LNH: Easily-Discovered Man #54

EDMLite robrogers72 at gmail.com
Mon Sep 24 09:36:41 PDT 2012

    Doused with microwave radiation, Theodore Wong gained the
ability to glow and be detected at great distances by anyone
with a Geiger counter.  Forced to retire, Wong has left former
sidekick Lite to continue his battle against the forces of
corruption, chaos and common sense, and to carry on the
legacy of the fabulous EASILY-DISCOVERED MAN.
    The following takes place sometime after issue #9 of the
Legion of Net.Heroes mini-series "Beige Countdown."

-----Previously on "The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man"----

     Hunted by a criminal mastermind, separated from his
friends and family, fired by the Legion of Net.Heroes and
cast adrift by EASILY-DISCOVERED MAN's decision to retire,
Easily-Discovered Man Lite nevertheless vows to continue
the hunt for the killer of his greatest enemy, the
villainous WAFFLE QUEEN.

     That search brings him to the little town of Mount
Roosevelt, Ohio, the scene of an earlier adventure and the
Waffle Queen's childhood home.  With the help of former
girlfriend Penelope Laine -- and a photograph that appears
to show Lite, fellow super-hero SUBSTITUTE LAD and a
teenaged Waffle Queen together at some point in the past
-- Lite begins his investigation.

     Yet the clues he finds only lead to further questions.
Why is the face of a murdered man identical to that of
Substitute Lad?  And why is a barn owned by the Waffle
Queen's father, the despicable DEATHSTOCKER, filled with
futuristic equipment... and guarded by the living dead...?

     Rather than answer these questions, however, "The
Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man"  would like to ask
a few of its own -- so that we may continue to provide
our readers with the timely, thought-provoking-yet-
whimsical entertainment they have come to expect.
In other words, it's time for...


     1). My favorite character in "The Adventures of
     Easily-Discovered Man" is:

     a. Easily-Discovered Man
     b. Easily-Discovered Man Lite
     c. Cynical Lass
     d. Zombie James K. Polk

     2). My favorite antagonist of EDM and company is:

     a. The Waffle Queen
     b. Mynabird
     c. There are antagonists?  I thought everyone just
     walked around making jokes.
     d. Whatever it is that keeps the author from posting
     more than once or twice a year.

     3). During the next year, I'd like to see Easily-
     Discovered Man...

     a. In a cross-over with "Axe Cop."
     b. Killed, and brought back as a murderous zombie.
     Because that's good comics!
     c. ...at all, though that seems increasingly
     unlikely, given the current storyline.
     d. As more than just a friend, if you know what I

     4). The one thing I feel that's been missing from
     this series is...

     a. Any sense that the plot threads will be resolved.
     b. All the fun we had together during the Clinton
     c. Sex.
     d. The series itself.

     5). I'd really like to see Lite end up with...

     a. Cynical Lass
     b. Aurora "Screen Saver" Jones
     c. Penelope Laine
     d. Dessica

     "Hold it," Cynical Lass said.  "Are you just going to let
that last one go by?"

     "What are you talking about?" I asked.  "I'm not even
supposed to start narrating for another couple of pages.
Besides, if there are people out there who want to see me and
Dessica get together, I want to know about it. And then
take out a restraining order against all of them."

     "That's not what I'm talking about, Hector," she said.
"Are you really just going to sit there and let the events of
your life -- not to mention mine -- be determined by a bloody

     "Well, at least we know what our options are.  That's
more than most people get," I said.  "Besides, it's not like
we have a lot of choice in the matter.  That's one of the
slight drawbacks to being a fictional character."

     "Is that what you really think?" Cynical Lass asked.
The anger was gone from her voice; something between concern
and pity had crept in.  "Is that who you think you are?"

     "Well, yeah," I said.  "I mean, you have noticed that
we're having this conversation within one of those weird
little vignettes that opens every episode, right?"

     Cynical Lass took my hands.

     "If that's all you believe you are -- a character in
someone else's story -- then that's all you'll ever be,"
she said.  "It's your choice, Hector."

     Her hands had moved to my arms.  I tried to brush them
away -- which might seem strange, since I had always thought
Cynical Lass had particularly nice hands, though they felt
cold today -- but she only gripped me harder.

     "How is it my choice?" I asked.  "We are what we are.
A doorknob can't suddenly decide to be a player piano
because it doesn't like being a doorknob."

     "A doorknob can't decide anything," Cynical Lass said,
her fingers slowly moving up my arms.  "Since when have you
ever let the world tell you what to do?"

     "This... isn't in the script," I said.  "Look, we can
talk more about this after... When did you get back from
space, anyway?  Did they finally get around to posting
the next issue of 'Beige Countdown?' "

     Cynical Lass' hands -- her cold, cold hands -- had
reached my throat.  Her face, which had been warm and pink
and a little flushed, grew gray and pinched, her features
becoming sharp.

     "I'm still out in space," she said, a rasp creeping
into her voice. A thousand little wrinkles began to form
along the edges of her eyes.  "Far, far away.  I might
not come back.  I might come back thousands of years in
the future.  I might be dead, already."

     "This... this is not how this is supposed to go,"
I said, pushing against Cynical Lass' wrists.  Her skin,
dry as paper, began to flake away in my hands.  "This is
the part where I'm supposed to say that this is episode
number 54 of 'The Adventures of Easily-Discovered Man,'
'Death Dance of the Damned,' and you're..."

     "You still think you're a character in the opening
sequence of a story," the skull that had been Cynical
Lass hissed.  "You've forgotten where you were.
Where you arrrrgh..."

     "This isn't happening!" I said -- an accurate, if not
especially original observation from someone who believed
himself to be a fictional character.  "I remember now!
I was in the barn... with Penelope... being... being
strangled by a zombie..."

     "Yessssss," the skeleton in front of me said.

     "And you... you're... you're NOT DEAD!"

     My eyes snapped open.  For one horrible moment I saw
the animated corpse in front of me, hands like cold earth
closed around my neck, lifeless yellow eyes rolled back in
its head.  I could hear something that sounded like Penelope
screaming, but the sound was low and muffled, like someone
speaking slowly under water.

     In that moment my feet shot out into the zombie's
chest.  I felt something buckle, felt the grip
slacken around my neck... and suddenly I was gasping on
the floor of the barn, scrambling for my spatula in the
splinters and fallen hay.

     My fingers brushed against its edge and I grabbed
the spatula's handle just as the zombie lurched forward.

     It lunged.

     I rolled, then whipped around, driving the spatula
with both hands into the creature's back leg like I was
swinging a baseball bat.  Something in the leg gave, and
the zombie went down.

     I leapt over the corpse -- which had begun to
writhe on the wooden floor like the last moments of
Gregor Samsa -- and charged to where Penelope,
screaming but still unharmed, stood surrounded by the
other two zombies.

     I may have been screaming something myself.

     I slid across the floor -- tearing up my jeans and
a good portion of my leg in the process -- and drove
the blade of my spatula just behind the knees of the
nearest zombie.

     As the monster began to fall I rose, throwing my
shoulder into its back and pushing it towards the other
zombie.  The two of them stumbled together in a strange,
punch-drunk embrace, like two boxers clutching at
each other in the final rounds of a fight.

     "Let's GO!" I said to Penelope, though I needn't
have bothered; she was already racing for the door of
the barn.

     I looked behind me only once -- to snatch up
the glowing mask of Easily-Discovered Man that had
served as the room's only illumination -- and was only
too glad to shove the barn door back into place
and snap the heavy padlock shut with shaking hands.

     The zombies made no move to follow us.

     "That went well," I said, when I was able to speak

     Penelope did not look at me.

     "Waffle Palace," she said.

     I straightened up.  Nothing in the barn -- or even in
the immediate vicinity of the barn -- appeared to be moving.

     "Good idea," I said.  "We need a plan of attack

     "What we need," Penelope said, "is coffee."

     That was the last thing either of us said during the
long walk and short drive back to the restaurant.

     I tried to think of something that would lighten
up the situation, if only because walking alone at night
through what looked like a location shot for _The Blair
Witch Project_, fully expecting that at any moment a
half-rotted corpse could emerge from behind a tree and
throttle you, seemed like exactly the sort of situation
that called for a little levity.

     But my mind was blank.  Or rather, it was so full
of other things that even the area of my brain normally
devoted to making terrible jokes -- which, together with
the areas devoted to thoughts about sex, baseball, the
film career of John Cusack and chocolate-chip pancakes,
made up about ninety-six percent of my gray matter --
found itself overwhelmed.

     Why had Deathstocker -- because the super-sophisticated
equipment in that barn could only have come from
Deathstocker -- left a trio of zombies to guard it?

     Why were the zombies hanging around inside the barn,
instead of chasing us down the road like proper zombies
(or driving around the main square of Mount Roosevelt over
and over again, like every other resident of the town
under the age of thirty?)

     Why had one of the zombies looked -- in a way that
would be sure to haunt my nightmares for months -- exactly
like Substitute Lad?

     And why was Penelope driving on in silence, hands
clenching the wheel, eyes staring straight ahead --
instead of behaving the way one generally wishes one's
beautiful ex-girlfriend would behave when one has saved
her from a roomful of zombies?

     That question, at least, was answered shortly after
we arrived at the Waffle Palace.  Penelope jammed her
keys into the front door, flung it open, threw the keys
down on the lunch counter and whirled to glare at me.

     "What the hell was that all about?" she asked.

     "I've been trying to figure that out myself," I said.
"Whoever created those zombies -- and I think I know who
that might be -- wanted them to stay within the barn.  It's
the only reason I can think of why they haven't gone all
'Resident Evil' on our..."

     "That's not what I'm talking about," Penelope said.

     In her haste to confront me, Penelope had turned on
only one of the restaurant's overhead lights.  It cast a
sharp spotlight on her face, leaving me and hundreds of
photographs of the Palace's former owner, the late Waffle
Queen, outside its circle.  It might have struck me as a
little creepy, had I not just come in from an encounter
with the living dead.

     "Look," I said.  "I'll admit it: I was unprepared.
Running into a barnful of living corpses was not something
I had thought would come up tonight.  In my defense,
however -- it's Ohio.  I really thought the worst thing
I'd have to deal with out here was you having a new
boyfriend and maybe having to watch the Browns."

     "Hector," Penelope said.

     "But now we know what we're dealing with," I said,
looking around the empty restaurant.  "And when we go
back, we'll be ready.  One good shotgun blast to the head
should take care of them -- I've never tried it, but the
'Evil Dead' series has never steered me wrong before."

     "Hector," Penelope repeated, somewhat more

     "Or we could try a magical weapon," I said.  "Is
there a spatula here that -- I know this sounds crazy,
but bear with me -- that always makes you feel just a
little bit... tingly... whenever you use it?"

     "Hec..." Penelope began, then stopped.  "Do YOU
ever feel 'just a little bit tingly' when using your

     "Well," I said, "maybe just a little.  But only..."

     "Forget it," Penelope said, sitting down in one of
the booths.  "That kind of statement would normally be
a red flag for me.  But you've already raised more red
flags than all of Eastern Europe did before the Berlin
Wall came down."

     "You've been thinking about that metaphor for a while,
haven't you," I said.

     "Honestly?  You kind of invite it," Penelope said.

     "You're upset," I said.  "That's understandable.  Given
what we've just been through..."

     Penelope laughed.

     "Hector, you idiot," she said.  "You think I'm upset
because we ran into a couple of zombies?  I WAS a zombie!
Most of the girls I graduated with were zombies.  It was
something we bonded over during our senior year."

     "You have an unusually resilient peer group," I said.

     "You know what we used to talk about?" she asked.

     "How you were the only group of cheerleaders in the
upper Midwest with a thing for guys with brains?"

      "No," she said.  "We talked about how lucky we were
to have been turned into zombies... and to have run into
you and Easily-Discovered Man, instead of some idiot with
a shotgun who thought the only way to deal with zombies
was to shoot them in the head."

     [All of this happened in Easily-Discovered Man #34
-- Footnote Girl].

     I opened my mouth to say something, then thought
better of it and sat down.

     "You know, we don't get many super-heroes here in
Mount Roosevelt.  But we hear about them all the time,"
Penelope continued.  "There's always one of them on
the news.  Or talking with Stephen Colbert.  Or hosting
that reality show where people compete to become a character
with one of those really long, hyphenated names."

     "Yeah," I said.  "Spoiler alert: Most of them are not
going to be working in the industry once 'Beige Midnight'
is over."

     "You and Easily-Discovered Man were different,"
she said.  "Instead of fighting us, you helped us.  You
didn't act like a hero -- you just thought and felt and
did things like an ordinary guy.  And that was what made
you special."

     Penelope paused to sip her coffee, her eyes never
leaving mine.

     "Then you show up here this morning," she said, "so
full of yourself and how much you know about being a
super-hero... and then we run into those poor dead guys
in the barn -- some of whom are people I used to know,
by the way -- and it's like someone flipped a switch
inside you, and you've become this zombie-killing machine."

     I began to speak, but Penelope shushed me.

     "Maybe whatever happened to you had to happen in
order for you to make it in Net.ropolis," she said.
"Maybe you and the Legion of Net.Heroes run into the
nasty kind of zombies every other week."

     "Actually, in the whole last year, there's only been
James K. Polk and the other dead presidents," I said.

     "Whatever," Penelope said.  "I just wanted to say
that the Hector Lopez I met two years ago wouldn't be
rummaging around my restaurant, looking for a way to
help him win a battle he doesn't have to fight.

     "He'd be sitting here, holding my hand and telling
me everything was going to be okay," she said.  "I miss
that Hector Lopez."

     I reached for Penelope's hand, but she withdrew it.
I sighed.  "I'm sorry that I rushed into things tonight,"
I said.  "But those things in the barn... they aren't
people who were temporarily turned into zombies.  Those are
actual, crawled-out-of-the-grave undead monsters."

     "I know what they are," she said.  "It doesn't mean
you have to fight them."

     "But... but..." I sputtered.  "But those are a bunch
of... living corpses..."

     "Who aren't doing anything but hanging around an empty
barn, keeping people away from what you pointed out may be
some highly sophisticated and dangerous equipment,"
Penelope said.

     "Right," I said.  "And unless we fight our way through
them... or, I don't know, figure out some other way of
getting them out of there... we'll never know what that
equipment does."

     Penelope rolled her eyes.

     "And how exactly were you planning on doing that?" she
said.  "You said yourself that you barely understood what
you were seeing in there.  Are you just going to walk around
pressing random buttons in the hopes that a hologram of
Carrie Fisher will pop out and explain things to you?"

     "That's how I learned to use Microsoft Office," I
said.  "And why is it you never made any references to _Star
Wars_ while we were dating?"

     "I'll head back to the barn tomorrow.  In the daytime.
I have the morning off," she said.  "I'll borrow my
dad's camera.  There's a hole in the wall across from the
...computers or whatever they are.  I'll get as many shots
as I can."

     "Now, wait a minute..." I began.

     "You said that Easily-Discovered Man would be able
to figure out what the equipment did," Penelope continued.
"You must have a way of getting in touch with him."

     "Well... sure," I said.  "I mean, he is Easily-
Discovered Man.  But it's not safe for me to call or e-mail
him.  This guy Mynabird -- the... well, the super-villain
who's trying to kill me... he's probably keeping tabs on
my phone, my e-mail accounts, Facebook..."

     "And since you never once used any of those methods
to reach out to _me_ over the last two years," Penelope
said,  "I'm guessing that I should be able to send a message
to Easily- Discovered Man without anybody connecting it to

     I stared at Penelope, wondering how it was that super-
villains, thugs, ghouls and robots never seemed to get the
drop on me, but women always did.

     "Fine," I said.  "We'll go to the barn in..."

     "I'll go to the barn," she said.  "You'll be on your
way back to Net.ropolis... or wherever else you want to go.
I don't want to know.  You're a good guy, Hector Lopez.
But you're no good for me.  And you don't belong here."

     "I can't let you go to the barn by yourself," I
sputtered.  "You're a... well, a..."

     Penelope folded her arms.  "You'd better not be about
to say 'a girl,' " she said.

     "An ordinary person, without any powers or training,"
I finished.

     "And what are you?" she asked.

     "I... have... a very large kitchen implement," I said.
"And a catalogue of very bad jokes and puns that years of
experience have taught me to adapt to any situation."

     "And yet I haven't laughed at anything you've said
all day," Penelope said.

     "I have to believe you're doing that on purpose."

     "Look at me, Hector," Penelope said.  "I mean really
look at me.  Up here.  Where my eyes are.

     "You," she continued, "are an ordinary teenage boy.
Nothing more, nothing less."

     "You probably say that to everyone you catch staring
at you during sweater season."

     "True," she said.  "But it's important -- literally a
matter of life and death -- that you understand that's what
you are, Hector, and that being just an ordinary guy is
all you'll ever need to be.  Because one of these days
you're going to find yourself up against something you can't
punch, or kick, or joke your way out of.  And when that
happens, the super-hero in you is going to freeze.

     "But the ordinary guy is going to kick some ass,"
she added.  "If you let him."

     I thought about Penelope's words all through the long,
lonely bus ride back to Net.ropolis -- thought about them
almost as long, and with almost as much concentration,
as I thought about the way she'd kissed me at the bus
terminal in Colum.bus.

      Thanks to the speed of modern communications
technology -- and the much, much slower speed of modern
public transportation -- there was a good chance Penelope's
photographs of the equipment inside the Schlubb family barn
would reach Easily-Discovered Man before I arrived in
Net.ropolis (assuming, of course, that the Prof bothered to
check his e-mail, and that the zombies in the barn hadn't
been programmed to attack paparazzi).

     And that was good, because other than a vague notion of
who it was that might have brought the monsters in the
barn to life, I still knew little more about the Waffle
Queen or who had killed her than I had when I'd gotten
on the bus to Ohio in the first place.

     I knew that somehow, Substitute Lad had been involved
in the Waffle Queen's past -- and so had I, without
remembering any part of it.

     I knew that Penny Laine was one hell of a kisser.  And
I knew, now, that all of the things I thought had made me
competent and clever, or at least interesting, weren't
actually very impressive when viewed from the world outside
my own little bubble.  Maybe that's something everybody
learns when they're 18, but it was news to me.

     I arrived in Net.ropolis with a powerful ache in my
neck -- the result of fourteen hours on the bus in a series
of unfortunate positions -- and a firm resolve to make
something better of myself, to take things just a little
more seriously and behave, for once, as an adult.

     Both conditions evaporated within twenty-eight
seconds of my leaving the bus.

     "Mynabird thought I was barmy for staking out the bus
station," said the man in the bowler hat.

     "'E said there's no way the likes o' you would ever
come here," he continued.  "Said if you was to find a way to
get out of Net.ropolis, you'd be long gone.  Course, old
Mynabird doesn't know you like I does, does he?"

     "Hello, Londonbroil," I said.


     --EDM--          --EDM--          --EDM--

    NEXT ISSUE: Lite discovers that you really can go home
again -- but when half the city is doing its best to kill
you, you probably shouldn't.  With no friend left to turn
to, Lite looks to his foes, and the friends of his foes,
and the foes of his friends for help in a tale our focus
group suggested we call "Enemies with Benefits."

    CHARACTERS: Footnote Girl is (c) Saxon Brenton.  Mynabird
is (c) Arthur Spitzer and the author.  All other characters
are (c) the author.  More information about these and
other characters is available at:

     --EDM--          --EDM--          --EDM--

    "Well there are good guys, and there are bad guys
    There are crooks and criminals
    There are doctors, there are lawyers
    And there are folks like you and me..."
        --Camper Van Beethoven

     --EDM--          --EDM--          --EDM--

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