none of them. I guess it’s good that there are other vigilantes out here. Just as long as they keep their hands off my action.

There’s been more news coverage. This masked vigilante thing is all the rage.


My idea has gone wrong. The surge in heroes has been matched by a slightly delayed surge in villains. The crime rate took a dip when the heroes first started their work. Now it’s soaring again. People in masks are robbing convenience stores and snatching purses. Some just walk up to other masks and punch them in the face.

I understand the appeal of villainy. It’s lazier than heroism. You don’t have to bother with police scanners and racing the cops to a crime scene. Especially with all of these heroes around. Just break one little law and you’ve got yourself a fight. Easy as pie.


I’m still going to karate class with Carol. More and more people in the class are showing up with busted faces. Last class, Drake was moving as if he’d recently broken a rib. He had to leave class halfway through to tend to the blood gushing out of his nose. He couldn’t stop smiling at me even as he clamped his hand over his nose and tilted his head back.
In fact, no one could stop smiling at me. Carol included. She’s been looking at me with a sparkle in her eyes that hasn’t been there since the day we met. I’ve heard that one way to get a woman to look at you like this is to perk up your sex life. That seems like it would be true.
We haven’t had sex in weeks.


I wake up in my bed. My head is spinning from a dream about sex with Carol. She hasn’t been around recently for me to propose an actual sexual encounter.

I wander out into the apartment, stretching my body to feel all the sore parts of me. I catch sight of my face in one of Carol’s decorative mirrors. I have two black eyes.

I find her in the office. She’s curled up in the computer chair in panties and a t-shirt. I’ve never seen her lounge around in so little clothing. She turns to looks at me. Her smile is blinding, her eyes shining. There’s a cut on her cheek with five neatly placed stitches holding it closed. What the hell?

The floor around her office chair is covered in clothes. A black shirt, covered in sweat. A pair of sweatpants, too big to be hers. A black ski mask.

My eyes widen in realization as they sweep from the floor back to her face. Her forehead crinkles as she sees the accusation on my face. She’s confused.

“What is it, baby?” she asks, “Ready to go again?”
“What?” I say. Now I’m the one confused. Was she not fucking another man while I slept in the other room?

I pick up the black shirt from the floor. The orange letters on it are familiar.

“Dr. Terror?” I say, cocking my head at her, “When I was asleep in the other room?”
She still seems confused.
“No one messed with your stuff,” she begins, “You were only asleep for ten minutes.”
She trails off, looks at the computer screen, back at me.
“Looks like everything’s going to hell. The crime rate has tripled. People are just beating on each other in the street.”
For some reason this is funny to her.
My girlfriend the villain.
My thoughts rewind.
Asleep for ten minutes? Wasn’t I out for hours?
Holy shit.

Asleep for ten minutes.

No. No. No no no no no.
No fucking way.
I am not Dr. Terror.
No. It’s not because of me that people are dying in the streets.

My eyes snap back to Carol’s grinning face.
“More sex?” she asks, coyly cocking her head, “In honor of the revolution?”
I shake my head and slip the t-shirt over my head. I pull on the ski mask.
I have to go.


Outside, it’s dark.
I run through the streets, the damp t-shirt clinging to me.
I pass a million cop cars, their lights sparkling against the buildings.
I get to where I’m going.
Then I go up.


It’s just like I expected.
I’m on top of this building with Dr. Terror.
He’s got me in a headlock and he’s holding me over the edge.
I see Carol and a group of masked villains limping their way into the building down at street level.

Dr. Terror disappears and I hurl myself over the edge.

in which Writer's Block Actually Inspires Writing

By Anniforscia
I breathe in through my nose.
I focus on the sound of the air rushing through my nasal passages.
I breathe out through my mouth.
I speed up the exhalation towards the end so that the last of the air escapes my lungs with a soft huff.
I shake my head quickly from side to side, to clear my thoughts and to listen briefly to the sound my hair makes as it brushes against itself, like my own version of the wind through a field of knee-high grass, towards the end of summer. Shfftshfftshfft.
I put my fingers to the keys, the heels of my palms and my wrists cold on my laptop's aluminum body.
I type, spelling out words, sentences, a paragraph:

"Fucking writers' block.
It's insidious, not only destroying my ability to write, but also my impetus. I still have the need to do something creative, and the feeling is like my brain crammed into a cage that is too small for it...but I don't want to write to relieve the pressure. Being unable to write and not wanting to are equally unbearable states of being...but their combined clout has me trapped in a state of crippling mental identity crisis that gradually chips away at my emotional stability."

I close my eyes and tilt my head back, rolling the weight of it around to stretch out some of the muscles in my neck. It hurts in a pleasant way.
I lift my head back up and eye the laptop's screen, skimming over the words I've jut written.
I breathe in and out again.
I shake my head again, listening to my hair.
My wrists and the heels of my palm are starting to warm the laptop's cold aluminum.
I put my fingers to the keys and type.

in which Everything is White

By Anniforscia
The walls in here are covered in homasote, a type of tack-withstanding fiberboard, and that, in turn, is covered in white paint. White...but it would seem grey next to this sheet of paper, which would seem positively grey lying in the snow. I suppose it's all relative.

Snow just seems like the whitest thing that could ever be, until you watch it fall greyly against the blindingly white backdrop of the sky.

in which Architecture Finally Makes an Appearance

By Anniforscia
So I'm standing in the Campo de' Fiori in Rome. I like this place, a lot of the time. Like right now...I like it right now. It's a market right now, its open space occupied by stalls selling fruits, vegetables, spices, and thingsthingsthings to locals and tourists alike. The stalls are covered by enormous, square, white umbrellas, the likes of which I'd never seen until I came to Europe. Looking down from my apartment window, I can't see the ground for these umbrellas.
So I'm standing under one of them, talking to a stall-owner in my broken Italian, handing him coins for the onions I'm buying, and I can see, behind his head, the shaft of sunlight that comes down through the place between two of the huge white umbrellas. And in the sunlight there are raindrops.
And just for a second my lungs are not pulling in air. And then I can breathe again and I'm shoving money at the man and shouting "Grazie" and runningrunningrunning, out from under the umbrellas, past the front door of my apartment and I can see that it's open and spilling out people and that their eyes are full of the longing desperation that's rapidly replacing the blood in my veins. Seeing them, I can't help but to stop and laugh at them, with them. They're saying things to me, shouting things, my name and also other words that were already jumbling through my head.
And then everyone's putting up umbrellas and we're all rushing, slipping across newly-wet cobblestones together, heading northeast along familiar streets, our excitement bubbling up through our lips in the form of inane comments about where we're going and why.
And then we're there, it's there, right in front of us, looming and beautiful and glowing with an unshakable glory that has stood the test of two thousand years in a city that knows no end of turmoil. And our hearts are poundingpounding in our throats as we push through the crowds clogging the entrance and slide across the marble floor with our eyes lifted in anticipation.
And, oh gods, it's a building that never lets me down. On any given day, its majesty pulls my heart up into the air with an indescribable soaring leap. But that feeling hardly compares to how I feel now, staring up at the rain falling in through the beam of sunlight let in by the enormous hole in the ceiling, the oculus. The rain straight down, the beam of sunlight at an angle, shining a spotlight at a place on the inside of the coffered dome. Seeing this fulfills a longing I didn't know I had, that's been in my heart since my life began, fulfills it in a way that completely surpasses any expectation I've ever created for anything.
So I ignore the tourists chattering in a dozen different languages around me. I ignore the wooden barriers that have been placed around the very center of the circular room to stop these same tourists from slipping on wet marble. I wiggle through a gap between two barriers, slide into the center of the enormous circle, lift my chin, and let the rain fall on my face in the most beautiful way it ever could.

in which a Loop Happens, and I Give Backstory

By Anniforscia
Writing is so weird for me. It's constantly happening to me. My brain is a perpetual narrative, either cataloging something that is happening to me, something that has happened, or something that might happen. Sometimes something that fits into none of those categories.
And I'm walking down the aisle in the grocery store and I'm scanning the shelves, so many colors, and my stomach is a chasm of hunger and my brain is saying, "And I'm walking down the aisle in the grocery store and I'm scanning the shelves, so many colors, and my stomach is a chasm of hunger and my brain is saying..."
And it's odd. Because I'm thinking about what I'm doing, and thinking about writing what I'm thinking, and now what I'm doing is writing what I was thinking, which is, incidentally, also what I'm writing about, and what I was thinking about.

Does that make sense?

The point is, I've come to grips with the narrative thing. In fact, I'm sure it's the case for many writers. I deal with it by taking what I've thought and adding things to it, to describe situations more accurately, more kinetically. This, what I'm writing here, is more like my raw thought transferred to the page.

The one thing my brain covers oh-so thoroughly, the one thing that needs no embellishment, is disaster. Disasters of all kinds fall under the "things that might happen" category of my persistent narrative. Incidentally, they also fall under the "things I never feel the need to write about because they make me shiver in a horrified way" category of my life. I was going to give an example, but the horrified shivering thing just interfered. Suffice it to say that I dislike walking up concrete steps. I'm an awful klutz, I trip a lot, but my good reflexes tend to make up for it. In my head, I trip five times as often, and my reflexes don't exist. I suppose it's interesting to see so many scenarios laid out in my head, but I often wish they could be just a bit more pleasant.

By Anniforscia
New plan: If I'm procrastinating and I can't make myself work, I will at least be writing.

in which I Detangle

By Anniforscia
I can't tell you how many hours I've spent with this necklace draped across my hands, each of my fingers holding a length of it apart from its fellows, my fingernails digging deep into a knot of its tiny, filament-thin links.

I haven't even had the necklace for very long. It came into my possession last summer, when I walked into my mother's bedroom only to find her sorting through a shoebox of sparkling metal and colorful plastic, jewelry collected throughout her life that had somehow fallen into obsolescence along the way.