by Stewart Wilson
The headline on the London Morning Standard catches my eye as it falls through the door. "World's Greatest Saves City!" The same shit will be on the Sun and the Mirror at least, maybe even the cover of one of the real newspapers. Tabloid trash. I don't know why I read them.
Nikki knocks me fully awake with a playful swat. "You saved the world again, superhero," she says with such a bright smile. I've often wondered if that's why she's with me. Not because she loves me for who I am, but for who the media made me out to be.
"I did. The brain-apes won't be coming back anytime soon." Hot coffee. That's what I need. Hot coffee and Nikki, for an hour or maybe three. "Fuck. What day is it?"
"Thursday. You're giving that speech at Imperial College, remember? And I have to get going, rent payments on this place are due tomorrow."
I shower and dress faster than the eye can see, and head on down to the tube station. I have to put effort into not being recognised. Hunch my shoulders just so, hope that this coat is dirty enough and my hair scruffy enough that people won't look twice. I hate the kind of reaction I get whenever I go out in public.
A poster on the wall of the station advertises Nikki's new book, "Superman and Man". Some dross about how to deal with metahumans in the dawning age, from what I remember. She's thrown in enough Age of Aquarius shite that I couldn't help but snigger at the first draft, and the cover certainly doesn't help.
There's a homeless guy below the poster. Out of nowhere, I decide to chuck him a fiver. He'll spend it on booze and drink himself unconscious again, probably freeze to death in a couple of weeks when the weather turns cold. On the other hand, I'm supposed to be a perfect example of a human being. I may as well play into the act.
People stare on the train. A young kid, maybe six years old, asks for my autograph. Three girls and two guys proposition me individually, then as a group. The opportunity to fuck the paragon of humanity is too great to pass up. I make some lame excuse about ejaculating with the force of a shotgun and killing them all and the train rolls into my stop.
I screw a cigarette between my lips and make for the university. A young Pakistani girl runs up to me.
"Yeah? If you want an autograph, you'll need a pen."
"What? No. I don't buy into that cult-of-personality bullshit. This is a no-smoking area, put that thing out. You're poisoning everyone around you."
Fucking smoke-nazis. I grind the thing beneath my heel, before the situation clicks in my head.
"Thanks. You just made my day."
I light another cig as soon as it's legal. Humanity. What a concept. There's a thousand thousand cars on the roads, each churning out more shit in a day than a smoker does in a year, and people don't see it. But that's the way of these people. They focus on everything small so that when some guy looks at the big and the weird they are something to be adored, worshiped. Sometimes, when I think this through, I get close to breaking point. Today, having seen the newspapers and been accosted by both those that recognise me and those that do not, I am well past breaking point.
Now I know what my speech is going to be about. I'm going to come clean. I'm sick of being a media phenomenon. Next thing I know I'm on stage; hair perfect, snappily dressed. Perfect for the cameras. As usual, the eyes of the world are upon me.
"If you will permit me, I'll skip the preamble and the build-up and get right to the point. It was my honour and privilege to be the first of the superhuman generation. The time has come to set the record straight on a few things.
"I am not what you all think. Your opinion of me as a person has been warped by the media and by your own human desires to make me the 'ultimate in human potential', or some rubbish like that. It's not just me. This is something endemic to all metahumans. Those who saw what happened had the chance to adopt secret identities. I never had that chance. My name and face have been a matter of public record. My sex life is in every newspaper and magazine from here to Kiribati.
"This is wrong. We are not prime examples of humanity. We don't believe Kurt Cobain was Jesus. We don't think that there is any validity in Scientology. We don't, as a rule, attempt to procreate with chickens and horses, or defecate onto our sexual partners. We don't live in little worlds inside our heads where small things matter but 'they' take care of the big things. You have made sure of that. We have to live in the real world, not the little bad worlds that we create.
"And, ladies and gentlemen, I am sick of it. Your wonderful, shining examples of humanity are that way because they -- we -- are nothing like humanity in general. We are what you want to be but are too scared to be. We don't do anything, ultimately, that you cannot. You're just too scared, or too lazy, or too busy fucking to care.
"I have a flat here in London. Last night I stopped an invasion mounted by intelligent apes. All that a human being is can be summed up as 'intelligent ape'. But it took me to stop them because they had drive and purpose. I came back to the sounds of my neighbor with his dick inside his pet cat. There's his drive and purpose. This morning my girlfriend had to go whore herself out to her publisher, promising details of what it is like to sleep with me so that we can afford the rent.
"This rant has a point, and this point is a revelation. I'm not from around here. I am not human. The one person you look up to more than anything to define your ideas of what a human being should be is not one of you. And I'm tired of pretending otherwise.
"I'm leaving now. Taking my girlfriend and finding somewhere that you pissant apes will not catch up with me. I am sick of telling you how to be you, and if you used the brains you have you would be too."
There's a barrage of questions as I turn from the microphones. I glare at the end of a cig, and it sputters alight. Gravity refracts around me, propelling me up into the air, and I am gone. For the first time able to be who I am, rather than who they think.