Tuesday, August 26, 2008
He Lives in You
There's no mountain too great
Hear the words and have faith
In your reflection
He lives in you
- The Lion King 2, "He Lives in You"
The suit didn't fit.
Sullivan Kent-- known as Sully to his friends, and everyone was his friend-- looked into the mirror and sighed. Okay, to be perfectly honest, it fit just fine, physically speaking.
But in reality, it was about ten times too big.
He'd come home to visit his mom (not just to get her to do his laundry, honest), and found the costume hanging where it had always hung, in a carefully concealed closet in the living room. Struck by a sudden impulse, he'd taken it to his room and pulled it on. But now he wanted nothing more than to take it off. Even though it was made of an extremely lightweight material, the cape rested very heavily on his shoulders.
I'm not ready, he thought, looking at the crimson S on his chest. He knew he'd never be ready, not really. These red boots were big shoes to fill... and he wasn't the right guy to fill them.
Problem was, he was the only guy who could possibly fill them.
He heaved another sigh. Dad had been killed four months ago, in a brutal battle with a bone-spiked enemy named Doomsday whom he'd defeated years before. Everyone had believed Doomsday was not merely dead, but really most sincerely dead. But he'd come back to life somehow when LexCorp scientists had exhumed his body for study. And this time he'd taken Dad out for good. Dad had battled him, saving Metropolis, but had given his own life in the process.
And in the ensuing four months-- well, things had gone to hell. Metropolis was suffering from riots, gang wars, and a crime wave the likes of which it hadn't seen in years. Metropolis needed help in a big way.
But Sully Kent was not the guy to fix things. He was just a college sophomore, and not exactly a good student, either. In fact he was a pretty bad student, and Met U, the proud alma mater of both his parents, had grown exceedingly sorry they'd ever let him in. He'd come very close to getting kicked out of school for underage drinking six months ago, and Dad had shaken his head and muttered disapprovingly, "Just like your Aunt Lois."
"Aunt Lois" wasn't his aunt at all, but his mother's cousin, who was something of a screwup in her own right. Sully thought Lois was cool, and didn't really mind being just like her. But he didn't like having Dad look at him with disappointment, so he'd tried to straighten up and fly right, metaphorically speaking. But the sad truth was, he just wasn't the academic type. He was more of the frat boy type. He liked to party. He liked to have fun. He liked girls.
None of that was really conducive to sitting down and cracking textbooks open.
But you didn't need a degree to save people. Dad hadn't gotten his college degree till twenty-five, at which point he'd been wearing the suit for three years. Dad had been fond of saying there was no superhero major in college.
Thing was, Sully just didn't possess what it did take-- nerve, courage, and strength of character.
He wasn't Kryptonian, like Dad had been. He was half human, and somehow he'd inherited all the weakest traits of humanity-- selfishness, cowardice, and a perennial inability to take life seriously. Superman he was not.
Hell, he thought, looking in the mirror glumly. I can't even fly.
But that wasn't true either, not really. He knew he could fly. In fact, he'd inherited all of Dad's powers. He didn't mind the x-ray vision and the heat vision, and the superstrength and invulnerability were great. But the flying-- ugh. He didn't like to do it, so he hadn't practiced much.
Truth was, it scared the willies out of him.
And that, more than anything, was why he had no business wearing this suit. He was sure Dad had never been scared of flying. Hell, Dad hadn't ever been scared of anything. Dad had been-- well, Superman.
And he was just Sully Kent, class clown, goofball, party animal, and lifelong screwup.
Thing was, Dad had never been a screwup. He'd seen what needed doing and done it. Sully... well, he could see what needed doing, but the thought of actually doing it had him practically pissing his pants in terror.
He was wearing the suit, and he was pretty much a dead ringer for Dad. In the mirror, it looked a hell of a lot like Superman staring back at him.
But he knew all too well it wasn't.
He stood in front of the mirror, clad in the blue, red, and gold of Dad's costume, fidgeting. All he had to do was jump out the window and take off, and he could help Metropolis. He could.
Problem was, just the idea made his knees shake. He felt the long crimson cape pressing into his shoulders, anchoring him to the ground. Lightweight though it was, it was way too heavy for him.
It's no use, he thought with something akin to despair. I can't do it. I just can't.
Superman was gone, and a kid playing dress-up in his dad's clothes wasn't going to bring him back.
He closed his eyes, shutting out the sight of his ridiculous reflection. Metropolis, he decided, was just going to have to muddle on without him. There was nothing he could do to help. He was only nineteen, and nothing in his careless slacker existence had prepared him to wear this suit. He simply wasn't ready for this.
He'd never be ready.
He opened his eyes and reached for the fastener on the costume, intending to strip it off and hang it back in the concealed closet where he'd found it. But suddenly he froze.
Outside, a few blocks away, his superhearing picked up the sound of gunfire, and people screaming. The wet ripping sound of bullets tearing through flesh. The thud of bodies dropping to the sidewalk.
People were being killed out there. In his city. Just a few blocks away from the apartment where he'd grown up.
People needed him.
No, he told himself. People need Superman.
He choked back the thought. What the people of Metropolis needed was help. Superman-- Dad-- wasn't here. He'd never be here again. He'd never be able to help people again.
But someone needed to step up, damn it.
And God help him, he was the only candidate for the job.
He stared into the mirror for a moment longer, seeing Dad's dark hair, his green eyes, his square jaw. He looked a hell of a lot like Dad... but inside, he was completely different, afraid to help people, afraid to accept his destiny, afraid to take on the mantle of a hero. Sully Kent was just a kid. And a screwup kid, at that.
But he was all the world had.
His mind made up, he spun toward the window, threw it open... and flew out into the bright, sunlit afternoon. His knees were still shaking as he rose into the air, but he ignored them and flew higher and faster.
The people of Metropolis needed Superman. And he definitely wasn't Superman. But maybe a kid playing dressup in his father's clothes could do some good. He didn't delude himself into thinking he could save the world. But maybe, just maybe, even a screwup kid could save a life or two.
He hoped so, anyway.
He flew toward the sounds he'd heard, and smiled a little to himself. Funny thing, but the higher he flew... the lighter the cape felt on his shoulders.