Three Minutes to Midnight


Crouching on the rooftop, he reached inside his cape for the bottle in the utility belt. The contents were meticulously added to a wick while arching over the device to protect it from the torrential deluge. Everything held a reflective sheen, a steel aquatic shroud. The bottle returned to safe storage, he raised the copper tube to his mouth and inhaled.

The traffic rumble intertwined with the weather’s gentle white noise, the metropolitan soundscape offering a bleakness to compliment the view. A drab austerity that mirrored itself in Vapeman’s heart while clouds of peanut scented vegetable glycerin pearled out from the mouthpiece and upwards.

For what seemed like forever, Vapeman had fought for justice. He’d fought for values that he held as worthy: honesty, integrity and the need for a scientific peer-review process. When Carnage, Apocalypse and Venom had sent letters to the World Health Organisation or written articles for The Lancet, Vapeman took to Twitter with a righteous fury previously reserved only for people who jumped the lane-closing queues on motorways.

But what was it worth? What was the merit of the time spent in the secret hideout, the hours completing online petitions? There are no bad endings for superheroes. It’s a rule. Or something. No matter how bleak the outlook, there’s always “…and with one bound our hero was free”. Right? Vapeman knew his lore: no matter how one issue ends, no matter how the story arc is weaved, eventually right wins out. Right? Bad guys vanquished, friendships forged and order restored.

There’s that court case, the one people are clinging to. There’s that. Nothing else has worked so there has to be that. The clock has its hands at three minutes to midnight, Doomsday for juice. There has to be that. Another tug on the mouthpiece, another peel of vape curling and fighting with itself.

The wind picks up. It’s a bitter gust of pre-winter that carries the sheeting downpour off to an angle and sends pieces of loose paper on secret missions.

There’s something about despondency. That darkest of celluloid hours when the hero is on the verge of abdication and begins to embrace Paul Nystom’s malaise. The moment when it seems our protagonist will be subsumed by existential nihilism. It’s the cue for things to turn around. There’s that court case, the one people are clinging to? There’s that?

And it’s at this moment a sheet gets stuck to droplets on Vapeman’s boot. It’s the proposals for vape advertising in a post-TPD world. It’s not a good read – a bit like a column penned by Katie Hopkins, but serious. We don’t live in a world of heroes but like comic book characters, vaping could soon to be the stuff of myth and legend. It might be a decent time to have another chat with your local MP.