I'm no sure where the idea for The Inaction Man really came from.
It is, of course, an essentially quixotic novel, a tragic-comedy
in which a bumbling would-be hero loses himself in a fantasy
world of his own creation and finds that he cannot live outside
of it.He becomes a prisoner of his own imagination, a slave to
fantasy, a man whose imaginary world is so much more interesting
that the real-world alternative that he cannot but choose to
forgo sanity and live instead in a world of visions and
It is perhaps this call of the imagination that has led so many
people to create their own Don Quixote novels, or on a lesser
scale, to live inside their own Walter Mitty secret lives and
Billy Liar fantasy scenes; all of us playing out unbelievable
fantasies inside our own heads; all designed to please that most
important critic of all: ourselves
. Many 'real' writers have written their own versions of Don
Quixote over the centuries; my own personal favourites being John
Kennedy Toole's 'A Confederacy of Dunces' and 'The
Long Dark Tea Time of the Soul' by Douglas Adams. I can at
least claim to have read the above two books, and I may have
inadvertently stolen some of their ideas, but I gave up on the
original Cervantes masterpiece half-way through, about 15 years
ago, and I still haven't got round to finishing it! So, while I
cannot claim The Inaction Man to be the best Don Quixote
novel, I may be the only person who has written a quixotic novel
who hasn't actually read the original.
To return to Inaction Man, I have been very self-indulgent with
him and always tried to show him in the best possible light
because he represents the best in me, and the best in you. We are
all creatures of fantasy; it's what makes us human, for better or
for worse, and Inaction Man is on the side of the Forces of
Light, and will never be corrupted by the Dark Side.
I should also like to briefly credit Neil Fitzgerald, who
suggested the character of The Illogical Woman, without whom
Inaction Man would have been imprisoned by his own philosophy of
Inaction and could not have gone on to save the universe.
I will stop now, having just completed my fifth book in as many
months, anxiously seeking a new fantasy; a new escape; a new
windmill to tilt at.
Table of Contents
Street signs on a Road to Nowhere
A Day in the Life
A day in the life of our Superhero
The Making of a Superhero
How our Superhero came to be
Superhero finds a loyal knight for Crusade
A Night in Paris
Inaction Man abused by cruel unbelievers
The Dream of the Dark Lords
Superhero learns his mission from enemies
The Longest Night
Inaction Man laid low by fiendish savagery
The Illogical Woman
The two Superheroes meet
The Dying of the Light
Poisoned Superheroes' powers decline
The Holy Trinity and the Reckoning
The Sad End of a Superhero
A Day in the Life
hy he was called Inaction Man he did not really know.
Nor did he truly understand his purpose. He was also often unsure
of where he was, what he was doing, and why he was doing it. He
was a man of his time, gripped by uncertainty.
The only thing he did know for certain was that what he saw was
reality and not the fog of illusion. In the world of the blind,
he was the one-eyed monarch. He alone could see the Cracks and
what spilled forth from the Cracks.
My own name, dear reader, is not relevant to this tale and how I
came to know the facts that I am about to recount will remain a
mystery to you. However, I thought it just and fair that the
world should know the great debt that it owes Inaction Man and
that his epic tale be told.
We join Inaction Man on November 15, 2008, but he did not know
the date, being above petty mortal concerns like date keeping and
clock watching. He finds himself in a large rectangular park, not
knowing how he got there or where he would go afterwards. He is
staring into the weak sun, make weaker by the thin web of cloud
that hangs over the park.
He is looking for answers, but he does not know where to find
them, so he looks at all things and tries to see if they contain
the answers, or at least better define the questions.
Tiring of staring at the hidden sun, he looked instead for signs
of meaning in the yellowed leaves that the death winds of autumn
had strangled and left lifeless on the ground. He paid attention
to the patterns in the gentle and intermittent rain and the
movement of the clouds in the sky.
He studied everything in his search of signs from his masters,
messages from the Immortals, those pan-dimensional angels that
had set him on his quest all those years ago.
There were hidden messages everywhere. The difficult part was
knowing how to read them, and as a relatively new Superhero, he
often found himself, like an illiterate staring at a poster,
knowing that he looking at a message of some kind, but unable to
fathom its meaning.
So on he went, wandering the cold and maudlin streets of Paris,
the city of light and the centre of darkness, wondering why they
had chosen him and not another, and trying to solve the mystery
of his name.
For most of us, a name is merely something our parents give us
and ultimately a thing of little or no consequence, but for
Inaction Man, it was the key to understanding his mission, and
only by truly understanding his purpose could he effectively
complete his mission.
In his darker moments, he wished that the Immortals had chosen
someone else for their mission. He sometimes even wished he still
had his old name, his mortal name, a name and identity whose
place in time and space he chose not to remember, fearing the
nostalgia of memories might blind him.
Whether he wanted it or not, the Immortals had blest him with the
power of sight, but it brought with it such a heavy burden, and
such hideous visions. He sometimes felt like he was living in
Hell, but he alone was cursed with having the power to actually
see it. And how many of us, were we to find ourselves passing
through the gates of Hades, would not wish to be blinded, to be
freed from having to face its hideous sights? But Inaction Man is
a Superhero and braver than you and I will ever be. He sees
things as they are and not as he would like them to be.
As he walked under a long row of trees, undressed by winter,
their branches like an arch, he looked inwards, and thought about
a recurring dream of his, searching for a hidden message in it; a
message from the Immortals, whoever and wherever they were.
In the dream he was ice skating on a lake with his hands tied
behind his back. The lake was covered in a thick blanket of fog
and he could not make out the shoreline. Everything was grey: the
ice, the fog, even the wind itself. He could hear the ice begin
to crack beneath him and he knew it was dangerously thin. He knew
that if he stopped skating his weight would crack the ice and he
would fall into the grey lake, never to return. So he continued
skating, hoping to reach the shore he could not see.
Unable to decide between the many different possible messages the
dream might contain, he gave up thinking about it, knowing that
he would redream the dream at some future date, and he thought
that he might be able to discern its meaning then.
He cleared his mind of the dream and the search for meaning among
the signs. He moved from a thought phase to an action phase, or
rather an action of inaction phase. It may seem strange that a
Superhero called Inaction Man has an action phase, but these
action phases were necessary to promote inaction. In the same way
that an anarchist or a communist might reject the capitalist
system but still rob a bank, Inaction Man rejected action but was
still forced to act.
The problem, however, was that the Immortals had not actually
told him what his specific Superhero responsibilities were, or
how he should act in any given situation. They had told him
little, apart from his Superhero name, and he had to try and
decide this for himself what he should do and how he should do
Before acting, Inaction Man cleared his mind of all distractions
and acted from the heart, knowing his heart to be good and true.
He acted without thinking, but with feeling. This is more
difficult than it sounds, raised as we are to do the opposite, to
think before we act, and to help Inaction Man act though feeling,
he often consumed large quantities of alcohol, as he had done
Inaction Man took the half-empty bottle of vodka from his chapped
lips, and suddenly saw himself standing on a bench in the park.
He was out of his mind, in the sense that his mind was sitting on
a thick branch above the park bench, watching himself act from
the heart, rather than the head, watching the Superhero below,
trapped in a human body swaying from side to side, promoting the
philosophy of Inaction.
One of the best ways to promote inaction and spread the Word was
for Inaction Man to simply speak to himself out loud. He did this
more and more lately, knowing that words which are spoken are
more powerful than words which are merely thought. They have a
physical force, a presence, and he believed that his words, being
the words of a Superhero, were so powerful that could even affect
the Action/Inaction continuum, as well as bringing people to the
path of righteosness through convincing them of the morality of
He cleared his throat and began to speak:
"I am Inaction Man: I am the Light and the Way. Look on thy
works, foolish mortals and despair; for works are actions, and
all action is evil."
Some passers-by, realising that they were in the company of
greatness, stopped to listen. However, recognising that they were
mere mortals and not Superheroes, they kept their distance, out
of respect for this great being, so different from themselves.
"Know thee this, mortal men: To act is evil, to inact divine.
Actions are the destroyers of worlds.
Only through inaction can our world be saved. By inaction
shall action be undone.
Heed my prophesy, thou wretched sinners, despicable actors on
this stage of death. Act not!
I am Inaction Man: Bringer of Peace. Follow me!"
Whenever Inaction Man spoke this way, people tended to move away
from him; mothers clutched children closer to themselves and
watched him closely, pretending to do exactly the opposite,
pretending he was invisible, but invisibility was not one of
Inaction Man's superpowers.
Inaction Man saw peoples' indifference and hostility to his
words. He saw all things: he was a Superhero and his senses were
highly acute. His senses were so great, in fact, that they
sometimes crowded his consciousness, overpowering him, and
preventing him from worrying about what people thought of him.
He experienced one of these moments in the middle of his speech,
his head suddenly spinning in a vortex of sensual experience,
explaining the bizarre end to his diatribe:
"I am Inaction Man, and I am very …sensitive!"
Having explained this to the crowd, he fell off the bench and
stumbled into a nearby flowerbed, collapsing into it, and tryied
to wrap himself in flowers, which he suddenly realised could be
used as a blanket in emergencies.
What the point and laughing crowd of onlookers failed to realise
was that Inaction Man was experiencing one of his periodic
visions. They were so powerful that he could see and hear things
that other mortal people were completely unaware of. We mere
mortals see only a tiny fraction of what goes on around us. We
are blind to vast numbers of dimensions and whole realms of
experience completely pass us by.
Inaction Man, however, was blessed with the gift of sight, and as
he lay on the grass, a broken bottle of vodka at this feet,
wrapping himself in dandelions, he could hear the cries of pain
from the last of the autumn leaves as they fell to the ground,
dancing with the wind in their death throes. He heard the slow
munching sound of earlier casualties in this perennial war of
life against death being eaten by bacteria on the ground. He saw
their ghosts being swept up by the Yellow Wind, back to the void,
screaming and tumbling in a whirlwind of pain.
It was at times like these that he wished he could be free of his
special powers. He saw too much. He saw things a man is not meant
to see, things a man is not evolved to see, and they pained him.
Sometimes the pain was physical sometimes it was psychological.
Even for a Superhero, the truth can be painful. He knew that for
mere mortals, the truth of how brutal the struggle between life
and death can be must be far too frightening to even contemplate,
and he recognised that was why they fought so hard against the
truth, why they reused to see, and why they treated him so
shabbily. Inaction Man had a gentle and forgiving nature, and
sought to understand and explain, and not to condemn and punish.
"If you cannot bear the message", he explained to some
nearby rhododendrons, "and you cannot kill the messenger,
then you must deny the message thrice: deny the veracity of the
message; deny the messenger's authority to bring the message; and
deny your own act of denial."
Inaction Man also knew that many mortals were being unconsciously
influenced and even controlled by the FOG of the Status Quo,
which I will explain later. The FOG was why they ignored him,
moved away from his, and despised him. Inaction Man's
philosophical treatise with the flower bed was brought to an
abrupt end by the sudden appearance of some Shape Changers. All
Superheroes have their enemies, of course, and Inaction Man was
no exception. One of his most feared enemies were the Shape
Changers, who could take different forms at will.
On this day, they came in the guise of policemen. There were two
of them; tall, austere and with an air of death about them. They
looked at each other and then rolled their eyes up to the skies,
communicating with the Dark Lords above.
Inaction Man could always tell a Shape Changer from a living
being easily enough. Their faces did not hold together the way a
real face did. They were like wax works, they were essentially
unreal; they were mere imitations of life, not real life.
These two shape changers were no different. In fact, one of them
was particularly badly made and his eyes seemed to be attached to
the wrong part of his face, being slightly too high on his
forehead. The other one spoke to him, but as he did so, his nose
began to melt, and drops of it fell to the ground, killing the
bacteria that fed off the leaves, for Shape Changers are not of
this dimension and bring death to all they touch. Inaction Man,
being a Superhero, was protected against this 'touch of death',
but he had seen many others fall prey to it.
He could not understand what the Shape Changers were saying to
him because their voices had not been effectively scrambled. Or
to be more precise, they had been scrambled so they appeared to
be human voices to mortal ears, but to his superhero ears the
voices sounded as they actually were; dark, guttural alien
voices. Their words were flowing backwards rather than forwards,
and slowed to half their normal speed. He thought he could make
out the words 'park' and 'leave' and 'dirty wino' among the
distortions, and assumed that the Shape Changers were claiming
this Jardin des Plants as part of their sovereign territory, as
they had claimed the Louvre complex the month before, and
banished Inaction Man from it, on pain of imprisonment in the
Inaction Man briefly considered defending the park against the
Shape Changer invasion, but decided against it. He was
outnumbered and night was drawing in, and the FOE, the Forces Of
Evil, should never be challenged at night because this was when
their powers were strongest.
Moreover, he had spent time before locked in a cell in the Dark
Towers and it was not to his liking. All Superheroes have their
weak spots, and confinement to Inaction Man was like kryptonite
to Superman. Imprisonment left him weak and almost powerless, and
he needed to roam free, like a lion in an African savannah.
He told the Shape Changers this when he beat a hasty but
tactically necessary retreat. In the real world, even Superheroes
have to compromise.
"I am Inaction Man, lion of Paris, defender of the one true
faith, and I shall see thee vanquished, Shape Changers …but not
Know thee this, foul demons: a battle doth not a war make,
and victory will be won by the just, not by the mighty. All evil
will fall to power of truth and beauty, and their handmaiden,
Thus spake Inaction Man."
Having achieved a moral victory over the Shape Changers, a
victory of words if not of fact, he moved away from them and left
the park, relinquishing it to the hands of the dark forces, as he
had been forced to hand over so much of Paris in this dismal year
of 2008, when the FOE had reached unparalleled strength, and all
had seemed lost.
Inaction Man was careful, as always, not to turn his back on the
Shape Changers because he knew that that was when they are at
their most dangerous, preferring, as they do, to attack from
behind and stab you in the back. There is no word for chivalry in
the Shape Changer's lexicon, but there are 62 different words for
evil; each one defining a different shade of it, subtleties of
evil lost on the human mind.
So, Inaction Man walked backwards through the park to the gated
exit by the river, keeping the Shape Changers in sight at all
times. This meant walking into things like rubbish bins and
people, and falling over benches, and the Shape Changers often
laughed at his misfortunes, but it was the only way to keep safe.
Eventually he found himself on the banks of the Seine and he
could walk forwards again, which was a relief. He had had a
couple of particularly nasty falls when he was coming backwards
down the steps to the river, and his nose was bloodied and his
cheek grazed. The blood quickly congealed in his long and matted,
shaggy grey and black beard, adding another colour to its
kaleidoscopic intensity, thereby adding to its superbeard power.
Inaction Man and his Superbeard, whom Inaction Man often
conversed with, were was always happy to find themselves by the
river. Inaction Man always headed to the river when he came
across Shape Changers, since rivers are a source of life, and
anathema to most Shape Changers, who are a death force.
In fact, he had once seen a Shape Changer who came too close to
the river burst into flames; such is the power of running fresh
However, not all Shape Changers are allergic to running water. He
remembered a couple of particularly violent Shape Changers who
wore the mask of common street thugs and who beat him mercilessly
in the dead of night under a lonely bridge, le Petit Pont. As
they became swept away by the joy of violence, and all Shape
Changers are addicted to violence, they forgot to maintain their
human mask and showed their true form: bipedal green pigs with
black tusks and snouts covered in wriggling worms, but Inaction
Man remembered their trotters and their squealing most of all.
Nevertheless, the Shape Changers were not the worst of the
enemies Inaction Man had to face on an almost daily basis as 2008
drew to a close. Occasionally, the Forces of Evil enlisted the
assistance of altogether darker forms: beings that the Age of
Science believed it had banished to the realm of Superstition;
archaic, primordial beings like spectres, goblins and demons.
However, these inhuman forms had not all been vanquished, as
mortal man believed.
Some remained, and waited for the coming of the Great Darkness,
when they would emerge from the shadows and claim dominion. For
now, they laid low and wore a cloak of invisibility, but Inaction
Man could see through their cloak and he knew them. They were
allergic to Superhero urine, and whenever possible Inaction Man
saved his urine to attack them with.
They would appear from behind trees, always dead or dying trees,
and drag themselves before him, using their bat like claws to
bring themselves nearer to him. Few of them could walk upright,
squashed as they were between Hell and Earth, so they crawled
rather than walked They could not move very quickly, being dead
and therefore largely inanimate, but to compensate they used
their fear fog, a greenish mist that made it difficult to move,
even for Superheroes. So, when Inaction Man fought one of the
Undead, it was usually a slow motion battle.
They would pull themselves up and rest on to their bony knees,
their long curving claws longing to grab him and take him back
with them into the haunted tree, eager to clasp him to their
breast and wrap him in their bat wings, carrying him off to the
eternal night of the Undead.
He had to quickly unleash his urine weaponry from his trousers
and then carefully aim his mighty hose of virtue in the direction
of whatever spectre or demons was crawling toward him, and then
fight the demonic fear fog which sought to impede public
The demon's yellow bloodshot eyes saw who he was, saw what he
was, and hatred seeped from them, even in death. Even when his
urine of power burnt into their rotten flesh and melted them into
the cobblestones their eyes still shone with hatred and promised
Thus far he had managed to elude their mortal embrace. They
relied on fear, and if you controlled your fear, it rendered them
powerless. Thus far he had been safe behind his urine firewall,
but there was always the risk of mortals objecting to him
unleashing his weaponry in public.
However, Inaction Man's biggest fear was what might happen if
they approached you when you slept.They could enter your dreams
and in the unconscious mind they were far more powerful and
dangerous, fear being something far less easily controlled when
To guard against this eventuality, Inaction Man always slept
during the day, and prowled the night-time streets of Paris
carefully, even watchful for the Forces of Evil, ever suspicious
of trees, and always with a ready supply of urine in case of
He was also conscious of the need to imbibe large quantities of
beer to maintain his P-Stock. He even carried emergency supplies
around with him, in a baby bottle and a water pistol, in case he
should be ambushed by a demon squad, like in May.
Generally these night creatures could not speak, at least not in
the sense that humans understand it. They were primitive and
primordial creatures, born before time in the conventional sense,
and incapable of the calm rational forms of thought that speech
However, this very night, Inaction Man was to meet a Changeling;
a once-human girl who had been taken by the Undead and was being
converted. They were taking more and more people, Inaction Man
realised, in preparation for the coming of the Great Darkness.
He did not know when the great battle would commence, nor even if
he would live to see it, but he also knew that a baby bottle of
pee would not be enough to win the battle for the future of
humanity. While the dark side grew stronger, he could barely keep
Inaction Man, lost in these grim thoughts, looked up and realised
that he was under a bridge near Notre Dame. Things like this
often happened to him. He would look up, suddenly realise he was
in such and such a place, but have no memory of how he had gotten
there or what he had been doing beforehand. He concluded this
must be a new Super Power: The Power of Not Noticing Things, but
he did not understand how he could use this power to his
He noted that it was the dead of night and his super powers of
perception went into fifth gear. He was on his guard, as he
always was between two and three in the early morning, for this
was when the forces of Darkness are at their most powerful. He
drank another beer to help him concentrate and keep him alert.
From a distance the Changeling looked human, but as she got
nearer, her shuffling gait told Inaction Man that something was
wrong, that she was not what she had at first appeared to be.
Inaction Man stood his ground like a good Superhero and waited
for the Changeling to make her move. He fought the fear rising
inside him; the fear that is the greatest weapon of all the
forces of the Netherworld. He put his hand in his trouser pocket
and prepared to unleash his weapon should the need arise. He had
to be careful though. There had been several regrettable
incidents in the past when he had unleashed his urine hose of
demon death too soon, and mortals had taken great offense at
being exposed to it, and not been reassured by his explanation
that he was only preparing for a spectre attack.
. He reminded himself that even without his magic anti-demon
urine the FOE were powerless without fear. At least, it is this
way now, but Inaction Man knew that if the forces of darkness
were victorious in the upcoming battle that black suns will beam
coldness across the universe, and the universe we know would be
inverted. It would be us, or the few of us who would survive the
attack, who would be powerless to harm them.But for now, Inaction
Man knew that all he had to do was control his fear.
The Changeling approached and stopped right in front of him. Her
clothes were filthy and she smelled rank. She removed the hood of
her tracksuit and met his eyes. She was shaking and jittery,
having already lost that human poise and grace that marks the
living from the dead.
It is the eyes of the dead that mark them out most, even when
they walk amongst us. There is a glazed and unfeeling aspect to
them; a joylessness in these eyes that cannot love. Her skin
showed the decay of death, demonstrating a plasticity that is
missing from human skin. There was also a greyness about her,
another sign of her Changeling status; trapped as she was between
life and death, between light and darkness.
Her mouth opened, and Inaction Man noticed that the decay had
spread to her teeth, which were rotten and barely held in place
by blue and yellowed gums. He also noticed how gaunt she was; so
thin that her skin seemed to be tied around her bones.
When she spoke it was with a raspy and broken voice that knew
only pain and suffering and was being twisted by it.
Changlings are slowly twisted by the Undead who kidnap them
until, over a period of a decade, all humanity is wrung out of
them, and they became almost indistinguishable from the Undead
who caught and moulded them. When they reach maturity, having
killed at least a hundred people and eaten no less than 5 babies,
they develop the power to make Changelings themselves, the Power
This Changeling, Inaction Man guessed from her eyes, was about
midway through the process of becoming a Changeling, and while
there was still something human in her, the process had gone too
far and could not be reversed. However, she was not yet fully
Undead, so his urine would be powerless against her, and he
needed to be extra vigilant.
It was the Changeling who spoke first:
"Mister, spare us a bit of change, would ye, for a cup of
She held out her hand and Inaction man noticed the needle marks
running down it. In a junkie they would be called 'tracks', but
Inaction Man knew this was no ordinary drug addict. He saw that
these marks had been made by the tiny incisors of a vampire rat,
a blood sucking creature of darkness, a predator that grew ever
more common in the sewers of Paris. He looked down at the
cobblestones, making sure not to look into her eyes, avoiding
dead-eye contact, watchful of the need to avoid a Changeling
Hypnosis, and also keeping an ear out for sewer vampire rats.
He spoke to her with a false air of confidence, masking a quiver
in his voice through bellowing, an effective method to deal with
the Forces of Evil.
"I know thee Changeling and thou Knowest me. I am Inaction
Man; knower of many things and a Force for Light."
"Wot? All I askt for woz a bit of change, gov. All I
Suddenly the Changeling appeared to realise something and her
demeanour altered. She appeared to be smiling now.
"Err…you're off yer head, aren't you? What're yah on, eh? Got
some to spare? Go on mate. I need a hit. I'm really sick man.
I'll do anything you want."
"Be gone pitiful Changeling wretch! You are beyond hope,
beyond the Light. I can offer you no salvation."
The Changeling recognised the Powers of Inaction Man and
staggered off into the darkness, clutching her stomach and
swallowing the night; disappearing into it; vanishing into what
she had come from.
It had been another epic victory for Inaction Man; a victory of
reason over fear; a victory of good over evil. And yet the
victory brought him little solace. He felt depressed and
brow-beated as he walked along the deserted banks of the Seine; a
lone figure, 'a tattered coat upon a stick'; hugging the river as
the cold November wind fought with the water, trying to push it
Every so often he could make out the rustle of Vampire Rats in
the undergrowth, waiting for him to fall asleep; waiting to
To Inaction Man, the Forces of Evil seemed to be getting ever
stronger. On this day alone, he had met two Shape Changers in
Jardins des Plants and battled a Changeling by Notre Dame. There
were monsters all around him, and for every one you defeated
there seemed to be ten more ready to take its place.
He had never been attacked twice in one day before. In the
beginning, the attacks had been months apart, and his main
battles had been with the cold, rain and hunger. It seemed the
Forces Of Evil were growing more numerous all the time, and more
daring. In contrast, he was alone: Earth's only Superhero, its
one defender and champion.
As the sun rose and Inaction Man prepared to end his nightly
travails and return to the solace of sleep, he knew the Day of
Reckoning was close at hand. He knew he must struggle even harder
to prevent that day. He knew he must spread inaction before it
was too late.
He knew what needed to be done, but he did not know how to do it.