Title: Issue 339
Genre: YA Magical Realism
"Why would you kill off a superhero's parents, and every girl he's ever loved, like that?"
The calm voice broke; the young man in the ski mask clenched his fingers. He sat otherwise statuesque in the rolling chair by the writer's office door as the writer jumped--how long has he been here?
The writer coughed, ruffling the paper-stacks that towered like armed guards atop his mahogany desk. "You okay there, buddy? What's with the--oh, I see." He pointed his pencil eraser at the faded red sharpie scribble over the intruder's left eye. "You're a Gavalon Mask. Wow--a 'hardcore' fan. I never published 'Gavalon.' I--"
"Answer my question, Mr. Writer."
The balding man stiffened. "Your question. Yes. I'm sorry." He wasn't. He felt disrespected, but he was above norms like 'respect'; he'd tolerate the freak. "Issue 339, right?"
"Here." The writer smiled, closing his laptop. The cover of the comic he un-shelved showed a muscular black-haired man, torso twisting, hand grasping towards the fourth wall as his mouth opened in a silent scream. "Betrayal" with an exclamation mark, in bright red letters, bulged above his head. "Rave reviews. Sold out in stores first week."
"Why that ending?"
"You mean how'd I come up with it?"
"No. Why." The teen's knuckles whitened. Teeth clenched. The writer raised an eyebrow.
"You didn't like it," the writer said, leaning forward.
"Well I--" The writer chuckled, settling his glasses higher on his nose. The critics' glowing accolades still tickled his ears, so his words lilted like sound-bites of a TV interview. "I realized that to truly strain the character in a way audiences didn't expect, I'd have to break the one relationship they completely trusted--his relationship with his best friend. Take that away, and who was he? An entirely new study--complete shocker plot-wise. I could almost see it, like on TV, and when it comes out in theaters fans everywhere will cry. It also brought out the theme of evil inside our--"
"Why kill the girl?" The mask whispered.
"Oh, well of course, Jackie was voted least popular girlfriend of the four. The reader's poll decided 'die'--surely you knew about that. It was so good--almost painful to write." The writer shook his head, reveling in his good fortune. "I love my readers. Fans like you make--"
"I'm not a fan."
The writer stiffened. The young man had spoken aloud--loudly--for the first time in the conversation, and the voice sounded a little like the writer's own, a little like his son, a little like a superhero he'd watched on television as a little boy, and a little like his father, too. Before the writer could remark, or chuckle, or relax, two hands moved. One hand brought a gun out of a coat pocket.
The other slid the ski mask off the young man's face.
The writer had just enough time to not believe his eyes before a bullet impacted his chest.