The T-Shirt from the Future: A Short Short Story

Time travel cube

Someone nudged my shoulder, stirring me from deep sleep. “Wake up, grandpa,” said an unfamiliar voice. Grandpa? Who’s that? I opened my eyes to see a young woman, dressed in black, looking back at me. Her face was brown, and her eyes looked like deep pools of water.

She smiled. Nothing in twenty-plus years of teaching could have prepared me for this, I thought. I looked around, trying to find my cell phone, without success. Nothing here was like anything I’d seen before. Small lights, like fireflies, circled us in the darkness.

“I know it’s confusing to be called ‘grandpa,'” she said, answering a question I had not yet had the chance to ask. “This is, well, complicated.” Her voice sounded excited, even though she was speaking softly. She reminded me of teachers new to the profession, positively bursting with new ideas, and looking forward, enthusiastically, to the new school year ahead. 

“It would have to be complicated,” I mumbled. Sleep was fading as I rubbed my eyes, trying to see where I was. A light came on, but it was unclear where the lightbulbs were. We were alone, inside a blue and white cube. The cube slowly moved, but its direction kept changing. “What am I doing here? Where’s my wife? Where am I, and who are you?”

“So many questions! I expected that, though. I will explain what I can.”

“That’s good, because . . . .”

“Please don’t interrupt,” she said. I stopped talking, but did not stop thinking. It appeared to be time to listen, not talk. “Thank you,” my alleged granddaughter continued. “In order, here are the answers to your questions. First, you are here for an important conversation. Second, your wife is peacefully sleeping. Third and fourth, you’re in my time-travel cube, and my name is Xiahong Al-Nasr. Technically, you’re my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, but . . . .” I raised my hand to ask a question, as if I were in class myself. She shook her head, and continued, “. . . I’ve always thought of you as, simply, ‘grandpa.’ It’s a time-saver. May I continue explaining why we are here, or can your question wait?”

I thought fast. What should I say next? There was only one logical response. “I’ll listen,” I replied, and put my hand back down.

“You’re about to go back to school,” she said, “and you’re the teacher. It’s important that you understand why you are doing what you do, this year, above all others.” This reminded me of advice I’d heard before, but this time I was listening as if I were hearing for the first time.

This woman’s name, Xiaohong Al-Nasr, combined a Chinese given name with an Arabic surname. I hoped she would explain how that had happened.

“You’re wondering about my name,” she said. I swallowed, and nodded. My mouth was too dry to speak. “I’m from the 23rd Century,” she continued. “Nearly everyone where I work and learn, including me, has DNA from every continent on Earth. I’ve also got a little from off-world colonies, but I’m 100% human, just as you are. I was given my name by all of my parents.” She paused. Her gaze was locked to my own. “I’ve been authorized to tell you that much, but I have to be careful about revealing more, to prevent altering the timestream. Do you believe me?”

“If you know anything about me, you know that I teach science, as well as other subjects.” It was a relief to finally have my turn to speak. My alleged descendant, Xiaohong, was listening to me now. Finally! “You’ve either studied me, somehow, or you’re reading my mind, or it’s something else even more complicated, but you seem to know what I know. You must know, then, that scientists are trained to be skeptical. Everything has to have evidence to support it. In science, there is no higher authority than experiment.”

“I understand that, grandpa. We knew you would need evidence, so I do have a gift for you. It’s a t-shirt. You like t-shirts, after all.” Xiaohong smiled, and removed a small capsule from her pocket, no larger than a quarter. She opened it, and — somehow — pulled a full-size t-shirt from that impossibly small place.

t-shirt

I took the t-shirt from my descendant. Touching it was, well, real! I turned it over. It said “Go Bears!” on the back. Even if I believed her, though, I knew I would need more than just a t-shirt to convince anyone else. After all, time travel to the past was considered impossible by every scientist I had studied. Quickly, I did the arithmetic, using the year on the shirt. “That’s the year I would turn 300 years old, if I could live that long!” I was now catching Xiaohong’s excitement. “Clearly, Arthur C. Clarke’s Three Laws apply here, as does the Sagan Standard, Feynman’s First Principle, the grandfather paradox, and — and — and — the entire scientific method!”

“You’re absolutely correct, and it will be important for your students to understand all those things as well.” She was right; these are all things I talked about in science class, every year. This year, though, I can try to explain them differently, or perhaps have my students research them, and then have the students explain them to my class. Correction: my classes. My students. All of them.

Something fell into place in my mind at that moment, and I finally understood what was going on. It wasn’t my own accomplishments that had brought my descendant back in time to visit me, but the unknown creations of a student of mine — from the school year about to begin. Xiaohong smiled.

“You’ve figured it out, haven’t you?” She was asking a question, and, this time, I had the answer.

“Yes. You came back through time to refocus my attention to my own true purpose in the classroom. My job is to help my students learn to do great things. It’s not about me. It’s about them!” Xiaohong’s smile grew larger. I continued. “This school year is critical. This is true of all school years, in fact. Each year is both important, and urgent. In every school, and for every student, we must always do our best to learn — together.”

Xiaohong extended her hand, and received a firm handshake from me. “Now that you know the truth, grandpa, our work here is finished. You’ll wake up in the morning, in bed with your sleeping wife, and after that, you’ll find your t-shirt, in the dryer, at home. I have to go, though; I’m needed back in the 23rd Century. After all, I have my own classes to teach, quite soon, at our Time Travel Academy, where I got your t-shirt. Goodbye, and have a great school year! I know I will, as I continue my training to become a teacher myself.”

“I will do that,” I replied. “Thank you so much! As for this evidence you’ve given me, I know how I’ll handle that. I will let the students evaluate it, with help from me, on an ‘as needed’ basis.”

“Exactly,” Xiaohong said, and then she spoke to the ceiling of her time travel cube. “Send us both back to where we were — now.” A humming sound started, then became louder. The lights began to dim. After a few minutes, everything faded to darkness, and silence, once more.

When I awoke, home again, I checked the dryer, and found it — my t-shirt from the future — waiting for me. This school year will be amazing!

Have you noticed what silver’s been doing lately? The price of silver is literally on fire!

silver is literally on fire

Because of the price of silver being literally on fire, they will not be buying and selling troy ounces of metallic silver when the markets open in New York tomorrow morning. Instead, they will be selling “oxide ounces” of silver oxide, in sealed-plastic capsules of this black powder, with an oxide ounce of silver oxide being defined as that amount of silver oxide which contains one troy ounce of silver.

silver oxide capsule

A troy ounce of silver is 31.1 grams of that element, which has a molar mass of 107.868 g/mole. Therefore, a troy ounce of silver contains (31.1 g)(1 mol/107.868 g) = 0.288 moles of silver. An oxide ounce of silver oxide would also contain oxygen, of course, and the formula on the front side of a silver oxide capsule (shown above; information on the back of the capsule gives the number of oxide ounces, which can vary from one capsule to another) is all that is needed to know that the number of moles of oxygen atoms (not molecules) is half the number of moles of silver, or (0.288 mol)/2 = 0.144 moles of oxygen atoms. Oxygen’s non-molecular molar mass is 15.9994 g, so this is (0.144 mol)(15.9994 g/mol) = 2.30 g of oxygen. Add that to the 31.1 g of silver in an oxide ounce of silver oxide, and you have 31.1 g + 2.30 g = 33.4 grams of silver oxide in an oxide ounce of that compound.

In practice, however, silver oxide (a black powder) is much less human-friendly than metallic silver bars, coins, or rounds. As you can easily verify for yourself using Google, silver oxide powder can, and has, caused health problems in humans, especially when inhaled. This is the reason for encapsulation in plastic, and the plastic, for health reasons, must be far more substantial than a mere plastic bag. For encapsulated silver oxide, the new industry standard will be to use exactly 6.6 g of hard plastic per oxide ounce of silver oxide, and this standard will be maintained when they begin manufacturing bars, rounds, and coins of silver oxide powder enclosed in hard plastic. This has created a new unit of measure — the “encapsulated ounce” — which is the total mass of one oxide ounce of silver oxide, plus the hard plastic surrounding it on all sides, for a total of 33.4 g + 6.6 g = 40.0 grams, which will certainly be a convenient number to use, compared to its predecessor-units.  

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[This is not from The Onion. We promise. It is, rather, a production of the Committee to Give Up on Getting People to Ever Understand the Meaning of the Word “Literally,” or CGUGPEUMWL, which is fun to try to pronounce.]

 

 

An Absurd “Explanation” for Creativity in Humans (a short short story)

orbiting-dual-planet

[Note: I’m currently taking a class focusing on creativity, and this was first written as an assignment for that class.]

The reason some people are creative, while others are not, is simple: we’re hybrids of pure human DNA, plus that of extraterrestrials of two types, who visited earth and interbred with the natives between 60,000 and 50,000 years ago. The first type of alien came from a planet called Itaumiped, and their hybrid descendants inherited the creative abilities of the Itaumipedeans. The other type, for similar reasons, carries DNA from the inhabitants of the nearby world Almausoped — and those from Almausoped tend be be rather bright, but also very imitatitve. For example, the creation of the comic book character Spider-Man was clearly the work of an Itaumipedean/human hybrid, but the work of grinding out numerous Spider-Man derivatives in comic books (The Scarlet Spider, Spider-Girl, That Spider-Man from an alternate universe with six arms, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Woman, Spider-Ham, etc.) was performed by imitative Almausopedean/human hybrids.

Evidence for the creativity of the residents of Itaumiped comes from the name of the planet itself: a rather clever anagram of the letters in the sentence “I made it up.” Evidence that those from Almausoped are imitative, rather than creative, may be found in the fact that their planet’s name is an anagram for “Also made up,” something clearly borrowed, then slightly altered, from Itaumiped and its creative residents. This raises another question, though: how could the names of planets given to them by ancient civilizations come from anagrams of modern English sentences?

The search for evidence is now ongoing for the obvious explanation: what really happened clearly involved not just space travel, but time travel as well.

 

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[Note: This double planet/polyhedra image of Itaumiped and Almausoped first appeared here, and was created using Stella 4d, software you can try for free at this website.]

Bicycles Don’t Need Telepathy: A Short Short Story

bicycle

Since I hate being told what to do, and people kept telling me I had to learn to drive, and get a driver’s license, and so on, I refused, getting around by foot or bicycle, instead . . . or even hitchhiking . . . until age 20. It wasn’t unusual, therefore, as a teenager, for me to bounce out of the house, ready to jump on my blue ten-speed, and take off for my high-school weekend-job. What was unusual was to find, in mid-bounce, a different ten-speed, this one red, just where I had left my blue ten-speed the night before.

“What the #@&%? Did someone sneak into the carport and PAINT my bicycle?”

No, fool. I’m your bike now. Your old bike’s gone, man.

Clearly, it seemed, some all-too-human prankster was at work. I circled the house. I looked on the roof. I checked the storage building, and under the house. I found no one. Apparently, what seemed to be a bicycle talking to me was, well, exactly that.

You’re gonna be late for work, dummy. I told you, your bike got stolen — by my old, ungrateful human. He left me here. Let’s go!

“Why?”

Because you’re going to be late, dumb&%#! Are you trying to get fired?

Annoyed that this replacement-bicycle had a point, I jumped on the seat and took off, dodging the numerous potholes which have been considered as unofficial Arkansas State Monuments, and which I got to see more clearly than all those (ugh) car drivers out there.

Hey, jerk, my best friend is a car!

“A telepathic bicycle? You’re actually reading my mind? Someone had access to a telepathic bicycle, and abandoned that kind of power for my crappy old ten-speed? You’ve gotta be kidding!”

We were passing a female jogger at that moment. My mind was on keeping control of the bicycle, in order to stay out of traffic, while carefully not hitting her. My new “telebike,” however, had a different agenda, and “mind-shouted” at the jogger — with me able to hear it.

Hey! WOO! Great #@#! When I come back, ya wanna get together and $#@%#& the old %$#%@ &*%$#@$?

The understandably-irate jogger thought that was me, not the bike, threw an ink pen at me, and hit me in the head. “Drop dead, &%$#$#@!”

Clearly, having a telepathic bicycle just wasn’t worth the trouble involved.

After a turn (to get out of direct view of the offended jogger), I knew this street would go over a short bridge over a very deep drainage ditch, not far from here — one lined with large boulders, placed there by the city. By the time I got there, I was heading for the drainage ditch at top speed, and jumped off into some soft grass just before this crazy red ten-speed went airborne, screaming in my mind until crunching into the boulders at the bottom of the ditch, at which point “psycho-bike” fell silent. I, however, had a bit more to say, so I dusted myself off, and walked to the short bridge.

Looking over, into the drainage ditch, I surveyed the bicycle-wreckage, and said, “I’m gonna be out $100 or so to replace my old bike with another bike that doesn’t talk, and I’ll be late for work today, too . . . but at least I’ve gotten rid of my primary problem today, and that’s YOU!”

With that said, I walked to work. I was late, but did not get fired, and I never saw either the red, nor the blue, bicycle again.

###

[Note: the central event here — a bike being stolen, and replaced by the thief with another one — actually happened to me. So is the fact, and the reasons given, that I did not start driving until age twenty. Most of the rest of this is pure fiction. This was written as an assignment for a class I am taking which focuses on creativity, with the writing prompt being to “carry on a conversation with [my] childhood bicycle,” and I decided to post it here, as well.]

How the Homunculus War Begins: A Short Story

crime scene

Detective Bruce Kelley put out his cigarette, took a sip of his nasty-tasting, long-cold coffee, made a face of disgust, swallowed the sip of old coffee anyway, and took his time lighting a second cigarette, carefully watching the suspect every moment, as he did each of these things, without saying a word. After taking a long drag from his latest cigarette, he broke the silence. “Murdock. Mr. Peter Murdock. The crimes in which you are the prime suspect are serious, but I don’t think you’re taking this investigation seriously — at all — and I want to know why.”

“Detective, I haven’t committed any crimes. I have only been accused of killing two people, whose names I don’t even know, but as I have told you, repeatedly, I’ve never killed anyone, and never would. I’m not that kind of person.”

Kelley snorted. “Let’s talk about something else, then. Do you enjoy reading comic books, Mr. Murdock?”

“As a matter of fact, I do. Why do you ask?”

“I used to read them myself, when I was a kid. Spider-Man was my favorite, but I also liked Daredevil. And, I gotta tell you, of all the fake names I’ve ever been given by people with obviously fake IDs, ‘Peter Murdock’ has got to be the most pathetic fake name I’ve ever seen or heard . . . but maybe that’s just because we’ve both read a lot of Daredevil and Spider-Man comic books. So, here’s my next question: what’s your real name?”

“What? I don’t understand. Are you sure that isn’t my name? Hold on a second — I’ll consult my homunculus.”

“Your what?”

“You know — the little guy inside your head. The one who sees through your eyes. The dude behind the steering wheel, and at the control panel. You know, the one who decides what you do. Don’t you ever talk to yours? I wouldn’t know what to do with my life without the help of my homunculus.” He then gave the detective a huge, childlike smile.

Image source: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8844

A Man, and His Homunculus

The detective said nothing, and was still processing these words when the suspect spoke again, roughly a full minute later. “My apologies, detective. My homunculus was apparently playing tricks on us both, but I don’t know why. He now tells me my real name is Reed Stark.”

Detective Kelley put his unfinished cigarette out, right into the cup of swill which, two hours ago, had been half-way decent coffee. The cigarette hissed, as the lit end hit the liquid. “Reed . . . Stark. Of course he did. Are you quite sure about that name, though? Why not ask him if he meant to say ‘Tony Richards,’ instead? I thought we had already established that we’ve read the same &%$#ing comic books, you lunatic!”

“No, he says he’s sure it’s Reed Stark. Absolutely certain. If you can’t trust your own homunculus, detective, well, then, whom can you trust?”

“Well, ‘Mr. X,’ you’ve already been thoroughly searched, so there’s no point in asking for ID that says your name is Reed Stark. Look, Mr. Stark, Murdock, Richards, Stan Lee, or whatever your name is, I think we’re done here — at least for now.”

The detective picked up the handset-part of the old-style, land-line phone on the desk between them, in this small room which was so barren that the suspect had, until the detective picked up part of it, and talked into it, thought of this shiny black telephone as the room’s sole piece of ornamentation. Speaking into the phone, Kelley said, “Yeah, have the guard take Mr. ‘Murdock,’ here, back to his cell. We’re not getting anywhere with this, and there’s no point in my wasting any more of my time questioning him.”

“Um, detective, that’s not ‘Murdock.’ I told you, my name is Stark. Reed Stark. I don’t know why my homunculus –”

“Shut up. Just — just shut up.”

The suspect did not argue, and the guard arrived quickly, removed the restraints holding the suspect to his chair, but did not take off his handcuffs. As the guard left with the suspect, Kelley spoke once more. “Guard — don’t take him back to the same cell. Put this man in isolation.”

“Yes, sir.” They left. The door closed behind them. Detective Kelley picked up the phone again.

“This is about the murder suspect with the obviously-fake ID — the one who claimed his name was Peter Murdock, and had poor-quality fake ID to match. Change the name on his intake records to ‘John Doe.’ Run his fingerprints again, just in case the system missed a match last time. Also, get in touch with the psychiatric unit at the state hospital. Tell them we’ve got a dangerous head case coming their way, and to be ready to receive him — and warn them that he is the prime suspect in a double homicide — which he claims not to remember . . . . What was that? Yes, actually, I do believe him — the part about him not remembering killing those two men in that blind alley, anyway — that much I believe. This guy thinks there’s a little man in his head who tells him what to do — a ‘homunculus,’ he called it. I’m about to go google that word right now. No, I’ve never heard that term, but I know a psych case when I see one, and this guy’s definitely nuts.”

Once locked in his isolation-chamber, the suspect asked his homunculus what to do next, but heard no answer — so, instead of just asking silently, he asked again, aloud. To that, he heard a response, sort of: snoring. His homunculus was, apparently, asleep.

“I guess I’m supposed to sleep, too, then,” he said aloud, to no one in particular, and with that, he stretched out flat, right on the floor (ignoring the small, hard bed which was attached to the far wall), and instantly fell asleep.

Soon, the suspect was dreaming. He heard the voice of his homunculus, and it sounded oddly, subtly different than normal — and familiar, also. He finally recognized it, for he had heard it in multiple superhero movies: it was the voice of Stan Lee.

Trans-dimensional portal now open for transfer of both powers and equipment. Begin transfer immediately. Matt Murdock, code-named “Daredevil,” with two billy clubs — complete. Peter Parker, code-named “Spider-Man,” with web-shooters, and extra cartridges of web-fluid — complete. Reed Richards, code-named “Mr. Fantastic,” with unstable molecules for uniform-purposes — complete. Tony Stark, code-named “Iron Man,” with latest version of Extremis-augmented, body-integrated bio-armor — complete. Files containing knowledge regarding the use of new abilities, and equipment, now being transferred through trans-dimensional portal — complete. Begin extraction and installation of all files . . . wait . . . processing . . . processing . . . complete. Peter Reed Murdock Stark, it’s time to wake up now. You have important work to do.

The suspect woke up. He spent a few minutes using his newly-enhanced hearing to listen to conversations going on in every room in the building, until he was certain no one was nearby, except for those locked behind bars. He smelled for the distinctive smells of gun oil, ammunition, and gunpowder — and again, found none that were too close. His homunculus then told him, silently “This may seem a little strange, at least the first time,” and then flipped the newly-installed ‘armor’ switch, at which point the suspect saw his body and jail-inmate-uniform quickly covered with red-and-gold armor familiar to many fans of comic books, around the globe, although those same fans would have found the presence of billy clubs and web-shooters unusual, attached to Iron Man armor. “The unstable molecules will let the armor stretch with the rest of your body, so don’t bend the bars to escape — just stretch between them, instead, for that will make much less noise.”

As always, he did as he was told by his homunculus, without question, nor hesitation. His armored and elastic form slipped through the bars easily. Once out, though, his amplified hearing and enhanced sense of smell warned him that someone, probably a guard, was approaching. Spider-sense then confirmed imminent danger, so he jumped to the high ceiling — and stuck there. He held his breath as the guard strolled casually down the corridor. The guard was nearing the end of his shift, and was sleepy — but he would have noticed bent or broken bars to a cell. Due to his fatigue, however, he did not notice that the number of empty cells in this particular corridor was one more than it should have been — and he had no reason to look up.

Once this guard exited the far side of the corridor, the escaped prisoner crawled along the ceiling, and then noticed a ventilation shaft. It was covered by a metal grille, but the elastic powers of Reed Richards nullified that obstacle, as he simply oozed through the small holes in the grille, web-shooters and all — thanks to those unstable molecules from which the Fantastic Four’s uniforms are made. Within seconds, he was completely inside the ventilation shaft.

From inside his head, he heard the next instructions from his homunculus: “Head for the roof.” He did so, soon finding his way completely out of the ventilation system, and on the roof of a police station, in a small city in a world without superheroes. On this particular Earth, superheroes existed only as copyrighted characters in comic books, movies, television shows, and the like.

He spoke quietly: “Homunculus? What should I do now?”

“You need do nothing but accept our gratitude. Your mission is now complete.” The homunculus flipped the armor-switch back to the ‘off’ position, and the red-and-gold armor retreated from view. He then flipped another switch, and the escaped murder-suspect fell to the ground, able to see and hear, but unable to move. He heard four separate voices in his head say, “Thank you,” one after another. During his escape, the homunculus had reproduced by fission, splitting in half once, then each half splitting into two parts again — a new means of reproduction their species’ scientists had only just developed, and was only being used by experimental prototypes, such as these four particular homunculi.

A pair of small, green-skinned homunculi then crawled out of each of the murder-suspect’s ears, causing red blood to pool under his head, on the roof. “Ugh, human blood is so nasty,” one of them said. “Red is such a sickening color for blood!”

“Get used to it,” said another, “for I’m sure we will be seeing a lot more of it in the next few weeks.”

“Weeks? More like just a few days,” said a third of the green-skinned quartet. “In this universe our scientists recently discovered, no super-powered humans exist at all, except in what the humans call ‘fiction’ — stories about things which never actually happened, at least not here. The problems we have repeatedly encountered with these super-powered humans, every time we try to take over the Earth, will not exist here, with this Earth, at all. No one here will have the power to oppose us!”

The green homunculi were now marching, in a triumphant circle, around the paralyzed human. Although he could not move, their walking finally brought one of their faces into plain view, so he could see the strangely-shaped, green chin of his homunculus — and then he knew his planet was as doomed as he was, as he slowly bled out, unseen by any other human, on the rooftop of a police-headquarters building.

Secret_Invasion_Vol_1_5_Textless

A Skrull. Four tiny Skrulls, in fact. They didn’t even see the need to kill him before they activated tiny versions of Iron Man’s armor, and flew off, in four different directions . . . each to become someone else’s new homunculus, no doubt.

His last thought was relief, for he was blacking out, and knew he would not personally have to witness the destruction of his world’s civilization, and the enslavement of its people . . . but he saw no way either one could be avoided. Right now was, he thought, a much better time to die.

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[Image credit — the “homunculus” image, above, was found at this website: http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8844, and the picture of the head of a Skrull was found at http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Skrulls.]

[Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. No similarity to any living nor dead person, nor institution, is intended, nor should it be inferred. This story is not being sold for a profit, but is a work of fan-fiction available on the Internet, for anyone to read, for free. No copyright infringement involving characters owned by Marvel Comics is taking place, since this work is not being sold for a profit. If a representative of Marvel Comics requests it, this blog-post will be deleted, but it is expected that having this story available on the Internet will only increase, not decrease, that company’s sales and profits.]

Daredevil Fan-Fiction: Why Did Matt Murdock’s Mother Leave His Father?

150926_0000

I will start with an introduction, to set the context of this story.

In the issue of Superior Iron Man shown above (#4, published in 2015), Tony Stark, also known as Iron Man (having had a “moral inversion,” or good/evil reversal), is the villain of the story, while Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil, is the hero. It isn’t a typical comic book, for, in this story, the bad guy wins. Stark uses advanced technology to overpower Murdock, and then this happens, near the end of the issue.

150926_0001

In the next panel, Matt wakes up, in a hospital, with no memories of the conflict with Stark.

150926_0002

It is important to note that, earlier in this multi-issue story, which begins in Superior Iron Man #1, Stark restores Murdock’s ability to see. Realizing that the price of this is far too high, Murdock deliberately shuns this “gift” from Stark, and voluntarily allows his blindness to return.

Now that the stage is set, on to the fan-fiction, which takes place, mostly, in the mind of Matthew Murdock, who is also an attorney, in-between the two panels shown above.

~~~

Matt Murdock was blinded in a childhood accident, so he is used to darkness — but the darkness now enveloping him is far emptier than usual. His enhanced senses are gone. Hearing nothing, smelling nothing, tasting nothing, feeling nothing, and his “radar-sense” gone, he is now blind — really blind. Deprived of all sensory input, he also has no idea what is going on. However, he can think, and can also remember.

The first thing he remembers is a single name: STARK!

That name triggers a recent memory: the brief, recent period where one of Tony Stark’s inventions restored his sight. For a time — an unknown amount of time — he simply watches, as if watching a TV show, the things he saw during this short time. The show plays itself out, as if on a large screen. His anger at Stark forgotten, Matt watches the show of his recent memories, as one might passively watch a movie. He feels he is floating, in a void, as he watches. As this “movie” plays, there is a sudden freeze-frame: the pictures stop moving. Context is immediately forgotten. All he sees is a single image, which is what he happened to be looking at when the “movie” of his recent memories was suddenly, and unexpectedly, put on “pause.”

150926_0004

A jar of peanut butter? Why did the images freeze at this spot? What’s going on? Did I see this in a store? Did I see it in my home? Where did I . . . ?

Daredevil is popularly-known as “The Man Without Fear,” but he’s always known that this description is inaccurate. For example, he fears the possibility of those he loves getting injured, or killed, by any of his numerous enemies, because of his exploits as a costumed hero — for that has already happened to him, more than once. He also realizes that he fears something else, but only if he sees it: peanut butter.

Peanut butter? Why that, of all things?

An earlier, strongly-repressed, memory then surfaces, and a great many things fall painfully into place for Matthew Murdock.

Oh, no . . . anything but this . . . . 

He is no longer seeing recalled memories from a few days ago, but from early childhood — before the accident that blinded him. He was very young, had a bad head cold, and could smell nothing, explaining why the smell of peanut butter never triggered this memory before.

Young Matthew looks around. He sees the kitchen of his childhood home. His parents, Jack and Margaret Murdock, are still together. He is wearing the clothes of a toddler, because that is what he was at this time. He’s on top of a counter in the kitchen, having climbed up there, using chairs to make a crude “staircase.” And there, on the floor, is a five-pound jar of peanut butter, surrounded by shards of broken glass. 

Matt, as a toddler, had only been looking for some cookies. He had not meant to knock his father’s gigantic glass jar of peanut butter off the counter, but the deed was done. The jar was broken, and could not be unbroken. There was broken glass in the peanut butter now; it could not safely be eaten. His family didn’t have much money, for his father’s career as a professional boxer was going nowhere, and his mother only made a little money, at the elementary school down the street, working as a substitute teacher. “Battlin’ Jack” Murdock, whom the adult Matt Murdock had idolized for years, was eating as much peanut butter as he could, simply to gain weight, and protein, in the hopes that this would, somehow, make him a better boxer.

The crash of the glass jar hitting the floor echoed throughout the family’s small Hell’s Kitchen apartment. With his earliest memories now unlocked, he knew what was coming next. Matt tried desperately to stop the memory-playback.

He failed, and his mind filled with fear.

Loud footsteps . . . Dad? No! Please, please don’t . . . I don’t need to see this happen again . . . not again . . . . never again . . . .

“MATT!” His father had just burst into the room, having heard the crash. He saw the broken jar of peanut butter on the floor. His son started to cry, afraid of what he knew, in hindsight, was about to happen. “You clumsy little %$#@! Do you have any idea how much that jar COST me?” An incoherent, deep-voiced, roar of rage followed — and the noise from his father seemed louder than anything the adult Murdock had ever heard, even from his arch-enemy, Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime, and even with his enhanced senses taken into account.

Matt’s father, already drunk, in the middle of the afternoon, kept yelling at his son: “I’ll KILL you for this, you worthless little son of a &*%$#!!”

And, with that, the enraged “Battlin’ Jack” Murdock grabbed his only son, by both shoulders, with his son facing him, and started shaking him as hard as he could. Young Matt’s head flopped back and forth, rapidly, just like a worn-out rag doll. Matt heard a sharp “crack!” sound from one of the bones in his neck. The shaking continued.

The adult Matt Murdock then remembered a legal case he had refused to take, over ten years earlier, defending a man who was then put on trial for murdering his son via shaken baby syndrome, which can kill children up to the age of three. Later, he learned the man had not only been convicted, but eventually put to death — the last legal execution in the state of New York, for killing his 2½-year-old son . He remembered smiling when he learned of this, but had not known, at the time, why this news had made him happy.

Now, all at once, he knew.

Luckily for Matt, the toddler, help was on the way. School had been dismissed, and his mother, Margaret Murdock, was just arriving home. She walked in on the most horrible scene she had ever witnessed: her husband attacking their only child.

She didn’t hesitate, and had, fortunately for her young son, entered the apartment unseen by “Battlin’ Jack.” She ran at her husband, a trained boxer, jumped onto his back, and began clawing at her husband’s face with every ounce of strength she could find, screaming as she did so. Not only that, but it worked — she saved her son’s life. 

“You rotten little %$#@*! This is all YOUR fault!” She had saved Matt, but only by getting her husband to redirect his fury at the only other target available — herself. This was not the first time Jack Murdock had beaten his wife, but it was the worst beating she ever took from him, and it was also the last such beating.

This was the last time Matt Murdock ever saw his mother — and, until many years later, as an adult, this was also the last time Matt heard her voice. Unknown to her son, or her monster of a husband, she escaped, to a shelter for battered women at a nearby church, but was unable to take young Matthew with her — her husband changed the locks after she left, and she was not able to gain access to him, in order to rescue him. She did, however, make contact with a friend who worked with New York’s Child Protective Services agency, and begged her friend for her help. She was (incorrectly, she later found out) told that, with no hard evidence available, there was no point in calling the police: an arrest of Jack Murdock would be, she was informed, impossible. However, she did convince her friend to have CPS keep an eye on the situation, for years, in order to ensure her son’s safety.

The toddler Matt, of course, knew none of this. In fact, even as an adult, he never did find out about the CPS-monitoring which his mother had arranged, for his protection.

As his mother was savagely beaten, young Matt laid limp, on the floor, his neck forming a very odd-looking angle, as the result of the trauma he had suffered. He could not move, nor could he speak, for he was in shock for over an hour. He could, however, see and hear. He heard his mother crying, and screaming, as her husband continued to beat her. He saw two of his mother’s bloody teeth fly across his field of vision. He heard some of her bones break, but could not turn his head to see which ones the monster of their lives had broken. He saw a calendar on the wall, and his adult self did the math, and figured out how old he had been when this happened: two and a half years old.

This was now Matt Murdock’s earliest memory — but not for long. The weapon Tony Stark had designed, built, and used against him was programmed to seek out (and record) a person’s most traumatic, but still repressed, memory, and then force them to relive it, vividly, and, next, allow that person to suppress the memory once again — and then keep going, wiping out all memories for several days before the device was activated. When Matt Murdock awoke in the hospital, he remembered nothing about either the conflict with Stark, or with his father. However, Tony Stark examined the recorded data about Murdock’s childhood, and filed it away, in case he ever decides to use it. And, of course, Matt Murdock’s earliest memory is not gone, but merely repressed. If Stark’s technology ever fails, which is certainly possible, these memories could always come back.

Tony Stark now understands Matt Murdock’s prime motivation for putting on a devil costume (despite the fact that he is Catholic), going out almost every night, and selectively beating only those people who seriously deserve to be beaten, and Stark enjoys knowing that he is the only person in the world with this information, to use however he sees fit, at any time.

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~~~

CREDITS

I took the picture of the jar of peanut butter myself. All other images in this post are from Superior Iron Man #4, published by Marvel Comics, written by Tom Taylor, penciled by Yildiray Cinar, and with cover art created by Mike Choi. For other credits, I refer you to this comic book.

The “fuzziness” of the comic book images is deliberate, and done with the intent of avoiding copyright infringement, while leaving the dialogue readable.

While writing this short story, I made every effort to keep it consistent with the decades-long story of Matt Murdock / Daredevil, a work which has involved dozens of talented people. Without their work to build on, I could not have written this story.

The information in this story regarding Shaken Baby Syndrome is factual, as of the date of publication. A search of medical sources with Google will reveal that it does kill large numbers of babies, as well as children up to age three. Everyone needs to know this: shaking can kill babies and children. In this story, Matt Murdock survived. In real life, the author of this story survived; it is my earliest clear memory. Not everyone lives: 25% of us die, and of those who survive, 80% have to deal with permanent damage.

Obviously, I’m among those who survived, but I’m also among the 80% of survivors with permanent damage. PTSD doesn’t just “wear off” once you get it, either . . . or at least, I haven’t found a cure for mine yet.

Initial Transmission After Arrival, from the First Automated Spacecraft from the Pluto/Charon System, “Wizonn Shore,” to Visit the Mysterious Planet Earth, Surrounded by Its Atmosphere of High-Pressure Nitrogen (and Toxic Oxygen) High-Temperature Vapors

[Source: This is the lead story in the most recent issue of The Charon Space Central Daily, published electronically every 6th or 7th Earth day, since Pluto’s day lasts almost as long as our week. I simply translated it into English, after I intercepted the transmission, so that at least some other humans can read it.]

Earth is the most massive of the inner rocky planets, with the mass of 459 plutos, according to the most accurate measurements relayed so far by Wizonn Shore, in recent days, on the robotic spacecraft’s approach to the giant rocky world. Earth’s radius, 5.5 times that of Pluto, gives it a volume of about 160 plutos, so it is almost three times as dense as either of our homeworlds. Its surface area, as the largest rocky body in the solar system, is almost 23 times greater than that of Pluto and Charon combined. However, as this chart shows, much of Earth’s surface is covered with deadly oceans, utterly useless for any form of life as it evolved in the Pluto / Charon system. These enormous accumulations of liquid dihydrogen monoxide are the largest yet discovered anywhere, so incredibly hot (averaging ~300 kelvins) that, at Earth’s high atmospheric pressure, that compound exists as a freely-flowing, highly-reactive liquid covering over 70% of earth’s surface, except for rare areas where it is frozen, mostly near the poles and/or at the top of Earth’s taller mountains. Unfortunately, 300 kelvins is about seven times what natives of Pluto, Charon, or our colonies are used to, in terms of temperatures above absolute zero, so Earth is believed by most scientists to hold no potential for colonization.

It was this high temperature that prevented exploration of the inner solar system’s rocky planets — until recent developments in high-temperature adaptive technology made it possible for us to begin our exploration of the inner solar system, breaking the previously-inviolable heat-barrier at the asteroid belt, and sending our now more heat-resistant spacecraft into the previously “forbidden” region — first, Mars, which has been studied already with two separate mission; and now, finally, Earth. The exploration of Venus and Mercury by robot craft, however, at least for now, awaits further improvements in heat-resistant materials science.

 

The first surface-reconnaissance rover, similar to those used on Mars, was sent to a place with relatively low large-alien population density, as estimated by artificial light-output from different parts of the land surface, during Earth’s night. However, of course, its landing position had to be somewhere in the 29.2% of Earth’s surface not covered with oceans — for a rover landing in liquid dihydrogen monoxide would instantly be destroyed, as it sank to ever-more-crushing pressures in a hot liquid often called, on decoded Earth voice-transmissions, “water.” On both Pluto and Charon, in all laboratory experiments, this dangerous “water” has quickly rendered inert any electronic components — of anything — to which it is exposed. (Indeed, this, as well as the numerous deaths which resulted, was the reason that such “water” experiments have largely been abandoned, except by Earth-colonization advocates who have, a few admit, no good answers to the questions about Earth already being inhabited, nor how to deal with the toxic oxygen gas making up nearly one-fifth of Earth’s atmosphere.)

Despite the care given to choosing a landing-spot, this was still the first and only image sent before our spacecraft’s first rover was unexpectedly deactivated, for unknown reasons. These reasons are suspected to be related to the strange, pink alien creature dominating the image, although that is, at this point, speculation.

With data transmissions from the first landing probe ceased, Pluto/Charon’s automated spacecraft Wizonn Shore, launched from Charon eight years ago, continues to take pictures, from Earth-orbit, as fast as it can, while waiting on instructions from Charon Space Central regarding when to risk launching a second landing rover. Transmission of the images taken from orbit is a secondary priority to actually taking the pictures, as is happening now, so our news services do not yet have images of Earth of any higher resolutions than those already sent as Wizonn Shore approached Earth over the last few weeks.

While there has been some speculation in the press that the alien pictured in the one image sent from Earth might be the dominant species on Earth, that is not supported by visual transmissions decoded in the radio part of the electromagnetic spectrum, most of which depict the activity of a relatively hairless biped which compensates for its nudity, for reasons unknown, by covering itself with “clothes,” the buying and selling of which is, judging from the transmissions we have decoded so far, a major activity for Earth’s bipedal inhabitants.

It is these mysterious bipeds, and their activity as observed by our own devices, which all of Pluto, Charon, and our colonies on the outer moons are waiting to see images of, as taken by Wizonn Shore. Will it match what they beam out in all directions, using radio waves, with what seems to be careless abandon — or will the “as seen on TV” version of Earth prove to be an elaborate deception, on the part of Earth’s inhabitants?

Of course, the computers processing these images do not care about our collective frustration, and so we continue to wait. Might “clothes” be adopted only at a certain age by Earth’s dominant bipeds? Might that single, naked, pink-skinned alien, photographed by our short-lived landing-rover, simply be an immature form of the same species? At this time, those questions, and more, remain open.