© 2009, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Tales from The New Universe: SuperHero

The thing about being a superhero is that everyone expects you to save the day all the time, to be on your toes no matter what, to have all the answers.

No one warned me before all of this started that it would be like that.  I thought it would be a lark; saving pretty (grateful) women from the bad guys and always coming through in the nick of time to save the city, people cheering me on, giving me keys to the city, having days named after me so kids could get out of school to come see parades in my honor.  That sort of thing.

I thought it would be easy.  Stupid, right?

I did get the key to the city early on.  God, fifteen years ago?  Has it really been that long?  The years start to blur after a while, bleeding into each other and overlapping so I don’t always remember things in the right order any more.  I wonder if any of the others feel that way?  There’s a couple dozen of us now, not like in the old days when there were just two or three at most.

Anyway, the rest of it?  Got tired real quick.  There are only so many women you can save before they all start looking the same.  It becomes old hat.  I can’t even count how many times the city’s been in danger and I had to save it with only a couple seconds left on a timer – the bad guys?  They love their timers.  It’s like some bad piece of pulp fiction.

Week after week, the same stuff happening with a new twist and I have to keep up with it and roll with the punches.  It’s exhausting.  Have you ever tried crisscrossing a city ten times in a night because all the loonies were out in full force and pulling crap at the same time?  Believe me – it’s not easy and it’s not fun.

Forget having any semblance of a real life with the secret identity thing.  It’s worse than being married to a cop or soldier.  Every time you go out the door it’s not just people with guns and knives threatening your life, oh no, it’s freaks with frost guns and magic powers and lasers that shoot out their eyes – FRIGGIN LASERS!  Who could sit at home and handle that kind of worry and stress every day?  Not my Martha, that’s for sure.  Left right after the first major threat to the city I faced, when old ColdFront brought the temperature down to ten below and kept it there for a week, demanding ten million dollars before he’d turn his machine off.  Finally found him in the old sewers, the ones they condemned and built right on top of decades ago.  I got pretty beat up taking him down, spent days laid up in bed, covered in bruises, delirious with fever and suffering from exposure.  Lucky I didn’t lose something to frostbite.  That’s when she called it quits.  Left a note as soon as I was up and around again and could fend for myself.

I don’t blame her.  Still hurts, though.

Seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day – that’s what this gig is all about.  No vacation days, no HMO plan, no 401K; just a constant, steady beating on your body and your mind, slowly wearing you down until you have a ‘bad’ day and some freak gets lucky because you’re too slow or too tired or just too damned old.  Then it’s ‘game over’ and the city moves onto the next hero to show up and save them from the bad guys.

They have a ‘Fallen Heroes’ museum, you know?  It’s downtown.  Full of pictures, videos and mementos of all the heroes who got sloppy and kicked it – ain’t no such thing as ‘retirement’ for us.  It’s closed three days a week now due to budget cuts and lack of interest.  They used to take kids there on school field trips, but the neighborhood has gone down hill so they don’t take the kids there anymore.  Too dangerous.

If they don’t close their doors, my costume will probably be in there one day soon.  Can feel it in my bones.  They’ll rip the mask off my broken body and everybody will stare at my face and say that I look like anybody else, nothing remarkable about me at all – except for the scars.  Then they’ll figure out who I was pretty quick.  Someone will write up an expose, maybe interview Martha and give her her fifteen minutes of fame.  And for a week or two I’ll be the biggest piece of news on the wire.  They’ll add me to that museum, probably use my spare costume on a mannequin once they search my place and find it, build a nice little glass encased memorial full of the crap I keep in the basement; my souvenirs.  The culmination of my entire crime fighting career reduced to trinkets and knickknacks arranged behind a slab of glass.

It won’t be long until some kid comes along to take my name and run with it, same as happened with the Star Kid when he died two years ago in that embassy bombing.  What a mess that was.  God.

The costume will be different yet close enough that people will recognize him and think he’s me, but it won’t be.  It’ll just be some dumb kid in a mask who never got told what this life would be like if he got into this mess.  He’ll do it because it’s fun when you start, because people will look up to him, and because he’ll think he’s making a difference.

Same as me.