“Introducing Entropy Girl,” by Wayne Helge

Dec 20th, 2012 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

I let the mayor’s plane buzz Chicago’s lakeshore twice before I reach into the cockpit with my mind and jam the yoke sideways. I fully expect Zooster to show up and fight me, but not before I execute a few barrel rolls and then land the plane in the middle of Grant Park. My name is Rogue Agent. I used to be a hero called Z-pack, Chicago’s favorite sidekick, fighting for order and justice.

Now all I want is to see a picture of the mayor’s wet pants on the front page of the Tribune tomorrow.

Somewhere in the middle of the second barrel roll, I see movement to my left. I turn my head just in time to catch sight of the new Z-pack as he clomps me on the ear. My cowl turns sideways and another punch hammers into my gut. I taste the acidic gristle of this afternoon’s sausage sub and spit it in his general direction. He screams like the kid he is and backs off long enough for me to adjust my cowl. When I can see again, I realize the douchebag has caused me to lose mental control of the mayor’s plane. I look up in time to see the aircraft spin north and smash into the Chicago bean. Fire licks at the city’s skyline. I imagine the mayor’s bacon getting cooked and realize that for the second time in as many years, I’ll be accused of murder.

I walk over to Z-pack, still flicking individual specks of partially-digested sausage from his tights, and crack him in the jaw. “What’d you do that for?” I say. “I wasn’t going to hurt him.”

He drops to the ground but bounces back to his feet like an acrobat. An acrobat with biceps that look like softballs under his shirt. I think Damn, I never looked that good in the costume. He squares off and looks like he’s about to take another shot when I say, “Later. Right now we need to get the mayor out of there.”

Z-pack’s eyes dart toward the wreckage and I take that as agreement. We both sprint over toward the spot where the bean used to be, hopping over shredded fiberglass and sheared metal as we go. The flames are high and growing. We take turns trying to grab at the door latch, but it’s too hot.

“Where the hell’s Zooster?” I say. “We could use his asbestos underwear about now.” In all likelihood, I realize Zooster is probably on some sex-capade and has left the town to Z-pack. I should know. The bastard used to do it to me all the time.

Z-pack says nothing, but the flames turn our costumes hot enough to burn skin and we both back away. That’s when Z-pack throws another loose punch my way. I realize he’s given up on the mayor.

“You know you’re named after an antibiotic?” I say, trying to get him talking. He doesn’t bite and I dodge a better swing. “It’s a lame name,” I say. “And Zooster knows it. It’s his way of keeping you–”

He connects with a solid shot to my cheek and I fall toward a burning engine. He steps close and winds up for another swing. That’s when we both see the girl run toward the plane and drive the flames down, back into the gas tank. She doesn’t have any tools, or even a costume. It’s just a girl waving her hands like David Copperfield–the magician, not the orphan. It’s like she’s running the camera backwards.

When she’s done, the flames are gone, the gas tank is sealed up again, and even the heat has dissipated. I stand to thank her but she turns and runs, like she doesn’t want to be identified. No matter. I already recognize her.

She’s my barrista.

She’s Emily Johnson.

But from now on, I’m going to call her Entropy Girl.


The next morning, I’m about to place my order at the coffee shop when a customer in a suit pushes in front of me. He forces his coffee into Emily’s hands.

“I said no sugar in this,” he says. “I have a very serious condition.”

Emily wears the sweetest smile and says, “No problem.”

Then she plunks her finger into his steaming cuppajoe and gives it a swirl. Next thing I know, she has all the sugar floating on top of the brew. She scoops it out with a spoon onto a soggy napkin.

“You just put your finger in my coffee,” he says, the annoyance from his voice practically dripping on my shoes. “How about a new coffee instead?”

“No problem,” Emily says again. But before she can throw the old cup out, I reach for it and take a sip. There’s no sweetness left in it.

As Emily is pouring the new cup, the man turns to me. “How hard is it to get a coffee order right? No wonder the economy’s in the crapper.”

When Emily turns back, she’s still wearing the smile but I can tell she heard him. She hands over the new cup and breathes deeply as he walks away. “What can I do for you?” she says to me.

“Coffee with sugar,” I say. “Then I want to see you do that trick again. And I won’t make a dick comment if you put your finger in my drink.”

We both glance over to watch the asshole customer on his way out the door.

“He’s in for a surprise,” I say, off-handedly.

“I don’t follow,” she says.

“I just changed his cell phone ringer, you know, with my mind.”

“You did what? Wait. What song?” she says, more concerned about revenge than my power.

“’Fat Bottomed Girls,’ by Queen,” I say. “The chorus.”

Emily’s smile is real again, and it warms me up.

“And I’m going to call him every fifteen minutes today,” I say. She lets an un-girly guffaw slip out before covering her mouth with her hand.

And that’s how Entropy Girl and I start dating.


I’m on my way out to visit the evil Dr. Churro when Emily knocks on my lab door. She’s wearing her street clothes and has her green apron folded over her arm.

“You want to go see it?” I say, telling her about Churro’s new submarine. “It’s long and hard and full of cinnamon.”

“Will he mind?”

“He’d love to show it off,” I say. “I offered to pick up Kitty Twister on the way. We can do a double date thing.”

“Sounds fun,” Emily says in that bubbly way she talks after a long shift at the shop. We climb into my convertible and race out the tunnel with the headlights off. She grips my arm the whole way.

“Tell me about Kitty,” she says as we hit the street.

“She can shape-change into a very flexible cat. Hence her name.”

“So she’ll sit where?” Emily says.

“On my lap?” I say, shifting into fourth and leaning into the accelerator.

“That seat’s taken,” Emily says, and pats my leg.

We cruise into Kitty’s driveway four minutes later and I throw the shifter into neutral without killing the engine. “You want to ring the bell?” I say to Emily.

“She probably heard us roll up,” Emily says, looking first at me then past me. “Say, check out that guy.” She points over my shoulder.

I turn to my left and about crap my pants. There in the darkened driveway next to us, mounting Auntie Athena on the hood of his car, is Zooster. His lips are stuck to hers and he’s digging at his codpiece like there’s something crawling around in there.

“That’s Zooster,” I whisper, knowing that Emily remembers my stories about him. “Getting his groove on.” My hand moves to the door handle. I don’t hold a grudge, but I wouldn’t mind slapping him around a little.

“You’re not going to fight him, are you?” Emily says, her hand gripping my arm. “That’d be like surprising two cats screwing in the road.”

“Very much like that,” I say, flexing.

“I can stop you from doing this,” Emily say. “I can undo the disorder.”

“You think I should let him be?” I say.

“Yes,” Emily says, removing her hand.

And right then, sitting next to her, I realize that she’s right.

“Okay,” I say. “And knowing Zooster, he’d take an Athena sister in the hand over two in the bush.”

“It looks like it’s the other way around,” Emily says, leaning to see past me. “How does he not see us?”

I turn to watch too. “Old Zooster, once he gets going, it’s tunnel vision for a good two, three minutes.”

In the excitement of the show, I totally forget about Kitty until I hear her cat-call. It’s a whiney meow from somewhere just outside the car. I turn, expecting to find her perched on the edge of Emily’s door. Instead, she’s floating in space. Her hind legs are held aloft by a kid in a mask. A sparkly “Z” skids down the front of his uniform.

It’s Z-pack. And he’s about to take a swing.

“Emily, move! It’s a set-up!”

I leap over the door as the cat–still in his grip–swipes at my head like, well, like a stretched-out animal used as a weapon. There’s no other way to describe it. Kitty’s extended claws reach for something to hold onto and pass an inch from my eyes. I roll out of the car and into the grass, then bounce onto my feet in time to see Z-pack thump Emily–still in the passenger’s seat–behind the ear with his free hand. A splatter of red splashes out onto my dashboard. And then Z-pack is up, standing with his muddy boots on my car seat. He loops the cat slowly, like a lasso.

“Hands off the kitty,” I say.

Z-pack looks down at Emily, unconscious in the front seat. “I didn’t touch her,” he says, making another swipe at me with Kitty’s claws. I hop out of reach and he follows with another swipe. I realize too late that he’s leading me into a trap and turn just in time to run into Zooster. He wraps me up in his arms and spins me around. I try to break free but his hands are locked together and won’t budge. Unlike last time we fought, he’s back in shape and stronger than ever.

“How’s the new kid working out?” I say to Zooster.

“He’s more loyal than you ever were,” Zooster says from behind me. I feel his spit spray my ear and smell the White Castles on his ripe breath. A woman’s laugh creeps up too. The Athena sister steps onto the driveway where I can see her.

“Auntie Athena,” I said. “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.”

Her face turns overcast and she kicks the toe of her shoe at my crotch. I fold one leg over the other to block it, but she taps my sack just right. I wait for the ache in my stomach to start.

Then Z-pack steps forward. “You have some atoning to do,” he says. He swings Kitty at my face. I close my eyes but feel flesh tear from my cheek as her claws grasp at me. Then before I can recover she comes from the other side, giving me a matched set of cuts.

“Jesus!” I say, opening my eyes in time to see Z-pack give Kitty a toss over the house and into the night. He steps forward with fists clenched.

“Looks like we caught a murderer,” he says to Zooster. “The mayor will be thrilled.”

“As if the people of Chicago needed another reason to love us,” Zooster says.

“Make no mistake about it,” I say to the kid. “He’ll sell you down the river to save his own ass.” Auntie Athena looks worried, and I wondered what Zooster thinks of the conversation.

“I know the story about you,” Z-pack says. “You never knew your place.” He throws a punch into my abdomen. I feel bile in my throat and inhale it while trying to take a breath.

He winds up again. I close my eyes and tighten my stomach, expecting to take the punch.

The hit never comes.

Then Zooster’s grip goes loose.

I break free and jerk away with weak legs. All three of them–Zooster, Z-pack, and Auntie Athena–are down on their knees. Their eyes roll back in their heads. I lean against the hood of my car, taking it all in.

“Now I know what you mean,” says a voice. Emily sits up in her seat, holding her hand to the back of her head. “Zooster’s a real dick. And I don’t particularly care for that kid or the lady either.”

“What did you do to them?” I say, flopping into the car.

“Separated the oxygen from their blood,” she says, very matter-of-factly. “They are suffocating right now.”

“Don’t kill them,” I say, worried about another murder accusation.

“I can only control it from so far away,” she says. “So if you want them to live, you better drive fast.” And I see in her eyes that she means to kill if I don’t do something.

I drive like an alderman stealing an election.

And that’s how Emily and I break up.


I walk into the coffee shop, knowing that I’m not welcomed here anymore. My hair is smoking, there’s blood on my arms up to the elbows, and my clothes smell like I just extinguished a flaming bag of dog crap with my armpit. I should shower. I should change out of my lab coat. I should probably take a nap. But what I really need is a favor.

She’s there behind the counter, with her matching green visor and apron, pouring a cup of coffee for some chemist in a suit and white coat. Two more people are in line. I don’t have time to waste. And if there’s one thing I know for truth, it’s that you don’t screw with a bloody man who reeks of roasted dog crap. I waft my smell their way as I push past. “Who’s up for some high fives?” I say. A woman in a business suit talking on an iPhone sneers at me. “Up top,” I say, and she walks out. The other customers follow.

And then I’m all alone with Emily.

“Those were my regulars,” she says with a what-the-fuck shoulder shrug.

“Something happened,” I say. “Something big. I need you to undo it.”

“Like what?” she says with folded arms, and I can tell she doesn’t give a shit.

“He’s dead,” I say, and feel tears sprout from the corners of my eyes. It could have been me, just as easily. The irony of it kills me.

She shakes her head no. “You should be calling an ambulance,” she says. “Not–”

“But he needs you,” I say. “Come with me. See what happened.”

“And what if I can’t help?” she says.

“Just try,” I say, and her arms relax. Somehow, I’ve convinced her.

We drive to my lab in silence and I show her the hidden tunnel entrance. It runs underneath Lake Michigan, all the way to Zooster’s hideout, the Tub. Where I got my start as a hero.

“Where are we going?” Emily says.

I tell her all about the Tub. About my solitaire games with Guppy while Zooster was out on patrol. About how I lost my virginity to Morning Myst the day after my solo run-in with The Midshipman. About how Cabin Girl had to swing by before school each morning to scrub the teak. I realize I’m rambling.

“That sounds like no way for a teenager to grow up,” Emily says.

“Yeah,” I say, not really agreeing. Because it was great. All of it.

And then I explain the tunnel. “We’re enemies and all, but there’s something about both of us existing in this town. It’s like we need each other.”

“I don’t like where this is going,” she says over me, but I keep talking.

“So earlier tonight, I’m coming down here to go over our operating agreement–”

“Your what?”

“Our agreement. We hash out who goes where and when. We make sure we run into each other and fight from time to time.”

Emily stops dead and stares at me.

“This is all canned?”

I grab her hands but she pulls away. “It’s a huge town, Emily. Do you think we’d ever run into each other otherwise? Besides, it’s good for our public personas. He rents my hideout to me for 1972 rates thanks to a great sub-lease. In exchange, he gets credit for stopping me from time to time, and I make him look necessary to the city. It’s a win-win. Except when somebody loses.” I continue walking through the darkness with only my cowl-lamp to guide us. Emily races to keep up.

And that’s when she sees him. It’s Z-pack, still in his costume. And he’s been beaten to a pulp. Bruises have blossomed on his face. His left arm has an extra elbow up near the shoulder, the hair on his head has been cooked off, and the shredded fabric across his chest can’t hide the exposed ribs sprouting from his skin.

“What did you do?” Emily says. I turn to talk to her but she’s stepping back. I can’t tell if it’s fear or hate in her eyes.

“It wasn’t me,” I say. “It was Zooster. Z-pack caught us in the middle of our meeting and started railing on me. Zooster was protecting me.”

“Z-pack was his sidekick.”

“Yeah,” I say, looking down at the mangled mess below me. “And it’s not right. I may be an evil genius, but I deal in pranks grounded in 70s stadium rock. I can’t live with this.”

“What do you want me to do?” Emily says.

“Fix it,” I say. “Undo the chaos. Bring back the order.”

Emily is down on her knees, next to Z-pack. She glances up at me. “I can’t save him.”

“Of course you can,” I say. “You’re Entropy Girl.”

And that’s when I start to feel light-headed. Like I’m going to pass out.

Emily stands. “You think the only way I work is by restoring order?” She steps closer to me. I try to back up but my muscles are busted rubber bands. I go down face-first next to her perfect boots. She’s clean. Everything about her is clean, clean, clean.

“I can also destroy the chaos,” she says, and I see where she’s going with all this. My heart pumps faster but my lungs have scrounged nearly all the available oxygen from my blood. The rest of the oxygen collects in a bubble. I can feel it starting in my leg.

“If I let it go to your heart, you will die,” she says, and I know she isn’t lying.

“But I’m not going to let you die today, Rogue Agent.” Her boot hooks under my shoulder and she flips me over. Standing behind her is Zooster.

“But we will let you take the fall for Z-pack’s death,” Zooster says. Behind him, bouncing flashlights are approaching down the tunnel from the city. Cops.

“Order from the chaos,” Emily says, allowing the oxygen to disburse through my body again.

“This is going to be great,” Zooster says, visibly giddy. “Rogue Agent killed my sidekick, Rogue Agent killed my sidekick!” He hops up and down and claps. “And I’m going to be swimming in pity pussy!”

And then suddenly he collapses on the ground next to me. He’s foaming at the mouth. I can see Emily’s smile grow and I realize that she’s beaten us both.

“So about the Tub,” she says, kneeling between Zooster and me. “It’s about to become the home base of Entropy Girl.” She looks over at Zooster and his dopey face. He’s spreading his nostrils with his hands, trying to get air. Thick black hairs streak outward like tentacles. He looks like an idiot.

“Spread the word,” she says.

She touches my cheek for just a moment and then is gone before the cops arrive. As I watch her disappear into the dark, toward the Tub, I realize that when I break out of prison (because I will definitely break out of prison), and everyone’s cell phone ringer changes to “Purple Rain,” there’ll be a new hero chasing me down. I just hope she can live with the terms of my operating agreement. Because I’m a real bastard of a haggler. Especially when I don’t get my coffee how I like it.


Defenestration-VikingWayne Helge’s stories have been sung by traveling minstrels since 1612, but have only been committed to paper seriously since 2006. He is considered a pioneer in the field of e-writing, meaning that many of his best typed words have died of bacterial dysentery. He tweets the occasional hot stock tip at @waynsdeepkimchi.

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