My name is Ernesto Santiago. Although I was born in Castro’s Cuba and escaped to the United States almost twenty years ago, I did not exactly become free. I might as well have been born into captivity. The problem is that I cannot die, not because I have superpowers but because I do not have superpowers.
Three years ago, an unusually dark, previously undetected comet passed dangerously close to Earth. At the same time there was some kind of accident – they never were specific about what happened – at the Large Haldron Collider near Geneva. The combined incidents resulted in everyone on the planet gaining superpowers. Sorry, not everyone; just everyone except me. I could not believe it. I thought my good work ethic was what should have set me apart from other people. Instead, I became a freak because of what I was not.
I was able to hide the fact that I didn’t have superpowers for a while, telling people I could stay underwater without breathing for as long as I wanted. No one really bothered to verify this mostly because it wasn’t a very exciting superpower for someone who lives in Colorado. Those who were curious would watch me, become bored after a minute or so and not notice me resurface shortly after two minutes which to most people seemed like forever. (Holding your breath for two minutes is decent, though hardly ‘super.’) Then came the day a lady showed up at the pool with her unusually patient little girl. I don’t know if patience is a superpower; maybe it is considering someone’s age. The little girl noticed I could not do what I claimed I could do and exposed my inadequacy. I was eventually forced to admit I had no superpowers.
I was poked and prodded by doctors for almost a year before they gave up. They did not understand how this single man on all the planet didn’t have a superpower. Even men and women who gained superior intellects couldn’t figure it out. When the failure of their intelligence made the news, it made me all the more curious. People started to treat me like an animal in a zoo, something everyone had to see at least once in their life – a man without superpowers.
I became something of a celebrity which I grew tired of quickly, maybe because celebrity did not come with the usual perks, like attractive woman making passes at me for no reason other than being famous. I have never even made money off of my celebrity status; by the time I realized I should be paid for interviews, I had already told people everything they wanted to hear. Eventually, I became the butt of an unusual joke; supervillains came after me and tried to kill me (half-heartedly; they were not very good at it) and it was everyone else’s job to save me. Maybe these attempts and subsequent rescues were something of a game to super-people. Still, I had to say ‘thank you’ in case it is not a game to them though I think people are starting to realize I am not actually thankful. When I got cancer last year I admit I was a little bit relieved. It gave me an excuse to tell everyone to leave me alone and I could finally live out my days the way I wanted. Of course someone with healing powers would come along and cure me. They removed the cancer but not the curse and for that I did not thank the healer. Who wants to live as a novelty? I am very, very tired of it. If I cannot be like everyone else, I would rather die. But they won’t let me. I’ve jumped in front of buses and there is always someone there to save me because I am always being watched. They are always watching me.
Which brings me to today. I am sitting in the office of Dr. Johar, a physician whose superpower is temporarily taking away the powers of other super-people. She never joined the ranks of either heroes or villains and they don’t bother to ask her to join them. As a medical doctor who just wants to do her job, both groups leave her alone for obvious reasons. It is probably not a good idea to make her mad. Two days ago when I called to make an appointment to see her, I was told there was a two month wait until her receptionist realized who I was. Dr. Johar even paid for my plane ticket here to New York. Okay, so being a celebrity is not all bad.
“Ernesto?” a young, vibrant nurse calls from an opening door. (I mean ‘vibrant’ literally. She is glowing with a yellow light.) She shows me to Dr. Johar’s office and has me sit before the Indian physician and a large oak desk that commanded respect. She has a stack of my medical files in front of her.
“Mr. Santiago,” she begins, “I’ve been taking a look at your medical history. You seem to be in perfect health for a normal human, I suppose…haven’t seen one of you in a while as you can imagine.” There is a curiosity in the dark haired woman’s eyes that is distracting her. “What in the world brings you to me?”
I clear my throat. I want her to hear me and understand me. “As you know I am the only person in the world without superpowers. I thought you might help give them to me. You see, I’ve read about you. I know you can take superpowers away. I thought maybe you could take away my non-superpowers. I have no reason to think your powers work this way, but if they could, I would be indebted to you for the rest of my life.”
She is staring at me with her mouth agape. I do not think she was expecting me to say something like this.
“I..I don’t know what to say. I’ve certainly never tried to give anyone powers before. I’m don’t know whether or not that might work. Are you sure that’s what you want?” she asks. Is she serious?
A half hour later, after Dr. Johar has done some research, weare sitting face to face in front of a large open window on the thirteenth floor. The view is nice; I can almost see the park on the other side of the skyscraper that is blocking the view. Anyway, she has me close my eyes and I wait in this very comfortable leather wingback chair.
“What am I waiting for?” I ask out of boredom. I’m not sure she can help me. She might be my best chance which I guess is better than no chance.
“I’m trying to take away your…non-powers. Just breathe deeply, evenly and relax. Don’t be afraid,” she whispers.
“I am never afraid, doctor,” I reply.
A minute goes by. “Do you feel anything?” she whispers again.
Actually I do. I am tingling all over like I am being pricked by a thousand little hot needles. I open my eyes and…holy Mary mother of God, my hand is fading! I am starting to see through it like I am becoming invisible. But wait, why is everything getting dark? “Doctor, I am losing my sight! What’s happening?”
“You’re turning invisible,” she tells me in a heightened Indian accent. “I’ve heard of this, people going blind when they turn invisible. Since the retina of your eyes cannot detect light now, there are no signals to send to your brain that you are seeing something.”
No one ever told me of the downside of having a superpower! I rise out of my chair and spin around in confusion. I bump the chair and it almost falls over. How long am I going to be like this? “Turn it off! Turn it off!”
“Settle down, Mr. Santiago! I will take your power away. Just sit down and be quiet,” she orders me. I can hear her breath deeply; she is using her powers again.
There it is, the edge of my seat. And here come the heated pinpricks again. I am going to be okay so I sit back. Only, where is the back of the seat? And why do I feel like I am falling? Ah there it is, my sight is returning. And the doctor’s office window is receding – quickly. I think I have fallen out the window. Hmm, why am I not scared? I am about to die after all. Oh well, at least not being scared gives me more time to reflect upon my life. Come to think of it, I’ve never been scared all those times I tried to kill myself. Oh..oh, I think I have made a grave mistake. I do have a superpower. I have no fear. They never tested me for that! They never tested me fo…
All Rights Reserved (c) June 2016 John J Vinacci