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The Superman Experiment
“Now, we’d like you to focus on the metal shavings. Can you make them into a square shape? Good. Now put them all in your hand. Very nice. You can put them back now. Can you try to push them across the table. That one still needs work. Nice job today, Kim. We’ll see you back tomorrow,” the lady in the lab coat said dully. Her eyes glazed over as she scribbled onto a notepad.
Kim believed that she didn’t actually write anything of substance on that notepad. She believed that the nurse-lady just didn’t want to look her in the eye, and the doodling was a good excuse to avoid eye contact. It was the sign of a liar, a guilty conscience.
The doctors escorted her back outside, wires still connected, to a waiting car. She had a moment of panic as her hand stuck to the door. She concentrated hard and was able to release herself.
The drive back to the hotel was short and quiet. Once or twice she felt her hand fly to the metal knobs that controlled the A/C. It only reminded her how new she was and that she needed to focus more.
Focus. It was incredible how much the brain could do simply by focusing. Once in her room, she was able to move the coffee maker from several feet away. She still hadn’t gotten it off the table top, only because she was afraid she’d slam it into the ceiling, not because she couldn’t do it.
At dinner, she spun her fork on the table. She felt she had more control the closer she was to it. Kim put her hand a few inches above the utensil and began to rotate it, counterclockwise, then clockwise.
Tom sat across from her, his nose wrinkled as if he smelt something awful. This was Tom’s typical look.
“They’re making your steak well-done instead of medium rare. Should I say something?” He asked her.
“No, it’s okay. I’m not really hungry anyway.” She lost her concentration and the fork flew into her palm. Kim cursed silently and tried to disconnect herself from the fork.
“What’s the weather like?” Kim asked the short, gray haired lady next to her as she shook the utensil loose.
“High UV count. The government is also testing some new radio waves today,” the lady, named Hannah, responded.
“How do you know it’s government?” Tom asked, the bridge of his nose still wrinkled.
“It’s coming from air space that is illegal to broadcast from for any other institution. Plus, they try to hide it from me.”
The little group got quiet again. Kim desperately tried to think of some harmless small talk, but was too depressed to chatter.
The food was brought out. Kim’s steak was dry and tasteless, just as predicted. She drank her water instead, hoping the liquid would fill her up. She was too tired to order a new steak. Tom seemed to have a similar experience, even though his salmon was perfectly cooked. He sighed and stood up from the table.
“They’re finally replacing the soap in my room with something that doesn’t smell abominable. I’m going to draw myself a bath. Goodnight.” Neither woman responded as he walked away.
Hannah picked at her salad for a few minutes before she, too, got up to leave. She said nothing, but gave Kim a pitying smile.
Kim couldn’t go back to her room. She was tired, but didn’t want to leave the company of normal people yet. As the restaurant closed down, she watched the servers carefully. How wonderful it must feel to be able to pick up the napkin rings without having to utilize every ounce of mental energy to keep them separate from one’s body. The busboy picked up the dirty plates without gagging at the intense smell. The chef microwaved a few leftover meals for his staff without being overwhelmed by the electromagnetic spectrum that was emitted from the device.
Finally, a young Jewish man came and sat down across from her. He was wearing a busboy uniform: white shirt, black pants, sharp bow tie. But Kim knew he wasn’t just a bus boy. He was her confidant, her listener. His name was Samuel, and every night he would finish his shift quickly so Kim wouldn’t explode with the feelings and emotions that bombarded her every day at the laboratory.
Samuel said nothing, waiting for Kim to speak. But Kim couldn’t find the words to express her depression, her hopelessness.
Finally, she mustered up a phrase that she hoped would communicate her thoughts.
“I will not be Superman.”
Samuel still said nothing, staring into her eyes. Kim began to feel her hand become extremely attracted to the bracelet he wore.
Focus. Focus. Focus.
She gathered her thoughts, mustered up every bit of energy she had left.
“I am an experiment. They will never utilize my abilities for good. That was never even their intention.”
“How do you know?” Samuel questioned her in his calm, soothing way. Kim felt emboldened.
“Because they are the government. They only did this so they could learn how to detect when other people go bionic. No power can go into the hands of the individual, not when they have the ability to expose and serve justice.”
Another pause. “You could never be Superman,” Samuel whispered.
Kim felt frustrated. “I know I can’t be Superman, but can I at least be used for something worth while!” Samuel started to say something, but she cut him short.
“Take Tom for an example. He can smell anything and everything. Not only that, but he can identify nearly every smell. His sense is ten times greater than that of a dog. But will they let him on airplanes or bomb squads or police teams so he can sniff out bombs and guns and threats? No! Because that would be too much power in the hands of a single human.”
“But you don’t know that they won’t utilize your abilities. That’s an assumption.”
Kim shook her head, mascara dripping eyes widening. “See, that’s the thing. It used to be an assumption, but today, they tried out a new sense on me. I told them it didn’t work. But it did. I can hear through walls. And not only that, but if I focus hard enough, I can block out other noises to focus on one thing. And I heard their conversation, Samuel, I heard them.” She looked around, nearly confident nobody could hear her.
“They will exterminate us. Because they got us off the streets and nobody knows us or loves us, they can do away with us like that!” She snapped her fingers. Samuel flinched. “They don’t intend to use us. They intend to determine the strength of bionic people and then seek to exterminate anyone attempting to become bionic. Once I reach my potential, I’m gone.”
Samuel shook his head slowly, still hiding his thoughts as best he could. He didn’t want to scare Kim. Poor girl, she was already so paranoid and terrified. But he believed her. Despite her schizophrenia, her crazy ideas, her scary delusions, he believed her. Because he knew how the government operated.
“Do you remember what they told me when they recruited me for the experiment? They told me I would be Superman, the savior of the world. I would serve justice, rid the streets of criminals, wipe the tears of children. But nobody wants a Superman anymore. They want an all-powerful controller. Not justice, but numbness. I might just escape from here.”
Samuel nodded slowly. He stood up as she did and hugged her.
“What was that for?” She asked as she noticed the tears in his eyes.
“Just a goodbye, Kim. You’ve done great.” He turned away just as the tears spilled, just as he heard the mental shrieks.
Go in now! Go in now!
Kim’s experiment came to an abrupt halt. Tom and Hannah occasionally pondered her whereabouts, but didn’t have enough soul left to care. Those on the street forgot she existed and wiped their memories clean of her paranoid, impoverished life.
Samuel’s experiment also ended quickly. His family mourned his death. Why did he die so young? What had happened to the thriving, intelligent, psychology major they once knew? And why did the government insist on cremation?
The last thought Samuel heard was that of Kim’s.
If we had been born into any other life, I would have married him.
Samuel died much more peacefully than Kim.
He had always known they never intended to make him Superman.