An ordinary day features ordinary things. Ordinary people in an ordinary place – San Diego Springs, Colorado, to be exact.
But this story is not about an ordinary day and thus it begins with an extraordinary character.
A rare, radiant beauty, a madman’s fevered vision of loveliness, all sharp lines and shapely splendor. The kind that inspired song and invoked lust even in the hardest of hearts. You know, tall and slender as cypress, long Autumn-hair that moved like the gentle sea, eyes tinted by the mists that haunt the dew in Summer…
And because this man, this Justin Lehman, possessed such beauty, he had always been doted upon. People gladly gave themselves to his service just to be near him for a while and because of that, he was weak. Physically and mentally. Fit for nothing!
There’s only one job for a man like this, that of a celebrity guest judge. Show up after all the hullabaloo, wave amid confused applause, say “And the winner is…,” then read the card in a very guest celebrity way, and after-party.
Today was supposed to be like that, a Summery-type of contest, but Justin couldn’t begin to get excited. He was bored with the celebrity guest judge life. Fashionably late everywhere but the bar, the decider of fates… (or really, the announcer of the contest winner predetermined by network executives). Yes, dull work lacking anything new and Justin’s mind began to grow restless.
“I want to do something else! Something thankless… like write!” he would say. But it’s tricky to learn to scribble out an uninterrupted thought and trickier still, Justin was far too weak to hold a pen, let alone think properly.
“But that won’t stop me!” and indeed it didn’t stop him from wanting to learn to write. He even gave it a shot.
It was torture. Just the practice of writing out his letter of resignation put him into a coma for weeks! “Why didn’t you let us write it for you?!” his producers wailed over him in the clinic (< cheaper than a hospital).
“We’ll take care of your book,” his publishers sobbed. “Just come back to us!”
And Justin did, refreshed and fill with… something. A new vigor only found when one survives a writing-induced coma. There was a smile then! A predator’s grin of toothy determination, the kind could slay and eat Winter, and Justin glowed with his new idea of change.
Ah, but the producers saw this and clung tightly to him. “Stay until you retire!” they begged. “You’re only 33, too old for TV, but perfect for radio! The peak of your popularity is yet to come! Why, you haven’t even guest judged in Australia yet!” And poor Justin was suckered back into the backseats of armored cars, late to every contest, all those damn cards again, and waving, always the waving, even as his new luster faded.
He expected today to be sad and slow just as always, but that changed when his driver called to say he wasn’t going to be there today.
“I’m not going to be there today,” the driver said. (See?)
Justin tapped his phone off. While Justin was oblivious to this fact, the want to learn to write had saved him from dying of boredom and had started giving his brain new thoughts.
“Well, that’s some kind of sign!” he cheered. Red rose petals blew by his window in answer. “If it’s up to me to get to the show, I’m going to be early for once. Maybe even see the whole dreadful thing!”
Yes, a day already full of changes! And so, Justin, not knowing any better, got into the backseat of his blue SUV. And because he didn’t know any better, the SUV started right up and sped its way towards the downtown Contest District, San Diego Springs.
Sadly, even this new excitement was tiring and Justin sighed, watching the scenery rush by. But even if you aren’t driving, you should probably pay attention. His car careened through a turn, a little too wide, a little too fast, flipping and rolling. Each crunch on the street forced Justin’s face painfully into the impact. The SUV seemed to shriek as the roof tore itself away.
Justin should’ve been worried, but he sailed through the air nonchalantly, ejected from the SUV as it exploded because that’s what happens at the end of car crashes.
Then darkness. Then heat and immense weight, pressure squeezing his lungs. Trapped! Pinned on his stomach, struggling to breathe under all the weight, burning remains surrounding him.
“Help!” he called, naturally. “I’m trapped under something! It weighs a ton!” Justin beat his fists against the road hoping to drive away the blaze.
“It’s a sock,” came a harsh, yet youthful voice.
“Yes, I keep a spare pair in the car in case I have to judge any underwater basket-weaving,” Justin answered. Trapped as he was, he couldn’t see who had spoken. “Please, help. My lungs are being crushed… It’s very painful to talk.”
A deep “Hmm,” was the answer. The weight lifted, Justin inhaled mightily, bits of gravel and bug. A tan, pale, hairy, burly arm extended downward. Justin’s stared at it, fascinating in its unique grotesqueness, then his eyes followed the lines upward to see a man, a brutal barbarian, rippling with gut. Short hair and a long, rusty beard, eyes that spoke of wet earth, his stout frame sporting freckles (of doom!).
Justin’s eyes met his and the brute was breathless for a moment before he yanked Justin to his feet. Justin wobbled, which wasn’t unusual, really, and braced himself by doubling over. He saw the hideous scars all over his rescuer’s legs, red and jagged, painted by some angry injury and furious recovery. The blood rushed to his face. Now he was finally horrified.
But the brute had never known a muse until this… ray of sunshine stood before him, …and he was in awe a little bit. “What are you?!” both men demanded of each other.
“That could’ve been me! All those… scars!” Justin said, ignoring good manners in favor of terror.
“What?” the man moved closer to see more. “My name is Nate,” he said, desperate to be known to such a creature. Justin noted that the man was shorter than he (of course) and his muscular frame was looking a little lean.
“Anyway, I’m Justin and I’m a celebrity guest judge. I guest judge celebrities mostly.”
“Ah. Well, that explains the bad driving… and the weakness,” Nate said. “I’m surprised you’re standing at all.”
As if on cue, the blood left Justin’s face as his heart sucked it all back in. He stumbled, crushing all his weight into Nate, who didn’t even notice. “Now that you mention it, I think parts of me may be on fire.” And he slunk to the ground with a woozy sigh.
“Hey! Careful!” The brute cared. “You need to take it easy. Here, sit in my car until you can stand again.” He led Justin to his red, sneaker-shaped car.
“Thanks. I’m still dizzy, I guess. That car must’ve rolled over thousands of times,” Justin said, barely louder than the cackling flames.
“Yeah. It was like two times.”
Justin groaned from the strain of difficult math appearing in casual conversation. “Whu…” he managed before he fainted.
“That was easy enough,” Nate said. With a carefree whistle, he chucked Justin into the backseat and drove off as the wreckage burned away.