Where was I? How did I get here?
The throbbing pain in the back of my head subsided. I slowly opened my eyes to be greeted to the view of a creaky ceiling fan in a dimly lit room.
My initial impulse was to get up. But some force seemed to hold me back. I felt the pressure on my forehead, similar to the one around my shoulders...wrists...waist…and even my legs. For a moment, I thought I was paralysed. Then, better sense prevailed. I was strapped to a bed.
“Well, well! The hero finally awakes from his slumber.”
I felt a movement to my right and a hand brush through my hair. My eyes strained to get a better glimpse of my captor. An old man with a receding hairline and one or two missing teeth greeted me with a menacing smile.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Nothing.” He said calmly and then took out a knife. In one quick motion, he plunged it deep into my heart.
I let out a blood curdling scream as I felt the steel penetrate my skin and puncture my heart. As he withdrew the knife, fresh blood splattered on to his face turning his soft white beard into a crimson red.
“Interesting.” He said with satisfaction, as he watched my wounds heal in an instant. “Hmm...seems like I found my own little Deadpool. Elsie, would have been so proud.”
“Haha...very funny. Now release me, old man.”
“Oh, don’t be so angry, Angry Young Man.” He said bursting into laughter.
“What’s so funny?” I asked angrily.
“Angry Young Man? Was that the best you could come up with? No wonder, no one bothers about you anymore. That’s such a pedestrian superhero name.”
Gotta give him that. I wasn’t really proud about my name. It used to be cool back in the Sixties when I started my crime fighting antics. But I must admit that it hadn’t aged well.
On the other hand, it was better than being named after some random animal. I mean, what’s with these superhero names - Antman, Batman, Spiderman? Seriously? And think of the whole trouble you had to take to design the suits and capes. You would have had to engage a PR team for that. Nope. I was here to save people. Not to build a brand.
“So are you done with me, Doc?”
“Ah! Quite the detective! So you deduced that I’m a doctor! You aren’t as stupid as I thought.”
“Isn’t it obvious? The lab coat quite gives it away, doesn’t it? Not to speak of this little contraption, you got me on.” I said trying to wriggle my way out. No luck.
“Mm. Just give me one more minute, kiddo. I’ll leave you in a jiffy.”
Sometimes, I wish I had super strength as my super power. That way, I wouldn’t have to put up with these lunatics. Just break the bonds and beat him to pulp. But sadly this wasn’t pulp fiction.
So I waited for him to release me, while chuckling at my own lame joke.
“It wouldn’t be right for a doctor to leave his patient without giving an injection, would it?” He said as he raised a hypodermic syringe. “After all, one must do justice to cliche.”
“Be quick, old man. I have got better things to do.”
I have been in this situation quite a few times in my long career. Knives, guns, explosives...why, one lady even tried to poison me. Poison Ivy, perhaps? Or was it a guy? Who cares?
“For a guy with eternal youth as a superpower, you seem to be in too much of a hurry. How many years has it been? Twenty? Thirty? Or is it sixty?”
How did he know that? Newspapers? Old files? Whatever.
I felt a slight prick on my forearm. Then he released my bonds.
“That’s it?” I asked suspiciously.
“That's it. You may go.” He said with a smile.
For a moment I wondered what to do with him.
I had expected someone like Doctor Strange. No...not the Marvel one...the DC one. But he looked far less sinister now. I could hand him over to the police. But on what charges? Besides, the police might be more dangerous than him. Who knows? We live in strange times. I decided to let him go. Would save me the paperwork.
“Give it time.” He said as I brushed past him.
“Take a deep breath.”
“Come on, Doc. I don’t have time for your nonsense.” So saying I pulled the door open.
“For once you are right.” He whispered.
And then the serum hit me. A burning sensation in my stomach. Flames licking my skin. A shock running up my spine. Ah! The pain!
“What witchcraft is this?” I shouted.
“Don’t you remember how you got your powers?” He asked as he shut the door that I had just opened.
“I- I- Thefire-”
I gasped for breath. All the old wounds seemed to be reopening at once. It was hard to keep my head straight.
How did I get my powers? I didn’t know. I only found out while trying to save a little girl from a burning building. Somehow the flames hadn’t affected me.
“You don’t remember do you? You were a simpleton who had volunteered for a cure for cancer. Only if you knew what you had signed up for.”
Yes. Now it all came rushing back to me. The doctor couple who were working for the cancer cure! That was a month before I first discovered my powers. Why did I not think of that? It was their building that was on fire!
“Poor Elsie! She died before she could see our success. Half of our research was burned down. And there you were hogging the limelight. The Angry Young Man saves the day. My blood boiled when I saw your name. I swore that I would bring you down one day. I worked all these years to find an antidote for the serum. And now finally, I have my success. Your powers are all gone. You are nothing but a mere mort-”
My knees buckled. I collapsed to the floor and the lights faded out.
I woke up in a hospital bed. I looked at my thin wrinkled hands. The skin even had some burn marks. All my powers had gone. Whatever that antidote was, it sure did its trick. Climbing out of my bed itself seemed a Herculean task.
“Gently, Grandpa.” said a nurse as she assisted me to a wheelchair and handed over some magazines.
Huh! Superhero comics. Wonder how she would have reacted, if she knew who I was...or rather who I had been.
So this was how the rest of my life was to be. Stuck in a wheelchair. Being pushed around like an invalid. The Angry Young Man! The great fall!
Suddenly all the anger came pouring in.
Why did I try to be a superhero in the first place? Could I not have just lived a normal life like everybody else. I remembered my childhood friend Antony. An average kid. He had got himself a nice little job, a little house, a beautiful wife and two fine kids. Lucky him. He must be enjoying his retirement days with his family.
And here I was! Gifted with eternal youth and regenerative powers! And what did I do ? Wasted it on helping others! Day in...day out...fighting crime...saving little kids from burning houses...rescueing damsels and dames in distress. And what did I get in return? Here I was sitting in a wheelchair...all alone and no one to call my own.
Alas! Had I used these powers for my own personal benefit! Maybe that Doctor Strange wouldn’t even have got hold of me. Maybe I would have been in some fancy island home, enjoying my eternal youth. Or maybe I would have been the greatest criminal mastermind the world had seen! Who knows?
I shook my head.
Who am I kidding? Would any of it have made me happy? Nope. I wonder. Is happiness the same for everyone? Or do we all have our own ways to be happy? Do we search and find happiness? Or do we create our own happiness?
As I pondered over these thoughts, I heard a familiar voice behind me.
“How is Tony doing today, Elsie?”
“As usual, Doctor. In his own world.”