Five-minute call

Gotcha, thanks. You look great.

I look like a fool. Why the hell am I wearing this stupid thing?

The costume played really well in focus groups. The colours really stick out. Makes you look identifiable.

Could I not have had a say in it?

You came to us, remember? We know what we’re doing. You need to be approachable. Most people are terrified of you.

I don’t blame them.

ah… hey — you don’t mean that?

I dunno. I don’t see how I can help like this. The costume and everything.

You already have. Crime rates down, disarmament in discussion all over the globe. We just need to make you more…


Approachable. Look no one’s expecting Superman-

That’s exactly what they’re expecting.

Come on I thi-

It is! But I’m just… ah… me! Just… jus- some jerk who -

Save it for the screen, big guy. You’re relatable, people will love it. Social media has gone ape. Just allay their fears.

‘Allay’? Fancy word for ‘show em you won’t kill em’.

You can’t be stopped, it’s understandable people want to hear your beliefs, see who you are. Humans have had a poor history of people in power with dangerous beliefs.

I am a Human!

I know, I just mean if-

They’re ready for you on set.

Well here we go. Ready?

As I’ll ever be…

There’ll be movies in the works before you know it.

Great. Add em to the pile.

Ladies and Gentlemen please welcome the first true blue Superhero: OPTICON!

Thank you. Thanks. Hi. Thank you.

Well Mister Opticon, is that right? Haha

Haha yeah ah just Opticon I guess.

Opticon, Opticon right. Great to have you here.

Happy to be here.

What a suit huh? Right?

It’s new. Probably very expensive.

Probably? One of the perks of being a Superhero? Free stuff?

I wouldn’t call spandex and kevlar a ‘perk’ but apparently people like it.

Who you lookin’ at back there?

That’s Joanne, she’s my publicist. I’m dancing to her tune here.

Haha Hi Joanne. It’s a great suit. I love it, looks great! …so ah come on tell us: why are you here?

I believe I owe everyone an explanation.

For who you are?

Who I am, what I do, where I’m from. All that.

Okay so let’s start with that, where are you from?

Chicopee, Massachusetts… it ain’t Smallville I’ll tell ya that.

What’s it like there?

Just like all the movies, y’know. Small town kid, kinda lonely, all that. Good parents…

Like a lot of kids?

Yeah I guess.

So how did you go from that to -


Yeah, right!

Haha okay so this is like a lotta those backstories, short answer I was at MIT after the war -

- The war? Which one?

The second one.

Holy… you mean… you can’t be what? Over 100 by now?

I mean technically no I’m not, but we’ll get to that -

So you’re not like that guy with the shield?

Not exactly, no.


So I was working on electromagnetic field systems and destabilising fields — basically trying to look at gravity and change its behaviour.

Sounds heavy.

Not the first time I heard that joke.

I’m sorry I’m sorry.

So the usual happens, turns on while I’m in there but no biggie I don’t have anything metal on me so it’s just like a huge CT scanner. Now it takes a while for me to notice but I start breaking stuff and stuff breaks on me and then I start noticing I float… all kind of crazy sh- stuff.

The stuff you’re known for now I guess?

Right. So I get studied at the institute, then the government and all kinds of people want a look…

What was that like to transition like that. Go from studying in the lab to suddenly be… a… uh… essentially, a uh a lab rat?

You ever read Flowers for Algernon?

Oh boy, did I?

It was sorta like that except it was strength or power or whatever not intelligence cause lemme tell ya American Intelligence is an oxymoron.

Well some kinda moron.

Right! Haha

Some things haven’t changed much huh? Now I guess this was a big thing. I mean if it was after the war like you say?

Yes the West during the cold war were keen to… should I say… have me on side. Just like all those comics, again.

So is all this classified? Are there any cool stories you can tell us?

I can’t simply because I refused to cooperate. I didn’t use my powers at all for decades and the people in charge were ah… kinda pissed shall we say.

Oh man. I’ll bet.


So what did you do? Instead of staving off the Cuban missile crisis I mean?

Haha I lived a boring life. Moved to New Jersey cared for my folks till they died, worked for the IAS, kinda got used to being on my own again.

So why didn’t you help? You had, I mean you have these powers, but you chose not to use them. Did you ever feel guilty?

No never.

Really. Why not?

We’d just come out of a war. A war that ended with nuclear weapons. There’s a reason they call the large nations Superpowers. I looked at how bad things were and thought about how much worse I would make them with my interference and decided not to get involved and -



-no go ahead

-well what I mean … ah … I didn’t want to be used to oppress. You know what I mean? I got the impression that I’d be used to make one nation bow to another’s and back then I didn’t like that idea. I mean can you imagine if I was used in the Vietnam War? I mean that’s basically what that clock comic was about right? It all seemed too grim a prospect for me.

So you’re a pacifist then?

Absolutely. I’m a man of science. We should be working together, helping each other, y’know? It’s silly I guess, I dunno I just want us to do better as a species. And … and the thing is — as you say — I have these powers but so does everyone!

Well I certainly can’t fly!

Haha I know I know but… what I’ve seen, my whole life is people’s ability to do incredible things I don’t know if I could do.

Like what?

Like … ah… like survive after your child dies, or live through cancer, cure diseases in war torn countries, talk people into a peace treaty. Whatever! Humans are capable of really amazing things, but people don’t use that. You say I don’t — or I didn’t — use my powers, but no one else does either. If we were all doing the amazing things everyday think where we’d be.

So why don’t we? …Do you think…

I guess we think we can’t. Or we’re told we can’t.

So do you want to inspire people?

Yeah. Why do you think I’m dressed like a dork?

Well you've definitely inspired. We've seen you in action, right? Like in this video everyone's sharing at the moment... there you are...

...there I go

....there you go. Jeez! Look at that! I mean come on, right? That's amazing!

Thank you.

So I wanna go back to you being over a hundred years old... haha... cuz ... because I don't know about you but I clearly need a better skin care regime.

Or a better gym?

Or a better gym membership right haha.

So what it is is basically the electromagnet worked after all cause it basically made my molecular structure denser - we think - we still... we're still not quite sure and we weren’t able to replicate it. But it altered my position in gravity, or rather my personal gravity, you follow?

Sorta yeah.

Sorta, okay. Basically, you know how we orbit the Sun? That's gravity, right? And relativity means time moves faster or slower depending on your speed, right?

Alright. This is Einstein, right?


Okay so far I gotcha.

So my gravity changed which means I'm sorta not in the same space and time as everyone yet I'm kinda stuck in Earth's space and time because of it's gravity.

That sounds really complicated.

Yeah I know, it's tough. I spent most of my life trying to figure this out. Simple answer is time and space don't affect me.

Which is why you can do almost anything?

Almost. Exactly.

Do you see it as a blessing or a curse?

Huh... I guess I saw it as a curse initially then I stopped using it and just felt normal for a long time but now... now it feels like a blessing. Now I know what I gotta do.

So that begs the question: Why now? Why over the last year have you... ah y'know... gone full Superman on us?

Well, like I said, I'm a pacifist and lately... well lately humans seem hell bent on doing ourselves — I mean each other — harm, so I felt like my appeasement plan ... or rather the world leader's appeasement plan, was not working. So I felt like I had to... sorta 'come out of retirement' I guess you could say.

To inspire people?

In my own way, yeah.

Your own way being stopping car crashes and explosions that sorta thing?

Haha yes and no.

Yes and no? What's the No then?

Well all this showy stuff, the costume, the rescues, I just wanted to become a symbol around the world, like all these comic book heroes.


But only so people would see me and know who I am and what I can do.

So people can be inspired to follow your example?

Certainly, but more than that... I wanna make sure we all work together. we can't survive the way we are and I wanna change that.

So what do you want us to do? What's your plan?

Okay so because time and space don't effect me I can be anywhere I want at the same time.

Oh wow! That's incredible. Camera two, you see him over there? You got him. That's amazing, so there's two of you now?

Right? Now because I don't age I could add up all my time and, because time affects me differently, I could return through hundreds of years ahead in my conscious time and come back to today every single day in my timeline. So if I did that there could be billions of me right? You follow?

That's - yeah wow

So if I did make me come back billions of times to the same space and time and I can go anywhere on Earth there'd be one of me for every person on Earth.

I... sure... but, wait...

Look up from your screen.

Hang on...

Yes that's me, in your house talking to you. Right now.

Wait a second, what the hell -

Do you know why I called myself Opticon?

I... ah ... what's going on here?.... What are you -

Joanne didn't like it. Said it sounded more like a villain than a hero. Of course that's the problem, isn't it? What's the difference? Heroes are tyrants as much as the villains. Demanding everyone and everything stay the same. The villains are the agents of change. For the wrong reasons sure but they don't want society stagnating where it is. Right?

What the hell are you talking about?

Opticon is from the Panopticon. The Panopticon was a theoretical institutional building design by the philosopher Jeremy Bentham. It was a prison built in a circle with the cells facing the centre and in the middle was a guard tower. The guards could see all the cells but the inmates didn't know when they were being watched so they had to assume they were constantly under surveillance and so would behave accordingly. It’s the same reason the UK has so many CCTV cameras...

You're stood next to ... to everyone... on Earth? Right now?

The difference between that design and me, is I AM watching you. Yes, You. All day. Every day.

Oh God...

Haha well spotted. As of today, I am like God. The reason early cultures developed an all-seeing God who could see into your hearts and minds was to stop everyone stealing, murdering or having sex with their own sisters. That’s how civilisation developed. Then we made the State and Police forces. All this stuff worked to a degree but look at us now. The mess we're in. We need to start acting in our own best interests.

You can't do this.

Who can stop me?

I thought you were a pacifist... you wanted to inspire?

What inspires better than fear? What motivates you better than self-preservation? You see all these comic books, looked at all these heroes, and y'know what they accomplish? Nothing. Issue after issue they stop everything and anything from happening. A rigidly enforced status quo. A near fascistic presence to demand obedience to an invented law & order that most don't abide by anyway and is all pretty geographically contingent too.

Jesus christ.

The world grows, develops, evolves whilst we — when we aren't destroying it — want nothing to change. We want stagnation. Perpetual stasis. And you don’t want that. Trust me. That is how I live my unending, immortal life. It’s not how the Universe works. Thermodynamic Entropy. Random chance is what creates planets and life. We need to encourage change and we need to start now.

Wh... what do you wan - what should we do?

You know what you should be doing. Be good people. Help one another. Share. Understand each other. We should be aiming for nothing less than Utopia.

But... but free will, personal choice, opinion, you want us to give all that up?

Ha! If it even exists, which if you believe in ‘cause and effect’ means it doesn't. But if you believe it does then use it to better understand one another… to develop and grow. All those things those comic book heroes are supposed to represent but instead repress. Be better humanity. Do better. Because from now on - I'm watching.



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Leo Cookman

Leo Cookman


Peripatetic Writer. “Time’s Lie” out now from Zero Books.