Teabox Tales - I Am No Longer Captain Awesome
The first Teabox Tale of the new year. Happy 2022! I hope I can add loads of content to the website this year.
This is a story loosely based on a writing prompt by U/ReallyGoodBee on Reddit (which can be found here), but I did find myself deviating from the prompt quite a lot.
Oh god, not another one!
No, no. It’s ok, come in. I’m not mad at you. I’ll put the kettle on. I just want you to know that I’m not that person anymore, and I never will be again. So if you’ve come here expecting me to do some… some uh… great feat of strength, well you’re out of luck.
You just want to talk? Ask questions? Yeah, I guess I can manage that. Just come in, before the neighbours start staring. They’re already suspicious enough given all the visitors I keep getting. A dozen a week, sometimes. Day and night.
I was a student. All cheap plonk and pot noodles. You… you look like the sort… you know how it is, right? Stone broke. There was this clinical trial. All of us were doing it. None of us knew what was being tested, and there was a rumour that it was just a placebo. That they just wanted to see what we’d do. Just a little shot, and then three days of observation. Hundred pounds a day. I wasn’t going to say no.
I rolled up my sleeve and they pricked me. It didn’t feel like anything really. Just a prick. They took me to a room and made me sit for just… hours. Just me and a heart rate monitor. No books to read or nothing.
They mostly just ignored me that first day. They'd come along every twenty minutes and say stuff like "Another one not taking. Shame. We'll keep him in anyway, just to make sure."
The first night was fine, too. I just went to sleep. And the next day it was the same thing. Sitting around.
Things didn't feel odd to me until the third day. I had a restless night. Real disturbed. I woke up to all this bleeping and stuff. They were all crowding around me, saying “He’s taken! One has finally taken!”
And then I looked at my body. I was a chubby kid, right? Except suddenly I was strong. I wasn’t all lardy bits, I was buff. They took me out of bed and kept messing with my heart rate and blood pressure and poking me. They took me to this gym area and made me lift things and run on a treadmill.
I hated sports. Capital H Hated, right? But all of a sudden it was so easy. I ran and ran and never even lost my breath, and I could lift every single weight they threw at me. One of the doctors even took me out to the car park. Had me lift his car. It was easy.
They told me it was this new drug they were working on. Something to do with building up the strength and resilience of severely ill patients, but they needed to trial it on healthy people first. They were all disappointed, cos' everyone who tested it just had it pass through their system without it doing anything. I was the first person that it worked on. It was just me in the lab with a bunch of real buff guinea pigs. And it worked way too well on me. I was… Well… I was superhuman.
They took a bit of my blood and prodded me for a bit longer. The story made its way ‘round the whole press circuit, and then I was left; just me and my three-hundred pounds.
The superhero thing was egotistical on my part, I’ll admit that now. I went from being this weedy little thing with bad grades to someone with real power overnight, and I guess I went a little bit mad. I started with a Halloween costume, and I hung around outside the clubs late at night looking for trouble. Except being strong doesn’t mean that you know how to fight. I saw this girl being hassled by this guy, so I walked up to them and told the guy to knock it off, and he punched my face in. The girl laughed at me, too.
I went away then, for six months to get my stuff all sorted out. Made an actual costume, that was easy. Went with Captain Awesome cos’ that was what the original Halloween costume was called.
Went to do some martial arts to learn to fight good. Wanted to do karate, but it’s hard to find adult classes; it was just me beating up on twelve-year-olds. Did krav maga next. Turns out that was a women’s self-defence class. They didn’t mind, because I was good practice. Got beat many times before I was good enough to go back out on the streets.
I dunno how I maintained any semblance of a ‘secret identity.’ My face was all over the papers during the clinical trial debacle. I guess it was people being polite, cos’ there’s no way people are dumb enough not to have noticed.
There were good times, I guess. Going round all the schools to do the safety talks was fun. Road crossing and stranger danger for the youngins’, and all the anti-drug stuff for the teens. And there was that time a Make A Wish kid was my sidekick for the week. Put everything on hold to take him to burger places in the Awesomobile. Had a mate dress up as a robber so he could play at putting him in cuffs.
The Awesomobile, oh, those were the days. I have her on bricks ‘round the back, a total write-off of course. Do you wanna see her? No? Oh, ok.
Things happened too quickly once I really got into the swing of things. One week it was drunken scuffles outside clubs and teenagers shoplifting from corner shops, and the next it all got real dark. More dark than anything I should’ve been handling. Bad things happen here, my guy. Bad things I’ll spare you from knowing about.
I did a lot of wrong things in my time. Dangerous, illegal things. I should’ve gone to prison for them. The police knew about me, but they didn’t arrest me because my existence was convenient for them. I’d do the things they wanted to do but couldn’t; the violent, hard-line things. I’d get phone calls or notes from em’. Tip-offs. They said they’d turn a blind eye if I did certain things, but if I didn’t I might get a visit from them. I knew what that meant.
It was all very well until it wasn’t.
I killed somebody. An innocent. Dead, and all because of me. I remember watching the light leaving his eyes and having this sinking revelation that the thing I had done was profoundly evil. It was then when I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t stop because I would’ve been arrested.
That was when my ‘arch nemesis’ just happened to conveniently appear to bump me off. That’s right, don’t look so shocked. The Deathly Demon was just my mate in a costume. Not even a handmade costume this time, my mum banned me from her sewing machine cos’ the spandex clogged it up. It was a Halloween costume. A plastic mask.
There are no supervillains. Evil isn't fun and campy. It’s like… You know when they talk about the banality of evil? Yeah, that’s about the score. You got the men in suits and ties making deals on one end of the spectrum, and poverty and desperation on the other. People want to believe in supervillains cos’ supervillains are easy. If the only problem in the world was The Deathly Demon stealing money from orphans and women to build his evil volcano lair, well… That’s a pretty easy problem to solve.
It was pretty fun when I was killed off, not gonna lie. Very theatrical with a lot of fake blood. Of course, all the essential people knew I wasn’t dead. There wasn’t like… a death certificate or anything. There was a funeral though, that was a laugh. Was gonna lay out my suit in the coffin and bury it, but it turns out cemetery plots are too expensive to waste on a gag.
But I didn’t stop being Captain Awesome just because Captain Awesome was dead. I still had the powers. I just sort of assumed that they’d go away eventually, but…
I just had this… visceral disgust towards my body. What it was capable of. I sat around eating junk food and doing zero exercise for months and I still stayed strong and fit and muscled. It just wouldn’t go away!
My degree was in STEM and I sorta still had contacts with the people who ran the original clinical trial, so I just turned up on their doorstep and begged them until they agreed to find a way to help me fix this.
Eight years of work, day and night. That’s what it took to make it stop. Made a lot of useful discoveries in the process, that was a bonus. At least some good came from this whole sordid chapter of my life.
The day we came up with the final formula was the greatest day of my life. I knew it would hurt and it really hurt, but I wanted this sickness out of me. I took it and went to sleep and woke up myself again the next morning. The self I always should’ve been; weak and flabby and not super in the slightest.
Look, I’m sorry if this isn’t the story you wanted to hear. This is my life, not some comic book. If I had a better story to tell I’d tell it.
I’m an ordinary person. I put my trousers on one leg at a time. I heat up my value ready-meals in the microwave just like everyone else. I don’t care if I’m fat and lazy and worthless, because I am no longer Captain Awesome, and that’s really what matters.