You were nothing special. Did I ever tell you that?

I created you from life in its basest form, built you and constructed you cell by cell, tissue upon tissue, flesh, blood and bone assembled unto a warrior the likes this world has never seen. I trained you, shaped you into a soldier. No, you were beyond any mere soldier. You were a work of divine intervention manifested in a vessel that could barely give credit to the gods that inspired your birth. You were, and will be for decades, the ultimate human creation.

But you were nothing special. Do you know why?

Yes, you know why.

It was because of her that you failed to rise above the rest. You were strong. She was strongest. You were fast. She was fastest. You were brave. She was bravest. You were the ultimate. She was the maximum.

How can this be, you ask? How is it possible that after thousands of years on this hurtling sphere called Earth, the constantly evolving human genus can reach its peak? It can't. I believe that humanity is growing and shaping itself into something that we at this time cannot comprehend; something that, only on the forever blazing world of imagination, exists and is tangible to us. The very idea that its peak, its climactic end would come in the form of a simple girl with wings is nothing less than blasphemous to the Church of the Imagination and our dreams of transcending this mortal coil, branching into worlds so divine that the very possibility of reality would be enough to shatter one's sane mind. The maximum? Far from it, at least at this appointed time. For she has the potential to become that much greater, a potential that you never had.

If she is a pawn in this game called subsistence, then you should consider yourself a weapon, a blunt object at best. You were born to be a blank slate, to lack any features physically or mentally that separated you from another. You were designed to be a warrior, not a person. You were never meant to have substance. That is why you failed. That is why she succeeded. That is why she lives. That is why you died.

But death for you, my child, is only the beginning.

Within the dark depths of his unconscious mind, something was at work. Forces that he could not begin to understand were moving, scattered fragments migrating to this specific place, that exact area, locking into place and working. After the last few pieces settled into place, there was a pause for quite some time, as if they were waiting in anticipation for the precise moment. And in an instant, it came. The darkness lit up in a blaze of divine light, flooding warmth and brilliance to every corner of the void until it settled. What was left was a universe of color and shape, shadows and light coexisting at peace and at war. It was a scene of indescribable beauty, one that can only take place in the minds of humankind.

His eyes opened.

Like a newborn child, his senses were overwhelmed by the world around him. The bright fluorescent light pierced his eyes within an inch of blindness. The sheet he was wrapped in felt like needles on his skin. The smell of antiseptic fluids burned his nostrils and the high-pitched screeching of medical instruments would be enough to make a normal man cry out in agony. Instead, he lay dormant, still as a fresh corpse. He had no reason to get up, no reason to escape from wherever he was being held. He knew nothing, remembered nothing, and felt a familiar emptiness inside of him.

As he heard a pair of footsteps enter the room, he did not open his eyes. He simply didn't have any reason to do so. Two voices echoed into his ears, his mind just managing to register what they were saying.

"He's awake?" A male voice asked. "How did this happen?"

"We're not sure," a female voice said, "The neurological pathways in his brain were dormant until a few hours ago."

"That's impossible, he's . . . or at least he was brain dead. It's a small miracle we didn't get around to pulling the plug." He flinched as he felt one of the doctors touch his arm. The delicate sensation on his skin suggested it was the female doctor. He opened his eyes ever-so-slightly, making out a blurry silhouette hovering over him. As he found that the light no longer hurt his eyes, he opened them fully, the sight of a woman meeting his vision. She was more beautiful than anything he had ever seen, because she was the first thing he had seen in his life.

"Hi," she said with a voice like cotton, smiling just as softly, "You're in a hospital. You're going to be alright, but we need to know your name. Can you tell me your name?"

He blinked. He had no idea what to say, or even if he should say anything at all. The fact that someone had actually asked him a question didn't fully register with him all at once, but he slowly began to process what she had said. He began to think to himself, bits and pieces of information flashing before his eyes, most of which didn't make sense, but he ultimately found something concrete, something he didn't recognize but was instantly familiar.

"My name . . ." He spoke, his voice barely audible, "My name is Max."