Duke: An American Hero

Josiah Terronez

The hallways seemed endless in this place. In the hallways laid a small plastic soldier who went by the name Duke. Duke was spread amongst the cold tile. He laid with his legs and arms spread open in the shape of an X, upon his back, his combat boots resting on the heels of his feet, and his head behind a clump of dust.  The store’s ground made Duke’s brittle body shiver. His uniform thrown beside him; his chest was exposed and the only thing he had on was a pair of plaid boxers. Even though Duke had a very manly mustache and was built like an athlete. He never felt more exposed in his life. But after the day Duke had been through, being naked on floor seemed like nothing.  Being imprisoned with that small beast, as its never ending violent play thing, all day was complete hell. All the military and Special Forces training hadn’t prepared Duke for the torture and physical pain that he endured today. His gun, helmet, and vest were scattered across the battlefield. Duke slowly got up and reattached his left arm, which had come loose out his socket. As he gathered his belongings and began to clothe himself,  It occurred to Duke that his career as a special forces toy had hit rock bottom. No longer was he a real American hero.

No longer did he want to be thrown and stripped. ‘I’m a  field commander for crying out loud. I deserve a little more respect.’ Duke mumbled. Although he was created for entertainment purposes he didn’t see why his role as a toy had to be so aggressive. ‘Why did I get the short end of the stick? I use to be equally as great as every other toy in this entire store.’ Duke said. There are thousands of toys just like Duke, but Duke was the only one who was removed from his packaging. Others were displayed and collected. Being preserved, admired for their artistic craftsmanship. Unlike Duke whose arms and legs had been pulled so much that they would fall out of their sockets.  Ruining his stern, hostile posture, and his military demeanor. The undertone of his painted skin was slowly being revealed. Duke was fed up with his lifestyle.  He wanted to be appreciated and admired like the rest of his comrades. That path, had escaped Duke’s life right when he was removed from his package.

Days went by, Duke continued to be tossed and ransacked, by every kid that seemed to walk among him. As the day came to an end Duke reached for his weapon and gear salvaging what dignity he had left. But he saw no point in trying, he would just have to go through the same routine again the next day. Duke didn’t bother to even move. He just stared blankly at his rifle. At that moment he saw what his life had become. ‘What am I?’ Duke thought. Duke ceased to see his purpose as a toy. Duke glanced above him, lifted his head up, his chin raised nearly a few inches off the floor to hear a muffled chuckle coming from a shelf of action figures resembling Dukes appearance. Duke glared at them, normally he would make rude, snarky comments, fighting back with strong threatening language and hateful hand gestures but all the laughter opened up a realization in Dukes mind. Although they all looked remarkably equivalent and shared the same shape, color, expression, and uniform (well expect Duke) all these figures were just copies. Replication of the same toy with the same face and features. Duke did not want to be like everyone else. Duke wasn’t like everyone else. Before he despised the fact that he was removed from his box, but now he saw that it was a blessing to be free, from becoming nothing but another clone. Duke had a personality all he had to do was show it.

Subsequently, Duke was sent to another part of the store by a mysterious figure. A side of that he hadn’t been to before. A large hand swooped him up. Duke’s stripped body was hoisted off the cold floor, his back arched against the palm of a mans hand. The rush of the wind, while being projected in the air made Duke’s stomach drop. Duke appeared frail. His head and legs suspended over the edge of the man’s hand. Duke was eager to look up at the man’s face but he didn’t want to move to cause suspicion. The man went to the counter at the front of the store. A large cashier was sitting behind a register. The cashier was occupied, his eyes glued to the handheld game system in his meaty hands. ‘How much for this guy, sure’ said the man, hoisting Duke in his hand. The cahier clearly heard him but continued to play his game. ‘Sir?’ said the man. The cashier raised a single eyebrow peeking his eyes up at the man, every so slightly lifting his heavy set head. Then continuing to play his game. ‘Sir?’. The cashier finally looked at the man, rolling his eyes as he glanced at Duke being dangled in the man’s hand.  The hefty man let out a sigh. ‘That toy, is not for sale. The man looked at the cashier confused and said ‘what do you mean it’s not for sale?’ ‘You can just take him,’ muttered the cashier, giving no eye contact to the man. Duke smiled looking up at the man who had now become his hero. The man began to advance out the front door of the store with Duke by his side. The doors swung open and Duke was carried out of the warzone. Leaving his comrades and ending the days of his torture. His tour was over.

    A bright beam of light awoke Duke, blinding his face. The man stood above Duke, smiling as he dimmed the light. ‘You ready, little guy?’ said the man. Duke was a little frightened. ‘This might hurt a little.’ The man said as he held on the panicking toys head. Pinching Dukes small plastic skull, in between his thumb and pointer finger. Earlier the man seemed to be Duke’s hero now he just seemed like a psychopath. Duke turned from frightened to petrified in an instant. His body began shaking. If toys could sweat this would be the moment. The mans fingers started to tug, separating the plastic and glue that attached Duke’s head to his neck. He could feel his head inching off his body. The man twisted Duke’s neck crunching his plastic bones making Dukes body quiver in fear. Plastic between his neck became see through, the only thing keeping Dukes had intact with his body was strands of rubber tissue. Letting out a shrill scream Duke began losing circulation. His eyes rolled to the back of his head. ‘Please don't do this I'm...’ But before Duke could finish his head was suspended within the pinched fingers of the man. The man ripped Dukes head off, leaving him headless and afraid.

Duke woke up again to the bright light. He raised his arms towards his face to cover the light, then feeling if his head had still been removed. Duke felt his head and face but they were different. He first felt his nose which was no longer the small betate nose he once had he now had a large rectangular nose. Two dim beady blue eyes that sat under his stern dark brows; he had large round ears with a single hoop earring in the right ear and two in the left. His mustache had been removed and his lower jaw which was now rectangular, took up a good portion of his face and head; he had lost his hair and was rocking an artistically crafted beard. A large tribal tattoo ran along his shiny bald head. Duke then progressed to look down, seeing that the tattoo run downwards from his head to his chest and was also placed along the sides of his low shoulders and left leg. Duke still had no shirt and was wearing extremely baggy shorts, showcasing his plaid boxers. Even with a the striped belt, the shorts still managed to fall below his knees. Below he was wearing white socks with black sneakers. Dukes entire face and body seemed fairly cartoony to his past appearance. His hand especially had turned 2 times a large as his last. Duke got up seeing his reflection in a glass display case. Another flash of light blinded Dukes vision, this time the light was rapid. Numerous flashes of lights continued to blind him from various angles. The flashes were coming from the crowd of photographer circling Duke. Duke’s became overjoyed with glee, seeing that the crowd that all came to see him, not to point finger and laugh. But to appreciate the craftsmanship that Duke had. The man was standing in front of the display case smiling at Duke who now realizing that the man wasn’t a psychopath but an artist who reinvisioned Duke, creating a personality for the sad misunderstood toy. The new look and outfit although cartoony allowed Duke to showcase that he wasn’t like anyone else. Every toys desire to be noticed and Duke was no different than the rest. All Duke ever wanted was to be admired and he got it.