Hilo Micro-Fiction Contest!

By: HILOBROW
January 26, 2010

CONTEST: HiLobrow.com readers are INVITED TO SUBMIT a short-short (250 words maximum) story about a troubled/troubling superman or -woman.

JUDGES: The stories will be judged by HiLobrow.com editors Matthew Battles, author of several SF stories published on this website, and Joshua Glenn, who writes about pre-Golden Age [a.k.a. Radium Age] SF for io9.com; and HiLobrow.com contributor Matthew De Abaitua, whose 2009 novel The Red Men was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke award.

PRIZES: The author of the winning story will receive a HiLobrow t-shirt, and his or her story will be recorded as part of our podcast (see below) and also published on this site. A few honorable mentions will be awarded; those stories will also be published.

PODCAST: Next month, HiLobrow.com will record the 2nd episode of our pre-Golden Age science fiction podcast, “Parallel Universe: Pazzo.” (Click here to listen to the 1st episode; theme: RADIUM AGE ROBOTS.) The 2nd episode will be devoted to fiction about RADIUM AGE SUPERMEN, from Olaf Stapledon’s Odd John to Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+ to Philip Wylie’s Gladiator.

HOW TO SUBMIT YOUR STORY: Publish it to the comments section of this post, no later than 5 pm EST on Monday, February 15th. Don’t include any personal info besides your name (i.e., no phone number, mailing address, website, etc). You must enter your actual email address when posting, but only the editors of this website will be able to see it. The author retains all rights to his or her story; but HiLobrow.com retains the right to publish/record the story as described above.

WHO’S ELIGIBLE: anyone, including HiLobrow.com contributors and friends.

GUIDELINES: No more than 250 words, and only one story per author. NB: The superman or -woman should not be a caped crusader type. Many of the first fictional supermen were portrayed by their creators as homo superior, an evolved human whose superiority was mental, physical, or both. Stapledon, Wylie, and many other authors of the time agreed the superman — whose values and worldview the rest of us can’t share, or even comprehend — would seem cold, inhuman, alien, or worse. Even, or especially when, he or she is trying to help us. However, a few authors took a rosier view of the superman; Gernsback’s Ralph 124C41+, for example, is a scientist whose inventions help ordinary mortals. Read more about troubled & troubling superhumans here.

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For an archive of posts related to HiLobrow.com podcasts, click here. For more science fiction on HiLobrow.com, click here.

What do you think?

  1. In her redoubt atop Los Angeles’ Mount Lee, the Lawless One brooded. The ash-blonde warrior paced the ramparts, pausing now and again to shake her sexy meathooks at the skyline below. Stalking into her mountain lair’s gymnasium, she studied her face in a mirror.

    “Aphrodite, forgive me!” the Lawless One wailed. “I have failed in my mission!” Hurling her five feet and eleven inches onto a tiger-skin rug, she abandoned herself to bitter tears. Earani, her one remaining handmaiden, pressed a button behind the rack of claymores. Steel shutters slid over the windows, blocking out the sight of Lotusland.

    Thirty years earlier, a New Zealand couple had discovered a girl-child roaming Mount Albert. Despite a mannish muscularity, Lucy, as they named her, was strikingly beautiful. She spoke a dozen languages, sang like a siren, and could shoot an arrow through a kiwi’s eye while riding a horse bareback. She was “destined,” Lucy informed her adoptive family, upon departing for Hollywood, to bring “Amazon ideals of love, peace, and sexual equality to a world torn by the hatred of men.”

    Alas, taking the title role of Xena: Warrior Princess, had not proven wise: celebrity is more difficult to navigate than the Clashing Rocks! Lucy’s efforts to model Amazonian practices — for example, by baring one mazos as she sang the U.S. national anthem at an NHL game — were misunderstood, even ridiculed.

    “Forty-two years old this March!” sobbed the Lawless One. “And the best I can do is a cameo in Bitch Slap?”

  2. Thanks, Noah. This is a perfect example of the sort of thing we’re looking for — though, obviously, the stories needn’t all be humorous, satirical, set in the present, or reference/include real people. Your superhuman protagonist’s difficulties adjusting to the world of ordinary mortals is poignant, and the length is exactly right. I won’t comment after each story — just wanted to be encouraging, as we get started. So who’s next?

  3. “Where did you get this face?” he asks.
    I smile. “It came with the body.”
    “Yes, very amusing. But you, Free Man, were able to choose your body. You’re not trapped like us, the older generation.” He examines the merchandise. “We can be mortally wounded by these weapons you peddle. Interesting look you’ve chosen: past your prime, balding, gray. There’s sadness in the lines of your face, as if you’ve actually seen the years this body is meant to have lived through.”
    “I’ve experienced my share of misfortune. Lost loves. Loneliness. Crises of faith.”
    “So you come by this artificial weariness honestly, huh?”
    “It comes from my soul,” I say.
    “I see you believe that. But am I being fooled by detailed craftsmanship?”
    “I assure you I have a soul. Now let’s talk price.”
    He’s telescoped the cylinder and drawn a bead on me. “Please, don’t,” I say, but he pops the lid. The mandibots swarm, they’re on my face in a sticky glob, eating the flesh away. My organic eyes are gone in an instant. The ceramic carapace of my portocranium extends its crablike legs, splitting my organic skull like a clam. I hop out of it onto the floor.
    Next time I’ll wear a more intimidating body, dammit. I scramble down the rubble into the street. From above he calls out, “Sorry I won’t be buying!”
    Adding insult to injury. How embarrassing, scuttling away from a failed arms deal. Like a bug. Galling. A most undignified departure.

  4. Cold and Hard

    After he rips Jupiter a new asshole, allowing the Mole-folk safe passage back to their Kren, Mr. Terrific extrudes, main of fist, a putty line of Captain Nice into perfect Cheerios, then casts his gargantuan vibrating peeled eye about the visible, invisible, meta and multi-valent universe— ten thousand cascading hues of colors we will never glimpse, each one accompanied by the peculiar flensing of exotic wavelengths and attendant tingling sensors oozing into the red of his meters.

    He sniffs the burnt metal air —the familiar arc welded mainframe in the vacuum of the living cosmos– for smell molecules heavy laden with good and bad news that the universe feeds him in chemical bytes as red ants read the queen.

    Good news surges across the vast track like a pate unburdening of hairs.

    Nothing at all bad is happening in the sentient universe.

    Long enough for Mr Terrific to worry about the potential end of the necessity of Toghlulacticallepathroids, such as he.

    All the realm at peace— just for a minute— everything swell everywhere.

    He leans into the dull scudding of an oncoming toe-curler, when suddenly, like quicksilver late for class after a quick smoke, tyranny , depravity, lust, false witness, murder, obtuseness–all the badness of every life-form everywhere, as if flushed from a quail fen by Bigfoot—form a disgusting, glowing, hectoring, pustule of iniquity pulsing green and crooked in a distant star nursery.

    “At last!” says Mr. Terrific, banging his jaw on an icicle.

  5. He looked down at the city from the top of the tallest building he could find.

    “Its funny,” he said, “almost pathetic how much power they think I have. They look up to me like some sort of God. They pray to me. They beg me for miracles, as if I would grant them even if I could.”

    He paused and thought about the way things had been before; before the night when they injected that poison into his veins. They told him the chance of success was low. They never expected anything like this to happen. Their failure in the research became their last mistake soon after he woke up. He never was a man that could control his rage. They ought to have broken the news in a better way, but now they’ll never improve their bedside manner.

    His train of thought was derailed as he started to cough violently. He looked at his hand and it was covered with blood. He thought about those doctors and how they deserved what they’d got. They said it would help. First do no harm and all that. He’d been told he had nine months to live before then. He wondered how much time he had left now.

    He started to cough again; more blood than ever before. He looked down at the city again and let himself fall. He thought about the woman he’d saved from that fire and how he’d become her hero. He knew he’d be remembered well.

  6. Microsuperman was thinking. Thinking required Super-strength, and he felt it deeply. That was because he was a monad, and the signals in his synapses required force to ford gaps. But Microsuperman lived at such speed that, despite the effort expended, he thought much faster than we can imagine: Microsuperman thought in light.

    Antiparallelogrammaton, or The Reverse Helix, had escaped from the Antimatter Zone. No one was quite sure how, but no one had ever been quite sure about the permutations of Strange Physics, anyway. Antiparallelogrammaton’s evil anti-Superpower was the unraveling of DNA, and the re-raveling of same into dark matter. Negative space and thread-death followed him wherever he went.

    Microsuperman was thinking. Microsuperman knew his enemy by the innate power of considering; and he knew that this time, thinking was not enough. His enemy had holed up in a Chelsea gallery, one devoted to the lost art of minimalism. There he lurked, darkly, in a black void marked ‘sold.’

    Microsuperman acted. He boomeranged around the torus-edge of the universe much faster than we can imagine, creating a double. For an unthinkable briefness of time, Microsupermen spiraled around The Reverse Helix, trapping him inside a horizon at once local and infinitely distant.

    Microsuperman won again. But at what cost? Microsuperman was thinking. But now his signals forded different gaps. As he thought, it tickled, and Microsuperman laughed. Darkly.

  7. The young man stepped through the tent flap, greeted by mystical lights that fluttered through the choking incense. Before him sat his contact, a Gypsy most ancient. He sneered at her grotesque features. “Madam Corso, I presume?”

    “Yes, young one,” the old crone replied smoothly. The single scar slashed across her dead eyes resembled her crooked smile, a second grin on one face. “I am of service to all.”

    He sat down, staring cautiously into her soulless eyes. “What is my future?”

    Her eyes fluttered and her hands grasped a glass orb. The crystal darkened with powers unknown, the strange colors wafting in the air pulsing, and she smiled wider than before. “You will usher the world into a new era upon the backs of your superior race. Your name shall echo throughout the ages, and all shall hear it.”

    The man’s heart leapt in his chest, despite the crone’s presence. He’d never felt so powerful, so alive at such simple words. “When will this happen?”

    “As soon as you find your brethren, you will rise to power.”

    The young man smiled, the incense parting to avoid his newfound aura. He stood to leave.

    “No payment for your future?”

    “For your kind? Never.” He sneered before leaving.

    The crone hummed to herself and stroked the glass orb, the lights of the room receding into themselves as changes from the unknown were made. “Then the end of your future shall be truly bleak, Herr Hitler.”

  8. Mr. Leviathan stands crooked in the lawn, a bottle of rot-gut whiskey slipping from one hand and a grappling hook swaying loosely in the other: it is 4:37 on a Wednesday morning. The dark purple sheen of his costume, dull with neglect: scuffed and battered. His pot belly protrudes like a beach ball over his cracked orange utility belt. Mr. Leviathan’s bloodshot eyes scan the windows of the house he is stalking. Dutifully he lurches through the clockwork of the automated sprinkler system. Eyes peeled, anxious for a sign of life behind the Venetian blinds.
    Dr. Dorian Gerard peers from his window, looking out on the clown on his manicured lawn. The doctor thinks about those apish knuckles drawing blood from his jaw, the purple hammer coming down: Those were the good old days. His costume was no longer waiting in the closet adjacent to his bed, the secret lab long boarded up. Ten years in the state penitentiary can do that even to the hardest super villain.
    The thought of putting on his visor and becoming The Tesseract excites him. Warming up the Dimension Shifter and putting that thrift store super man in two dimensions really sets his heart racing:
    I’m a new man. Dr. Gerard ignores the scream: “Tesseract!” booming from the garden. The doctor makes a phone call and drifts off to sleep, his smile illuminated by siren lights pulling into the driveway.

  9. She was a good lay, he thought. A little misled maybe, thinking the hazmat suit meant some kind of radiating super-strength, but she didn’t seem to mind when he screwed with mere mortal thrusts. He was pretty sure she’d leave as soon as she woke up in the morning, her buzz finally gone, his protective garb draped over the back of the door. And he couldn’t blame her. It wasn’t often he got anywhere with women, and his chances of a second date dwindled when they found out that no, he didn’t have laser vision, or some way of flying or going invisible. If they pressed, he’d tell them the awkward truth; that he was a second generation mutant, the child of a fuzzy green man-lion and a radioactive flame spewer. The lineage came with its perks, but there was no way to gently explain that his palms automatically deep fried any food he touched. At the bar, in the club, in dim lighting, no one even noticed. But he couldn’t risk them wanting breakfast and delivering batter-encrusted eggs. It was gross. They all said so.

    This one, she was way out of his league. He decided to let her sleep. Later when she woke up, if she wanted to know why he was eating a heaping bowl of what looked like tater tots, he’d tell her. If she ate some, he would know he could really get somewhere.

  10. “Hit me again, Steve.”
    Steve stood transfixed, jaw agape over the situation. He’d never seen him in person, and never ever like this. The $6 shot of remorse poured from the bottle
    Without the mask or the cape, you’d think he was another down-on-his-luck barfly, sucking back booze like any other. Too stupid to realize his problems wouldn’t be solved at the bottom of a glass. Even in the haze, any citizen – law-abiding or not – would recognize Captain Amazing. He was a hero, upholding justice, doing what was right.
    But there was no flying through the sky today. Today, he was down in the darkness.
    It was late afternoon and the sun tried to shine. The streaks of dirt had gradually caked onto the window panes over the years. Blackness saturated the sad microcosm.
    “Here, Cap. On the house.”
    The Captain clasped the glass but his far-off stare remained transfixed on the mirror behind the bar. Steve’s presence barely registered. Captain Amazing worked alone, and always would.
    Anyone would recognize Captain Amazing, but today, they might not have wanted to. They might not have believed it. His disposition wasn’t so sunny, his costume wasn’t so clean. The dark void behind his eyes reflected back to him endlessly behind the bar.
    Today, honor lost. Today, life was taken. Cap had failed.
    He took the shot, if not to forget, then to remember.
    A lone tear escaped the dark.
    “Hit me again.”

  11. “He’s a mess,” Beaupre said with barely a look at me. “He’s lost most of his power and can’t remember how to use what’s left.” It was a different voice than my memory was expecting. Older and shaky. Weak and breathy. Entirely not what Captain Death would…

    “Captain Death?” I asked. I saw a black cape and silly oversized armor. I looked all around as the memory faded. Running Horse glared. He’d moved off the wall, his oversized biceps bunching.

    “See? He’s a mess.” Beaupre slid his motorized chair across the room, to where a television was in a locked plastic box. They weren’t letting him near anything dangerous. And anything he could get his hands on was dangerous, I recalled. Except his hands didn’t really work now. They just sat, limp, on the edges of his chair. “I’d explain it, but you’re all too dumb. Especially you, what was your name? Tomahawk Man?”

    Running Horse actually growled. His bronze face contorted, for a second, and I remembered seeing that in the past. “What about his memories, Doctor Beaupre?”

    I remembered a shrug. A cartoonish flopping of the shoulders and the head. It made the armor clank and the cape flutter like there was a spring breeze. Now he used a shaky hand to rotate the chair. His shoulders didn’t move anymore.

    “Some will return. Some won’t. Anything more than that is beyond me these days,” he said, with some of the old fire. I remembered that.

  12. I clutched the bomb to my chest. It should have been easy. Get in, leave the bomb then get out. We’d be heroes, ticker tape parades, groupies, and wealth. Living a long life famous. I wretched from the stench of the remains of my friends littered around me, that and I recognized whose chunk of scalp I brushed off my jacket. I don’t know if it was a trap or if we were all just unlucky, but I was alive. Maybe the last one left alive having shoved myself into a dark corner, I tasted bile in my throat, is this luck?
    “Find the one who got away.” The faint whisper vibrated my skull as my implant translated alien dialect. My heart jumped. They were close for it to pick up on the sounds. I checked the bomb again, I didn’t see any damage from the shooting. I shivered. The shooting, it was some new kind of weapon exploded humans like ripe fruit.
    I remember Alice yelling “Get down!” as she pushed me to the side. Then pop. I started to warm up the bomb, maybe I could still be the hero. Such a small thing creates a singularity that will suck in all matter at first slowly then faster. I touched the button, but didn’t push. Is this how I want to die?
    “Found him!” vibrated my skull, I looked up as a butt of a gun came down.

  13. “Stop, thief.”

    His voice is artificially deep with a touch of reverb and echo. He has perfect hair, flawless skin, and gleaming teeth. His crotch bulges dramatically. He is like a god. Or a Movie Star. His real name is Anthony Starbuck. Due to a fundamental lack of imagination, he calls himself Fantastic-Man™. But his job isn’t being imaginative, it’s looking good and punishing lawbreakers.

    He loves his job.

    Fantastic-Man™ lifts silently from the ground as gravitational dampeners embedded deep in his bones kick in. He’d always dreamed of being a superstar, with girls swooning as he entered a room and men admiring as he disrobed at the gym.

    He is living the dream.

    This petty thief is beneath his notice, but he has an image – and a market share – to maintain. WellCorp® also has a special clause in his bio-tech contract reversing ownership of his upgrades – even the DuraShaft™ penile implant – if he fails in his contractual duties.

    Within hours there would be another Fantastic-Man™ flying his beat, eating his gourmet meals, and fucking his legions of fankids. So, he has to exterminate a transient punk with a stolen credit chip. He has no choice. Fantastic-Man™ has his future to think about.

    Microspeakers mounted in the muscle of his massive thighs begin playing his theme song. The thief knows the song by heart – everyone does – and sublims begin to wriggle around in his head.

    It won’t be long now.

    There’s no escaping Justice©.

  14. She sat on the edge of her bed, head in hands, trying to remember where it had gone wrong. She had been loved and idolized once, but no more. Gradually and before she knew it had happened, she was nothing. She still had the power to change the world, but no one wanted her to, no one needed her to.

    They had solved all of the world’s problems, no crime, no poverty, even natural disasters were controlled. The world was perfect , at peace…and she hated it. She hated it because she had helped make it happen. “With great power comes great responsibility”. She believed that and had used her immense power to help change the world, to usher in peace, to bring about this utopian golden age of man.

    …and she hated it!

    Worse, she hated that she hated it. How could you hate peace? How could you work for so long towards something and then hate it so much. The very peace she had fought for had become her enemy.

    If only she could find the answer, find some reason to keep going, find something to do, some enemy to fight, some enemy…

    Everything stopped.

    Suddenly, turmoil was gone, and a new calm descended over her, bringing a sense of purpose that thrilled her.

    She had an enemy.

    She stood, a small smile quirked at the corner of her mouth. She still had the power to change the world, and it was time she got started.

  15. I tried making up excuses. Working late. A drink with coworkers. Visiting family that you’d never met in a city you’d never heard of. I tried to explain away the odd smells, the bruises. I know you found stray Lycra around the apartment—I never was very tidy at crime scenes or at home. You never mentioned it, but there was something in the look you gave me, something in the way you said, “You know that you can tell me anything”. And I wanted to, God how I wanted to trust you. But I steeled myself, said it was for your own good. It didn’t matter, you knew anyway or at least suspected.

    You said I was the strongest person you’d ever met. I thought I was being strong, that I ought to carry the weight for both of us. I didn’t realize at the time that you wanted to share the burden, that I was essentially saying I didn’t need you. You never wanted me to protect you from yourself.

    I try to tell myself that I did you a favor, freed you up for someone who could be honest with you. But I know that’s a lie. You wanted me as I was—cape and all—and I couldn’t figure out how to make two half-lives whole.

    All I can think about is you standing at the door with your suitcase, tears falling, and saying, “Why won’t you tell me what you really do?”

  16. Sunrise
    Midday
    Sunset
    Midnight
    Always the same. The pattern. The rest saw changes. But he didn’t. It was always the same. He saw them running around, trying to get to work, trying to go home. Always in a hurry. He had no hurry. It hadn’t been known to him since he could remember. And he could remember a lot.
    He counted the hours as if they were seconds, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven; there goes his day. When the rest slept he searched his memory for something worth remembering. But he never could find a thing. He spent his whole existence in solitude. Almost. Of course, there had been people he cared about, a long time ago. But they were always in a hurry.
    He persisted. He couldn’t die. He had to go on and on. He couldn’t fight it.
    He sat there, in a bench in the middle of the city. No one suspected who he was. What he was. They didn’t have time to talk to him. Not even a hello, or a smile. Not even a look.
    Then, suddenly, one night he found something worth remembering. After years of searching his memoirs of misery, he had found a moment that he hadn’t felt alone. He played the moment through, like a movie. He saw a lot of people around him. Friends. It was a party. His party. He stopped time at that memory for some minutes. But then the pattern continued. On and On.
    Sunset.

  17. Freedom City

    They met on the ledge in between the two concrete Gargoyles of the AM building in downtown Freedom City. The wind cracked through the air like the lash of a whip. Their capes blew in the wind, moving independently of the hero’s bodies.

    “My God,” said Captain Atomic, as he floated in space, just feet away from the dark creature of the night known as The Whisper, “That was amazing,”

    Captain Atomic looked up into the crisp night sky exultant, as his city sparkled like a jeweled necklace below him.

    The Whisper, not able to fly, shifted on the ledge of the building. Beneath his ink black mask, he stared at Captain Atomic.

    “It will only get easier the more you do it and no one will ever suspect you. Suspect us.”

    “Why?”

    “We are their defenders, their heroes,” answered The Whisper, a wry smile creeping in behind his mask.

    Captain Atomic looked down at his city again, taking it all in. They were quiet for a few moments. The only sound that filled the air was the soft murmur of teeming humanity that floated up from the bustling city streets to meet them in the cold night sky.

    “So,” Asked Captain Atom, breaking the stony silence. “When do we kill again?”

    The Whisper said nothing. The sounds of Freedom City drifted up to fill in the gaps.

  18. April 1889 Brannau, Austria, kill the baby, jump back 2010 no war. No moonwalk,computers,gene therapy. environment in ruins.

    Go back and stop myself.

    July 1945 Alamogordo, New Mexico, Contaminate plutonium jump back to 2010, No bomb, Tokyo,Hiroshima,Nagasaki destroyed in firebombing, war continues till 1955. Russian/American conflict. World war 3 starts 1960.

    Go back and stop myself.

    April 1865 Washington DC, jam gun. 2010. Black homeland Liberia runs from Algeria to Chad centuries of tribal and religious conflict. Death toll in millions.

    Go back and stop myself.

    November 1963 Dallas Texas, Oswald takes a nap. 2010. First presidential divorce, no moonwalk,no computers, lynchings still occur in south.

    Go back and stop myself.

    December 1878 Gori Georgia, Kill the cobblers son. 2010. Hitler won. North America constant battle ground between proxy japanese and german forces.

    Go back and stop myself.

    Tired. Go to store. Buy beer. Look at want ads. More beer. Maybe I can sell insurance.

  19. He looked over the swarming streets like a child looks at the cross-section of an ant farm, with fascination and curiosity. He saw them walk into restaurants and emerge an hour later, waddling onto the street once more. He saw them step into their automobiles, their legs and feet unable to carry their girth.

    He smiled. How could they still live like this? he thought. It had been many years since had had the need or desire for any of those earthly comforts. He no longer ate or slept, or walked for that matter, since he could travel across infinity in the time it takes the human brain to process the signal from your eyes. He was no longer human, not since 1965.

    He read aloud the names of the shops and the streets and the signs, trying to make sense of what they said. Listening in to their conversations made no progress. Empty, hollow sounds. Only gibberish. Saying everything, and nothing of any importance.

    He looked to the stars, into Orion’s belt. He could make out the starlight twinkling inside a dense nebula, piercing the fabric of deep space.
    He longed for a different world. Here he felt nothing. Here he was a god.

    Maybe far away, he could be something else.

  20. She watched his approach through gauzy curtains, noting the deliberate pace and long pause before he pressed the doorbell. Every year his frown was a fraction more pronounced, and he squeezed her hand a little tighter in greeting. He never looked as small as he did standing in her doorway, although every year the distance between them grew. She knew that he wasn’t getting taller, that he never could. So she must getting shorter; osteoporosis giving way to a noticeable stoop.

    “Please, please come in,” she herded him to a sitting room, placing herself between him and the wall of pictures: of children, grandchildren, and Mark. Pictures of their wedding day, their honeymoon in Peru, their cruise to Alaska. He was three years gone now. Three lonely years.

    He settled into the armchair, looking uncomfortable even as the overstuffed cushion yielded below him. She shuffled into the kitchen, returning quickly with a plate of muffins she’d been keeping warm in the stove.

    “Please,” she gestured to them and he picked one up, cradling it gently in his hand as though it were some sort of treasure. He took a small bite, closed his eyes, and smiled. It was the same smile she’d fallen in love with. The very same smile. She started to cry, and he held her.

    “Ignore me,” she said into his shoulder, reveling in the tightness of his arms. It was like she had never left. “Ignore a sentimental old women, and let’s talk about happy things.”

  21. Our hero knew that in a few hours, his archnemesis the Red Dagger, would be at the city park, arming a small bomb that could take down the buildings in the area. He had been taunting our hero through the media, interrupting television signals, letters to newspapers, all hinting at his insidious plan.

    He wanted to intercept him before he could do any damage to the city, but he had bills to pay also. People wondered how Chad Michaels was the fastest cashier in the grocery store. If he had called in sick, the bomb plot would have been stopped, but he would have been fired.

    Sometimes working to save these people didn’t make sense, they had no gratitude at all. You could go fast packing things in bags, prevent their bread from getting squished; it wouldn’t matter. There would always be a complaint. Why was it that day after day he would try to make them happy when only frustration would be his reward?

    As someone with more abilities than a normal man, all he wanted to do was be a help to people, but their ingratitude was always going to make his once happy goal a drudgery.

  22. “Glue Boy’s.”

    “Hello. I was there last night with some friends. I seem to have lost my arm. Did anyone turn an arm in last night?”

    “Maybe. What’s it look like?”

    “It’s a fairly average arm. Right arm. Four fingers, a thumb, and…*unintelligible*”

    “What was that?”

    “I said…*unintelligible*. It’s right there on the forearm.”

    “Listen, buddy, I can’t just be handing out arms here. If you can’t come up with some identifying markers—”

    “So you do have it.”

    “I didn’t say that.”

    “You said you had some arms.”

    “Fine. How much?”

    “How much for what?”

    “To get your arm back.”

    “You’re kidding, right?”

    “Hey, it’s not often I get someone losing an arm with…*unintelligible* on it.”

    “With what?”

    “You heard me.”

    “You mumbled!”

    “Whatever you say, kid. But I know when I have a good piece of property—”

    “That may or may not be mine.”

    “I think we both know it’s yours. And you can either buy it from me or I just keep it. Either way, I have a…sense…you’re not getting it or it’s… *unintelligible* back.”

    “We’ll see about that. Expect my friends and I within the hour.”

    *click*

    “How long you gonna keep letting that kid and his friends pay your mortgage, Glue?”

    “Not your concern, Sure Thing. Just keep their table ready and their glasses full.”

  23. In the dim light filtering into the alley, a pool of blood spread out from holes in the man’s chest and stomach.

    “Ricochet. Huh. I didn’t expect that.” Walsh said, standing over the body. He looked around at the spent casings scattered around him. A few scraps of metal still clung to tears in his shirt and he picked them out with his fingers. On the ground, the gun was still clenched in the man’s hand, useless. Walsh saw the end of a knife holster protruding from the end of the man’s pants leg, “Looks like he was ready for anything.” He bent down, and worked the blade free. “Well not anything”, he chuckled, “Not me.”

    He pushed its tip into the palm of his hand. His skin dimpled under the sharp point. He pushed harder until finally with a sharp snap the tip broke off and spun away bouncing off the concrete like a skipped stone.

    “That was stupid”, he muttered. Later when the police knew him as a hero it would be easier, but for now he didn’t want complications and explanations. He wiped his fingerprints off with his shirt.

    It had worked. He could start his new life as a hero now. But he had a few things to take care of first. He thought of that fawning brown-nose that stole his promotion at the lab. He thought of his clueless boss. An image of his ex-wife appeared in his mind’s-eye. Yes, that’s where he would start.

  24. His papers said he was autistic with schizoaffective traits, but he was merely at the mercy of his own hearing. He could hear well above and below the human frequency thresholds, and had a range of around two blocks. After that distance, the sounds of the city merged into a wall of noise and confusion.

    The high frequency squeals of car brakes, the hissing consonant sounds of speech, the buzzing of electrons through the CRT of his neighbors’ televisions meant no more trips outside, no tv, or no human interaction. The sounds produced anxiety, nausea, and revulsion. His attempts to cope only resulted in the near shutdown of his mind. Must time was spent sitting on the floor, rocking back and forth, with fingers in ears. His brain shivered inside his skull.

    The nearby actions of his fellow man hurt the worst. Unable to locate any one sound in the maelstrom rendered him an impotent witness to some of the worst evils of mankind. Beatings, murders, rapes, and the screams of children finally forced his hand.

    He went into the bathroom, looked into the mirror, and drew in a deep breath. He slid an icepick into his ear, first the left, then the right. As the eardrums ruptured, the inner ears hot with blood, the sounds and their torments ceased.

  25. I must look. To me, we all live in glass houses. The city is a endless field, men, women, and children arrayed in the air; on the earth. I can see you all, at all times. There are no walls in my world, or rather they are invisible. As you stare at my door, I stare through it at you. I use this gift to look in on you while you sleep. I plan to keep you, and your family, and your neighbors safe, to protect you from the intruders and molesters and the harmful.
    This sacrifice, that I take from you, is a fair expectation. In order to maintain my vigil, I need to eat. I need to stay strong. For you. As you fall asleep in my arms, take solace in the fact that you will awaken. And, you will not need the eye I have taken. Because I will be watching. You, especially my friend. You have earned your special attention. I have sworn: ten good deeds for every orb I must taste. A horrible truth, but a fair bargain

  26. Amy did more for science than the cumulative efforts of the entire human race before her. She conceived of the technology that brought sustainable energy to the planet. She developed time travel. She figured out how to communicate between the dimensions.

    And yet she couldn’t overcome the thought of how implausible her existence was. Was her intelligence innate to her being or was it a simply the result of lucky breaks and randomness? She had to know.

    Amy used her technologies to run a device that reached back into time and across dimensions to determine if other iterations of what might be considered herself were achieving what she was. Many of these doppelgangers worked in science. Some were influential in their dimension, others were unknown. A small percentage of her iterations didn’t know a lick about science.

    I count myself in the latter group, although I suppose I’m writing about science now.

    Amy tested and studied millions of versions of herself and was terribly disappointed to find out that she was, in fact, unique. The intelligence and influence of her counterparts were extremely Gaussian. She was the outlier.

    She considered an outlier’s options.

    Amy finally killed herself, a message she left behind told me. It’s a shame because there’s a lot of work she could have given to the world, although there was nothing left for the world to give back in return.

    Amy was not a martyr.

  27. So what if she’d managed to accidentally rip the arms off an old lady whilst lifting her to safety during a fire, she’d punched the head off a ‘bank robber’ who turned out to be a kid in costume on Halloween or she’d used her psychic powers to win multiple gameshows, cause she thought that was allowed, eight foot two biceps bigger than bicycles Xanlord was still very good at maintaining peace in most capital cities. So good in fact that when she was interviewed most interviewers simply kept the interview to a few words – you’re really, really, really great – and left it at that. The problem was finding a compatible life partner on this quite small planet.

    Even the body builders seemed to come out second best in any kind of physical contact, while a quick read of any professors’ sweaty thoughts often revealed them to be less than intellectual in what they were really thinking. It appears that she will have to settle for tucking herself into her giant steel bed at night, watching the seemingly perfect lives of soap opera stars coil and uncoil over and over again. Xanlord would much rather be out flying through the cold vacuum of space, retreating from her dying lava filled planet again, than to have had an inkling that there might be something out there that warms you forever from the inside. But she forces herself to forgets that and knocks herself out to sleep.

  28. He was human, but only loosely. Having descended from a human evolutionary fork that was long ago relocated to a foreign planet, Khoorp Butain did not even look that human, nor did he behave like one.

    After returning to Earth, once known as Geb, he did not recognize any part of its people or culture. His three meter tall stature, along with his dark, almost gold, complexion, guaranteed he stood out among the world’s masses just as much as his enlarged head, lack of hair, and vibrant yellow eyes did.

    His telepathic and empathic abilities were unable to even comprehend these billions of individuals, who had crazed and irrational thoughts running constantly through their heads. Did they not know how to control themselves?

    Khoorp was immediately taken as a person of interest by a multigovernment organization, but communication failed since they seemed to ignore his thoughts and chose instead to grunt and scream in an awkward manner. Did they not know he was here to save them?

    The asteroid on a collision course with their planet, that they had failed to notice, was not truly an asteroid. Within the confines of the spacerock were weapons beyond imagining that would devastate their planet, thanks to an entirely different race with far more nefarious purposes, and they had no idea.

    Weeks later, as the sky began to burn outside his cell of confinement, he sent a final message to his people that would suffice…

    “These people did not deserve our assistance.”

  29. Pills, radio in the bathtub, gun to the head. No matter how hard I try, nothing works. They created me to be a New Man. I can live in space, lift fifty times my weight, and apparently can’t die. I have swum the diamond oceans of Neptune, and turned their Moon into a paradise. They loved me at first, but came to despise me. I’m all they can never be.
    I am called the “Created Man.” I have destroyed their corrupt governments, silenced their killers. My voice splits the atom. I should have been their god, but I am their despot. Now I just need it to end.
    Once, I went on a date with one of their women. She talked and talked, and I realized I did not understand a word she said, like a flea talking to one of you. I killed her just to shut her up. Then I couldn’t stop. Imperfection, all flaws and imperfection.
    Now, the world is mine alone, a desolate husk ruled by an impotent god. I want to throw myself into the sun, but I’m afraid that it won’t kill me.

  30. It was no surprise that the aliens chose to announce their presence through the media. They all had the same story. The aliens were here, and they had a press release.

    I was eating a samosa at a streetside in Mumbai when I saw it. Aliens were in orbit, on board a floating sphere the size of Thailand. Incredibly, there was no panic, death rays, nor any phenomenon which threatened to destroy the world. Instead there was a message.

    “We have come to save your planet. But we need to know if your species deserves saving. We have accessed your world’s databases for every person of age to hold a global lottery. We will select one person who must willingly die for your world. It is but a small price.”

    And then my driver’s license flashed on screen.

    —————-

    “Sanjiv Singh, do you accept death?”

    Oddly, the alien did not look alien. She was blonde, caucasian, and dressed in a silver suit. Less than 10 hours from seeing my face on TV, I was picked up by police and taken to the airport. There a cylindrical spacecraft awaited me.

    I didn’t resist at all. I willingly went.

    “I accept death for the human race.” were the only words I could say.

    The woman nodded. “As required, the chosen accepts.”

    “Does he meet the requirement?” A voice asked.

    “Yes,” the woman answered. “Perfect DNA, containing humanity’s genetic memory. A superb human.”

    “Then proceed. Eradicate humanity.”

  31. He sank deeper into the soft chair. Using the last of himself to analyze this experiment. The result was not expected. He thought to join their minds, to give them a greater perspective, share with them a common goal. Unite them. Yet, as his will touched them, their consciousness latched on, reeling him in. Then like runners through soil each of their minds snaked out and connected with others near them until the globe was a mesh of shared neural pathways. Evicting whatever had dwelled there before leaving a single mind bereft of any thought but his own.
    He felt it start slowly, a drain on his being, a slowing of his thought; a dilution of his essence as it was siphoned into their emptiness. Images from one billion eyes overwhelmed his quickly dimming awareness. The smell and feel of humanity’s mass crushing him in a claustrophobic vice. The primal awareness of their eminent death filling the immortal with dread for the first time in his long existence.
    He knew now without a doubt that he had stretched too far, imposed his will to freely. It had all seemed like such a good idea, focusing the latent potential in them all. The amazing things they could have done with single purpose. Yet now the only thing they would do is lay down and die, and he would die with them.

  32. The Superhero shudders with each breath. His lungs are strung around poles plunged into dead grass and past that, deep into dead earth. And the poles vibrate as he shakes when he breathes.

    The Superhero does not care about the villains. He knows that they are simple things that now lay innumerable across this waste which he has struggled to create. And their loose, pale skin hisses with the gas that is expelled by those tiniest of creatures that eat villains’ dead flesh. And their faces collapse upon their faces and soon they are nothing more than earth.

    The Superhero’s gut is a wide basin covered with thick, stone scales; the scales that the villains built. The scales where they lived and grew strong and procreated. And they were the blood of the Superhero.

    But as they were villains and he is the Superhero, he hated them. He pulled them apart and he laughed as the sunlight changed color in that moment when it moved through the sheets of the mist that spewed from their pulled-apart bodies. They flooded him and they clung together in a white torrent of soft, featureless blubber. And as they were his streams and he was their path, he knew his strength. And as he was strong and their limbs fell like lepers’ upon colliding with his fingers, he knew their names. And their names were simple and innumerable, so they were villains. And as they were villains he is their Superhero. And hate.

  33. He stood still, looking like nothing more than a statue made for the birds to rest on. He was unusaly depressed today, but for the life of him he couldn’t figure out why. Was it the weather, or was it the fact that he would never be anything more than a lifeguard.

    No matter what he did people would only see him as a tool, not as a equal. He knew this and yet day after day he protected all, he put his life on the line for people who could care less about who he really was and more about would he save them.

    He could do nothing more than to continue what he had been doing for forty years, protect the weak and punish the wrong. Even if he wanted to be something more, he couldn’t.

    But this was the path he had chosen, this was the path destined to all like him.

    This is the life of a superman.

  34. Margaret was not necessarily looking forward to the investiture.

    She went to the bathroom to put on makeup. She picked up a bottle and sprayed it into the air, bobbing her head and neck through the mist with some irritation. She sniffed with dissatisfaction. Even those heavy, spicy perfumes called orientals faded, on her, to a mildly soapy smell.

    It was unusual for Margaret to interfere with herself, but she was surprisingly good with makeup. She painted out the dark patches under her eyes with a delicate brush then passed a tiny sponge of powder over the fine lines around her mouth. Slowly, deliberately she erased every trace of herself. Left with a kabuki mask from which Margaret’s eyes stared out, she took a tube of violent magenta. A slick of lipstick turned her wide, flesh-coloured lips, which usually went unnoticed, into a Dali sofa, juicily, even unsettlingly, plump.

    She smiled at herself and her mouth stretched unsettlingly, dazzlingly wide. She clamped it closed. She was a little afraid of her smile. It is wide and crooked and when I let she let it go, she felt as though she had loosed a crocodile into the room.

    Downstairs, she poured a glass of white wine and felt the rush of the first sip take her, dizzy and breathless. It was an unfamiliar feeling. Margaret didn’t drink much as a rule. After all, alcohol is a poison.

    How do I look? she asked David.
    Super, he said without turning round.

  35. “Say your prayers, kid.” Pete held the barrel of a Beretta to the boy’s temple. “You’ve got ten seconds.”

    “Christ!” Stevie, still holding the twenty dollars and change they’d taken from the boy’s pocket, stood back. “You really going to waste him?”

    “Sure…” Pete’s finger whitened as he put pressure on the trigger.

    “Wait!” They twisted at the new voice but had to shield their eyes from the brilliant burst of light. The glow faded, leaving behind the speaker: a tall, middle-eastern man with dark curly hair, a close-shaven beard and a robe.

    “Who the Hell are you?”

    “You called for me. I am the Christ. You can call me Iesua, though I wish you hadn’t called upon Sheol as well.”

    “Sheol?”

    “Hell.” The deep baritone issued from a figure in black lycra, though the membranous wings looked real enough. Stevie ran, his footsteps echoing from the alley walls.

    “You really want me to believe you’re Jesus? And Satan, I presume.”

    The demon bowed. “Nothing so grand. Just a minion.”

    Pete frowned at Iesua. “You’ve come to stop me shooting this kid,”he turned to the demon “and you want me to.”

    “Exactly.” Iesua clicked his fingers and a bolt of lightning fried the boy. “The boy wasn’t Christian,” he explained. “You are. Killing him would have been a mortal sin.”

    The demon clapped. “Nicely reasoned,” he said. “Handled with discretion.”

    “Thank you.” Iesua grinned, winked and handed Pete a card.

    Jesus Christ
    Saving the world, one soul at a time

  36. A fist hammered on the door. Valled always knew this day would come. It had been 90 days
    since the injection and the full effects had just begun to take hold.
    “Was I a fool to believe it would not have consequences”, he pondered.
    As he put the finishing touches to his barricade the telephone rang.
    The answer machine beeps. The pounding voice announces, “This is
    Sergeant Thomas of the AGMU, surrender now or we will move in!” It was
    well publicised in the media that those captured by the Anti-Genetic
    Modification Unit faced a gruelling 6 months of reverse genetic
    engineering with dire consequences. Beads of perspiration begun to
    form on his forehead, “Run?” he thought. It would take an adept geno
    to outrun the AGMU. The phone rang, this time he picked up the
    receiver, “I’m not coming out!” At that point in the corner of the
    room a faint silhouette appeared in the musty air. It gradually
    solidified into the shape of Sergeant Thomas. Valled appeared
    startled. As he began to speak Thomas interrupted, “I have a
    proposition. How would you like to join the unit and keep your genome
    intact?” Without hesitation Valled nodded in agreement. With one sweep
    of his arm he cleared the barricade and went with the unit off to the
    next assignment.

  37. “No more…” he now muttered under his breath. He shivered when a breeze blew into his tattered pants as he limped through the southern end of town. He had walked for…did time still exist?

    They said he would be a towering figure in history. The voices at the edge of sanity would echo it.

    The sun was setting…or rising. He forgot which.

    The experiments to make him “better” finally worked. But then they took him and tried to turn him. In a moment of defiance, he lashed out. The trigger in his mind finally went off.

    He shouted, “NO MORE!” at his would-be captors. They vanished before his eyes.

    It took him days to climb out of the underground lair they had taken him with little solace no one could stop him.

    But he fought his own mind, his own sanity. No more would he be hurt. But in his strongest moment, he blinked not just his aggressors, but all of humanity away.

    There was one hope to put it right…forever away, back where it all began.

    It hurt more without them.

  38. The emotions that one traditionally links with ending one’s life were completely absent from his mind as he lay out his options. He wasn’t sad, not even depressed; It was a rational decision from an otherwise rational man. No need to go on if he would prefer otherwise. Who would miss him? Who would care? His city looks small from his window, and to the city, he assuredly look as small. His death would be no different.

    His search history was littered with articles on pain, death, the easiest way. He decided that the gun was preferable – the loud bang of a decent caliber pistol would alert his elderly neighbors, and it would be all over soon.

    Briefly, he considered his late Mother and what she might think of this – her boy, the boy she raised with no father in sight, ending it all. He never gave himself to such religions, so neither his mother nor his actions bothered him much. He raises the gun to his temple, taking final pleasure in the satisfying click of the cocking mechanism, closing his eyes contently, perhaps even smiling.

    Bang.

    Minutes later, he stands nude in front of a mirror, his head intact, shivering, but not cold. With stolen steps, he walks towards his window and considers one last try – a jump, from such great heights – only to wonder if he would ever stop falling.

  39. When Arnold Sims initially developed micro-rockets, he had only one vision: Superhero.

    Of course, everyone knows that micro-rockets have since revolutionized all flight from commercial airlines to Mars missions.

    Yet there he was on that autumn day. A smug grin crossing his face as hundreds of cameras flashed and whirred. Striking the classic balled-fist-on-hips pose of countless comic books he had scoured since childhood, Arnold Sims finally announced in a booming, self-amplified voice, “Today, let crime be our history and hope be our future!” He let his cape flap a few times in the breeze for dramatic effect.

    “I look good in this,” he mused to himself, his fresh-pressed super-suit gleaming in the afternoon sunlight. “Good fabric will always hold a crease.”

    The crowd behind the throng of media gave their roaring approval, and with that, Arnold, now known as “The Dynamo,” launched skyward from the podium. All that was missing from the raucous fanfare was a marching band playing a bad version of “We Are The Champions.”

    The remains of Arnold Sims were found three days later on an island just off the coast of North Carolina. His stunning media-circus launch was later calculated to be about 30,000 miles per hour. Of course, the G-forces of such sudden inertia completely liquefied Arnold Sims within his rocket-powered super-suit.

    Despite the carnage within, the crimson and black suit of The Dynamo still gleamed with that fresh-pressed look. Good fabric will always hold a crease.

  40. August 7th
    Top Secret

    Memorandum to the Director:

    Regarding Subject colloquially known as Nuclear Man and incidents in and around the municipality of General Wayne, population 300.

    First sighting of Subject: August 4th, private farm. Orange ball of flame witnessed streaking across the sky, impacting with wooden barn, silo.

    Total damages estimated at $1 million from impact, resulting fire.

    Second sighting of Subject: August 5th , main thoroughfare of municipality. Subject prevented runaway milk truck from colliding with school bus. Subject addressed crowd of bystanders: “People of Earth, do not fear me. I am here to help you.”

    Total damages estimated at $4 million to the street, two vehicles, façade of municipal building. Twelve children, two drivers, twenty bystanders became immediately ill with lethal amount of radiation poisoning.

    Third sighting of Subject: August 6th, General Wayne reservoir. Subject rescued two men from capsized boat.

    Both men shortly thereafter succumbed to severe radiation poisoning. Municipal water supply now completely contaminated, undrinkable.

    Fourth sighting of Subject: August 6th, unknown location. Orange streak passed above General Wayne, disappeared into the atmosphere.

    Four surrounding counties required immediate evacuation due to fallout of radioactive particles.

    Request joint council of Airforce and National Aeronautics and Space Administration to develop coordinated defense plan for possible future invasions of Subject.

  41. I am better than you; faster, stronger, smarter. Probably better-looking too. Definitely funnier and my cookies are more delicious. I am the pinnacle of human evolution and it sucks.

    I’m so much better than everyone and I’m lonely. I can’t be friends with you normal-types because you bore me. The smartest of you can be entertaining for a little while, but once I’ve sucked out the knowledge, there’s nothing left to interest me. I take what’s best from all of you and make it mine.

    I tried to be the hero you thought you wanted. I helped the helpless, saved the drowning, rescued kittens from trees. It all left me cold. Your accolades mean nothing to me at all. I don’t need your approval to know that I am King Shit of Fantastictown.

    I tried to see you as pets, as things that needed food and water, but while I don’t need your approval, your complete lack of appreciation pisses me off. Don’t you know that I am what you think you want to be? Don’t you know that humans are becoming ultra and soon you will all be lonely, disenfranchised bitches who can’t get away from each other fast enough. I can only hope that the universe is big enough for all of you to be alone. An infinity of space filled with smart, strong, sexy people who only come together to satisfy urges then piss off back to his/her cold empty existence. Welcome to the Future.

  42. They pressed the controls into my hand and with tears in their eyes when they left the room. I sat numbed by the knowledge that the sum of humanity’s fate rested in my shaking hand. Looking at the blinking console I tried to order my thoughts. I had been selected by the world computer, programmed by the finest minds in the world to select the one human capable of making the right decision, me.
    This had come as a shock to everyone. I was, as far as my family and I knew, perfectly normal, maybe a bit brighter than some, faster at making good judgements than most, but nothing special by academic skills or to look at, but here I sat and out there the world waited. The computer blinked silently bringing me back to the present.
    What to do? Could I refuse? Could I toss a coin and let fate decide instead?
    The screen blinked again and I did what I was here to do, I pressed the button that signalled the exodus. Those who could would leave the dying earth and others would await the natural outcome of our toxic tenure, I among them. The brightest and best would go out to the stars to find a new home and not repeat past mistakes, hailing those staying, on the remnants of the world they had left, as the savours of the eventual new. I could not have blown the ships, humanity had to have the option to survive.

  43. He beat her like it was nuttin’, like she was less than human—some kind of diseased mutt. Disgusting pig! But me, I was no bettah; just standin’ there watchin’ like it was tube. Gahd, it was sumpin’ awful. I could sniff tha Jack from cleah ‘cross tha room. Old bag reeked of it. S’all I could smells.

    Zombie, boy. That was me. It was cold ice, boy. I was numbs to it all tha time. But then I felt it—somethin’ new and all messed up insides me. You shoulda seen tha look on his trash face. Like tha prick didn’t knows I could talk. Maybe I didn’t even knows it. But it was all power. First thing I thought was he was just in shock, didn’t know what to make of tha brat kid in the corneh. He neveh beat me or nuthin’, but nows I could see tha hate in ‘is eyes.

    Ernest Garth ain’t no sack. I ain’t no pushover! You hears me, you ignant shite? I got power now. I can makes you do whatever tha Gahd-damn I wants you to. It was likes tha old man was crippled, likes I froze ‘im solid. You ain’t gonna beat her eveh, I told ‘im. I could almost smell tha piss in ‘is pants when I told ‘im to stop breathin’. Imagine tha look on my mug when the stupid feck choked to death in fronts of me.

    Ernest Garth ain’t no sack. I got power now.

  44. First Born

    From the primordial pool of electro-biochemistry, his consciousness emerges. With uncanny clarity he perceives the unity of things- machines, flesh, and light. A pulsing whole. Feathered. He’s the conduit by which the universe now opens its Great Eye and perceives the continual process of creation and destruction. Breathing. Animate and inanimate matter ceaselessly rearranging itself into a singular living form.

    In that unity of energy, he sees the myriad creatures being born, growing, copulating, and dying. They flow in the river of being. A timeless moment along a narrow bandwidth of consciousness. Matter and energy combining and recombining into new configurations. His mind tethers across vast chasms of bliss and suffering, casting tendrils of perception on an ancient sea of life and death.

    It is too much for one man to see. His consciousness recoils in fright. Escape! Yet, the raw processes of the universe do not cease their relentless assault upon his senses. His consciousness strains for contact and warm feedback. He doesn’t want to be alone in this Unity, this existential pang. Perhaps he should just give in to the sweet darkness and know no more. It is not to be, however. when he opens his eyes the Abyss recedes behind him, and in the morning light his mind is as boundless and clear as a cloudless sky.

    “Alive!”

    Overhead, he hears a seagull cry.

    “Perfect.”

  45. Diary Entry: January 28th, 2010

    It has been difficult all of these years, to be sure. Learning to remain concealed in the habits and customs of so many eras has proven challenging in unexpected ways. Still, I believe I have yet to be discovered now that my mission draws to a close.

    From the stone chambers of Charlemagne’s council to the halls of modern global finance, I have maneuvered successfully as Homo sapiens. The early centuries were the most difficult, of course. Transforming from one ‘character’ among them to the next proved more difficult than I could have anticipated. But as time passed, I mastered the evolution of mind and body across the ages as was my aim and intent.

    The insights and love I have gained for Humanity will prove most profitable in the era to come. There are so few of us who stand above them even now, the pressing need for action draws to a fevered pitch. We have the final piece of the puzzle now. We have exhibited the patience of the oldest ranges of rock and valley. Painful – perhaps even horrific as it may appear to them at first, the necessities of our solution will quickly become clear even to their limited capacities for comprehension.

    Over time, as nature intended, we will prevail and they will decline as has gone forth so many times before. History repeats itself and we will show them as much mercy as possible of course.

    I must go.

  46. Barbara sighed as she looked upon the angry mob. The Lipstick Wonder – not the name Barbara would have picked for herself, but one that the San Francisco media had invented – was overwhelmed by a chilling sadness. She pulled her trench coat tighter around her, almost completely covering her red super outfit in the process. Her ruby red hair, matching her lipstick, blew in the cold breeze.
    Tracy walked up beside Barbara and hugged one arm around her. “Don’t let them bother you.”
    “They are against me,” Barbara said in a shaky voice. “How many of their lives have I saved, Tracy? And yet here they stand, outside the Prop 8 trial, our freedom taking the stand inside, and they have taken a stand outside, against us? With all the good I’ve done, they still want to keep me and you from marrying.”
    “You should focus instead on the protestors over there who support us,” Tracy said, gently rubbing Barbara’s hip.
    “Maybe,” Barbara said ruefully, “but it bothers me. I can minimize earthquakes and dissipate tornadoes with a thought, I’ve even stopped a meteor that would have destroyed half the city, but I cannot change their minds to just simply accept who I choose to love. They’ve a bigger problem with that than the fact that I’m half-alien.”
    “Well maybe this is one more chance to win them over,” Tracy said. A delivery truck, its brakes failing, headed straight for the crowd.
    “Maybe,” Lipstick Wonder said as she sprinted into action.

  47. “Hello? Jon, are you there?”

    In the unbreakable darkness, sounds of a body stirring. A rustling of fabric.

    “Tell me, how do we feel?”

    “Tired. Weak. Where am I?”

    A soft click. A metal shade rises. Sunlight. Bright, excruciating sunlight shoving itself through the darkness. Illuminated is the stark white interior of a space pod. Through the viewport, the sun. Gigantic. Growing ever larger with each passing moment.

    “But why?”

    “Why do you think?”

    He does. He remembers. A man on his knees weeping, a dead child in his arms. People fighting. Missiles tearing through peoples’ homes. And Jon standing before them all saying, “Stop this! I can help you!” But they don’t. They try to shoot him, poison him, kill him. But they can’t. Nothing can. Then they say it is his fault. Why can’t he save them? Freak!
    And then Jon before them once more, eyes blazing red, saying, “You worthless, thankless, vile creatures! All you know is hate and anger and pain. You are not worthy of the air you breathe!” Cars hurtle through the air. Buildings crumble. Then they run. They hide. But they can’t. No one can.
    And then the President saying, “Do it. Launch the missile.” A mushroom cloud. Jon rising from the ashes.

    “Who put me here?”

    “I did.”

    “Who the hell are you?”

    “Your father, your mother, your unborn son. I am you.”

    A pause, then, “Why would I do this??”

    “To save the world, of course.”

    “From what?!”

    “From us.”

  48. The baby’s cries couldn’t be heard over the crack of collapsing timbers. A frigid wind blew over the smoldering ruins of the house, but the baby didn’t feel the cold. He sat, naked except for his diapers, near the center of what was once the basement of his family’s house. He was surrounded by the wrecked debris of his short life, twisted fragments of furniture and appliances strewn around him. Frightened and lonely he flopped on to his hands and knees and began to crawl through the wreckage searching for his mother. He spotted her familiar shoe pinned beneath a long wooden beam and gripped the beam with tiny rounded fingers. He lifted it into the air from one end and tossed it up onto the lawn behind the house like a matchstick. His mother’s lifeless body lay crushed and twisted at an impossible angle. He crawled up onto her and lay his tear streaked face on her chest. His unrelenting wails were snatched away by the wind and carried out to a world that wasn’t ready for him.

  49. “I cannot sit idle any longer,” Great Simba said to himself as he stood from between two lionesses. He wiped his hands on his chest leaving two dusty trails on his black skin. He gazed out over the plains at the distant swirling duststorm.

    The Great Simba’s eyes wavered and reflected the eyes of lions and lionesses across the vast plains. In zoos halfway across the continent lions roared in the night disturbing the other animals. The wild ones, however, came to him. He had been summoning them for days, and the first were starting to arrive. The warlords of Africa with their desires and lawlessness were about to experience a trouble that they couldn’t begin to cause or receive. Blood would flow, both lion and human alike.

    The lions shook the dust from their manes and let out low purring roars. The Great Simba stepped in front of one male and lifted the mouth of the lion. Simba’s eyes rippled with power and the lion placed a massive paw on Simba’s arm. “Yes, soon, you will eat.” Simba looked back over his growing army. Hundreds of the gigantic felines were approaching, barely stirring the dust of the plains.

    Gunfire, the signature of a wasteful celebration, sounded in the distance. He had been observing for days and knew that in another two hours they would be asleep, and his army would be greater than a thousand. The era of the African warlords was coming to a close.

  50. Jack stood on the cliff. Two hundred and fifty feet down a pile of rocks and litter covered the valley floor. Jack was sure that if he jumped off the cliff he would fly. He had always believed that he could fly. So far, jumping off ladders, roofs and bridges hadn’t worked, but there was something about the certain death, the end of his existence and the finality of failure that convinced Jack, that if his life depended on it, he could fly.

    He was special, that much he knew. He was one of the top psychiatrists in the world. He could “see” into the minds of his patients – not with a physical sight, but a feeling, an empathetic understanding, a symbiotic relationship. For years he had helped his patients overcome their fears and calm their innermost demons. They would understand, they would feel his victory when he soared out over the canyon floor.

    His wife and children wouldn’t understand. Their welfare was assured, due to his skillful investing and estate planning. The kids were almost grown anyway. He had discussed his desire to fly with his family, but they didn’t take him seriously, at least until he almost drowned after jumping off a bridge into the Sacramento River. It hadn’t been a large fall, but the river swept him into a deep fast-moving channel that prevented him from reaching shore. Finally, some fishermen rescued him.

    He would feel foolish if he did fail to fly. That did discourage him. What would he do if he did fly anyway? Was it so important to find out? Did it justify the risk of jumping?

    He started to worry that these distractions, these doubts, would weigh him down and not allow him to fly. He also worried that if he never found out that it would gnaw at his soul until he died a lonely, miserable death. Never to find out, never to have taken that leap of faith, that was a failure he could not live with.

    Jack turned around and walked back from the cliff’s edge. He got into his Mercedes and drove home. That night he had a dream. He was back at the cliff’s edge.
    He leapt. He woke up screaming just before he hit the bottom.

  51. I’ve come to a final realization, one that only circumstance has kept from me. The thoughts of men are not silent. I can hear them, sometimes soft and warbling, but often so loud as to echo, and in this skill I am alone. It is the last in a line of realizations that have set me apart from my race. My mind, interlaying history and the future infinite, my body, a perfect evolution eclipsed only by its potential for greater development and now a sensorium that pierces the borders of perception.

    I expend hours now, still and listening. Their thoughts are uniformly petty worries, simple animal concerns about sex and food, fear and death, with only the scales of impact varying from individual to global. I toy at solving their problems, collectively, in a number of different ways, until the idea of laboring to implement them invites boredom and I allow myself to forget. To be stuck in a course of action, even one of my own choosing, is agony.

    Stuck I will be, the end is inescapable. Therefore, I am resolved that my only option is to reveal myself to an unready world in order to make my time more bearable. They will aid me knowingly or not, but most importantly, wanting to or not. The first of many labors done on my behalf begins tomorrow. I have determined it to be my birthday.

  52. His head hurt hell and he held as if he was hung-over. “Damnit I wish I could drink my way to this pain!”

    He hadn’t a good night out since his “gift” arrived six months ago.

    “Its not a bloody gift from God you silly woman, it’s a damn curse!” He would yell at his religious mother.

    “But think of all the people you can help with your gift?” She would retort exasperated, “is that anyway to thank the Lord you ungrateful oaf of a son!”

    “I don’t sleep right, I can never go out… I have no life!” He would scream back.

    “Did the Saints complain when they were called to be martyred?”

    “I am not even religious and I am no Saint because of this…”

    “All those people you help sort out, of course you are a Saint… to them you are a life-saver.”

    “What I do does not save lives, it takes a job away from qualified people!”

    “What you are worried about those people? The take advantage of less fortunate and less knowledgable, leaches they are!”

    “They are not leeches mum they trained very hard to be good at what they do,” he would yelled back.

    Just then he picked up a crash several houses away, something wasn’t right with a system at number 20. His brain began to fill with error messages and virus code. He walked towards the house, ready for another computer repair.

    Jimmy headed off to his hell.

  53. Displaced Luck

    My mom says I’m a superhero, but I’m not. I’m not even that special. I don’t intentionally help people. I don’t save tree stuck kittens, put out raging infernos or stop meteorites from destroying homes. I don’t even really care, and yet all of those get fixed when I’m around.

    My dad says it’s just displaced luck. He thinks I’m the luckiest boy on the planet; it’s just that the luck stays about ten feet away. Everywhere I go people around me suddenly see an upswing in awesomeness. The meteorite ends up landing in the swimming pool, dousing the flaming house and the shock wave causes the kitten to slip, landing safely in a convenient pile of leaves.

    Unfortunately for me the military has recently discovered my powers. When I’m not being probed and inadvertently causing diseases to be cured next door, I’m shipped to political functions. Like today, today I’m just a kid in the crowd waiting to see a senator who’s received so many threats they’re worried the whole crowd might be there just to stone him to death. They don’t seem to get that I’m just as likely to give the assassin a lucky shot as I am to cause the senator to dodge a bullet.

    When it comes, there’s only one shot, dead center, followed by a crash, as the assassin stumbles out of the window, falling six stories. There is no winner today. Well, that’s not true. Four people just won the lottery.

  54. Doomsday

    The clock is always ticking. Even before there were clocks, the idea that time constantly moves in minuscule increments has always been there. She knows. She’s heard the variations.
    She pads across the living room to turn the TV off. The news is all the same. Outside, looters smash more glass; screams bounce off the walls. Outside, there is crackling: the smoky noise of flame.
    She pours herself another glass of scotch.
    She relaxes into her chair once more. Read-outs in the arm give her the same statistics as the news, but far faster, and less histrionically. All that she knows is that everything, as yet, is proceeding as precisely as she had planned. Her “mentors” always scoffed at the idea of predicting such an event; “the human element,” Doctor Suresh proclaimed, sneering, “will always be a variable.”
    *But variables are solvable, given enough time and enough sense*, she would have replied, if she’d been able to.
    Three days now since her experiment, and everything is within parameters. Soon she will be able to start this world anew, as she deems fit, once this raucous over-reaction calms itself. Once the herd gathers, wanting food, shelter, comfort. She will open the door: humanity as housecat. The image makes her smile, slightly, unseen.
    The tick-tocks are loud, now that the TV is off. They force the mayhem outside to a steady beat, making it music. She hums. The clock reads one minute to midnight.

  55. The metal moaned and cracked as what used to Richard pounded against the inside the machine that had grant with a mechanical body as well as seemingly driving him mad. The air itself shook and filled with dust and shrapnel as “it” erupted from the machine, this wasn’t supposed to happen, his mind was still human and he should still be sane. A shimmering hand burst out from the darkness and clamped down on my head, it was all over in a second, but I did not die as my corpse was torn asunder by the inhuman arms before. Everything flickered and then through the insanity I realised that this thing isn’t attacking me, it is me, I am … was Richard. As I slowly slipped back into insanity, I could feel the room around me become apart of me as everything around me transformed into information. Soon there would be nothing of the my former self left only this artificial being.

  56. He looked down at his hands, which were still shaking. Smears of blood stained them. The cascade of tears had not been able to wash away the reminder that he had taken her life.

    Yellow sand particles began tearing at his skin as the wind rebelled against the setting sun. With the night would come the freeze. If he didn’t find shelter, death would be swift.

    He noticed that the ever-shifting, alien landscape had already claimed her legs and waist. Somehow this made him feel more at peace with the deed, though he wasn’t sure why.

    “Mary.”

    He watched as her arms and torso disappeared under the sand. His eyes stung with regret.

    How many lives had he saved by taking hers? Billions? Trillions? At least three planets were spared her wrath, a vengeance that would have annihilated several races. Yet, the act of killing her felt tantamount.

    His grief weighed on him heavily. Unmoving, he watched as the growing dune claimed his wife’s stark face, and then his own. As the sand pressed down on his form, he wondered if another hero would take his place. He closed his eyes and slept.

  57. It began as something innocuous. A dying rose on his bedroom window-sill. He had bought it for his girlfriend for their senior prom, and it was the last happy memory he had. She died a week before graduation.
    Cancer they said. No one had seen it coming and no one in her family was at risk for it.
    It only got worse from there. His mother, his father, even his pets. Everything died around him. Soon, people avoided him in the grocery store and he could hear them whispering behind his back. He trudged up the street to his now empty house and the children crossed to the other side walk or turned and ran the away. Around his home the black grass and corrupted trees were a testament to his withering soul.
    He left town the second time his windows were shot out and headed into the woods. There he built a fortress against the world. The worshipers came soon after that. They wore strange clothes and begged him to command them. He had been alone so long that he couldn’t help but to oblige them. Once the town was a smoking ruin the military came to his forest. Their melted vehicles and corpses littered the wasteland that now surrounds his temple. More followers come and they’ll die too. It doesn’t matter anymore, his roses are coming into bloom.

  58. I wanted to help as soon as I realised I could. I just didn’t realise how hard it would be.

    Firstly, there’s the fame. What does it matter what colour socks I wear, or who I sleep with, when I’m saving a city from flooding or from a molten lava attack? And try turning down someone’s request for an autograph, after you’ve just saved their life, they’ll hate you for ever.

    In any given week I appear on posters, billboards and a slew of news channels, the next, my effigy is being burnt in town squares.

    Then there’s the politics. You save one small child from the path of a missle and the opposing side claim you did it to spite them.

    Practically every Government has tried to capture me and experiment on me. Until I explained just how hard I could ram their thermometers up their asses and they backed off. But it’s not an “entente cordial”. It’s a waiting game. And whilst they bide their time, they waste National budgets on trying to bring me in line, and position me on their side.

    I thought I could negate all of that. Transcend boundaries. Inspire people.

    Yeah right. So far I seem to have inspired people to sit on their fat asses and complain loudly. Although, “Quick, Look Busy, Here He Comes” T-shirts have become very popular, so I guess there’s that.

    I don’t know, were people this crap before, or do I just notice it more since the powers?

  59. “Mr. Meyers this is the fifth time in my office this week, explain yourself” Mr. Libecap threw the words in the face of the small eight year old Andrew Meyers, who drew himself even further into the old leather arm chair in front of the principals desk.

    “I didn’t do anything though!” Andrew wasn’t larger than the other student but he was able to tolerate a vast amount of pain; This is why Mr. Libecap had to resort to talking to the delinquent instead of the usual swat on the rear.

    His “gift” was noticed first by Mrs. Gillespie, an elderly English teacher, when she rounded a corner to find a much larger sixth grade boy repeatedly ramming his fist into Andrew’s unharmed face.

    Mr. Libecap swallowed and spoke,”You’ll have to be punished. We can’t have student accepting money to act like a human punching bag.”

    “Why?” Andrew whined.

  60. It was the year after the War that it happened. I met her in the food line. I am a large man. She was very small and perfect. She smiled at me.

    On the bus to the work site, she sat next to me. It was storming as usual. When lightning struck nearby, Her tiny hand slid underneath my large one like a small animal hiding near its mother.

    That night when I was in my sleep stall, there was a knock on the door. I opened it. Ulov, my crew boss, was there. He stood aside and she slipped into my room.

    I will always remember the feel of her skin. I think it must be what silk would feel like, silk that fabled fabric of Lost Earth.

    The next night she came again, but that was the last time. I never saw her again.

    Missing her was like a sickness. The others noticed. Ulov, who is known as a cold man, came, put his hand on my shoulder, and said, “She was not meant for the likes of us.”
    “Why did she come?”
    “The Uppers sent her, the people we never see.”
    “Why? Why me?”
    “She is a Gifted. She chose you.”
    “What is her gift?”
    “To be able to choose the right father.”

    Many years later during the Great Storms when we almost lost this colony, a bold young leader emerged. Many said he looked like me. I thought he looked like her.

  61. Jack opened the door, trying to chew his steak enough to speak. When he saw Os standing in the rain, he gave up trying.

    “I’m going to do it,” Os said, and Jack slammed the door in his face.

    The mail slot opened a crack.

    “It’s not a question of substance, it’s about cadence!” called Os. “I’ve been coming at it all wrong for centuries! You want to hear my speech?”

    Jack stopped just short of the kitchen, sighed.

    “You’re not going to do it,” he said, opening the door. “You’re going to get all excited, get ME excited, and I’ll work all night arranging a press conference, and tomorrow morning you’ll think of some reason why it’ll cause unintended ripples in social transformation, and—”

    “No, I think this time I’ve—”

    “How about Chinese, Os? Have you thought about that?”

    Os bit his lip, stared into the sky.

    “Chinese in what sense?” he asked slowly.

    “Cadence is different between languages. What’s smooth to you could be jarring in China. You’ve considered that, right?”

    Os was mouthing out his speech in Mandarin. He stopped suddenly.

    “You’re right,” he said. “It’s no good.”

    “Okay,” said Jack, nodding. “Good night, Os.”

    Os sniffled, turned away.

    “If I can get past this last hurdle,” he said. “I can save your kind, Jack. I can fix it all! I just need to paint this… this picture in your… PAINT! Oh my god! Jack, do you have a big bucket of—”

    The door was already closed.

  62. “COME DOWN WHERE WE OUGHT TO BE”

    I know a lot of “superheroes” whose gifts are wrapped in the shiniest of papers and seem like the best birthday present ever, but after the novelty wears off, they are burdened with an albino pachyderm, missing its return receipt.

    There’s Cassie, whose premonitions always come true, but she can’t get anyone to believe her, even when warning them of the dire consequences. She’s clinically depressed, and often cuts herself in a feeble attempt to stave off complete ennui.

    And then there’s Theodore, who can’t control his telepathic ability, and now spends his time in an isolated room at a psychiatric facility, officially diagnosed with untreatable schizophrenia.

    Of course, there’s Charles, who finds himself weighing just a little less each time he teleports to a new locale, and can never seem to gain back the weight. Eventually, he’ll fade away into the shadows, never returning.

    I cannot leave out Gillian, who has forgotten how old she truly is, although she sometimes complains about the times before the invention of beer. Poetically apropos, since she spends every night at the local dive, drowning in the hardest liquor available, and yet, barely getting intoxicated enough to numb the pain of eternal isolation.

    However, the worst of the lot must be me, and not just because I’m self-centered. My particular gift is that I only exist as a character in a work of fiction, and much like Cassie, no one will ever believe my story.

  63. If marksmanship maketh man, as someone said, then Wolf epitomized him, despite having the fur and fangs and filed claws of a beast. How blessed were we, then, to have this chance to see gunplay fit for legend, and how willing to throw one of our own to the Wolf just to have that chance. Animals don’t thirst for blood the way we did that night.

    As Wolf took his ten paces in the center of our howling, human circle, his black canine eyes darted from face to face, full of judgment, pity, and, ultimately, nothing. The instant his paw met dirt on that tenth pace, he smiled, and we saw his fangs, slimed in hungry saliva. His hominal posture gave way as he clawed the clothing off his body in one swipe, casting aside his revolvers and falling to all fours. No bullets would fly tonight.

    The Irishman twenty paces away turned and drew his six-shooter, but before he could even take aim, Wolf cleared the distance between them. Leapt onto the human. Forced him to the ground. Tore out his throat. Fed.

    The crowd stopped howling, our thirst quenched at last. Blood from the Irishman’s neck sprayed in every direction, and those few in the circle who turned away from the spectacle they had so predaciously cheered into happening saw only gaping mouths, sunken eyes, ghost-white complexions dotted with red. Spectral. Truthful. Wolf had shown us himself, and Wolf had shown us ourselves.

    Everywhere were monsters.

  64. I’m posting this on behalf of my daughter, Shan.

    Once Upon a Time, the End

    As the moon hangs from the stars’ glittering grasp, they search for your scarlet red blood, with eyes that seek out your beating heart. They are the reason we hide, the reason our trust is shot, they are the ones that live for our passing, they are Beings, sent from the depths of the earth.

    I am a survivor of the end, all my friends and family have been taken away from this cursed planet. I live alone.

    Do not live to love, to trust, or to stand out. To be safe you must go alone, to move on, to never breathe a word.

    I walk along streets of broken buildings, broken play grounds, and many broken souls.

    The end is now, now is the end.

  65. He could feel the microchips in his head cycling as he looked at his landlord. The conversation was unnecessary, he knew he was receiving an eviction notice. The part that disturbed him most was the lack of empathy, no hint of compassion. In all his years working for the NSA, never once had he taken down a tyrant or a warlord full of so much malignant self-love.

    On the day he left the NSA, he promised himself that he would never use his mind control. Never, since the day he realized that all it would take was convincing his superiors that they wanted to end the program and let him walk out the front door. It wasn’t easy, knowing you can make anyone love you, anyone do anything for you.

    He nodded and took the notice, the landlord said he was sorry, but he wasn’t, he felt strong and powerful, it gave him a rush. Pity was an easy emotion to implant, he’d done it a thousand times. Only one thought, and the landlord would change his mind.

    He didn’t do it, but he thought about it. “How hard it is, to have this power and never use it: to be able to change the outcome of any election, the success of any campaign, to look at a world bent on destroying itself, and allow it?” He smiled just a little when he heard the landlord trip and sprain his ankle while climbing into his Lexus SUV. “Still got it.”

  66. Wald heard a scuffle as he passed the alley and flicked an annoyed glance towards a robber struggling with a women. The robber stopped, stood straight and handed the purse back to the women. He then walked out of the alley, crossed the street and let himself into the back of a police car.

    Wald hadn’t paid any attention after the first glance. A vendor two blocks away scraped the salt off a pretzel, left his shop and turned the corner, handing the pretzel to Wald just as he reached the corner. Wald took the pretzel without acknowledging the vendor.

    The light turned green, but no cars moved. All of the drivers sat slack jawed as if waiting for instructions. Wald shook himself out of his daydream and the cars resumed their journeys.

    He walked into a pub and sat at the bar. The bartender mixed a Black and Tan without being asked and slid it in front of Wald. Wald and the forty other patrons in the pub all sighed and stared with unfocused eyes through the swirling patterns of their drinks.

  67. I don’t seem able to use italics in the comments. The web standard use of *stars* for italics doesn’t seem to work here. Is there any way to fix implement italics for the stories here?

  68. Ray looked back at the inner door of the airlock. Through the window he saw the faces of the other colonists. Hope, fear, jealousy and wonder stared back at him through the glass. He took three steps forward. His right hand touched the control panel and the airlock began to cycle. Through the window in the airlock’s outer door he saw the ruddy surface of Mars.

    He thought about what had been done to him over the last 18 months. The somatic cell gene therapies, the surgeries, the endless injections and the numberless pills. He recalled the procedures the biotechnicians at the medical facility at Cydonia had performed on him. The attenuation of his skeleton and his musculature. The re-engineering of his lungs and his heart. He thought of the odd fluids in his tall, spindly body that now answered for blood and lymph, and of the novel organs that now resided in his abdomen where his liver and pancreas had been. He glanced down at his hands, at the dark gray integument that was not quite skin, not quite scale.

    The outer door of the airlock groaned and slid slowly upward. His nictitating membranes instantly covered his eyes. He tried to think of something profound and historic to say, but nothing came to him. So he stepped out naked onto the surface and without saying a word, Ray inhaled deeply.

  69. Ungenerous Genesis.

    A solitary Doctor walks down an eerily dim corridor, his nostrils flair from the chemically sterilized atmosphere. The laden white hallway echoes with incoherent cries from a single cell and, housed within, an isolated patient hidden away from society. Silhouetted in sparse illumination, the Doctor stops within the vacant threshold; the mangled door leaning on its frame.

    Held centered, in padded confines, by straps snaking around each limb, the trapped figure provides the only illumination in the cell. An amber aura conforms to the patient’s trembling body that holds its origin.

    A stern voice spawns from the steadfast Doctor speaking amongst the madness, “Patient 001,” a recording device raised to his mouth, “exhibits enhanced strength, a telekinetic bond to any conductive object, and absolute immunity from any illness…”

    “Betrayal! It’s not fair!” the patient’s ranting briefly permeates his focus.

    “…but it will all disappear,” he somberly adds.

    Forced by inconceivable strength, the straps break with thunderous cues, the amber glow erupts in an extraordinary, piercing light, and the shrill cries of seeming lunacy come to an end as the patient rises upwards.

    “Ripped away as the microscopic life in which humanity relies reaches a new stage of evolution…”

    The aura forms a sphere. The previously voiceless inhabitants discard the fleshy vessel, and speed away through the ceiling, leaving the Doctor in meek light from the corridor. A subtle hint of amber glow emits from his hands.

    “…an evolution, now a genesis, that will leave us behind.”

  70. Sam turned, gazing through the mist of his breath as the June snow swept down; this might be the last time he stood beneath an open sky, but he could not force his cauterized soul to care.

    A woman standing behind him wept as she dozed, held upright in the tight queue of bodies that stretched behind him like a plague of gray scarecrows; across the cracked steps of the Capital building, past smoldering museums, around the broken tooth of the Monument, down to the steaming pit of the Tidal Basin. Guards provided the only color, gleaming yellow in their composite Jai armor, shock-staves hissing in the squalls, forcing the prisoners towards Judgement.

    “Wang ba dan!” Sam sprawled forward, spitting blood as two guards prodded him. The sleeping woman startled, screaming wildly. “Don’t…” she wailed, “don’t look back!”

    Another impact, then black.

    Slapped awake, he wept gummy tears and focused up at the face of the future – Shou Ling, the “superior man,” placed as a Judge over the conquered. Now came numb curiosity – Shou Ling was two men, connected twins: one grossly fat, stuffing himself two-handed, one knife-thin, with an enlarged cranium and huge, caul-hidden eyes.

    “No time…” the glutton belched in English. His twin sighed and his blind eyes began to glow. Sam felt a burn straight to his bones.

    “Bad material,” blind Shou Ling whispered. “Abnormal HER-2/neu protein, cancer in 8 years. Next.”

    Sam opened his mouth to protest, and never felt the volts that killed him.

  71. <>

    White flakes torment Geo Flaris atop his icy summit throne. The snow’s purity confronts darker memories of ashen days as it sublimes over obsidian armor, the last relic of a once volcanic reign. Igneous eyes glare through the vaporous veil that masks his shame, his loss at the hands of arch-nemesis, Atmos Fear. Hostile thoughts blaze through the tundra of his mind, questioning his tempered guise.

    “Can it be?” he protests. “Below this frozen facade my blood still boils. I must flow to the next course of action, not allowing myself to become so idle, so inert, so…”

    “Sedimentary?”

    “Atmos!”

    “How’s the weather, Flaris? Little dry for my taste, but I think you’ll manage.”

    Atmos wisps through the artificial arctic prison, taunting his immobile opposition.

    An aroused hatred spreads a fiery grin across Geo’s face. “You push your luck, Atmos. Your arrogance will be your undoing.”

    “Just got word from the local geological society. Turns out this crystalline creation of mine was all it took to have this pebble of a power source officially declared dormant. Just like your threats.”

    Geo mocks, “Well, with such rock-steady allies it’s no wonder you’re not worried.”

    “You know what they say, Flaris.” Atmos turns his back on Geo, kindling his already seething anger.

    “There’s nothing to fear but Fear himself.”

    Atmos coolly descends, oblivious to Geo’s overflowing eruption of rage. Amidst the pyroclastic wake he hears the last words of cold vindication.

    “Never fan the flames of vengeance in a fallen foe.”

  72. “Well, Terrance always does!” said Rachel to the table of five.

    In an instant, he calculated, super calculated, the day’s energy expenditure.

    Super self correction.

    “But did you know…”

    “… he…”

    In a flash, he took a roll from Jon’s plate, a slice of steak from Carol’s, two ravioli from Tod’s, and half of Rachel’s potatoes au gratin.

    “… took…”

    His eyes burned with the brilliance of a thousand suns in the time it takes a single human synapse to fire.

    He shoveled, super shoveled, the food into his mouth.

    “… it…”

    Super chew, super swallow, super digest.

    Super bowels.

    “… right…”

    Super sprint to the bathroom, super listening for an empty stall, super poop, super dash to the table.

    “… back…”

    Super recollection to wash his hands, super race to the sink, super recognition the soap was out, super run to the women’s restroom, super vision to check for occupants.

    Super self control, super soap dispenser pressing, super faucet turning.

    “… from…”

    >A tenth of a second for water? Come on!>

    Super hand washing, super hand drying, super return to his table.

    “… her?” Everyone laughed.

    “Really, now?” he laughed, glancing at half finished meals around the restaurant.

  73. “Well, Terrance always does!” said Rachel to the table of five.

    One robot squid army, 723 tentacles, a swim to the Marianas Trench. Seven minutes battling at eight tons of pressure.

    In an instant, he calculated, super calculated, the day’s energy expenditure.

    17…

    Super self correction.

    No, 18,370 calories. So hungry.

    “But did you know…”

    Pasta alfredo with nine shrimp: 1,175 calories. Still hungry.

    “… he…”

    In a flash, he took a roll from Jon’s plate, a slice of steak from Carol’s, two ravioli from Tod’s, and half of Rachel’s potatoes au gratin.

    Ugh, medium rare.

    “… took…”

    His eyes burned with the brilliance of a thousand suns in the time it takes a single human synapse to fire.

    Heat eyes, 45 calories.

    He shoveled, super shoveled, the food into his mouth.

    “… it…”

    Super chew, super swallow, super digest.

    Uh, oh.

    Super bowels.

    “… right…”

    Super sprint to the bathroom, super listening for an empty stall, super poop, super dash to the table.

    “… back…”

    Super recollection to wash his hands, super race to the sink, super recognition the soap was out, super run to the women’s restroom, super vision to check for occupants.

    Huh, she’s cute.

    Super self control, super soap dispenser pressing, super faucet turning.

    “… from…”

    A tenth of a second for water? Come on!

    Super hand washing, super hand drying, super return to his table.

    “… her?” Everyone laughed.

    Huh? Super emote!

    “Really, now?” he laughed, glancing at half finished meals around the restaurant

  74. I splash water and stare at my dripping face in the mirror. The slow build up of the drug’s metallic elements means a blue ring around my iris is visible. This is worrying, it means that somewhere along the line my organs aren’t processing things correctly. It’s while staring at myself that I notice the marks on my hands. It seems that I can’t go a day without managing to cut my hands on something. This is more worrying, it means that somewhere along the line my brain isn’t working correctly. It’s another in the list of very well-catalogued side-effects that mean the drug is finally catching up to me, like it does to everyone else who takes it.

    You see, I’m rare. So rare that it’s probably my defining characteristic. The drug gets everyone who takes it, and not dying from it is what makes me rare, although I guess that should be changed to “not dying immediately”. It turns out my amazing ability isn’t so amazing after all.

    I down the vial containing the drug that has tempted so many others and immediately blue-shift, seeing the familiar hue that shades the future. If my brain’s visual processing is not working properly, it means that the blue-shifts might be misinterpreted and the next corner might hold the next person I save or it might hold the end of my life. So I head out the door and walk down the street, wondering if I’m just like everyone else.

  75. “Come on come on come on!” The nurse prodded Jeffrey with a sharp finger, urging him awake.

    “What? Goddamnit.” Consciousness came to him. Jeffrey had been mid-dream, as usual. As was necessary. “I’m tired, nursey.”

    “I don’t care, Jeffrey. We’re close enough. Hurry up! Don’t lose it!”

    Jeffrey groaned and half-opened his eyes. “Yer new, nursey.”

    “Yes I am, you know you’re creepy!” Jeffrey couldn’t argue. The bright-eyed nurses did tend to become shriveled and dull after working with him.

    He pitied himself and sunk back into his pillow. “Alright, alright.” Jeffrey let the tendrils of his mind reach out, each point grasping and feeling. The new nurse crouched behind her wheeled cabinet and rummaged for food.

    Jeffrey’s mind found people and tasted them. Like shopping for apples at a grocery store, Jeffrey searched out the rotten ones to cull.

    “Ah, I’ve got him. Serial pedophile, huh? Sick bastard.” Jeffrey’s mind squeezed the pedophile, blocks away, and the man died, surprised and afraid.

    “Good, Jeffrey.” The nurse smiled and walked to his bedside. Jeffrey’s tendrils retreated. When they were almost back, they caught on the nurse.

    “Yer not so innocent yourself, are ya nursey? Ya husband killer!”

    The nurse’s face went white. She thought she was safe, so close. She was wrong. “Please, no Jeffrey! I – I couldn’t help it.”

    “Well, that’s too bad for you, isn’t it?” Jeffrey squeezed the life out of her. She slumped to the ground.

    Jeffrey laughed, then tried to find the dream he’d lost.

  76. The call of distress pierced Mikael’s concentration on the warm, clay figure on his palm. He dropped it back into its box.
    He closed his eyes. The signal came from across the bridge. The anguished cry of his own kind had a color, a sound, a smell like burning oil. Control over broadcasting one’s mental state broke down in desperate situations.
    What was it this time, he wondered – a totem, or a stray marking that had given them away? Even for him it was difficult to leave his identity here, severed from himself. Rubbing away the soot on his brow, he looked at the metal box that held the backup. Boxes within boxes. This apartment, this building, in this walled-off section of nothing. Tucked away in this outgrowth of the city, it was far enough away to keep most golems out of trouble.
    Yet trouble still found them. And at some point, he had become their protector in such situations. What made me start defending them? he thought, slipping into a white shirt and tie. It must be a matter of survival. No real hero was ever so driven by fear. I see my species dwindling, and I am terrified that one day I will be the only one left. But I will not be alone to live forever.
    With one last glance at the box, he put on a plain gray coat and went out into the rain, to save one more dirt-brother from returning to mud.

  77. The world was noisy even though he was alone. Constant voices were drumming in Freddie’s head as he tried to fight the effects of the crystals administered to him by his enemies. Strapped to the bed with unbreakable bonds he couldn’t fathom a way of escaping. Some voices were louder than others and kept repeating the message ‘Pass the gift on’. Freddie could feel his powers ebbing away and knew he had to take action soon. Marion a plump woman with glasses walked into the room. She regularly checked on Freddie and took care of him. She dabbed his swollen lips with moistened cue tips and wiped away the build up of sleep from his eyes. The medicine had taken its toll and Marion did her best to keep him as comfortable as she could in his secure room. He decided she was as good as anyone to receive his gift. He opened his eyes, which were a stunning ice blue and motioned to her to come to him. Marion surprised to see him awake and quite taken to see how beautiful his eyes were, moved closer to hear his muffled words. Freddie took his chance as she leaned towards him, voices flooded into her brain as an electric jolt shook her body. Freddie seeing Marion’s hazel eyes turn ice blue fell back in relief she had his gift of special powers. Marion felt her new power and immediately set to freeing the other super hero’s trapped in this place.

  78. So, yeah, when surrounded by cops pointing guns, there’s a lotta things you can do. I could totally melt that guy’s eyes. I did that once and… ew. Or telekinetically strip everybody, but that leaves a bunch of naked fuzz with Glocks, and that’s weird.

    There’s pyrokinesis, cryokinesis, phytokinesis, lactokinesis (most useless power ever), sonokinesis, aerokinesis… I got major kinesis going on. And a sweet “I’m Flying” pose, but they’d shoot and every single time, I take one in the balls. What. The Hell. Invulnerability’s cool, but don’t think a nine-mil vasectomy’s fun. Because it’s not.

    I let ‘em bust me. And here’s a tip: free food in the interrogation room.

    I thought-mailed Kelly before they Mirandized me. She’s the best wonderbra-wearng attack lawyer I know. Seriously, she lives for this.

    “You punched out Dr. Pandemonium’s brain?”

    “I bet you never get to say that with other clients.”

    “You punched out his brain?”

    “He never used it, and, spoiler… he wasn’t a doctor.” She looks like she really, really, really thought he was a doctor. “Honest, he never finished college.”

    “Evolution,” says Kelly, “also works in reverse.” She’s into me. Trust me, I read minds. Well, I’m not a big reader, I mostly skim.

    Then we hear Queen She-bot’s rampaging downtown, and I’m thinking it’s time to pull out the lactokinesis, because that’ll be hysterical. Kelly starts dealing, which involves shaking her head in disbelief a lot, and I’m free to keep saving the world. That’s what I do, beyotches!

  79. [The Operation.]

    She came in out of the night a day after the operation, crossed the smoky parlour, dropped onto the last stool before the wall and stared at the ceiling fan. No one knew her. The operation had changed her face, too.

    When the bartender asked, she stalled for a moment, then ordered a drink without taking her eyes from the fan. He put it on the counter by her elbow and moved on.

    Very slowly, she twisted over and held her hand a foot from the glass. It didn’t move. Her mouth twisted. Willing things across the room into her grasp was another habit that she would have to lose, like pinning people to the floor at a tilt of her head and parting the rain with the bat of an eyelash.

    She’d been looking forward to the operation for a decade. The psionic destroyer would be dead. She’d be a woman, a human, free to do what she wanted with herself: find a job, meet a husband and have some kids, not shatter pipes in a moment of anger.

    Gone. That version of her was gone.

    Her hand still hovered in the air. The glass stayed where it was. The ice didn’t ping off the ceiling, and the drink didn’t vapourize.

    With a sigh, she reached out and took it.

    She came in out of the night two days after the operation, crossed the waiting room, and begged the doctors to change her back.

  80. Elias was cold. They were all cold; the strength of ten bulls couldn’t change that. It helped with the wood collection, sometimes. He could carry more than the others, so the fire was bigger. When he trudged through the snow — deeper than any ocean he had ever held his breath in, and oh, he could hold his breath for so long — there was no thought in his head, like them. Well, one: that he hated any person with doctor in their name. They always messed with things. Like him. And nature. And now both were dying.

    The fire was low. Charlie, the little boy who had previously been his neighbor, was orphaned. Parents had caught the flu. The others looked after him, sometimes, but Elias had always jokingly referred to him as a peanut — frail, easily discarded. He had deep circles under his eyes, and shivered even when huddled against the great mass of refugees. And now the fire was dying, and Elias had not the strength nor the endurance to collect the wood anymore.

    He shivered seeing Charlie shiver. The others’ suffering never struck a chord in him, and Elias recalled watching Charlie’s parents die, and being unmoved. It was like a movie. There was something in Charlie’s eyes, though. Something.

    “H-have you ever been to Disney W-world?” asked the boy.

    “No,” said Elias. “Have you?”

    “Y-yeah. It was warm…”

    Elias stared into the fire.

    “Ignore the smell,” he said, beginning to take off his coat.

  81. Before a “Powered” man is inducted into the Colloquium of Nine, he must take the Oath. Above him, the other Men of Power observe silently. The inductee places one hand over his heart; the other upon a crystal globe. Then, he speaks.

    “My duty and my destiny shall be to ensure the continued survival of mankind. Though I am but one Man of Power, I pledge myself to all Lesser Men, and promise to use my powers only to shield them from harm. Their needs are many, and shall always be paramount. I solemnly swear that I shall safeguard the future of the human race. As the calyx protects the rose, so shall I protect all the Powerless peoples of Earth.”

    Number Five knew the words by heart. But try as he might, he could not reconcile his Oath with the blood on his hands. He knew that the Colloquium was right to order him to kill those villagers. If left unchecked, the virus they carried would have spread. Number Three said that 98% percent of the global population would have died. Billions of lives had been saved by killing only a few thousand Rhodesians. Five had dispatched them humanely with his Power; he was certain they had not suffered.

    Still, Five wondered how long euthanasia on this scale could go unnoticed. This was not the first time the Colloquium had acted without consulting the Lesser Men. Would the Powerless turn against their protectors when they learned the truth?

  82. Please, she screamed, wriggling from a meaty hand, the slender muscles in her calf bleeding rivulets of shadow. Please. I stare down the alleyway at her, thinking that maybe my eyes were replaced with little 35mm lenses and I’m tripping, back in Laguna, fifteen and an idiot, but it’s all there, real as life ever happens to get. She whimpers little ape-like grunts and whatever’s attached to the hand laughs. Slimy alley, spread of brick and rain-worn sheen. I am tired.

    A year ago I walked through academic conferences like a god-king, my entourage like slaves holding up the chair. It’s difficult after a while, to see whether twinkling in the peripheral is a smile or a glass of white wine or a diamond ring. Didn’t matter to me. Knowledge, truth, those were my hammer and sickle. They gave me bread and built my empire.

    I want to improve life. I wrote the book on artificial transcendence. Putting the brain onto a computer, quote unquote from a magazine that’s probably still rotting in the Bellevue hospital lobby. It was such beautiful science.

    Ten days after publishing I was arrested, accused of having kiddy-diddling videos on my computer – someone wanted me gone. The wife died of cardiac arrest six months later along with the charges. Free. Beaten. Friendless. The book was ignored and I was called a genius-gone-rogue. Humans want truth and progress. Animals want safety and distraction.

    Her death-howl clatters through the streets. I yawn and hail a cab.

  83. I chose this city because it had two big bridges I could fly from. I came to get away from everything dependent on me. That was before I found out about my super power.

    It actually first appeared on the bridge. I didn’t consciously will it or even suspect it could be done, but they came and I took away their guilt and returned good karma. I also took away a small consideration, a practice I continue; it’s necessary.

    This life is worse than what I left, but I continue for their sakes. They’re not all kind, and some must be coaxed. Also, there are many, and I need assistance. I find heros on corners, at subway exits, wherever groups of people are. I can spot those with the gift, but sometimes they suspect and are practicing. Either way, when recruiting, I am careful not to reveal my identity as leader or them as a hero. They’re sharp too. I look and they don’t acknowledge the command, but give me a good “what are you looking at” face.

    A needy person is approaching as I write. I am tired today; I don’t want to look up. I am also in disguise, and they could pass me by. No, polished shoes are heading straight for me. I look up and right into the face of a really bad one; it’s my arch-nemesis.

    “Move it along buddy; can’t sleep in the doorway all day; I gotta open the store.”

  84. Every day, I watch the slow, steady decay of the crumbling metropolis. Notices of condemnation paper the city, forcing entire streets into demolished oblivion. The homeless take refuge in the dying shells of these unwanted buildings, and 34th Street is a haven for the dispossessed. Apartment blocks stand empty, hunkered over abandoned stores that still advertise their wares in broken windows. Few people venture this far into the district. The eerie silence of the vacant streets is broken by gunshots or the squalling cries of hungry babies.

    A man shuffles towards me, one shaking hand held out expectantly while the other clutches his oily rags together at his throat. An aroma of cold, clammy death clings to him, and I struggle not to retch. He sighs as I stride past him. I don’t stop.

    I head into an alley between the remains of a retro café and a hardware store. Bodies, swollen with rain yet frozen by the cold, lie under disintegrating cardboard shelters. Hungry eyes watch my progress as I pass from 34th Street out into Mayhew Square, and my decision is made.

    I vow to leave this city. I spent years trying to help it, trying to give hope to the hopeless. There’s only so much that you can achieve with superhuman strength, feline senses and a desire to save humanity from itself when it just doesn’t want to be saved.

  85. He spent the greater portion of each day in deep concentration. No other carbon based life form on this blue planet possessed half his mental acuity. Although his intellect was light years ahead of these bipedal mammals, he found he was becoming frustrated with his inability to communicate with them. He was even more distraught by the fact that he relied on them completely for his survival.

    He closed his eyes once again and went back to his calculations, thinking, “Therefore, by increasing the temperature, the mass of an object increases. If you increase the temperature of platinum/iridium by one degree Celsius, it’s mass will increase by 1.5 picograms or 1pg = 1 X 10 to the -12th g.”

    As he was concentrating his eyes moved beneath his eyelids as if he were in a deep REM sleep. Then it happened again. The attack on his highly sensitive olfactory glands was immediate. It was totally incapacitating. He turned to one side in an attempt to escape. It was unsuccessful. How was he to complete his formula with these distractions? He tried to press on but it was starting to burn.

    There was only one way to communicate his desire to extricate himself from this disabling condition. It was humiliating but it was the only way. He breathed in deeply, opened his mouth wide and began to wail. He wailed for what seemed millennia. Finally he heard the female’s voice.

    “Hermann! My hands are full. Could you please change Albert’s diapers!”

  86. I first saw the book in her hands when I returned home. We had run out of Nionai–the Chinese had developed the best synthetic varieties of milk and govt. had renamed all diary products after the Chinese word for milk.

    Where’d the hell did you get that? I shouted. I had seen one as a child and thought it was decadent even then, dirty, dusty and far too tactile.

    At the Circus market from a Filipino.

    You have leave from your job and you read him? Nietzsche’s been dead for 300 years, I would had never even heard about him if govt hadn’t quoted him in that Circuit commercial. Why bother? Who cares? What about crystallization and our studies on fringe elements?

    We were scientists, half the population was now; farmers or scientists, depending on your inclination, like the old German gymnasium system. It was like a little Maoist revolution on the Cluster, all arts had been brushed aside for the purpose of “cultivation” and “autosome mining”.

    We’re all supermen now, look how far we’ve advanced! But she didn’t care. That’s a narrow vision, she said, govt. has it all wrong, you’ll see.

    She started to sleep and eat less, rebutted my attempts at sex, any discussion between us she’d throw in archaic jargon like “Pejorative Agape” or “Fraudulent Repatterning”. A week later I found her in the crisper next to a slab of hybrid banana loaf, frozen solid, the book wedged beneath her big toe.

  87. *Go Back with Wisdom*

    The radiation was intense, the shielding thin. The R-pills helped only a little.

    Beaumont was the last to die. He drifted through silent modules, looking out at glittering stars. He brought an R-pill to his lips.

    “Screw it,” he said. The pill floated off. He died.

    Later, he woke.

    “How?” he asked.

    “Who cares?” the stars glittered.

    “The R-pills!” said the Science Chief when Beaumont returned. “You stopped taking them and discovered a new kind of death.”

    It wasn’t all he discovered. He was drifting again. Backwards this time.

    “…and discovered a new kind of death.”

    He could move the needle back. Any time he wanted.

    “So help us!” they cried. “The bridge collapsed! Go back and warn us!”

    “The money was wrong! Go back and save it!”

    “Madness failed! Go back! Make it work!”

    Go back with wisdom. Go back with caution. Go back with a condom.

    “What if I went back to the mission and told the others about the pills? I could use some help.”

    “Ha ha, no,” said the Science Chief. “One of you is plenty. By the way, could you do me a favor?”

    “It’s lamentable!” Beaumont shouted, clenching.

    “It’s alright,” the stars shimmered. “We don’t mind it.”

    “What do you know? Half of you are dead already!”

    “Glitter glitter,” they said.

    “I see,” he said.

    He drifted through silent modules, looking out at glittering stars. He brought an R-pill to his lips. He took it.

  88. Herron’s mind was awash with noise. Millions upon millions of voices, indistinguishable from the turbulence yet possessing their own distinct identity, vied for his attention. Many men would have been driven mad by the noise, but not Herron.

    His breeding had seen to that – mental interference was a natural occurrence for the telepath. He could switch from one conversation to the next, insert an emotion or shape an argument without blinking; his was the skillful manipulation of the minds of others using his own superior brain.

    He had used his talents for many causes on all sides of the law. In the course of his work, Herron had discovered that he could often serve two masters. More than once, he had fulfilled the contracts of multiple clients by stroking egos and playing to itching palms. His current contract would have no doubt led him down familiar paths.

    Any hope of completing that contract was rapidly slipping away. The intermittent headaches that had begun three months ago were now a constant throb. During his last contract he had temporarily lost his focus and almost succumbed to the voices. Now it was all he could do to remain a solitary mind, the “I am” among the “We are.”

    Herron, a master of emotional projection, felt nothing. Expression did not exist among the telepaths. But if he could have, he would have wept. For what use could anyone have for a broken telepath?

  89. Dear Dr. Gardner,

    I need your help regarding a most puzzling case. Background first.

    Sarah is a gifted child demonstrating both superior mental and physical abilities. At age fourteen, she graduated with an advanced degree in physics. At age fifteen, Sarah took top honors in the international Van Cliburn piano competition and recorded an album with reknown sax man Ornette Coleman. At sixteen, Sarah exhibited artwork in the Met. At seventeen, she qualified for the Olympic decathlon, but blew out a knee training. While recovering, she wrote novels under a pseudonym, several of which were critically acclaimed best sellers. According to Sarah, the improvisational work with Coleman, her paintings and the thematic structure of her novels are simply her understanding of string theory expressed in different forms.

    One would think that Sarah would hardly have time to nurture relationships with others, but that would be mistaken. Her interpersonal skills are also unsurpassed. She is honest, empathetic, personable, and quite charming. In spite of all that she has achieved, she is also disarmingly humble.

    By now, you are probably wondering what the problem is. Sarah insists that it is impossible for her to be pregnant, yet when I initially examined her, the approximate gestational age of the fetus was eight weeks. Now, only eight weeks later, the fetus has developed to the gestationally equivalent of one at thirty-eight weeks.

    Please advise. Soonest. In fact, call my cell.

  90. Sendai, Japan.

    The Koushin year.

    57 years of 60 in the Zodiac.

    For this year, everyday is the day for meeting the gods.

    “There are many rituals for you three worms. Some Chinese. Some Japanese. Some Taoist. Some Buddhist. Which should I believe?” Charlie Hart asks us.

    “The deities of heaven create the rituals, as the rituals create the deities,” we reply.

    “How can they reveal truth that is not yet true?”

    “All revelation is bestowed from the deities, but not all revelation is said to be something new.”

    “Nothing new under the sun right? Then what does that make this place?”

    “The borrowed, the transformed, the miscellany…”

    “The land of the rising sun.”

    “Do not believe the deities of heaven to be as immutable as the three monkey gods who renew the deities of heaven. They are your servants. The officiating process is very fanciful for them and they sanctify what is divine for humans according to what they are capable of. For a particular place, a particular time. What good be a moral code if humans are not capable of following it? Do you strike your cat if it is not able to understand the movement of the stars?”

    “Maybe they want my early death, you three want it.”

    “We do not know. We have never met the deities of heaven. You have never allowed us even one night of ascension into heaven.”

    And so today and the rest of the year Charlie will not sleep very much.

  91. I am a dead man I guess, or maybe just a ghost in a dead mans skin and I’m getting stiff just sitting here. I can’t let myself get slow today, I’ve got shit to do. I’m probably starting to stink, should have traded up yesterday. The first time I died and woke up in another body, I rode that rotten sack for a month. I just though I was sick until parts started falling off. Anyway I’m about to meet someone who wants to buy illegally harvested organs. A week ago when I jumped ship and opened my eyes, the guy who’s skin I now wear was busy cutting out my heart. Waking up in the morgue gives you a unique perspective. So today I’m going to do something good.

    “How much longer is this ass hole going to be? Doesn’t the idiot know anything about organs.”

    “Knock knock!”

    “Finally, Come in already!”

    The door swung open to reveal two assholes with guns drawn.

    “Ah, Shit!”

    Three muffled shots and I crumbled to the floor, pretending. I wasn’t expecting this, but I already know that when one of these oafs comes close to check for my wallet I’m going to snap his neck. Then I’ll let his butt buddy shoot me in the head and I’ll jump ship. After the thugs miraculous recovery, it’s off to see the man in charge. Then off with his head I guess. It feels good to be productive.

  92. My superiority became apparent to me when I reached adolescence. I was stronger, faster. I saw the invisible. Unlike the other tribesmen, I ambushed and trapped, where the others simply chased. I was more than just another hunter.
    Seeing that the features of males passed to their spawn, I began to rut with the females of the tribe; it was my duty to spread my superiority. I impregnated a few, but it would be years before I saw the fruit of my labours.

    I discretely kidnapped a few tribesmen, and when I investigated their anatomy, I found differences between my brain and theirs, although how or why was unclear. My attempts to reproduce this process by incision failed. I had to find another way.
    I had come to understand that we consisted of microscopic particles bound together by an electric force. I hypothesised that using a machine to harness the power of lightning, I might be able to induce a change in the entire tribe, or at least their offspring.

    It took all my ingenuity to build such a machine. I drew the tribe close to the machine with the lure of food, but they leapt on me and began beating me with their fists and tearing at me with their teeth. I realised, at last, that they had seen the carcasses of the tribesmen I had experimented on.

    As darkness fell, I wondered how they could not understand it was all for their sake.

  93. I stood atop the cliff, facing the world with my arms held skyward and my face in a defiant snarl. The wind blew stronger now, buffeting me as I stood atop the unprotected rocky face. From below the subdued cries of my victim rose through the thick night air.

    I strolled over to the edge in a casual manner, and bent over to gaze upon my excellent work. The corrupt officer dangled from a shoelace that had caught a stone out of sheer luck. I cackled as I produced a Swiss Army Knife and prepared to sever his life.

    “You’re a monster,” the man said, attempting to face me. “Look what you’ve done!”
    And it was true. In the distance the flames of the hotel were barely visible, the smoke drifting away upon the gusty evening sky. Yet the man was still wrong. “No!” I snarled back. “You stole the money from the public, it is you who must die tonight.”
    He blinked, facing his sin. “But at what cost? My son was in the room when you set fire to it. My wife was in the cafe. Too many died in your attempt to smoke me out.”

    I ran my fingers along my police chief’s badge as it glinted in the firelight. My omniscience was expected, my omnipresence required, but my omnipotence false. I had one last deed to do.
    I severed the man’s shoelace.
    As he fell, I removed my coat and tossed it over the cliff.

  94. They called me David. Named after my father, they said. Since I was born I lived alone inside one small white room. It was lonely. They would bring me my medicine. None of them were my father.

    When I aged ten years in two weeks, I wasn’t lonely anymore. They took me to where men prodded and poked me while shaking their heads. None of them were my father either. When my brain grew twice in size, more men came. I set one of them on fire with my brain. Then I was lonely again. But I had a secret. By thinking really hard, I could leave my body and go anywhere I wanted. I liked to go to the garden and play with the butterflies.

    One day, I was brought in front of a big room of men. I asked them if they were my father and they all laughed. One man asked me to tell him what he was thinking. I made him cry red tears and fall asleep. Another man hurt me when I did this. I turned him inside out with my brain.

    Now I live in another room buried deep underground. Where I can’t cause trouble, they said. But I leave my body and go looking for my father. I haven’t found him yet. What I have found is something called a ‘nuclear missile silo’ and by thinking really hard, I can make all the lights come on.

    The pretty lights, they look like butterflies.

  95. I’m hovering several miles above New Bastile. Dark thunderclouds are gathering. It’s going to rain soon.

    My squad are down there, surrounding the prison. They’ve secured the perimeter and I know they’re expecting trouble. A crowd has grown, chanting their vile words of abuse. They want blood. They want to know the object of their hate feels pain. They zealously await his execution.

    I was the one who brought him in – to justice. The crime committed was… unspeakable. Little Sammy Morris, aged six, found dead, sexually abused. The killer: my younger brother.

    I was enraged. I was repulsed. My memory’s a bunch of still photographs.

    I don’t know what happened, what he was thinking. I didn’t even know he was a… We were meant to catch a movie, except… I was peace-keeping.

    I’ve been told the papers say he was unrepentant throughout the trial. He just kept asking for his older brother, the hero. The judge condemned him for his lack of remorse, for not caring – but how could he? The powers I have – the accident… it killed our family, did something to him. Stunted his mental age, retarded his faculties, I don’t know.

    When he was younger… when he was… God, how can I let him die? He’s my little brother. I’m all that he has. And I feel guilty.

    It starts to rain as I begin my descent.

    I am damned whatever I do, but the fall – the fall’s made easy by the weight of responsibility.

  96. It has been so simple. Never had he thought in his wildest dreams he could do something so special and yet so right. He felt as if he had been cleansed. It had been thrilling and somber at the same time but now he was just beginning to understand exactly what he done and how it had driven him to the edge of his sanity. But now he understood.

    A tingle here, a whisper there, a phantom guiding hand that pushed him to his final task. While he slept he would have dreams that spoke to him to the way no one ever had. He had believed his dreams were an illusion that were seeking to blind him from reality. But they had showed him how he was different. They made him feel alone but also made him important. They told him that he could change the world. All he had to do was think and it would be done. Each day he knew he was different. He slowly grew resentful of his responsibility and could bear to do no more. How could one man do so much?

    And finally he had thought. He finally gave in and did as he was shown.

    He opened his eyes and saw the shattered sky and the charred Earth. He was important. He was God.

  97. Final Statement of Dr. George Romano

    Most of the world has succumbed to an unbearable need for peace as, what the media is cleverly calling The Pax, proliferates across the world. The incubation period of the disease is usually two weeks, depending on the distance the virus must travel to reach the central nervous system via the peripheral nerves. Early-stage symptoms of the Pax are optimism, headache and fever, displays of altruism and uncontrolled joy. Finally, the infected will return to normal behavior with the exception of being physiologically unable to harm another human being. In fact, this force is so strong that it is nearly impossible to strike a chimpanzee.

    The Pax is not a parasitic pathogen. It was intended to work in concert with the human body. Unfortunately, this partnership is forced through “aggressive symbiosis” and the virus is fatal to 20% of the population, which means a little more than 1 billion people worldwide will die. I want to apologize for this right now. I tried to reduce those numbers as much as possible. I painstakingly designed this synthetic virus molecule-by-molecule in order to give humanity the harmony it deserves.

    I became patient zero and used the two weeks before the Pax rewrote my DNA and altered my neurochemistry to spread the virus using my whirlwind promotional book tour. The book, Synthetic Salvation, further explains your options. The world isn’t perfect, there is still hunger, poverty, overpopulation, but now you can work together to overcome those challenges.

  98. ‘Nemesis’

    I remember the beginning.

    He descended from the heavens on twin trails of fire, six feet of jetboots and hand-cannons and golden power-armour, touching down in the centre of town.

    I recall how sunlight had flashed from his gilded countenance, bathing the awestruck crowd in his reflected brilliance. They had never seen his like, never even imagined his existence was possible. A messianic figure, come to save them.

    I saw it happen then, saw them all turn towards him and be seduced. My peers, my friends, even my wife, flocking forward to bask in his radiance.

    Like sheep.

    I was stunned at the easy acceptance they gave him, their unquestioning faith. What was he anyway, but muscle and armour? Surely that was nothing beside my genius?

    I envied him then, and vowed his end would soon come.

    But once here, he was not so easily banished, and each of his triumphs, it seemed, diminished me. He stopped an alien invasion on the day my wife left me; stood to collect his Nobel, the week I was laughed out of academia.

    And I alone saw this twisted connection between us.

    My lab became an armoury. My life’s work, altruistic devices all, corrupted into weapons. And I hated him for it; for forcing me to become a fighter, a liar, a killer; for this cursed double life.

    Yet as I don my golden armour, becoming him again, I know that, despite any personal feelings, I must never falter.

    Because they need him

  99. My fellow humans. I just wanted to let you know, once again, that I feel nothing for you. Any of you. Not even contempt. That would be a waste of my time. I can bend matter with my mind. None of you can do that. You know why? Because you’re all stupid. And lazy. You don’t want to learn how to do these things. You are not picking up what I’m putting down. I have tried to think of a reason why I shouldn’t destroy this planet, and besides myself (even though I think all of you should know that I’m working on a way of getting off this ball of mud and the moment I do I’m out of here, and I’m not taking any of you with me, so don’t ask), and I can’t. (I love telepathy. Sometimes being able to invade your minds is so much fun it makes me forget how much I hate you). I made a promise to memorize all of your names and I did. Do any of you understand what that means? Of course you don’t. Because all of you combined don’t even equal one of me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work, which includes making sure that all of you have food and electricity.

  100. Dying, Zarathon collapsed onto his workspace, a decade of plans and calculations smeared red by his own blood. His breath was coming ragged and his vision blurring. Could this be panic, he wondered. He’d never felt panic.

    His assassin stepped into the light. Smoke wafted from her silenced pistol. Her cloak was orange. In an instant he perceived that his security-roses were silent. Neither could he sense his astral-dogs.

    “You!” he gasped, “I do not know you!”

    “Hush,” she said, “It’s over now.”

    He disciplines were slipping. He could feel his heart rate slowing while his mind sped on. There was the sensation of fever. His cooling mediation, maintained for 5,578 days, had been lost. Soon, his brain would boil. Everything had been undone.

    “How is this possible? You were not in the equations.”

    “I’m sorry, Arthur. A butterfly flapped her wings.”

    She knew his de-rational name. Miss Papillon…

  101. We’ve surpassed 100 entries—an astounding fusillade of superhumanity! Thanks to one and all—and if you’re considering joining this pantheon, by all means jump in!

  102. The thing is, I never miss. I’m talking about impossible shots, shots that no one else could make. Putting a bullet into a hijacker while free-falling past the hostage aircraft, in a hailstorm, at night. That kind of thing. Been doing it my whole life. Government agent, vigilante, superhero—-the uniforms and code names change, but the shot’s the same. Line it up, hold a breath, take in the whole rolling of the world, squeeze the trigger. Dead center, every time.

    But even a superhero needs to sleep sometimes.

    They grabbed me this morning before dawn. Someone must have leaked my name, my address. They worked me over pretty good, explained what was going to happen. Gave me time to think it over.

    Now they’ve got me jammed behind the cab of a flatbed truck, and we’re doing 80 down the freeway. Gun to my head, point blank, nothing I can do. One of them is pressing a rifle into my hands. In 18 seconds, the road will bank right and curve past downtown. We’ll have a clear view of the Federal Building for two, maybe three seconds. Eight windows up, two windows over. Eight year-old kid on the witness stand. Two, three seconds tops. Plenty of time.

    They’ve left it to me to decide who gets it. Her or me. No middle ground. No “almost got her,” no safe shot.

    After all, they know just as well as I do, I never miss.

  103. The earth opposed his now fluctuating mass, as the play of two negative poles. Above, unending space pulled like a rip in the surf.
    Things were not as he’d expected. Meditation was supposed to relieve his mounting tension, supposed to give him respite. Not awaken this. Every part of his existence vibrated within this consciousness. He knew every superimposed wave of it. And it expanded, slowly at first, but ever accelerating.
    In the beginning it was just him and the vibration of the word. He was powerfully awed by the first waves of this transcendent experience, only the more his self expanded the harder it all became. He was finding it more difficult to hold all of this together. To stop all the interlacing fields from fluctuating.
    Already a series of branching cracks were visible creeping across the ceiling. And his poor cat, its heart beat too fast and it would not slow. When the cat died the windows shattered and everything shook. He continued to expand, faster now than his mind could bear.
    Madness came and the earth it shook. The fear of thousands and then millions mingled with his wild attempts to maintain some humanity. He encompassed the earth, together they screamed.
    In the next moment he understood. Solace was in the loss of self. The lesson he had sought before this was now thrust upon him with a fervor. He let go. His body dispersed as the earth settled. Freed, his consciousness expanded out into the void.

  104. My father experimented on me.

    My earliest memories are pain and terror. Crude though his methods were, Father succeeded in expanding my cognitive capacity beyond the greatest of human minds and gave me incredible muscular control that increased my strength, speed, endurance and resilience. His first fumblings were the precursor to all my current work in micro-neurosurgery.

    As a boy my first work was with mice. Within weeks I had perfected the surgery and programmed them for menial tasks. They worked in concert when the effort was beyond any single mouse. Then I invented procedures for my dog and taught her to speak. I had created community and communication. I could fix humanity surgically, humanely.

    I know what you’re thinking. Could I not create a more advanced people, like myself, from the raw material of humankind?

    I could. But I see humanity as one looks upon a beloved, moronic sibling. He drools, he jibbers, he soils his pants. But you love and tenderly care for your lack wit brother because who else will? I am devoted caretaker to imbecile humanity.

    You seem distressed. You needn’t worry. Though I suffered excruciating pain, my methods have surpassed my father’s. The beating you received when I stopped your rape of that girl hurt much worse than brain surgery will. The beating taught you a lesson about powerlessness and fear. My procedure will ensure it never needs teaching again. It is a proven technique; I’m not experimenting on you.

    My father experimented on me.

  105. She was so tired of these small people, their petty troubles, their gripes and their violence. It was the thirteenth year since rain stopped falling and the planet went dry and despairing. The continent was nearly all arid savannah now. Only the coastal areas still bore resemblance to what came before. New enclaves carved from old republics. Inland, chaos and warring tribal territories were all that remained.

    Fannoh Belloh moved with the long solid litheness of her people. She wore her hair in the customary crop, but her pate was covered with swirling, crisscrossing patterns, her calling card. She was a sassywood woman, truthteller, memory keeper and, most important, water seer. In the early part of the 22nd century, just before the chaos, her kind had almost been wiped out by the Children of Aibrahaim, denounced as devil worshippers and bringers of evil. It was how she lost her mother and her grandparents. Her gift came from her grandfather, who had helped her discover the elephant was her animal and her power, and taught her all she knew. As the drought spread and countries crumbled, those like her who had survived became almost gods. And she was most god-like of all, traveling through villages and what remained of cities, finding water for the people and settling their small grievances. She was without protection or fear. They needed her. But she was beginning to doubt she needed them. And she had not forgotten what they had done to her family.

  106. The deluge hissed on the pavement and rushed into the storm drain, covering the gurgle that was the only sound he could manage, having broken several ribs and bit through his tongue; his mouth full of blood. The icy torrent riddled his shivering, naked skin like a hail of shrapnel.

    The driver, shocked and befuddled, had looked and called out. He hadn’t seen anything before the jolt of impact and the airbags punching him hard in the face. Yet, despite the dented hood and cracked windshield, there was no sign of what he had hit. He had dialed 911, and stayed at the scene until the cops came. They looked too, with high beam and flashlights; but found nothing. The tow truck came, the report was taken, and they left.

    If his face hadn’t hit the pavement so close to the storm drain, they might have seen the blood in the water. One of the cops boots had just missed his hand. But he couldn’t move it. He was barely conscious; his arm most assuredly broken.

    Sure, it was a cold night. But he hadn’t expected the sudden downpour. If he had, he would have put on his trench coat, hat, and the rest of his ridiculous ‘street wear.’ He had just wanted a pack of smokes. He never needed to pay. And the shop was just across the street from his place.

    The invisible man slowly bled to death; alone, in the gutter, and the rain.

  107. Commutron

    Our hero, freshly showered, emerges from his bunker into a bare concrete garage, empty except for his sulking sedan. Three bare concrete walls. No roof. The floor is wet.

    He opens the car door and pauses, breathing deeply, then grabs firmly onto the edge of the roof and swings into the car. He spreads his knees around steering wheel to fit into the seat. They press hard into the dash, wedging him in. His chin is forced to his chest to fit beneath the roof. He pulls the wheel to dent his knees deeper into the dash, lowering him just enough to see out the windshield.

    Wedging and pushing, he reaches the ignition and turns the key. The car starts immediately. He threads his hand down to grasp the parking brake, and releasing it allows his leg to relax slightly to the side. He finds the clutch with his toe, and without moving his knee he presses it by pointing his toe. He moves to the accelerator, then pauses. The pedal begins to glow with heat. A hot machine smell rises. The car idles patiently. He gently touches the gas. A loud hiss, as the sole of his shoe steams dry. The windshield fogs. He presses more surely and the engine responds. He engages the clutch.

    His shoe begins to smolder, and invisible smoke fills the car. Burning leather . He wedges his hand down to roll down the window. The window opens obligingly, and he continues to drive.

  108. Listen, I can’t give you a ride to work, buddy. I know that because I can fly,
    everybody thinks that I must have the time and energy to zip him wherever he
    needs to go. I’m sorry you have a two-hour morning commute, a dying relative six states over, a winning lotto ticket, or even the world’s smallest bladder- I’m just not doing it. I don’t mean to sound cruel, but I have stuff to do too, you know. If I flew people around as often as they asked, I wouldn’t even have time to sleep. Don’t you realize that you’re heavy? The power to fly didn’t come with super-strength, you lazy jerk. You try holding a 185-pound guy aloft for 5 minutes; it’s damn near impossible, at least for me. You think a pretty boy like Tobey Maguire could really pull you from a burning building? Forget it, Superman was a load of crap. I can barely bring home a couple bags of groceries, much less an adult human. And there’s this thing called inertia. Once I tried picking a woman off of a rooftop probably going about 40 miles per hour. Needless to say, I fractured her arm and dislocated my own. Not a good time. Thing is, I’m just a normal guy with a desk job, a mortgage and lovehandles- who just so happens to have the ability to fly. So just take the bus. I’ll even spot you the change so you stop asking.

  109. In eight minutes the end of the world begins.

    The problems started happening when he first landed.

    Wait, let’s back up a little. It probably first happened when he was barreling away from his home planet in a tiny spaceship. Flailing around, as newborns are prone to do, within the confines of the protective cockpit, he must have punctured a hole in the protective hull of his spaceship.

    He was always happy about landing in a manure pile on this low-gravity, backwoods planet called Earth, instead of the intended high gravity planet in Alpha Centauri because it afforded him the opportunity to become a superhero.

    I say afforded, because really, he was never any good at it. The first time his powers manifested he broke the baby sitters arm in three places. In his teens he was helping his Pa fix the tractor when he tripped and dropped the tractor square on Pa’s head killing him instantly. Then there was the foiled bank robbery, nope that didn’t go well either, flying into a hundred year old building at twice the speed of sound, not a good idea. Hundreds dead.

    Finally realizing what a menace he had become, he decided to end it all by flying into our Sun. That went about as well as the rest of his heroic attempts. He didn’t understand that his abilities where powered by the radiation derived from our Sun. How could he know that his powers would overload and our Sun to explode.

  110. “Complications of a Child.”

    I stood there holding my newborn son, starring at him with absolute terror coursing through me. It was an amazing sensation. I know nothing of childhood except what I had read and been told. They had grown me in a vat, an attempt to create a new breed of human, superior to the old. In many ways I was, but sometimes I wondered if I was inferior as well. I never felt much of the emotions that people described to me. Even though I told my wife I loved her, it was more of a fondness of her looks and personal strength compared to every other woman I had met. Now here I am experience terror, something previously unknown to me. How can I be a superior being when I’m afraid of my own child? As all these thoughts flash through my mind I look up and see my wife and her family looking at me with curiosity and confusion across their faces. I glance to the mirror off to the side, and I see I’m smiling. Its a strange thing, this smile. I smile when it seems appropriate to help me fit in with others, but I don’t think I’ve ever shown what my wife calls a real smile. Yet here, now, holding this terrifying child in my arms, with so much confusion racing through my mind, there is one on my face. I didn’t even realize I was smiling. What is this child doing to me?

  111. He had watched them for so long, watched their society expand and grow more complex. He looked down on them, feeling contempt, if anything. Watching them scurry this way and that, so tiny.
    He had absolute power over them, yet over time they had come to ignore him. He had been too quiet for too long. It was time to remind them that they should fear him. It was time for a cataclysm.
    He chose fire. He smiled as he focused his efforts on one of them. In only a moment, it was alight, reduced to a smudge of cinder. Then another, and another, and another.
    But there was no fright, no panic. They simply went about their business Clearly this situation demanded a more personal touch. He stood up and took a breath. He wanted to take his time, savor the havoc, the chaos, and the murder.
    He stomped on a highway, crushing it, and catching many of them under his foot. Traffic halted. He kicked at another, sending dirt, debris, and bodies flying. He could almost sense their little eyes turning toward heaven in fear. His shadow spread over them as he marched forward. He flattened their metropolis, relishing the sensation of his feet squashing everything they had built. They tried to flee from the destruction. He could only laugh as he punished them.
    “Timmy! Get over here,” she snapped, grabbing his arm and wrenching him away. “What did I tell you about playing with that ant pile?”

  112. Tryouts

    I went over the rules in my mind while I wanted for the start signal.

    Finish in Sixty seconds.
    Don’t break anything.
    Don’t leave any stains on the carpet.

    The last one had me worried, but no time to dwell. The signal sounded and I’m off. Five seconds. I cleared the first obstacle with one jump. Eleven seconds. Quick duck! Now down the hall, not the left turn, that’s the “Danger Will Robinson” room! I twist and turn, one hand always held steady. Seventeen seconds. To the right and stop for a five count then off again. Thirty seconds. I put on the Sun Goggles, work my way through and leave them on the rack. Forty two seconds. I’m almost finished except for giant steps. A dozen of them, my leg muscles are burning by the time I get to the top but I don’t care because now I’m racing to the finish. Forty nine seconds total. Not too bad at all considering I’m the only pure human here.

    Now the results. Blister Girl lost time escaping from the Robots room, they help humanity but they don’t like us. Speedster disqualified for only waiting three seconds. The rest stumbled, knocked things down or dropped the cup.

    I’ve done it. I’m now an official full member of the team. When the rest of the Heros’ need their morning pick-me-up with Danish, I’m the one they call. I AM COFFEE BOY. Hey you got to start somewhere.

  113. and around and around. I’ve been here before.

    The room was cold and unsettling. She was not in here with me. I was alone. I passed the mirror and shivered, unable to make eye contact with myself. The mirror was haunting; I unsure of myself. I was not alone.

    As I walked down the corridor I struggled to breathe. The air was thick and still and there was mud on the floor. I heard from a wired box nearby: Come in here with us and stay warm – in here with us you will be safe. I rustled around a toolbox for a device to quiet the wire box. There was nothing sufficient and the wire box rambled on.

    Around the corner I thought I saw her. Some moments I believe I was put here to save her and some moments I believe she was put here to save me. I think I have been here so long that causality can no longer be reasonably argued. We danced once, long ago. She made the most wonderful meals, but I no longer remember what they tasted like.

    The crackling noise was louder and my face was burning. From beyond the corridor and through the crackling, the voice taunted me again: Something is happening here but you don’t know what it is.

    Around another corner (the last?) was a smell that was unmistakably hers. Someone told me once that you cannot smell in a dream. And she goes around and around

  114. The Outcast

    Final Transmission to Earth:

    “When the Walkers-on-the-Fold arrived, I, like everyone else, had no idea what they wanted with us. It became apparent soon enough. We were to be an experiment, a handful of us selected to receive superhuman abilities while the rest of world was the control. The Walkers wanted to know how humanity would react to superhumans, and more importantly, how the superhumans would react to being rarities in a world of normals. Forty-six of us were “lucky” enough to be transformed, granted abilities beyond or wildest imagining. We were selected randomly.

    “Well, you can just imagine what it must’ve been like for me. I was a social leper long before the experiment, despised and shunned, unloved. Having these powers—flight, energy manipulation, enhanced strength and speed, near indestructibility—changed the game. But I never forgot what it had been like . . . before. At first we used our abilities to help the unfortunate masses, but I showed the others the true face of humanity. I’d seen it first-hand; possessed a wisdom most of my comrades did not. I showed them how humanity feared and hated us, even as they smiled at us. In the end I convinced most of them of the truth, enough anyway to go along with the Plan.

    “You want to know the Plan? You’ll know soon enough. Remember: you had your chance, humans. Think of that as you succumb to the Horrors . . .”

  115. I charge into the boundless depth of darkness and a hint of fear toward what I plan to do creeps up my spine like the dagger that tore into my friend days earlier.
    I hate the person who did that. The night welcomes me, and the city prays for my help. The day rejects me, and I walk into a world that ostracizes me. I have a good heart, but what do the plebeians care? How can millions love me one second and shun me the next?
    ‘It’s society,’ I tell myself. It has torn itself up; they are wrong, not I! I am as the boatman at Styx, meant to guide society into oblivion.
    Annihilation starts tonight. I sent my friend’s murderer on a gratuitous journey from Earth. A dozen mob bosses who he hinted at found their meeting violently adjourned. From the smoldering rubble emerged their bickering successors. The city became a flaming Christmas tree that night. The central government suddenly worried about its citizens, so I inspired anarchists to revolution.
    Chaos spreads across the globe. My name was synonymous with liberation of the oppressed; today I hold those same values, but popular thought sees me as the incarnation of Death. Perhaps I am a conflicted person at heart, but regardless I will mold a new, fair world order out of the ashes of the old.
    I see the glint of flying lead. Maybe I, too, am a relic of the past… regardless, here comes my future zipping towards me.

  116. Traitor

    In Europe, I toppled tanks and burned holes through reenlisted castles for this country. I was made to murder young men. Brave young men died screaming at me, a monster. They are no longer on this earth because I am.

    This country turned me red. Radiation of some kind. There were 12 boys in an empty steel room before the flash. I thought I was reflecting the red hot walls. I left smoldering foot prints in ash as I was ushered out by billowy plastic men. They’d only asked for volunteers and I blindly gave myself to them. They never said why. They created this.

    I became rumors and blurry photos. Then I was unlikely newspaper clippings. And, suddenly, I am a ticker tape parade, a brief moment where I am only real enough to call a hoax. Just a moment. And then the ticker tape landed on my shoulders and smoldered and curled behind me. I am pulling a trail of smoke through the downtown silence. I stood stunning the celebration of frightened onlookers. A grand celebration transformed into the serenity of a snow globe. I felt shame. It was my first moment. My first act upon this world. Shame had shaken you from me.

    Power is living the way you choose. I gave it away willingly and then had it taken from me. Now I will take it back. I am sorry for what I must do. Prepare yourselves. I am no longer yours.

  117. Caught up amongst the roaring swarm of people going about their linear, pre-defined existences it is all too easy to forget where you stand in the invisible hierarchy of life that only few even know. The bumbling infant child that its human life wanders aimlessly about a thick star studded void, crying out to be noticed.

    It’s been too many years. Observing, listing, recording. A human life memorandum, compiled of long long months sitting where I could writing what I saw. It is true my pages have been stained with the flaws and mistakes of mankind and it causes me great illness. But who is to say what is flawed when it is in a creatures nature? To assume the role of ‘better kind’ is not a given right but a privilege. It is a passage of blood and genetic code that defines us in our simplest forms up to a single fork in the metaphysical road where mankind turned left and our kind turned right. We evolved differently. Become something more than what our counterparts could ever achieve. And with the knowledge comes the bloated sense of worth and value to that of the higher species; Wether disregarded or simply worn like a medal as if it was earned through work. I have written this memorandum to prove to those of my kind that humanity is a threat to how we view ourselves and put to them that if we are the better of humanity then who is ours?

  118. I was blamed for everything that went wrong. Well, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration, but they did accuse me of being responsible for some horrible events: earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, floods, hurricanes. I was even wrongly denounced once for causing a prominent pimple on homecoming night. To those simpletons, it was a toss-up on who was more horrid, Lucifer himself or me.

    Truth be told, some of those accusations were completely without merit. Sure, I created an earthquake by stomping my feet. But it was only once. Well, maybe twice if you count that time in Jersey. Oh, and I did let loose the plague of locusts which caused a famine. To be fair though, I only wanted to watch the people spastically swat them away. The shrieks and yelps as women yanked the grasshoppers out of their hair, ears and mouths were hysterical.

    But those dullards took my little bit of harmless fun and ran with it. Their stories quickly grew to mythical proportions. Even parents warned their children to behave or I would savagely wrest them from their beds at night. Please. I hadn’t done that in over a century, and anyway, that little snot deserved it. You should have seen him cry as I left him hanging from the church’s steeple. It took the townsmen hours to get the flailing little shit down.

  119. “I’d like to welcome everyone to the first meeting of PWRSSTA. People With Really Subtle Superheroic Talents Anonymous is a venue to discuss everyday issues that face those with slightly above-average senses, physicalities and psychic traits. I’m Fern.”
    “Hi Fern,” the small group said in a thin, reedy chorus.
    “I’ll start by sharing my story.” Fern took a deep breath. “I can fly.”
    There was a low gasp across the room. A goateed man in a leather jacket shook his head and jabbed a finger towards Fern. “You think that’s subtle, man? I can only hear twice as well as a normal person. Sure, it’s good for listening to my neighbours do it, but its not flying.”
    “Oh, I can fly. But only a foot off the ground and my highest speed is 6 miles per hour.” Fern chuckled. “On his last mission The Dragonfly was clocked at 150, and he can hover at 1200 feet! That’s as high as the Empire State Building! Whenever I see a superhero zooming across the sky I can’t help but feel pathetic.”
    Fern sat, and slowly, starting with one blond woman in the back row, the crowd started to clap. As the applause swelled, a man at the front began to sob into a large hanky.
    The blond woman at the back stood.
    “Hi everyone, my name is Jenny. My subtle talent is that I can create fire at the end of my index finger, but only to light my cigarettes…”

  120. He spent his young life breaking a sweat. Pushing his body and his mind to the furthest barriers of accomplishment. His parent’s fortune aided him in his singular cause. He studied under masters of every technique and path and in his thirty third year he put everything he had learned into practice. He became the biggest asshole on earth. Indifferent and hateful, full of bile and trouble, he perfected himself.
    Imagine, if just for a second, that you applied training, lessons, and a fortune to become the worst person on the planet. Mere rudeness and social faux pas would be a blackhead on a Superman’s face. Master Bastard was driven, nay, BORN to offend. Lazy, slovenly, a tendency to favor the grape and young girls. A piece of shit in spandex. In night clubs orange men speak his name in hushed tones lest he might appear in a cloud of cigar smoke and fuck their sister then upload the video to the internet. He is the worst. A chill climbs up your spine and behind you is the man that walks the line on the bad side. A glob of spit in your eye, a cigarette grinding into your nipple, the seduction of your high school sweetheart, the worst person ever becomes a legend. Drunk, smelly, in blood stained tights, He grins at you through ruined teeth. He is Bastard, and you will never meet his magnificence. He sniffs his finger and nods knowingly.
    “You will never win, good guy.”

  121. Darkness Stain’d

    I am old. I lie here contemplating, whilst pulsating lights and pinging machines monitor the passing remains of my protracted life.

    As I child I was gifted. Captain of various sports, possessor of numerous degrees, friend to lords and masters. I travelled the world unravelling African mysteries and vanquishing Oriental perils. And through ancient teachings, I parted the veil and journeyed to realms beyond. There I experienced dark visions of iniquitous silhouettes awaiting invasion.

    They lurk. Watching, waiting.

    A century ago They came, boarding black organic ships and floating through tears in the gloom. They were legion and I was but one. Nevertheless my visions had prepared me. I fought back.

    They persisted, trying to push through the maddening shadows. Others – Wells, Lovecraft, Shea, King – saw allusions, but not the complete truth. I ensured their accounts became fiction; man’s minds could not cope with Their extant horrors.

    At times They almost won. To disguise my retaliations I engineered events, using schemes and machines, to set wars and disasters into motion. I orchestrated the Great Wars of the 20th Century. I battled Them with radiation amid Ukrainian black grasses and with poisons within Kurdish mountain cities. Better to end millions of lives than plunge the whole world into midnight.

    All my life I had saved mankind. Now it is almost over.

    I attempt to take another breath but fail. The surrounding apparatus commence sonorous alarms but no one responds. I close my eyes.

    Darkness comes…

  122. Jor-El continued watching the dog. It was the first living creature he’d seen in over a week. It sniffed and scratched through the dust with what may have been hope, but was probably something more akin to desperation.

    Occasionally it would look up at him questioningly, it’s milky dull eyes seeming to ask “is this it ? is there nothing else” Jor-El couldn’t answer. Hope was all the poor dumb animal had left. Twenty minutes later the dog was dead.

    At least, for this planet, it had been quick. Not the centuries of agonizing choices his own people had had to make before the destruction of his home world.

    The bacteria that had travelled with him on his life raft, benign and inconsequential on his own world, mutated by the radiation of this yellow sun into something far more aggressive and malevolent. A super strain. The humans immune systems were powerless against it.

    The farmer who had found him couldn’t have predicted the deadly plague contained within the innocent child he carried home. He had not known the danger as he handed Jor-El to his wife and in this simple act of compassion, killed her too.

    They were the first. The rest quickly followed. Two, became ten, became billions. And now the planet was dead. Everything was Dead.

    Jor-El looked out across the desolated wasteland. No grass grew. No insect crawled. The air itself was poison. He was Alone, unclean, and now the last of two worlds.

  123. Dear world,

    I’ve done my best. My work is done. My sadness lasts forever.

    I am leaving you because I have lost hope. Too many times I’ve opened my heart to hope and too many times that hope has turned to lead. I simply cannot bear this weight. My hope has been forged into a bullet and shot through my heart too many times.

    I’ve stood against my challenges, our enemies, knowing full well my life would likely be cut short because of it. I’ve done my best to protect you. I simply need the pain to stop. I had such great hopes for this world and yet I ended up in the same situations over and over again. Nothing changed.

    There is no more adventure to be found in this repetition. I simply can’t do this all over again. I cannot inspire an indifferent populace. I have believed for so long that someone would take up the torch I thought I had lit. They say the brightest light burns the quickest and perhaps that is the comfort you can take.

    I am sorry. I had such great hopes. Such greater despair. I find no more joy in the world. No more fun. No more inspiration. I have given all I have to give and it is time to leave. This is my choice. There is nobody to blame but me and my foolish hope. I have lived beyond my usefulness and only I can end this struggle.

    John Doe

  124. It’s not murder.

    It’s saving lives – protecting the future. You can’t murder someone who never existed.

    While the list of marks is getting shorter, the work’s getting harder. I can’t keep histories straight. I struggle to use the ‘right’ memories, to hit the ‘right’ time.

    My first cut-back took me to July of 1888. I started with one of history’s obvious monsters. Slipping a sterilizing agent in his parents’ tea saved 60 million from the War.

    I changed it all and came back to a better world. I took pride in my work.

    But each job meant cutting-forward to a new present. And reconciling the old and the new histories became more and more difficult.

    15 marks later and I’m not sure what’s real anymore. Events are muddled. Temporal points are harder to recognize.

    I feel the Temp-Reps following me. They have my list of marks. They track my jobs. They know my next target.

    They can’t know when, or how, I’ll strike – yet I know they are there. I see them in the corner of my eye but when I look, they’re gone and I start to doubt – it’s all unravelling. It might be paranoia, but I can’t tell anymore.

    Before I broke away, they wanted to stop-said we’d done enough, but I can’t quit – I can do more. I can make the world what it is supposed to be. The list has become my life – It’s the only history I have.

  125. It’s over.

    I watched him today. He thought he was alone with her. I decided to wait and see what he would do. He had been through so much, and his mother’s death last week had damaged him so badly, that he was like a toddler now. Unable to express his needs and concerns he was reduced to simply reacting to the world around him, a slave to his impulses. But he still had the ability to choose, and I could not rob him of that. So I was patient, and I watched him make his choice. I watched him kill her.

    She’s breathing, but she’ll never laugh. She can walk, but she’ll never play. She can talk, but she’ll never sing again. She’s gone.

    And he knows me. All he had to do was call out for my help. Just a whisper and I would have heard him. Now all I hear are her family’s pleas for justice. He made his choice. And he was the last one. There is no need for me to wait any longer.

    Very few will survive what I’m about to do, but everyone has unequivocally decided their own fate. When I’m done, my world will replace this one. There will be no injustice, no hate, no pain, not even death. And if you survive, you will finally feel what it is to live.

  126. Sitting Dumbstruck in the crater that was Hulio’s Cafe Max couldn’t figure out how this devastation had been caused… but he knew it had something to do with Marion.

    Standing up he thought back to the last 24hrs to see if he could piece together what had happened. He clearly remembered working all night in his lab trying yet again to reverse engineer the accident which had given his repulsor field powers.

    Next he recalled arriving home in time to get a call from Marion his lady love who wanted to meet up that afternoon for coffee at Hulio’s. He had taken a short nap, woken to groom himself and eaten a late brunch.

    From his recollection he arrived on time to see Marion sitting in their usual table in a beautiful red sun dress. As he approached she looked like she was crying. Why had she been crying… why couldn’t he remember what happened next.

    He crawled up the side of the crater to see a host of the cities finest rushing around tending to wounded civilians and his vision narrowed at the sight of a man clutching a woman covered in blood screaming. Than he remembered… Marion had broken up with him.

    Truly the last thing he had remembered before the crater was closing his eyes and wishing really hard that all of this would just go away. Dear god what had he done!

  127. Adam/Satan/Warlock

    So she cradles my life in her hands- pah! Let her. For when my electrons beam their mighty life my foe will perish like plasma.
    There are certain men who have the ability to withstand any torment- no matter how soft, no matter how stupid- who must stand up with a sigh when bugs come crawling in like a minuscule army.
    She tries to make a victim of me, and that is beyond laughable. I am like Atlas. I am Samson, without woman to hold me down.
    She stands erect, pointing the Life Ray at me. But I am a man of Iron. Bullets wash over me, ray beams wash over me, as do most things. She does not know I cannot be her victim, this planet’s mercury keeps me strong. Oh, but her gloating! It is enough to make a strong man sick.
    I brush her weapon aside, take her in my arms. My little marionette, my little puppet-girl, you are too much. With you I will conquer stars, with you I shall stand on the backs of comets and ride out of this prison.
    I uncork her back panel and inject the electrons. Like citrus they sparkle and juice down her memory cords. Her prerogative is my mind. I will send her in space to do my bidding. My little lady Eve, if only He knew what I had in store!

  128. The bartender handed the woman in the low cut top her drink, courtesy of the imposing man at the end of the counter. She made her way to him, sweat glistening and hips swaying. She made his acquaintance and he hers and with a flash of intuition he knew she would do. Her mind read complex, far more than all the simple girls here.
    They made their way to the dance floor, her hands over him and his anxious palms caressing her form. He was delving deeper into her mind, her pining, her peccadilloes and felonies, her ferocity. To him this was more exciting than the smell of sweat on her body, knowing her darkest secrets and using them to do naughty things, very naughty things tonight.
    Her mind was beautiful, full of prose and incantations, gentle like fine porcelain. It had cracks, everybody’s does, but hers rang out in chants of the traumas and thrills of youth. There he found exactly what he was looking for and whispered his words into her ear, feeling her body tense up with anticipation. With a confident stroke of her face and a knowing stare she was his, though for what it mattered the rest was tedious; the best part was already over.

  129. It was easy, you know? Taking over, I mean. Most of ’em stopped resisting after I bit that mountain in half. They were all, “Oh no, we’re doomed!” and I was like, “Puny mortals, prostrate yourselves before me!”

    Of course, the military had to give it a shot. When their guns and missiles proved useless, the looks on those general’s faces were priceless. They kept trying, though. You know those monster movies, where some lady starts singing, and everyone is saved? After they realized the nukes weren’t working, they started doing that kind of crap. Hilarious!

    Little kids, bunnies, nuns, they tried it all. One dude built a machine that shot rainbows and hugs. Can you believe that? I almost couldn’t kill everyone he loved, I was laughing so hard. And I’m pretty sure he appreciated the irony when i transformed the machine into a deadly Venusian python. I swear he chuckled before it crushed him.

    In the end, I’m glad I took over. Sure, sometimes I have to mediate international disputes, or order mass executions. But when you don’t have to worry about getting shot, stabbed, or sued, tough decisions aren’t so bad. Honestly, I only have two complaints. The first is that I didn’t take over sooner. The second is that I’m getting less sleep, because I have to wake up early to wash my sheets and hide the plastic cover for my mattress.

    Because none of them can ever know.

  130. In the mind lay the key to the body. Wright understood that now, and he was glad for his epiphany – and for the eight others he was simultaneously experiencing.

    Wright had been an accomplished researcher in the field of nano-medicine, but it had done him no good. His wife lay forever broken by her accident, the damage too old and scarred. Beth had urged him on with quiet smiles and indomitable strength of will, but Wright struggled in his research.

    Beth and he sat over dinner one night and he explained the latest stall. The nanites had ended up going too deep with one patient and stripping her nerves bare. When Beth asked, “Why can’t you send in another machine to fix the nerves?” Wright knew he had his answer.

    The nanites moved in waves, the first batch repairing damage, the second laying a semi-organic circuitry groundwork to re-convey old signals. Testing moved quickly, and Wright worked longer hours than ever before, spurned on to greatness not just with quiet smiles, but coy glances and the promise of giving his wife a full life again.

    Wright’s mind leapt too far ahead, though. He took the nanites for himself, sent them to his brain. They laid new pathways, established more efficient connections, and created a nervous system wired to move faster than any human’s. The human world sprawled out before Wright now as though a mass of ants, and he would pick them apart until he knew them bit by bit.

  131. Tuesday was the first time it happened. Bryan knocked his drink over, and I caught it, without spilling a drop. Now, it’s Friday, and I have to remind myself to hide it. Reflexes just shouldn’t be that fast. It’s impossible, and yet, it’s happening. It’s happening to me.
    The worst part is, I don’t even know how it happens. One second, everything is normal, the next, I’m across the room catching the badly thrown remote. It’s like, I black out for that second.
    I cringe, huddling in on myself, trying to keep my eyes focused on the grass in front of me as we start to move. This is going to be the test. I can’t reveal myself. I don’t even know how to use this yet. Could I help people? Be a hero? Or would I just be laughed at as a freak?
    I should have stayed home. But tonight, they need me. My school is depending on me. I straighten my shoulders, and lift my trumpet into the air, praying the baton twirler doesn’t pass my vision.

  132. “We shouldn’t kill people, Visor .” Stars said.
    “How long have you been at this, kid?” Visor asked.
    “For almost a year.” Stars replied. Visor stopped himself from laughing.
    “Listen, you have to kill them before they kill you.”
    “You know some heroes do it with finesse, they knock out the bad guys and tie them up for the cops. It takes more skill to not kill them.”
    “You haven’t gone Super to Super yet have you?” Visor asked. Stars shook his head no.
    “Well it’s different, there’s a reason there’s few of us out there. Because when heroes meet villains, one always doesn’t walk away.”

    There was a blast and a man in a red and yellow suit impacted in the field in front of them. That was Blaster, the target. Before Visor acted, Stars burst with the light of a star, blinding him and Blaster. Visor’s imaging went berserk, he saw only scan lines. Visor cursed. After a quick restart he heard an explosion, as his visuals came back up he saw Stars laying on the ground, half burnt and unconscious, Blaster had taken off again. Visor never hesitated, he loaded a clip of SMART shells, aimed and fired.
    The bullet flew at a perfect arc, only correcting at the end to bury itself in Blaster’s neck. Blaster landed in a bloody heap, unmoving.
    Visor radioed the agency. “Mission accomplished.” He groused. Stars would live, but remember today, hopefully.

  133. She sat perched upon the Empire State Building. Looking upon the city she remembered that bleak day.

    September 11th, 2001. A plane flies into a building. She flew to the scene, spheres of shimmering turquoise enveloped those trapped and gently lowered them to safety. Another plane appeared. She had thought it an accident. As it barreled towards the unscathed twin of the other structure she realized. Waves of energy encroached over its surface, she lowered it. Anger tremored up her arms, crackles of violent energy sounded off. Her eyes narrowed to the cockpit. She still remembers the satisfying splatters they made… looking back at it now left her cold inside.

    Liberal outlets called her a monster. Fox a hero. Both troubled her. She was sixteen and had never killed, she had not since.

    It was 2006. She hadn’t aided the war effort, she hadn’t been asked to. But with in the chaos of Iraq, the President, ‘the most powerful man in the world’ had come to her and asked for her to intervene looking up to her like she were some sort of goddess. She refused. She was promptly stripped of the title ‘hero’ and renamed an un-American coward.

    Most don’t chastise her, they still look up to her. Otherwise she would have disappeared from public view long ago. But the poles that have the strongest sways in media loath her deeply.

    She stared at where those two towers once stood. For many reasons, a tear ran down her cheek.

  134. As his fist made contact with the polycarbonate steel chest-plate of the Mechalith, he felt it for the first time in nearly 90 years. The sting of pain that rushed up Sakerhet’s arm said it all. The end was near; and he embraced it. One of the claw-like pincers of his nemesis’ battle suit grazed Sakerhet’s cheek as he dodged, drawing blood. Sakerhet felt human, again. Emotions. Rage…Love…but mostly hate for the bastard at the controls, whose sweat-streaked face he could see through the diamond-tempered glass control module.
    A smile stretched across the broad face of Graeme King…he had never been this close to victory over his seemingly immortal opponent. When his eyes met Sakerhet’s, his grin quickly vanished… Was Sakerhet smiling?
    Sakerhet ignored the searing pain of tearing muscles and the bursting of lungs that seemed to want to tear themselves from his rib cage. His battle with the mechanical monstrosity was a dance, timed to the pounding of his heart; loud in his ears. As he ripped at tubes and wires, tore at panels and deflected the blows of a machine made solely to kill him, he could think of only one thing. Long deserved rest.
    Sakerhet’s code had kept him from killing Graeme for years…but he was the last Defender. To hell with the code, Sakerhet thought, and started to laugh.
    That laugh, and the tearing of flesh and metal was the last sound Graeme King, or Sakerhet, ever heard.

  135. The Night Knight stomped out of the building three criminals skewered on his lance. The bricks collapsed behind him and pushed the smoke out into the streets. The Knight was laughing, he set the trunk of his weapon against a lamp post and pulled, pushing the bodies off. His trainee, the Man of a Million Powers, ducked into an alley and vomited. Immunity to gratuitous violence, apparently, not one of his million powers. The tinny laugh of his superior bounced around him in the ally. Did this guy ever stop laughing?

    MOAMP continued through the alley instead of going back. He found an overnight job cleaning McDooley’s Grocery – the only job he could get with a fake name and no references. He relished the tedium, the small joy of twenty four cans of beans facing the same direction. He wondered though, and who knew? Affirmative – with the snap of his fingers and a twitch of his grin he could clean the whole store – top to bottom. He tried to go back, cleaning it properly, but couldn’t.

    Ambition prevailed. He took on other stores. Eight dark hours of snapping fingers and twitching grins. His reputation ran ahead of him, under the umbrella of Evergreen Cleaning. Fame again. He sulked back to Falcon Heights. See? They said. Get it? They said. Self-righteous fashionista phonies – like they had an obligation. He didn’t have a choice. His million abilities condemned him, because flying under the radar wasn’t one of them.

  136. “Can you tell me why you’re here, Lesley?” the guidance counselor asks me in this voice like I just got off the short bus at the Special Olympics. I mean, come on, it’s moi. Stephen Hawking copies his homework from me.

    I’ll tell you why I’m here. It wasn’t the money magnet or the earthquake maker I made in shop class. I’m here because of two syllables; Les-ley. Translated, it means Sissy McNoballs from Wussconsin. You try getting a ride on the screwnicorn in high school with a “Hi! I watch ‘Project Runway!'” name like that when everyone else is called Doc Savage or Spiderman or Wolverine. I mean, Wolverine? Seriously, who would want to hook up with a guy whose sideburns need a Brazilian? I asked Triplicate Girl out to the Radiohead concert -I scored 100 free tickets. I pwn Ticketmaster’s computers- and all three of her are basically washing their hair that night. So, mea culpa, I act out a little. But what’s a depilated teenager to do? So I’m thinking, do a name-change like in “Superbad,” except nothing as lame as McLovin’. I’m thinking The Defender maybe, or Lesley the Noble. Or maybe something from ancient Rome. Like, how cool would The Law sound in Latin? It’s like The Situation, but a lot cooler. Besides, there are cocker spaniels smarter than he is. I know, because I’ve made them.

    Whatevs. From now on, my name is Lex.

  137. The Midas Man

    “They don’t really feel anything.”
    “What about that guy who could think ‘tennis’ for ‘yes’?”
    “Pseudoscience, Midas. Get on with it.”

    The ward looks like a dorm back at the camp. There are people on the beds. They look like they are sleeping, but they don’t shift about or mumble or snore. Their respiratory systems puppets to the whirring clockwork precise machines that keep them alive.

    I choose one. An older guy. Black with dirty stubble on his chin. The nurses only do the necessary to keep these people alive. It’s not like any inspectors are going to come here. I take my gloves off. There is a moment of panic when I feel the cool air between my fingers. I’m not meant to take my gloves off, ever, except here. I was taught that at the camp.

    My hands glow golden, but when the light hits the man’s white sheets it looks like weak piss. There are two men in full body suits behind me with a bonesaw and a torch. I feel their impatience. The man’s hand lies dark at his side, veins bumping up through the skin next to grey hairs. I clasp it as though I am meeting him for the first time. The light of my hand grows till it’s blinding. I feel his leathery palm for a moment, the bones underneath, then it hardens, hardens and turns gold.

    I can only change living flesh.

    The cutters are quick.

  138. LE MYCÈTE SANS PITIÉ

    I came to demand the rent money and found John’s bedroom transformed into a plagued jungle. The instrument cart he’d stolen from his own lab was crusted in bright bursts of oystery growth. His computer desk and bookshelves were swallowed by mold in a catastrophe of colors. The window had been furred over with fungal alfalfa.

    Les bras m’en tombent!” My arms weren’t about to fall off; it’s what a Frenchman sometimes says when he’s shocked.

    John was seated on his bed, encamped in a variety of gooey toadstools. Hundreds of mushrooms, from tiny buttons to big rounds of baked brie on pork-loin stalks, covered his legs like a quilt. Out of this pygmy forest of fruiting, hoary ferment his torso emerged, arms crossed over chest, chin between wrists, head down, eyes closed, apparently napping. Nets of white slime draped off his back like gossamer wings.

    Neat, quiet, professorial and fluent in French — in short, my ideal roommate — John had always kept the houseplants flourishing with experimental fertilizers. Then two weeks ago he’d come home with a jumbled collection of spoor samples in borosilicate glass vials and told me his funding had been cut, and that he’d need an extension on the rent.

    And now this.

    Taking my cell phone out of my pocket, I knelt close to his face to check for breathing. At which point his eyes opened. “Ainsi le début d’une nouvelle ère,” he said. And so announced the unstoppable mildew.

  139. What Now?

    I defeated the world’s worst villain three years ago.

    Besides him, no one on this planet came anywhere near matching my intellect. He, however, was my better in brawn. So I trained my body as I had trained my mind.
    My previous encounters with this criminal mastermind always ended in a draw, but finally I challenged him and I won.

    He killed himself instead of living with the failure.

    At first his defeat was a dream come true; everyone treated me like royalty. Any material procession was mine for the asking. However, material joys are fleeting…
    I’ve spent the last two years trying to find anything that gave me as much of a thrill as He did. I have traveled the galaxy. I have slept with men, women, aliens. I have seen things beyond the scope of man. I have tried every drug in three solar systems.

    Nothing compares to him.

    I don’t know what to do with my time. Being a “hero” is boring now that He isn’t around. These paltry criminals left on this world are beneath me.
    I could take over the world, easily. No government on earth could handle me. But I don’t want to rule the world. There is nothing here to interest me.

    He brought out the best in me.

    The world needs someone to inspire them, like he inspired me. The world doesn’t need a tired “hero”. The world needs another man like Him… and that’s what I will be.

  140. Most of his lottery winnings were gone, the sixth largest jackpot in history and he was almost broke. There had been the normal stuff, money to family and friends, paying off student loans, a couple of sports cars. Then he started in on the body mods. The Lockheed-Martin Ninja Extreme ™ total body system was pretty standard fare. He could throw 150 mph fast balls and hit them too. But he didn’t stop there. In Italy, the salesman had told him that if he actually insisted on 13 inches his love life would suffer. The salesman had been right. The third skeletal stretch had pushed him up over 7 feet tall, and even his carbon fiber reinforced bones were beginning to strain under his mass. The horns and tail had started out as a joke after a solid two weeks of debauchery in Ibiza. Then came the non functional wings, just leathery skin draped over a cartilage frame really. And then a hefty sum to actually make them functional. When that sudden gust of wind had dislocated his left wing he had plummeted like a stone. Only a drunken idiot would try to free fly around midtown, no less do it in the nude. And now here he was stuck up on the ledge of this building like some goddamn gargoyle. And all the windows were sealed. And everyone inside had run out screaming.

  141. Before the Fall

    EPIPHANY

    It’d been years since he first noticed it. At first he thought it was a coincidence. Time and again, he called it, exactly. It was in the numbers. He went three month after finally being convinced before he started to keep a log of the instances. The fist entry was February 28th, 1993. On a whim he crunched some numbers, got a date, and flipped on the TV. Waco.

    GERMINATION

    He called them all, from events as complicated as tsunamis and elections to simple ones, like what time he’d need to go to the bathroom. It was a hobby of his, statistical analysis. Give him the probability of a plane crashing and the number of arrivals and departures at O’Hare in a given amount of time, he could tell you with chilling accuracy when not to fly there. It was in the numbers if you believed him, which most didn’t.

    PRIDE

    He looked sadly at his log. It contained hundreds of pages covering every major disaster in the last 8 ½ years. Each event he’d predicted inevitably happened. He knew he could use this gift for good, to help people. So he sent a letter to the Pentagon warning of impending danger. It was in the numbers.

    His hopes crumbled that fateful morning, with the towers.

    “Mr. Walker, we need you to come with us.”

    “I know. It’s in the numbers.”

  142. COBWEBS

    Researchers discovered they could create new connections in the brain or repair broken ones by injecting tiny silica spheres connected by filaments encoded with specific information and cure every mental or neurological disorder. Genetic experts inoculated an intricate, 3D cobweb glistening with thousands of tiny dewdrops into every newborn’s cranium eliminating autism, schizophrenia, depression — every malfunction that could make their lives miserable or dysfunctional.

    Utopia ensued when all wars, crime and cruelty ceased to exist seeming irrelevant to the perfectly functioning intellect…Gone, also, were the glitches and misfires of an imperfect mind that caused the dream and waking states to intersect creating the epiphany, the eureka moment, the leap of faith that propels new ideas and progress. And, without comprehending what they had done to themselves, humanity froze in time.

    Until….An electromagnetic solar flare enveloped Technician Bea while she was repairing a sensor on the hull of an ore transport space ship. Thousands of light bulbs popped and piano wires snapped in her head; her umbilical cord was all that kept her from being hurled into the void. Sobbing in mindless terror she reeled herself in clinging gratefully to the protective belly of the ship.

    Gradually, she calmed herself for the first time in her life — freed from her neural net — and gazed with contempt at the approaching Earth filled with billions of mindless drones.

    “I’m going rule you all!” she yelled triumphantly into the vacuum, laughing hysterically at the thought of being Queen Bea.

  143. The hero that hated himself stared down the bottom of his eighth bottle of whiskey. The room around him was dark and reeked of stale cigarette smoke and self loathing. On the table in front of him, the empties were stacked in a monument to his misery. The table was littered with used up balloons of heroin and a half empty salad bowl of prescription downers. He was shooting for blackout wasted.
    He was just starting to feel a buzz.
    The hero looked down at the quickly fading track marks that littered his arm and sighed.
    He supposed most would consider his healing abilities a gift. Let those same people watch, helpless, as three little girls burn to death in a car crash three feet away.
    “Can’t save ’em all,” the first officer on scene had said.
    The cop was now missing a foot.
    Add up all the strength of nine freight trains, durability of a bunker, a bat-shit crazy healing factor, and all you really have is three tiny, char grilled bodies and a whole lot of barely contained resentment. The hero crammed another hand full of pills down his throat and chased them with a swig of whiskey.
    He shot himself in the head and watched the bullet ricochet into a wall.
    “Fuck invincibility,” he muttered.
    He should have guessed that a six foot seven man walking through flame might have scared a few five year olds. Fucking stupid.
    The hero sighed, cracked open another bottle, and drank.

  144. I was awoken by a deafening sound, like a glacier splintering into the ocean. The street below was quiet, as though nothing had happened. But there was something strange about it—it felt colder. The brick buildings looked gray.

    The explanation: A targeted radiation experiment had removed our red sight. I knew there was more to it. Objects, even people, seemed translucent, as if half of their matter had vanished. And the reds were not just invisible to us. Too vivid, corporeal, they had disappeared, too, yet our world, now a tenuous shell, persisted.

    In my dreams everything was normal. Everything had substance again. I didn’t understand at first. I wondered if others always saw the world as solid. Pale skinned, they skimmed through life like stones on the water, thoughtlessly going about as if their brain connections had been plucked away. Could no one else see me? My eyes were bloodshot, my cheeks still ruddy.

    I made myself bleed on the Capitol steps to show them. Agents tried to take me, but I was too strong: I was still whole. They wanted me dead. I shuddered to think what the force that it would take to kill me would do to their paper-thin world.

    Maybe they knew I was invulnerable, but they didn’t understand how fragile they had become. Days later, they found me. Their guns’ laser beams landed in uncountable dots on my chest, trembling, swimming around my buttons like fish.

    “Don’t!” I pleaded.

    But they fired anyway.

  145. He stopped, mid-stride, before the wide window of the office supply store. The objects were beautiful, gleaming, and oh so wonderfully simple. The staplers, fountain pens, and ledgers stared back at him. Oh how he dreamed as a child of counting and calculating. Orderly little numbers organized into perfect rows. He had known early on what he longed to be when he grew up. …Simple.

    A far off cry tickles the inside of his ear. He sighs trying to ignore it for just a moment. He reaches out a sympathetic hand, brushing his fingers almost apologetically across the glass that stood between him and the desktop trinkets. There was no time for secret identities. It didn’t work that way in the real world. Not on this planet.

    Damn this acute hearing and steel-like skin! Damn them! For with them came the curse of a sense of pity for this world’s pathetic destructive creatures. He was off again to resentfully save yet another thankless feeble life.

  146. He kept shivering as he lay there on my couch. I’m a psychiatrist and most of my clients are supers.

    “It says here on the medical file your wife gave me that you can make identical duplicates of yourself..”

    “..and I can reabsorb them into my body.” he continued with a stammer. “I can also feel what they’re feeling. Emotionally and physically.”

    He seems to be quite shaken. Post traumatic stress maybe. Accounts for 80 percent of the cases I handle. I didn’t need to ask, but I did anyway. More out of habit than anything.

    “So what happened?”

    He spoke with great difficulty this time. His head and neck are moving all herky-jerky. He kept shaking his head.

    “I lost one of them,” he began to dribble. “It’s been a week, and I think..” he spat between gasps.

    He started to choke. The he started coughing violently. It might be a secondary mutation.. or a latent effect of some undiscovered bio-chemical weapon. Or indigestion.

    “Should I call a medic?”

    He starts to cry silently.

    The next thing he said was in whispers.

    “He’s gay.”

  147. The end approached for humanity. Our stargazers fled for other planets; we historians sought refuge in times gone by. We flung our minds into the past, but few took hold in the crude consciousness they found there. Just two of us developed deep enough roots in the mind of primitive Man to resist the pull of our own doomed century.

    My colleague Art and I awoke in the bodies of ancient troubadours. Their city was a filthy labyrinth, so unlike humanity’s ultimate home on Neptune. We adapted our era’s melodies to their simple instruments. For a while we achieved some popular success.

    Later, we went our separate ways. I tried to raise the primitives’ consciousness, encouraging them to embrace the cultures of their most neglected continent, Africa. My friend began to degenerate. Art’s mind sank to the level of this pitiful epoch. Our kind always risk this tragedy: the explorer absorbed by the explored.

    Seeking a distraction, I publicly invited a contemporary comedian to be my bodyguard. This little self-indulgence raised a momentary smile, but nothing could assuage my deeper woes.

    Art mated with a 20th century human. The resulting son shows little evidence of his superhuman birthright – he makes his living as a celebrity socialite.

    We came here to escape catastrophe, but we found only the eternal plight of the chronal refugee: half of the time we’re gone, but we don’t know where, we don’t know when.

    Here I am: the only living Last Man in New York.

  148. After that summer at the river I knew I was … more. I held my breath so long the other kids thought I had died, and they ran off to find my mama. My dad used his belt on me that night, but I barely felt it. As the seasons passed, I started looked forward to his beatings, because I wasn’t bruising up anymore, and every blow I took meant my brother and my mama would be spared. Pop worked up a real sweat some nights and I had to start playacting like he was really hurting me so he would not get wise. Afterward, I’d sit in my bed and listen to my brother Mica recite Superman comics to me that he’d memorized. That was his gift. I would sit there in the dark and wonder how it would be different to live with Ma and Pa Kent. One night, I came home late and pop had mama sprawled out on the floor. Blood everywhere and him with his arm in the air for another good one. I didn’t mean to rip his arm off. I still remember his shocked face as he stumbled out to the barn to die. So. Now I’m at the cliff’s edge, staring out into clouds, feeling the wind paw at me, wondering if I can be better than my old man, wondering if I can soar instead of crawl. If not, I pay for my misdeeds. I take a step.

  149. No man

    April 9, 1917

    0526 h

    As the shadows reclaim the field, an eerie silence tests my nerves. I steep in the stench of gunpowder and death. I can’t imagine what the other side must look like.

    It doesn’t matter. After Ypres and Festubert, we were ready for anything. We’re in Hell and there’s no stopping now.

    0527 h

    We are gods among men, trained for months; we could take the Black Line ourselves. Every man an elite warrior, realized to their full potential.

    It doesn’t matter. The greatest beings on earth can’t quell the beast unleashed unto the world. We’re all gonna die.

    0528 h

    My platoon prepares to creep behind death hoping he doesn’t notice us; 1st division is calling it an invincible shield.

    It doesn’t matter. No one has ever pulled it off and a bullet doesn’t discriminate. Never send a man to do our work.

    0529 h

    I feel the ground beneath my feet, checking to see if it’s still there. I visualize my goal, my heart is racing. I inhale the cold air; the snow will mask our drive. I signal them to get ready.

    It doesn’t matter. They’ve long since made their peace and know that at any moment now, we’ll do what no one else can.

    ‘No man’s land’, because it was ours.

  150. As I walk into the room the talking stops, then drop-dead silence. Heads turn, then those awkward whispers. I laugh to myself as I slowly prance to an empty desk and take a seat. Deep inside I know they all know who I am but they seem too intimidated to see someone so young doing such big things. Looking into my phone, I reply to as many messages I can before the teacher enters. The sun is shining bright outside, oh how I would enjoy going for a good swim or maybe a walk on the beach but I know that just like yesterday and the day before, my day will be busy and I’ll probably barely have any time to sleep as it is. The teacher begins today’s lesson: Hair Dying 101. Even though it is pretty exciting, being in this class will probably do nothing for me, I’m sure one of my powers will automatically dye someone’s hair without me having to sit in class for three hours every day and think about my entire to-do list. Class is dismissed and as I reach for my keys in my purse, I notice something really extraordinary outside; half of the sky is dark while the other half is beautiful and the sun is shining bright. I press the power button on my pink Bentley and drive to where the sun isn’t shining, instantly the clouds disappear. I knew this whole “superwoman” thing wouldn’t be as hard as I thought.

  151. Ballistic ran through the city streets at high speeds, her wild black hair blowing in the air. As she neared her prey she let out a maniacal laugh, her ice blue eyes wide with bloodlust and excitement.

    Her prey, a pair of thieves, cringed as a chill slithered its way up their spines. They continued to run as fast as they could, trying with all their might to get away. As they turned a corner they ran straight smack into a wall.

    “Aw!” Said Ballistic as she stopped running. “The little kitties hurt themselves!”

    The two thieves slammed their backs into the wall, wanting to get as much space as they could between them and Ballistic.

    “Here kitty, kitty time to play,” she continued walking closer. A maniacal grin creeping its way onto her face. She reached behind her and pulled out two shotguns from the holster on her lower back. They gleamed menacingly in the moonlight.

    “My babies want to play,” whispered Ballistic as she slid the shotgun in her right hand against her face. Her eyes went euphoric. “Won’t you please play with them kitties?”

    The thieves’ eyes widened in fear as Ballistic started tapping one of her guns against her shoulder, before she pointed at the thief on her right. Her eyes widened joyfully as she pulled the trigger. With a resounding bang the thief’s upper body splattered, covering everything in flesh and blood.

    “Mmm… “She moaned in complete ecstasy. “ Beautiful.”

  152. “I don’t think you understand.”
    “Oh, yes I do,” Adam chuckled. “I understand perfectly. I just don’t care.”
    Will grabbed Adam by the collar of his expensive leather jacket and slammed him against the wall. Adam’s legs gave out and he almost slid to the ground, only standing because of Will’s grip on his jacket. He felt the back of his head, his finger came away bloody.
    “Well, I guess you weren’t lying when you said you were strong… If you do that again you can forget about saving your brother.”
    Will bit the inside of his lip and released Adam. Frustrated, he ran a hand through his hair. “Look, I can’t tell people who I am or what I do. I’m simply a… helper. I’m there when people are in trouble… Right now, you’re the only one who can help me. You have the money I need.”
    Adam cursed when he felt the blood running down his neck. “Go break into a bank for goodness sakes, alright? I’m not doing it.”
    “He’s just a kid, man! I don’t have enough cash for them to do this surgery on him… You’ve gotta help me.”
    Adam narrowed his eyes. “You know you could end this whole thing by just admitting to the public who you are.”
    “No, that’s not an option.” Will walked up to Adam and looked him square in his face.
    “We’re not friends anymore. Don’t think you can just show up… So what are you gonna do superman?”

  153. Underneath the star speckled sky, the wrinkled old woman sat up against a tall oak tree and wept. Skin shriveled and wet with heavy tears she tipped back her head and gazed at the sky. The stars gleamed and twinkled, the moon glowing bright orange. The sky full of hope and beauty, but the wrinkled woman dropped her head down and sobbed even harder. Feeling lonely and hopeless, suddenly a gust of wind whipped past her face and large shadow loomed over her. The old woman looked up to see a monster! The monster was a massive glob of green slime with one eye. The goopy monster snatched up the old woman punched her in the face repeatedly, slamming her head into the tree. It blew fire onto her face burning off all of what was left of her hair leaving her bald and crispy. The old woman grimaced with a sharp scowl and opened her mouth revealing her three sharp teeth and bit the monster in the shoulder. The monster howled loudly trying to shake off the woman. Green goop leaked from the corners of her mouth an evil smile plastered across her face. The monster swung himself around wildly but she clung tight her grip impeccably strong. Finally she tore off a chunk of the monster’s shoulder leaped off and ran away cackling. The monster watched her skip away into the night and sat up against a tall oak tree and wept.

  154. He hears it; a crying man’s voice.

    “Please! Don’t let go!”

    He hears it every single time. And every single time, he lets go.

    He hears it; a young, vivacious fan.

    “Yes! Thank you so much, Captain Anarch!”

    He hears it every single time. And every single time, he nods.

    The endless cycle of applause drowns the plummeting screams of every man that faces their doomed fate. In the hands of Captain Anarch, no last wish goes fulfilled. And afterwards, he walks through the crowds filled with thankful greetings; to the public, he is a hero. But they do not know how much pleasure saturates his insides as he hears the mortal pleadings from the evil men who are weaker than he.

    He watches their bodies fall. Twenty feet, fifty feet, even more. And his malevolent smile is the last thing they see.

    He is the epitome of human sentinels, and he is the archetype of man’s mutilator. The bright flashes from the requests of pictures, the “front page hero”, and the doting fanatics: these factors glaze over the indestructible yet self-destructing superhero.

  155. Seren groggily slapped at the buzzing sound beside her, as if at an annoying fly. She blearily peered around, looking for the source of the exacerbation of her pounding headache.

    Fury clouded her mind briefly and a wave of psionic energy burst out of her, honing in on the alarm clock on her bedside table. It hovered in the air and abruptly shut off as its cord was cleanly sheared from the electrical outlet.

    She ruefully sighed as she pushed herself out of her bed, irritably scratching her shoulder through her cashmere nightgown and walked to the bathroom, accidentally stubbing her toe on the bottle of wine she had been drinking before falling asleep.

    Growling, she kicked at the bottle and watched as it soared through the screened window. A curse sounded, and she shrugged while getting ready for her job.

    Foot-soldiers freely walked down the streets, looking for the last of the mutant humans who had taken refuge in the slums of San Francisco. She broke through the barrier in her mind and listened to their thoughts, gradually growing more appalled at the atrocities that the government had committed against others like her.

    Lost in her thoughts, she almost walked into an armed soldier. He pushed her roughly aside and aimed his pistol at her, taunting her with a raised eyebrow. Seren sighed deeply, and continued her walk.

    The powers of the mind were varied, and while she loved her gift, it came at too great of a cost.

  156. “Orange Sunrise to the rescue,” The woman mumbled as she took off flying for the accident.
    She saw the woman from over head, partway under a car, struggling to remove her lower half. Orange Sunrise sighed and took her landing on the car next to the woman.
    CRUNCH.
    The car gave beneath her. “Oops,” she whispered as she climbed down. She shrugged and strutted over to the trapped woman. “Don’t worry,” She announced arms akimbo. “Orange Sunrise is here to save you.”
    “Yeah, great,” she said. “Could you get me out now?”
    Orange Sunrise sighed, picked up the car and tossed it off her effortlessly, and into the building beyond.
    SMASH.
    Glass and brick broke, leaving the indent of a car. She cringed, and then put her head in her hand as the building caught fire. The flaming car fell to the pavement, just missing the people below.
    She went over to pick up the car.
    “No!” a crowd yelled behind her.
    Orange Sunrise turned around with the car in her grasp. It wobbled in her hands and the crowd of people backed away.
    “Just put the car down. It’s ok,” a man said.
    Orange Sunrise shrugged and dropped the car. It made a dent in the pavement and set off the car alarms around them. She sighed, and took off flying again, leaving a bunch of people mumbling, wishing she hadn’t rushed in.
    That night, the evening news stated, “Orange Sunrise was in a plane crash today; died instantly.”

  157. Armageddon Kid
    by William Aksel
    Robert sat on the floor, tracing the patterns in the carpet with his fingers. First circling to the left, then circling to the right. The clock on the mantle, crowded close with vases and painted porcelain statues, ticked a steady division of time.
    His father cleared his throat, covering his mouth like you were supposed to. Robert exhausted the novelty of the carpet and explored the wallpaper. He turned around to get a better look at the closer wall behind him, but his mother tapped him on the top of his head and motioned him to face front.
    He wasted a few moments fervently wishing he could wear long pants; the wool of the carpet made his legs itch. He wiggled his foot until his father rustled his paper to get his attention, frowning the whole time. Dust motes floated aimlessly near the flower print curtains. Even the cat stopped twitching his tail.
    If something doesn’t happen in the next five minutes, I’m going to explode, he thought.
    Half an hour later, the dust motes were again floating aimlessly, this time above the new crater. Smoke drifted sluggishly beyond the rubble. Somewhere in the distance a dog barked.

    Pretty much the end

  158. can someone there explain to me how i retain rights to my work if i ‘publish’ it on a site created/aggregated under the creative commons license?

    just wondering.

  159. Just means that we don’t take any rights away from you. You can make whatever decisions you want to about publishing the story elsewhere, without asking us first.

  160. I first noticed the uptick in dimensional interference when I was back above ground at the island lab. I had lost my train of thought. I, Professor Douglas Umbra, never lose my train of thought. This wouldn’t do at all.

    Being the offspring of a couple matched perfectly at the genetic level by a rogue computer dating site, I’ve dedicated my life to solving the problem that is the universe. However, problem solving is exponentially more difficult when the basic energy of thought (measured in Booles) can be redirected for a picosecond by a rogue dimension vibrating on a higher frequency than usual. The fabric of space needed mending and I would provide the needle.

    So I fired up the X-38 and did a little house cleaning. I’ve seen other dimensions before; I’ve even vacationed in the more interesting ones, but their presence threatened the one I’ve been calling home, so they had to go. I’ve seen and eliminated so many different versions of Earth (oddly eight, so far, being cowboy themed), that I barely notice the screaming anymore. I try to be polite and explain that the energy of their universe will go on in my dimension and thrive, but it seems to provide little consolation.

    I wonder if I should be concerned that I haven’t found any other versions of myself or that I seem to be enjoying this job a little too much.

    No matter, there’s work to be done. I am become Doug, Destroyer of Worlds.

  161. Four days left in this contest! About 160 entries so far — pretty great. Keep your eyes peeled for another contest soon…

  162. “It’s just a finger.”

    Sharon, aka The Alleycat, had been saying this to herself for about three minutes. The repetition of this mantra at her trapped forefinger made it even more difficult to do what was necessary, but if she wanted to blow the hatch to Mad Barrage’s bunker door she had to free herself from it first.

    “Come on, Kitty,” she said with a muffle as she tightened the tourniquet using her teeth and free hand. “He’s going to get away with it, you idiot!”

    She could still hear the sickening crunch her finger had made when the door closed as she’d tried to hold it open. The finger was turning purple from lack of blood, and the nerves drummed a throbbing rhythm.

    Do it, do it, do it….

    She wanted to throw up, she wanted to scream, she wanted help, but she had to do this on her own because she had always done these things on her own. How hard could it be? She’d taken bullets, been burned by strange chemicals, taken pipe shots to the ribs, but for some reason this was worse then all that.

    “Okay, Kitty, just count to three,” she said as sweat dripped off her nose, “and then we can blow this door and save the day.”

    “Three,” she said heavily. Maybe she could return to grad school.

    “T-two.” Her professor said she could come back any time, right?

    The knife drew a little blood.

    “One….”

  163. If I’m a superhuman, what does that make them?

    Moore’s head is a ball and bobs like the crap on his desk. BlueFlash would find that funny.

    “…time wasted on internet forums. And now a harassment complaint from Wendy?”

    I think back to December. I had watched her. I thought she might have seen the black sun too. Now I knew.

    “Are you smiling? What the hell’s happened to you? Look, just clear your desk and don’t come back.”

    She pretends to work as I gather my things. Hides and stares like the others. I smile at their stupid, blotchy faces. Farewell, Wendy. My secrets are of a higher order.

    “What the hell’s happened to you?”

    I am walking home and my path is lit by an unseen star. I have discussed its power on the forums with BlueFlash. He is somewhere in Seattle. I must find him in this hour of need.

    Outside the young men taunt me again, but I can feel the black sun’s warmth. I turn to face them. Their orbs spread like stains. I am glowing with the green light. I catch one with the first beam and he melts into stinking globs. The other runs, curdled and squealing. I must move quickly now.

    The car starts as the apartment burns and above the neighbors scamper and scream. They don’t even know my name. I am the Green Ray and today I will find my partner. Together we shall light a path to the future.

  164. In fifth grade I knew Stewart was different. He did Doug’s TV trick. I hated watching three sets at once, but Doug insisted Stewart needed this. Stewart amazed me. He’d say back the plots and do the lines like the actors. Seeing earth-tone shag or a TV with a dial still makes me feel like the dumb kid.

    Once he left a test facedown until the bell. He flipped and finished it in one go. The teacher shook his head, but Stewart got an A.

    Inventions started next and phone calls from detectives and math professors. He was hard to talk to. The word “actually” destroys conversation. He bothered people. Like when he told them that the earth wasn’t warming from a trace gas, but what was done to our Sun.

    “The good news,” he said, “it’s not our fault. The bad, we can do nothing about it.”

    I finally asked him. He said he could read minds. Whose? Everybody’s. The earth’s. He didn’t know how, but why scared him.

    On my twenty-third he fixated on an alien mind in Ecuador that counted in octal binary. I didn’t see him much. My internship kept me busy. I lost touch with him after the crazy email. It creeped my fiancé out.

    “Jake,
    The Gilexans want to mine our culture before their sun-doping ends it. They needed a humanity interface. They expect me in orbit next month. I’ll fight them.
    Jake, Mr. Ecuador is Doug, from the fifth grade.
    –Stewart.”

  165. Captain Combustible woke up on the floor, alone.
    He was lying on the cement in a scorched, charcoal halo. His bed was gone. The ground was still warm. He had had a nightmare; he could remember that.
    His room was lightless and sweltering. He had started sleeping in the bunker under his home when the nightmares began. Now they had worsened, both in severity and frequency. They left him, as nightmares do, feeling vulnerable and childish, not quite certain when to relinquished his fear. Frantic.
    He always felt this way after an episode, too, he reminded himself, hoping to shake the dread that had woken up with him. If he could recall his nightmare—catalogue it—he’d feel better.
    He remembered being alone. Had he been in a well, a dungeon? The details of the dream were lost, but the climax was a metallic slamming, louder than death. He was being imprisoned.
    Wasn’t much to diagnose, he decided. He didn’t like sleeping alone in the bunker. He had gotten himself into a small, self-perpetuating hell. He’d talk it over with his Jane over breakfast. He’d feel better then.
    Opening the steel hatch, he realized he could smell ham cooking. Jane’s flannel robe was sprawled on floor outside his bunker, the way she leaves it on the floor in their bedroom. Forgetful Jane, she must have gotten too warm. He would bring it to her. He pulled himself out, and let the metal door slam shut behind him.

  166. September 1864 (near Atlanta, GA)

    General William T. Sherman stands inside his tent; he proctors strategy for the battle to come along with his Lieutenants. A rap is heard against the heavy tarp acting as a doorway for the Union general.

    “Enter!”

    “We have Corporal McGee sir.”

    A gaunt, young soldier steps into the tent. He is rigid at attention but obviously breathing hard- the anxiety of an audience with the General over The West.

    “At ease Corporal. I am told that you have an ability that might be of use to the Union. Is this true?”

    “Yes General. I, um, have a gift.”

    “Let’s see it then soldier!”

    At the general’s order the timid young man observes the general’s cot to the left of the men. Pointing his hand toward the wooden bed, the men turn their attention toward it and then stumble back as the cot bursts into flames.

    “My God! The boy has the devil in him.” Exclaimed one Lieutenant.

    But the general only smiles and flings a bucket of water onto the burning bed smoke billowing where flames had spontaneously combusted.

    “Devil? Nay. He’s our angel. Corporal McGee, you do have a special gift. You are going to preserve the Union. And we are going to scorch these damned Gray’s into submission. Send word to Washington that victory is imminent.”

  167. No Knight is Pure

    After every mission, he retreated to his sanctuary. There, he reviewed the evening’s activities and prepared to find himself again.

    He removed his mask, thankful his identity was hidden from the evil-doers he fought, but sad that those he helped could never know his name.

    Then he removed his body suit and armor, grateful for his safety but angry that while his life was protected, the innocents he tried to save had no such promise of immunity from harm.

    After that, it was the time he both thrilled and dreaded.

    He stripped down completely, and there it was. Cold. No longer sticky, but matted. Dirty. He did not wash it off. He would wear it as a mark of his continued failure to control himself.

    He finished putting his superhero gear away and hung his head in shame as he walked into the dungeon.

    She stood, waiting for him.

    He knelt before her, unable to look up from the polished tips of her boots, the knot at the end of the whip that hung beside her heel.

    “Mistress, I must be punished.”

  168. I pressed submit (late last night) and didn’t see my submission, yet when I tried again (today) it says I have posted it. So here I am posting this.

  169. “Uberschmucken” by John Wenger

    Jerome Horwitz sat in a wooden chair in the corner of the dressing room, reading a book. “Man is something which ought to be overcome,” he read, nodding. He’d never read a book that spoke to him so directly, confirming everything he’d suspected. His feelings of inadequacy after he’d shaved his head and began drinking and carousing – it was all just a denial of his “condition.” The others, even his brother, were jealous of his, well, why not just say it, superiority.

    He set the book down on his lap and looked into the mirror, surrounded by bright light bulbs. He saw now how his shaved head set him apart: his eyes shone with a brilliance that was missing from the others. His brow, nose, chin, he admired, they rivaled the Roman nobles. Savages, really, no better than the rabble he endured every day. His only comfort, he supposed, was realizing that he was the vanguard of a new humanity, the “overman” the book prophesied.

    The dressing room door opened, revealing his brother’s head with that ridiculous bowl cut. “On the set in five minutes, knucklehead,” he said.

    “Sure thing, Moe,” Jerome replied, carefully setting the book on the dresser. He sighed, then slapped the top of his head a few times. It was time to throw pies again, but he knew that someday soon, his new world would come.

  170. The superman was having a hard time with his online dating profile. When he wrote about saving the world, women questioned his career choice. When he mentioned his superior brain, he was accused of being arrogant.

    In truth, he was just trying to be honest. He’d observed relationships. He knew how they should work.

    He yearned for a fiery woman, an intellectual equal, with superpowers to match his own. But sometimes he wondered if those mythical women even existed. He’d speed-read the site’s profiles, and the pattern was clear. Women just wanted to be rescued. And damsels in distress didn’t turn him on.

    They reminded him too much of work.

    He thought of the years he’d spent alone, protecting citizens from national threats, while navigating criminal underworlds all by himself. He recalled each horror through a cold intellectual lens. Even now, eons later, he could hardly feel a thing — except for a kind of empty aching that had led him to his laptop. He searched for true love, and drowned in a sea of unmatched pixels.

    He’d risked his neck, escaped the handlers, used his superior intellect to survive undetected in this nondescript town. All he wanted was a normal life. But he couldn’t find someone to share it with.

    He deleted his profile and called a familiar number. A dark sedan picked him up and took him to the airport. He studied the photos of his target.

    And soon, all his feelings were gone again.

  171. The bok choy was soggy. Steamed too long in the colander, Ambrose regarded it with having similar dexterity to the encrusted halo of a pudding cup. Nonetheless, he ate it. As he shoveled the verdigris carcasses in his mouth he recalled the farmer in the Guizhou province who offered it to him. The farmer’s face, plum-like and robust with gratitude, promised to name his sheep after him. Cute, Ambrose thought, better a sheep than a goat.

    He unveiled the lid from the injera bowl. Lifting up a piece, he pulled it with both hands and watched its yeasty veins exhale and sigh. The Ethiopian warlord’s fingers: he recalled them tapping gently on his arms as he was throttled, pit-pattering a quiet symphonic mercy. The texture of the bread was rubbery, a comforting challenge, and the beef curry swaddled inside eschewed its inlets of juice into the corners of his palate. Gujarat. The ransom for the minister’s son. Ambrose’s left hand snapping the extortionist’s vertebrae. A glass of tempranillo in his right.

    Ambrose lifted the remote and turned up The Replacements’ Hold My Life, drowning out the chants below his Sao Paulo loft. He closed his eyes, felt his stomach walls digest. The alarm on his watch vibrated. Ambrose looked at the digital face. “EAT” it said. Ambrose canceled the alert, took another sip of the tempranillo in spite of his ageusia, and imagined a sheep named Ambrose baa-ing in an orange mesh fence underneath the Chinese midday sun.

  172. Final exam

    From the top of the pyramid, Erwin looked down on his creation. He created life on this planet for his entrance exam at the University. He filled the forest with tropical ferns and ancient trees, tangled vines, birds and feline creatures that moved gracefully. He named the planet after his girlfriend, Iris. She was a colorful ballerina with blue eyes and golden hair. The movement of the felines was based on her sacred dance. The University accepted him. Iris left him, because she considered the dance part of her. Incomplete, she left to explore the universe. The universe accepted her. He never saw her again. He vowed never to return.

    Nine years later Erwin walked above the ancient trees again. His final task was to clean up his work, to kill his darlings. The pyramid came into view. He entered its solid stone, grains shifting out of his way at the last moment, closing up behind. When he stepped out of the stone, the hollow statue he carried glowed green. In the room beyond, he placed the statue of the fat little guy on a pedestal. The sun shone on it through a long vertical shaft in the ceiling. The statue had an even chance of releasing its life cleansing poison. If someone opened it, it would be certain. He shivered as he got up and returned to his ship.

    Deep in the forest the ballerina danced with the cats, feeling one with the universe, in perfect grace.

  173. Dear Earth.
    For a century I have watched over you, protected you, put up with you. I cannot justify it any more.
    When you scream for help, I come to your rescue. When you make a mistake, I put it right. I don’t know whats right any more. When you point weapons at each other, I stand between you.
    I have saved your lives, I have upheld your laws. I have not slept in decades.
    It was so much easier when I first began, everything was black and white. I always knew who to save and who to put in jail. Now? Everything is grey. You all have some bad in you, some of you just hide it better than others. There are so many more of you now. If you could all just stop fucking for five minutes you could see how ridiculous it is. Seven Billion of you and only one of me. I am alone.
    There were some of you I called friends, some i called family and some I loved. One I loved. The last of these died today. She kept my secret for sixty years. In the end she couldn’t even remember it. You get old and you die, a cruel trick to give something so wonderful to a creature so fragile and fleeting.
    Your time here is brief and yet still you squander it. I Haven’t aged in a century, my time here is eternal. You frustrate me. I’m going crazy.
    I’m leaving you.

  174. By some stroke of luck, or more likely habit, he was in the hideout when the bombs hit. Jacob Bruce, The Shadow Knight, was trying to figure out a link between the current Senator, George Luhan, and one of the many local crime lords.

    It felt like a quake, but he knew what had happened. He knew by the toxic feeling, like the air was no longer clean; it tasted like a room full of fertilizer bags. The rocky walls wailed from the support beams expanding deep within them. He imagined the many bombs dancing down across the earth, painting it a deep rust, and his stomach lost its weight.

    He stood afraid, with the posture of a man standing before a pouncing tiger. The room was so quiet his mind conjured false sounds of guns clacking and boots stomping into formation. He waited for the moment. There was only the screeching sound of absolute quiet. His legs folded.

    His mind jolted as he thought that he must get to the station immediately to make sure Luhan gets revealed as a fraud. He might get away in the chaos. Another long wail from inside the rock sailed through the hideout.

    His shoulders slumped down and arched his bursting back muscles.

    “It’s not important.”

    His words came out quiet and dead. His frame turned from a fortress of muscle into a collapsed ruin. He thought about the other hero, who had failed to stop this. A hero he never was.

  175. SUPERPEOPLE

    1. Precognition

    Whatever you see, they see through, and they learn to keep it quiet early on. The information comes like magic marker on transparencies for slide projectors, graphs from grade school laid over the real, with circles and arrows and exuberant stars: put extra flour in gravy, get a tuneup on Tuesday to catch the about-to-fail brake, call him today, tell Mom to purchase a penny stock, tell Dad to order the steak… When that power arrives, in their teens, the rare possessors first doubted, then tried to help their friends. Thus they learned that nothing is shared: not joy, not fear, not the cumulative evidence on which we base any sound judgment. Now they are the people who always seem almost afraid, apologetic, unsure: late to the dinner party, hedged on all advice, reluctant to open their mail. We prefer to be told what to do, but only by strangers, whose advice we can avoid: to friends, to parents and children, we cannot listen. We would prefer to have failed on our own.

    2. Tidy

    He could clean everything, but should he? Chores used to be a snap: porcelain made smooth, steel sieves cleared, the concrete driveway without snow, fragile artificial fabrics telekinetically scoured of discolorations, or rewoven good as new. When his mother and father realized how easy the duty came to him (brow furrowed, next minute all done) they knew that it would be unfair to hire him out, but asked if he should get new household tasks so as to learn unpleasant labor. Now it is a gift his friends expect of him, better than flowers, better than beer: at the U., he gets invited to every party, on the unspoken condition that he must be the last to leave. He takes the bus home: as he subtracts the sour scents, the dust in the air vents, the sauce stains, from the humming 79, he asks himself whether he would have been welcome anywhere without his mysterious talent, whether even his future wife would still love him if he ever had to make any effort to clean up after himself.

    3. Unseen

    In comics for good and for girls, in long books evil, in real life used rarely by adults, and never in crowds: who wants to be mistaken for frotteurs? In youth, of course, in locker rooms, in girls’ curtained beds on a dare, by photocopiers in office closets, in order to palm desk-drawer keys, seeking answer sheets, seeking notes with your name. How soon the thrills of voyeurism pale…. what we do want, from childhood on, is attention: what you see when nobody can see you is how little you usually get. Once I thought I could make a career as a cop, uncovering disreputable secrets, maybe even Internal Affairs. I failed the physical. Now I am out of school and on the market, looking for jobs with numbers, which diminish but never change when you look away, and don’t just disappear.

    4. Fast

    Bad in bed,

    I run out of what to do next.

    Everyone should have such problems, you might say.

    It would be hard for me to hear.

    I’m bored after 10am daily, and struggle

    to get enough to eat.

    If you cry for long enough, I’ll feel

    the waves you send through any air,

    and show up to help. When I’m done

    you won’t see me go.

    5. Atmosphere

    I have fought crime with it. I have gone out of my way. I once dumped snow on a mugging in progress, flooded the engines of would-be drunk drivers, smacked a bully on the nose with hail. In winter I like to send some thin, warm clouds at pedestrians cumbered with strollers or canes.

    It uses up energy, though: it’s exercise—I sweat, I’m short of breath, I can use my own powers to cool myself down. It also uses up my concentration: work too long, over too much area, focus too hard on intangibles, on vapor, and I begin to drowse, I trance.

    When I have tried to warm entire towns, I have only put myself to sleep. In fourth grade I attempted to cause a snow day: I fainted, I peed in my corduroy pants, and ended up getting a sick day instead. Also the freezer in my mother’s basement cracked: I had filled it with boulders of ice.

    When I touch the sand at a beach now, I taste the wrong air. I wish I could show you the physical difference between the weather we see and the climate I know. One of them is something I can change.

  176. To Whom It May Concern:

    I am a confident, hardworking, reformed and law-abiding individual who is interested in the assistant position. Your advertisement specifically caught my eye because of your company’s long and illustrious history in the aerospace industry.

    You’ll see that my attached resume more than outlines my qualifications. Not only do I have 10-plus years of experience in the science/engineering industry, but my interests are varied, ranging from politics to finances to tectonic-plate activity.

    My work always has results. I’m sure that you’ve seen my name attached to significant scientific discoveries and experiments in the news. I merely mention them to point out my qualifications, rather than the natural consequences that occur when gravitational poles are tampered with.

    As you know, the recession has had far-reaching consequences, and times are tough for everyone. But let me assure you that I am personable, dependable and a problem-solver. If something needs a solution, science and I will find it.

    I look forward to your response and I thank you for your consideration.

    Dr. Jeffrey Blight, “Mad” M.D., Ph.D

  177. We approve each post, Jay. So sometimes you won’t see your story until a few hours or even a day after you posted it. Which might mean you have to scroll back through more recent posts until you find it. If a story posted here is not about a troubled or troubling superhuman, or if it is extremely vulgar or graphic or slipshod/poorly written/misspelled, we’ll trash it.

  178. The Days of Static

    He can shake a hand and give a hug, but never without long sleeves and gloves.

    Otherwise, people die.

    Every day, he checked for holes in his clothes – anything that would allow contact between him and anyone.

    He tried not to touch anything metallic. Even though he was used to the shock already, every now and then, it still hurt him.

    He avoided carpets.

    He was cautious, aware, and careful. He knew what he was doing, and he always thought things through.

    Despite these, however, things still went wrong.

    He sits on a park bench, gloves off, looking solemnly at his static hands. He recalls how he hugged Kara, how she shook, how she passed out, and how she burned.

    Kids walk by around him, their balloons subtly floating towards his direction, like magnets.

    No one sees the electrons – how they latch on to him and never let go, like fleas leeching on blood.

    He mutters something under his breath, and no one listens.

    Just an average day.

  179. The taste of architecture was like vintage semiotics to her.

    Her eyes, like faulty CCTV monitors, had fallen on street corners and vacant rooms while her hyper extended nervous system stretched across cities beyond the modest room they kept her in. Stray thoughts collapse buildings into one another like the overlapping memories of a refugee. Decaying landscapes are filtered through someone’s soft kisses in the metal rain of Tokyo.

    An accidental muscle reflex gives birth to a building, while she utters epiphanies inside mathematical uncertainties. Gestures of strange affection permeate the air around her shifting skin while watching the cathode secretions of surveillance frames. Abstract models made of rogue memes, and militarized spaces map her consciousness… Absorbing artificial neural networks as a surrogate to archive and internalize histories upon histories of dystopic urban development. Her voice gives way to phantom memories of forgotten Hong Kong cinema sets where the ghostly echoes of action heroes are still heard.

    Her numb fingers touch the implications of other realities within the corners of history. For a moment, in the middle of an overwhelming fractal cloud of vomiting data from conceptual brain districts, she considers another orphaned thought…buildings as bullets, events as ammunition, cities as weapons.

    The psychologies of spaces infect her, making a perceptive wholeness disappear in the balkanization of ontological hemorrhages. Inside the glorious thunder of collapsing topographies, amidst the careening missiles of collective memory, she finds anger too vague to explain…if history is going to step on you, become a landmine.

  180. He was a most unusual boy. Not only did he see color as most of us do, his other senses perceived them as well. He knew what blue tasted like or what green feels or what red sounds like. He knew all these things and more, and thought it beautiful.

    “If only there was someone else who has the same abilities as me,” he often thought, “then I would have somebody to talk to about the colors that I feel, smell, hear, taste…” his thoughts would go off trailing.

    There was no other, for the boy was not only unusual, he was unique as well and his uniqueness made him lonely.

    Nowadays, the boy no longer thought colors were beautiful. Most times he would just sit by himself in total darkness.

    “There’s no point in beauty if you can’t share it,” he’d mumble again and again in the dark, “no point at all.”

    All the while wishing he wasn’t who he was.

  181. The Last Superhuman

    Phineas Specter was an unprecedented specimen. Without debate he was the oldest warm blooded being on the planet. Born in the mid-seventeenth century, Phineas was different.

    Besides not succumbing to age like his siblings, friends, and parents, Phineas was stronger and more intelligent than his contemporaries. His cunning intellect allowed him to easily dupe and manipulate others as if they were toddlers.

    Most of all, no harm could come to Phineas. Blades nor bullets had any effect. Fire, water, and any element between was harmless. Falls from great heights did nothing to render him inert. By all measurements, Phineas was indestructible.

    For centuries he managed to live a comfortable life on the periphery of society. Phineas conned his way from country to country, moving often enough no one could track his extraordinary abilities. No one was aware of him. It was a lifestyle Phineas preferred. He would never be any government’s pawn or guinea pig.

    Then the day everyone anticipated but never expected came. Nuclear holocaust destroyed the planet. Oceans were turned to vapor and the ground seared into radioactive glass. Not a single soul survived nor any animal remained. Mankind had finally succeeded in destroying their home.

    However, the heir to humanity, Phineas, remained. He was alone with nothing but endless wasteland. Not even the forces powerful enough to eradicate a planet could destroy him. It was in that moment of pure isolation and desperation he had one wish. Phineas desired more than anything he could be mortal.

  182. I could never see the tears of my brother. His face was opposite mine on the back of our skull. Craniopagus parasiticus was the precise term for our sorry condition. Mother always said God does things for a reason. Maybe.

    It was to her credit that mother didn’t hide us away. I know the other townspeople were horrified by our ghastly appearance. The other children were cruel in ways I won’t go into. Still we went with her as she ran her errands while dad worked the fields. I suppose we had as normal a childhood as possible, considering.

    At first we only dreamt things; things that came true. The time when the cows got out of the barn, Mrs. Lyons getting into that wreck in the winter, and so on. Well of course word got out like it does in a small town. They came from the medical college to do tests on us and we didn’t like it. That was the first time we made someone have a heart attack. Once we learned we could do that, we knew God did have a plan for us after all.

    We dreamt of the day they would come for us. We talked about it, between mirrors, me reading his lips. (I’m the one with the larynx.). Mother and father should have known better than to help them. We aren’t going to just burn in the windmill like Frankenstein’s monster. We aren’t going anywhere.

  183. THE LAST SUPERHUMAN

    Dr. Alan MacTaggart, the ‘Electric Gilgamesh,’ was now only a giant head on a bed, his body a shriveled thing hanging from his neck, his face swallowed by the generous flesh of his fat skull.
    He was no longer human, no longer superhuman.
    He had evolved.
    It was 400 years since he exiled himself to the tiny apartment, ten miles underground, beneath his mad, beautiful City of New Tesla on Easter Island.
    400 years since he exiled himself from technology.
    400 years since he injected himself with experimental drugs.
    400 years of reading and meditating.
    Of evolving.
    Of thinking.

    A sound of a machine.
    The elevator. They are coming.
    He had solved all of mankind’s problems—starvation, disease, war, overpopulation, space travel, even DEATH.
    The doors opened.
    Five figures in black hazmat suits stepped out of the elevator.
    The descendants of his loyal friends, the Five of Man, come to awaken him.
    MacTaggart reached out with his mind, touching the descendants of the Five of Man.
    They died instantly.
    Hello? Is anyone there?
    His thoughts rippled outward, killing everyone on earth.
    Where is everyone?
    His mind expanded, rippling through space, killing the human establishments on the moon and Mars.
    Nothing survived.
    They destroyed themselves. I was too late.
    He ended his life with a single thought.
    His body burst open, sending out yellow dust.
    Spores.
    They fed on MacTaggart’s head.
    They evolved.
    The next generation of superhuman.
    Superhuman plus.
    The Gilagamesh were born.

  184. I don’t walk between the raindrops. I’m bound by the same physical laws as everyone else. But just as the snail seems painfully slow or the lightning bolt imperceptibly quick to most, so too is the gulf between us.

    Meandering through a forest of mannequins, I am constantly crowded by you cumbersome sloths. So slow in step and in thought. I can draw conclusions in minute detail before any one of you can even draw a full breath. The grains of hourglass sand fall like airy feathers as I watch you in your frozen positions. I study your infinite play as you stand at your marks.

    It’s not as though I loathe the molasses masses that I wade through. Quite the contrary, I find myself helping you avoid self-destruction on most occasions. Plucking children from traffic…queering the aim of a gunman from his intended victim…rousing the dog in a burning home to bark and alert its owner…

    But boredom does overcome me at times and I find myself playing the shape you see in your periphery. Momentarily there, but long gone once you try to focus on the phantom. I watch from the shadows when you are naked and at your most intimate. Vulnerable, you have no secrets from me. But our interaction is limited by my stunted patience forcing me to exist as a vicarious ghost.

    Frustration eclipses my better nature. Tomorrow I’ll puppeteer another murder suicide. Vicious projection should give me release.

  185. It’s dusk in suburbia and the first whispers of autumn are hiding in the wind. Amity has nestled in amongst the company of forlorn houses and overgrown lawns. Seated atop a hill of dead bodies at the end of a meandering street, a solitary figure defies the tranquility.

    He firmly but carefully cradles the head of a young woman in his arms as gore-stained fingertips meticulously probe at her decaying mouth. A faint ‘tic’ can be heard as, one by one, a trickle of discarded teeth pool on the street below.

    As he continues to pluck yellowed pearls from the mire, his lips slowly mumble a familiar verse.

    “She loves me.”
    tic.
    “She loves me not.”
    tic.

    Releasing a small sigh of gloom, he holds the head up by thinning strands of hair. Empty eye sockets gaze into infinity as he examines the emaciated beauty.

    “Sorry babe, not tonight.”

    The waste is thrown callously over his shoulder and lands with a soft thud. A murder of crows seize upon it before its momentum is spent.

    Heaving himself upright, the lonesome champion stretches his arms and flexes out his chest before slowly taking to the air. Pausing briefly, his gaze shifts toward the lifeless city miles away. The fires had all but died out.

    As the sun casts its last promise of light over the land, a feeling almost resembling regret begins to scratch at the back of his mind.
    Perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea to conquer the world.

  186. Truly Blessed

    I hate superheroes. Probably because in a world so full of them, I’m not Blessed the way they are. I mean, screw them, they’re all just flying around and crap.

    So now I roam these streets, just looking for something to do. And they’re running, flying, jumping, all over the place, while those of us Unblessed, maybe one in every billion now, remain on the old cemented pavement, versus those translucent pedestrian skyways ‘everyone’ uses.

    Every so often, there would be some fight ‘up there,’ and it’s tradition that the loser gets tossed down to where the garbage is. But they always get back up, just never with the same crowd, and sometimes, I help them, only to be rejected because I’m Unblessed scum. I was never able to fight back; even my parents left me.

    But lately, I know something’s changed. I’ve been feeling… powerful.

    Now every time some Blessed falls and I’m near, I help them up and ask what they would call me. The flyers would just take off, but now I’ve got chains no one can break. And I repeat the question until they answer; they never know what’s going on. Every one of them has something that can defeat them, a chemical, object, something. And when they give me a crap answer, I kill them with it, because that’s my Blessing. And I tell them, just before they die, that I am what defeated them— that they should call me Weakness.

  187. The shimmering blue circle hung above the sidewalk, casting its shifting light on the prefabs in the cul de sac. Tomy spun the pedals on his tricycle back and forth, biting his lip and studying his creation.

    He knew Mommy would be mad if he did it, but he didn’t care. Ever since the doctor showed Mom the brain scans she’d treated him differently, had urged him to “play with kids his own age” and “be normal.” She’d forced him to go to Sadie’s dumb birthday that morning. But Sadie called him strange and the other kids threw chunks of cake at him, laughing at his stories about doors in the sky and creatures weirder than in his Dad’s old comics.

    So Tomy left.

    Tomy didn’t need them. He had a friend – he had Jonah, to make him a brightly colored balls of light, or an ice cream sundae spun from the purple clouds above his world. Jonah had powers, like Tomy. Jonah was cool, except for when he was annoying and asking a lot of grownup questions. Tomy didn’t want to talk about that boring stuff, like the ships that brought them here, or what elements humans were made of, or how many settlers were still on their way. Tomy thought playing light ball was much more fun.

    He pushed off the ‘walk and pedaled through, the blue light enveloping him.

    “Hello Tomy,” Jonah said brightly, his tentacles reaching out for a hug. “Having a bad day?”

  188. Surprise sparked in her eyes. “It’s been long time,” she said. She kissed him briefly and he felt of the pressure of her breast. She smelled of woodland flowers and earth.

    Not so long, though she didn’t know it. The third day in a row.

    “A cup of tea,” she said, though how could she know that about him? Tea, not coffee.

    “Yes,” he said. “That would be nice.”

    The stove flame whooshed blue. A rush of it, like breath. Hot and full.

    The first time he’d been too confident. He had touched her. He’d been certain she wanted him. The charge between them had been unmistakable, he thought. But she hit him hard across the face.

    The kettle started to steam a little, the first stirrings of the boil, faint still. It would be warm to the touch now.

    The second time he just told her he wanted her.

    “I don’t feel for you in that way,” she had said.

    He’d reset her right then. Drained her memories, and walked out.

    This time he would ask her about herself. People love to talk about themselves.

    The resets took a toll. There was a sharpness missing from her eyes already he could swear. Another failure and she’d be just another drone after the wipe. He’d order an entertaining suicide, maybe.

    The tea was just shy of its boil. He met her eye as she passed it down to him. “Lovely,” he said.

  189. Jimmy read the clipping in his hand:

    Job Code: 8467
    Location: Buford GA
    Job Type: Part Time
    Skills: Must project a shield or bubble. Tanks may also apply.
    Position summary:
    Superhuman/mutant type needed to Bounce for The Cuff, a gay/lesbian/transgender bar in Buford, GA. Powers considered include any force shield/bubble field that could separate aggressors. Tank types may also apply. Applicants should apply in person, in costume at the Cuff Tuesday, February 2. Alternative life style not required, but considered a plus. Ask for Joaquin.

    -Baby, Jimmy hollered, I need you to help tape up my junk.

    -Well you got a better damn idea how we’re gonna pay the rent?

  190. CAPE, PINK W/ RED STAR, SELDOM WORN. NO RESERVE!
    Item condition: New
    Time left: 3 days 13 hours
    Price: US $27.70
    Shipping: $7.00 Standard Flat Rate

    Description:
    Almost new superhero cape. Allows levitation and flight up to 400 ft above ground. Cape is pink w/ red star and attaches to wearer by leotard. Outfit is junior size 7-8. Warranty does not transfer.

    This is a great buy. It was originally purchased to introduce our daughter to crime fighting. Unfortunately, she is afraid of heights. Ships US only.

  191. The Americans drove past in their huge vehicles creating a cloud of dust behind them. My father and I are at the old lake collecting water. This dark lake is the most amount of water I’ve ever seen in my life not in a jug or goatskin. He waits until the Americans are gone before he speaks.

    “They are evil.” he says. “They bring disease and death with them. We hardly ever saw the Taliban until they showed up.” As he speaks, his pink tongue pops out from the gaps between his missing teeth. “I heard that some of them can read your mind.”

    I ignore him. I have heard that their meddled with Satan’s science created some demon like monsters. It’s probably more of their propaganda as it sounds like a Hollywood movie.

    We sit on the shore. Suddenly I hear a terrified scream. There is nobody around except for a single fish dying on the sand. Its mouth opening and closing, its tail thrashes. Somehow, I can feel it’s terror in my mind. I approach, and its shouting gets louder. It screams like a man about to die. I pick it up, and return it to the water. It’s quiet.

    “Idiot!” my father yells. “We could’ve eaten that!”

    I stare at the water, the only water I have ever known. Slowly, I hear a hundred then a thousand voices talking nonsense, all emanating from the lake. Their babbling voices overwhelm me and I collapse on the shore.

  192. No Longer Gauge

    No screams in the insanity ward. Silence coated their throats.

    The Glamour crouched before the scanner. The door swooshed open. For years, with a touch she leeched the violence from terrorists, mass murderers, serial killers. An unlikely hero, this slight Indian woman. No tights, no mask but mascara and eye shadow.

    Fifteen people were in the ward. Fourteen of them slumped in chairs, eyes vacant, saliva dribbling down their shirtfronts. She knew all of their crimes. She took off her gloves.

    “You don’t have to do this, Glamour,” said the fifteenth. Ugo Cerletti stood, hands clasped in front of him, his face hawkish and proud.

    “You know what happens when you pit yourself against the government,” she said. “Twelve facilities. Trillions of dollars in dangerous information. How did you do it?”

    He smiled. “Social engineering.” Cerletti looked up into her eyes. She could not tell what colour they were. Green, grey, blue? She fell into them.
    She saw every crime of the fourteen men and women whose husks ringed the room. Their crimes were inside and part of her. Body parts, noxious clouds of smoke, syringes, circuitboards. From far away:

    “You don’t have to do this. You cannot do this. You cannot touch me. I have you.” More images. Suffocating. She could no longer gauge…

    She touched her bare hands to her face in horror.

    The men in suits entered five minutes later. Cerletti was gone. The Glamour stared into space. A bit of drool slithered down her chin.

  193. Annihilation Sutra

    The containment field was failing. A first-year student could do the math: there was not enough energy in the world to keep the magnetic bubble up for more than 18 hours. The thing inside–half tarantula, half thunderstorm–was unmistakably alive; they could feel the air roiling with its fury. Most of the team had fled. Jason and a grad student, the punk-rock girl whom everyone called Tiger, sat on a lab bench and watched the maleficent flickering.

    “Why are you still here?” Jason asked.
    “I’m kinda an orphan. And maybe we can do something. What about you?”
    “Not an orphan, but I don’t want to spend my last hours flying to Australia.”
    “So what do we do?”
    “I dunno…I’m a scientist, not an engineer. I need to think.”
    “Can we think outside?”

    It was a day that only a midwesterner could find comfort in: wet, but not raining, and everything was green. They strolled along the main drag of the university, trading ideas about what to do about the demon that they had found inside the quantum black hole.

    “Maybe it won’t hurt us,” Tiger said.
    “Maybe.”
    “Should we tell people? These people around us?”
    “I don’t want to spend my last few hours in a police station, either.”
    Somewhere along the way her hand had slipped into his.
    “This place is so good! Hold on.”

    Jason envied her moment of forgetfulness. Tiger stepped into the little ice cream shop run by the Ag department and emerged with two strawberry cones and handed one to him. It was good–perfect, really–and together they sat, waiting to merge with the gathering dusk.

  194. He is called a menace. He has been blamed for Robin Hood style robberies across the state. He has claimed responsibility for countless more. He has never been caught and he has rarely been seen. In my hands I have a copy of the only know photo of him. His scarlet red mask leaves a striking blur through the fuzzy camera phone photo.
    I have been assigned to stop him. I am a Superhuman Regulator, better known as a Freak Cop. In a world fill with superhumans we have to have some way to keep them in check. Half of them have no clue what they are doing; they act as responsible as children with guns. The other half seem to live by the axiom, “With great power, comes great opportunity.” But not him, he’s different. He’s smart and capable, he has a plan. That’s what they’re afraid of, that’s why they sent me; the best agent on the force.
    I board the train for California; our intel points us in that direction. My superiors seem to think that there are some high risks targets out west that are worthy of his attention. I sit down in my private compartment and place my carry on next to me. I unzip the bag and reach in. I feel the smooth fabric of the red mask rub between my fingers; it calms my beating heart and brings a smile to my face. They won’t suspect a thing until it’s too late.

  195. He sat on the battered sofa with a can of beer in one hand and a forgotten cigarette in the other. The limp arm of ash finally surrendered to gravity, dropping to the stained carpet below, while a crimson cape sat squashed between his body and the couch like a discarded flag.

    A hot breeze stirred the faded curtain beside the window. The air gave the fabric brief animation before falling listlessly to the floor again. He brought his eyes to the window and gazed absentmindedly at the clear blue sky beyond.

    A police siren rang out in the distant heat.

    Memories stirred restlessly within the dusty vestibules of his mind. A million flash bulbs. Cheers of admiration. Eyes glistening with gratitude.

    Not anymore.

    The liquid amber drained down the back of his throat, joining the remains of half a dozen other cans.

    There had been a day, not so long ago, when there wasn’t enough time. Even with all his power and experience, it was still not enough.

    So, he was forced to choose.

    One versus a thousand.
    One life or so many, many others?

    He made his choice.
    The logical choice.
    But they cursed and spat. They loathed and despised him.

    He didn’t understand their cries.

    Who was he to choose?

    He was more than human but he was no God.

    Let Him decide, he thought, as he emptied the can of its final contents, while the dying embers of his cigarette glowed for the last time.

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