Midnight City was one of the first story concepts I came up with for Things Were Better Then. This story was based off of two things - Destructivedisk's story, A Front, and a (relatively) recent interview where Toriyama stated that Krillin had become a police officer after the defeat of Majin Buu. I thought Krillin as a police officer would be a more interesting version of the Great Saiyaman, and I wanted to portray it in a serious way (not the comedic way he is portrayed in Resurection F, for example). A Front influenced this story in a less direct way; I think the tone of Midnight City, as well as some character development and small references were what came from that influence.
The above pictures show that I had chosen Krillin to be the protagonist for this story from a very early point. That idea never changed. I felt like the ninth song that this story worked well for Krillin. I got an idea (while listening to that song) of him wandering the streets wanting to go on a holiday with Android 18 while dealing with depression and feeling like he was alone amongst the crowds of people moving about him. This image was so visceral to me that I came up with the entire story of Midnight City from it. It was very much like Bonetown Blues in that way. I feel like Krillin and Yamcha are very similar characters by the end of Dragon Ball Z, with their main difference (Krillin being married and a more active member of society) serving only to suppress Krillin's feelings more than Yamcha's are. So seeing how the two display similar feelings in very different contexts was fun for me.
The above picture (as well as the two above it), shows the theme color I eventually settled on for this story. Lime green was not originally one of the colors I came up with for Holiday in the list seen in the above picture. That list was formed as I listened to the song; I wrote down the colors that came to me, without thinking about it, as I listened to the song. However, I was unsatisfied with the colors I came up with, as none of them felt right. I listened to "Holiday" a few more times and eventually settled on lime green. That color captured the happiness of the song more accurately than my previous list, and that was the theme color from then on out. I was particularly happy with this theme color, as it contrasted greatly with the dreary grey-black of the city in this story.
Now, the above pictures also show that this was one of the few stories I tried to name early on. Since I considered Yamcha and Krillin to be similar characters and in similar situations in this collection, I considered having both of their stories end in "Blues", which is how "Midnight Blues" and "Downtown Blues" came about. Both of those are nice names, but I ultimately decided that the "Blues" ending was redundant. I would have used one or the other had Bonetown Blues not existed, but alas it did. I actually didn't come up with "Midnight City" as a name until I posted Things Were Better Then on this wiki on February 20, 2015. But once I came up with that name, I knew it was perfect for this story. It remains one of my favorite names out of all of the one-shots in the Things Were Better Then collection.
The above picture shows that this story, along with We'll Never Feel Bad Anymore, was one of the few TWBT one-shots to get a poem for it before I abandoned that idea. The poems were supposed to go at the top of the story, just above the beginning of the prose, similar to how I did so in Dragon Ball Z: In Requiem. The idea for the Dr. Seuss poem was that it highlight the agency problems Krillin is feeling in this story. He feels swallowed up by the city, by his obligations, by his past. He feels like he hasn't gotten anywhere in life, and that is depressing him. He feels an obligation to become a police officer, to become someone he's not in order to do something with his life, as he feels like he hasn't gone anywhere in life so far. That pressure, along with Android 18 wanting Krillin to get a paying job is why he becomes a police officer, and Krillin's struggle throughout this story is trying to figure out if trying to get a legacy is worth the mental misery it puts him through.
I was ready to write this story before I even wrote Glory - or at least I thought I was. I had this one as well as A Soundless Dark listed as "ready to write" from the moment I came up with Things Were Better Then. However, I was not really ready to write it, as I thought. As I completed each TWBT story before it, I worked on the plot for this story. The process was slow and I didn't work on Midnight City often before completing Before Creation Comes Destruction, but I did do some stuff. Mostly, it was research into Krillin's history and the nuances of his personality.
In late February 2015, if I remember correctly, I looked up "Holiday", the ninth song on the Blue Album on weezerpedia (as I did with the other nine songs). The thing that first struck me was the connection to Jack Kerouac. The second was the upbeat tone and unbridled happiness coming from going on a "holiday". Melding these two things together, I came up with a lot of the themes for this story, as well as the tone direction and how I wanted to portray Krillin's character growth. The main thing I worked on in the coming months, aside from researching Krillin's canon personality, was researching Kerouac's philosophy and the beat movement, as I was unfamiliar with both, but realized that understanding them was critical for the development of this story.
So around the time Before Creation Comes Destruction was finished, I began to seriously research Kerouac's stuff. I had only briefly looked at it in the months before, but now I had no more time to put off this story. I spent several hours going over his ideas, beliefs, etc, and these greatly influenced Midnight City. I don't remember why exactly it took me so long to write this story - ideally, it should have been released around May 17, 2015, but I had finals that week, so I couldn't focus on this story. So then, I was planning on releasing it on May 24, 2015, as I was finished with school by May 20th. I don't remember why I didn't write it around that time - probably I was celebrating being done with school and was just partying too much to do some serious work. Either way, I only began to work on this story on May 31st. I wanted to finish Things Were Better Then by the end of May, which left me in a bad position, as it meant I had to write two stories in the span of one day - an unheard of amount of time for such complex one-shots. Most of them took me a week (minimum) to produce, so this was worrying. What it meant was I began to work on this story earlier than I had anticipated - at 2:25 am of May 31st, specifically. I worked from then until 4:59 am on the first section of Midnight City. I wrote the first draft of the first section by 3:45 am and then spent the remainder of that time editing it and making it as perfect as it could be. I returned to this story on the same day at 4:51 pm (almost twelve hours later), and then continued to edit off and on until 8:53 pm (I took many breaks during this span), writing the short second section and editing the entire document. Once I was done, I posted it and then immediately began to work on A Soundless Dark (but more on that on that story's anthology page).
I remember being relatively happy with this story once it was completed. I haven't read it since posting it, so I'm not sure if that will hold up. I do remember thinking this wasn't as good as Suicide Missionary, Before Creation Comes Destruction, or Bonetown Blues, but we'll see if it stacks up against those heavyweights in the below endnotes. Anyways, onto the detailed commentary!
|Things Were Better Then|
|Written:||May 13 - May 31, 2015|
|Released:||May 31, 2015|
|Things Were Better Then track listing|
This story's theme is Holiday.
They were on the road by nightfall. Krillin sat in the passenger seat, his hands meekly clasped in his lap, staring out the dirty window at the acute glow of city lights. Officer Carrow drove in silence from light stop to light stop, not saying a word for the first ten or so blocks. There were so many people walking the streets. It was as if, with the sun having gone down, the city had come alive.
“So, you’re the new guy, eh?” said Carrow gruffly, just as the silence was becoming intolerable. He had a raspy tone, as if he had smoked too many cigars as a youth, and his accent was foreign, though familiar. Krillin couldn’t place exactly where it was from.
Krillin gulped. Just gotta get through this conversation. Make a friend. Don’t seem weird. I’m a normal guy. “Yeah, that’s me!”
“You’re a little old for a recruit, aren’t ya?” Carrow’s malachite eyes narrowed, and his face wrinkled up. He’s old, Krillin thought. Looks like he’s been through a lot. Is that how I’ll be in ten years? He shuddered.
“Ye-yeah, I guess,” Krillin laughed nervously and scratched the back of his head. “I-I just thought I needed a career change, y’know? And my wife thought it’d be good for me to get a paying job…”
Officer Carrow scanned the road ahead. “What did you do before?”
“I was a martial artist.”
“Ever win a tournament?”
“Not first place.”
They were quiet for a while. Carrow drank something from a flask; Krillin believed it to be alcohol. Still, he didn’t say a word. If the other officer was an alcoholic, Krillin wasn’t going to tell anyone. And if he was just drinking coffee or juice, there was no need for the former martial artist to make a fool of himself on his first day. A voice from the radio directed Carrow a few blocks ahead, where a man was committing indecent exposure. Krillin jumped out of the car and formed up behind Carrow. Being in a police officer’s suit made him feel powerful, important. He’d gotten a similar feeling the first time he’d taken the stage at the World Martial Arts tournament in Master Roshi’s school attire. Krillin eyed the crowds moving passed him and noted with grim satisfaction that they seemed a bit scared of him; perhaps they were all feeling a little guilty about something. They won’t have any idea this is my first day. They think I’ve been a police officer for a while. I’ve got the look already.
The city stank of old garbage, and even now, in the dead of night, spotted pigeons were rummaging through rotting food in the gutters. Hovercars zoomed by; the traffic lights blinked systematically from one color to the next. The grid was heartless as it was efficient. Krillin looked around and saw imposing skyscrapers on every side of him. It made him feel small. This city sure is lonely, he thought as he watched and felt the sparse crowds moving by. They were like ants, marching off this way and that, not betraying a hint of emotion, of humanity. Graffiti lined the nearest wall, gang signs and poor drawings of King Furry intermingled in a sinewy mess of bright green and brown spray paint. Krillin wondered what all the people in the buildings whose lights were on were doing.
Carrow gave the half-naked man a slap on the wrist and warned him that there were no second chances. The policemen got back into the police hovercar and sped off into the lighted night.
Krillin felt silence creeping on again. Carrow didn’t seem like a man of many words, and that worried Krillin. He had to make a good impression. Just say something! You’re not getting anywhere by not saying anything! “So, uh, it’s Officer Carrow, right?”
“Have you done this for very long?” Krillin tried to keep his tone delicate and polite.
Eighteen said as long as I’m polite, they’ll all become my friends. And Krillin was in desperate need of some new friends. Not that his old ones were bad – far from it, really. Goku would always be his best friend. But times had changed. Krillin was no longer a young warrior, ready to defend the Earth from the next wave of crazed aliens or psychotic androids. It’s time I had a normal life with normal friends and normal problems. He stared out the window again. Carrow was speeding, and the lights of the buildings and lightposts blurred together in blues and reds and yellow-greens. Krillin wondered if there was ever a moment the whole city wasn’t lit up like a Christmas tree.
“Been here six months. Probably won’t stay another six.”
“I guess you like to travel, huh?”
Carrow seemed to find that funny, but his expression remained coolly stern. “Heh, you could say that.”
Krillin clenched his fists. It was painful, this conversation, but he had to push through. He had to act normal. He had to act like all the other sad, lonely people out there, for Eighteen’s sake, and for his own. He couldn’t go on as a Z Fighter. It’s way past time I grow up. “What were you before this?”
“A traveler, I guess. A wanderer. Just a guy passing through.”
“Where are you going?” Krillin asked.
Carrow looked back at the smaller man. His eyes were lion’s eyes, his mouth as sharp as a jackal’s. “Where are you going?”
Krillin didn’t know how to respond. “Uh… wherever you’re taking me.”
“No, you don’t understand,” Carrow frowned. “I mean where are you going? You obviously joined the police force to change things up. Why?”
“I told you,” Krillin contended. “My wife wanted me to get a job that pays well. She, uh, likes money.”
“We get shit salaries man. Plus, this work ain’t exactly safe. You could’ve become a businessman or something. Why this?”
Krillin shrugged. “I guess I want to help people.”
Carrow raised an eyebrow. “This is the only way, is it now?”
Krillin grit his teeth. He doesn’t understand. I just couldn’t compete with the others anymore. I was dead weight. Useless. I worked all my life to become a great warrior, and I failed. “I just want to make a difference.”
The other man snorted.
“What, you don’t think I can?” Krillin asked him, his eyes wide and shimmering, reflecting the city’s artificial luster in them.
“I didn’t say that,” Officer Carrow said. He changed lanes violently. The light ahead flashed green, and the cars around Carrow and Krillin floored it, as if they didn’t care that the two officers were watching them. “Just by existing, you’re making a difference, even if it’s a small one. But if you think you’ll do something important here, think again. You might change someone’s life tonight, you might even save someone, but tomorrow, someone else is gonna need saving, and it’ll be like that for the rest of your days. You’ll never win. There’s always someone else to help, always another crisis, always another crime. You’ll never do anything permanent. You’ll never fix humankind, because we’re all fucked in the head. We’re all broken in some way or another. Things will never be okay. There’s always going to be an endless supply of problems. It’s just the way it is. So what’s the point trying to save anyone? You’re damning them to more suffering, more pain. A harder life, but a life’s a life I guess. And that’s why I’ve figured I may as well keep traveling, keep moving on. Better to see the world than try to change what can’t be changed. Better to live than to think you’re making a living.”
The radio called up again, telling them there were reports of a 10-51 nearby. That means public intoxication, Krillin observed. Hey, I guess all those nights of cramming for my police exam weren’t for nothing after all. It was closing in on midnight; the night was young, the air cool. Wind blew through the streets, sending trash into the air. Pigeons took flight to chase after the bits they deemed food. I’d bet all of Kame Island they can’t eat newspapers.
“All right… Krillin, is it?” Carrow asked. Krillin nodded. “Let’s take this easy. Drunks are wildcards. Never know what you’re going to get. Stay alert, and if he tries anything funny, don’t be afraid to taze him. Stay behind me.”
They got out and approached a man on the sidewalk who was swinging around a half-empty bottle of rum and standing on a cardboard box. The man wore a lime-colored leprechaun hat, thick glasses that would have made even Buddy Holly proud, and his business suit was torn open, revealing a flabby, misshapen belly, though his tie still hung from his neck and seemed to sway like a half-dead tail. He was ranting about something eclectic – something to do with how King Furry was a dancing circus bear who got loose and was now trying to bring down the government from the inside. He was screaming about King Furry’s will being the linchpin of it all, but that made even less sense than the drunk’s first statement. And since King Furry was not, indeed, a bear, but a well-mannered dog, Krillin knew the drunk was just being incoherent.
“Evening,” Carrow said to the man as he walked up to him. “What’s going on here?”
“Look man, I dun’wun any trouble. Imma jussst exercisin’ my free speech!”
Carrow was unphased. He scratched his chin, feeling grey stubble. “Yeah, that’s good of you. My issue isn’t what you’re babbling on about. It’s about what you have in your hand right there.” He pointed at the bottle of rum. “Sir, have you been drinking tonight?”
The man’s eyes widened. Krillin saw the realization flush into his face like a light flicking on. “I…”
“Krillin, give me your handcuffs.”
“No!” the man shouted, taking a step back. “No way man!”
Carrow stepped forward. He looked larger than before, taller, more dominant. His chest puffed out and Krillin saw that he had some large muscles… for a regular human. That made the shorter man feel a sense of relief. For a moment, he had thought he would need to use his own strength to subdue the drunkard. I swore not to use my real power. I’m just a regular human like everyone else. I’m no superhero. Those days are in the past. That’s not who I am anymore.
“Sir, if you try to run, I will be forced to restrain you,” Carrow sighed. “I don’t think any of us want that. Now come on, step over here so I can–”
“Never! You’ll never take me alive, copper!” the man shrieked like a ghost. He jumped back, away from Officer Carrow, and then threw his bottle of rum into the policeman’s face before scampering off into the distance.
“Son of a qwark!” Carrow grunted, feeling broken glass on his face. He wiped away rum and the blood, blinking rapidly and putting his arms out on either side of him to prevent himself from falling over. “Krillin… where’d he go? Huh?!”
“That way,” Krillin said, pointing to his right. For a moment, Krillin wondered why he hadn’t leapt on the man as soon as he had thrown the bottle.
“We’ll let’s go, come on! Don’t freeze up on me now, rookie!”
They ran after him, pushing their way past oblivious bystanders and speeding hovercars. Krillin could sense the man, and he directed Carrow in the right direction every time they lost sight of him. There’s no point in me not using my ability to sense people. Besides, Carrow won’t realize I’m even doing it.
Krillin felt numb as he pursued the man, detached. He felt the wind rushing through his hair. He didn’t know if he felt alive or dead, but he felt something, some deep painful knot in his chest that he realized had always been there, and that he could not turn away from. His ran by people and glimpsed their faces, but he didn’t take anything in. It was all just flashes of light, blank expressions, cold, lorn metal-and-stone buildings. He wanted to throw up. I have to make this work, he told himself in his mind. I have to become normal, no matter how much it hurts.
They followed the man to a bar ensconced in layers of sickly neon lights. Carrow reached the place first and didn’t pause before charging inside. Krillin watched him go. He swallowed and ran forward.
Silver glinted in the midnight streets; a metallic bang echoed and howled and was gone. Then came the cries.
Carrow was on the ground, blood pooling on the cherry wood floor. People were screaming, running from the room like frenzied snappers. Krillin saw a dark-skinned man with a face painted like a clown holding a pistol, its black barrel still smoking. In his other hand was a lit blunt. Behind him, a small group of young men were huddled around a table playing poker and smoking cigars. The drunk with the leprechaun hat was with them, pointing at Krillin. Upon seeing the second officer enter the establishment, all of them got on their feet.
“Whoa, guys, I don’t mean any trouble,” Krillin tried to say in a friendly manner, raising his hands and stepping back. If they shot at him, he’d be forced to deal with them using his real power.
I can’t forget about Carrow, Krillin thought, eying the man on the ground. He wasn’t moving, which was not a good sign. He’d need help fast.
“Let’s beat it!” one of the men shouted.
“Aw, come on man, I’m up 20,000!” another complained.
“Shut up,” said the first man, shoving the other. “Let’s get out of here before more of them come!”
They nodded, grabbed their chips, and ran off into the back room, save for the man with the clown face. He eyed Krillin with his bloodshot eyes and laughed. “Say hello to your friend for me.”
Then, he fired his pistol. Krillin ducked out of the way, behind a bar stool, and when he jumped back up, the pistol-wielding fiend was already running after his friends. I could stop them, but then I’d have to leave Carrow. Krillin grimaced. He ran over to the fallen officer and felt for a pulse. Weak… but it’s there… He picked up the man and dragged him outside.
A hawkish blast of air greeted Krillin as he stumbled out into the city.
“Help, someone!” he shouted. “Call an ambulance!”
Some people stared at him like he was a mannequin in a meat shop. Others continued to walk, not even looking at him. Why now? Why me?
“Come on, can’t you see he’s hurt? He needs to get to the hospital right now!”
Still none of the people did as Krillin asked. The former martial artist let out a groan of displeasure and shouted, “Hey, you know, if it was you who got shot, you’d want someone there to help you!”
The city buzzed on, as if nothing had happened. People walked, cars zoomed, lights flashed. It was so quiet in all the noise. Krillin thought he could hear the heartbeat of the city itself. And it wasn’t something he liked.
“Fine, be that way!”
Krillin conjured up his ki around him and then jumped. It felt strange using his ki again, like riding a bike for the first time in a long time. As he flew, people finally began to pay attention to him, with many of them letting out shouts of surprise and awe and recording him on their phones’ cameras. He left them without looking back.
The sky was dark and uniformly cloudy, like a polished marble. The industrial sector was giving a section of the sky an ominous red glow, but otherwise, it was without color. Krillin flew higher and higher until he reached where the wind was blowing. It was nice being so high, so far removed from the madness of that city. Krillin welcomed the cold.
Carrow began to make some noise, and Krillin realized the man was falling awake. “H-hey, are you okay?” Krillin asked him as they continued onward. The wind whipped them good.
“Hey… where are we going?” Carrow responded weakly.
“I’m taking you to a hospital,” Krillin replied. This is just like in the car, only we’ve swapped places.
Carrow looked around, and his eyes widened in shock. “W-wait… are we flying?!”
“Just be quiet,” Krillin said in a commanding voice. “Save your energy.”
“Am I dreaming?” Carrow asked, but he wasn’t talking to Krillin anymore. His voice was hollow, introspective; he was slipping back into unconsciousness.
Maybe it’d be better if he thought he was.
For a while thereafter, Carrow did not speak; Krillin thought him to have fallen back into unconsciousness. The former martial artist saw the hospital coming up on the far side of the city, and flew even faster towards it. Nearly there.
“I always knew you were a traveler,” Carrow crackled suddenly.
“Huh, what do you mean, Carrow?” Krillin asked, puzzled.
“You’re searching for something, just like me. But you don’t have the courage to find it.”
Krillin’s face flushed, and he felt the winds punish him for that. “You were shot, Carrow. You need to rest. Don’t try to talk.”
“Don’t be like me,” Carrow replied in a feeble voice. “Don’t ignore who you are.”
With that, the man fell back asleep. Krillin touched down outside the hospital. It was quiet here, with only the low hum of street lamps buzzing. Krillin looked around, saw no one, a welcome change from the hysteria of the inner city, and ran into the building.
They put him on traffic ticket duty the next night, and Krillin found it to be dull work. He kept his head down and wrote the tickets, ignored irate drivers and onlookers, and thought about what his life had become. How did I end up here? He wondered that a lot; Krillin struggled to find an answer no matter how hard he racked his brain. I used to be someone.
The monolithic buildings towered over Krillin and made him feel like he was being swallowed whole. The city never slept, never quieted down, never stopped flashing lights. It gave him a headache. He caught a notorious graffiti artist named Kuanfan, and gave the man a ticket. He stopped cars for speeding and gave them tickets. He warned a man who was dangerously close to becoming a public disturbance with his screaming at the moon. It all made Krillin feel empty inside, like he was going through the motions of something that wasn’t a part of him, that he didn’t want to be a part of him.
Maybe Carrow was right. Maybe I haven’t found what I’m looking for yet. But what that could be, he did not know. He wanted to protect people, but he couldn’t do it the way Goku could. Krillin balled up a fist and looked up at the cloud-covered sky. Sometimes I wish I was a Saiyan too. Then I’d know what to do with my life. Whatever Krillin was doing, it wasn’t working. He tried to give a ticket to a woman who had parked illegally, and as he was writing it, she came running out from a nearby restaurant before cursing him out and throwing her lime margarita at him. The city moved on, to a monotonous artificial beat, and Krillin, the little man, was ignored. It was as if his life didn’t matter, as if nothing he did held any consequence. The only thing he could do would be to fall in line and act like everyone else, think like everyone else, be as miserable and fake as everyone else. What’s the point in being normal if this is normal?
Krillin sighed and put down his ticket pad before pulling out his cell phone. He had to get away from it all. He wasn’t cut out to be like everyone else. He scrolled through his contacts until he found the one he was looking for and dialed it.
“Hey, it’s me,” Krillin said.
“Yeah, what is it?” his wife replied. “Why are you calling so late?”
“I’ve been doing some thinking, Eighteen, and I thought, well, what do you think if we take a vacation? Just you and me. Let’s go away for awhile. Get away from the city and all the noise and have some fun.”
“Did you get fired?”
“What?! No! I just need a break.”
Her voice was annoyed, “Krillin, you’ve only been working there a single day.”
Yeah, and I realized it was a mistake. “Look babe, you still have all that zeni from Mr. Satan, right? Can’t we take a few days off? Have a little fun?”
She sighed long and loud. “Fine. Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Krillin replied. “I just know I have to get out of this city.”
They said their goodbyes and hung up. Krillin sat on the curb and watched all of the people. He felt so alone on that bleak sidewalk, amongst lifeless, colorless scenery. Every one of them has their own life, their own goals. And so do I. I’ve gotta be who I want to be, not what they want me to be. They were all on a journey, he knew, and so was he. But his journey had stagnated at some turn sometime so far back that he didn’t remember when it had happened. It was time for him to get back on the path and march on with his life. I need a holiday, he thought. A long, relaxing holiday. And when I come back, things won’t be how they were.
Krillin didn’t know if he believed that. But when one is alone in a strange and distant land, there is little to keep one company but a fool’s hope.
- "Midnight City" refers to the city that Krillin and Carrow traverse through in this story. The city itself is a character, which I wanted to highlight. Also, the idea that "midnight" means more than just 12:00 am was something I wanted to show from the get-go.
- This is the second longest story in Things Were Better Then, and the only other one, aside from Before Creation Comes Destruction, that goes over 3000 words. I remember being surprised that it ended up so long after completing it. I wasn't planning on Midnight City being much longer than most of the other one-shots (which would be around 2000-2500 words).
- The first line of this story references Jack Kerouac's story, On the Road.
- Officer Carrow's name is a nod to Kerouac's own name.
- In the first paragraph, I note how the city has come alive since the sun has gone down. This is the first idea of an important theme in this story. The city's liveliness was also important for me to portray, as it is a direct contrast to Krillin's lethargy.
- Carrow's foreign accent is me referencing a line from "Holiday", which is: "Let's go away for a while/You and I, to a strange and distant land". I figured Carrow was from that strange and distant land. This makes Carrow an Other in the city just like Krillin, though they are different Others.
- I had fun with Krillin trying to socialize with Carrow. He realizes he needs to make a good impression, to make a friend, if he wants to be happy in his job. Everything is geared towards him finding happiness, to him finding the pleasure that comes from going on a holiday. In a way, his new job is a holiday, though it is not the one Krillin has anticipated.
- Carrow's eyes being malachite says a lot about his character. Malachite itself is very similar to some aspects of that guy's personality. The color itself is a hard, rough color, and it also references this story's theme color.
- Krillin sees Carrow as how he'll become in many years. This is a crucial line, as it shows how Carrow serves as a foil for Krillin and how their personalities play off one another.
- Krillin's dialogue is very on-point in this story, I think. His mannerisms, such as scratching the back of his head nervously are things he does in canon too, so that was very much in-character.
- Krillin's energy is much different from Carrow's in the first part of the first section. Krillin is (understandably) nervous and awkward, while Carrow is laid back and tired.
- The exchange about Krillin's job, and him not ever winning a tournament is one of my favorite parts of this story. After Krillin says he hasn't ever won first place in a tournament, the words hang in the air and their conversation dies. This highlights how Krillin hasn't felt like he has accomplished anything in his life, hinting at another reason he became a police officer (he could have taken any paying job for all Android 18 cared). Also, not having any dialogue markers during this exchange brings more attention to the way the words hang in the air, in the silence. This brings more weight to the words and shows how they are acutely tied to Krillin's characterization.
- Kerouac was a noted alcoholic. That is why Carrow drinks. It is ironic, because he's drinking and driving, which is mightily hypocritical for a police officer.
- The idea of putting on your person suit, or your social suit is something I got specifically from the television show, Hannibal, but it is a nebulous idea that I've had with me for a while, even before I watched that show for the first time. Krillin's social suit is the police officer uniform, which makes him feel powerful. This power is not physical power, but social power, which Krillin has never had before. Krillin comparing this to the first time he took the World Martial Arts Tournament stage is telling, as back then, Krillin had much promise that, alas, went unfulfilled.
- I decided to use italicized inner thoughts for Krillin in this story, as I hadn't done so since Yamcha's story (if I remember correctly). I felt like I was underusing that literary technique, and this story was the best place to start using it again, since Krillin and Yamcha are so similar.
- The idea of birds eating garbage is a symbol first seen in We'll Never Feel Bad Anymore. They symbolize something slightly different in this story - use context clues to figure it out!
- The emotionless, yet panicked energy in the city is a great parallel for Krillin. The colors too are very important. The lights of the hovercars, the buildings, and the street lights are always blinking, showing signs of artificiality and life together. The show of lights is literally illuminating the midnight city, but also thrusting it into more confusion. From a simple tone perspective, I wanted the lights to be constantly flashing because that is one of the most recognizable aspects of a city, especially at night, and I wanted the setting to feel realistic here.
- The skyscrapers feel like they are closing in on Krillin because Krillin feels pressure to amount to something. He cannot stand as tall as them, so he feels intimidated, figuratively speaking.
- The drones moving around Krillin are similar to the people Tien noticed in the underground train station in Suicide Missionary. The way the people just move on with their lives so emotionlessly and so desperately (to get money and fame) is a theme I explore in both stories.
- The graffiti is me hinting at the beat movement and how that thematically influenced this story. The idea of urban decay and trying to express (what is seen as illegal and unsavory) emotion against the numerous imposing grey-black buildings is a major theme of this story. Additionally, much of the graffiti is in lime green paint, highlighting this story's theme color.
- Krillin feeling lonely amongst the crowds is because he isn't one of them. He's an Other; they are the One. He doesn't get them. He doesn't get why they are so emotionless and drone-like. This is much like how Tien felt in Suicide Missionary. The loneliness also shows how hard a time Krillin is having. His isolation is a mental thing, and he doesn't know how to overcome it. However, his struggle ends in a different way than Tien's does, which shows two different outcomes of a similar thematic problem.
- The graffiti drawings of King Furry are a subtle reference to A Front and become important later in the story.
- Krillin wondering what all the people in the distant building windows are doing is purposefully similar to Tien's similar thoughts in Suicide Missionary. This observation also serves to isolate Krillin from them further. They are up in their high towers, while he is on the ground floor, wading through the filth and danger still.
- The man committing indecent exposure is showing off his true self, not hidden by societal fabrications (in this case clothes, but symbolically, being a mentally unique and creative person). Of course, what he is doing is not okay, obviously, so I'm not portraying this theme in a one-sided manner. I'm showing that both sides have problems if taken to the extreme.
- Carrow warning the man that there are no second chances is ironic because Krillin is getting a second chance of his own. Perhaps he understands this warning, though, realizing that this is his last shot, so he has to make it count.
- "It’s time I had a normal life with normal friends and normal problems." - this thought clearly shows what Krillin's goal is in this story. It's not that he wants to abandon his past or the Z Fighters or any of that. It's just that he can no longer fight the villains that are appearing. He has a wife and a daughter now. He needs to take care of them. He needs to become more like the human he was born to be. It's a hard struggle, as it goes against what Krillin has grown up being, but it's one he feels is necessary, even if it brings him mental pain in the process.
- Carrow speeding through the midnight city as the colors of the city blur around them has aesthetic worth as well as thematic implications.
- Carrow liking to travel is based off of some of the characters in Kerouac's "On the Road".
- Krillin finding a conversation painful but necessary to get through is how I feel about nearly every conversation I have with people I don't know.
- The idea that Krillin has to grow up to become like all the other sad, lonely people is an absurd comment, however I don't bring attention to its absurdity on purpose. This shows the mentality of the world. Additionally, the "sad, lonely people" part is a reference to The Beatles' song, Eleanor Rigby.
- I had lots of fun describing Carrow's eyes and other features in different ways. These hint at his personality and were more interesting to do than to say "he's a serious guy" or something like that.
- Carrow is a traveler who is searching for something in life. I added that in before getting to Carrow to question where Krillin was going to show their parallels and contrasts as characters.
- Carrow bringing up the fact that policemen get bad salaries further brings attention to how weird it is that Krillin decided to become one. He obviously is not doing it for the money, despite his earlier explanation. This says a lot about Krillin, especially the fact that he would lie about his true intentions. Maybe he feels guilty about his true feelings and doesn't want to tell Carrow since he just met him.
- Krillin feels useless. He feels like he let the Z Fighters down with how weak he is in comparison to them. In truth, it's just the fact that being a human is no match for being a Saiyan. He doesn't have Super Saiyan levels. From a biological level, he can't compete. But he blames himself all the same. He sees the only way to get redemption as being to help regular people, no matter how much it strains him to do so. In that way, Krillin is noble and tragic. Krillin saying he just wants to make a difference is very true and reveals the essence of his character.
- Krillin's eyes reflecting the artificial light of the city has thematic considerations. Notice how this happens when Krillin says he wants to help people, perhaps naively. Of course, Carrow doesn't know Krillin's full power, so he assumes Krillin's goals are unrealistic - they would be for any normal human. Ironically, Krillin wants to become normal, but if he was normal, he wouldn't be able to help people to the extent he wants to.
- Carrow's long speech highlights a few themes, but the most important one is the fact that everyone is powerless, even someone as powerful as Goku. We can't change human nature. There will always be problems. There will always be crime. Krillin's goal (and the goal of the Z Fighters and many superheroes throughout literature) is remarkably unrealistic, and rarely is this ever brought up. I wanted to bring it up for a few reasons. One reason is to have Carrow say these poignant lines that reveal something about his own character as well as one of the more important themes in this story, "Better to see the world than try to change what can’t be changed. Better to live than to think you’re making a living.". That is Carrow trying to tell Krillin how he should be living, but Krillin doesn't understand (or rejects) this notion. Perhaps Krillin understands Carrow but remains defiant. Perhaps he knows he can't change the world but tries to do what he can just to help those he can, even if they don't thank him. There is nobleness in that, but foolishness too. Nobleness and foolishness are two sides of the same coin, to be honest.
- The 10-51 was a real code for public intoxication in some police force in America. I don't remember which one I took it from, though. I did look it up online to make sure it was an accurate number code to a real crime, though.
- The way trash soars through the air is similar to how some trash flies about in Suicide Missionary.
- Carrow talking about drunks is of course ironic. Carrow giving Krillin advice about the drunk, though, inadvertently is him giving Krillin advice about how to deal with him.
- The drunks' clothes are very silly - I got the idea for the leprechaun hat only as I was writing the scene. It seemed like a funny idea so I just ran with it. The hat also references this story's theme color.
- The reference to Buddy Holly is rather apt for this collection.
- The man's belly poking through his suit hints at his internal ruin, which has been kept hidden by artificial means (in this case, the suit). Now that he's gotten himself drunk, that barrier has been breached. This of course serves as a metaphor.
- The drunk's rantings about King Furry were poking fun at A Front somewhat, although some of it was my own creation as well (which did not reference A Front).
- The drunk man's drunk dialogue is heavily based on how Destructivedisk writes drunk dialogue.
- Krillin not wanting to use his own powers (he doesn't want to be a superhero) is an interesting personality development and shows how much he wants to become normal. However, this is also Krillin ignoring himself, suppressing his own agency in an attempt to get new, (in his opinion), better personal agency. The irony is that he is getting even less agency than he had before by becoming a police officer.
- "You’ll never take me alive, copper!" - this is such a hilarious, common phase, that I'm not even sure where it originated from. It was just too funny not to use in this story, though.
- "“Son of a qwark!”" - this line is a reference to the Ratchet & Clank series. I felt like referencing that here since Ratchet & Clank is a series both Destructivedisk and myself very much enjoy, and this story was meant for him more than anyone else.
- Krillin's delayed reactions are beginning to concern him. In truth, there was no reason for him not to restrain the drunken man when he ran off. Krillin must've been afraid that Carrow would have noticed his superhuman speed and questioned it, which is the last thing Krillin wanted.
- Krillin using his ki sensing ability was a rather clever move, since it would be hard for Carrow to realize he was using it. Also, this shows that Krillin is changing from just a few moments past. He is now using his powers. He realized after he didn't restrain the drunk that he had made a mistake, so he's trying to rectify that. Krillin is very conflicted; he feels like he has to both be the superhero and the normal man, and this conflict is making Krillin act weirdly. He is searching for agency but is also refusing to use much of his agency, which is interesting.
- Krillin's numbness and detachment are crucial moments of character development. He doesn't feel like he's a part of society. His struggle with the One versus the Other is perhaps more serious than the similar struggles in other TWBT stories. His detachment is an interesting development as he's been quite emotional up to this point. Now he's finally becoming like the rest of society and he feels like throwing up. He doesn't like it. That is a turning point for him when he realizes that. But he also knows that he has to become normal, no matter how it hurts him, for his wife's sake as well as his daughter's. I don't mention if his daughter has been born yet, but even if she hasn't, he is still doing this all for Android 18, showing how much he loves her, how much he wants to make his new life work for her sake.
- I imagine that the neon lights that hang above the bar Carrow and Krillin followed the drunk into were colored lime green.
- "Silver glinted in the midnight streets; a metallic bang echoed and howled and was gone. Then came the cries." - this was the line I wrote on May 13, 2015, which is why Midnight City is said to have taken from then until May 31, 2015 to be written. That was the only line I wrote before May 31st. I wrote it on my phone while trying to sleep. The scene just came to me and I had to write it down. This also happened with Suicide Missionary and Monster in this collection.
- My own floor is made of cherry wood, which is why I mentioned the bar's floor being made of that wood. The reddish color of it also compliments Carrow's bleeding.
- The man who shoots Carrow is the present-day version of the Jamaican seen in We'll Never Feel Bad Anymore. Just like in that story, he is smoking weed here.
- I like poker, which is why the criminals were playing it.
- Krillin is faced with either saving Carrow or stopping crime. He chooses to save Carrow. This is him acting as the hero again, but it also shows how Carrow's earlier words are true. Krillin can't save everyone. He can't do everything. At some point, he has to make a compromise and let evil get away one way or the other. This moment was Krillin's choice. That he saves Carrow says a lot about his development.
- The wind is a reoccurring motif in this story. That a blast of it hits Krillin as he leaves the bar hints at the meaning of that motif.
- The pedestrians being too scared or too caught up in their own lives to help Krillin is something that happens all the time in real life. This thematic consideration was also explored in Before Creation Comes Destruction. The idea that one does not want to help someone in need until they are the one in need is very dissimilar from how Krillin wants to act and perceive the world. But perception and reality are often not the same.
- The cold, emotionless nature of the city is again highlighted when it continues to drone on after the shooting. Life goes on. People must get to places; lights must flash; we must stay focused on our own lives. Gotta go to work; gotta have a job; gotta make money. Quickly! It's the life of the drone. You would expect people to help Krillin, but that they don't is more accurate to reality and also shows the nature of the people Krillin is trying to save. The question then becomes, are they even worth saving? The contrast between the gunshot and the people of the city not noticing it is a big contrast which brings attention to this theme.
- Krillin being able to hear the heartbeat of the city is basically him just hearing the rhythm of the people and objects moving about. He doesn't like how emotionless it all is, how little everyone cares for one another. That's not how he is. He can't be like that. He won't.
- A big moment for Krillin is when he decides to fly off with Carrow. He finally uses his powers and agency to help the man whom the city will not help. At that moment, the people finally begin to pay attention to him, which is ironic, since Krillin thought he would only fit in if he acted like them. But perhaps he's not fitting in. Perhaps everyone is just staring at him because he's so different. And that also says a lot about Krillin and the themes of loneliness and individuality in this story.
- The way the sky is described is this story's sky description, obviously. This continues the trend of every TWBT having a description of the sky which then relates, thematically or metaphorically, to the protagonist of each story. In Krillin's case, the blackness with a hint of redness is very telling. This sky description is based on how the sky oft looks late at night behind my house, as there is a far-off industrial sector that gives the sky a reddish glow on certain nights.
- "Krillin flew higher and higher until he reached where the wind was blowing." - this line references a lyric from "Holiday". This also, again, brings up wind as a reoccurring motif.
- Krillin welcoming the cold is a great contrast to the portrayal of the hot/cold theme in Before Creation Comes Destruction.
- Carrow falling awake is a reference to Falling Awake by Gary Jules.
- Carrow asking where they are going perhaps has multiple meanings.
- Notice how Krillin takes over the dominant role as he flies Carrow to the hospital. This role reversal hints at Krillin's character growth.
- Carrow asking if he's dreaming is understandable, of course. Like any normal human, he wouldn't expect to be flying. This dream theme is also seen in Bonetown Blues in a slightly different way, as well as in A Soundless Dark. Here, it serves a similar purpose as the dream theme in Bonetown Blues more so than what I do in A Soundless Dark.
- Carrow's message to Krillin at the end of the first section influences how Krillin acts in the second section. His message is a big turning point for Krillin's character development. Him telling Krillin not to fail to be himself (like Carrow had) again shows how Carrow is Krillin's foil.
- The hospital contrasts with the city in more ways than one. The atmosphere is different, and its ability to save Carrow is as well. The hospital saves Carrow, and Carrow saves Krillin. So the end of the first section is filled with instances of healing and saving.
- "I used to be someone." - such a poignant line and a crucial one for understanding this story's main themes.
- I describe the buildings as monolithic as a nod to A Front.
- The graffiti artist Kuanfan is based on Fan Kuan, the creator of the amazing artwork, Travelers Among Mountains and Streams. This ties this story to Burning Man on a tonal level.
- Notice how Krillin becoming a normal police officer is sucking the life out of him.
- Krillin's identity crisis is summed up well when he thinks how easy life would be if he was a Saiyan. Then he'd know what he would have to do. Saiyans fight. That's it, pretty much. He would be stronger since he would have Super Saiyan transformations too. But being a human is more complex, more nuanced. Krillin struggles with being a mediocre fighter (from the Z Fighters' perspective) in a non-fighter's world. He doesn't fit in with normal society, but he also doesn't fit in with the Z Fighters anymore. That is his struggle. He needs to find where he's welcome. Carrow suggests that the traveler, the wander, the drifter, has no allegiance, no home. All that matters is finding oneself, staying true to oneself, not becoming another drone of society.
- The woman's lime margarita again highlights this story's theme color.
- "Let’s go away for awhile." - this line of dialogue is a lyric from "Holiday".
- Krillin wants to away with Android 18 to find himself. She doesn't understand this. What Krillin learned from his day in the city and conversations with Carrow was that he needed to find himself. This story isn't a story of Krillin doing that, but of Krillin realizing that he needs to do that. The vacation will get him there, he hopes.
- Krillin's thoughts about needing a holiday are similar to Bilbo's thoughts about needing a holiday in the first book of The Lord of the Rings.
- "But when one is alone in a strange and distant land, there is little to keep one company but a fool’s hope." - the "strange and distant land" part is a lyric from "Holiday".
- Krillin's hope to change or become who he hopes to be is described as being a fool's hope, which actually ends this story in a more depressing place than it at first appears to end. There isn't much hope that Krillin will become all he wants to be. We know where Krillin ends up - he stays as a police officer, and his appearances in the later movies and series after Majin Buu's defeat show him to be rather successful. His spirits are up. So the epiphany that Krillin later reaches is not one of changing jobs, but of changing perspectives, coming to terms with who he is and where he is at in life. Somehow, Krillin finds a way to be more positive and successful in his job, all of which was begun by what happened in this story with what Carrow opened Krillin's eyes to.
I think this story has a lot of good complex themes and character development for both Krillin and Officer Carrow. The little references I had in this story were also very strong. Krillin's portrayal was in-character and accurate, and his conversations with Carrow were the highlight of the story. More so than any other Things Were Better Then story, Midnight City uses dialogue to effectively build the characters, themes, and advance the plot. The prose is also very good, I think, especially the descriptions of the city and Krillin's inner thoughts about becoming normal and what that means. The way I portrayed the city as a character unto itself was also a very good move, in my opinion. I don't have much to criticize about this story. The ending, with Krillin wanting to go on a holiday could have perhaps been expanded a bit, and the last line could have been worded better. But otherwise, this story is plotted out very strongly, and the writing is very good. Krillin's various and complex struggles were also fun to write as well as read over for this commentary. Overall, I'd give Midnight City an S-.
<---- Part 51
Part 53 ---->