“There Are Some Things I Would Like to Get Off My Chest Before I Drop You Into This Volcano,” by Bryan Middlebrook

Dec 20th, 2021 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Congratulations on sneaking into my secret lair. That took a lot of guts, judging by how hard my minions are having to scrub to clean what’s left of yours out of that secret passage. I hope you’re enjoying dangling precariously over an active volcano.

You don’t look very comfy. It’s probably the live boa constrictors we used to tie your legs to that stalactite. I gotta tell you, I don’t even know where that idea came from. PETA would be on my ass if they found out, but I had to try it. I feel like it adds a little je ne sais quoi to the experience that boring old hemp rope or barbed wire simply don’t.

This is the kind of thing people in my position always have to do, y’know. We one-up ourselves. Every time, all the time, from now until eternity. You can’t rob the Second National Bank once you’ve robbed the First, and you can’t rob the First once you’ve looted Fort Knox. The media would eat me alive. My rivals would simply try to eat me, and that’s if I’m lucky. The first time they get any hint of weakness they’ll send their super assassins, then I’ll have to send my counter super-assassins, and then they’ll send their counter-counter super assassins. The whole thing gets very confusing very quickly.

How the hell can anyone remember which preternaturally skilled minion armed with profane incantations and grenades that go back in time to blow up your grandfather is which? It’s hard enough to tell them apart, even when they’re not engaged in battle with secret agents. They’re so damn taciturn that it’s hard to get anything out of them other than yes, sir. Maybe once in a while you’ll get an it shall be done, but that’s a once a month thing at best. Most of the time, they just grunt and nod.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t even try to tell my henchmen apart anymore. I just call them all Bob. It works well for the most part; the only problem I ran into recently was when I had to execute one of them for incompetence. I found out the hard way that sending out an inter-lair memo instructing Bob to go kill Bob can have very messy consequences. Well, live and learn.

You know, I like you. Not enough to stop me from dropping you into this volcano, which I am totally going to do in a bit, but I like you nonetheless. I don’t meet many good listeners in my line of work. Usually it’s all help me this and please turn that laser off, it burns that, but you’ve been doing nothing but listening for this entire conversation. I don’t even think sealing your mouth up with quick-drying cement has all that much to do with it, either; I get the sense that you really care.

I’ve got something that I want to tell you. Something that I really couldn’t share with Bob, Bob, or, God forbid, Bob.

I don’t laugh anymore. Nothing does it for me. Not vaporizing a major city. Not holding a nation for random. Not even opening portals into blasphemous hellscape dimensions summons up so much as a giggle anymore.

I asked my shrink about it before I shrank him with my shrink ray. He said that when your only tool is doomsday devices heralding a swift and terrible end to humanity, pretty soon you start treating all your problems like big red buttons, aching to be pushed.

I think I get what he was trying to say. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life, but what happens when the love fades? Can you ever capture it again? Or are you doomed to wander through existence as a hollow ghost, eternally trying to recapture what made you feel good about yourself in the first place?

Do you see this? It’s a button that will destroy this whole complex. Everything I’ve ever worked for, every critter with sharp teeth or dull teeth or just plain too many teeth, every rampaging robot, every world cracking machine. All blown up and reduced to rubble. I carry it with me in case someone like you ever manages to turn my own works against me. A final curse you, jerk in the face of inevitable defeat.

I’m almost tempted to let you press it. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? I can see it in your remaining eye. The chance to be the hero. To take me down. To make the world safe for all the children and bunnies and so on.

First thing’s first, though; I have to get you down from there. See that control over there? Down by your head. If you swing a bit, I bet you’ll be able to whack it with your nose. That’s the control that will blast apart the stalactite you’re tied to. You’ll fall, and you’ll fall far, but I promise you on my honor as a scientist and a scholar: you will not fall into lava. Afterwards, I’ll toss the button down to you and let you accomplish what you set out here to do.

Deal? Blink once for yes and twice for I want to hang by my ankles some more.

Ouch. Whacking your face into that control panel looked like it hurt. But I wasn’t lying, was I? The stalactite broke apart, just as promised. There you go, down into the shaft. And, just as promised, you won’t fall into lava.

Interesting note, by the by; when molten rock is still contained within the surface of the Earth, as the hot sauce down below is, it’s not actually called lava. It’s magma.

Good to know, right? Though it probably would have been better to know a few seconds earlier.


Oh, my goodness, he’s actually trying to swim. Not very well, though. Oops, down he goes. Oh, man. I haven’t seen anything that good in ages. I almost . . . I think I’m going to . . .

Heh, heh, heh, heh, heh. Ha ha ha ha ha! HAAA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Oh, baby. I’ve missed you. Never leave me again, OK?

Welcome back.


Bryan Middlebrook spends his days reading, writing, and bitterly complaining about the finer points of obscure comic book story arcs. He has worked in libraries for over twenty years and has only recently ceased calling them “liberries” due to a court order.

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