Erik Ulverston slept and dreamt of the day he had competed in the bi-annual county driving rally. The weeks of practice had paid-off in full. He had arrived in top form and he had swept the competition with ease. It had been a good fulfilling day and thinking--or in this case dreaming--of that day always left him with a warm sensation in his stomach, as if he'd newly eaten one of the apple-pies his wife used to make. In his dream he was standing at the podium where he'd stood so many times before, when he felt in his heart that there was something more urgent and pressing than the world of motor-sports. He chose to wake up.
The alarm clock which his son had bought for him and which he'd never set read two O'clock in the morning. What's the trouble? he asked himself.
A light tap sounded on the window.
Erik threw off his duvet and from a bed-side stand he took a robe and wrapped it around his body. Despite his age he was still muscular and thin, although perhaps he did sag a little more each year by year. He opened the window of his second-story room and he was greeted by a mouthful of leaves.
--Oh dear I'm so very sorry, said the man standing in the tree, but please...please don't close the window.
Erik spat out a leaf. D-do you have any idea what time it is?
--Yes...well...crime never sleeps.
--H-h-how, how on earth did you get up there?
--Well old chap getting up was quite easy. You see I simply chose not to fall. Getting down though that's...that's going to be a much bigger problem.
The stranger in the tree laughed and his costume jingled. From bottom-to-top he wore red polished stilettos, purple stockings, a yellow utility-belt, a red button-up vest with a giant golden M emblazoned on the chest, a silver cape which dangled to the back of his knees, and a thin black mask covering just the outline of his eyes. By the weakness of his voice and the way his back was hunched over, Erik had gathered that the man was probably even older than himself.
--Okay, Erik whispered, I'm listening.
--I'm sorry to bother you at such an early hour but you wouldn't, you wouldn't happen to be a--the man in the superhero costume pulled a stack of cards from his utility belt and he searched until he stopped at one card no more differentiable than the others--a Mr. Erik Youll-verston.
--Ulverston, Erik corrected.
--Oh sorry, old chap my tongue is not as sharp as it used to be, you know.
--Yes...well that's me, Erik Ulverston. What do you want? Quick out with it.
The man in the tree coughed and shook out his shoulders and then puffed out his chest. With his free arm he made a triangle between his arm-pit, his elbow, and his waist.
--Erik Ulverston, he spoke now in a deeper tone, did you write to Starform Magazine requesting the aide of a super hero?
Erik was stepped back. That...t-that was...how long...that was so long ago?
--Yes, well...the man fanned out his cape, Here I am! I'm Mars Man! From the planet Mars. Champion of those who cannot champion themselves. Dun-nun-nun-na. At this last action the man in the tree almost lost his balance but he quickly righted himself.
--Well don't just stand out there, come in, come in. But be quiet, please, you might wake the help. Erik Ulverston grabbed the man in the costume by his arm and helped him through the window. When he was inside Mars Man stood strong as his weak frame would allow and he admired the surroundings.
--You've done well for yourself young one, he said, This is a good clean crime-fighting room. It's much like The Space Port.
--The Space Port?
--Yes, The Space Port. It's much like this room only ten thousand, thousand times larger. The Roaver, my ship that is, requires much room you see. Well don't look so surprised, how else do you think I got here? the man condescended. Of course I couldn't leave it floating above your house, that would be ridiculous. I shrunk it down and it now sits safely in my belt. Here. Take a look. Mars Man pulled a tiny space-ship from his utility-belt and placed it into Erik's palm. The man in the super hero costume paced around the room. This is a good room, he commented once more. He made his way to one of the dressers where there were photos and other things but the thing that caught his eye was one particular browning pack of cards.
--Do you play? he asked.
--What cards? On occasion, Erik replied.
--Do you play, Mars Man turned to him and frowned most seriously, Go Fish?
Not waiting for a reply, Mars man lifted the pack and span it around one hand. He sat down on the carpet and folded his legs like a school child. In quick deft motions he began flicking the cards into two piles. Erik sat in front of him and mimicked his posture.
Together, Erik and his new friend played cards in silence for what seemed hours, speaking only to ask for what the other had. It was however not a cold silence, sitting there saying nothing Erik began to feel a great sense of attachment to this mysterious stranger. The old man in the costume carried himself, although without physical strength to match it, he carried himself with a spiritual strength, as if nothing in the world could hurt him even though there was so very much that wanted to.
Erik handed over yet another card and he noticed that his hand was once again much smaller than his new friends. Mars Man didn't guess the next card right and Erik asked if he had a three.
Erik frowned and slid a new card from the deck. This time he made extra sure to cover it with both his hands.
--Do you have a, Mars Man smiled, ten.
Erik Ulverston sighed and assented the card he had just drawn. How on earth do you...do you keep winning, Mars Man? he asked.
--Years of practice, the man smirked.
--So, sorry if you don't mind me asking Mars Man, what...what is your super-power?
Mars Man cringed. Oh, that's a good a question, Erik, honestly...honestly...I've yet to choose. Five.
--Go fish. But...a super-hero must have a power, otherwise what makes you super?
--You know, I've been--
--Wait, Erik interrupted. They listened and a sound came ran from the floor below and rose up along the stair-case. Erik spoke quickly: You know what we can do? Mars Man, if you stand on the side of that door, when I let her in, as soon she walks through bop her on the head. A light bop, that's all. It won't hurt her too much, she comes from a hardy pool of people. Mars Man chuckled and picked himself up from the floor. Outside in the hallway a light flicked on. Mars Man made his way toward the open window.
Erik grimaced. But...BUT YOU'VE ONLY JUST ARRIVED!
--Erik, Mars Man smiled.
--WAIT. PLEASE, PLEASE JUST WAIT A MINUTE.
--THERE'S NO NEED TO RUSH. THERE MUST BE SOMETHING. THERE MUST BE MORE! HOW CAN YOU JUST LEAVE ME HERE! ALONE!
--FUCK YOU! IT'S NOT RIGHT IT'S NOT RIGHT IT'S NOT RIGHT! FUCK YOU THEN, JUST GO. PLEASE just go. Leave me alone. Please.
--Friendship, Mars Man said, Erik friendship is not about quantity. We are good friends and they cannot take that away from us, no matter what happens.
A knock sounded on the door. Mr. Ulverston, a woman asked, what's going on in there? Mr. Ulverston what is that noise coming from inside? Open the door please. I know we've talked about this before but if you don't open the door I'm coming in. Erik's eyes fell to the ground and he wrapped his arms around his body. He began to to cry. Please, don't go, he whined.
--Erik, you'll see me again.
Mars Man walked over to Erik, hunched in his spot on the floor, and he stretched out a hand and lightly tapped the old man on his left breast. Here. You'll see me again here, Erik. He tapped once more. Where I've always been. You just never knew.