The World And Superhumanity by Anna D. Webb


The facts are these:

At some point in the year 2002, a person developed powers beyond the realm of the ordinary, concealed his face with a mask, and took to the streets of New York. To this day he is protector of the city and all those who live there- a superpowered, highly efficient policeman, if you will. He is also the subject of a great deal of controversy: he has been used to push every agenda under the sun. One minute he's a terrorist, the next a victim of society, the next an all-American hero. If you'll excuse the cliche- some hate him, some love him, but everyone needs him- even if they only need him in order to shift a few more books or newspapers.

Virtually nothing is known about him. It is commonly accepted that he is male- he goes by the name Spider-Man, after all- and probably American. But as for race or religion, the world has no idea.

No-one knows where he was born, where he went to school, who his parents were. He is arguably the most important figure of the twenty-first century, and yet nobody knows his name. He could be the man sitting opposite you on the subway, or the quiet kid at the back of your college class. He could be anybody you brush past in the city.

Perhaps it is this that makes him a symbol to so many people.

18th December 2002

I have done nothing to require asking for forgiveness for

Christine Steinhauer walked slowly through the streets of New York, oblivious to everything around her, writing a letter in her head.

She hadn't taken a taxi because she couldn't afford one, and she was cold. She couldn't afford a decent coat either. Every last cent these days went on her husband's medication, and she did not complain. She would not complain either about not having Christmas lights, or Christmas presents, or her only child around to celebrate with her. She was not the complaining kind.

and all I want is to talk, I know we can talk this over, alright?

She turned the corner. She was in a rich part of town, and she felt oddly intimidated. She looked up at the towering penthouses, feeling awfully small, and consulted her hastily scrawled map. As she did, it began to snow, and she suddenly felt almost like crying. Even the weather was against her.

we've all said things we didn't mean

Brushing the snow out of her hair, she continued. She trudged down the road, keeping one eye on the map, and finally she spied her destination. She stopped, stood in the snow, and looked at it.

A colossial house yawned out of the ground, black against the increasing whiteness. It was the one other thing that looked out of place in the area, the other, of course, being Christine herself. It looked haunted, and old, like it outdated even the city. It looked, in fact, not unlike the traditional haunted house.

There was a discomforting flicker at the back of her mind, an uneasy feeling. She had read the stories, after all, the inhabitants and former inhabitants of this house constantly made headlines. Of course, this house was the answer to at least one of her problems: being a housekeeper would pay well and ensure her some security- but it seemed to tower over her, serene and silent in the snow, threatening to make her and all her troubles insignificant. Threatening to...


and all I want you to do is come home, son, please come home, said the letter-writer in her head.

Christine sighed, shook the snow from her hair again, and started to walk down the path to the Osborn manor.

Emily David's Diary, 15th August 1972:

This is my story.

I'm seventeen years old. Right now I'm engaged to be married- I might be in love with him or I might not, but my family insists it doesn't matter, seeing as he's got money and we haven't. He's charismatic- charismatic and charming and very very rich, and it was him who proposed to me, down on one knee and everything.

That sounds strange in my head. I want to be an actress, you know. Or...well, I actually think I could do anything I wanted, arrogant as that sounds. I was always good at metalwork, and science, and I love to write. Everyone says married women should, you know, settle down, but I don't want to. I would like a kid, though, although just one will do.

This bit of writing sounds very...stilted. Sorry. I just bought this diary, for two dollars, and it's my first time keeping one. Maybe I should talk about myself.

Here's the most important thing then. When I was thirteen years old my father was murdered. Nothing big and dramatic: he was walking home one night and a gang of teenagers jumped him, shot him, and took his wallet and suitcase. Just a bunch of crazy drunk kids. They were sent to prison. A couple of them were released a few years later: felt like someone'd punched me in the chest. Anyway.

It destroyed my life for a bit, really. I'd wake up wishing with all my heart that it had been someone else walking down the street that night, that someone else had been shot in the head. It sounds selfish, but you would think the same if it happened to you. If I didn't wish that, I'd wish someone had been there, to beat those bastards into oblivion before they hurt my father or anybody else.

In truth- I think I'm getting married because I want some sort of hero. You know, someone to look after me and distract me from nasty deaths, bullets to the head, and things lurking in street corners. On the other hand- Jesus Christ, look at the world! Doesn't everyone want to Do Something About It? I'd rather be some sort of hero, I think.

I wonder if that's a good thing to aspire to.

18th December 2002

Realising you have to become a murderer is generally a disturbing thing to realise, even if you've known it at the back of your mind for weeks. It occured to Harry Osborn when he was doing the same thing that he now did every morning: standing at the window looking out for Spider-Man. Exactly what he would do when he saw him he had no idea - he had a gun, but he wasn't about to shoot it out a window - but he had to do something. It was a quiet suggestion at the back of his head: an eye for an eye and all that.

He backed away from the window, quite quickly, as if suddenly afraid of his reflection in it. He sat on the sofa, and picked up the answering machine which lay on the table next to it.

"I'm not here right now," said his father's voice. "Please leave a message." And that was it. Harry briefly considered leaving a message, but of course nobody would hear. And he'd only end up screaming into the phone, or smashing it on the wall, or something crazy like that.

"Sir," someone said from the doorway. Harry jumped. He'd been lost in thought- and it sounded completely wrong for anyone to address him as 'sir', as well. He was still a kid, and now he was an orphan as well, and he wanted to run away and hide.

"Yeah?" he said.

"Interviews today, sir. For a new housekeeper." It was a man called Bernard- the old butler who haunted the place.

"Oh." Harry said flatly. He had no idea how to handle something even as simple as interviewing. "What, you mean someone's here already?"

"Yes, sir. One middle-aged woman."

"Oh. Um, send her in."

"Yes, sir." Harry might have imagined it, but there seemed to be pity in his voice. Of course, he had no idea what to do about that, either. His father might have said something about 'demanding respect', but he just plain didn't feel like it.

Bernard left, and Harry was left alone in his thoughts again. He carefully put the answering machine back on the table, and went to the window.

I'm not here right now, he thought. Please leave a message.

Emily David's Diary, 24th August 1972:

Whenever I read a published diary I wonder if the person writing it knew, somewhere in the back of their mind, that other people would read it. If they were careful with what they wrote in the diary, because they didn't want to sound like an idiot to their future readers. I'd love it if someday somebody found this diary, actually, although of course I've barely written in it. I think that's my natural desire to show off, though.

I think I'm a good writer. I wrote a play once, and some poems, and I once got a science-fiction story published in a magazine. I was proud of that one, although it was a long time ago and I've gotten much better since then. Perhaps many years in the future (when this diary is found) I will be a famous writer, or a famous actress, or a famous anything. Perhaps I will find a cure for the common cold, or help with world peace, or make some great scientific discovery.

Do you hear that, dear reader? Perhaps the world you're living in is a different place because of me.

18th December 2002

Christine glanced around the house's interior: it was all dark greens, browns and blacks, like the inside of a fantasy forest. It's not so bad, she thought. It was only the masks, three of them hung up on the wall, that unnerved her. She kept her eyes diverted, but the butler noticed her discomfort.

"The former master collected masks," he said. "Nice, aren't they?"

"Yes," Christine said, not wanting to give the wrong impression.

"Please take a seat," he said, and she did. "I'll find the master of the house."

The master of the house- that doesn't sound intimidating at all, she thought. The man left the room, leaving her alone, and Christine glanced around. The house reminded her, she thought, of the classic gothic tower- something straight out of Beauty and the Beast, or the pages of a darker fairytale.

The door creaked open, and the butler returned.

"Please go in," he said. Warily, Christine went through the door, and the butler followed.

Standing in the room was a young man. Or, to be more accurate, a teenage boy. He looked no older than her son- she thought this with a pang of something not unlike grief- and he had a frown on his face, and a gloomy look in his eyes.

lost his father last month, Christine's mind filled in. he was killed, wasn't he killed by-

"Mrs Steinhauer? Harry Osborn." the butler said, and slid back through the door. Christine hastily stood up and offered her hand.

"I saw the ad in the paper-"

"I think you're the only one who did," he answered. She handed him a folder, and he started to look absently through it. "No-one else applied."

"So I get the job by default?" she asked, trying to keep the relief out of her voice.

"I guess," he said, in a thin voice. "Yeah. I guess you do. Everything seems in order." He handed the folder back to her.

"When do I start?" Christine asked.

"Today, if you can," he answered. "I'll show you around."

He led her on a brief tour of the house: the bathrooms first (there were three), the kitchen, the storecupboards, and a few other miscellanous rooms which she suspected were originally intended as servant's living quarters. There were three bedrooms: all of them remained closed- and then there was the study, and the balcony, and the living room. It was that which impressed her most: it was filled with ornaments and portraits and leather seats, all beautifully crafted and arranged. A full-length antique mirror stood on one side of the room, and the walls were decorated with masks. It reminded her a little of a museum.

She couldn't imagine anyone actually living in the place.

She stared thoughtfully up at the masks, wondering who on earth would want to collect such things. They gave the room more of an unfriendly feel than it might have otherwise had.

"That's everything," Harry said. "Any questions?"

Christine shook her head. "The house is lovely," she said, because she felt she ought to say something. In truth, it was giving her the creeps in a way she couldn't quite put her finger on. "What shall I do first?"

"Tidy up the furniture," he said, in a voice that sounded unaccustomed to giving orders. "And vacuum the floors."

"Okay," she said.

"I'll be in my bedroom," he said, sounding like a kid. Which was pretty much what he was, after all. "Ask Bernard- the butler- if you need anything, okay?"

"Okay," she said again. And then he left, and she was left standing alone in the room. For one brief second she felt incredibly intimidated, as if everything in the room was judging her, but she shook it off, and went to find the vacuum cleaner.

Christine tidied and vacuumed the huge room, moving around carefully, as everything there probably cost more than a month's wages for her. She drafted and redrafted the letter in her head as she worked, although she knew that sending one simple letter was not likely to solve any problems.

come home

She got to work polishing the frame of one of the portraits, and she couldn't help but examine it more closely. It was of a thin, brown-haired woman in a black dress, staring off into the distance. Looking at something or someone out of the frame, maybe. She had an odd expression on her face, Christine thought. Sort of half gentle smile and half worried frown.

come home please come home, she wrote in her head, disconnecting again from reality.

She finished her work, and put her equipment away, and left the room. Now that she had spent some time there it didn't seem quite as unfriendly, or as haunted. Not that it really mattered when it came down to it, she reflected. She would happily brave a haunted house in exchange for the money she badly needed. The money would buy medicine and doctors, and a slim chance that her husband would be all right after all.

A slim chance.

It was only when she went past the mirror that she felt a sudden chill, but in her state of mind she mistook it for mere worry.