There’s more to the story of course, much more than that. But that was roughly the first year. It set everything else up, set me on my current course. It’s where I grew out of being normal, and embraced being different. I learned what rules applied to me, which ones didn’t. Some of those are obvious. I stopped using the internet, which was a real drag, but I could still do it vicariously through other people, so I turned it into a mere inconvenience. I knew that if I was online, Spider could find me, so I went offline. I went dark. I didn’t stay anywhere for long, either.
I left as little trace of myself as I could, everywhere I went. I found out that getting money was as easy as sitting on a street corner with my hat on the ground, and people would just come by to drop money in my hat. Within a couple minutes, I had plenty. If I was in a judging mood, I’d search for the greediest, those who had the most to spare, so I could pretend I was Robin Hood. If I was in a hurry, I wasn’t so moral.
I found out that I could sleep anywhere I wanted, because I could always make people just friendly enough to let me crash in their house for the evening. I didn’t need to leave a paper trail of any kind, because almost my entire Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could be taken care of just by using some friendly encouragement and a bit of inside information, while scripting took care of longer-term relationships.
If I needed an ID, I just walked into any clerk’s office anywhere and had them make me an ID. If I needed a flight, it was easy to get myself a free ride on a plane that was undersold. If anyone wanted to question me about anything, they suddenly didn’t feel like it anymore and did not, in fact, even remember that I’d been there in the first place.
I’d wander the streets in places I’d visit, looking for the mentally ill. The disturbed. Dissidents, those who were different, anyone with an interesting mind. Anyone with a mind I hadn’t seen a thousand times before in subtle shades and variations. While I studied them, I’d buy them food, get them cleaned up. Sometimes I’d fix them up in their heads, too, turn them back into strong and capable people. Sometimes I’d use them to carry on some little petty scheme of mine, and then I’d fix them up, but I enjoyed sending them back out there with some tools so they’d stop sabotaging themselves. It felt good to do it.
No one else was doing it, after all, and it was easy for me. I had nothing better to do.
It was like flexing a muscle, as it turned out, and the nosebleeds were fewer and fewer over time. But it’s like everything, really. Once you get past the limit, you start trying to see what the new limit is.
I learned subtlety, and got back to my roots. Realizing that some of the lightest touches could produce the most profound results and, at the same time, I didn’t have to feel as guilty about turning someone into a puppet.
I came to view having the ability to get people to do whatever I wanted a calming influence. Just knowing I could do it, if I wanted. Could turn the arrogant blowhard into a stuttering idiot, if I wanted. That was often enough to give me satisfaction and just let other people be people. I stopped interrupting them and barging into their thoughts as often, and listening to them a bit more. Just because I needed to remember what it felt like from time to time, to be normal. To remember what it feels like to be rejected out of hand, because someone doesn’t like your face, or because they are a dick.
There were, after all, lots of people out there, and just having a window into someone’s thoughts was a huge advantage in its own right. I did it frequently, but not so heavy handed. When I had to adjust someone’s behavior, my “code” got more elegant through practice, I got to understand the underlying concepts better, like a programming language I was just beginning to master.
I didn’t have relationships, so much as one-night or weekend affairs, where I’d find someone that attracted me, and spend time seducing her with only the smallest bit of help from my abilities. Reading her thoughts always made it so easy, anyway, and I got to have a brief sense of what it felt like when it was natural, when it was real. But they always left with no memory of me, because it was too risky for both of us to make a big thing out of it.
When I ran into truly disturbed or deranged people, I didn’t spend much time trying to script them. I just gave them an impulse to wander to the nearest police station or mental health institution to confess their crimes or check themselves into treatment. As I had said to Mac, it was one thing entirely to suspect that the guy you’re looking at is a pedophile. It’s another thing to know it, and know he’s gotten away with it, and that you can do something about it.
Now imagine yourself walking away after knowing that, and doing nothing. Tell me who the real monster is there.
Don’t say I haven’t done some good. I have. I’ve done a hell of a lot more good in my short life than most ever will, because I see through the mirror, the fake facade you’re all putting forth, the monsters you hide inside yourselves. I know those monsters all too well. I’ve seen them myself, and they haunt me.
In all of this, I came to realize the saddest thing for me, the hardest to deal with, was that my mind was an ever-growing vault of memories, impulses and feelings that were not my own. As it turns out, the human mind is not naturally-equipped to handle other people’s memories without sometimes getting them confused with your own.
And I was incapable of performing mental surgery on myself. I was the only one that I couldn’t fix, and just like everyone else it took me much longer to cut through my own bullshit and see what was really going on than it should have. Because I wasn’t an outside perspective on myself, but I was pretty good at being an outside perspective as a mindbender.
I guess that’s why I’m writing this after all, ten years later. I am already so different than I was, even then. I don’t know how much more I will lose. I still remember the me that was Me, but for how much longer?
I’ve had nightmares about it. Nightmares of waking up next to the corpse of a woman I’ve fucked to death, because I think I’m Emmet Case.
Mac turned out to be a big help in the midst of all of this, keeping me grounded. He was like a big kid, always amused and full of ideas of things that I could do with my abilities. He loved watching me show off, and sometimes I couldn’t help myself and showed off just to see his reaction.
Once we were in a club and he got into a fight just to see how I’d handle it.
I let him get his ass kicked, and when he asked me why afterwards I told him, “Thou shalt not test the Lord Thy God,” and bought him a drink. The point was made. I wasn’t a performing monkey, and he worked for me, not the other way around. But it was a good gig, and I knew his thoughts enough to know that he had no intention of getting off the ride any time soon.
More to the point, and more important, he actually did like me. Like, as a person. As a buddy, a friend…and it was nice. I didn’t have the love relationship I talked about with Spider, but I did have a friendship with someone who knew what I could do.
He did get really freaked out about me a few times, and there is worse stuff there to talk about, but not right now. Maybe in the future, when I have time to put it all together in my own broken head.
The only real last thing I should talk about, because it’s a hanging thread with too delicious of an outcome not to share, is what happened with the Super Seven. You can google the specifics of what has befallen them for yourselves, but I guarantee you that you’ve never heard this side of the story.
The thing about not having a job, an identity, or a mother who even remembers you’re alive (Sorry, Mom), is that you can do anything, and yet the prospects before you are daunting. Think too large, try to rule the world, and you’re going to fail. Think too small, you’re just wasting your time. I didn’t want to think big, or think small. I just wanted to live life as it pleased me, and when I thought things needed fixing, I’d go in and fix them. Still, thinking big or thinking small is the wrong dynamic.
It is always best to think unexpected. It’s a simple rule that people are more prepared for things that actually have happened. Exploiting that becomes much easier when you can just make things happen.
When you don’t have a job, you need a project. When you’re a workaholic mindbending coder who doesn’t code anymore on computers, you get really good at coding people’s behavior. You can get a little obsessed with it, you keep wanting to try new things. You want to experiment, and keep your edge. Those kinds of skills fade and go rusty with disuse, and I had a feeling that mindbending was no different.
I had a big overarching project in my mind for some time, but it was kind of a fantasy project. I’d always promised myself that I was going to fuck with the Super Seven someday. I was going to take down that whole fake hero thing, because it pissed me off. Because it trivialized something important. Because I was furious at the government for treating me and people like me as animals and lab rats and things to be exploited for profit or plunder. Because, deep down I guess, I was angry and had daddy issues and only felt good when I could be a colossal dick at someone else’s expense.
I was done being a conformist. I’d spent my young life as Lance doing what I was told, going along with everyone else and watching my life end slowly before my eyes, never really living. Dying slowly, in a trap of the system, in the trap of myself. Before I had to the power to do anything, I had nothing. Following the rules had gotten me nowhere good. It was only once I started to break the rules that Life opened up, became worth really living.
Over that first year, I’d seen the Super Seven doing interviews, giving their own opinions about me and my “cowardly” and “terroristic” behavior, referencing old news, often while wearing their stupid costumes. Not actually doing anything, just being personalities using their powers only in ways that looked good on TV.
I shrugged it off at first. It bugged me. It needled me when I’d think about it sometimes at night. I knew those guys were all talk, and were so beneath me that it was barely worth bothering about.
Then they finally did the unforgivable. They made a movie about me. A movie, in which I was the villain.
I’m sure you’ve seen it. The Super Seven : Fear the Mindbender.
In the movie, as in real life, I’d survived the fire. But in the movie, I was resurrected from the dead! Predictably in the end, they all triumphed over me. I was depicted as a shirtless man with flaming red hair and a maniacal laugh and face paint with an army of “zombie drones”, but they could disrupt my control over my army if they were able to knock me unconscious or break my concentration.
Seriously, they distracted Mindbender once in the movie (who clearly can’t read their minds to see the plan before they execute it) and suddenly all his minions turn on him and start to attack him. For fuck’s sake, Hollywood!
Mindbender spoke in a wheezy voice and capered around and was so cartoon crazy that I felt offended on behalf of actually crazy people. Not to mention on behalf of people who cared about plot. How would the FBI miss this character on their Most Wanted hunt?
It was PG-13, so they kept the most bloody violence offscreen, or implied, but apparently all I wanted to do was just murder people and turn everyone into my love slaves and keep them in a harem. Or else zombie them and turn them into mindless killing drones, along with resurrected zombie Bloodstorm’s help as my bloody general.
Okay, fine, that last part was a stretched, uncomfortable parody of things I’d done. I see that now, in retrospect. But I didn’t see it at the time.
It was dumb fun for the whole family, and everyone loved it, which made me hate everyone right back.
I just want to be clear that despite everything else, I would have left them alone. I wouldn’t have fucked with them, if they hadn’t made the movie. Let that be a lesson to you, Hollywood and anyone else that wants to play pretend dress-up hero and talk tough on the news.
I would have left them alone, I swear I would have, but they had to make a movie. A popular one, at that.
I could have stayed out of it, for good. I’d reached a zen place of subsistence, I had a friend, and the two of us were having a great time just hitting all the amusement parks and eating in all the best restaurants, and me and Mac might have just stayed doing that for a long time.
But then that movie came out, and I just couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t. Surely you understand, right? If I’m not Me, then I’ve got to be one of the other fucked up identities that are jumbled around inside of my head. I’m a joker. I’m a prankster. I can’t resist fucking with people who have fucked with me. These are my character traits. I’ve got to hold onto my character, right…otherwise, who am I?
No, I’ve got to be me.
So if I had to be Me, well…I had to do what I had to do to the Super Seven. And I wouldn’t have done it like it was in that stupid movie. Such a lack of imagination.
Why would a Mindbender reveal himself in the first place?
What a true pro would do, what a fucking mindbending god would do, is visit each of the Super Seven in turn, separately, maybe over the course of weeks or months. After all, a Mindbender has nothing better to do. He doesn’t need a job. He doesn’t need to whore himself on TV like one of the Super Seven and make shitty movies and live in mansions surrounded by fake people. He’s got time to figure it out. Getting a private moment with anyone is technically possible for a guy like him.
What a pro mindbender would do is visit them and then….he would just walk away. It would only take a few moments, and more damage than you could ever imagine could be inflicted. And no one would ever know that anything had happened.
Weeks, months pass. Nothing out of the usual happens for a long time. Mindbender, by this point, is far far away, and long gone, and enjoying a tropical island paradise somewhere that no one knows his name, and does not care, and does not welcome visitors, but of course welcomes him just fine.
And then, far away from the scene, the trigger is spoken. Read. Broadcast. Once that happens, the thing inside their minds, that packaged script of instructions, that slumbering mind virus awakens and immediately takes over and puts them through a preprogrammed list of routines and subroutines.
It can make them do anything. And no one, not anyone, could ever explain the reason why it happened. That’s how someone smart would do it. Someone who wasn’t a cardboard cutout idiot villain in a blockbuster Hollywood movie abortion.
That’s how a truly formidable villain would do it, who had the ability to bend minds. That’s how you’d do it like a pro supervillain who doesn’t get caught. And throughout all of these seemingly random series of events afflicting the Super Seven, no one but he on his tropical island would ever know what really happened. And he’d be pissing blood from laughing at everyone talking about how senseless it all is, all trying to figure it out so you could create a narrative and make a stupid movie out of it.
Yeah. It’s like that.
Fear the Mindbender, bitches.
Did you enjoy my story? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, DigiraWrite a Review