I'm an avid reader of comic books and I've always wanted to do a superhero story. I wanted it to...
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The Rise and Fall
Annette picked an orange off the stand, pressed it to her nose, and inhaled deep.
“Eric this smells delicious, how many do you think we can fit in the freezer?” she asked, holding the piece of fruit up to his nose for him to smell.
“We could probably afford to buy all the fruit in Oklahoma and buy a billion freezers to put them all in,” Eric said, putting the orange to his nose as well. “Although I think freezing that many oranges would be a waste.”
popsicles honey,” she gave him a quick shove. He didn’t move. “I know you don’t like them but there’s a little girl at preschool right now who L-O-V-E’s them. Isn’t that enough?”
“True,” he smiled, enjoying all the fresh sights and smells at the market. It was one of the only staples that stuck after Texas. At this moment they were like every other couple there. No capes, no media, just a couple in t-shirts and jeans. No matter how many government jobs he was pulled in for or how many interviews they forced him to do, the market always stayed the same. As did his family.
“Uh oh,” she looked in her purse with a sigh, “Her snack is still in my purse. I forgot to give it to her when we dropped her off this morning.”
“Perfect,” in a swift movement he scooped her into his arms. She yelped and kicked, but all with a grin on her face.
“Eric! What are you doing?!” Annette laughed, leaning her head backwards to look at his face. Her brunette hair blew around her face covering her green eyes.
“Showing off,” he smiled lifting himself into the air. She squealed as the ground grew further away. The people pointing and shouting below shrunk into complete nonexistence when they grew closer to the clouds.
“I miss the suit,” she fake pouted crossing her arms over her chest. “Capes are the latest rage.”
“This is where our views differ,” he said traveling towards the school. He then paused to look at the ground beneath them, “Which way is west?”
“Better pull over to ask for directions,” Annette teased.
Eric flew through the window of the college building, sending a shower of glass across the tile floor. The gunmen screamed and dove for cover as Eric landed gracefully, the cape flowing behind him.
“Oh God! It’s him!” one of the men shouted and immediately set his gun on the floor. He held his hands up to cover his face, pulling the trench coat closer around him.
“Smart thinking, son,” Eric said with the bravado he practiced in the mirror everyday, “since we’re in a college I was expecting at least one of you to do the intelligent thing.”
The other two gunmen, both disgruntled students who’d taken the cafeteria building hostage an hour before, were pointing two shotguns at him. Their arms rattled in dread at the man who’d flown through a second story window.
In the mirror, Eric thought the outfit looked ridiculous. The long flowing white and red cape was gaudy and the dark blue leather suit with silver star in the middle was more like a children’s costume from Halloween City. For some reason though, most people seemed to surrender at the sight of the flag.
“Shoot him!” the first shouted, pulling the trigger, the second followed suit. Eric stood still and allowed the bullets to bounce off his chest to fall harmlessly to the floor, all with a grin on his face.
“For college students that was a pretty dumb move,” Eric smiled and allowed the heat to well up behind his eyes. Focusing intently on the gun barrel of the first he unleashed the projective blasts from his eyes melting the gun in the boys hands.
In a second, he dashed forward and tapped the side of the boy’s head; knocking him unconscious. The other two cowered and put their hands over their heads. They dropped to their bellies.
“Somebody did their homework,” Eric said recognizing how utterly absurd it sounded. But a camera was watching the whole event transpire. The President had asked him to put on a show. He didn’t like this persona. The ‘Captain’ persona, but drop out rates had plummeted since his unveiling. For the first time people other than his wife and daughter were looking up to him.
As if to confer with his thoughts, the room erupted into applause. Other students rushed forward in a mad dash to shake his hand. At first he’d believe something like this to be unrealistic, almost childish. But he was like a fireman to them. He carried a licensed to do the work; he’d gone through civilian safety training. He had the backing of the President, the senate, and the judicial branch.
He was a hero.
Eric sat in his armchair in the corner of his study. Outside his house people were shrieking at him to come face them. His wife sat beside him and his daughter cuddled in his lap.
“They had no right to say that to you,” Annette said, stroking his arm through the leather sleeve, “there was nothing you could do.”
“I messed up Annette,” Eric said, a tear squeezed out the corner of his eye and dropped onto the blue leather. “Half of an apartment building was destroyed when that man shot me.”
“How did it do that?” she asked, eyes wide in concern.
“Tifarium,” Eric said with a snort, “the guy was a fired scientist and figured out how to turn it into a weapon. And he did so with this,” he reached into the bookshelf beside him. He picked a thick hardcover book, “the book Ray and I wrote about our studies on the meteor. I didn’t build the gun, I just made the instruction manual.”
“You can’t blame yourself, honey,” Annette patted her daughters beautiful brunette head. “There was no way you could’ve foreseen this happening. You’re not God.”
“But they think I am,” Eric looked out the window at the protestors. “To them, I’m a god that killed ninety-eight people in an apartment building by being blown into it. By one accident I created orphans and widows.” He looked at her, eyes begging for answers, “I’m just a human, Annette. I’m a scientist. Why did I ever think I could be responsible for people’s lives?”
“You take care of us pretty well,” Annette ruffled her daughter’s hair. “But I don’t expect you to look after a whole country. Just go back to your work. Back to Ray, maybe tell him to keep some findings secret. If people are using it as weapons then something should be done to keep people out of danger.”
“I’m beginning to think tifarium itself is dangerous,” he looked over at the shelf where a potato sized hunk rested in a glass case. “Maybe even what it creates.”
Children yelled to one another in the large play structure hanging over Eric’s head. His daughter waved to him from the window of a plastic spaceship and he waved back. From the doorway, Ray Falkman walked in carrying the tray of fast food they ordered. He sat down across from his brother and divvied out the meals. From years past Ray had always been the one to sort the food when they were children. Several times he’d been caught hoarding fries. Even at this time, Eric noticed his packet was half full. It was these moments that took his mind off the apartment building and brought him back to the life he used to lead.
“So why’d you call me here?” Eric asked, keeping a close eye on his daughter. “I trust you didn’t want to race me to the top of the spaceship again?”
“I always lost,” Ray laughed, “but that is actually part of the reason I asked you here.” Ray leaned forward with arms on the table. He had transitioned into scientist mode. The sparkle in his eyes and wide smile betrayed his excitement. “I remember when we were kids and how you’d race to the top so quickly it left me in the dust. But you’d always come back for me and help me to the top. You had me in awe, man. You were my hero.”
“Why does this sound like a proposal for money?” Eric asked.
“Funny. But this is serious.” His brother looked up at the play set, “Remember when you first fell in the crater? I told people later that I was worried. But I wasn’t.” Looking back at his brother, his eyes glittered, “I knew you would come out of there. I knew you would survive. I had complete and utter faith you would. And when you flew out of that crater you proved to be everything I saw in you and more.”
“Easy,” Eric shifted uncomfortably, “if you keep sweet-talking me I’ll blush. Not that I’m not flattered, but I’m not God. I’m just your brother.”
“But isn’t this weird?” Ray asked, “I mean, according to the Bible, God made man. Right? So how is it that man can create something that’s even better than God’s creation?”
“Hold on,” Eric held up his hands, “First off I didn’t create myself. If anything I’m like DirecTV. The television’s already made, I’m just the add-on that enhances it. Second, these abilities weren’t made in a lab. It was some freak accident.”
A grin crept across Ray’s face like it had on Christmas morning, “Until now.”
Eric leaned forward with both hands on the table, “What do you mean, until now?”
“I wanted it to be a surprise,” his brother rubbed his hands together, “but ever since that happened to you I’ve been trying to duplicate the process. And guess what?” Ray pulled a rock out of his pocket and turned it over in his hands. With a quick pinch the rock crumbled apart to the floor, shattered. “What do you think?”
Eric looked from the remnants on the floor to his brother.
“Ray, how the hell did you…”
“All it takes is a proper amount of adrenaline, endorphins, copious amounts of liquid oxygen, and tifarium mixed into the bloodstream. That, and the meteor rock needs to be radiated with microwaves before being injected. I figured it out because of your claustrophobia, the wounds you suffered when falling, the oxygen tank, and the Texas heat on the meteor. I just needed to get the dosages right. You were the perfect accident.”
“So…you can do everything…?”
“Not yet,” Ray said with a sigh, “Like I said, you were the perfect accident. The best I can get for myself right now is strength, moderate invulnerability and some enhanced speed. But I think it has to do with different biology too. Some of the rats were able to fly an hour after injection.” He smiled, “Which just proves how you’re the hero. The Captain.”
“You can’t let this get out, Ray.” Eric said quickly, “Destroy the data. Burn it. Do everything you can to make sure no one else finds out.”
Ray’s smile wavered, “What? Why?”
“I could ask the same of you,” Eric said, tempted to hit his fist on the table, “Why? Why did you do this?”
“Because people look up to you,” Ray said, “and even though I love that, I think it’s a problem. People don’t know you the way I have. They haven’t seen you up close, but this way they can. They can see you the way I do, not from afar, but from right beside you.”
“I just can’t understand it…even after Seattle? After I killed those people from the tifarium gun? You went and tinkered with that junk even more?”
“It’s not junk, Eric. It’s the cure to stop those accidents from happening.” He put his hands on his brother’s arm and lightly squeezed. To Eric’s shock he actually felt his skin pressured by the grip. “I can understand how daunting it is to be who you are. And with one little accident people are determined to blame you for it. But this way I can get them to understand. This morning I ripped the door off my bathroom. I can’t comprehend how you controlled it so quickly.”
“I don’t want them to understand!” Eric shouted, drawing looks from other parents. He took a deep breath, then said, “Ray, I don’t wish this on anyone. Every moment of my day is spent worrying about hurting the people closest to me. I’m terrified to play tag with my daughter. Do you know what that’s like? Everyone around me is a paper doll and every object a glass figurine. At the end of the day I thank God that just barely managed not to hurt anyone.”
“This is exactly what I’m talking about though,” Ray shook his head playfully. “When you’re prepared you never harm anyone. Why? Because you’re my brother. All-powerful.”
“All-powerful?” Eric leaned backwards as if he’d been struck. “Ray…I told you, I’m not God. Why are you talking like I am?”
Ray smiled sadly, “Maybe you don’t see it, but I do. And soon the whole world will.”