“I am a superhero. I know it, you know it, they all know it. So let’s not beat around the bush; I am better than you in every way. It’s not just my immense ego that sets me at such a high position; I am both physically and mentally superior to you. You want proof? Oh please, just watch the news. I’m on it everyday. Phantom Saves the Day Again was yesterday’s headline in the paper. I’m the Superman of the real world, but without the kryptonite and that loser Clark Kent alter ego. I am who I am, and I know it, and I am not ashamed to make sure you don’t forget it.
“I have no weakness. I am impenetrable, invulnerable, and perfect. There is no force in the universe that can stop me. I can fly and dodge bullets (not that they’d hurt me anyway). I can bend my body to fit where I need to go, and I can become what I want to become. I can see anywhere, through anything. I am the culmination of all the superheroes in all the comic books and movies you’ve ever read and seen, but I am one person. I am the ultimate; I am second to none. All other superheroes are sub-par and would only get in my way.
“Criminals fear me, for they know that once they see me, they have no chance of escape. Even the worst of the crime lords beg before me for mercy, as it is not always granted. I am free to take their fate into my own hands, for no force in the world could punish me, were they to disagree with my decisions on mercy. I am a force unto myself.
“I have caught fugitives and saved people from burning buildings. I have stopped natural disasters. I have proven myself as the invincible warrior. I am the envy of those men who know they can never be as tough and strong as I am. No weapon in the world can pierce me or bring me down.
“Do you think of me as self-centered or pig-headed? I would certainly hope so, and you would be too if you were gifted as I am. There’s a difference between being me and prancing around in both a pigheaded and confused state. I am not confused about who I am or what I do. My imagination has not taken control and deceived me into believing that I am something I am not. If you were to boast about your supernatural abilities, you would be laughed at, because you, in fact, have no supernatural abilities. When I boast about these abilities, however, I bring awe to those who hear me, because I then prove these abilities.”
He signed, Phantom, then put down his pen and stretched out his arms. His walls, ceilings, and floors were all covered with pictures of other superheroes and comic book characters, some of which he had drawn himself. He sat on a chair in the middle of an empty room, talking to nobody.
“What poor fools shall I save today? Once more, they will see me as their savior, as the only thing standing between them and death. Once more, they will know the difference I make for them. And they will praise me; they will lift me up.”
His eyes darted upward.
“It is time.”
He ran forward and threw open the closet door. In front of him hung dozens of black costumes. Dressing quickly, he darted out his front door and onto the sidewalk. His costume covered every inch of his body with a nightly black; no eye, nose, or mouth holes were visible, and no seams in the fabric were noticeable. The fabric was smooth, yet not shiny or dull. He glanced across the street, smiling under his mask and waving at his neighbor, an elderly woman dressed all in white, with a pink butterfly pin in her hair. She rolled her eyes at him.
He took the letter he had written and placed it in his mailbox, raising its red flag. He then lifted off into the air, leaving smoke in his wake as he headed into the city. His eyes were fixed on a department store building nearly five miles away.
Within seconds, he smashed through the side wall of the store. There were two men standing there, both wearing all blue, one with a knife raised above the other, poised to strike. He threw down the attacker, breaking both of his legs with one swift motion. He kneeled down on one knee before the other man, staring at the floor.
“You needn’t thank me, for I am merely doing my civic duty.”
He looked up, and the man had an annoyed look on his face.
“I suppose you’ll never learn, will you?”
“Learn? I just saved your life!”
“Of course you did. Now go on.”
“How dare you talk to your savior like that? If it were not for me, you and this whole city would be in ruins.”
“If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have to clean up this mess you’ve made.”
“Mess? Your attacker?”
“Yes, of course, my attacker. Don’t you have other poor souls to save?”
“Ones that will be more grateful, I’m sure.”
And with that, he left.
Later that day, he heard a knock on his front door. He opened it to see the elderly woman who lived across the street, still dressed all in white with the pink butterfly pin in her hair. “Hi Kevin,” she said. He stared at her.
“How do you know my name?”
“Why wouldn’t I, dear?”
“I am Phantom, that’s all anyone’s ever known,” he said, scowling at her.
“Yes, that’s right, I mean, Hi Phantom.”
He sighed. “Hi. What can I do for you? Who or what needs saving?”
“Nothing needs saving,” she said. “I just brought you lunch.”
“Oh, wow, well, nobody has ever done that for me before.”
“Of course, dear. And its time we had a little chat.”
“Have a seat.”
The two sat down around a table, and he started on his meal – salad, mashed potatoes, Jell-O, and a piece of watermelon. He gobbled it up like it was the best meal he’d had in months.
“We want you to stop saving people, and stop acting like a superhero, Kev.”
He stared at her.
“A lot of people complain about your… rescues.”
“You often seem to cause more problems than you fix.”
“But I save lives!”
“Of course you do dear, but it turns out that, well, people would prefer not having a superhero around.”
“Why not? Don’t you people see that I am out there for the greater good?”
“I know you may not understand it; you will probably never understand it. But this is the way of things. If you continue living as you do and doing what you do, you will face the consequences of your actions.”
“The consequences of my actions? Who are you, my mother?” he said, nearly pouting.
“Of course not.”
“Then what power do you have over me? No army in the world could move me.”
“You’d be surprised.”
“What do you mean?”
“Nothing… Just try to restrain yourself and refrain from doing your… superhero thing. It would help us out a lot.”
“Well, I’ll see what I can do. But don’t come crying to me when the city goes up in flames, and the criminals take over, and no one is there to stop it.”
“Of course. Bye Kevin.”
The room was dark and lonely, without a window, and in the middle was a bed. On that bed slept a small child, a boy, approximately twelve years old. He was pale and thin, with short brown hair and a freckled face. His arms and legs were held tightly by the bed’s soft restraints. On the floor was a backpack containing stacks of black papers and a roll of electrical tape. On the walls were hung drawings of a person dressed all in a nightly black color, with a costume showing no eye holes, nose holes, mouth holes, or seams.
With a gasp, the boy awoke, trying to sit up, but was held back by the restraints. Outside the door, he heard voices.
“This one’s gone crazy. A few weeks ago he was fine, but something must have happened in that brain of his.”
The boy screamed.
“No! No! No!” he yelled, slamming his fists on the rails of the bed. The door opened, and a tall older man entered. Behind him stood at least a dozen younger looking people holding clipboards. Behind them was a man dressed in all blue, mopping the floor.
“Shhh,” he said.
“You cannot keep me here! Phantom will come and rescue me!”
“Phantom? Far as I’ve heard, this Phantom character is dead.”
“What? You cannot kill him!”
“Well, maybe not dead, but at least on vacation.”
“I believe in him, I know he will come! He will come crashing through the wall at any moment!”
“I wouldn’t count on it,” the man said, then left the room.
The boy closed his eyes. “Please, oh please God, let Phantom come.”
He opened his eyes and stared at the door. He’ll come, he thought to himself. He wouldn’t leave me here. He owes me too much.
For two hours, he intently stared at the door. His hands grasped the bedrails, seemingly ready to make an escape at a moment’s notice. His face kept the same manic expression. A shadow appeared on the door’s window. He smiled. He is here.
The door opened, and a figure appeared in the doorway, but did not turn the lights on.
“No, he is hopefully long gone by now.” The voice was not Phantom’s, but was that of a woman.
With that, the lights flicked on. Standing in the doorway was an elderly woman dressed all in white, with a pink butterfly pin in her hair. The boy stared at her.
“What have you done with Phantom?” he said, hyperventilating.
“Why do you think I’ve done anything with him?”
“I know what you told him! You didn’t want him to be a superhero anymore. You didn’t want him to save anyone anymore! You didn’t want him to matter anymore!” Tears started pouring down his face.
“Calm down. News travels fast does it? I didn’t think your brain worked that quickly.”
“Never mind, dear. You just seem to know what Phantom is thinking.”
“I always have. It’s like we’re connected. I don’t know why.”
“I know you don’t, and like I said before, you probably never will.”
“What? When did you—”
“Now lie down and relax. You know, dear, the mind can be a powerful thing. It can change our circumstances into what we want them to be. It can trick us into thinking we’re someone we’re not, off doing things we’re not actually doing. Sometimes, if you want something bad enough, it can fictionalize it out of thin air. Do you know what I mean?”
The boy stared at the ceiling, motionless.
“I think you do. Remember what you told me when you first came here? You said, that so far in your life, you’ve never made a difference. You said you wanted to mean something to someone. You wanted to matter. Its all you’ve ever wanted.”
The woman injected the boy with a sedative, and he drifted off to unconsciousness. She opened up a folder on the table, picked up one of the papers, and started reading aloud.
“Mental instability, hallucinations, overactive imagination, delusional.” She sighed. “Sounds about right.”
She leafed through the other papers in the folder, but stopped when she came to a folded up piece of notebook paper. She unfolded it and peered at it strangely, then read aloud again.
“I am a superhero. I know it, you know it, they all know it. So let’s not beat around the bush; I am better than you in every way.”
She glanced up at the boy and smiled, then walked toward the door.
“Good night, Kevin,” she said, and she left the room.