From the Blog of Exceptional-Man

FROM THE BLOG OF EXCEPTIONAL-MAN
Paul Hamilton
Issue No. 2 – December 2013

From the Blog of Exceptional-Man

AN OPEN LETTER TO MY HATERS
October 3rd, 10:11 pm

So I just stumble in the door and kick off the ol’ clodhoppers and I check my phone – which I leave at home, hello alter ego security breach waiting to happen – and I have a text from REDACTED which reads as follows:

text1

Now, you don’t know the context of my relationship with REDACTED, so let me tell you that under normal circumstances I would interpret this as tacit approval for having, in fact, knocked Brogium out with the statue of our beloved city’s founder and namesake. I reply with some smug half-joke, and there’s a long, uncharacteristic pause before REDACTED sends back:

text2

Honestly, I don’t really want to turn on the computer. I haven’t even washed the blood off my cape, I still have chunks of concrete in my hair, and I’m really looking forward to a beer and ballgame kind of evening. But when REDACTED gets all serious like that, I know better than to ignore it.

I reposition the laptop so I can get half a bar from my neighbor’s wifi. I log in and find this unending tidal wave of bullshit and vitriol. I’m not even going to link it, screenshot it, summarize it or anything. Let’s just say the haters came out to play. If you really need some place to start and you can’t be bothered to google or youtube “Exceptional-Man vs. Brogium,” try the hashtag #FuckOffExMan. Whatever.

So I’m tired and beat up, but I make the mistake of trying to engage with some of these trolls. And it goes about as well as it ever does. After a few hours, I’m wrecked. This is worse than going toe-to-toe with Hammer Hands. I walk away, pace the living room for a bit, take a shower.

I’m standing there in the shower, watching my blood and hair turn the drain water pink and furry and I just start to sob. I don’t know how much time passes. When I next have a conscious thought, the water is ice cold.

I get out and now I’m sitting here in a towel at my kitchen table, trying to will myself not to go back and battle with these armchair crime fighters and I fire up a text document and this is what pours out.

***

Dear Haters,

I tried to converse with as many of you as possible on an individual level but it’s clear that many of you are more interested in blaming me for not being perfect than in having any kind of rational discourse. As such, I will respond to the top complaints as follows and that will stand as my official response to any related questions. Consider the subject closed immediately thereafter.

1. On the point of the unfortunate death of Ms. Fern Elliot. Guys, you have to understand how much this kind of shit tears me up. The thing is, long ago I had to do a lot of soul-searching to learn to compartmentalize the fact that when cruel, selfish, sociopathic individuals like Brogium or Kombat Kangaroo kill defenseless citizens, that act falls on them, not on me. Ms. Elliot died because Brogium chose to shoot an ice ray into a crowded park on a Sunday afternoon, not, as some have suggested, because I chose to dodge the blast. I weep for Ms. Elliot and her family, but I’m out there every goddamn day trying to keep our streets safe so the number of Ms. Elliots we have to lose goes down, not up.

2. For everyone watching the handful of raw (by that I mean un-edited) YouTube videos of the fight and Monday-morning quarterbacking the whole thing, let me start by saying that all your fucking video game “experience” doesn’t amount for shit when it comes to the adrenalized, fear-soaked entropic reality that is a fight with super-powers.

And for @Maj_Maniaxxx and @lolLogjam and any other ex-military or black belts or whoever you all claim to be, get fucking bent. None of your normal combat training qualifies you to tell me what I could have or should have done in any given moment. For one thing, I never have the overpowering benefit of hindsight to tell me what my foes are going to do next. For another – and I don’t really like to talk about this but I guess since Xavier Hess at the Green Grove Guardian chose to print that shit last year that was supposed to be off the record it doesn’t really matter – I only get to use one power at a time.

Some of the things people are suggesting, like flying at supersonic speeds directly into Brogium when we were out over the lake, or carrying the flower cart with telekinesis while I hyper-ran behind the dugout, simply would not work. Literally, my powers can’t do that. I can’t fly at supersonic speed because I’d have to use stone skin at the same time or it would rip my body apart. I can’t levitate objects and do anything else because telekinesis uses up my one ability. I’m actually making my life so much more difficult by even saying these things because when – not if – it gets back to my foes, they will find a way to use it against me. But it’s worth it so some of you (you know who you are) don’t go spreading the idea that I’m not trying hard enough by suggesting things that are physically impossible for me.

I wish my powers didn’t work like this. Goddammit, I would love to have two or three or six or twenty abilities I could call on simultaneously. But I’m not Vallmek the Victor and this isn’t some pan-dimensional invasion of Gorpax Horrors.

He’s got his flock to tend, I’ve got mine.

3. Lay off Sasha Sweeny. Just because I happened to have saved her more than once doesn’t mean she knows my secret identity and it doesn’t mean we’re lovers or even friends. You all calling attention to her like this is exactly why she’s continuously in need of rescue. My enemies think there’s something going on and she’s a weakness they can exploit. It’s not true and you’re endangering her by perpetuating it, so knock it off.

4. Regarding the Tumblr post from jeenikoala about me needing to take some time to find a new sidekick. This one may hurt the most, if you want to know the truth. I don’t think jeenikoala really meant to be as critical as she seemed, and to be honest I get the impression she’s pretty young.

But it was really the add-on notes in the zillion reblogs that were the most damning. And it was this line of critique that made me have to walk away for a while. Listen: none of you had to watch Inventress get sucked into a nightmare parallel world. None of you. The only ones there to hear that throat-bursting scream were me and The Rending, may Satan be pitiless with his soul. Each time I try and fail to rescue her from Voidoss-12 – knowing good and goddamn well that time passes much faster there than here – I die a little more.

Inventress was my responsibility and I let her slip away so if you think I’m eager to replace her or to get back into a relationship like that again, you’re not thinking at all. She can’t be replaced and she won’t be replaced. I’m strictly solo now, so let’s hear no more about it.

And for the record, I will find a way to rescue ‘Vent; I will never give up trying.

5. Lastly, the whole bit about the statue. Wow. I mean it. Seriously: wow. I’m so glad all of you have so many better ideas about other objects nearby I could have used instead and so much civic pride to be so personally offended by my use of the Garvey statue.

But we are talking about the statue that gets covered in Green University football colors every homecoming game, right? I mean, this is the same statue that got the orange ballsack spray-painted on it? The one we had to pass Measure 16 just to find the funding to clean it up? The Measure that only passed by, what, sixty-two votes?

Now all of a sudden the fact that I used it to stop a rampaging super-beast who, I might remind you, HAD ALREADY KILLED AN INNOCENT PERSON, is some affront to your sense of community? I actually read a tweet where someone (the name is lost to the flood now) said something to the effect of, “I just keep wondering if Green Grove wouldn’t be better off without Exceptional-Man.”

At first I was incredulous. I was shouting at my laptop, HAS EVERYONE FORGOTTEN PORT POSEIDON ALREADY? 24,000 zombie slaves that used to be living, breathing, feeling men, women and children with futures until Mentastis came along. Poseidon didn’t have a protector to step in when their super-villain touched down with his zombie gas.

I’ve had some time to think and I’ve come to realize it’s an important question. Is Green Grove better off without me? Because I’m the first to admit, the presence of Exceptional-Man in Green Grove means, to some degree or another, a percentage of the insane and sometimes brilliantly sadistic criminals are drawn here with the idea that by confronting me they can legitimize themselves. I know that their rationale is, “If I defeat Exceptional-Man, Green Grove becomes my playground and everyone – heroes, fellow villains, and citizens alike – will fear my power!” Or even if not that exactly, they feel if they can pull off some outlandish caper under my very nose, they will be lauded as exceptional for having proven my inferiority.

So I have to ask myself every single day if my presence here is actively putting my beloved city at risk. The sad truth is, the answer is always “yes.” The thing is, the real answer is “yes, but.”

Yes, but: my leaving won’t reduce that risk, it will be like painting a giant bullseye across city hall.

Yes, but: at least there is someone responsible for that risk.

Yes, but: the unquantifiable comparison of those who would not have come without me here to those who don’t come because of my presence may be tilted in favor of the average Green Grove citizen.

Yes, but: even accounting for the margin of error on ex-man-stats.com, the number of lives I’ve saved is at least twice that of the lives I’ve not been able to save and the number of lives lost during my many battles.

Yes, but: if you ask any one of those who still have a family member or a home to come back to or a life to lead because I kept them out of harm’s way, they’ll tell you no one can see the future, no one can see the quantum possibilities (well, except for me when I’m using my psychic-sight ability, but that’s not the point), they can only see what would have been lost had I stood idly by, protecting my identity or just those I love.

Yes, but: one day I won’t succeed. Super-villains are getting stronger and stronger, they get more vicious and personal, more devious and more willing to band together to settle the grudges I collect instead of medals and commendations. Sooner or later someone will strip me of my powers or banish me to a far-off galaxy or just flat kill me dead.

I am not immortal, my time will come, too. And when that happens, my only hope – the one thing I know to be true above all else – is that I hope someone just like me or even better comes along and does exactly what I try to do every single day.

I’d want that for me, I want that for my friends and family, and I want that for my city.

My Green Grove.

My home.

So haters, hate on. I didn’t get into this for the adoration of the multitudes. I got into this for the love of a city.

P.S. If you care that much about your statue, it’s still there, at the bottom of the lake. Go get it yourselves. Maybe you can put a measure on the ballot to cover the cost.


Paul HamiltonPaul Hamilton lives and works in the Silicon Valley with his wife and daughter. He writes stories about broken people and repairing worlds. When not writing, he reads or draws or rides roller coasters. He considers the word “omnibus” beautiful and never passes up a chance to try new foods. More of his writing is available at www.ironsoap.com. He also tweets @ironsoap.

CLICK HERE TO READ PAUL’S THOUGHTS ON THIS STORY AND THE CREATIVE PROCESS THAT LED TO ITS CREATION.





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