Invincibility has its drawbacks. [Journey Through the Genres entry]
|Simply as a matter of logic, there had to have been a first person to notice the change. Maybe that man was Leo Kronz (he of Brooklyn, New York) and maybe it wasn't. Maybe Leo Kronz wasn't even the first in his building to notice. But he was one of the first to grasp some of its implications, so we'll focus the story through him.
The first glimmer that Leo Kronz had that something had changed came on that Tuesday morning at a few minutes after nine o'clock, when he went to slide on an undershirt and it came apart in his fingers like tissue paper. He cursed out the shirt-maker and the laundry and his own landlord for good measure. But when he grabbed the knob of his front door and it crumpled in his hand like cellophane, he began to think that maybe something screwy was going on.
Leo Kronz was a big man, and strong, but he'd never been able to crush metal with his bare hands before. Nor had he been able to punch his way through a solid door, which he did now by way of exiting his apartment. Downstairs, the front door of his building came entirely off its hinges when he pulled at it.
Anyone else would have called a doctor—assuming they didn't accidentally bust the phone when they picked it up—or sat down quietly for a good think or maybe a fatal heart attack. But though Leo Kronz wasn't much of a man for doing—his laziness had cost him half a dozen jobs in the last year—he was even less of a man for thinking.
So when he found himself with but one thought—"Suddenly I'm the strongest man in the world!"—he threw himself into action. He'd barely been nicked by the splintered woodwork back in his apartment, so he felt no fear as he strode the seven city blocks down to the nearest branch bank, leaving faint footprints in the sidewalk as he went.
"This is a stick-up!" he hollered as he swaggered in. The bank was mostly empty, but the tellers and the security guard all looked on with astonishment as he charged across the lobby at them. The steel bars of the teller's cage parted like streams of water as he shoved his hand through. "Gimme everything you got!"
"Put your hands in the air!" the security guard yelled, and leveled his pistol at the would-be robber.
"G'wan and shoot, why don't you?" Leo Kronz tore away the teller's cage and kneed aside the marble countertop. "Put all your dough in the— Ow!" He rubbed the back of a shoulder where the bullet had ricocheted off. It didn't hurt but it had surprised him. He glared back at the guard, who was too busy gaping at his own pistol to follow up on the shot.
The tellers scrambled away as Leo Kronz tore into their work stations. After dumping out the contents of their cash drawers, he strode into the back where he wrenched away the immense steel door of the safe and ransacked the deposit boxes. The alarm was clanging by the time he had stuffed a couple of bags with his loot, but everyone was hiding as he strode back toward the front door.
All but one. The security guard had planted his feet and was frowning as the robber approached.
"Outta my way!" Leo Kronz yelled. "You can't—!"
But apparently the guard could. He socked Leo Kronz in the face so hard that he broke his nose and knocked three of his teeth clean out of his mouth.
* * * * *
The doctors couldn't do anything for him, of course, except to mop at his mouth with linen bandages. All their instruments crumpled when pressed against Leo Kronz's bleeding tissues.
But they also crumpled up in the doctors' own hands.
"It's not just you, Mr. Kronz," the head doctor said. "It's everyone. If you'd listened to any of the broadcasts—"
"Whaddaya mean, it's everyone?" Leo Kronz demanded.
The doctor explained by putting his fist through the wall. "Oh," said Leo Kronz.
"As near as we can tell it happened at eight fifty-one local time here on the East Coast, but likely it will be the entire planet by tomorrow morning. The Earth is passing through the tail of a comet, and the theory is that—"
He stopped short and frowned at Leo Kronz's look of bafflement. "Just know that it's everyone," he said. "Nothing can hurt anyone anymore, and nothing can stand up to us anymore either."
Leo Kronz could at least comprehend that. With a sigh he hopped off the examination table.
And when his feet hit the floor, he punched right through, and he also punched through the five floors below as he fell. He made a Leo Kronz-shaped impression in the building's foundation when he finally came to a stop.
* * * * *
Well, it wasn't just would-be thugs like Leo Kronz who were suddenly out of a job. Guns and knives and even bombs and tanks were all suddenly useless as well, so there was a kind of universal disarmament as fists became the only weapons to show any potency against the human frame.
That was for the good, we may suppose. What was less for the good was that it was no more possible for anyone to live comfortably in a house made of brick and wood than in a house of tissue paper and toothpicks. And clothes fell apart if they weren't handled with the most delicate of touches.
Men eventually learned that there was only one substance that would stand up to the abuse they were now capable of dishing out with their own bare hands.
Which is why within five years every president and prime minister and potentate on the planet was wearing suits made from the skins of their starved-to-death enemies, and living in houses built from their bones and skulls.
Yes, the gods are supposed to be invincible. But is it entirely coincidence that the gods are rarely depicted as civilized?
Word count: 1027