• The Adventures of Marcus T. Banning
    Part I: Origins

    My name is Marcus T. Banning, and they call me a “superhero.” Personally, I don’t much care for the title, and I don’t think I deserve it. I’m a role model, though, and as such I don’t want to tell those people who call me a “superhero” that I’m not just because I don’t think I deserve it. If they think I deserve it, the only thing I see fit to do is do my best to live up to the title. In my opinion, I think the title of “superhero” should be given to anyone who fights for what they believe to be right. I think the people who stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves, the people who put their lives on the line to make someone else’s life a better place, and the people who do the right thing, even when no one else is doing it are the ones who should be called “superheroes.”

    Me? I’m just a man. I’m just a man who was given extraordinary powers, and was left with a choice. I was left with the choice to use these powers for good, to use these powers for evil, or to pretend it never happened and refuse to use them at all. I won’t lie. For a while, I wanted to pretend that it wasn’t real. I pretended I didn’t have those powers. Fate, though, as she always does, had different plans for me. As you might have figured out, I ended up using those powers for good. Fate put me in a situation where I had to choose, and she bet a young woman’s very life on the fact that I had a good heart.

    It was a cold night, as they tend to be in late September, and I was walking down 3rd towards Continental. Because it was cold, I was wearing my black trench coat. I had just come from work, and as such was still wearing my dress shirt, tie, and slacks. I pulled my coat around me to block some of the wind, and noticed a young girl, probably in her twenties, and wearing summer clothes in the dead of winter. She was almost to Continental when an arm shot out of the alley between apartment buildings and dragged her into the shadows. A low, guttural voice exclaimed something to the effect of, “Well, lookie what we got here!” and she screamed for help. Seconds later, she was silenced, and as I walked by he held a knife to her throat.

    In that moment, time froze. The man looked at me with wide eyes, full of fear that he had been caught. It’s true, I did look like an officer of the PPD, and his eyes shone with the fear of being caught. That was only for a moment, though, because he remembered that he had a bargaining chip, and his knife was at its throat. His eyes lit up, as though fueled by an inner fire of the darkest hate, and an evil grin swept across his face. The girl was frozen rigid with fear. Her body was taut, as though she thought that if she relaxed even the slightest, her throat would slide down to his knife, killing her instantly. Her skin was pale and freckled, and her entire body trembled ever so lightly with fear. The wind whipped through the alley, blowing through her auburn hair and blew the man’s coat around his body, revealing tattered jeans and a stained white wife beater.

    It was her eyes, though. The girl whose name I never got, and will always remember, was what drew my gaze. Her eyes were a brilliant, brilliant jade, and they held a look of sorrow within them that seemed to speak to me from her very soul itself. It told me that she was scared for her life, and that she didn’t want to die. It told me that she wanted to live, because she thought she had something worth living for. It told me that if I didn’t help her, no one ever could. That look told me enough that night, and when time resumed, I had made my decision. I may have wanted to pretend my powers never happened, but when a person’s life was on the line, I was not going to stand by and do nothing as she was brutally robbed of everything she’d ever done, and the world itself was robbed of everything she could have been, just for one pathetic man’s instant gratification.

    The wind gusted once more down the sidewalk, blowing my trench coat and ponytail to my right side. It was probably a rather heroic and awe-inspiring pose, but my thoughts were not on myself. My thoughts were focused solely on saving the life of that young girl, and making sure that the pathetic creature that held the knife to her throat could never, ever do this again. I couldn’t always be there, but I could make sure that I never had to stop this one particular man again.

    After that gust, the man looked me up and down, and held the knife closer to the girl’s throat. The girl flinched, and her body became even more rigid as she fought the idea of her neck being sliced open at this man’s blade. Her eyes screamed out in terror, but her mouth hung open, and she was unable to utter a single word. The man, however, said plenty more than he needed to in his current situation. “Don’t even think about it, you b*****d,” he told me. “You take one step towards us and I’ll slit her throat. Don’t think I won’t.” As if to prove to me that he would, indeed, kill her, he pushed the blade up into her neck, cutting the skin and drawing a few drops of blood. The girl took a breath and held it, her eyes closing in the pain, but still said nothing. A few tears escaped her eyes, and her body fell slightly, as if to tell me that she had just lost hope, and knew her life was over.

    I knew what I had to do. I knew how to do it. So the only thing left to do was act upon my knowledge and stop this man. I whispered to the girl, though I highly doubt she heard my words, “Don’t lose hope. Never lose hope.” The man heard me whispering, though he didn’t hear my words either, and started to become angry. “What was that, you p***k? You’d best move along if you know what’s good for you!” he warned me. I glared at him, the wind blowing my ponytail, and said simply, “You said that you’d slit her throat if I took one step towards you.” The look on his face said that he was a bit confused by my statement. Almost as if he figured I was a little “slow” or something, because if someone would have responded to his statement, they’d have done so immediately, not a minute or so after. All he could say was, “What?”

    “Did I stutter?” I asked him. “You said you’d slit her throat if I took one step towards you. I’m telling you I won’t be moving from this spot.” With that, my eyes turned from a calm, disappointed look to a cold, frigid glare. Without a word, my expressions told the man that he was about to be in a world of hurt, and that it was all his own doing. He picked a fight with the wrong person. I spread my feet and with a quick chant, locked them in place. Then, uttering a few more words, I threw my right hand at the man, palm out, in that fashion that people do when they mean to tell you to stop. His eyes erupted in rage, and he went to finish the girl. The girl saw his gaze, and she knew what he was about to do. Her eyes sprang wide open, fear flooding from every part of her body. Seconds later, she blacked out and fell limp onto the ground. Nothing happened, though. The man looked down at his hand, and made a grunt as if he were tugging on a locked door. The knife, his hand, his arm, and the entire rest of him was frozen in place.

    A wicked grin swept across my face, because I knew this was already over. I raised my right hand, keeping it palm out, and the man was lifted from the ground, frozen in place. The only thing that moved were his eyes, and suddenly they were no longer filled with hate. They were filled with fear. Compassion swept over me momentarily, but the voice of my practical side told me that letting him go now would mean he would strike again later, and I may not be there to stop it. Once more, my deep blue eyes froze over, and the look of compassion faded into an icy stare. “W-What are you?” the man stammered.

    Keeping my right arm in place, I pointed my left hand, palm out, at a nearby payphone, and raised my hand slightly. With the sound of crumbling concrete and screeching metal, the payphone gave way and rose into the air a few inches off the ground. My expression never changed, and my right hand slowly went from palm out to a clenched fist. As I clenched my fist, he was crushed by the gravity around him, and he screamed in pain. I clenched my fist harder, and harder, and my eyes were filled with hate. Finally, I stopped the pressure, but didn’t lessen it any either. When he had regained his breath, I looked at him with cold, icy blue eyes that seemed to roar with an inner hellfire, and told him, “My name is Marcus T. Banning. You would do well to remember it.”

    With that, I swung my left hand as hard as I could towards him, bringing the payphone towards him with enough force to shatter bones. The payphone rocketed through the air and slammed into him at full force. I hoped it was enough to shatter a few of his bones. I hoped it was painful. The payphone would have been the last thing he saw before his world went black, and I released my grip on him, letting his lifeless form fall the twelve feet or so before collapsing on the ground. The lucky b*****d was still breathing.

    The girl was just regaining consciousness, and looked at me for a moment with those beautiful green eyes, and said nothing. Her mouth hung agape, and her eyes said it all. They asked the same question the man had asked, and they asked me to please not hurt her. I couldn’t blame her. I did not look very friendly as I incapacitated that man. There was a very good chance that I had looked even more evil, and even more hateful than that man himself. My face fell as I realized this, and I couldn’t look at her. I lowered my gaze, and answered her unasked question in the same fashion I had answered the mugger’s. “My name is Marcus T. Banning,” I said. With that, I continued down the sidewalk towards Continental. The girl got up to her feet and followed me, but when she turned the corner onto the sidewalk, I wasn’t there. That’s one of the interesting things about controlling gravity. I can make a miniature wormhole, and place myself wherever I wish to be within the blink of an eye. I watched her look for me from the roof of the apartment complex for a minute, then sighed. Head hung low, I chanted those words again, and in a flash of light I was at my door. I reached into my pocket, grabbed my keys, and unlocked the door. Then I sat on the bed, head in hands, and wondered what tonight meant for me.

    As I looked up, my gaze was brought to the window, and through its single dingy pane of glass I could see the lights of the city. I could see the navy blue sky as the sun had long since sunk into the horizon, and I could see the glimmering of stars through the glass. They always put me into perspective, those stars. Every single one of them, a brilliantly burning sun much like our own. As I sit there on the bed, I remembered that night just barely over two years ago. I remembered every detail, every little bit, and it’s almost as if there was a slide show ready to be played in my mind.

    It was the second Friday in November, it and it happened to be the thirteenth. It also happened to be my birthday. My friends and I had gone to the movies. It wasn’t a particularly good show, but it was decent. Then we went to one of those Twenty-Four Hour diners that everyone has, the ones that all have different names, like Norm’s or Denny’s or John’s or whatnot. That was fun. We stayed out all night talking and joking and having a grand time. Then I came home, and once more I was alone. My parents didn’t care. My father was passed out drunk on his recliner, and my mother was upstairs entertaining some of her “guests.” What I remember the most, however, is when I opened the door to my room. I wasn’t paying attention, apparently, because I thought it was my room.

    It wasn’t. When the door closed, and I looked up, I was not in my room like I thought I was. I wasn’t even in the same state. I was in the middle of the open plains, the kind you see in the movies when the kids get lost camping in Nebraska. The wind was a cool breeze over the plains, causing the grass to wave and sway to and from. The night was cool and refreshing, and the full moon shone brightly down upon the open grasslands, illuminating everything with enough light to see. I could see mountains in the distance in front of me, and nothing but open prairie in every other direction. I can’t quite explain it, but I could, for lack of a better word, “sense” animals near me. I could feel a hare, a herd of bison on my left, a snake in front of me and to my right, and all the little insects crawling around on the ground. I was so caught up with taking in the sights and the strange thing that had just happened to me that I never in my wildest dreams would have thought there’d be someone with me. The voice startled me more than it startled anything around me.

    “Welcome, Whispering Wind,” it said. The voice came from behind me, and so instinctively I spun around to face the voice. What stood before me was never what I expected. I’ll never forget that face, and it will undoubtedly haunt my mind till the very day I die. When I turned, I found myself face to face with what can only be described as a ghost. Just like in the movies, where the incorporeal are vaguely intangible, but still capable of speech and facial expressions, he stood before me. He was a giant, towering a good foot over me, with deep brownish-red skin and a few tattoos to match. He wore a simple garb, with simple sandals. As I faced him, he smiled at me and spoke slowly, but with a deep, meaningful tone. “We have much to discuss, but very precious little time in which to tell it. I shall be brief,” he said. He bowed his head to me, still standing taller than I did, and continued with his tale. “The Earth is spiraling into disorder. In many places, Chaos reigns over Order, and in others, Order reigns above Chaos. Each life lost causes the Earthmother to suffer, and the balance between Life and Death, Nature and Technology, and Good and Evil is crumbling. A Balance must be restored, and the child born under the climax of the Full Moon would be the one chosen to restore this Balance. On the night of his eighteenth birthday, under the climax of the Full Moon, he will be gifted with the powers of the Earthmother, and tasked with restoring the Balance.” The man finished his speech, raised his head, and smiled at me. Before I could say anything, he raised his hand and placed his palm gently on my left cheek. “You are that man. Whispering Wind in our world, Marcus Tomlinson Banning in yours, be gifted with the power of the Earthmother. Use it well, for the fate of your future rests solely on your shoulders.” His hand glowed green, and I felt a warmth as what could only be described as raw power was transferred to me. I wouldn’t know it till I looked in the mirror, but a tribal tattoo crept across the left side of my face where he left his palm, signifying my power. “Though the fate rests on your shoulders, and only yours, know this, my friend: You are never alone in this fight.” He left me those words as he faded into the plains, and I was left alone. I looked once more to the sky, and when I looked back down, I was once more in my room.

    Thoroughly shaken, I walked with unsteady steps and collapsed on my bed. For some reason, a wave of tiredness hit me like a locomotive, and my eyes were soon closed, taking me to the land of dreams. It wasn’t long before I opened my eyes again, and glanced at the clock. Three AM. I closed my eyes once more, and found myself in that same spot, lost amid the prairies. This time, the man stood before me, and he was much different than the earlier. He was smaller, thin, and much more hurried. His voice was scratchy, and he sounded as if he had a million and one other things he needed to do. When he realized I knew he was there, he spoke quickly, saying, “The Earthmother senses your power, and thinks it too great to be gifted upon one man, whether he be pure of heart or not. However, she also knows that you will be unable to restore the Balance with any less power. It is my task, therefore, to bring the Champion of Balance a Balance unto himself. Though you be strong in power, and strong in heart, you must be humbled. This curse will give you the Balance you need.” The last thing I remembered was him placing his index finger on my forehead.

    I woke up the next morning to the alarm buzzing at me, telling me it was six and I had to get up. For some reason it was still set to “everyday.” I chalked the whole thing up to a bad dream, even during those points where I realized I really did have those powers, and eventually figured out what they were. I learned I could control gravity in almost every facet, and still pretended it never happened. I still don’t know what “curse” the little one put on me. I hope I never do.

    Even now, as I sit on my bed, realizing for the first time that I have accepted who I have become, I want to pretend it isn’t real. I know it is, though. Tomorrow, I know the papers will all say that there’s a “New Hero in Town.” There won’t be much about him, except his name. My name. I don’t know why I gave her my real name. I don’t think I ever will. But I will always remember her. I will always remember that night, and I will always remember that fateful night on my eighteenth birthday. I may be super powered. I may be able to stand up for the people who cannot stand up for themselves. I may put my life on the line for others. And I may do the right thing, even when no one else is doing it, because I know it’s the right thing to do. But I’m just a man. A man named Marcus T. Banning.

    A man they call a Superhero.