I must have been the only person in history with a benign malignant tumor. Drove my doctors crazy. I told them to leave it alone, and no, they couldn’t study it. Despite their dire predictions, I lasted through the end of the year, and beyond. Ten years later, here I am, writing this down. I’ve come to accept the idea that there’s really no one out there who understands my head but me, and even I don’t understand it that well.
I’d also come to accept the idea that I basically had two brains in my head now. Mine, and the thing that was mistaken for a tumor. It was the tumor, I’d decided, that was the physical manifestation of my abilities. It was that which had given me the power of mindreading and mindbending. Some kind of alien super-tumor. Was it thinking its own thoughts, unbeknownst to me, using me as a puppet? It creeped me out sometimes, but I could either live with it or die without it.
In March, Lana boarded her plane to Seoul, leaving me with even more free time on my hands, and opportunity to misbehave. I did not feel guilty for cheating on her with Maria. It was an open relationship. She could have brought it up at any time, all those texts I was getting, but instead all she could talk about was Marky Mark and how much she wanted to murder him for that song that wouldn’t get out of her head.
Hmm. I wonder why?
I started taking part in more challenges on he.ro, and my eFame increased even further. I had fans that I was convinced were literally crazy about me, begging me to find them and turn them into my “mindslave”. By the time Lana was arriving in Seoul to the smiles and embraces of the family she had not seen since she was four years old, I was classified as an “Expert Villain”. “Master Villain” was in reach.
I accepted no friend requests, although I started receiving thousands daily. Online I was a total asshole, but I was playing the villain, after all. I mocked not only the heroes, but other villains as well. The persona I had created for myself was that Mindbender was arrogant beyond belief, and did not need anyone’s help, and considered himself to be the most evolved being in all of history.
My list of exploits was long and validated in some cases on the site with video. I should point out that I was not the source of any of this video, nor did I have to fill out any details about the challenge being complete. The site, or rather Spider’s hacked surveillance or cell phone feeds, they always seemed to know.
I didn’t do anything too bad. He.ro seemed to prefer the villain challenges be more of the inconvenient miscreant variety, rather than the psychopathic killing sort. Personal challenges that involved murder, assault (physical or sexual) or gross collateral damage were swiftly deleted by Spider, and the offender was often suspended or banned from the site entirely for the offense.
But in addition to getting every news anchor in the Twin Cities terrified of blurting out “Fear the Mindbender” during a normal newscast, I was also guilty of a photo-op involving several naked MPD cops in front of their police cruisers, handcuffs, and lollipops. Use your imagination. All of them had written “Mindbender” on their chests in red lipstick. On my imaginary rap sheet, it was technically kidnapping, reckless endangerment (considering the temperature outside), and probably a few others like gross criminal negligence.
I earned the “Audacious” badge after the live newscast went viral. There were three levels of “Still At Large”, and I’d earned the second level after lasting six months since I registered on the site. I needed to make it a year to get the third and final one. My “Secret Identity” badge was still proudly displayed as well, but it would disappear as soon as anyone was able to discover my real name. After the stunt with the cops, I earned the “Antagonizer” badge.
There was no more speculation about what was going on after awhile: Someone out there, in the Twin Cities area, was controlling people’s minds. To be honest I felt a bit overwhelmed by the response and ended up wishing I’d kept the whole thing to myself. The feds got involved, and started investigating some of the survivors, and things got pretty hot for awhile.
It wasn’t good sense, but that Anonymity badge, and that Secret Identity badge that probably got me to start thinking smart. Everyone’s suspicion was up, and it felt like the world was up in arms, and I’d even drawn the attention of the Super Six by that point, who had vowed to stop the Mindbender’s evil. They did a really good job of it from behind the camera, posing with serious expressions on their face in skintight costumes. But it wasn’t the thousands of likes they received, or the comments of the rapacious and fawning mob that glommed up the comment threads below their duckfaces that got to me.
It was the memory that Old Lance wasn’t far off. He was always there, waiting for me to just act like an oblivious fucking idiot, and I’d be back to fucking up all over again, and I’d be in prison or worse. In many ways, I came to realize in the following days, I’d already messed up.
How do supervillains always mess up? Their ego. It goes to their head, they feel untouchable, and they make a colossal mistake that gets them caught. Supervillains don’t have a secret identity for very long in the comics. It makes sense. As soon as they catch you and you are unmasked, the media and everyone will soon know about it. It makes you a convict in the public eye. You can never escape suspicion again, even after you get out, once everyone knows your powers and your identity.
I was eating in a bar in northeast called Victory 44, enjoying my bacon-wrapped shrimp, when I saw a representative from the FBI on TV talking with a crawl that said ‘Mindbender At Large?’, and he said this:
“What this cowardly individual doesn’t realize is that we’re prepared to deal with people like him, and that he is not so clever as he thinks he is. It’s only a matter of time before we find him, but anyone with information is advised to contact your local police.”
I knew he was speaking to me.
That’s when the realization hit me like a semi-hauler that was fueled by Desperation, and hauling only Depression in the back. It kept me up late into the night, worrying about it.
One way or another, they’d find me eventually. I’d watched CSI. Even without physical evidence, there was always good old-fashioned police work. There was wiretapping and other forms of eavesdropping. I had been audacious, but because of it, I was threatening my anonymity. I started to wonder if all those restaurants who welcomed the strange scarred man, and who allowed him to eat his fill for free would start questioning why they were doing it, start associating it with the stories in the media, the speculations about the Mindbender.
I knew that most people would rationalize it away, because that’s how our minds work. Exceptional things like that happen to other people, not to us. What are the odds that we’ve encountered the Mindbender? No, no, surely not me. That’s crazy.
But I was gambling an awful lot on that reaction. And what about Chase downstairs, who must have wondered at times why I suddenly had a special free arrangement at the hotel, who had to at some point explain it to the manager who had presumably authorized it. How would he explain his actions? Without my name in the news, he’d just call it a mistake, a brain fart. But there was the chance he’d one day grow too suspicious, add it all up, and take his chance to be a hero informant on camera.
It was a gamble I shouldn’t have taken, and I blamed all of it on social media, and the stupid fucking he.ro site, and my rotten life before that had made me so desperate for a new one. Everything but myself.
I realized then, forget about my badges on he.ro, if I wanted to escape the life of a trained Instagram poseur/government lab rat, I needed to undo everything.
I needed to disappear, and become normal again. Preferably, become someone else altogether.
Lance Thorn needed to die. I was morose about it for a week, and Lana snapped at me on the phone and I couldn’t even hit her with “Good Vibrations” again due to the fact that she was on the other side of an ocean.
In my mind I said good-bye to the hotel, which had been my home. I knew I could get another one. I said good-bye to the limo, and Terrence, and Ramesh, who I’d never taken up on the offer to visit and taste his wife’s cooking. I said good-bye to Maria, and her dirty mind and her pliant sexual eagerness. And while she was in Seoul, far away from me and having a wonderful time, I said good-bye to Lana, too.
I began to unwind my steps. I grabbed all the stuff I cared about from the hotel, shrugging into the backpack. I was not too worried about the staff remembering me, as I’d done my best to turn their heads and have them ignore me just out of general practice, but I knew Chase’s schedule by now, and knew he’d be at the desk.
I didn’t stop to chat. Via brute force I got him to remove my name and history from the ledger and change it to Lana Wilder, and made sure to look deep into his mind to think of any nooks and crannies where records of my existence might still remain in the computer system, and had him purge them, too.
Then I did the same thing to his mind, walking down every channel that had my name, or my face, and I burned myself from his memory. In some cases, interactions he’d had with me and Lana, I adjusted them so that he just remembered Lana. Then, as a final step while I pressed the handkerchief to my nose, I made sure he’d look down at the desk for at least five minutes so he could not even have a single visual recollection of my existence in his memory.
Then I walked out into the cold, and Terrence was waiting.
“Anywhere in particular this time, sir?” he asked me.
“Every restaurant I’ve ever visited, Terrence. It’s going to be a long day.”