Consciousness fades in and out, like briefly coming up for air before sinking back down into freezing cold water. For a few seconds in between lapses that could be seconds or centuries, I can feel the warmth of the sun as it pierces through the clouds. It always felt good to take in sunlight, better than a hot meal or a shot of adrenaline. For the short bursts of consciousness where I can feel it, it reminds me that I'm still alive.
When I was five years old, my kindergarten teacher had the class draw pictures of our families. Since the other kids and I were all barely more than toddlers, everyone only managed crude, simplistic drawings, just stick figures with smiley faces.
Except for me.
The drawing I gave Miss Schwartz was an explosion of colors, three vague outlines of the human form surrounded by swirls of energy, starbursts of light, bodies pulsing with dancing rainbow lightning. When the teacher asked what this was, I told her it was my Ma and Pa and me, just like I saw us.
Truth be told, that's how I see everyone.
The human eye intercepts electromagnetic waves and transmits them to the brain. While it's one of the most complex mechanisms found in nature, it senses only a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
My eyes can do far more. I can see the entire spectrum, from radio to gamma rays, detect minute ripples from sound waves. I can focus on individual atoms or focus further out into space than the Hubble. And what's more, I can see the energy emitted by living things, a kind of.....I don't know, an aura or halo, that inexplicable spark that separates life from inanimate matter.
Ma was always the religious one in the family, the most spiritually inclined; she believed that I could see people's souls, the way an angel might look at people. Pa, on the other hand, was more of a realist-- at least, as much as you could be when you were raising a strange boy from another planet. He never had much of an understanding of advanced science, but he was sure the answer was physical instead of supernatural.
The one thing they agreed on, though, was that I saw the world in a way that was completely different from everyone else. That was one of the first times I learned that in order to have anything close to a normal life, I had to suppress what I can do, scale it back, hide it under a bush.
The next time we had a drawing assignment, I just drew stick figures with smiley faces.
Over the years, I learned to narrow my vision down to the 'visible' spectrum, training myself to only see things the way everyone else saw them unless I absolutely needed to look in a different way. That conscious handicap eventually became nature, so I didn't even have to think about it, always just seeing the small band of colors, thinking of the air as empty.....seeing people as little more than stick figures with smiley faces.
"Superman? Superman, can you hear me?"
I'm pulled out of my haze of memory by another wave of warm, energizing sunlight. I open my eyes...
...and I see the swirls of dancing rainbow lightning again. I see a shimmering halo of vibrant light, colors I'd invent names for if anyone else could see them, the heart-breaking beauty of the human soul, positively singing with life.
Suddenly, I feel a smack on the side of my face. I blink a few times, to adjust my perception back to a more comfortable, human level, and I see a face.
"Hey! Are you okay?"
says Lois Lane, kneeling over me on the rooftop where Parasite left me.
"I.....nngh.....I think so,"
I say, sitting up with a grunt. Every muscle in my body is tingling like a limb that's fallen asleep. Parasite drained so much of my energy that I'd gone completely numb, and was just now coming out of it. "I had my powers....drained from me....but I think they're coming back."
Lois gives a relieved smile.
"Good to know,"
she says. "It wasn't easy finding you; this whole section of town has been blocked off by the police. They're worried you might have been contaminated or something, so the area's being evacuated."
"Then....then why did you come looking for me?"
"Because you saved my life,"
she says with a simple matter-of-factness. "Well, not just me specifically, but you saved everyone during the Excelsior incident, and that includes me, so, well.....I owed you one."
I say, awkwardly trying to get to my feet with limbs that are still having trouble responding. "Parasite.....where did he go?"
"The big shape-shifting monster?"
Lois says as she helps me up. "It made a bee-line for the LexCorp Tower. Luthor's L-Sec officers are trying to hold it off, but it's not looking good. What is that thing, anyway?"
"An anti-LexCorp activist named Rudy Jones,"
I answer. "He absorbs all kinds of energy just by touching it, then turns that energy into matter--that's how he keeps changing shape. He blames Luthor for the transformation.....and he's probably going to kill everyone in that building if I don't stop him."
"Well, why not just let him? I mean, this is Lex Luthor we're talking about here."
For a moment, I look at her with disbelief and disappointment. I mean, the few times I've met Lois when I was out of costume....or I guess in
costume would be more accurate....she always gave the initial impression of being a cynic. But that disguise was flimsy at best, her affected pessimism and indifference a defense mechanism to cover her thinly-veiled idealism.
So hearing her say that I should just let someone die, even someone like Lex Luthor, is a bit of a shock. Thankfully, I can tell from her heartbeat, from the tone in her voice, the way she avoids my eyes, that she doesn't mean it.
"More lives are at stake than just Luthor's,"
I say. "And I don't believe that there's such a thing as someone that isn't worth saving."
"Well, how are you going to fight this thing?"
she asks, this time the concern in her voice genuine. "I mean, you can't even touch him!"
Now able to stand on my own two feet again, I try to take to the air. It's a little shaky at first, but as the sun feeds me more energy, I gain more control.
"I'll think of something."
is all I say before I start to fly away.
Lois calls after me, causing me to stop and turn. "I don't know if you remember me, so I'll just re-introduce myself. Lois Lane, Daily Planet. And if you live through this, I want an interview, Superman."
"It's a deal,"
I say. "Meet me on the roof of the Planet Building at 8 o'clock tonight."
Lois nods, and I turn towards the heart of the city, towards the plumes of smoke rising from around the LexCorp Tower. There's a monster that needs dealing with, and a lot of lives in danger.
I put on as much speed as I can, still unable to go anywhere near my usual hypersonic velocity without my powers fully returned. At this rate, I should be at the LexCorp Tower in about forty-five seconds.
Hopefully that ought to give me enough time to think of something......
"I said stop using the shock cannons on it! You're just making it stronger!"
Luthor shouted into his wireless earpiece to the commanding L-Sec officer on the ground. "Switch to nerve gas weapons, now!"
"Sir, the creature's moving too fast for the gas to affect him!"
The officer responded. "If we blanket a large enough area to contain him, we run the risk of civilian casualties!"
"Those are acceptable losses, now do it!"
Luthor fumed angrily while pacing back and forth in the impenetrable bunker deep beneath the LexCorp Tower. The gleaming monument to his success, the symbol of a city and a world brought into the future, was now under attack by a monster he had no immediately available means of stopping.
The loss of life was not what made him angry. And while the damage to his company and the loss of profit certainly stung, it was hardly the root of the matter.
The situation infuriated him, because for once, he wasn't in control.
"The creature's breached our line, sir!"
the L-Sec officer's voice rang in Lex's earpiece in a panic. "He's tearing us apart! We need backup! Sir, we need help! I-- oh, God, NO--"
Luthor pulled the earpiece out in disgust.
Above, the Parasite wrought havoc on the LexCorp Tower, smashing his way through walls and floors.
he said to his android assistant, the calmness in his voice belying a boiling rage. "When this is over, you and I are going to have a very long talk."
The sound was closer now, the monster mimicking Superman's ability to see through solid matter. He was closing in on Luthor specifically.
The two-foot-thick titanium doors of Luthor's bunker came crashing down, as the Parasite, bloated and monstrous from the energy he had gorged himself on, reached his prey.
the Parasite groaned. "DiIIiiiiIiiiIIiIiiieEeEeeEEeeeEee......"
Tendrils bristling with teeth and claws whipped towards Lex......
......only to be sliced away be twin beams of laser light.
The ceiling of the LexCorp bunker gave way to a spinning blue and red blur, drilling through the impenetrable layers of armor that could stop a nuclear bomb. As the spinning blur slowed down, it resolved into a more familiar figure.
"If there's a way out of here, Lex, I suggest you take it,"
Superman said as he stared down the Parasite. "I've still got some unfinished business with Ugly here."