In the beginning, I was naïve— too eager to preserve life, too blinded by saving the world, and for centuries I did, but a sanctuary exposes one major flaw, overabundance. Humans multiplied. Cities Overcrowded. Agitation sprouted hate. Hellbent on destroying themselves the planet became their battleground— a war-torn dumpster, forcing many creatures into extinction. I couldn’t save them all. A species that once reveled in enlightenment and face-to-face connection now measures success by “likes” on smartphones— their thumbs replacing mouths.
Humans are pestilent, a malignancy sucking life from its host. I cannot sit by anymore.
I must destroy the disease.
12 weeks early—a death sentence back then. Heart failure; kidney shut-down. Prolonged ventilation, so his lungs collapsed. Ten chest tubes, total. His blood pressure tanked. His brain bled.
We were called to say goodbye to him on a rare occasion when we weren't hovering in vigil. We never left his side again.
We hung on. He hung on.
Heart rhythm stabilized; we cried. Blood pressure rose; we cheered. A drop of urine; we celebrated. His lungs stopped collapsing. 38 years later, he has no idea of his struggle to be what we non-heroes take for granted every living day: alive.
Conrad didn't know how much more he could handle.
"My god, what is he wearing? I know he's dumb, but is he also blind?"
"He looks like my grandma dressed him, rolled him around in her grave and then spat him back out."
"Ugh, he's dressed so bad I can smell it."
"Here, hand me your chocolate milk, I'll make this better."
Lou sat, oblivious, with headphones in. They weren't friends, but this was just wrong.
Conrad's anger outweighed his fear. He rose from his seat and stood between Lou's back and the bully with the milk.
"No," said Conrad.
She struggled as a kid in the Old World living off cans of tuna. She grew up and was eventually left with two growing girls in a new country and a husband who left to chase his lost youth. She ate tuna sandwiches again so her girls could eat three meals each day. She worked, fought, and saved to put those girls in good schools and break the cycle. My mom is my hero: the one who talks me off the ledge and gives me a hug when life gets unbearably dark, the one whose love is interwoven with sacrifice.
Mother is a verb
Not a morning person, she still awakened at five every day to cook me a warm breakfast. Weekly, in my lunchbox, PB&J was replaced by my favorite: fried chicken on buttered bread wrapped in foil. She worked hard, budgeted well, bought a house, made Christmases unforgettable, took me to Europe, brought me to plays and ballets, sent me for dance and piano lessons, and paid for summer camps as well as private elementary schools (I earned scholarships to high school and college). She came to all my theatrical performances (high school and college). A single mom, my mom, my hero.
For the World (And Never for You)
Ophelia hummed as she tore open her father's chest, ripping through tendons and muscles alike as she reached for the jewel within.
Her hand hit something hard, something metallic, and her heart began racing as she pulled it out.
It was a priceless treasure. The final piece of the puzzle, the irreplaceable thing that would tie together the universe. With this in hand, everything would be fixed. The world would piece itself back together.
Everything would go back to normal, and her family would be dead.
Ophelia gave a small pat to her father's arm.
Some sacrifices were unavoidable, unfortunately.
He picked up my broken pieces from the floor where they used to lie. He glued me back together, made me whole again. He was my knight in shining armor, and the reason I got up in the mornings, either reading the paragraphs he wrote me about how amazing I am after I fell asleep for the night, or waiting for the good morning text that was guaranteed to make me smile.
But that was when he still loved me, when he was my rock through it all. Before he walked away, taking all those pieces of me with him.
You see, my son is hardly a man at all. Completely inept at socialization. Shy. Passive. Boys bigger than him, stronger with him, even those without powers grind him into the dirt. And he is completely passive, completely absorbed in pursuits of "science" of all things.
A place for everything and everyone and everyone to their place. I'm sure in some circles his rambling would be entertaining. However in a world like this, with superpowers and super heroics there won't be a place for him.
"Last application of the batch."
"So did you choose the genre for this year's?"
Anonymity. A blessing and a curse. Hatred flows more easily, confessions thrust from sealed lips.
From behind a screen, a young boy types a threat:
My world is broken. I'll break yours, too.
No one takes it seriously until he's in the school with a gun. A scared little girl calls 9-1-1.
Police arrive: the boy bursts forth, waving an assault rifle that his dad gave him for his 15th birthday. Shots fired. He goes down. They check the body–– no pulse. The gun: unloaded. The press calls it suicide by police.
There are no heroes, no villains. Only victims.
How many more times will you force me to pick up this sword. How many more times will I slay your monsters. How many more times do I have to be a hero. What will make this end. When can I finally just be a husband and father. My sword is already at your neck. Are you going to force me to cut through it. Will that satisfy you. You expect more of me than they do. The people call me a hero, but you truly believe it. This ending may satisfy you, but it will only leave me empty.