I’ve had them since I was ten.
At the time, they were, well, probably the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. I had lived off of superhero comics and saw myself as the next one of them. Even though I didn’t exactly have a tragic backstory (my parents are alive and well to this day, I never experienced any sort of freak accident or was exposed to radiation, etc.), or any villain (yet), I saw those types of things as more of helpful motives to push the heroes along their journey. I was happy to be a superhero already so I didn’t need that.
I had pretty basic superpowers - flying, super strength, the whole thing. I didn’t tell anyone about them when I first got them - after all, no one in any of the comics was allowed to tell anybody so I wasn’t either.
I didn’t think my parents would want me to be a superhero at ten years old, so I waited for eight years. Eight long years where I fed myself on dreams of saving people, of flying from building to building, fighting villains and rescuing people. I wouldn’t say those eight years were terrible - I enjoyed them. I had friends, hobbies, and even though it sucked not being able to tell anyone about this part of myself, I managed to repress it because I knew that once I became a superhero other people couldn’t know my alias.
I waited. And I waited. And when I turned eighteen, left my parents, tried to find a small college that I could go to to cover for me being a superhero, I was excited. And then disappointed and frustrated. I don’t know what I expected - a mentor to show up and guide me on my epic journey, a secret society to surface and invite me in, a villain to appear for me to fight? Certainly not, well, nothing.
I went to my little college during the day and at night I tried to find people for me to save. I found a costume on Etsy. I established a patrol for myself to go on each night to look for trouble. I occasionally broke up a fight in an alleyway, or helped a lost child find their way home. Once, I found a homeless dog and brought it to a shelter. And, well, that’s it.
I wasn’t the person I envisioned, flying around at night, carrying children out of burning buildings and dragging super villains to the police. I knew something was missing. Maybe I needed a mentor. Maybe I needed a team, a group of other people with powers so we could work together.
I assumed there must be others like me. I mean, if I had superpowers, someone else must too, right? I tried to find them online. I chatted with strangers and found out that they were playing some role playing game or something and stalked people online and looked everywhere and found nothing.
I didn’t think it would be easy, but I didn’t think it would be impossible either. I had my
costume, my superhero name (I called myself Havok, a name I found on a backwater website that I liked. It was a bit chaotic, more villainy than I would have liked but whatever), but I still wasn’t a hero.
People didn’t need a superhero. Or at least, they didn’t think they did. They plodded through their dull, lackluster lives unaware they could have anything other than a soul sucking job they hated, a house they could barely afford, the goal of a white picket fence and children placed in front of them from the time they were a child that was pretty much unachievable. They were victims of a far greater villain that I had expected, one I couldn’t fight, and they didn’t even know it.
And maybe I was a victim too. During the day, I had a job in a software company. I was unsure about what exactly they were trying to do, and I mostly just sat on my computer all day doing very little. It didn’t matter, or at least that was what I told myself. I needed a boring, unimportant job full of meaningless people to cover for the fact that I was a superhero.
But I wasn’t a superhero. I was one of the meaningless people I looked down on, I was a pawn in the game I despised people for playing. And I couldn’t escape.
Because that’s the problem. If people don’t see the villain, if it’s right in front of them but it’s become so normalized they don’t even notice it, they won’t fight back. They can’t fight back. It’s ingrained in them. It is them, and you can’t expect people to fight themselves.
People need something material. I knew that, even when I was a naive eighteen year old searching for people to rescue. I needed someone to punch and kick and beat, and so did everyone else. People need something they can touch and hear and see.
I could see even then that people don’t ever think they need a superhero until they have a villain for the hero to fight. I was trying so hard to be a hero, but I didn’t realize that I couldn’t be one until they wanted one. And I needed to rescue them somehow from their uninspiring, pathetic lives. I needed them to see what they were missing. They needed someone they could fight so that they could realize they were capable of fighting.
They needed someone to kill them in order to see that they were dying. They needed someone to hurt them in order for them to realize they were being hurt. They needed me.
It was all fake at first. A couple of disappearances but nobody was ever really hurt. Some footage of me cackling evilly in a new costume floating around the internet. But nobody listened, so I had to be louder. I set off smoke bombs, burned down a few empty houses. Still nobody saw me. Nobody saw a problem in the society that allowed people to be kidnapped without them noticing. So escalated. I had to escalate. I had to keep getting louder until they heard me, saw me, hated me.
I only wanted them to fight for their happiness, I wanted them to be happy.
I was only trying to help them. I did help them.
They needed me. I was the hero. Or at least, that’s what I told myself because if I wasn’t, it was all pointless - the death, the blood, the chaos. The ends justify the means, I promised myself. What did they want me to do? Did they want me to sit back and watch as people suffered? I had to be creative. They made it so I had to be creative. What did they expect?
What did I expect?