“Grape? Did he just say, have a grape day?”
“The man loves his fruit.” I had to light another match at this. One thing about smoking cigars that I had yet to learn was to keep my mouth shut.
“I hear him crack a line like that again, it’ll be his last.”
“Ain’t you the world’s biggest talker.”
Anthony gave me a look I’ve come to know well over the years, so I shut my mouth and puffed. Standing on the stoop in front of 33 1/2 Western Ave. in the dead of Winter, I could hardly feel my legs. Which is normal for me. But still, I’d rather stick with numb legs I can defrost later than broken legs I’ll never use again. Thus, my mouth remained shut.
I didn’t mind. Violence is what made Anthony what he was — not a monster, or a criminal, per se, just…a man of influence. Of course, we all knew him by another name, a name that felt like acid over our tongues, and burns a hole in my heart whenever I say it aloud, especially now, after everything. But he was what he was to certain people, and to those people I say: have an ice day.
That was my own little joke. A signature, really. But I didn’t say it to Anthony this time.
The kid from the smoothie shop went back inside, taking his full tray of samples with him. Tough shit, kid, we don’t want to try your newest flavors. Neither does the rest of the street. Too many people watching our every move — watching me, really, waiting for this thing to go down. Too many chances to take if we didn’t stick to routine, stick to the plan. Downing mysterious beverages, no matter your promises of healthy vitamin boosts, are not part of our outlined sequence of events today.
When it finally went down, as they say, I was lucky to get a glimpse of anything other than the end of it all, like a frozen scene in my head, played out exactly as I said it would be. Anthony saw it all happen even before I did, yet it still…
His senses were honed, years of training locked down into a single wavelength of recognition and procedure. He focused his senses on the moment, and then the moment was gone — but not for me. Part of me thinks he knew it would happen, just wanted to play a bit. But then I wonder: Why?
The doors to the Bank of National Trust shattered, brick and metal disintegrating in a matter of milliseconds. To Anthony, I’m sure it felt more like an hour. I knew this, because he would tell me this sensation, time and time again over the years. A second is an hour, an hour is a year, and a day is an eternity. For someone like Anthony, I didn’t envy this ability, this sense perception down to the micro-moment. More power to him, and all that jazz.
I was rocked off my feet, but with my training, I’d learned to balance my falls such that I never tumbled backwards. When you live mostly around ice and cold, you get pretty good at predicting a tumble. It’s a skill I could lord over Anthony, but he never took much offense. He never needed to learn to hold his balance. That day, he proved it again when he leaped his now-infamous leap, and struck a clear line through the air straight into the bank.
When he collided with Tungsten, the two men rolled across the ground but only for a fleeting moment. Inside, it was an eternity. For Anthony, it was always more than just a momentary struggle. For me, I flicked down my cigar and took off my gloves. My hands were numb, but they always were. They always will be.
Anthony emerged, and the sight will haunt me for the rest of my already lengthy existence. He was no longer Anthony — a fact it took me months of observation and convincing to realize. He was at this moment, and had always been, The Xantus. I had to do what I did then, only, you’ll never understand it. But you don’t have to. Just feel safe, dear ones, that Xantus — that Anthony — will never break free of my eternal jail cell, my frozen prison, a fate I have declared worse than death and Guantanamo Bay combined. Hell has no scale upon which to measure its’ tortures against my creation.
The Feds locked me in a heated chamber after that last incident, despite our success in foiling the robbery, despite the rise in the Bank’s stock in the following days, and despite finally isolating the world’s only other SuperPower in a block of ice no bigger than a telephone booth. But they couldn’t allow me to run rampant, you see, not after what Anthony had done to deserve his fate.
It’s not all his fault, and no matter how many times I’d try to explain it to the Government, they would never understand. Anthony was created, not born, and when you’re changed beyond what you were supposed to be, the world becomes a different place. We were friends since that day, since the Zoo Incident, when we’d both fallen from the sky tour into the Polar Bear Exhibit.
You’ve heard the story: The exhibit was off limits for supposed remodeling, when in fact the bears began acting strange, mutating. One bit me on the leg, a leg which would remain be painfully numb from that day forward, while Anthony had managed to kill the bear cubs in what he claimed was self-defense. It was while he was stabbing the male, my assailant, that the bird pecked a hole in Anthony’s neck. A hummingbird, some say, but I’d hope the culprit was something bigger, a hawk or a pterodactyl. But I’m being obtuse, trying to stick up for the man who saved my life.
Years later, after we found Bin Laden, after Afghanistan was burned to rubble in the ensuing Civil War, I would betray Anthony — he had gone too far. It’s one thing to lead a rebellion in your own land, but to bring two groups of people, poor, helpless folks, against each other into mutual destruction and devastation, after you’ve just saved them from a torturous “leader”, you deserve whatever fate you get. Even if it’s from a friend. Better, if that’s the case.
So, today, they’re defrosting the guy. The one man who brought the world back from possible nuclear annihilation, and who foiled our all-time enemy, is being brought back to life for one final mission: To kill me. He has to find me first. They all do. Heat didn’t keep me hidden away forever, after all.
He’d better bring his tools. I’m in my own prison, of my own creation, and as long as I’m alive, these walls will never melt. And I’ll be alive for a long time.
I’m sure Xantus will get bored sooner or later.