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The world keeps changing. Have you noticed? We keep moving on, moving forward, sometimes striding, sometimes stumbling, but the movement itself is steady, persistent--moving onward. This occurs in all facets of life, too, from architecture to zoo keeping, from abacuses to super computers, from "Mr Watson ? Come here ? I need you,? to ?If you want information on your account, please press one.?

Even stories are different today. In the 1950?s a scintillating sex novel appeared in the bookstores. Peyton Place it was called. It was scandalous, and had a sex scene between an intoxicated, savage father and a winsome daughter, among other libidinous rowdiness. This was new and shocking. Such stories are common fare now, and that book wouldn?t raise even spinsterish eyebrows, where it raised the stock prices of smelling salts companies then.

Comic book superheroes have been updated, too. Those in the early days of the invention could fly, and pictures of them doing so stirred the imagination of every boy who escaped to his bedroom to read them. Many of those, so fired by the pictures and thoughts of the impossible, used bath towels as capes, zoomed around the house with their arms in front of them looking like divers in need of a pool, and some of them were so inspired they leaped off roofs, only to learn that comic books and real life were vastly, sometimes fatally, different.

Today?s superheroes do more than fly. The list of their abilities includes such attributes as technopathy, cryokinesis, intuitive aptitude, empathic mimicry, space-time manipulation, telekinesis and phasing.

Today?s boy of ten isn?t just beguiled by seeing his hero rescue a damsel from a burning building or catch a safe that?s about to crush her. Today?s boy is faced with abilities that yesterday?s boy doesn?t even understand. He takes these abilities in, and his mind is expanded, and he moves forward, much as the architect and the zookeeper does.

But the old is good, too. I look at that list of superhero attributes and shake my head, wondering why, if you were to choose your super-abilities, you would select, say, empathic mimicry, or intuitive aptitude, over super strength, or the ability to fly. Why would you do that? What?s wrong with the old-fashioned super abilities?

I get it when someone wants to be faster than a speeding bullet, leap buildings--hell, they can be tall or short for all that matters, they?re buildings, for God?s sake--in a single bound. I get it about being more powerful than a locomotive; that sounds totally cool in that it defies the laws of physics, like it isn?t every day that my 160 pounds is going to stand on a railroad track, facing off against the ginormous size and lumbering tons of a locomotive and actually stop that mother. Doing that always sounded like a fun thing to do, even if it did make my wrists sore. So doing things like that, having the ability to do things like that, makes sense. Flying, seeing through things, being stronger than anyone else, and faster, too, being able to become invisible or hear a conversation being whispered four blocks away underground in the middle of a heavy metal concert, all that seems a given for a kid?s wish list. But empathic mimicry? Intuitive aptitude? Give me a break here!

In the first place, I?m not even sure what those are. The boy of ten probably does, as he?s a product of his environment, an advanced creature of his times; these things probably are part of him. He may even have a bit of empathic mimicry flowing through veins, part of his bloodstream. Intuitive aptitude? What that sounds like is some sort of super-sized intuition. So it?s kind of girly, right? Intuition, girly, yeah. But maybe what he?s thinking is, it?s some sort of advanced version of gaydar, and what gay kid wouldn?t like to have one of those, right out of the box?

But I still have to think, of that list, good gaydar might not be the preferred choice. Let?s think on it a sec. Let?s imagine.

Okay, so you?re in a bad part of town, it?s just a little after midnight, and you tell your gay friends you?ve had enough bar hopping for the night and just need to be alone. They?re thinking you?re depressed; you?re thinking jock itch and scratching. So you walk away into the fog. The only sounds you hear are the lapping of the cold ocean water against the docks two blocks away, a lonely foghorn stirring the hairs on the back of your neck, the occasional bark of a dog being territorial, and a drunk barfing in a doorway. You walk on and think there might be footsteps behind you. You look and see nothing. Still, your heart is beating a little faster.

You see a dark alley ahead and slip into it. I mean, why not? Doesn?t everyone walk alone into dark alleys late at night in the bad part of town? Well, you do, because, well, because you?re endowed with super powers. You have Intuitive Aptitude.

You?re well off the street now, back in the alley, and you see it dead ends into a solid brick wall. Around you are overflowing garbage cans, the litter of a tired and uncaring population, and the smell of urine, long since decanted. You turn to get out of the trap you?ve wandered into, and see three older teens standing in your path. Ugly, brutish and cruel looking teens. One of them steps a half step forward and shoves you on the shoulder so you stumble backwards, and says, ?Hey, look what we get to fuck with tonight.?

Another says, ?Yeah, fuck with and then fuck up.?

The third gropes his crotch and cleverly ripostes, ?And then just fuck. I got firsts. When we?re ready.?

Well, are you worried? Of course not. Because they don?t know of your powers. You stand in front of them acting like you?re calm, because of your superior powers and all, but somehow there?s a trickle of cold sweat etching its way down the back of your neck. You keep your cool as much as possible and activate your power, thinking while doing so that you know in advance what you?ll learn. Two of the guys will be frightened and won?t really want to be in any sort of scuffle. They?re only there so they can fit in with their friends. What they really want is to be home watching the Beaver on Nick-at-Night reruns; one of them actually has the hots for Barbara Billingsley. The third thug, the one who pushed you, well, he?ll actually eager to get it on, but you?re sure your powers will tell you that he?s been beaten on by his drunken father, and you know, you just know, if you can make him see how sorry you are for his past problems, put your arm around his shoulders and tell him you?re there for him, he?ll warm up to you.

That?s what you?re pretty sure you?ll find when you do your scan. You press your left thigh with your left thumb while clicking your heels together and saying to yourself, ?there?s no place like home,? and suddenly you can read their thoughts. They come to you in a crashing wave. You?re aghast. All three of them want to fuck you up, over, around and, well, that way, too.

So what are you thinking as they move in, and the first of them begins hitting you in the nose and the second one kicks you in the balls, solving your itching problem in the worst way, then cuts away your belt with his blade and yanks down your pants? You?re thinking about that list, aren?t you? And thinking the more powerful than a locomotive skill set might be more useful about now than Intuitive Aptitude.

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... and that's where fiction parts from reality: in dark alley-ways shrouded in fog.

Of course, any sensible modern teen would go for 'This weeks special offer! 2 for the price of 1!' and pick up Intuitive Aptitude AND Super Strength. Then he'd be able to judge how stupid he was walking into said fog shrouded alley, wryly smile, wink at the CCTV, and then kick the crap out of his assailants.

Thanks, Cole. Nicely observed, and as always, beautifully written. :hehe:

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