Rough Draft: Backup-Man

(I’m sorry. I am running out of time for proofreading. This is just a little stupid idea I had. Basically, Dr. M will start doingsuper villain things at Backup-Man’s prompting, and all the heroes will return without remembering that they are heroes.)

No one thought that I was one of them, the superheroes. Well, not really a superhero, super-powered. I couldn’t do much of anything, really; in fact, it was more of what I couldn’t do that made me one of whatever we were: Among the myriad normal things I couldn’t do like lift a truck off the ground, read minds, or fly, there was one thing I regularly failed at, being reprogramed.

Everyone else seems to suffer this change. I can never predict when they’ll occur, but the longest point of stability lasted ten years. Our city—which is what the world looks like now, a perpetual city—was a jungle for ten years. Before that, I remember a strange week when the world was all underwater and we lived on a fleet of advanced submarines.

Even though everything changes, nothing really changes. I wake up next to my wife, and whether she’s covered in simplistic leather skins, wrapped in some strange Victorian garb, or wearing a neon spandex onesie, she’s still my wife. My boss is still my boss whether he’s the tribal leader or a CEO, and the heroes are always the heroes, except this last time.

I felt the reset, the way I do, felt the wave of confusion swell inside my head only to subside. At first I couldn’t tell what changed. My clothes were the same. The rug beneath my feet was still a strange, unwholesome reddish color, and the sky was still blue.

But the heroes had gone. Not merely changed, but gone. The supervillains too. It’s hard asking people if they, by chance, had noticed a man in brightly colored clothes wrestling a cybernetic squid. You get funny looks. I always feel this way after a change.

Weeks passed, and I found myself at cheap flat, knocking on door 393. The heroes were easy to recognize, they hadn’t disappeared, but they were normal. He answered the door, cracking it open and starring out of it suspiciously.

I whispered, “Wake up,” and it surprised me. I hadn’t really planned on saying that. I didn’t even know why it bothered me so much. I just wanted the superheroes back.

His face relaxed a moment. Then shaking his head, he mumbled, “No, no,” and finally shouted, “No!” The door slammed, and I was left in the dirty hallway.

Immediately, the world grew fuzzy, and I felt the sudden reset. I knocked on the door, my head reeling with an overwhelming nausea. Some woman opened up, and I fell to my knees as darkness overwhelmed my vision.

Waking up in the hospital, I found my sleeping wife sitting next to me. At the foot of my bed stood Dr. M, his ever-present scar, more subtle in this world, a faint line leading out from under his glasses.

“Do you remember?” I croaked, my throat dry like sand.

Rubbing his well shaven chin, the supervillain replied, “No,” his thick accent was gone in this reality, “but I can remember that I should not remember something which you do remember. Why is this?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“You must not tell me,” he whispered, holding a finger to this lips. “Whatever it is, I must not know—”

“Or else the world restarts,” I interrupted.

“The world restarts?” he gasped.

“The whole thing. Happens all the time,” I said. “But this time, you all . . .” as I tried to imagine the right word Dr. M held up a hand.

“No, you must not tell me.”

“Fine,” I said. Closing my eyes, I asked, “What do you remember?” Looking at him, I watched him swallow, his sallow face somehow sinking deeper into itself. I continued, “I think I know,” I stopped. Opening my eyes, I looked at him, “Did they kill your wife in this reality.” He touched the scar and I knew. “Right,” I paused, trying to remember Dr. M’s backstory. “I can tell you who did it. Will that break reality?” He shrugged.

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