A response to a writing prompt in a Reddit thread.
Don’t ask me how old I am. I’m not even sure anymore. Best guess is about 50,000 years old, give or take a couple thousand. It took me a long time at first to even realize I was different. You see, no one grew old back then. People died to animals, starvation, the elements, or a variety of other problems long before true age began to show.
I had long thought I was just lucky as I moved from tribe to tribe as others died around me. I wasn’t until I got gored by a woolly rhino and proceeded to just stand back up that I realized something was off. Even I couldn’t deny that should have killed me.
After that, I paid close attention to how other people lived, how they grew and how they died. After observing for hundreds of years, I came to the conclusion that I should have been dead long ago. Why was I still alive? I had no idea, but since I was I decided to make the most of life. Given that back then the arts were rather limited and there wasn’t much variety in professions, this meant going back to wandering around and eating random shit. But the question of why I was different still bugged me.
When people began settling down and domesticating animals, it was strange to me. At first, I would come across groups that rather than running from or killing wolves, they worked with them. This was a bit unnerving to me, as wolves were one of the few animals that would being willing to attack even a large group of humans. The first villages were even stranger. My whole life, everyone moved with the herds and the weather, to stop moving was to die. But, I soon learn that the best tools and food was to be found in the cities. While I couldn’t stand staying in a single place for more than a few years, that didn’t mean I couldn’t stop by. Before I knew it, the wilds I was used to had almost vanished and I was just hopping from city to city.
It was a few centuries after cities first started popping up, that I found out I wasn’t just unchanged by time, I was actually stronger. Some local thug had grouped a bunch of people together and was using them to extract a tribute from another city. Normally, I wouldn’t really care, but I happened to be in their way. One of them threatened to run me through with a spear, and knowing I would just get back up, I told him to go for it. What happened next shocked me more than anything I had seen before. I knew the bronze weapons they held were far better than any stone or bone weapon. I had seen them pierce clean through even the thickest of hides and even bone wasn’t much to stop them. Imagine my surprise as I watched the hammer hardened metal bend against my skin without leaving a mark. I shared a look with the man who tried to kill me and couldn’t help but laugh at his dumbfounded expression. Word spread that I was some kind to demon, so I took that as my cue that it was time to move on.
This incident renewed the burning question in my mind: “What am I?” Nothing I could find seemed to have an answer. Every rumor of something similar I tried to follow turned into a dead end or turned out to be a story about me. I was begining to loose hope that I would ever answer this question. As luck would have it, I happened to stumble across some people who likewise tried to answer impossible questions.
The Greeks were many things, but stupid was not one of them. Despite my age and experience, I found several men in my time there that held a sort of wisdom that I needed. From them I learn an important idea, there was no easy answer to what I sought, but if I gathered enough hints, I should be able to piece it together.
However, my time in Greece was not to be without strive. As I came to love this land, a foreign land sought to claim it as their own. The Persians came by boat to take Greece from the Greeks, and I joined the Greeks to push them back to the sea. I tried not to stand out too much, but with my knowledge and abilities, me hiding in a battle still turned me into one of the heroes of the day. With my newfound attention, I got wrapped up in the political nature of Athens, found myself in command of her navy when the Persians returned a mere blink of an eye latter (okay, it was ten years, but that is a blink of an eye to me). I held them away as best I could, but when the Spartans failed to hold them on land, I was force to meet the Persians just outside Athens.
In the end, the Persians were driven back, but in the mean time Athens burned and thousands died. Time moved on and I continued moving from place to place. Now, however, I had a purpose. I would do my best to learn about everything that a normal human could do, and then repeat the task until I knew how I was different. This meant that I learned many crafts and fighting styles at such a level of mastery that even with my unique abilities I could outmatch even the best. In my studies, I learned that there was far more about me that was different. I was much stronger and faster than a normal human, and time simply seemed to be making me more so. I had many pieces of the puzzle now, but no clue how they fit together. I needed more.
I’m not sure when it first occurred to me to desecrate a corpse in the name of knowledge, but I do know when I first did it. I was in Italy at the time, conversing with an talented artist in the area, when I noticed that his drawings of the human body were incredible detailed, and I asked him how he was able to gain such an understanding of the body. As easing people into trusting me was one of the skills I had picked up, he confided in me that the coroner would give him cadavers to study. I begged to join him on a dissection, and from his studies and my own future research, I learned much more about how the human body functioned. It took me some time to figure out how to cut myself open to compare, but once I found the right tools I was able to open myself. I found myself to be not very different in terms of composition, but there was the difference of a soft blue glow from some of my organs. I did not yet know what this meant, but I knew I had another piece of the puzzle.
The final piece came just a few centuries later when I was working on an unrelated project. A war broke out that got just about everyone in the world fighting, but I found myself not in the mood for a war. To get myself out of it, I conned my way into one of the nation’s R&D groups. I ended up finding myself a part of a project to build a weapon to win the war, but I was able to forget about whatever else was going on and just lose myself in the science. As a joke one day, one of the scientists was waving an instrument to measure radiation at everyone and telling them what they gave off. We were both surprised when I had no reading. He assumed the device malfunctioned, but I got another one in secret and tested myself. It was true, there was no readable radiation around me.
To those who are unfamiliar with nuclear physics, this may not seem surprising, but the truth is that everything has at least some radiation, for something to have none should be impossible. Further study showed that even samples with high radiation reduced in my presence. In a scientific fervor now, I compared everything I could about myself before the project and then. I found that since coming into regular contact with radiation, I had gotten far stronger and faster. The final test came by “accidentally” exposing myself to a massive dose so I could further compare numbers. Not only did all of my abilities grow far stronger, but I also noticed something else. The faint blue glow of my organs that I had noted just a few centuries ago perfectly matched the glow of high radiation. As one final confirmation, I found some more titanium tools and cut myself open again, my organs glowed far brighter now, and they registered off the scale on the radiation meter. I now had my answer that I had been searching for. I absorbed radiation and used it to fuel my body and make myself stronger.
I was at a loss of what to do with myself. For so long I had been consumed with a need to answer what I was, and now I had the answer. I did not know why I was different, but now that I knew exactly how I was different that seem so inconsequential. I did not know what to do with myself. It did not take long until I had my answer. I was reading a story when I came across a line that told me exactly what I should do. “With great power, comes great responsibility.” I had long known that I had great power, but had refrained from using it. Now that I was bored enough, I needed something to do with it, and Spider-Man provided a perfect model to follow. I would protect these mortal people who only have their short lives to live.
The first bank robbery I stopped was kind of fun. I just sort of walked up to the guys and calmly told them to put down their guns. They laughed and asked who the fuck I thought I was, to which I answered “The fuck I am Spider-Man. Sort of.” One of them then decided to “put me out of my misery”. I did manage to avoid having the bullet bounce into anyone and clarified “My powers are actually closer to Superman.” They surrendered to the police rather quickly after that.
Superheroing was actually pretty fun, I got to travel as much as I liked, but I didn’t have to hide anymore. It didn’t matter if people recognized me, because they knew I would save them if trouble happened. I did of course keep disguising myself when I wanted to be left alone, but that was just saved for special occasions and did not become a day-to-day use. Maybe one day I would answer the “Why?” part of my existence, but now that I have answered the “What?” and “How?” I am content.