“If you look for it in the Bible, you can see that God built a sort of immune response for evil into humanity. When the world needs someone to face down evil, it’s God’s will that brings forth the right person, or people. In fact… I think he has his hand on their lives from the beginning. He knows what’s coming, and makes them ready.”
– Jacob Saylor
In 2023 the Singularity will arrive.
Biotechnology, nanotechnology, Artificial Intelligence, and a myriad of other technologies will advance and merge. Mankind’s scientific powers will advance exponentially and blindness, paralysis, and nearly every other disability will be eliminated. Mankind will rejoice in their accomplishment and look forward to a golden era of peace and compassion.
But the dark side of humanity cannot resist the temptations that singularity technology offers, and rogue nations begin a series of dangerous experiments.
Soon the world is in chaos, with vicious human-animal hybrids, cybernetic soldiers, and out of control nanotech running wild. Hundreds of thousands of people die and millions are threatened. Then the Embodied appear. Birthed from the darkest underside of singularity technology, they have given up their humanity to become living technology and seek the total domination over humanity. Nations fall, armies are crushed, and their first attack on America leaves its infrastructure in ruins.
But then everything changes.
A young girl is caught up in the attacks, and a man with powers beyond our comprehention refuses to let her die. Unleashing superhuman abilities unlike anything the world has ever seen, he rescues her from certain death, shocks the world, upsets the balance of global powers, and makes himself the sworn enemy of the Embodied.
This is the story of that man… the first real superhero.
“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall… Always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
March 17, 2031
With his arms extended, he undulated the webbing between his fingers, feeling the flow of the current. Letting the river carry him and his team along like this was a welcome change. A typical mission usually involved critically tight schedules, and it took a lot of effort just to move around undetected. He was unaccustomed to being able to relax like this. But the downtime gave him time to reflect, and so he allowed the gentle swells and ebbs of the current to slip him into something like a meditative state. Occasionally, one of the muted signals of the river’s transports would tone out a warning or hail that filtered down to him, like the eerie calls of unseen leviathans.
The isolation that came with this kind of underwater travel suited Bao. It distanced him from the normal frenetic drumbeat of his life, and he was grateful. So he quieted his mind, and allowed the water to embrace him, granting a moment of drifting stillness.
In the constant bombardment of information that was his world, this was the closest thing he knew he would ever find to peace – this small moment of quiet. So as he flowed through the aquatic environment he drank it in. He knew there would be no golden years for him. He would not spend his last days in the quiet of a well-earned retirement. There would never be a warm home filled with the tiny footsteps of children.
No, Bao knew that his end would most likely be very different, filled with pain, fear, and desperation. He would not spend his last moments surrounded by family. His only companion in death would be the aching loneliness known by those who perish alone.
That thought, and the inevitable chain of self-recriminations that followed, were abruptly cut short by the soundless click of his neurolytic comm.
>: Target in four hundred meters.
>: One minute twelve seconds to range.
>: Passive sonar engaged.
In response to the last phrase, deep green light illuminated the waterway ahead, showing him a tightly gridded rendering of every surface. Bao mused, not for the first time, about the clear sterility of the voice of the feed. Impersonal as it was, the intrusions of this factual data had grown comforting and familiar to him. Over the years it had become like an angel on his shoulder, whispering, and feeding information directly into his cerebral cortex. Like a sixth sense, this toneless voice gifted him with knowledge of his world that went far beyond human perception. With fearful dread, and an oddly perverse feeling of superiority, he knew that its loss would bring him a silence so profound that it would unquestionably lead to madness. He also knew that this was probably the very last thing he should be dwelling on. If he were to ever devote himself to creating a list of the reasons he had for fear, it would stretch beyond the horizon long before he finished.
So Bao had embraced this strange new window into the unknowable. It was his neurolytic seraphim, his beacon, and his personal line to the digital gods. Although removing it would tear out an irreplaceable part of his soul. Bao was resigned to the fact that he would more likely face death before the loss of his muse. It was one of the few cold comforts he had.
>: Initiating sensory integration.
>: One hundred fifty meters to target.
>: Twenty seven seconds to acquisition range.
Bao felt the sickening but familiar wave of nausea as the alien input of his team mates senses streamed into his occipital lobes, hypothalamus, midbrain, and auditory neural clusters. It slammed and jangled across the taut strings of his disciplined mind like a chorus of broken instruments or shrieking animals. Unlike the other “gifts” from the state, his neurology was not adaptable to this overload. Secondary systems kicked in to filter and tune the flood of sensations to something he could process. Slowly, it dampened and smoothed itself out, eventually gliding over his perceptions like the cool skin of a woman’s caress… or perhaps the reptilian slither of some more bestial bedmate. Often the sensation would revisit him before sleep, and he would struggle to distinguish which it was – or which he would prefer. But the query was moot and he knew it. This new life precluded either the caresses of love or the creeping sensations of serpentine touch. The donning of war’s armor requires payment and his price had been intimacy.
He sometimes wondered how the women of his unit experienced these things. Were their sensations the same, or sexually inverted in some way? Did it touch them with the strong calloused hands of some past lover, while also simulating some equally revolting counterpart? Bao had never ventured to ask, even during the transformative years when they had each left their humanity behind. There had been many larger issues to concern themselves with as they learned their new bodies. There were things that were lost. There were things that were gained. There were things that remained difficult to define or express, even now. An overwhelming sense of physical dislocation had been something they often suffered back then. It was a struggle for them all, but for some it had reached crisis proportions. One of the men had failed his psychiatric evaluations and been summarily decommissioned. One of the women – Li Xia, code named ‘Two’, had edged dangerously near to madness. But Bao had intervened, stepping in to bring her back from the edge. It had taken months of mentoring, meditation, and therapy for her to strengthen, but now she was his most trusted teammate, and more importantly… his lover.
She was a passionate woman, attacking their feverish and sometimes painful couplings as if she sought to wring every last drop of experience from what was left of her femininity. He enjoyed their time together immensely, but like everything else that made them who they were he knew it would eventually fade. Such things were inevitable as he and his teammates travelled down what they had been conditioned to know as the golden path. Family, friends, and flesh were the price of the irreversible course they took and it gave no quarter to those who sought to tread it.
>: Ten meters to target.
>: Target within acquisition range.
Bao focused his attention on the curved and mossy surface looming ahead. He knew he had to time this right and that he would not get a second chance. He had learned at the last bridge that the current here was swift, precluding anyone from swimming upstream regardless of skill or physical prowess. If he miscalculated, he would simply slide off or bounce away. That would leave Two to lead the team in completing this part of the mission, and Bao would have to rendezvous with them downstream. In all the time they had been together as a unit Bao had never let his team down, and he wasn’t about to start now. In his peripheral vision he monitored the proximity readings cycling rapidly down to zero.
Then, in a carefully timed, but seemingly casual gesture, he reached out and pressed his right palm to the green slimed surface as it slid by. Instantly, his hand adhered to the underlying concrete and the current swung him around. Pressing his left palm to the surface gave Bao a second point for leverage and he used that to press the balls of his feet to the structure. Clinging there like an underwater Spiderman, he paused to focus on the extraneous streams of information still coursing over his brain. Through his teammates senses he observed them as they grasped and clung to the massive bridge support. Then he keyed open his comm and coded out their orders.
>: Two and Three – Surface, secure the perimeter and deploy counter surveillance
>: Four and Five – Prepare the grappler and wait for signal from Two
>: Six – Decant the ordinance
>: Seven and Eight – Secure the underwater skiff and await further orders
A single click from each of them was the only acknowledgments he received. Four, Five and Six swung the watertight packs on their backs around to their chests and began quickly assembling equipment. Two and Three rose silently to the surface. They barely left a ripple as they allowed only enough of their heads to rise out of the water so that they could see. With as much speed as was possible while still remaining carefully adhered to the bridge support, they scanned the shorelines for hundreds of meters in both directions. Bao knew by skimming their shared perception, that there was no movement or body heat visible.
Then Three stiffened slightly, and Bao felt a short, controlled burst of tension and focus across their connection.
Knowing from his years of experience with her that she needed no guidance, Bao kept his silence as she detached a small sphere from her side and carefully adhered it to the cement an arm’s length from the water’s surface. In seconds, the micro scanners within the device connected wirelessly to Three’s cerebral implants for targeting data. A half second after the connection was made, an invisible beam of light stabbed across the hundreds of meters to shore and focused in on a surveillance camera mounted above a riverside restaurant. The intensity of the light driven into the camera lens caused massive diffraction, and ensured that any viewer would see nothing but bright white haze.
Bao knew the tiny laser had enough power for thirty minutes. More than enough time for his team to do their job and be many kilometers away before the camera’s eye could see again.
Two signaled an ‘all clear’ through her comm, and in response the rest of the team rose swiftly to the surface. With military precision they unloaded the underwater skiff they had been towing. From within its watertight hold came tools, equipment, explosives, and a climbing device they had termed ‘the grappler’. A sinister looking thing, it had an angular body and long spindly legs that the team adhered to the bridge support. Once it was secure, Six connected a pitchfork shaped head to the device, detached the trigger, and sent a signal that they should move to a safe distance.
Silently the team sank back beneath the surface to a safe depth and Six triggered the grappler. A deep, powerful thud sent a pressure wave through the water as the serrated spikes rocketed upwards into the bottom of the bridge’s lower deck. Two embedded themselves less than 30 centimeters from each side, while the third sank deeply into the structure’s center.
Rising back to the surface, the team split into pairs to connect speed winches to each line. They clipped themselves on, and skittered up the cement surface like the venomous black insects of some screaming nightmare. Had anyone been watching, it would have been the fuel for a lifetime of night terrors. For the black figures that rose from the water looked like men and women, but moved with an inhuman grace that would have chilled the blood. None of the tiny moments of rest that checker every human effort were present. There was no leaning for support, or pausing to let the lactic acid flow from an aching muscle. The dark figures simply glided effortlessly about in complete defiance of the laws of nature.
The initial horror incurred by the eyes of that phantom witness would not have been the last though, for seconds later they would have felt that something else was wrong about the demonic figures. Then it would hit them… although perfectly proportioned, and as ideal an example of the human form as had ever been seen, they were completely out of scale to their surroundings.
Each of the languid abominations was easily twice the height of a normal man. Massive fists gripped lines and stuck to bridge surfaces. Powerful arms rippled with undulating muscles that never twitched, shook, or strained. Colossal legs held them in place without shifting or effort and helmeted heads swiveled on muscular necks. Naked though they were, they showed no sign of discomfort, and their sexless black, snakeskin bodies gleamed in the moonlight.
Setting to work efficiently, the team bored holes to the proper depth in the bridge support, and mounted their explosives inside. Once long range remote triggers were inserted, everything was covered with fast drying foam that blended the holes into their surroundings.
Bao was pleased; the setup of their fifth target was going as smoothly as the first four. If he still had lips he suspected he would have been smiling. In less than three minutes they triggered their winches in a perfectly synchronized dance and ascended again. Repeating the procedure twice more brought them to the bottom surface of the lower deck. Quickly, each team coiled up their line, and began crawling upside down like nightmarish insects towards the second support structure. Beneath them the cold waters of the Ohio swept on.
This was not the first time the river had brought forth murderers, and it would not be the last.
Jonah 2 1:10
“Raffiniert ist der Herrgott, aber boshaft ist er nicht.”
(“Subtle is the Lord, but malicious He is not.”)
October 23, 2027
Jacob lay curled in a fetal position, muttering indistinguishable words and low moans as he turned. The single sheet on his cot knotted about him as his hands grasped and clutched. Deep within his mind, memories and visions battered him.
He was in the dream again, helplessly pulled down a path he knew all too well. No matter how hard he fought or struggled it was futile. The journey could begin anywhere in his past, but would always end the same way – at the dark and burgeoning fate he would do anything to escape.
He knew he would be taken back to the nightmare and torture soon, but not before visions of his wasted opportunities and failures would be dangled before him. It was already happening. A point of heartache that would serve best as a doorway to his pain was working its way to the surface.
Jacob watched his childhood flash by. The confused and astonished looks adults would give him when he asked questions they couldn’t answer… questions that had never occurred to them. He overheard his minister telling his parents that he was gifted, “with an innate talent for interpreting the Bible.”
He watched, as he and his brother Aaron fought back to back behind the school against four older boys. He saw the look of panic on his mother’s face when they stumbled home, bloody and bruised. They sat quietly in the truck the following day while their father spoke with a Karate teacher two towns over. Then he felt his father’s firm handshake when he earned his black belt. The first touches of manhood spread over his heart on that day, a strange mixture of self-respect, excitement, and loneliness.
Now High School came, and with it a fascinations with girls, Bible study, history, and mathematics. He saw Aaron winning their first martial arts tournament. He felt the ravenous hunger of his intellect, as he had skipped classes and still managed to make perfect marks. He remembered running track, competing on the school wrestling team, and stepping in the way of every bully he could find. The bruises he and his brother had received from that first fight had faded, but a complete intolerance for senseless aggression had taken their place. He wept as he dug a small backyard grave for the beagle who had been his childhood best friend. He watched as the door to his innocence closed.
He stood paralyzed with the rest of the world, and watched as a mushroom cloud foiled up on his family’s TV. The city of Mecca had been vaporized in an instant of radioactive revenge. He saw the furrow of worry that crossed his father’s brow whenever there was news about the Middle East.
He remembers seeing confusion (and fear?) on the face of his Advanced Physics teacher when she looked over his latest theories. He felt wonder and excitement at the intricate, irrefutable, and interdependent connections he discovered between religion, history, and physics. He filled his room with piles of notebooks and papers that were only rivaled by his book collection in size and scope.
He recalled how he had confounded and infuriated his teachers with impossible questions, and yet he somehow remained oblivious to the hopeful looks that many girls cast at him from under their dark lashes. He blushed, remembering when Theresa Vallard, a girl whose plump lips had filled the fantasies of many of his classmates, pulled him under the bleachers and french kissed him. He blushed even more when he thought of their Prom night together.
Later, acceptance letters and scholarship offers had streamed in, with Harvard, Yale, and MIT among them. He remembered the horrible guilt he had felt explaining to his parents that he wanted to go to Divinity School instead.
Then he remembered the day Aaron had revealed to the family that he had joined the Army. Admiration and confusion had flooded him when his brother had explained why he had to help fight the new Caliphate Alliance.
He relived the silent ride when his father drove him to Divinity School. He recalled the tearing and confusion he had felt in himself as he waved goodbye. Then with a final look back at his father’s receding truck, he had turned away from the school, and instead of going in to register, he walked away. It was a simple and innocuous movement, but it was the one that had turned him away from any hope of a normal life. Instead, he watched as his younger self ate alone in the corner of a diner and wrote a letter his parents. He felt the rain that had come down while he sat there. He remembered how he long he had wrestled with his conscience.
Then the memories pulled him roughly from his role of observing, into actually reliving the dream. With a shove they took him back to his first mistake, his first failure. The moment his foot was set upon this path. The path that led to his damnation, the path to hell. It all felt as real as when it happened eight years earlier, but strangely hollow. He knew the distance he felt had little to do with the miles or time that separated him from that event. Instead, it was the boy that stood there, and how innocent he was, that made Jacob feel remote. Looking at his younger, more naive self filled him with mourning.
Then he was standing under the tree in front of Estes Chapel, shivering in the predawn light. Rivulets of water ran down the stately columns and red bricking. The olive green canvas pack over his shoulder held the new workslate his parent’s had bought him. It was the latest device to merge tablet, laptop, phone, and other technologies together, and was an extravagant gift for a family of their means. He felt guilty about how much it must have cost them, but he was still glad he had it. The foldable, glassy, palm sized powerhouse would be invaluable for the work he was about to undertake. So he had packed it carefully among his clothes, basic hygiene necessities, and three favorite books. He had debated on scanning them into the slate to save space, but in the end couldn’t bring himself to do it. There was just something about holding them in his hands that he couldn’t give up.
The first book, his father’s heavy leather bound copy of the NIV Bible, was barely held together by a motley assortment of tape, staples, and rubber bands. Its struggle to retain some semblance of integrity wasn’t helped by the scraps of paper, post-it notes, maps, and sketches stuffed into it. The volume looked more like the research tome of some eccentric biblical archaeologist than the possession of a seventeen year old boy.
The second book, an equally worn and abused “Apocrypha, The Deuterocanonical Old Testament”, had the misfortune of being a paperback edition, and so had given up all attempts at staying in one piece. Absurdly, this maimed volume appeared to have even more notes and pages crammed into its pregnant and duct-taped form than the leather Bible.
The last book was also a paperback, titled “The Quantum Conundrum” by Frederick DuPrie Ph.D., and appeared to have only begun its journey towards disintegration at the hands of its owner.
Jacob could feel cold dollops of rain dripping through his hair and streaming unwelcome into his collar. His flannel work shirt clung wetly to him, revealing a profile built through years of hard work. The same was true for the jeans that adhered to his legs. His waist, although not narrow, was compact and cinched by a wide leather belt. Only his feet were still warm, safely encased in wool socks and the gortex boots he bought the previous day.
For a moment he considered pulling the scuffed black leather jacket in his pack out, but decided to let it be. What was the point? He was already soaked to the bone and more or less water wasn’t going to make any difference. The sun was coming up anyway, and soon some dedicated man of the cloth or a zealous student would notice him if he wasn’t on his way. So he stepped back behind the elm, hoping it could shield him from discovery a little longer.
Then he heard it, the hiss and squeal of air brakes as a school bus pulled up behind him. The bus filled with the missionaries he had joined, headed for the Sinai Peninsula. So, with a last longing look at the chapel he turned and walked away. The bus doors slapped open, and he pulled his workslate from his pack as he boarded. Once in his seat he turned it on and pensively contemplated the letter to his parents. He knew the effect it would have on them, but he also knew there wasn’t anything for him at Divinity School, or any other school for that matter. The answers he sought could only be found in Sinai.
So he thumbed the “SEND” button and closed his eyes. There was no going back now.
In the Valley of the Shadow
“We’ll never survive!”
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
― William Goldman, The Princess Bride
October 7, 2052
Purpose of recording:
Addition to Library of Congress Quantum Mechanic archive records.
Confirmed Quantum Mechanic Incidents and/or encounters
First person dictation transcribed by Marcus Lillian, Federal Bureau of Investigation
ML: OK you can begin whenever you want. Just start by introducing yourself and maybe giving us a little bit about why you’re doing this.
JS: Oh, alright. Well, I’m Jessica Saylor. I’m thirty two years old and I’m from Wexton, Kentucky. Been there most of my life, but I traveled for a while, and I got to see a lot of places. Most of Europe, Australia, Japan, Korea, and some of the Middle East…. or at least what’s left of it.
I guess I’m just here to tell my story. I think it’s important we get everything straight about what happened. There are a lot of crazy people out there with crazy ideas about him, and crazy ideas about me. I think they’re just plain crazy really. I mean, I can’t even search my name on the internet anymore. All I get are conspiracy theory and religious nutjob blogs. Kinda sucks.
Funny thing is, the truth is a lot more complicated, and unbelievable than anything they could make up. In a weird way it’s also a heck of a lot simpler, at least as far as having all of it make sense in the end. I should know, I mean – I was there.
A lot of people think I’m important or something cause I was the first person he saved, and then he just had to keep saving me over and over. Sometimes I wonder if he ever got sick of me like… ‘What? Didn’t I just save you? What the hell?’ Wish I could have returned the favor once. I guess that whole thing in Subic Bay was sorta mutual in a way. But in the end if he hadn’t been there we all would have been fish food. So he gets credit for that one too if you think about it.
You remember how Lois Lane always just happened to be wherever the shit went down? Bomb threat to a building? Lois is having lunch there. Evil genius takes over the mini mall? Lois is there buying tampons. I mean, Superman should have just put a GPS on that woman, you know? I guess I was sorta like QM’s Lois. Maybe I still am. I dunno.
But you know what irks me? He saved a LOT of people. Thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands. But all the nutjobs wanna talk about is me. I’m no more important than any of those other people. They count too, you know? I was just closer to things. That don’t make me special.
ML: It all started at the bridge attacks back in thirty one, right?
JS: Yeah, that’s how it all started I guess. It was what got him to come out of hiding. That’s when people saw what he could do – when he saved me. Sometimes I wonder if he would have kept it all secret if we had just been a little farther back on the bridge, or forward. Either way I would have died and he wouldn’t have felt like he had to rescue me.
I guess it doesn’t matter now; but that whole thing messed me up pretty bad. I was just a kid you know? I was eleven, and I was with my mom and dad. We drove onto the Brent Spence bridge right before they set the bombs off. I lost my mom and dad in like… a second. Happened right in front of me too. I saw the whole thing. It was like everything about who I was, or what I thought my life was, just exploded. My whole world blew up in my face… literally.
I didn’t really remember why we were driving up to Ohio. But my uncle Jacob was there and he told me later. He said they were going to look at this 69 Camaro some guy was selling. Dad thought maybe they could fix it up, resell it and make some money. Things were pretty tight I guess, and Dad loved cars. Uncle Jacob is amazing with them. Like he’s Car Rain Man or something. I mean, he hardly ever talks, and I think if a girl ever kissed him he would… explode. But he can just look at a car and know what’s wrong with it. Fixes it with a rubber band and a bobby pin you got layin around and somehow the car’s BETTER than it was before it broke. It’s kinda scary.
My Aunt Janelle… well I guess she’s my great aunt really, cause she’s my dad and uncle Jacob’s aunt. Well, she says Uncle Jacob was real different when he was growing up. But then he came back from the Middle East and he just wasn’t the same. Like he died, and some other guy came back in his skin. But she said he was getting better for a while, seemed like he might come back some. Then dad and mom died right in front of him……. and he couldn’t do anything…. couldn’t help me. Just had to stand there and…. watch. I think it broke him, you know? Like, really really broke inside. He doesn’t ever smile or laugh or make jokes, never cries. Doesn’t really talk unless someone asks him something, sometimes not even then. Aunt Janelle says that’s how you know he thinks your question is stupid… or you’re stupid. He don’t answer stupid.
So anyway…. me and mom were gonna go up to Aunt Janelle’s and get our hair cut because she used to be a hairdresser. Dad was driving us there and Uncle Jacob was following us in his flatbed truck. Dad wanted it in case he decided to buy the car. That way they could get it home and me and mom would just drive back after our haircuts. Anyway, traffic in the cut in the hill going down to the bridge could be crazy back then. The new bridge made it a lot better. But back then all we had was the old Brent Spence and Aunt Janelle says it was a total fuck funnel.
Uncle Jacob was following somewhere behind us in his big flatbed and it’s not exactly a sports car. So he stayed in the right lane where the cars moved a lot slower, and I guess we got ahead of him a ways. I’m not sure how far ’cause I was just lying in the back of the minivan, playing with my doll Chelsie. I guess I was getting too old for dolls, but I wasn’t ready to let go of her yet. Hanging on to Chelsie was sort of my way of hanging on to being a kid.
So we started over the bridge, and about halfway across there was this loud bang. Like the kind of loud that scares you right out of your mind. Then… it was like gravity and time just stopped. I guess the van got tossed up in the air cause all of a sudden I was floating, and it was so quiet… like, like the whole world just held its breath. I turned my head, and I realized I’d floated up near the roof. Everything was going in slow motion, but at the same time there was this feeling like we were moving really fast. Dad had his hand out on mom, and he was looking over his shoulder at me.
Mom’s hair had floated up around her head and I remember thinking how pretty it was. Isn’t that a weird thing to think at a time like that? She was looking at dad and screaming with her hands up in front of her. I could see the nail on her left thumb had most of the polish chipped off. Blackberry bliss… we had painted each other’s nails a couple of days before that.
Then there was another bang, and everything went really fast. Like time realized it had been slacking off and was running to get caught up. I got slammed to Mom’s side of the van really hard. Like dad had made the sharpest left turn in history or something. I felt my left leg break. Pop. But it was far away… like a movie or something. I never felt whatever happened to my other leg. I saw Chelsie float up right in front of me.. then she went flying up by mom and dad, but my leg was all caught up in between the back seat and the side of the van. So I got slammed forward from the waist up and I hit my face on the middle seat really hard and broke my nose. Plus, my left arm got caught on something and I got what they call a ‘spiral break’. That’s when all the bones get twisted so hard they all just shatter from one end to the other. It looked like somebody smashed it a bunch of times with a hammer and then stepped on it too for good measure. So you know… Holy Fuck – I felt that.
That’s when I got scared. Really scared. The way my face hit that seat was harder than I could have imagined anything ever feeling. Then my arm snapped, and all of a sudden, this shit was real. Here I was – eleven, and I wasn’t ready to die. But all of a sudden, I knew I could – and it was going to fucking hurt. I guess when you’re a kid you don’t really think you can die. You know? Then one day you find out that the world doesn’t care about your starring role in “The World According to Jessica”. Nope, didn’t read the script. Be sure to use the exit marked “Dead”. Don’t call us, and we won’t call you – cause dead little girls don’t answer the phone.
So I looked up, and he saw me… dad did. Looked right at me. Then … it was like the whole world ended. At least my whole world. My parents died right in front of me, and… and soaked me in their blood.
ML: So, the way the bridge came apart is why you weren’t killed, right? Can you tell us how you remember that happening?
JS: Yeah. Well first the bridge broke into three pieces. We were on the bottom middle part. When the top middle part collapsed, a piece of it came down on the front half of the van and just smashed mom and dad into pulp. It happened so fast all the blood splashed back on me.
So when I crawled out of the back of van, I was covered in my mom and dad’s blood, and brains, and… and all sorts of pieces of God knows what. My left leg was compound fractured with both bones sticking out. I had to pull myself out with my right arm on account of my other one looking like a pretzel. Funny thing was that the broken arm and leg were agony, but my right leg and hand didn’t hurt at all. Probably because I left them in the van.
The docs said they were “clean amputations” and acted all happy about it, like “Hey, looks like you just got the most extreme manni-pedi in history, and that tennis career is probably out of the question. But hey, at least it’s a clean amputation!”
They never found my hand or leg in the river or anything, so I guess they’re fish poop now. I know it sounds crazy, but I honestly didn’t notice they were gone. My other leg and arm hurt so bad they were all I could think about. Once I was out I just laid there face down on the cement. All I could do was breathe cause everything hurt so bad. I guess I was still trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
Then I looked up, and I realized that I was alone on the bridge and there was no way off. I was about six inches from the edge of a two hundred foot drop onto this big pile of concrete and smashed up cars in the river. The bridge was still moving and… shifting. I could hear cracks and breaking noises under me, and I knew it was going to fall. I couldn’t believe it. I had just dragged myself out of a hell of exploding brains with the only working limb I had, and now I was just going to fall and die anyway. I think I laughed… or… it was something like a laugh.
Then I looked over at the road and all these people were standing there at the edge. The cars were stopped all crazy and some had gone over into the river. They were screaming and pointing at me and yelling things I couldn’t understand. A lot of them were crying and I think a couple of people were puking. Probably the ones with good eyes. They could see me, and God knows it had to be pretty gross. But it was right about then, when I was going to put my head back down and get a little rest before I died. That’s when I looked up over the people – and I saw him. He came up on the cars all the way back by the hill. Way back from the crowd.
There must have been hundreds of people back there running up between the cars. But he was the one you had to look at… ’cause there was something about the way he was moving. It just sorta screamed at my brain. There was this… wrongness about it. I wanted to close my eyes and shut it out cause I knew what I was seeing was… well, ain’t no other way to say it. It was fucking impossible. I mean, it made you think you were losing your mind.
ML: What was it about him that made you feel that way?
JS: Oh, I guess he was running just like everybody else… but, but they were all running in between the cars and he was… Well, he was running across the tops, and jumping between them really fast. Like you would if it rained and you were running but trying not to step in the puddles? Like that, and he was coming fast. Real fast… like a car would. It wasn’t like in the movies or TV or nothing. His arms and legs weren’t going all fast and blurry like some special effects crap. No, they were going normal speed, but every step he took went farther than the last one, every jump was… longer. He was going faster and faster and there was this… horrible strength he had moving him, not some stupid camera trick. It made the guys you see at the Olympics look like little kids running around on the playground at school.
I guess people started hearing him coming, ’cause when he landed on a car it was really loud. So everyone turned around and by then he was pushing off on the roofs of the cars so hard the windows were exploding. You know – your insurance ain’t gonna cover that, huh? He was only touching down on maybe every fifth car or so. It was more like every tenth one by the time he jumped. That last step he used to push off was on the hood of this big black Mercedes and it just crushed it flat. Half the car got punched down right through the pavement. It looked like a kid stepped on a toy car in his sandbox.
But you know what was funny? He didn’t look all graceful when he was in the air. You could tell he’d never done this or anything like it before. When he came flying over he was waving his arms and legs, just trying to stay upright so he’d land on his feet. Then when he hit next to me, it didn’t feel like no impact a person would make. It was like he was made out of lead, or even something heavier. He slammed into the concrete up past his ankles and had to pull his boots back out just to edge over to me. The whole bridge was swaying and I thought for sure it was just gonna drop out from under us. Truth be told, he almost fell right off when he was trying to get his footing. There wasn’t a whole lot of room between the back of the van and the edge. A foot and a half in most places, less in others.
I looked up at him and he really wasn’t what you expected if you were thinking superhero. He sure wasn’t dressed like one I’d ever heard of. No spandex. No black leather getup. He was just wearing these old black work boots, jeans, and a dirty “Guns n Roses” t-shirt. Nothing flashy, but seeing as I’d just watched him jump four hundred feet like he was playing hopscotch, my mind wasn’t exactly on critiquing his wardrobe. He must have really liked black t-shirts cause he had another one tied around to cover his face. He’d just ripped a hole to see through and he looked… amazed and scared, and well… completely fucking freaked out.
Anyway, he scrambled over and tried to pick me up. When he did I let out a scream like nothing you’ve ever heard, cause that broken leg was just flopping around. The bones were grinding on each other, and my busted arm got pinched between us. Man, he jumped when I screamed, and damn near lost his balance again. I remember some lady in the crowd screaming “HE’S GONNA FALL!”, but he didn’t. He wobbled and waved his other arm trying to catch his balance for a second until he got it. Then he looked back down at me and he made this sorta… choking noise, and said something like “Oh God, oh God, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” over and over while he shifted me around. He got my leg up on his arm and lifted my arm into my lap real gentle. I think I was sobbing and wailing like a baby the whole time.
I think that was when I noticed how hard he felt, and it wasn’t just muscles hard like some meathead from the gym. It was real hard… like he was made out of rocks or something. I mean, nothing on him gave if you pushed. It was like… like I was being held by one of them statues they have over at the museum.
But the weird thing was – he looked pretty normal. I mean, I could hear him breathing really hard while he looked back at the road. Some of his hair had poked out in places around that t-shirt on his head too. It was real blonde, and I could see it waving in the wind. He was sweating real bad too. Now I was thinking he’d just jump back to the shoreline, or maybe fly or something, but he didn’t. He kept shifting his feet and looking up and down and all over and I after a second I realized he was freaking out.. he didn’t know what to do. He didn’t have any way to get a running start and there was nowhere to go but down. He’d decided to save a little girl cause he was the only one who could – and now he was gonna fuck it up.
ML: But why didn’t he fly? We’ve seen him do it since then.
JS: You know, I think we’ve all seen him do shit since then that made the bridge look like nothing. That thing in the Philippines, the fight in Syria, the nuke in Australia, all of that. But people forget that all came years later after he’d had time to figure things out a bit more. Right then I think he was just scared, and he had no idea what he was doing. Hell, I don’t think he knew what he was yet, much less what he could really do.
So anyway… I looked over at the screaming people and all that water under us for a second, and when I looked back I realized he was crying. He had his head bent down and I couldn’t see his face, but I could feel it. He was shaking, and his chest kept hitching, and I got scared again. I guess part of me was thinking this all had to be some sort of dream or hallucination or something, but when I saw he was scared.. for some reason, then I knew it was real. I guess I stopped crying cause he looked down at me and I could that see he had blue eyes. They were kinda pretty too, and I guess me noticing meant that being a little girl was already over anyway.
Then all of a sudden, he stood up real straight and took a deep breath while he looked up at the sky. He kinda reminded me of my dad right then. Didn’t want me scared by seeing him scared… I could tell he had decided something, but he didn’t like it, and he was figuring out how to deal with it.
Then he squeezed his eyes shut, and you could tell he was concentrating really hard. After a moment or two I started to feel weird, kinda sick and dizzy. I know I was in shock, but this was a different kind of sick, and I don’t know how to explain it except to say that it was bad… real bad. There was this awful noise… but at the same time it wasn’t a noise. At least not like anything I’ve ever heard. It wasn’t even like the other times I saw him. He did crazy stuff real near me then too, but with those other things it was different. It felt… profound. That’s all I can say.
But that first time… well I thought I could hear it, but it wasn’t coming from my ears. It was like it was coming from the top of my head and way down in my hips, and it felt bad.. Really, really bad. Like the way watching him run felt bad and wrong. This was like that, but it was inside me. Then he took another deep breath, and I could feel him tense up like he knew something was coming, and that sound just kept getting worse and worse and louder and louder until it just filled up everything and I felt so sick I thought I was gonna puke. So I did. I think I ruined his shirt.
Then, somewhere underneath all of that I heard the bridge finally give up. I guess his landing had just been one too many for old Mr. Spence. The bridge just sort of groaned and tipped like a see-saw, and then we were falling. That sound inside me ramped up and up and up, and all of a sudden it canceled itself out or… or harmonized or something. Either way, it turned into this one bone rattling sorta note – only you felt it instead of hearing it. It was deep and… thick and it reached in and touched every part of you and … it sang.
You just wanted it to go on forever. It sounded like the angels had come down from heaven, and were singing some sad love song just for you. Then it rose up even farther, and it filled up everything; I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t see, I couldn’t even think… and then there was this unbelievable like… CRACK.
It felt like my soul split open, and I saw everything. I mean – I saw the whole universe, me, him, mom and dad, God. Everything… and it went… like forever. There wasn’t no way to keep it all in your head. It was too big, too much. So I guess I did the only thing I could think to do about it…