Getting Older

On Monday mornings, I send out a story via email: ultra-brief tales of 1,000 words or more, usually in genres including horror, science fiction, and the supernatural. Those stories collectively are called Once Upon A Time. I’ve also published several ebooks and compendium volumes of those stories so far.

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Getting Older

My knees give me the most trouble. I don’t think anyone has noticed yet.

It’s easy to disguise it; I just land a little more softly. Step gently down onto the ground, with as little impact as possible. I’ve been doing this so long that I have very fine control over my landings anyway.

I can imagine the headlines, if the press were to find out, and it would be even worse if my enemies knew. That scenario really doesn’t bear thinking about. But it hasn’t happened yet, and I can definitely cope in the meantime.

I won’t name any names, even in this personal diary, but there are many of us in the same sort of position. Primary powers don’t seem to be affected, which is the most important thing. My invulnerability to physical harm, my ability to fly, and my exceptional strength are all undiminished. A colleague of mine who has the power to raise or lower the temperature of any object he concentrates on can still use his ability without trouble, but he’s starting to have some problems with his eyesight. Thankfully his disguise already has a full-head covering because he hates his eyebrows getting frozen solid, so he can perhaps just incorporate prescription lenses into his helmet’s eyepiece.

One of my best friends has an incredible telekinetic power, which we all see on the news almost every day. She averted what would have been a catastrophic air crash just two days ago, and her ability is such that she can stand on the ground at sea level and pluck satellites from geosynchronous orbit. Incredible. But privately, she’s really going through hell with the menopause. We’re not exactly the kind of people who can go to a doctor, for the most part, in case they ask for blood samples or want to do a physical exam. Some of us could probably get away with it, but in my own case, for example, knee surgery would be impossible. There’s no scalpel or laser on the planet that could pierce my skin, and nothing exists that could sever even my worn-out tendons, or stitch me up afterwards. It’s a non-starter.

Getting older isn’t a picnic for anyone, but it’s a huge pain if you’re superhuman.

Everyone has seen the guy who can communicate telepathically with any animal, and he at least can use his ability to mask the fact that, for the past several years, he’s been steadily losing his hearing. He uses animals to hear for him and relay the sound to his brain, but sooner or later somebody is going to pick up on the fact that he’s practically deaf.

I know a teleporter who’s infamous for not hanging around after one of his amazing feats of rescue, instead just vanishing until he’s next needed. What isn’t known by anyone, though, is that he’s developed an anxiety disorder now that he’s in his fifties, and it upsets his stomach badly. A lot of the time, he’s teleporting to a toilet because the sight of all those bystanders pointing their mobile phones at him gives him the runs. Poor man.

In a few cases, it’s a goddamned liability. There’s a woman in South Africa who can fire beams of energy from her eyes with unbelievable destructive force. Even I’m a little wary of getting in the way of them, but thankfully she’s on the side of justice and peace — for now. She’s not having an ideological crisis; she’s starting to lose her faculties. The first signs of early-onset dementia, I think. I really wouldn’t want anyone to be on the receiving end of her mistaking them for someone else. I’m expecting and dreading a call to contain the situation at some point over the next few months. Apparently she occasionally doesn’t recognise her husband.

There’s a guy who can react to dangerous situations by changing his body into any one of thousands of different shapes, and now he has arthritis in all of them. It’s brutal. There’s a woman who can manipulate electrical fields directly with her fingertips, and she’s been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The list goes on.

We’ve been heroes to a planet full or ordinary humans for several generations now, and we all remain global celebrities even as new, younger heroes rise up to join us in our fight for safety and decency — but the young ones have no idea that a clock is ticking within them. The same clock that affects everyone who’s ever been born. We just assumed, as did the human race in general, that having special abilities came with an additional exemption from the passing of time, and the deterioration that comes with it. The media and the governments and the scientific community even track and monitor our feats and abilities. What they haven’t realised is that they should also be tracking all the other mundane stuff too, because for us the stakes are quite a bit higher.

We adapt, for the most part, just as everyone else must. Change our diet, change our pillows, change whatever we can to get some relief. But we’re so visible, and so scrutinised. It’s difficult. It’s uniquely problematic.

I can fly at twenty times the speed of sound. There’s no known weapon or force that can harm me. I could push the moon out of its orbit if I had good reason to. But me knees hurt when I land too quickly, and my disguise doesn’t exactly leave any room for a patella support, because it’s skin-tight to reduce drag.

I can imagine the headlines, and the tweets, and all the rest. So I’ll live with it, because there’s no other choice.

I just hope nobody finds out how long it takes me to pee these days.

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