“Tell me the truth,” I asked the man who was talking to me, knowing I was a subject he was studying.
“I honestly don’t know what you’re talking about,” he responded, without so much of a hint of emotion.
I knew he was hiding something.
I just didn’t know what.
“Look. Everyone around me is acting predictable. As if the entire world has become scripted as if in a computer game,” I responded.
The younger Chinese man with longish hair didn’t respond, at all., and just stared at me with a blank expression on his face.
“I KNOW I am in some form of virtual reality simulation, dammit, for the love of God will you please help me?,” I pleaded.
A tear went down my cheek, it was not an act, as I felt desperate to understand why I had felt so utterly trapped and alone.
“Fine,” he said, as he stood up.
He walked about five feet away, and seemed to press some buttons on a console I could not see, and about then the world around me shifted form the coffee shop setting I was familiar with to a makeshift student’s lab.
I was laying on a gurney, strapped down, immobilized.
“What the hell?,” I said. “Where am I?”
He leaned over and started undoing the straps.
“I need you to understand that this has only been for your protection,” he said, unbuckling the straps and freeing my left arm.
“Protection? From what? Where am I?,” I demanded.
You’re safe. You are on the campus of the University of Metropolis, and this is a private research lab under the bleachers of Stagg Field.
He unbuckled my right arm.
“You’re fucking joking, right?,” I exclaimed.
“It’s true what they said, you have quite the mouth on you,” he responded, “and no I wouldn’t lie about where you’re at.”
Metropolis? Superman’s city from the comic books and movies?
It didn’t make sense.
I looked around the lab. There was equipment and machinery I had never seen before, and it looked much more advanced than the world from the simulation I had just been in.
“What year is it?,” I tried to say calmly.
The man unbuckled the last strap holding me down on my left leg.
“It’s May 17th, 2017. And you’re the most wanted man alive,” he said as he extended his hand, “and you can call me Ray. Ray Wing.”
I couldn’t help but smile, broadly, as I shook his hand.
“Do you find something funny,” he asked.
“You’re my Wing man,” I responded.
He shook his head, in a gesture which made it clear he didn’t get it.
“Wing Man, get it?” I smiled broadly, as I had gone from a little bewildered by my new surroundings.
He clearly didn’t get it.
I started to sit up.
“Be careful,” he said, “lean your head towards me.”
I reached up and felt the probes attached to my head.
I lost my smile, and asked him “Why?”
“Lean your head down, please”
Something made me want to trust this man.
Even though I clearly shouldn’t have.
I leaned down, as he pulled the probes which we individually attached with glue like an EEG to shaved spots on my head.
Whoever this guy was, he’d gone to weird measures to save my hair.
“Now I need you to listen and not talk. Can you do that?,” Ray said calmly.
Not knowing what was going on, and feeling out of place, I nodded in agreement.
Ray opened a cabinet, and pulled out some clothes.
“Put these on, and I will tell you everything I know as we walk.,” he said, placing the clothes next to me on the gurney.
I started to protest, but Ray held up his hand.
“Not here,” he said.
As we walked away from his lab that was positioned under the football bleachers, I quickly realized that even if Ray was lying about the city, I was most certainly not in the world I had come from.
Ray began telling his story.
“Do you know Superman?,” he asked me.
“Not personally, no, but I know of him, the fictional man who can fly faster than a speeding bullet and is super strong and invincible?”
“That’s the man I am referring to,” he said, as he pulled a rolled up magazine out of his back pocket and handed it to me.
“What’s this,” I asked, as I unfolded the magazine, and before he could answer the question, I saw it for myself.
On the cover of “Time Magazine.” was the bold caption written in black “SuperMan Of The Year (again)”, and in front of the caption was a red caret, with a “Where Is the” which was professional hand written as a part of the cover art in lipstick Red, with the word (again) crossed out and a Red Question mark placed at the end, altogether reading “Where is the SuperMan of the Year?
The man was clearly Superman, levitating about five feet above the ground, posing for the camera with his hands to his hips.
And his face was unmistakeably my own.
“What the hell?” I asked.
“Look at the date,”
I looked at the date, it was June 17th, 2011.
“Does that date look familiar?,” he said.
I remembered the date vividly, and started to explain.
My Wing man held up his hand to protest “I don’t want to know”
“But,” I protested this time, it was a story I loved telling people because of how weird it was.
“I said,” he asserted himself, “I do NOT want to know. Please respect that.”
As we toured the campus of the University of Metropolis, Ray explained how Superman had pretty much cleared the world of all his enemies by about the year 1989 ending with the ‘accidental death’ of Doctor Doom.
Doctor Doom had been born and raised In what was formerly known as the Southern region of Bavaria, Germany, in this world it was known instead as Latveria.
World War 2 ended similarly in this world, with Germany split in two in the North and South rather than the East and West. This time, the North of Germany retained the name Germany, and remained a sovereign domain – Russia surprisingly just wanted to clean its wounds and repair its own country – but the south established the formal Republic of Latveria.
The Republic was far from a corrupt republic, and largely a puppet of the UK who was oddly collaborating with India in this world – and Latveria, unfortunately, was the benefactor of a great deal of corruption influenced by these two governments.
The corruption led to the birth of a man named Victor Von Doom, who was incarcerated in his youth for standing up against the corruption, and while in jail his power increased exponentially, which led to a him leading a prisoner uprising, a jailbreak, and soon an overthrow of the entire corrupt republic.
Now I was familiar with Victor Von Doom based on my comic books, his mask worn because of facial scarring in war, but in this timeline, he was actually a great looking guy – and had worn the mask to ‘incite fear for those who would choose to oppress and cause harm to those who are anonymous.’
In 1987 in this timeline, Victor Von Doom – a 28 year old man – overthrew the Republic government, and declared himself as the uncontested ruler.
The man was marginally insane, and while he detested violence himself, he gave those aligned with his cause full latitude to do whatever they need to to achieve their goals.
Once he was established to his leadership role, he found plans hidden by the Republic leadership, plans captured from the Nazis in World War 2, a very real plan to create a real life humanoid world eater who was nearly invincible and stood as tall as the size of a skyscraper and known as Galactus.
Everyone knew the man was marginally insane, but why Victor Von Doom – who had arguably made better leadership as a Dictator than the corrupt Republic that he replaced – why he had embarked on this utterly mad project bewildered and mortified the world.
The President of this world was the same as my timeline, a man by the name of Ronald Reagan, who for two solid years after he gained power tried to work with Victor Von Doom to stop his plans to build Galactus. But Victor – who was angry that United States intelligence was even aware of his plans to begin with – absolutely refused.
“It will bring our world back to it’s righteous state alongside God,”
Prior to this, Victor had decidedly not been known to be a religious man, but with this weird religious conviction, the world anxiously waited for Superman to intervene.
Finally, in early 1989, A flurry of large Earthquakes struck the earth, killing nearly 2 million people in places as remote as the Gobi Desert and as populated as Sao Paolo Brazil.
Based on timing alone, Scientists proved without a shadow of a doubt that Victor Von Doom’s labs were the epicenter of the Earthquakes.
Superman still believed this to be a political and human problem, and chose to remain unengaged.
This led to the rapid involvement of the United Nations, which with the support of the military of some of the world’s biggest nations, they attacked Latveria.
And were summarily defeated with ease.
As was observed “It was almost like they knew where we were going to be before we were there.”
Superman, recognizing the potential that time itself could be being tampered with by Victor Von Doom and his experiments, immediately went on the offensive.
Victor Von Doom was never seen or heard from again.
Latveria was leaderless, and without a leader, this saw similar activities on this timeline as had occurred on my own.
The ‘wall’ between Germany and Latveria fell.
The North and South became one country named Germany again.
And democratic elections commenced once more.
“So what happened with Dr Doom?”
“Who?,” Ray asked, “Oh you mean Victor Von Doom, he’s not known as Dr Doom here in this world, but no one knows, and Superman refuses to discuss it.”
“And that’s why Superman was elected President as a write in in 1990? Everyone was afraid of him?,” I asked.
“Precisely,” said Wing, “and he’s been President ever since.”
“25 years? I thought that was unconstitutional!,” I responded,
“Superman has not – once – actually run for President. He wins by a landslide write in every time despite publicly telling people he is not interested, no matter which candidates runs for election,” he said.
“Well if anything, it’s still illegal, he’s not even from Earth, I thought you had to be a citizen to run.”
“Shortly before Superman went on the offensive with Latveria, Congress had made it legal for naturalized citizens to become leaders of this country, The House supported the measure. President Reagan vetoed the measure, but he was overruled.”
“Well if he’s not interested in being President, then why take the position? There’s nothing saying he had to do the job,” I responded.
“Haha. Yeah. he tried that at first. In 1990, the election then went to the next closest man, George Bush. But the public was in an outrage, and with all the super villains put away, and no need for superheroes, the population began to get out of control and riot. This started on the West Coast, engulfing the city of Los Angeles in 1992, but started to spread. Bush was incapable of commanding the presence and keep the public calm like Superman could, and even Superman knew this. The real leader was the man who everyone looked up to, not the man who had lost the election, and everyone knew it.”
“So he relented and accepted Presidency?,” I stated flatly.
“Yes sir,” Ray said, with a weird sense of respect I didn’t fully expect.
As we walked – I could see the perimeter walls of the University, and it was about then I noticed a weird translucent shimmer that extended from the top of the wall and extended as high as the eye could see.
“Have a seat, please,” Ray said, as he gestured to an empty park like bench.
I sat down, we’d been walking for an hour by this time.
“After nearly 20 years in office, Superman was bored. Not only was everyone so afraid of him they wouldn’t question any order he made. He had made his mark on the world fighting villains and working with the world leaders, but with the villains gone and leaders afraid to tell him anything other than what they thought he wanted to hear, he became tremendously bored. “
It all made sense.
“So he tasked our intelligence agencies with finding a world where he could fight. That’s when we found your world.”
I did a double take. “What?,” I said, “My world isn’t that corrupt!”
“It isn’t now,” he said.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“My planet is relatively peaceful, and we have never had any supervillains!, Let alone any worthy opponent to fight Superman!,” I exclaimed.
“Have you ever wondered how it got that way?,” he looked at me with a smirk on his face.
I shook my head.
“So what you’re implying is – Superman came to my world – the planet Earth I have come to know and love – to conquer the ultimate supervillain?”
“That is correct,” he said.
Had I lived my life in a daze? Was I this naive? Had the world pulled the wool over my own eyes and I not seen any of this?
“But.. why? When there’s so much he could have done to build up the country?,” I asked.
“Superman’s not interested in being a leader, he never was. But this is not to say he wants to be told what to do. Like most of us, he just wants to believe in something greater than himself, and until you came along, he didn’t, and the country and this world was suffering as a result of that.”
I thought the man was a madman.
“This is for you,” Ray said, handing me an envelope sealed with red stamped wax on it.
I looked at the stamp.
It had my old QA seal on it. “Accepted by #52”.
My mind reeled as I opened the envelope, tears welling in my eyes.
A man I once met let me look through his eyes, hear through his ears, smell through his nose, taste through his mouth, and feel through his body – and he gave me a glimpse of a world that I will never understand why you did what you did.
Never, in a million lifetimes, would I have remotely understood why you fought like you had for so long.
I understand now. You know who I am. I shall see you soon.”
I could feel who it was through the letter, as I crumpled it up and tears started flowing down my face.
I was having a difficult time believing any of this.
“Who is this supervillain?,” I asked.
Ray got up from the park bench and looked at the busy city street with the people rushing by as fast as they could go.
“He’s a being who should never have been involved like he was” Ray said looking away from me.
“But who was he?,” I asked, following Ray as he started walking to the gated wall closed off from the busy city street it overlooked
“Tomorrow, when you wake up, you’re going to type this story out in it’s entirety exactly as you remember it. You’re going to explain to your planet why this universe – no universe can have you two living separately, The fate of all worlds depends on you two coexisting.”
His clothes started to shimmer as he approached the gate, as he pulled something out of his pocket.
“Will you please write everything we’ve discussed out?,” he said.
“Of course I will, but please tell me – who was this supervillain.”
He pushed the button of the object he was holding,
The illusion of the outside world disappeared to reveal open space, and stars and planets – a brilliant galaxy shimmering with light and life – bright, brilliant and stretching as far as my eyes could see, unlike anything I had ever seen on Earth before.
I was awestruck.
“That man was me,” Ray said, and as he said that, my heart skipped a beat – and as I looked at him his clothes shimmered and changed to reveal a man I was all too familiar with.
I started to back away.
“I had mistaken my ambivalence for neutrality, and judged the very thing I loved the most based on the choice of free will that you guaranteed without boundaries or restrictions to everyone.
I thought you were reckless, naive, dare I say – stupid even – I judged you. Most judged you. But in the end, you gave all of us the greatest gift any intelligent being could ever desire. Even Superman.”
“What could I give to someone like you or him that you don’t already have?,” I said, truly bewildered..
“Hope, my Dearest God. You gave us all hope”
And with that, he waved his hand, and this weird world faded away.
I woke up this morning.
And could not help but wonder.
Was that really a dream?