And He Shall Be Levon

September 30, 2010 at 10:50 pm (Fiction) (, , )

The other night, I was listening to Elton John’s Levon. (Linked here because apparently the whole world didn’t grow up listening to gay pop from the 1970s.) And then… this poured out of me.

Profiles in Heroism: Levon Tostig

Levon Tostig was not born into a world of promise. As one of the first children to arrive after the Infection Event, Levon entered a world of uncertainty, tumbling from his mother’s womb on the very day this newspaper declared the war against the Infected begun. The day was Christmas, but no one was celebrating. God had quite obviously abandoned our kind.

Levon grew up amid the fearful and poverty-stricken in a government holding center in Springfield, where his father, Alvin, served as a guard. Emergency drills were a part of his daily routine from his earliest conscious moments, but that didn’t stop the young, curious Levon from exploring the edges of the compound one day during his twelfth year. He still bears the scars of the bite he received during the resulting Infected attack, a bite that necessitated the amputation of three fingers on his right hand. Levon has never sought to hide this wound, however. If anything, he has flaunted his deformed hand, wearing it proudly as evidence of his ability to survive the worst that fate might throw at him.

That pride would serve Levon, and all humankind, quite well in the following years. Unwilling to accept the state of constant fear and deep despair under which humanity was living at the time, Levon devoted himself to scientific study and sought a fool-proof way to fight the Infected without the use of imprecise, ineffective weaponry. It was through a process of trial and error, during which he managed to escape death by inches on a daily basis, that he discovered the scientific fact that has dictated our interactions with the Infected ever since: the toxicity of helium to the creatures’ bodies.

Levon would go on to develop the safest and most effective mechanism for distributing helium. He calculated the precise amount of gas necessary to fill a balloon that, when popped, would eject the helium into the space immediately surrounding the Infected’s body, destroying it instantly. Before long he’d formed the innocuously-named Levon Cartoon Balloon Industries, a company that is, today, among the most profitable corporations in the world. By selling his weaponized helium balloons at reasonable rates to both private citizens and the military establishment, Levon enabled the human race to turn an important corner in our ongoing war against the Infected.

As Levon’s innovation spread across the globe and humans cautiously began to rebuild civilization, Levon himself retreated to a largely private life, marrying an old sweetheart from his childhood holding center and later welcoming their son, Jesus. The name was a provocative one, spurring popular debate about Levon’s alleged hubris, but when asked about its intent Levon has always evaded the question, claiming to have simply liked the name.

Jesus, now eighteen and a graduate of Springfield Preparatory High School, was poised to inherit the family business upon Levon’s retirement. Much of his childhood had been spent helping his father, blowing up balloons at their flagship store on Springfield’s Main Street. Jesus, however, chose a different career path: he was among the first to volunteer for the Venusian mission that scientists believe could ultimately create a viable alternative to our own Infection-scarred planet. While Levon has stated that he respects his son’s decision, he has been curiously silent on the topic of the Venus expedition itself and has dodged all questions about the longevity of his company in the absence of a family heir.

These days, Levon lives humbly despite his abundant wealth, choosing to reside alone (his wife, Amy, passed away several years ago) in a dilapidated garage on a pre-Infection highway at the edge of Springfield. He claims that the highway reminds him of all that’s left to accomplish in our brave new world. Though most people alive today, Levon included, have no direct memory of the world Before, Levon believes our war will not truly be won until we have reestablished our societies as they once were, before the gripping fear of the Infected overtook all other emotional impetuses. Notoriously protective of his money as he may be, Levon has recently instructed his corporation to expand beyond the confines of helium production to begin studying the best methods for bolstering global housing and transportation infrastructure.

We can only hope that the man who gave us helium still has many good years ahead of him – years in which he may very well change the world all over again.


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