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John was born with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men, and he often wondered why. But as a boy, it was simply wonderful to have those abilities. He could lift his father’s tractor overhead before he learned to read. He could outrace a galloping horse. He couldn’t be cut or bruised or burned. He could fly.
But his life was not a trading card with a heroic-looking photograph on one side and a convenient list of his abilities on the other. He had to discover himself for himself. It took him years to realize he could fire laser beams from his eyes. That he could force his lungs to expel nearly frozen carbon dioxide. And it wasn’t until his mid-thirties that he realized he’d probably stopped aging biologically somewhere around the age of twenty-two.
His parents weren’t perfect people. His mother drank, and when she did, she got mean. His father had affairs. But when they understood that the baby they’d found abandoned on the edge of their farm wasn’t like other children—was probably, in fact, unlike any other child who’d ever been born—they cleaned up their acts as best they could. They taught themselves to be better people, and then they conveyed those hard-won lessons to their son. They were as good as they could be. When they died while John was away at college, he decided if he could be half as wise, as kind, as generous as they were, then he could be proud of himself.
Driving back to the city after his parents’ funeral, he began his career. There was a commuter train derailment, a bad one, with a fully occupied car dangling off the Utopia Street Bridge, sixty feet above the Tomorrow River. John got out of his car and left it behind on the clogged highway. Fully visible in bright daylight, he leaped into the sky, and moments later, he had the train car resting safely on the bridge. He freed passengers from twisted metal. He flew those who needed immediate emergency care to the hospital, and then he returned to the scene of the accident. He thought it might be necessary to file a report of some kind with the police. With dozens of cameras pointed at him, microphones and tape recorders shoved in his face, questions being barked at him as if he’d done something wrong, he felt like he might suffocate. He wished he could turn and walk back to his car and drive to his dorm, maybe go out for beers with his friends. But he knew he’d never be able to do that now. He’d chosen otherwise.
He coughed nervously. The questions stopped. Everyone was quiet. Everyone was waiting. “I’m John,” he said. “I’m here to help.”
And for the next sixty years, that was just what he did.
It was the least significant period of his life.