As I sit on the edge of my bed, I ponder what my place in this world is. I imagine myself scratching my head at the thought — that’s what normal people do when deep in thought, right? Unfortunately, I’m anything but “normal,” and doing so would prove far too hazardous.
In a world where most everyone was born blessed with amazing abilities, I live a life of self-imprisonment due to my curse. While my friends and I were all born as “Normals” in our infancy, our abilities began to manifest with the typical aging process.
My best friend growing up was a mousey haired boy named Liam. He and his dad lived in the apartment across from us. I guess it was proximity that pushed us together and a number of shared characteristics that made up the catalyst for our friendship.
Liam and I had quite a bit in common. Both of us were raised Catholic, we were both altar boys, and both of our mothers died when we were very young. That’s the one ability I wish my mom had possessed; I wish she could have lived forever. I lost my mom to an incurable disease, evidently, it was genetic; passed down from mother to daughter. Being her son spared me from a painful, debilitating death, but it didn’t spare me from the fragility that comes from the loss of a parent. Liam’s mom, on the other hand, died in childbirth. Even though he never really knew his mom, he was the one person my age who could really empathize with me.
Despite the similarities we shared as kids, a stark difference became apparent as we grew older, and our abilities began to develop.
It started for him on a Tuesday evening. The two of us were sitting, as we usually would be after a school day, on the roof of our apartment building. We were there in part to admire a particularly glorious sunset over the Cleveland skyline, and in larger part to neglect our respective piles of homework.
Liam was eying the fire escape on the adjacent building, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
“Hey, Tom, I bet I can jump from the edge of the roof to that fire escape,” Liam said giddily.
“Are you flipping crazy? You’ll die! There’s no way this is a good idea, man.” I was staring at him uncomfortably because I knew this was exactly the sort of thing he would actually try. Liam was always a bit of a daredevil, and he never hesitated to accept a challenge, especially those he develops himself.
“C’mon, Tom,” Liam said, mock pleading. “It’s really no different from the long jump in Track, you know I can jump farther than anyone else on the team!”
Liam was right about that, he was an amazing asset for our school’s track and field team. He often joked that his prowess in the long jump was his lame superpower. My main concern was the drastic difference in consequences between jumping in a sandbox, and a several story fall to one’s demise.
“If you want to do it, fine. I just want you to know that if you die, you can’t haunt me. I told you, no, and it’s no one’s fault but yours.”
“See, you say all that. But, all I hear is ‘go for it,'” Liam said grinning widely.
Liam took a few paces back and toned out my objections. He sprinted towards the edge and leaped. I stood stock-still and watched in fear as he came just short of the fire escape, his flailing body plunging to the alleyway below.
I ran as fast as I could down the stairs, bursting through the gate leading to the alley. There was Liam, standing up and examining his hands closely. Not a scratch was on him.
“Are you in pain?” I asked, dumbstruck.
“No,” he paused. “Dude, I think I’m indestructible.”
It turned out that he was. Soon I learned that I would become just the opposite.
I was idly strolling the school grounds on my lunch break, looking for a suitable place to sit down and enjoy my meal. I saw Liam lounging beneath the overgrown willow that had erected itself at the very edge of school property.
“Mr. Unbreakable, I see you’re still smoking,” I noted the discarded filters scattered on the ground around him, a freshly lit cigarette dangling from his mouth. “You know, you may be able to take a fall from an apartment building, but those things will still kill you.”
Liam waved away my protests, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “You know you want one.”
Despite the warnings of my every health class I’d attended, and the stern conversations with my parents, he was right. Liam tossed me a half empty pack and his Zippo. As I flicked the wheel to produce a light, I winced in pain. Looking down, I realized the skin of my thumb had been torn away, blood running quickly down my arm.
“What the fuck?!” I exclaimed. Liam offered me a napkin and I wrapped my finger with it.
“Dude, what the hell was that?” Liam asked, eying the makeshift bandage as it was slowly dyed with my blood.
At the time, I thought it was nothing. I must have caught a sharp corner on the lighter, nothing more. However, as Liam’s introduction to his “ability” was much more impressive, this was mine. As time went on, I realized my body was becoming more and more fragile. My skin had taken on a thin, paper-like appearance. My bones were as brittle as my grandmother’s fine glassware. As my disability progressed in severity, I found it difficult to accomplish even the most mundane tasks.
Dressing became more and more difficult, especially socks. Socks were the worst, even more so after getting out of the shower in the morning. I resigned myself to wearing nothing but those stupid fluffy cabin socks they sell when winter rolls around.
How could two people with so much in common be so disparate in their abilities? It got to a point where I could no longer keep up with my best friend, or any of my other friends for that matter. I became closest to my kin — books and other various papers. They gave me some sense of solace. Just because something is easily destroyed, it is still of immeasurable worth. That thought is what keeps me alive, and what has brought me the motivation to write books of my own. I chronicle the accomplishments of those who have the strength to rend apart burning cars, saving the helpless victims inside. I tell stories of so many heroic deeds, that I begin to notice something new.
With each story that I wrote, their names followed. The lives that were saved by my friends, the heroes you all look up to, their names scrawled themselves into my skin. I became their chronicler, their scribe, the living reminder of the importance of their work. In this, I became indispensable. I counseled them through their struggles and their crises.
This is my place in the world, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.