A Superman short story

This is part of my writing exercise series where I take a photo from the internet and then craft a story around it. Today's story is based on my absolute favorite look and version of Superman by Alex Ross:
A Superman short story

Dear Diary,

I'm tired. I'm so very tired.

The day started out as any other day. Waking up bright and early, with my natural physiological alarm going off inside, as my skin detects the first rays of light from the yellow sun. From there, it's to the shower, a quick heat vision shave, and a cup of coffee. I've got to have my coffee. Okay, I don't need it, but it's something that makes me feel human. It normalizes me.

All was well, and just as I'm getting ready to leave my apartment, the special phone rings. It was from Diana. She was worried about the coming JLA meeting and the fact that Bruce had been making overtures to Hawkman and Lantern. He wants to step up the severity with which we respond to calls. Things in the world are changing but we can't think of ourselves as Earth's superiors.

I assure Diana that I will be in attendance at the meeting later this month and that I will be sure to talk to Dr. Fate and Arthur. Even though they are off safeguarding the magical realms and Atlantis, respectfully, they still get a vote.

We make a coffee date for the weekend before the meeting. I'm looking forward to it but at the same time it's all so confusing. Do I love Lois or is it safer to love Diana? Lois has this spirit about her, yet Diana is more like me. Thinking about it makes it worse. Writing it down here, which should help me figure it all out, just confuses me even more. I can see it now, EXTRA, EXTRA, Superman confused and beaten by Love.

The best thing for confusion is to stay busy so I left the apartment and took the train. I like to people watch on my way into work. There's so many different emotions that run through their faces. As much as I want to help everyone, I'm not able to. The woman in the back corner, silently sobbing by herself. Those around her looking at her as if she is crazy or on something. I see her moving her lips and I know I could listen in and hear what she says but I don't. Ma and Pa taught me that just because I can use my powers, doesn't mean I should. And so I pass off momentary glances her way and wonder if she will be okay? There is so much pain in being a human.

At work I pull an assignment on the mayor. There's a tip that the mayor is taking bribes from a real estate developer so that they can kick out hundreds of people from their apartments, bulldoze the old building, and put up a gleaming tower where each apartment will sell for five or six million dollars apiece. The mayor seems to be pushing things through faster and skipping steps that would normally be observed. In this case, it isn't a job for Superman but it definitely is a job for Clark Kent. This is something I can do as a human. I can expose the corruption and save people in another way.

After a round of making calls and setting up meetings I grab a bagel for lunch. That's when I hear the boom. An explosion on the East side. Before I know it I'm around the corner and shedding my clothing in the alley. Then it's up into the sky where I use my super hearing to get my bearings and then super sight to zero in on the catastrophe. I'm on my way in seconds.

When I arrive I instantly smell gas in the area. It had to be a gas explosion. The building on the corner is on fire. I quickly scan it with my x-ray vision and see that most people are headed down fire escapes on the side and back of the structure. I also see that there are casualties within. People that had no chance of escaping the blast. It sticks in my stomach for a split second until I see a woman on the roof, she's older, probably went up when she heard the explosion from below. I quickly fly over to her and land, asking her if she is okay. There are tears in her eyes and she keeps saying that her Toby is still inside. I ask her for her apartment number and she gives it to me, then I gently pick her up and fly her down to the opposite curb. The fire trucks are just pulling up. There is no time to waste, I fly up and crash in through a window. The smoke is thick and the wood is crackling in the fire. I hear the scratch at a door down the hall and move with lightning speed. I shoulder the door open and there is Toby, the beagle, looking up at me. I can make out his name on the tag of his collar hanging askew from around his neck. Quickly I pick him up, cradle his body to mine and then fly through the closest window and return the chipper little guy to the woman below. She thanks me over and over and hugs me.

After a last scan I see that there is no one left in the building to rescue. I report the observed death toll to the fire chief and then use my cold breath to help put out the fires. I was able to help a woman and her dog but I was too late to help at least 9 people that were in the corner deli where the blast originated. I should take solace in saving who I can but still… if only I could have been there before the blast. There was no way for me to know though. In the end, it's just an unknowable chaos that just happens. There is no "fairness" to life. That's such a bitter pill to swallow.

There was a time where I would open up my hearing to the world. I'd focus on the happy things. The "I love you" moments said between two anonymous people somewhere out there. The laughter of a family sitting around a table and having dinner. The moment someone opened their birthday gift and were so completely surprised. I had to stop doing this though because in a matter of minutes the negativity and bad things in the world would start to break through. It wasn't that there was more negativity than positivity but the overall sound level and emotion of that negativity drowned out everything. If I had kept myself open to it all, it would have driven me mad. So I simply stopped, and that terrifies me because I could easily miss something that I could be changing. The mental stress of it all is just too great, even for me.

After picking up my clothes from an old box in the alley and changing back into them, I met my informant at a hole in the wall restaurant in China Town. We went over his story, he handed me a manila folder with scanned pages of logbooks, and then he quietly slipped out the backdoor.

I looked at my watch and it was already pushing past 7:30 pm. I knew it would be an early day tomorrow so I ordered take-out from the restaurant I was in and then made my way home. On the way, through a residential side street, a girl was crying while looking up in a tree. I asked her what was wrong and she pointed to her black kitten named Elmo. I set down my take-out and climbed that tree the old fashioned way. Once I had scooped Elmo up, I slid my way down and handed the little girl the kitten, "Now you keep this little one inside okay?" I said to her. She nodded thanks and then ran back up the stairs to her townhouse door. I picked up my take-out and continued home.

When I got home, it was close to 9 pm, the food was already cold, and even with it having been a sunny day, I felt spent. Both physically and even more so, mentally. I went into my bedroom and threw my work clothes on the bed, leaving on my shirt unbuttoned around my... other work clothes. I went back out to the living room, turned on the end table light and sat down in my favorite chair, just letting myself relax in my own solitude. Soon I was drifting off after a long day.

I'm Superman, but at the same time, I'm tired. One person can't do it all and there is always so much to do. If only I could do more.

-Jason Falter


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