It should be obvious from the tags and such, but this is a work of fiction. Just putting that out there so you don’t think I’m insane. (Feel free to think that for other reasons.)
If you could have a super power? What would it be?
It’s a game kids play with each other. I’ve never answered it straight. When I was a kid, I would say stuff like “deadly farts” or “explosive boogers.” Always a joke. The truth was, I didn’t have to daydream about a super power. I had one.
My entire life, whenever I’ve been around a bully, the moment they inflict pain on their victim, I get a flash. A knowing. More colorful than full-color, more dimensional than 3D, I perceive that bully’s ultimate weakness. Not some physical thing, like an Achilles heel, no. I see their ruin.
The thing, the one fact about that bully, the linchpin of their very existence, the thing that hurts them most. I then, at that moment, have the power to completely and utterly crush the bully. With just a few words, I can open up their very soul and hit them at their deepest point.
I remember the first time it happened. A bully in the recess yard named Greg Artz pushed Renee Andersen off her swing. He laughed, she cried. Fuming, I hissed just a few words to Greg: “It’s your fault he left.” Greg’s face went pale. Tears poured down his face. He was out of school for a week.
Was that a fair punishment for the crime of pushing little Renee off her swing? What about all the Renees that came before? Or would have come after? When Greg came back to school, I always hovered near. If I ever saw him get that wicked look in his eye, all it took was a look. He backed down.
It’s an awesome power, and one I take very seriously. “With great power comes…” you know the rest. To be completely honest, I have misused it a time or two. When the bullying is acute or accidental, and when the existential dagger I can throw would in some way benefit me. A work rival thoughtlessly saying something calloused. A work rival who then has to take a leave of absence for a while, to tend to the nervous breakdown he had in the men’s room later that day.
I suffer for those. Not with a nervous breakdown, divorce, attempted suicide, or a lifetime of crippling anxiety. But I do get violently ill for the next 72 hours. I can’t keep anything down. Can’t sleep. I look like death at the end of it.
These days, I mostly ply my trade online. If you’ve ever been eviscerated by a cyberbully who suddenly disappeared online, never to be heard from again, I probably slipped into their DMs. “Your mother died thinking you hated her.” “She is sleeping with your brother.” “I know what you did to your sister’s hamster.” “Your father is right about you.”
I’ll be honest, I do get off on it. Maybe that makes me a bully. Maybe I’m as sadistic as Greg Artz. No one would know it. I’m actually a pretty nice guy. Unless you’re a bully, of course. Whatever (okay, I’ll say it) evil impulses I have are well fed by my bully takedowns.
I’ll admit to a certain sociopathic thrill at shaking an asshole to their very core, and I don’t regret what I do. Hell, I wish I could be there to witness every act of bullying, everytime some rotten bastard puts themselves in a position of dominance over another human being. I love being able to turn the tables on someone just as they are feeling powerful at another’s expense.
But truly, you have to believe me, that’s the only darkness in my life. On the whole, I’d say I’m pretty well adjusted.
Okay, pretty well adjusted, all things considered. Just last year, I followed a guy through traffic. He nearly drove another driver off the road, a longhaired kid with a honest-to-God peace symbol painted on his hood. As the bully’s head rocked back with laughter, I saw his ruin. I followed that jerk halfway across town before he finally pulled into a sporting goods store. I think he was the manager or something.
He didn’t see or notice me–another possible super power, but I’ve never really tested it. I waited until he was alone, at the gun counter. I leaned over and said just five words to him. A look of horror washed over his face. I left.
Out in my car, I thought I heard a gunshot. I couldn’t be sure. It wouldn’t be the first time an encounter with my uncanny ability would end that way.
It sounds like I’m bragging. I don’t mean to brag. I shouldn’t brag about something so horrible. But I’m trying to be radically honest these days. Have you heard of radical honesty? It’s a movement, there’s a book. Anyway.
I have to tell someone this. This next part. And you have to understand that everything I’ve told you is the truth. Do you remember Aaron? Two houses over. Yes. The one who disappeared for a few weeks and turned up back living with his mom in Des Moines. I saw him yelling at his kid one afternoon. I almost regret breaking up the family, but she is so much better off without him.
Do you believe me?
So this is the next part. Something happens to me if I don’t use my super power. It makes the sickness after misusing it look like a spa day. Sick like I am right now. You’ve seen me like this before. Last March. That wasn’t the flu. This isn’t the flu.
There was a bully at church who I knew had some health issues. That wasn’t his ruin–no his ruin was something far more pernicious that health issues. But, knowing that most of us have bullying impulses that we keep in check, and knowing the kind of pain he was going through, I tried to show some mercy.
It wrecked me. I thought I was going to die. I spent almost two days straight online. I destroyed a message board–so many bullies in such a small space. It wasn’t until I found a YouTuber who posted videos ridiculing various comic book movies that I was able to turn the corner on it.
Yes, the one that killed himself.
I’ve started getting sick again, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
There’s a guy on tv… I’m sorry, I can’t say his name without wanting to throw up. I mean literally. You know him. Everyone knows him. It’s just constant vitriol. Constant belittling. He has his favorite targets, and he goes after them all the time. And the hate he inspires in others–God! There’s an echo effect to his bullying that I can feel in my bones.
The thing is, everytime I witness his bullying, everytime my bones shake, I get nothing.
No flash. No “knowing.” No color, no depth.
And it’s slowly killing me. I can feel it. The sheer weight of what he does to people is too much. I can’t offset it with internet trolls and road rage assholes.
I have to tell someone. I’m going to die. If I confessed some personal horror at how easily I can inflict pain on the cruel, I hope you would understand–the horror this guy makes me feel is hundred times worse.
Evil has always been a relative term. Oftentimes the people I dispatch have an “evil” that’s caused by some past trauma. What I do to them is also “evil,” I suppose. But this guy, he’s Evil. He doesn’t have a soul.
My God, he doesn’t have a soul!