‘Go fuck yourself’, Simon says to the mirror. He looks himself straight in the eye, fed up with his bullshit and his shitty life going nowhere and he means every word. But it doesn’t feel like he thought it would. He’s overwhelmed by some urge, so completely unexpected he can’t make sense of it. He twists and turns on his feet, tense and itching to do something, maybe go for a run, maybe stick his dick in someone.
The eyes in the mirror seem to stare at him with a will of their own. Simon struggles to meet their gaze, suddenly afraid of what would happen if he moved and the reflection didn’t. The man in the mirror is unfamiliar, and his look makes Simon feel strange. Almost as if he was some little thing. Fear turns into revulsion and anger. Once again he finds himself looking his reflection squarely in the eye and saying, through gritted teeth, ‘Go fuck yourself. Simon says go fuck yourself.’ His old grade school stand-by line makes him feel a little more comfortable, on familiar ground, but then he realizes his hands are holding his cock, suddenly erect, so hard it hurts, squeezing it and bending it down between his legs.
Breathing heavily, he bends down and reaches with one hand to his asshole, eagerly rubbing and shoving a finger in, stirring and stretching to make it big enough to take his dick. Through a thick haze of lust he briefly wonders what the Hell he’s doing, before screaming in frustration mixed with pain as it dawns on him that he can’t possibly fuck himself in the ass.
‘I want to have sex with myself’, Simon says, bewildered, still panting. ‘Why do I want to have sex with myself?’ In the moment, it felt so right. It still feels like the only thing in the world that makes sense. But still he gags at the thought of having some dude’s dick sliding in his pooper. But it’s his dick and damnit, he wants to shove that dick in there so hard he can taste it in the back of his throat. It’s an attraction stronger than anything he has even imagined was possible. He imagines it’s what a rapist must feel like, completely unable to control himself. Compelled. Maybe it’s more like obsessive-compulsive disorder. He would have raped, he would still rape himself in the ass without a second thought if it was physically possible.
With a sigh halfway to a sob, he presses his face and chest against the mirror, eyes closed, kissing the cold surface while masturbating hard. He comes crying his own name and collapses in a shivering pile on the floor, tears mixing with sperm. It will be the last time he ever looks in a mirror.
Later, in a moment of post-coital clarity, Simon considers his compulsion. Simon says, he thinks, smiling weakly. How very unlikely. It seems like it would be impossible. These things don’t just happen. But then, no one likes the word impossible. He cleans himself, ignoring as best he can some fresh stir at the touch of his hands, puts on some unimpressive clothes and walks down the street, thinking about how to best experiment. An unwitting man walks by, on his way somewhere, and Simon tries the most obvious approach.
‘Simon says stumble’, he says to no one in particular. In his mind he’s telling the man behind him, and that seems to be enough. The man trips on the flat pavement, yelling in surprise, and Simon walks on, trying to keep an even pace though his heart is racing. So many things to do, so easily, he doesn’t know where to begin. A small voice in the back of his head tells him to go very carefully, very carefully indeed, and if nothing else to remember how it felt to be compelled. How it feels. Simon bites his lip to distract himself from thinking about himself and how he’d like to hit that piece of ass.
The clock strikes midnight at a smoky, mirrorless bar before Simon finds himself drunk enough to talk about his day to a sparkle-haired, giggling woman. Of course she doubts him and asks him to prove it.
‘Simon says pull your hair a little bit’, Simon says. The woman looks at him with a confused smile as she grabs a loose handful of shiny locks and tugs, tilting her head to the side in a reflex to avoid the pain.
‘That’s crazy’, says the woman. ‘In a good way.’ She gives Simon a smile that shines like the sun. ‘I’m Susan’, she says. ‘I’m no superhuman, but would you like to see how many unbelievable things you and me can manage in one night? Maybe see if we can give you someone else to fall in love with?’
‘Susan, are you an angel? asks Simon. ‘Cause that’s about my greatest wish right now.’
Susan smiles and says nothing and leads Simon on a hazy beer-mist night of wandering the streets of the big city, making people run and dance and fall in love and stopping a boy from jumping off a building, stopping a store from being robbed, stopping a drunk from driving his car. Together, they find out things: That Simon can only tell people who can understand him, that he can’t make them fly, that he can’t bring himself to tell Susan what to do in bed, even when she asks him to.
Buried deep in her, he watches himself as if from outside, his magnificent body, well-oiled muscles pumping like a machine powered by pure sex. It seems safe to see himself this way, to love himself while loving someone else. In the end, he sees her need and he whispers to her ‘Simon says come’, over and over and over until she is too exhausted to scream anymore, and they fall asleep together, side by side, at least half of them fulfilled on a primal level.
Simon is unsure how the costume happens. Green and blue tights, endlessly gaudy even though he picked the most muted shades he could find, with a cowl covering his face and stripes on his chest centered around a stylized white “Σ”, padded knees and elbows and steeltoe boots and a thick black leather cape. It makes him feel powerful and sexy and strange. People stop and look at him in the street. A few criminals he catches in the act go wide-eyed and quiet before he can even say “Simon says freeze.”
At some point Susan takes off, he’s not sure why. Probably she’s a lesbian. Feeling cock-blocked by his own body, he gives a grim smile when he walks in on an attempted back-alley rape. Without breaking his stride, he shouts ‘Simon says you’re blind and impotent’ and laughs as the man staggers backwards crying in panic with his hands over his eyes and his dick shrinking visibly. Without a look at the woman on the ground, Simon grabs the man by the collar and puts his elbow in his face, breaking something. The rapist reels back and Simon embraces him and pulls him close and plants his knee in the man’s crotch.
The man falls down on his back, breathing in short sharp whistling gasps. Simon kneels on his chest and slaps him in the face five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten times. Any more punches and the man might go into shock, he thinks, but the slaps hurt and sting without doing any damage. Still he can’t help himself from making a fist and grinding it into the ruin of the man’s mouth, before he gets another idea. ‘Simon says you can see again’, Simon says. The man blinks and looks up on him, glass-eyed with panic, and Simon says ‘Simon says you’re extremely empathic. You’re going to physically feel the pain you give to other people. And Simon says you’re a huge fag who likes to take it in the ass.’ Simon stands up, spitting in the man’s face. ‘Now get the fuck out of my sight. If you can walk.’ The man doesn’t move. Simon shrugs his shoulders and turns to receive the adulation of his audience, but the woman has disappeared.
The next night Simon takes home a woman whose name he doesn’t know. He tells her to love him, to love his cock more than anything she has ever known, to know pleasure when he slaps her ass, when he slaps her face, when he chokes her. He tells her to hate herself for letting him do these things to her, and then he tells her to think this is how it’s supposed to be.
And then he tells her to leave and forget she’s ever seen him. He stays in the bed for several seconds before running to the bathroom and kneeling to the porcelain god. Vomiting and blubbering, he feels so disgusted with himself he almost forgets he needs to have sex with that guy.
And so Simon goes on using women, telling himself that the more depraved and disgusting he becomes the less attracted he will be to himself. The idea that his power may be corrupting him escapes him, but then he does not stop being a superhero. His unlikely acts of crime-fighting persuasion become a media fixture, an urban myth, and he tells himself his Simon-man persona, however much good he may do, is not his real self. The city needs him, and he belongs to the city, but Simon himself is an evil, dirty bastard no one could love. He needs to be unable to love himself.
And one day everything changes. Patrolling in his uniform, Simon hears a desperate voice calling for help from inside a first-floor apartment. He dives in through the window, prepared to say anything to whoever may be there, but he finds himself in an empty kitchen. A thud and a scraping sound reaches him from a room further in, accompanied by quiet sobbing.
Simon goes on, trying to be quiet but swallowing hard when he enters a darkened room lit only by a couple of flickering computer screens, one with what looks like a desiccated corpse slumped over the keyboard, and a shadowy moaning lump slithering on the floor.
‘Help me’, says a small voice from the lump. ‘She fell on me, I wanted to move them but they’re too heavy and I can’t breathe.’ Simon fights his fear and grabs the lump and pulls, untangling another corpse from a small, sad girl. His eye is caught by the light reflecting in the tears on her cheeks and he drops to his knees, unsure if he’s trying to be comforting or if his legs just quit. ‘My parents are dead’, says the girl, throwing herself in his arms. Simon holds her and wraps his cape around her while she cries and he has no idea what to say. Somehow it doesn’t seem right to just tell her to get over it, maybe she should have the right to feel her grief and whatever.
‘They were playing that stupid game on the computers’, says the girl as if to herself, mumbling into his chest. ‘That stupid war-craft game everyone plays, it sucks up your whole life, you can never quit, and people know that, they joke about it, they don’t take it seriously cause it’s just a stupid game. And they’ve been playing, mom and dad must have been playing non-stop all week. I was in school. They’re fucking dehydrated. How do you forget to drink? Fucking stupid crack-game.’
‘Um’, says Simon. ‘I don’t know what to say. It’s just horrible.’
‘What are you doing in here anyway’, says the girl, wiping her face with her arm and looking at him as if dreaming. ‘Hey, you’re Simon-man.’
‘Yeah I, uh, are you a fan?’
‘I read about you on the Internet. Can you like, make me die? I don’t want to’, says the girl, interrupted by a fresh onset of tears.
‘Or can you kill the bastards who made the game? Before they ruin any more lives.’
‘I won’t do those things.’
‘What can you do then?’
‘I can make you forget you ever loved your parents. But you wouldn’t thank me for that.’
‘Fucking hero you are. Let’s try a new game. Inger says get out of my house.’ Inger gives Simon a look that could curdle cream and he backs away, confused at first, then defeated, and his shoulders sag as he turns his back on her. Before he takes two steps she says, with a changed voice, ‘Please take me with you.’
Simon turns around again and gives her a questioning look. ‘I’m thirteen’, she says. ‘I don’t want to be locked up in some orphanarium for five years. I want to be your sidekick. Like Batman and Robin, right?’
‘That’d be kidnapping, you know.’ Simon wishes he was half as sure as he sounds.
‘What, like you’re Mister Law and Order? You’re, well, you’re a lot worse than Batman actually.’ A wry, sarcastic grin cuts across Inger’s face for a moment before the sadness comes back. ‘But you’re all I’ve got.’
‘Stop breaking my heart, kid’, says Simon, giving her his hand. ‘That’s no fair.’
‘Don’t tell me what to do’, says Inger, taking his hand in a steely grip. ‘I really hate that.’
Suddenly finding himself a parental figure, Simon wisely sends Inger off to buy some food and deodorizing spray while cleaning up and ventilating his apartment-turned-sex dungeon. ‘It ain’t Wayne mansion’, he says before letting her in. ‘But you get your own bedroom and, well, I guess that’s it.’
‘It’s nice’, says Inger, clearly lying.
And then they have dinner and watch TV.
‘One thing I should tell you if you’re going to be staying here’, says Simon. ‘Though it’s going to be pretty awkward.’ And he tells her how his powers turned on and his ways to deal with his curse, in a family friendly version. ‘So basically I’m doomed to walk the earth with eternal blue balls until I can clone myself and get it on.’
‘That’s the dark side of your power huh?’ Inger listens intently, laying on her stomach with her head propped up in her hands. ‘I don’t suppose you could just tell yourself to stop it or something?’
‘No, I can’t undo it. Probably cause it was my first command. I don’t know, I don’t have an instruction manual for this.’
‘What if you got a guy who looks like you? Maybe some makeup.’
‘You know, I never thought about that. I wonder why. It could be because I’m not gay.’
‘Dude, relax. Is man-sex your kryptonite or something?’
An uncomfortable silence grows until Cops comes on the television, after several minutes.
‘It wouldn’t work anyway’, says Simon when the show breaks for commercials. ‘It’s got to be me, in the flesh.’ Inger assumes that’s mostly homophobia talking, but she says nothing.
‘So your real name is Simon?’ she says. ‘That’s the worst secret identity ever.’
‘Or is it?’ says Simon. ‘Think about it, what’s the last name you’d expect someone to have who dresses in a cape and calls himself Simon-man?’
‘Björk-Jesus’, says Inger without a moment’s hesitation. Simon laughs. ‘But besides that yeah, you’ve got a point.’
‘You’re handling things pretty well’, says Simon just as Inger’s parent’s bodies show up on television. It’s a horrible tragedy, according to the news, caused by the Satan incarnate that is videogames. Inger is assumed a runaway, and a friendly cop with a porn ‘stache appears, urging her directly to come home and let them take care of her, if she’s watching.
‘Fuck you’, says Inger to the screen. ‘I am home.’ She leans on Simon’s shoulder and that’s all right.
Over the next several days Simon purchases some new furniture, including a bed, and a wide variety of clothes and comic books in between sneaking to hotel rooms for sex, while Inger dusts off his computer and downloads all the music she had to leave behind and training for a gymnastics program she no longer fits into.
If she ever did. As far as she can remember Inger has never been able to get with the program, any program. Even her parents gave her up, she thinks, spinning and twirling around the apartment with furious energy, on some level building her speed and agility up for some terrible future confrontation.
Simon comments that her form is excellent and that’s fine cause punching out criminals is hard work. No, you can’t just destroy them with supernatural mind control, the physical violence is an important part in putting the fear of God in them. On Inger’s urging he tries a few cartwheels and other shapes he never thought his body could bend into while she works on his sandbag, and they both soon fall over exhausted, giggling. They slowly shape themselves into deadly fighting machines, and they make plans and costumes, but Inger can’t seem to find one she likes.
And one day she finds herself staring at her parents’ killer, on the computer screen. She has to beat the addiction of the game to prove that she is better than her parents, she decides, but she finds she cannot stomach the idea of turning it on. Inger explains this to Simon as best she can and asks him to tell her to start playing which of course he calls crazy talk.
‘Please’, she begs him, clinging to his legs and looking at him with sad puppy eyes. ’I need this. Plus I don’t know what it’s like to be compelled, I want to know that, just to understand what you put people through, what you’re going through.’
‘That’s worth thinking about’, says Simon, shaking his leg in a token effort to dislodge his ward. ‘But slow down. Let’s think this through.’
‘Fine’, says Inger, leaping up to put her arms around his shoulders. Simon answers her unexpected embrace, and her kiss, before he can think.
‘What are you doing?’ he demands as he drops her to her feet, with a touch of worry in his voice.
‘I wasn’t’, says Inger, flustered, squirming with one arm down her side and holding it with her other hand. ‘I guess I must be confused. I mean we’ve all seen Leon, right, we know how this works.’
‘I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t work like this’, says Simon with a higher than average pitch.
‘Sure’, says Inger, sounding more sure. ‘I’ve got all these feelings since you’re the first person who’s ever cared for me, not to mention cared for me at this extremely vulnerable moment in my life, so I think I’m falling in love with you and I make some stupid pass, but you do the right thing, being a good guy and all, and a few years later we’re laughing about it.’
Simon takes a moment to process this. ‘I’m glad we got that out of the way then?’ he says.
‘We can skip straight to laughing about it’, says Inger. ‘I mean why stand on some stupid convention?’
And that makes both of them laugh.
‘So’, says Simon. ‘Simon says play.’
Inger finds her body acting on its own, sitting down in front of the computer and typing in the password to start the game. Her mind seems thrown back and forth by merciless winds, pulled with relentless force by the weight of the words. But her finger pauses, hovering over the Enter key, and she seems to tear apart within. A breathless whine escapes her as the command pulls at a part of her that won’t move; her face is thrown towards the screen by the force, the irresistible, unstoppable power, but her finger doesn’t move. The hands that seem to pull at her soul falter, with all their might, as if they were trying to tear down a pure iron wall.
‘Fuck you’, says Inger, sitting up straight, with an unfamiliar sensation welling up in her chest. Pride. Protest. Defiance. She looks at Simon with pursed lips and calm murder in her eyes. ‘You can’t tell me what to do.’
Simon looks confused, stunned, almost hurt. Then he breaks into an enthusiastic smile and says ‘Holy crap. How did you do that?’
‘I am Indie Girl’, Inger exclaims while leaping to her feet. ‘I just need a costume.’
‘I’m bulletproof.’ She stands on her toes and hugs Simon, feeling like a big rock has been lifted from her heart. Simon, for his part, remembers what it was like to be human, to not have absolute power over every person in the world. It seems at once terrifying and comforting and he sighs and answers her embrace for his sake as much as hers.
And she makes her costume gold and red, the antithesis of his, and so the adventure begins.