I remember hearing stories from before. Back when superpowers were just a fantasy. I heard stories that kids would play heroes and villains. God, I wish that was the world I lived in. Now everyone has powers. Every. Single. Person. Except for me. For a while, I didn’t mind it so much. Everyone gave me lots of attention. But then the doctor visits started. Over and over again, doing tests. Trying to figure out why I didn’t have any of these crazy powers.
No matter what they tried they never could. They even tried experimental treatments to try to give me powers. I cringe whenever I think about it now. Blood transfusions, bone marrow transplants, cerebrospinal fluid transplants and that’s just the physical attempts. I was put through all kinds of mental therapy programs as well. People thought maybe there was some mental blockage keeping me from unlocking my powers or something. Psychics probing around my head. Day after day, never stopping.
I was just a kid.
Eventually, they stopped and I was able to have somewhat of a normal life. Now, I say “normal” but it’s probably not normal to anyone but me. After all the tests and everything, I became some kind of scientific wonder. People were always trying to get interviews with me, so I could shed some light on what a “normal” life is like and what hardships I might face. My parents jumped at the chance to make some money off of me.
My dad had a low-level super-strength power, all he ever did was construction work and drink himself to sleep. My mother could nullify toxins in herself and others. She could have actually been a useful member of society, but no, she just used it to cure my dads constant alcohol poisoning and keep herself from ODing on whatever drug she was on that given week. I never saw a dime of any of that money.
On top of that, I was constantly being kidnapped, held hostage, and saved, over and over again. Constantly hearing “Fear not, citizen! So-and-so is here to save you!” Maybe I gave all these people some kind of purpose. Which is completely stupid, because there were plenty of people with lesser powers that could use saving, But no, I was the symbol of helplessness as I saw it.
All that considered, I went to school and had to fight to keep up with everyone. It’s hard when you’re constantly being used in the supers daily games and every other kid has some kind of heightened intelligence power. But I came out towards the top. After high school, I was finally able to get away from my toxic family. I went to college for bio-engineering and after that got into one of the best medical schools in the country. Not because I wanted to try to crack whatever code there was as to why I was “normal” but because I wanted to be a doctor, I wanted to help people. Deep down though, it was because if there was ever another kid like me, I was going to make damn sure that the hell I went through would never happen to them.
So far, for better or worse, that day never came. But something else did.
It was a hectic night, there was a super war going on and patients kept coming through the doors. We didn’t have enough doctors. A world full of super heroes and all the useful ones for this situation had better things to do apparently. It was about 4 am, I was running on 4 hours of sleep over the past two days when it happened. A hero deflected some kind of energy attack and it smashed directly into the hospital. Hundreds died, I was one of the few that made it out somehow. After that I gave up. I went home and decided I was done with this world. The news placed all the blame on the villain, praising the heroes that stopped him when the real problem was that super powers were tearing the world apart. All the heroes have inflated egos and don’t actually care about everyone else. Sure they talk about how they do but I know it’s all a facade.
Then, one day, a kid came to me, probably 16 years old. He had some kind of ultra powerful psychic power, but it was giving him unbearable constant migraines, he could barely eat because he’d throw up almost everything from the pain. He begged me to help him. In a way, I kind of saw myself in him. He didn’t ask for any of this and for reasons unknown that weren’t caused by him, he was suffering. So I helped him. I had built up something of a research and treatment facility in my home. I sedated him and hopped him up on whatever pain management medications I safely could. I took DNA samples from him, analyzed them but I couldn’t find anything. I knew I needed more to work with. I broke into another hospital in the city that I worked at frequently and gathered DNA samples from all kinds of supers.
I spent days analyzing data and eventually, completely on accident, I found it. It seems so random, but if you look at enough data there is a pattern. Every human being shares it. Every single one, except for me. Then I got to work. I used samples from my DNA and the DNA that I collected and was able to make a serum. A serum that would break down the code in the DNA that governed someones powers and replace it with my “normal” code. When it was done, I tested it on my willing subject. When he woke his migraines, and his powers, were gone. He was like me now. The only other powerless person in the world. He was so grateful, he offered to help me find others suffering from their powers so I could help them too. We found a few more, and tested the serum on them as well. It worked. They were normal.
I finally cracked the code. If I wanted to I could probably give anyone powers now by making new serums with the genetic code from others. That would be far too dangerous. Someone could become a godlike being and destroy the universe as we know it. No I have a better plan. My entire life, everyone wanted to know what it’s like to be normal. Well, I finally have a way to show them. I reworked the serum so that it could be ingested orally and with a few calls and some payoffs to some more shady characters that I’ve come into contact with over the years, I was able to gain access to main water supplies across the entire city. As I write this, my serum is already circulating through the water supply.
Soon after this, I’ll unleash it on the world. Now everyone will finally know what it’s like to be normal…
It has been two years since I unleashed my serum on the world, ridding it of superpowers forever. Now, it seems my time as a free man may be running out. Before that happens though, I’d like to give my account, from my eyes. Before the rest of the world demonizes myself and my actions. Although, they would be right to. I have completely changed the world. Devastated it even. I have some regrets, though I do not regret doing what I did. It seems a good a place to start would be after the serum started taking effect.
It took a few weeks before people started to really understand what was happening and by that time, it was too late to stop it. My serum had already traveled through the North American continent, the entirety of the west actually and the effects had just started manifesting in Europe and Asia.
Needless to say, no one took it very well. There were accidents, deaths, suicides, riots. What you would expect when an entire culture is shook to the core. I really did sympathize with a lot of them at first. Worksite accidents were very common at the beginning. Yesterday Jeff the construction worker could have lifted that 2000-pound I-beam. Today, though, he was crushed by it. People with super intelligence feeling their mind slowed down to what seemed like a standstill. They all would feel so· Normal. It was a beautiful thing.
Soon after, I decided it was time to seclude myself. With all the chaos happening it would be easy enough for me to slip away unnoticed. I packed up all the important things. My research, my samples, my serum and most importantly the “anti-serum”. I’m not entirely sure why I created it. The anti-serum worked essentially the same way as my serum, only, instead of programming my “normal” DNA into others I could write others DNA into someone. Essentially, I could give someone superpowers if I had samples from before my serum went live. Which I did.
I watched the world spiral into chaos as world leaders and researchers scrambled to figure out what had caused this. I was impressed when they found out it was the water. There were handfuls of people who were not yet affected by my serum due to them being lucky enough to be in situations where they were drinking solely bottled water. Researchers out in the field where fresh water was scarce, astronauts in the various space stations. To them, bottled water became more valuable than gold. I wasn’t worried about that though. There was only so much bottled water from before and soon enough, those remaining would be forced to drink my serum.
There was one person, who caught me off guard, that was left with there powers. Benjamin Wrigley, one of my few childhood friends. Loyal and righteous to a fault. He found me one day, in a diner in Wyoming of all places. I was amazed that he still had his powers. I had to know why.
My curiosity was my first mistake.
I asked him too many questions. I was too specific. Ben was never the smartest kid, but he wasn’t stupid, and his years of hero work must have taught him a few things. I found out that part of his power made it so he didn’t have to eat or drink. He was kind of like a plant. He could essentially photosynthesize sunlight into whatever he needed, he could stockpile the energy he consumed from the sun and use it to increases his strength, his speed, his bodies natural healing process. I never considered the small minority of people who didn’t need to drink.
I left the diner soon after and continued my journey. I eventually set myself up in a small house in rural Nevada. It wasn’t too long until Ben found me again. It was about 7 months after I unleashed the serum. I was watching the news, interested in how the world had been adapting and they were doing surprisingly well. People were finally starting to come to grips with their situation and began picking up the pieces. Stronger, more centralized law enforcement was formed. People began finding ways to do things without superpowers. The few superheroes that remained were doing their best to help around the world.
There was a knock at my door, around 2 in the morning. I got up and looked out the peephole. It was Ben. With hesitation I opened the door. I’d never seen him look so betrayed.
“It was you.” he finally said.
“Ben, what are you-” I couldn’t finish the sentence before he grabbed me and pinned me up against the wall.
“You did this to us! You destroyed everything.” He screamed. “You· you killed so many people·” he whispered, releasing his grip as I fell to the ground.
I had said too much when we last met. Somehow, he put together the situation. But how?
“Ben· I have no idea what you’re talking about.” I lied
“Don’t lie to me, Alex! We found you DNA in the water. It took so long but we finally found your poison. Polluting everything. Permeating every water source in the world. You’re a monster.”
“Ben· someone must have· used my DNA. Some villain must have created it using my normal biological code!” I kept up the lie, hoping he’d believe me.
“You were never a good liar Alex. The only villain left is you.” He looked down at me, rage-filled eyes staring daggers. Piercing through me. “I wanted to confront you myself. Before we released our findings. I wanted to know. Why? Why did you do this.”
He was right. I was always a terrible liar.
“You want to know why, Ben? So that you could all know what it was like to be me. Helpless. Weak. Equal. All these people running around with superhuman abilities. They were a menace! You go on saying how many people I killed, but did you ever stop and think about how many people you have killed?”
I was also never good at keeping my temper in check.
“I’ve never killed anyone, not even a villain!” He yelled back at me in disgust.
“We both know that that’s bullshit, Ben. Thursday, April 16th, 4:16 am.” I spat, looking directly in those burning eyes, watching the fire slowly fade as my old friend made the connection.
“I· I didn’t· it was an accident· We were at war!” I could see the anger flicker in his eyes, but also shame, regret.
“It took me a while to put it all together. But after I saw the footage. After I saw my hospital get disintegrated! I knew I had seen something like that once before. Tell me, Ben. Just how long did you have to bake in the sun to make a blast that big? A week? A month? Honestly· I was amazed. Amazed and horrified. The news wrote it off as a hero deflected some attack from a villain. But it was the other way around wasn’t it?”
“Stop.” Ben whimpered. Pathetic.
“That blast that Blackbeam swatted away from you killed hundreds of people. Men, women, children, doctors, mothers, fathers. Do you know how many lives were crushed because of your negligence? Did you even think about the damage that a blast like that would have caused, even if it did hit its mark? You didn’t, did you? All that mattered was stopping the “bad guys”. Well guess what, Ben? You were all the bad guys that night. That’s why I did what I did. I was tired of innocent people getting hurt. Caught in the crossfire of your petty squabbles.” I felt the passion again. The passion that I felt when I first started working on a cure for Kenny. The passion I felt when I first started working on the serum.
I stood back up, knowing deep down that what I did was right. The number of lives lost that my serum indirectly caused paled in comparison to the amount of lives cut short by superhumans over the years.
Ben looked almost like a ghost. He always did take things too personally, another flaw of his. But he never let anything stand in the way of what he believed was right.
“What’s done is done, Alex.” He finally spoke, regaining some of his composure after minutes of silence. “We’re going to let the United Nations know that it’s you who caused all this. I’ll be taking you to the authorities myself. You’ll be lucky if you just get life in solitary.” I felt his hands grab me by the shoulder, ready to pull me away and throw me in a jail cell.
“That isn’t going to happen, Ben. Not when I’m the only person in the world who can change this.” It was time to play my hand.
“I don’t want to hear any more from you.” He began, I could feel the spite in his words, almost like a knife against my skin.
“I have an antidote. I can give people powers again but if you take me now. It will never see the light of day. There’s no one alive who knows what I know, and by the time someone does unravel the secrets that I did, superhumans will just be stories.”
Ben stopped in his tracks “Why should I believe you.” He asked, not looking at me.
“You said it yourself. I’m a terrible liar.” I felt his grip loosen.
I took Ben to the small warehouse I’d set up my lab in. Another one of Ben’s flaws was that he would take any opportunity, no matter how unlikely, if it meant a chance to set something right. I opened the doors and ushered him inside.
“Here it is. My life’s work.” I exclaimed, motioning him over to the equipment. “If you bring me to the police, I will make sure that every piece of information I have is erased. You will have the answer, but none of the work leading up to it and without that, you can’t even use the antidote.”
He looked around, Ben was never very good at science, so he had no idea what any of this equipment did and hadn’t the slightest idea how my serums worked. The confusion on his face was endearing.
“I might as well explain. The way my serum works I mean.” I said, moving over to my computer. “Have a seat.”
Ben hesitantly sat next to me as I pulled up diagrams and simulations.
“The serum essentially rewrites the patient’s DNA. I found a very specific, unique piece that every superhuman has- well, had. We’ll call that the “S-block”. Once ingested, it starts to work. I found that I also have a very specific, even more unique piece of my genetic code. We’ll call mine the “N-block”. The serum breaks down the patient’s DNA, destroys the S-block which gave them their powers, and replaces it with my normal N-block, so that they don’t fall apart. This, in turn, rids them of their powers entirely. Making them normal. Like me.”
As he watched and listened, I could see the horror on his face. Was I playing God? Changing the very building blocks of human life. Did it really matter?
“The antidote works exactly the same way. Only this time it targets the N-block and replaces it with an S-block of my choosing. You will need a DNA sample from before I let my first serum loose and only, I know how to extract the S-block from it to make the antidote work. And, as I said, if you apprehend me now. All of this will be destroyed, gone forever. The choice is yours, Ben.”
Ben was silent for a while. Just staring into space. Thinking.
“I can’t just let you go, Alex.” He finally said, his eyes distant. “You don’t get it. I never came here to find a cure. I was sent here to bring you in. We don’t need you to cooperate to get the information out of your head.”
I knew I had no way to talk myself out of this. Ben never let anything get between him and completing a mission. I began to sweat. I felt trapped. Just like when I was a kid. When they strapped me down and performed test after test after test. I wouldn’t let that happen to me again. I would never be a guinea pig, strapped to a table while someone poked and prodded.
“It’s time to go, Alex. We’re done here.” He stood up and walked over to grab his coat.
It all happened so fast. BANG. There I stood, a smoking gun in my hand. Ben slowly turned, putting his hand to his chest as he grabbed at the hole. I could tell he was using his powers, trying to close the wound.
“I’m sorry, Ben. You never should have gotten involved. I wish you could have just let everything be·”
I felt sick.
“A-Alex· why?” He started, struggling to talk as he used up all the energy he had been storing to heal the wound.
A second bang as his wound was still closing, but this time I shot him right between the eyes. There was no way he could recover from that. I watched as Ben, once my best friend, fell to the ground. I still remember the look in his eyes. The sadness. The confusion. The shock. That was his last flaw. He never thought that I could be a threat.
I’d never killed someone before. That night, I killed my best friend.
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