Superman's Brother

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fan Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
In which everything you thought you knew about Superman is lovingly obliterated.

Submitted: July 22, 2013

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Submitted: July 22, 2013

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This letter was anonymously delivered to The Daily Planet on July 21, 2013. Due to our readers’ high interest in all things Superman, we have published it with minor edits for your enjoyment.

Dear Everyone,

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard of Superman. Completely sure, in fact. But what you probably don’t know is that when Dad sent him to earth, he also sent me. The other son. The guy nobody’s ever heard about. Let’s call me Dave.

I’m writing this for a lot of reasons. One, I want to apologize formally for that incident in Woodburn, Oregon. I was completely out of line, and I hope you -- collective humanity -- can forgive me. Two, I’d like to offer some insight into one of the lamest criminals Superman has ever had to take down. And three, if anyone out there needs a wedding photographer/unlicensed all-around therapist on short notice, my contact is at the end of this letter.

Alright. Now, the first question you obviously have is which sibling is older. I am. The next is who has more superpowers. That would be Clark -- considering I don’t have any (Krypton’s genetics are awesome like that). Third, you probably want to know whether I remember anything of the trip over here. I do. Clark doesn’t, but I do. (Not much, though.)

I was, like, three when old Pop dropped me into the Krypton-to-Earth Express, and I still remember him grabbing me by the shoulders and saying, “Son, when you get to earth, take care of your brother.” Then he plopped me into my interstellar car seat next to Clark. Forty seconds later, we had liftoff.

Ick.

It took a while to get here. The trip was boring (after sixty-three solar systems, the whole space-novelty kind of wears off) and the crash-landing sucked. Ouch. Twenty-five years of chiropractoring from Clarky and Steve, and my neck still tilts to the right (Steve is my current chiropractor, since Clark tends to be a bit caught up in the whole messiah-complex thing -- which we’re working on). The farmer guy found us in his field and took us home, and we lived as normal of lives as two humanoid aliens in the late 1980s could -- up until Clark’s powers started kicking in (I was never that lucky). Then things got awkward. Government interference, jailbreaking, stopping Lex Luthor and winning the hearts and minds of humanity, the whole gambit. At seventeen he moved out. I was still at home.

After that, I didn’t hear much from Clark. I mean, I heard about him -- who didn’t? -- but I never really heard from him directly. He never wrote me, I didn’t have a reliable address through which to contact him; things just sort of stalemated. And that was the hardest, because all throughout high school and college and med school and job hunting and changing careers a couple times and eventually starting my own business and all, I kept on thinking about what Dad had said. “Son, when you get to earth, take care of your brother. Take care of him. Take care of him..” The words echoed down the winding hallways of life that I walked, chasing me from task to task, job to job, girlfriend to girlfriend, until finally I snapped and sort of tried to set a town on fire.

Now, I know that makes me sound insane, but really, what do you expect from a guy who’s haunted by the guilt of failing to complete the one task his dad gave him before rocketing him off to a distant, vaguely Krypton-like planet?

Exactly. So cut me some slack here.

Anyways, this is what happened. It was August. I was still at home with Surrogate-Farmer-Dad and Surrogate-Farmer’s-Wife-Mom (never quite mastered the moving-out thing). The upstart photography business I had with a buddy was tanking hard. Love-of-my-life Stephanie had just broken up with me (she was the sixth love-of-my-life to do that) and I had discovered glitter. Literally. There was a plastic tube of blue glitter in the craft drawer at my Surrogate-Grandmother’s house. That stuff got everywhere.

But even the magical ubiquitizing nature of glitter wasn’t enough to distract me from my misery: I had failed. Sparkly though I was, I had failed. Real-Dad had told me exactly one thing before he sent Clark and me to earth: “Take care of your brother;” and I hadn’t been able to save him from the government or Lex Luthor or the townspeople’s judgmental ways when we were little or the wiles of Lois Lane when he got older -- I felt sick. Sitting there in the summer moonlight, my feet dangling from my top-story bedroom window, sparkly blue glitter all over my hands, my soul was wracked by wave after wave of guilt -- to say nothing of the indigestion cramping up my stomach. When people say don’t mix Mexican burritos and Chinese takeout, they aren’t kidding. And as I sat there in the moonlight, glitter all over my hands, I found myself wondering if Dad could see me. I mean, did his supervision reach that far? Did he have a weird telepathic connection with my mind that I somehow didn’t know about? Did Clark call him on Sundays and tell him how his two boys were doing on that far-away planet called Earth?

Then I slapped myself in the face, because that’s crazy-talk. Clark didn’t even use a cell phone.

BUT WHAT IF HIS HOME PHONE HAD SATELLITE??

I slapped myself again.

Then I cried a little bit because it hurt.

And then I looked outside at the fields, at the starry sky, at the cornstalks waving gently in the summer midnight breeze, and I heaved a huge sigh, and I wanted to cry a little bit because it was all so pretty and I was so unfittingly hideous, so covered in silly blue glitter and guilt and worthlessness. I wanted to end it. End the failure. End the patheticness. End the painfully ridiculous lack of superpowers. End it all.

I stood up carefully, balancing on my narrow windowsill. The house was pretty high. I’d just hit the roof and slowly roll to the drainpipe, and then plummet twenty feet to my --

I stopped.

To my extremely expensive and utterly ignoble hospital trip that would lay me up for months, rendering me even more powerless and pathetic than before.

After a moment’s thought, I decided the barn would probably work better.

Unfortunately, I hadn’t counted on the barn being securely locked due to a recent string of cow thefts. Foiled again, I sat down outside the barn door to think. Eventually -- and I’m not quite sure how -- I came to the conclusion that “take care of Clark” could be interpreted to mean “provide Clark with work,” which could easily be reconstrued as, “set a town on fire so that Clark, a. k. a. Superman, a. k. a. Mr. Messiah-Complex/Savior of the World, has to save it.”

I admit that my rationality had kind of deteriorated by then.

Suddenly charged with a renewed and highly-focused sense of purpose, I borrowed Surrogate-Farmer-Dad’s tractor and started heading west. Hearing that Superman had been most recently sighted in Seattle, I figured he could make it down a state relatively quickly. I’d bore you with the details of the journey, but then this would become a badly-written book instead of a letter, so suffice it to say that after three months or so I found myself over the Rockies and in a small town called Woodburn.

Woodburn, Oregon.

(Yeah, I’d never heard of it either.)

Now, contrary to what the name might suggest, the town was not that easy to ignite. The month had become November, the streets were white with snow and bright with Christmas window displays, and I could not get a flame to stick to any of the structures. Furthermore, all the buildings were spaced such that fire was not likely to leap between them. My brilliant plan was slowly caving in on itself, and I could not let that happen.

So I wintered in the mayor’s undertaker’s trash can, and on Groundhog Day I siphoned off the contents of the gas station owner’s fuel tank and drove my tractor to Portland. There I bought a flamethrower.

As I walked back that night (they had towed my tractor for parking on top of a Subaru and a Ford), I lovingly ran my hand down the barrel of my flamethrower, thinking to myself how nicely this would work on those silly, non-flammable, spaced-out buildings in Woodburn. I might have also cackled maniacally, but that was an accident.

At dawn I unleashed hell on the town. God, it was beautiful. The liquid fire spraying out of my mighty cannon of death, washing the snow-white façade of the general store with unholy blazing madness, even drawing a handful of groggy hobos out of the alleys nearby. They watched and nodded with approval, as I recall.

As the general store finally caught fire and started burning, I watched with satisfaction. But minutes ticked by. Two. Three. Five. Seven. Eleven. Thirteen. Seventeen. No Clark. So I figured that, maybe, he didn’t know yet. Maybe it hadn’t hit the news. Maybe he was sleeping or something...

I laughed maniacally to see if that did anything, but the minutes slipped past faster. Nineteen. Twenty-three. Twenty-nine. Nothing. Thirty-one. Thirty-seven. Forty-one. Forty-three. Forty-seven. Fifty-three. By now the townspeople were stirring. They came out to see the fire-wielding madman in front of their general store, to gape and gasp and groan in agonized horror at the destruction being wreaked upon their once-peaceful, quiet--

A wrinkled hand tapped me on the shoulder.

“You do that?” asked an old voice.

I turned to see a fat, pyjamaed man with a cherry-red face and fluffy white hair.

I straightened a bit and said in as villainous a voice as I could muster, “Yes.”

After a moment he nodded. “Good work, son. I’ve been hoping something would happen so I could finally collect insurance on that thing. I’d offer you some of the money for doing what you did on my behalf, but quite frankly, I’m more Scrooge than Santa when it comes to insurance claims -- well, to everything, but especially insurance claims. You alright?”

“No,” I stuttered through my blubbering, “no I am not.” (I was evidently collapsed into the snow, slowly retracting into a fetal position. The man kindly picked up my flamethrower and held it for me.) “All I want is to see my brother and I hate myself and I’m such a screw-up I can’t even take care of him and that’s all Dad said and dear lord I hope he can’t see me now IF YOU CAN I’M REALLY SORRY AND THIS ISN’T WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE I SWEAR oh God I’m such a screw-up will someone please light me on fire.”

The man stroked his beard -- so he tells me; my eyes were kind of shut -- and after a while said, “Well, son, it sounds like you could use some antidepressants.”

“I could use some success,” I whimpered incoherently into the snow.

Gently he and a couple hobos picked me up and carried me to his car.

“Don’t you worry,” he said as I pulled back into a fetal position in the back seat. “I’ve got a sun-lamp at my house. That’ll fix you up good till I can get my pill prescription refilled.”

And then I think I passed out.

Old Steve -- the man’s name was Steve, as I later found out -- was very kind, and evidently had a disposition that predisposed him to both chiropracting and depression. He was very understanding when I explained my predicament to him. He even helped me burn down other buildings once he found out that I was trying to get Superman’s attention (although I’m pretty sure he didn’t believe me when I said Superman was my brother, and younger brother no less). But when I took out the elementary school’s playground, he sort of kicked me out. (By the way, I now realize that the playground was a bad choice. Definitely should have gone for Mr. Swagero’s used car dealership. On the upside, Superman made it to the playground vandalism. And we finally got to talk).

Just as I was setting fire to the slide, I heard this sonic boom and a voice scream, “Dave, you idiot! Put the flamethrower down before I come shove it up your--”

“Clarky!!” I squealed, dropping the flamethrower and spinning around. “Where have you been--”

OOAFF!

And Clarky tackled me.

It hurt.

A lot.

Partially because he’s Superman, but also because we were standing on a playground with wood chips for ground cover. Quite frankly, I’m still picking the splinters out of my elbows. But I digress.

Clark and I found ourselves in a person-sized crater with fire on all sides. It was early spring, but about five wood chips had dried out and let me tell you, those suckers were burning like lonely little stars. So beautiful... The sight brought tears to my eyes. (As did the fact that I had just been body-slammed by Superman.) Clark noticed the wood chips.

“Daaaave...” he groaned, picking himself up. I watched nervously as he stamped out the little fires. Then as he surveyed the damage -- a slide, two swing sets, and the teeter-totter. Then as he turned back to me.

Oh God, the look on his face. I immediately burst into tears.

“Clarky, please don’t kill me,” I begged. “Please don’t. I just wanted to give you something to do --”

“Something to do!?” he yelled. “You think that with Lex Luthor, with the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, with all the fighting going down in Israel, with Sudan and North Korea, you think I need SOMETHING TO DO??”

“...yeah?” I said in the tiniest voice I owned.

I swear, Clark was about ready to punch me.

“I was trying to take care of you!” I wailed. “I’ve never been able to protect you or do anything for you your whole life, and when Dad sent us off he told me to take care of you and I’ve never done that I’m such a failure -- NO, CLARKY!” I screamed as he lunged at me. My hands flew to my face, I tucked into a ball, and I thought, This is it. Today I am going to die.

The next thing I knew, there was cool wind racing past me and then suddenly I was falling into snow. Looking up and around, I saw nothing but eerie darkness and soft whiteness in every direction. And then a cape and red boots landed beside me.

“Welcome to the Arctic,” my brother whispered. (Okay, he actually semi-yelled it, but the wind made it sound like a whisper.) And then he took me into the Fortress of Solitude.

Let me say, that man may have saved the world on multiple occasions, but I know that he had Lois help with his interior decorating.There’s no way he made that place that nice on his own. It was warm, quiet, and completely decked out. It almost looked like something out of Better Homes and Gardens, if BH&G designed man-caves. One whole wall was just gaming systems and TVs, with each system hooked up to its own TV. Another wall was a bar/eatery, because world-saving give that man the munchies, apparently. The third wall had a whole bunch of couches and a bed, and the fourth wall contained the door and was covered in pictures.

Wait a minute.

I looked back at the fourth wall, back at all the pictures. Blinked. Rubbed my eyes. And finally let my jaw drop.

Every single picture was mine.

“You...you...you kept them,” I whispered. “Every time I gave you one of my photos, you kept them.”

“Durr,” he said, pulling off his cape. “You gave them to me.”

“I know, but...” I stepped closer to the wall. “I figured you’d thrown them away.”

There was one of Sylvia, and of Zach Rodenbucher -- the guard on Clark’s graduating football team -- blocking a guy as Clark made the winning pass at state championships, and of Clark when he was eight, and of the rose I gave to my first girlfriend, and of Surrogate-Mom knitting, and of all the newspaper clippings I had on Superman, and of him getting his eighth-grade diploma, and of our spaceship buried under the hay bales in the barn, and of six-year-old Clark running through the cornfield, and of the landscape outside his bedroom window, and of the windmill by the creek, and of a line of ants, and of me wearing Clark’s glasses, and of some moonlit summer night back when we were kids and life was simpler and actually made sense most of the time, and of my chubby little hand touching baby Clark’s face... I ran my finger delicately over the top of each frame.

“When you moved out,” I whispered, “I thought you threw them all away.”

He stepped next to me, staring at the one of him as a baby and my hand as a fat toddler hand.

“Didn’t,” he said simply.

For a long time he didn’t say anything else.

Finally he said, “You know how you told me back at the playground that you’d never done anything for me?”

I nodded.

“Well” -- he pointed to the pictures -- “you did.”

I followed his finger and tried to follow his logic.

I squinted at the frames.

“...I don’t get it.”

He sighed.

“Some days, especially in the beginning, I’d come up here and just go crazy. I couldn’t take it. Seeing the world so screwed up and knowing that I couldn’t fix it all. That I could only handle one tiny stupid problem at a time, and that for each person I saved, there were thousands hoping to see a red-caped hero bulleting down to punch evil in the face. Some days, I honestly thought I’d lose it completely.” He paused. “But...then I started putting your pictures up. And every time I went out the door, I had to see them. And they...I don’t know. They were a distraction from how much the world sucks. And they still are, I guess. But now, they...they--” He laughed. “This is gonna sound so stupid. They actually give me hope. Because for every miserable person and evil situation out there, there’s a little piece of happiness to compensate. You know?”

I nodded.

“And knowing that...it just helps. So I can actually keep trying without going insane.” He shrugged. “I don’t know, it’s weird.”

“No, no, it’s not,” I said. “It’s...great, actually. I mean, that I’m not a complete failure.”

“Hmmm,” he said. For a while, we both just stared at the one of him and my hand. Then he said, “So, hungry? I keep the pantry stocked with Kraft mac-n-cheese.”

“Race you to it!” I shrieked.

Needless to say, he won.

And there you go. Sorry about the playground, Woodburn; sorry for being creepy, world; and like I said, I do wedding photography with some amateur, unlicensed therapy on the side. My number is [removed at editor’s discretion].

Thank you all for reading,

Dave


© Copyright 2019 Iskah E Shirah. All rights reserved.

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