Billy Winkler always wanted to fly like Superman and you could say he got his wish. Granted, he probably only got around six seconds of airtime before gravity ruined his fun, but I’m willing to bet you that those six seconds were the best of his life.
Before he took his flight, little Billy had had a pretty rough weekend. His parents had been arguing like crazy and his pet goldfish, Mr Orange, had tragically met his end in the swirling waters of the building’s shared toilet. He cried and cried over that damn fish, but couldn’t seem to muster any tears for his old Mummy and Daddy, whose domestic life was quickly spiralling out of control. Even when Daddy hit Mummy over the head and even when Mummy started bleeding out all over the new carpet, all Billy Winkler could do was rock back and forth underneath the table, his eyes clamped shut.
No father wants to see their son upset. Hell, the sight of him cowering in fear was enough to break my heart. I just wanted to see him smile you know, so I made him a promise. If he helped me clean up Mummy’s brain juice off the floor and swore never to tell anybody about what Daddy had done, we’d play superheroes and supervillains all night long. He didn’t jump at the chance, but after a little fatherly persuasion, he went and fetched a bucket of hot water and a sheet to cover up Mummy’s pale face. As a reward, I had a special surprise planned for him, but first there was work to be done.
‘We’re not gonna flush Mummy down the toilet are we Daddy?’
I chuckled and ruffled his hair.
‘No son, of course we’re not. Now get scrubbing, otherwise there’ll be no surprise.’
After we’d finished the floor and Mummy had been hidden away, I went into our bedroom and grabbed her favourite red dress. Taking a pair of scissors, I snipped and snipped until the fabric resembled a cape, fit for the mightiest of superheroes. I couldn’t wait to show him his new costume, but when I turned around, I was greeted by a surprise of my own. Little Billy had vanished.
My first thought was that he’d retreated back to his usual spot underneath the table, but when I found it vacant, my mind began to fill with the worst possible thoughts. I immediately set about turning the apartment upside down; he wasn’t in his bedroom, he wasn’t hiding in the cupboards, and he wasn’t even staring into the toilet bowl. I had the overwhelming urge to cry. Losing a son is surely every father’s worst nightmare. However, just as the first tear rolled down my cheek, I felt a draught blow in from the open front door.
Without waiting so much as a second, I charged out onto the landing, just in time to catch little Billy trying to use the old maintenance elevator. He’s never been much of a smart boy. Calmly, I approached the elevator’s rusted doors and beckoned him to come back to the apartment. This only made him panic and he frantically pressed every button, in the hope that the machine would come to life. Fat chance. That elevator has been broken for years and nothing gets fixed in this building. Nothing.
‘Billy! Billy Winkler your surprise is ready! Look come and see, I think you’re really gonna like it!’
‘No Daddy,’ he said. ‘You killed Mummy and I’m going to tell a policeman. You leave me alone.’
I felt a pang in my heart. Part of me wanted to slink back off into the apartment and let him go; it really sounded like he hated me. Then I remembered the corpse on the floor and realised that the presence of a cop would probably complicate things a bit. I’m claustrophobic. I don’t like the idea of spending the rest of my days in a cramped prison cell, so I did the only thing I could do to stop that from happening.
Giving a brief look over my shoulder, I made a dash for the elevator. I was the car and he was the rabbit in the headlights. Before little Billy could scream, I clasped a hand over his mouth and put him over my shoulder in a fireman’s lift. He delivered a few punches to my back and some of them actually hit pretty hard. Just like his father! He’d grow up to be a tough guy. I’d personally see to that.
When we got back into the apartment, I sat him down on the couch and raised a magic fist to his face, which stopped all screams from escaping his lungs. Without taking my eyes off him, I backed into the kitchen and picked up the red cape. The fabric felt soft in my hands and a wave of anger passed through my body, as if I was touching her very skin. Being a reasonable guy, I calmed down quickly and returned to the living room to hand Billy his present. This time he was where I had left him.
‘There you go Son!’ I said proudly, ‘now you can be a real superhero.’
I watched his lips eagerly, praying that they would curl into something that resembled a smile.
‘Y – you killed Mummy,’ he snivelled, ‘Mr Orange is gone and n – now my mummy. Ar – are they in heaven Daddy?’
I smiled and knelt down beside him.
‘Son let me tell you something. Your mother was a horrible, weak bitch, and I imagine she’s burning her little tits off in hell right now. Me and you are gonna have a real nice time now that she’s out of the way. Hell, we can play superheroes and supervillains every single day and we’ll eat nothing but jelly sandwiches for each meal! How’s that sound son?’
Billy Winkler burst into tears.
I breathed a sigh. Looking at his red puffy eyes reminded me of her. Those crocodile tears that seeped from her face, every time I raised so much as a finger. He was becoming just like her. Even in death, she was destroying my life.
‘I – I’m going to tell on you Daddy.’
I clutched his hands. Bowing my head, I forced back my own tears and took a minute to gather my thoughts. I realised in that moment just how silent the building was. Normally, thanks to the paper thin walls, you can hear conversations coming from next door, or the barking of dogs in the apartment below. Maybe it’s just one dog, but it’s always sounded like there’s more. For the first time, the building was quiet and I didn’t know whether I loved it or hated it.
‘Billy let’s play a game.’ He whimpered as I pulled him to his feet. ‘I’ve just made you a lovely new cape and you’re gonna tell on me? I think that would be a really mean thing to do don’t you? Come on, you can be Superman and I’ll be Lex Luthor.’
I threw the cape over his shoulders and tied the ends in a neat bow to prevent it from slipping off. His face was swollen and soaked with tears.
‘You get back here Superman,’ I said in a deep voice. ‘Don’t make me use my kryptonite!’
Billy didn’t move. Instead, he looked me in the eyes, his top lip trembling. I’d had just about enough of his ungrateful behaviour, but being the decent Father I am, I didn’t want to give up. I just knew I could break him out of his shell.
And my solution was nothing short of genius.
‘Son, how’s about we test that cape out for real?’
Before he could say anything, I hoisted him up into the air and began flying him around the room. He sobbed and sobbed but my laughter and sound effects were more than enough to cover up his crying. For a moment, it felt as if we were having fun, but when he saw the open window, he unleashed another barrage of punches onto my back, that almost made me lose my grip of him.
‘Superman, I’ve just thrown Lois Lane out of the window. You better get out there and save her now!’
Before he could wriggle free I thrust him up onto the sill and gave him a little nudge. The fabric of her dress slipped away from my fingers and for a split second I felt nothing but the evening breeze on my face. It was bliss.
Then he hit the ground.
The noise seemed to breathe life back into the building. Below me, heads started to appear left, right and centre, each stretching out of windows and looking down towards the ground. Each pair of eyes fell upon Billy Winkler’s mangled corpse, his red cape shining in the evening sun. I pulled my head back inside.
Dazed, I sat down on the couch and flicked on the television. A re – run of an old Tom and Jerry cartoon bled onto the cracked screen. I leant back and breathed a deep sigh. It had been a difficult day and for the first time in a while, I felt myself relax. On the screen, Jerry was strapping Tom to a comically large rocket. He blew a raspberry at him, before lighting the fuse and sending the cat all the way to space. I chuckled. In the distance, sirens wailed.
Billy Winkler always wanted to fly like Superman and I was more than happy to grant him his wish. It’s just me on my own now. I’m expecting the police to arrive in around ten minutes or so. Before they do, I intend to finish the rest of this cartoon and slash two large openings in my wrists. They won’t lock me away like an animal. She’ll be burning away in the darkest corners of hell, but maybe I’ll see Billy in the next life and if I do…
We’ll play nothing but superheroes and supervillains forever.
Illustrated by Liam Callebout