We are all Superman

We are all Superman. It’s great! When the world needs saving we zip to a phone box and get changed into our tights and capes as quickly as we can. There aren’t so many boxes these days so we have to queue, and it’s kind of creepy that you can see right in, but we get used to it, and if we’re at home we figure that there’s no written rule and so we just get changed in the bedroom and get out there to save the world as quickly as possible. We grab the evil genius who is plotting against the world, grip his wrist and frown with determination as we deliver him to the authorities. And maybe we push him through a fucking wall. Dangle him off the edge of a building by an ankle.

Well. The one who gets there first can do all that. The rest of us kind of just stand there with arms folded and chests filling out our suits, and then we cheer and follow behind in a long sky-parade of blue. We whistle mighty tunes and swish our capes about and stare at passing eagles like: ‘back off, this is our sky,’ and we hurry this evil genius to the authorities and medals are handed out until the city runs out of medals again, and then we go back to our business and wait for the next crisis to strike.

We get on pretty well. Some of us long for the old days, when we were sure to grasp at least an evil limb. Once a year we take holidays in Noosa and have a sort of convention with speakers and seminars but mostly we are just there to sip cocktails and stretch out our muscles on the beach. There are counselling sessions. We have a good union.

The only thing we ever squabble about is Lois.

See, we are all Superman, but there is still only one Lois, and this is even worse than the thing with the criminals, because while you know that an evil genius is going to threaten the world maybe three times a day – and the law of averages says that once every few years you’ll be the one who hands him over to the authorities – well, with Lois she mostly just likes one of us at any time, and this is a Problem. Right now she is keen on the Superman from downtown with the dark hair, and all of us just sort of want to punch him in the face, but that would undercut the whole business, so when we meet at the convention we just smile at him and say ‘Hey Clark, how’s it going?’ and he grins and says ‘fine, you know. Actually, really good. Great.’ We smile at him too, and when we’re busy trying to save the world there’s an understanding that you kind of shoulder him away from the main action, because if he got an evil genius who was looking to destroy the world as well then that would be the fucking worst.

Today, though, is good, because it is Saturday, and on Saturdays an evil genius goes for Lois. When an evil genius goes for Lois she isn’t so fussy about which embrace she ends up in and so this is our chance. When the call comes I take straight off for the centre of town. Lois is balanced on the end of a long, yellow crane, with a bomb bound up in her hair and tarantulas poised on her shoulders and there is a gun in her hand that she has pointed to her own head, and I am the first, I am the first! I’ll feel her slim warmth trusting to my power, the sun gleaming on our skin. Perhaps she will cast that Clark aside and tonight we will eat at the Korean place near the docks, and we will hold hands for the first time and dream our way home through the settling streets. I look around for the evil genius to disable the bomb and stand down the spiders, to order him to tell Lois to take that gun out of her hand, but he is nowhere to be seen. Has he already run away? I’m very strong and intimidating. My muscles are like iron. I fly up next to Lois. She gazes at me, her face pale. I reach up to slip the bomb from her hair and shield it with my body but she flinches, cocks the gun and closes her eyes.

‘Don’t come any closer,’ she says. ‘Please … don’t come any closer.’





Ben Walter

Ben Walter’s stories, essays and poems have appeared in Lithub, Meanjin, The Lifted Brow and many other publications. He is the fiction editor of Island.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Related articles & Essays