T H E M O R P H I S T
by Silva Noir
Chapter 12: superhero
Dear Diary, I guess. David. As usual.
I can’t sleep.
I despise that in the middle of the night I wake up distraught from dreams. The day was gorgeous. One couldn’t ask for better. Hours were spent in the company of a new friend. And I met… was properly introduced to, as I’ve actually “met” her before…. to this girl who may be as helpful to me as she is pretty....
I feel sick. I shouldn’t feel as such. Try as I might to replace the memories with her lovely smile, I cannot. I rested, I laughed, and it was a good day... yet the night destroys it all. California and childhood are decomposing in my brain; raising such a stench that I have take this garbage out to the curb before it succeeds in making me entirely nauseous. Part of me wants to send this entry, when it’s completed to Palmer. He is the one that put forth the questions that rehashed something I’d rather have forgotten. Can he be trusted, though? What a stupid move to misuse my powers so blatantly in broad sight.
Misuse powers? This is assuming they have a practical use.
God was created out of loneliness. I wish I had a god, some higher deity to pray to. God was invented late one night, I’m sure. Ancient man awoke to a humid empty landscape after a troubled sleep on a hard slab of rock and felt the same gnawing ache in their heart as I’m feeling now. Pangs of loneliness and purposelessness spread like fire through their minds and bodies until they couldn’t stand it a moment longer. Someone benevolent and omnipotent must be watching over all of us, myself included, that man (or woman) must have thought. That god, that very first god, was there to assure them they were not alone. They were put there to please god. Morals were thus born.
Melanie would be displeased that I’m using this journal to question the existence of a god that she is sure is real. Ruth would be equally as displeased, for the opposite reason. I’m a godless being to her.
Science, Religion, Morality, Power…. Me.
Once upon a time… stories start that way, don’t they? Once upon a time, there was a boy. He lived in the far away land of California. The not really wicked queen kept our prince locked up in the castle towers and kitchen. She did not allow him to interact with anyone from the outside world. Despite being an acclaimed chemist… wait, if this is a fairytale she’d be a witch… no, an alchemist attempting to turn lead to gold children to Xilvrin?). … In short, he really doesn’t remember much of anything about the enchanted kingdom of Hollywood, Disneyland, L.A. and sunshine because he was inside and it was her fault.
The not exactly wicked alchemist bought him everything he might need to survive and keep him occupied. The suburban plush prison had halfway decent furniture, toys, a non-cable TV and VCR, and plenty of snacks. Comic books were on the list of attention keepers. Each issue was carefully selected to to show a moral dilemma of the hero, heroine, or team. This was always centered around the use of their special abilities in relation to the general populous.
Ruth was attempting to send me a not-so-subtle hint. Kids love pictures with vibrant colors, so they did keep me entertained and out of her hair. Honestly, I didn’t think too deeply about them back then. She wanted me to comprehend the weight of my predicament but gave me understanding of why I was in it in the first place. She was no different from the uninformed citizens in the sequential art collection she’s piled on my shelves. They feared what varied from the norm. They were jealous and petty. They were convinced that having mutants around would only bring them to their doom. In their minds, it was the superhero's fault for whatever went wrong, including the super villain who’d moved into town to cause mischief.
Witch hunting and scapegoating were perfectly all right in their moral codes. Know that saying, “only a face a mother could love”? Attractive as I believe myself to be, Ruth finds me ugly. She holds the belief that I need to be locked away from the prying eyes of the world for my safety and theirs. This is what she’s always professed.
It makes me want to run around the streets with a brown bag over my head screaming “I M NOT AN ANIMAL! I AM A HUMAN BEING!” Only… I can be an animal, any animal that I wish as long as I feel up to it. Wait… if I ran around with a brown bag over my head I’d trip and scrape my knee. Ouch. Surgeon General’s Warning: Insomnia at three A.M. is conducive to surpassingly strange thought patterns.
(Four minutes later) Splashed some cold water on my face and got something to drink. Slightly more alert now.
Comic books sparked a brilliant idea in my still developing mind. I, David Xilvrin, would be a superhero. I would be THE coolest superhero to have ever lived. I would show the public they didn’t have to dread me because I would save their kitty cats from trees and so forth. I would do all this without the usual crayon box dyed kitschy spandex outfits or masks. No calamity ever warranted such silly clothing. I had no want for wearing my underwear on the outside along with little tights, thank you. Although, a flowing black cape with a silver thread filigree of my initials in the corner might be nice.
T-Rex terrycloth towel, tied in a slacking knot around my neck and trailing out behind me, I marched proudly into the kitchen. That California kitchen is the one thing clear as glass out of my early years. Horrendously tacky ball fringed orange curtains hung in the windows. Cabinets and surfaces were mustard yellow while the tile floor was a matching terracotta. Ruth had rented the house as given to her phobia of remaining grounded in any given location for any long period of time. We made the payments each month on time, but were free to go at any day we fancied.
A novelty rooster clock slowly ticked away the stretch of everlasting boredom of an average indoor Sunday. She had the day’s newspaper before her, serving as a placemat, guarding it as she always did from my sight. Heaven forbid I actually know what the goings on of the week was. A tattered paperback thesaurus was held open by one hand as she sipped tea from a pink floral china cup with the other. Her gaze was glued to the checkered box and list of clues of the crossword puzzle.
Climbing on the chair I observed her with the same concentration she was giving to the task of her ‘across’ column. I spread out the comics of buff bodied supernatural warriors attired in blazing costumes as documentation for my planned study in heroism. Strands of shining gray trailed out from where my fingers flattened creases and wrinkles from the paper. The crosshatched chromium pattern vanished in mere seconds in the open air. It took with it a portion of ink, fading the colorizations by a barely noticeable increment. As a child any sort of emotion triggered what I now use as an attack and defense mechanism. Marvelous Maiden and The Bronze Barbarian encouragingly smiled at me with super white perfect teeth, urging me to interrupt her blasé hobby. Their titles, absurd at they may be, reminded me that I had yet to select a name for myself.
I asked, “That’s for finding words that are like other words, right?” I pointed a shining thread wrapped finger at her aged thesaurus.
“Yes, yes it is” she stopped nursing the lemon tea enough to speak with me. She raised a curious eyebrow at my towel cape.
“Could you…” I laid on the innocent act thick as I could “find a word for something that changes into something else?” The only moniker I had come up with so far was ‘the changer’ but I was reluctant to use it. People might think I was there to dole out quarters and dimes. Or, they might conclude that my specialty was switching from one outfit to another. Neither of these sounded sufficient for saving the world.
“Change. Verb. The caterpillar changed into a butterfly. Here are the words: alter” Altar, wasn’t that something in temples they used to sacrifice to the gods? “Modify” The Marvelous Modifier? Hmmm…. Well, Marvelous Maiden didn’t look as though she needed to hold auditions for a sidekick anytime soon. “Vary” Very? Very what “Recast” That was something they did to make action figures, right? “Transmute” I had no idea what that word was, but it sounded too strange. “Transform” Transformers were already taken. Previous Saturday morning viewings of cartoons had shown me that. I quite liked the battle between good and evil robots. It was very compelling. I had enough respect for them not to steal their copyrighted epithet. “Turn” I briefly considered ‘The Turner’ as well. But it lacked pizzazz, boldness, or an air of mystery that so went along with any good larger than life protagonist.
Then, she hit upon the one I would forever brand my being with: “Metamorphosis”.
The problem was, the word was too long and complicated for me to roll off my tongue at such a young age. I tried my best regardless. “Meta…. Medda…. Metha… Morbisisssis….”
“Metamorphosis,” she corrected smartly.
“Meta…” Wheels, always turning in my overactive mind, decided to change the word itself to make it more manageable and memorable. If one can shorten can not to ‘can’t’ and should not to ‘shouldn’t’, then any word could be shortened. As long as you made sure it ended with the letter ‘T’ it was tolerable. Skewed logic in hand I proudly proclaimed “Morphist”. I nodded, quite satisfied with my choice of terminology. “That’s what my name’s gonna be when I go and fight bad guys. I’m gonna be the Morphist. My super secret identity when I’m not David.”
Tea pooled out from where the cup was tipped. Blue ink ran from the filled in boxes of the weekend crossword challenge. Ruth stood up, facing me, upset. “No!” was her one word reply to my blind ambitions.
“But… mom… “ I wanted to erase the dreaded declaration.
“Ruth. You are to call me Ruth. If anyone was to know I was harboring a….” The rooster clock crowed the number of hours, the minute hand having hit the 12. This cut her off from whatever insulting word she was about to call me. Before speaking again, she snatched the comics away, all eight of them. “This is not why I bought these for you. Do you understand? This was the purpose. I should have known despite my best intentions it would put silly ideas in your head.” She shook them, rattling the paper and colorful covers, before tossing them in the garbage.
“But if I went out and showed them, showed I could be good, they wouldn’t be afraid no more.” I whined back, hopeful my childish protest would sway her decision. “I wouldn’t have to hide no more” Bronze Barbarian’s boot stuck up amidst moon rocks out of the trash bag. All the toughness and muscles in the universe couldn’t save him from being dumped in orange peels and eggs shells by my stingy, shrewd, stubborn mother.
“Absolutely not” she reaffirmed her rejection. “David, if you step outside I can’t protect you. Stay in where you are safe and sound. Please do as I ask for the sake of my nerves. You don’t want to make me sick with worry, do you?”
“I guess not” I shrugged, disappointed. “But I got really good at changing into things. I can shape it like clay. I can paint it like finger-paints. It’s fun. But it goes poof, all gone, soon as I let go. I have to really think about it and get into the feeling for it to work. Its not bad, really…” being born with the ability, it had never surprised or disturbed me as a child. It was only Ruth’s constant informing me of its evils that I began to regard it with such distaste as I do now. She was an ordinary human who had a low opinion of it, convinced everyone else that was an ordinary human would have the same presumption as her. If you are always told you are bad, you begin to believe it.
“This isn’t a game and this isn’t fun!” She snapped. Furiously tucking stray mousy hair behind her ears she glowered at me. “If you were not a child…. I swear… this helpless little baby staring up at me and I can’t refuse. I can’t let them use and hurt a baby, my baby…. Besides, you were only going to die anyway within a matter of months. You’d make it a year, if lucky. Such a radical change in a person…. such a foreign substance invading their body… it can’t NOT be fatal….”
My memory is an odd thing. I never dream creatively. I simply replay old events that I’d buried for one reason or another. Recollections of the past let me know she hated me always. Hate is too severe a word. She does feel responsible for me and my well-being. Mixed with her fears, however, it isn’t what shines through.
“Why don’t you like me?” The younger and current me wondered aloud at the same time.
“I do like you. I adore a part of you. You look darling and innocent asleep. Peaceful and cute, how I wish you’d remain like that always. I was sure you wouldn’t last for long. I wanted to keep you comfortable. This cancer-like thing in you isn’t remising and isn’t killing you. It’s thriving. You become stronger everyday. I don’t know how much longer I can handle you. You’re too young to understand…” she sighed, rubbing her forehead in the middle of one of her infamous stress headaches. . “Xilvrin is definitely cancer like…. Do you know what a cancer is?”
“No” I answered then. Yes, I answered now, frowning.
“In simple terms its something inside you that doesn’t belong. . It starts tiny, with cells and moves onto entire organs if not treated. It grows. It takes over the healthy parts of you and turns them into more of itself. It makes you sick and ugly inside, and sometimes, out. There are treatments but no sure cures. And in rare types there’s nothing can be done.”
“So …you’re scared I’ll turn into something else and won’t be your little boy anymore?” What a bright child I was. “I don’t think its cancer like. I think its oyster like. I was watching a show on TV, and they put sand in the oysters, and in a few years it made pearls. Pearls are sold for a lotta money. People like pearls….”
“People may like pearls, but they don’t like ugly monsters." Thanks for nothing, Ruth
“But I’m still me! I really am. If you put on an ugly sweater, you’re still Ruth. I put on Xilvrin and I’m still me! I really, really, really am. It’s just outside and insides, but I still think and feel like me. How can I not be me? I’m me, no matter how I look. I am me. I am.” I tugged on her sleeve. I looked up at her so sadly she caved in and said she was sorry.
I think she’s still waiting for the day I die… but she keeps trying at the same time to protect me. I wish she would make up her mind whether she wants her scary son to be alive or dead. Wait… she said something after she apologized… what was it?
“Do you know why I named you David? I waited quite some time to give you a name at all. Honestly I didn’t believe you you’d live long enough to warrant a name. But it got to a point where I had to call you something. I chose David because it’s a name from a very old, well-known book. It was the name of a small youngster who was able to defeat a terrible giant named Goliath with a little ingenuity… that means smarts.”
“Oh… so I’m smart enough to fight and kill giants? Cool!”
I don’t really remember the rest. Berating in her usual frown she told me about how it was all a metaphor… heh, another ‘meta” word. Me against the world -one me- and a giant society to face down. Victory can’t be wrought with brute force. Victory can only be had with intellect and sense. Practical and prudish as she is, she seems to have dug herself into quite a gaping hole. She’s miserable, no doubt about it. Why doesn’t she think her way out of it? She has enough degrees awards, and certificates to line a half a hundred birdcages. Looking at this, of the few pages I’ve written, I’m beginning to get a better picture of who David is. This David, not the kid with the rock, or arrow, or whatever projectile he had to kill the taller man in the story. Ruth was the one who asserted that I be emotionless to control the power. Flipping back I only see an emotional roller coaster.
So, all that I believed I am essentially are lies.
I’ve long since given up the idea of gallivanting about rescuing the helpless. Ruth has soured the idea of it. More than that, I simply do not wish it any longer. Let them find their own way out of their problems. I can’t even save myself.
‘Truth’… take away the ‘T’ and its ‘Ruth’. Never thought of it before.
But back to the girl that I pointed out I'd met at the start of this rant. At the beginning of the school year the same certain fashionable Asian lovely lady had caught my eye. …. and as I write that it I realize how incredibly cheesy it sounds, like something some lounge lizard would spout with a slick grin. Oh well.
I had tried talking to her many times with little response. Cold shoulder isn’t an adequate term for it. It’s more like an Antarctic iceberg whose crystal shards were shout into my heart every time I approached her. She is as nearly tall as I, which makes her all the more a rare find considering her most prominent cultural background. Her long raven hair flows down past her waist, neatly cut in a straight line both in back and front (she has bangs, you see). I can’t count how many times I’d asked to sit with her to talk during lunch, or to stop her in the hall for a minute. Sometimes she had let me, but said little, if at all, only answering with yes or no as if she was hoping to get rid of me. I couldn’t explain her nervousness around me, for in her eyes I could tell she was interested. The eyes are the windows to the soul, as the saying goes. Or perhaps she was just noticing how strange it was to see a boy with silver eyes…. No, I’m going with my first assumption. In spite of Rabbit’s (yes, her name is Rabbit, I’ve tried to ask her why or how she won such a name, but she’s only walked away) assertion that she spoke little English, Sue of all people had kept asking me if I was interested in the girl. Sue gets all her information from rumors and rumors have to be based on something. Even stranger a possibility, it may have been Rabbit herself secretly asking about me while acting coy in my presence. Actually… I sort of like that idea. :)
I awoke flat on my back, looking upwards on a solid light blue sky. Around me was a small gathering of cowbirds using me as their dining table. Well, actually I had no idea what they were, about the size color and shape as if you’d crossed a crow with a robin. Their bodies were black and shiny; their heads were dark brown and dull. I’d been napping on the grass motionless for quite some time. My neck was sore from having nothing but ground to rest my head on. Palmer had left and gone back to his house over the hill back on Moores Avenue (I called him later to ask him where and why he left, and as to what the birds were called… as to the previous, he said I looked peaceful where I was and didn’t want to wake me). One of the birds hopped onto my chest and stared sideways at me. I blinked at it. It turned its head the other way to look at me with the other eye. It was a prey animal with side instead of front vision to scan for predators. This particular one seemed to be slow. I waited until my hands were out of its range. As if swatting a fly I grabbed it before it could react to fly away. It squawked in distress. The family squawked as well. I let the cowbird go. He or she flapped over to their family on an oak branch who surrounded it in support and comfort and looked at me warily. I saluted them after getting to me feet and was on my way. If I had known what they were I would have mooed at them. After the tale of the swans I couldn’t bare to harm another avian again. I’d snatched it more to see if I could be quick handed enough to do so.
I didn’t have a real idea where I was. In those few minutes after waking it seems as if you were still dreaming. The world seems new and strange. I made no effort to shake it and wake back into reality. I put my glasses back into my pocket and let myself be sun dazzled with zigzagging rainbow wheels only I cold see. Bless the odd reflections of light off the Xilvrin of my eyes. While I was strolling along with a dumb smile on my face, arms stretched out, enjoying the spring day like the singing woman in that musical movie on the hill (you know the one) I embarrassing walked right into her. As I was being hit with a fishing pole on the shoulder, I heard her yell “Watch where you’re going!” and then a gasp as she recognized me with the glasses back on.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Wait… Rabbit. Oh no, now I’m really sorry” I apologized but her pouting frown remained on glossy ruby lips. I must have thought with this and the other times I’m made a fool of myself in front of her that I was a real dope. “So uh… you like to fish?” I pointed to the pole. Her companion was holding another pole and the tackle box. Her companion happened to be a very confused looking boy the same age as me, also Asian with ‘I just woke up’ style of hair with tacky baggy clothes to match. She looked her best as she always did, with a deep emerald tank top and black leather pants that fit her perfectly. They didn’t quite seem a likely pair but had to ask, “Is this your boyfriend?” I prepared to have my hopes of ever impressing her crushed.
She looked over at the one beside her blankly for a few seconds before she broke up. “A-ha ha ha. A-ha ha ha HA!” she tilted backwards in laugh, red finger-nailed hands perched spider-like to cover her amused face.
“What? It's not THAT funny,” he complained.
I reminded myself at all the times I had been rejected by her. It seems like the fellow was in the same situation as I. I sighed and asked her something that had been chewing at my heart “Is there a reason why you hate me?” I feared the answer. She truly is one of the most beautiful women I have ever beheld.
“I never said I hated you,” she dropped the phony helpless foreigner stint now that we were out of school. I’d always suspected that she was not a transfer student from any further away than a few states, not a few countries, for quite some time. She continued, finally with honesty, “I only have reasons to be cautious about who I allow myself to get close to. As should you.” She narrowed her eyes looking straight through me. “You never know who or what may be watching, listening, taking note of your every move.” She smiled so sexily I nearly melted right then in there. She’d been keeping tabs on me through Sue… So, she did like me! “Now why is it you have been so persistent in trying to get my attention all this time?”
“Well I was wondering, maybe… well… You’re pretty.” I nearly smacked myself for lock of coherent thought.
“Thank you.” She accepted the compliment but made it clear she wanted me to hurry up with whatever it was I’d meant to say. “That girl … Sue… mentioned you were trying to find your father?”
That wasn’t what I had expected, but I was ecstatic at the thought of anyone having any information. “Yes, yea I am!” I tried not to sound too pathetically enthusiastic. “Do you know him at all?” Then I recounted, realizing that was not a smart thing to ask. Why in the world would random stranger as se know my father. She was only trying to make conversation.
“No, I’m sorry I do not” She patted the shoulder she had thwapped before with the fishing pole in sympathy and gave me a beautifully encouraging smile. “But, Hyuni can crack into any database of records in existence, as long as it’s within a computer file….” She gave him such a look as if to say ‘that’s the only thing he’s good for keeping around, otherwise, totally incompetent.’ “If you gave us something for our time and effort perhaps we could search for you. What is your father’s name?”
“Well…. I don’t know. I don’t even know if we share the same last name….” I admitted.
“Well where were you born? When is your birthday? Shouldn’t his name be on your birth certificate? If you haven’t been able to dig that up, I could search for that instead and you could find him from there.”
“Uh… I don’t have one and I don’t know….” I scratched my head, feeling more stupid by the minute.
“You don’t know when your own birthday is?” She blinked perplexed with much the same expression as the cowbird had. She caught a glimpse of the glimmer of my dog tags and took one into her elegant fingers to read. “Don’t they put birthdays on these things?” her nails grazed along the thing aluminum disk as she examined it. “0902… sounds like a date to me,” she read the top line, translating, “September second… although, the last four numbers, which would be the year, has been thoroughly scratched out. You never thought to look at it?”
“Well I did, but I thought it was random codes….” I bit my lip, knowing she must think my intelligence was through the floor.
“Well then maybe I can find a way to decode it.” She said with utmost confidence. “It is worth a shot, don’t you think?” She copied down all the seemingly disordered rows and rows of numbers. “And somewhere on this there just may be something that will lead you to your father…”
Not much else to tell about what happened. I bungled through some small talk before hastily saying goodbye and getting out of the paths around the reservoir and walked home. After that I called Palmer, like I said, to ask about the birds and to make sure he wasn’t about to tell everyone he knew about my unique abilities.
In the end I didn’t earn any points with Rabbit, my so deemed dream girl, but at least now I have an official birthday to look forward to…. I patiently await anything else she can decipher from what has hung around my neck for as far back as my memory travels. Talk about hiding something right under the your very nose…. Literally….
Ah, I’m too tried to go on tonight, especially with trying to recall every exact bit of dialogue, especially this late at night… no, this early in the morning…. Blargh….
David Xilvrin, over and out.
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