PETTING ZOO by Margret Treiber

Benny collapsed outside of the doorway of the Luxor Day suites. His bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 shattered as they both hit the ground.

“Dammit, Benny,” Luna Fringe cursed. “You’re not even in costume yet.”

Benny gurgled, as he heaved the contents of his stomach onto the sidewalk.

“Is Benny trashed again?” Ax Tastic asked.

“Yeah,” Luna answered. “Says it was a bachelor party this time.”

“Yeah, that would explain the track marks,” Ax raised his voice. “WOULDN’T IT BENNY!”

“Ughhh,” Benny, the Galactic Ghost, sat up. “Why do they always attack when I’m wasted.”

“Maybe it’s because you’re always wasted,” Luna answered.

“Maybe you’re a frigid bitch, who doesn’t know how to have a good time.”

“Yeah,” Luna replied. “That must be it. That must explain your constant state of unreliability and intoxication.”

“That’s enough, kids,” Ax interjected. “We have a bad guy to capture.”

“I don’t know why you even bring me,” Benny complained. “It’s not like I ever do anything. Nobody wants me to use my powers.”

“You’re a deterrent,” Ax responded. “Bad guys usually give up when they find out you’re here.”

“Makes sense,” Benny replied. “I give up when I’m here, too.”

“Nice, you are a real example to us all.” Luna threw a green, trash bag to Benny. “Here, suit up.”

Benny snatched up the bag and pulled out the contents. He was pleased to see his costume was clean. “Thanks for washing it.”

“Well, it stank,” Luna replied. “It stank like liquor, vomit, and feces. I had to wear rubber gloves just to pick it up. You disgust me.”

“Come on now,” Ax said. “Let’s get it together.”

While Benny changed into his suit, Ax called headquarters for an update.

“What’s the action?” Luna asked.

“Megalomaniac with a nuke,” Ax answered.

“Fanatic or for profit?” Luna asked.

Ax didn’t answer her. “Hey Benny, how you doing buddy?”

“Just peachy dory, buddy,” Benny answered. “I’m guessing we have a live one.”

Ax nodded. “You may have to work for a change.”

“Oh, joy.” Benny adjusted his suit, certain it must have shrunk in the laundry.

“Let’s just do this,” Luna said.

The three walked over to the waiting van.

“You two used to get along so well,” Ax lamented.

“That was before the Daycroft victory party,” Luna said. “Sick bastard.”

“Hey,” Benny objected. “I didn’t know the punch was spiked, and I had nothing to do with the alpacas.”

“There were witnesses, Benny. And you were the one who spiked the punch in the first place. I saw you do it.”

“That’s not how I remember it.” Benny climbed into the van. Ax sat next to him.

Luna settled in the seat behind them, checking her gear and muttering to herself.

The van pulled up to the crime scene. It was chaos.

A spooky looking man in a dark suit approached the team. “The situation is dire.”

“How so?” Ax Tastic asked.

“A crackpot from Yxyx got his hands on an old B53. He’s shut himself into the basement of the Beers Towers and intends to detonate.”

“I thought those were all decommissioned in the late two-thousands.” Ax said.

“A few got out,” the suit answered.

“A few?” Ax asked.

The suit nodded.

“Great, what are his demands?” Luna asked.

“No demands,” the suit replied.

“Then why give us advanced notice at all?”

“To generate rampant fear and a sense of dread and hopelessness.”

“Come on. He has to want something,” Ax said.

“He wants to be reunited with his family and God,” the suit answered. “We’re hoping you can show him the futility of his ways, tell him the Galactic Ghost is here and he’ll never succeed. If he sees you, he may give up.”

“Where is he?” Benny asked. “How do we talk to him?”

“Over here.” The suit motioned to a table, a video chat was set up between the bomber and the negotiation team.

“Hey, Dan,” the suit addressed the man. “You know Luna Fringe, Ax Tastic, and Galactic Ghost. They just want a brief word with you.”

“I have nothing to say to you, any of you.”

“We just want to help you,” Luna explained. “How can we stop your pain.”

“Your mind tricks won’t work remotely,” Dan stated. “So give it up witch woman.”

“I’m not trying to trick you. I’m trying to help.”

“You better help yourself. You have seven minutes before I trigger this bomb.”

“Don’t make us hurt you,” Ax stated.

“And how do you plan to do that? Slice me with your energy Ax through meters of concrete and steel? Death doesn’t frighten me. I have made my peace.”

“Perhaps the Galactic Ghost will deter you,” Ax turned to see Benny hunched over in a chair. “Timing! Your timing is shit. Wake up.”

Dan the bomber laughed. “It looks like your ringer is KOed. Better call your families and say goodbye.”

“Yup,” Benny said to himself. They always fell for the unconscious shtick, and Ax delivered a perfect performance this time. Benny took a last look at his empty shell before approaching the tower. He did this out of habit, fearing each time may be the last. One day, he would lose his

way. One day, he would truly become a ghost.

But, not today. Benny was feeling good, or maybe that was just the smack. He floated into the building and through the walls. He entered the basement to see Dan sitting there praying in preparation for his imminent death.

Benny paused. What he was about to do was neither pleasant nor morally clean. Most people assumed that Benny’s power was to kill people. What they witnessed was Benny leaving his own body to become the Galactic Ghost. As the Ghost, Benny had the power of death. One touch and his foe dropped dead on the spot. That’s what they saw. What really happened, was far more horrifying.

Benny approached Dan. Dan obliviously continued praying. Benny waited for an appropriate break in the prayer, then he pushed through Dan. Dan’s facial expression went void as his soul was forced out of his body.

“God? Is that you?” Dan looked down at his empty body.

“Nope, not God,” Benny replied. “Just me, the Galactic Ghost.”

“What happened? Did the bomb explode?”

“No, Dan, the bomb did not go off.”

“What? How? Am I dead?”

“No,” Benny replied. “You are not. Your body will remain alive until such time as your spirit exits this plane.”

Benny twitched his left hand and a glowing gateway appeared. It was an entrance to another dimension, an unpleasant one. Seeing the gateway, Dan tried to run back into his body. However, Benny had anticipated Dan’s reaction and caught him with his right arm.

“Any last word for the millions you were about to murder?”

“Let me go!” Dan demanded.

“Nope,” Benny threw Dan into the glowing gate. It expanded revealing an inferno, replete with fire and lakes of lava.

Dan struggled against the forces of the portal. “I will deliver vengeance upon you!”

“Don’t think so.” Benny shoved Dan into the abyss. “Please pet the Alpacas for me.”

Dan screamed as he tumbled into eternal damnation. Benny shook his head.

Benny passed the bomb disposal team, as he meandered back to his body. They sped towards the waiting explosive; Benny dove into his waiting meat bag.

“Ghost is back,” Luna announced. “You took care of it?”

“Yeah,” Benny responded. “He’s with the alpacas now.”

“You are a bastard,” Luna said. “A twisted, murderous, bastard.”

“Thanks,” Benny replied. “Are we done here?”

Luna nodded. “You okay?”

Benny sighed and stood up. “Nothing a little chemical therapy can’t fix. Tell Ax that I’ll catch up with him later.”

“Where are you going?”

Benny shrugged. “Don’t know. Maybe the petting zoo.”

“I hate you,” Luna scoffed. “Can I come?”

“Yeah, but you’re buying the feed.”