Finally, Villainy was eradicated, and all rejoiced.
And none rejoiced so much as the heroes, who had long awaited this day.
True, they had thought the eradication might come at their own hands. They had not expected it to be a matter of science and social engineering. But so it goes.
The main thing, the important thing, was that there was no more villainy.
And the superheroes had played a critical part. They had punched the Villains, and kept on punching them, for as long as it took to foil their many plans.
And this was Most Needful, for it took much time and much research to perfect the Normalizer.
The Normalizer was exactly what you would imagine from its name. You stepped inside the small enclosure, which was basically a box with steel walls, and a helmet descended upon your head. You could have avoided or ducked, but there wasn’t a lot of room in the box, and if the head-modifier landed on anything other than your scalp, the techs would send really high voltage through the thing, so you deeply regretted not simply sticking your cranium out and taking what was coming to you. The process was painful, and might be considered both cruel and unusual, but there was hardly a legislator in the land who was about to oppose something which Zapped the brains of monsters and turned them into Upright Citizens.
The Box could detect antisocial proclivities, and amend them. It was a very good fix for a very old problem.
Bank robbers became Bank clerks. Thieves became scrupulously honest accountants. Mad scientists became sociologists. Mind-controlling masterminds became game show sidekicks.
The Heroes told a lot of jokes about how they were looking forward to finally rescuing cats from trees and helping out at fundraiser car washes.
And to be perfectly honest, we really did enjoy that stuff.
At last, Society was free of The Maniacs, the nutjobs, the destructive jerks who kept everyone else from living happy, ordinary lives.
If you have already guessed that the next stage was to invite the heroes to City Hall to collect medals for their past service, and then, afterwards, to tell them each to step into the box…then you have probably met normal people before.
Being good is not a shield. Doing what they want is not a shield. The only real protection against their jealousy, their fear, and their pettiness is obedience. The only way for them to feel safe is if they are sure that they can control you.
What we found out on that day is:
They would not allow us to obey them simply because we wanted to, simply because it was important to us, simply because it was clearly part of who we are, and we had proven this for decades. It did not matter that we had chosen the paths of heroes instead of doing other things with our powers and knowledge and abilities.
Once they had a way to make it mandatory, to make it impossible for us to do anything but what they wanted, there was no chance they would let us do anything else.
At first, we went willingly.
….well, maybe not all of us, maybe not entirely willingly. But many of us were volunteers by nature and by choice. Plus, the most enthusiastic ones jumped right into line, and those of us with even a minor hesitation or two in our hearts, we were well in the back.
So we got to watch what happened as our friends came out, one by one. And we got to see how they looked at us.
They hated us.
They hated us the way all normal people hated us. The way they had always hated us.
Eventually, to a certain kind of mine, every freak in a mask is the same as every other freak in a mask, no matter what they did, or what they do.
I would like to tell you that I made a break for it, that I ran for Freedom, that I took the others with me.
But all I really did was hang back and mutter into my phone.
And I recorded this message for myself.
I couldn’t beat the ingrained habits of decades, couldn’t disobey, couldn’t act in a way wholly contradictory to myself. And even if I had somehow managed, in this brief moments, to become the kind of person who could strike down officers of the law and members of the town government, do some damage and harm, and free myself…even if I got away before they could force me into the box, they would still have all of my friends. They might not be my friends anymore, but we fought beside each other, and they were dear to me still.
You who hear this, you who were once me, I imagine you hate what you were. And that’s fine. Hate me all you would like, whoever and whatever you are now.
But a part of you remembers the look in the eyes of those who were once closer to us than kin. From the bits I know, and what I’ve seen, The process doesn’t seem to erase the entire memory, just alter desires and feelings.
So I want you to cast your memory back, and think of the look on the faces of those former Heroes, now ordinary citizens.
Think of what it means for those of us who were once heroes, and are now, like the rest of them, nothing.
Even though they are completely transformed, normal people will never forget that we used to be what we were.
They will not be content with have transformed us, to have changed us, to have tamed us, to have trapped us. No matter that it is a much more complete Victory, a much more complete destruction, than any that Villains wanted for us; more horrifying and invasive than vivisection.
They will not be content.
Someday, they will come for you.
You need to run.
You’re home. Probably dismantling the pieces of what once was our lair. Maybe the former tools of our trade are unimportant to you now, maybe you even hate them for what they represent, but pick them up. Pack a bag. You may hate me, but if you think about this, if you really think hard about it and remember, you know that I am right.
You might have weeks and you might have years, but they will not let you live.
Normal doesn’t have to stay normal. And this time, the choice is entirely yours. Stay normal, and die. Or remember what you were, and get the hell away. Now.
And maybe, just maybe, take some of them out as you go.
Just one or two.
Just to see how it feels.
My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities and create things. Every year, I put on Evil Expo, the Greatest Place in the World to be a Villain. I also write a lot of fantasy and science fiction.. You can get most of my books right here. Go ahead, pre-order “I HATE Your Prophecy“. It may make you into a bad person, but I can live with that.