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Circle of Heroes, The
|�Mark! You�ll be late! Hurry up!�
The frustrated voice of Samantha Kent echoed through the halls of the modest, two-story home.
Mark Kent stuffed two more comic books into his already overstuffed backpack and sprinted out of his bedroom. If one thing could be said about Mark, it was that he loved comic books. X-Men, Batman, The Green Lantern, The Flash. But he always had a special place in his heart for his favorite superhero: The Man of Steel himself, Superman.
The first thing that attracted Mark to Superman was how alike their names sounded. Mark Kent and Clark Kent. Practically the same. He loved how Superman went from nerd to stud just by changing clothes. He loved the big �S� logo that is instantly recognizable by all. But Mark hardly had superhero potential: his greasy black hair was always messy, hanging loose around his ears and on his forehead. He was only five-foot-two and a hundred pounds even, at the age of thirteen. He did have an excuse, though, in that he still hadn�t hit puberty. His voice was still as high as it had ever been, his face didn�t even have fuzz, and he was basically skin and bones, without a sculpted muscle to call his own. He practically screamed �Beat me up!�, but he went to a private school for boys, and violent bullying was rare.
�Mom, will you tie my tie?� He hated his uniform. Black pants and Oxfords, and a navy blue v-neck sweater, and a white dress shirt with a red tie. It was so annoying to not choose what you wore yourself, and besides, it got dirty so fast. She finished. �Let�s go, hurry up!�
He stepped in the car, and twenty seconds later, they were on the road, buildings whirring by. Samantha looked at her son shifting uncomfortably.
�Something wrong, Mark?�
He seemed distant. The short reply came: �No.�
�Yes there is. Tell me, honey.�
�I�m just tired. I slept on my leg funny, and it hurts. I kept waking up too. It was really hot�I�ll be okay.�
Her brow furrowed. What was he hiding?
�Well�okay, honey. Have a good day at school.� He hopped out and walked in. Was he limping? She couldn�t tell. No, he wasn�t. She relaxed and drove away.
Mark entered, his heavy backpack taking its toll on his back. He took a big stack of comics from his backpack and put them in his locker.
�Hey Mark!� An enthusiastic boy opened up the locker next to his.
�What�s up? I can�t wait for English today! We have a substitute! Mr. Jana�s sick! Can you believe that?! He never gets��
He continued talking. �Does he ever shut up?� Mark thought to himself. �It�s amazing how annoying people are, and how they don�t even realize it.� He cut Clay short. �I gotta go. See ya in English.�
He walked away and breathed a sigh of relief. His leg was feeling better. This day wasn�t going to suck after all.
He made it through two periods without a hitch. Third period was English. Reluctantly, he opened the door.
He knew what was coming.
�Hey, Mark. Let�s see the comic books, nerd.�
His backpack was pulled off, and opened. �Stop it, Ryan. Give it back!�
Ryan laughed. �Whatcha gonna do? Tell our sub?� Mark turned and saw a matronly old woman in her sixties. Not much she could do. Ryan continued, �Oooo, hey, look guys. There�s a stain right here next to the white-haired slut.� The X-Men book was passed around the group of boys, and sure enough, there was a white, wrinkly stain right next to a picture of storm. �Jacking off, little Mark? Huh?� Ryan laughed. �Take this crap, I don�t want it. Have fun.� He sneered, shoved the backpack into Mark�s arms, and walked to his desk. Mark sighed and took his seat as well. Immediately he knew something was wrong � his legs hurt again, and he had a bad stomach ache. He looked at the name on the board, and raised his hand. The woman looked at him. �Yes, sir?� It was so embarrassing having a sub calling you sir, but he brushed it off. �Mrs., uh�Mrs.�� The woman smiled. �Katzenmeyer.� Mark continued. �Mrs. Katzenmeyer, can I use the bathr-OO-m?� Whoa, his voice had just cracked. Weird.
Mrs. Katzenmeyer nodded. �You have four minutes.� Mark picked up his backpack and limped out the door, down the hall, and to the bathroom.
Once there, he ran in and vomited. What was wrong with him? He stumbled to the sink to wash his hands.
He looked at the clock. It had only been a minute. He had three more. Maybe he had some time�
His brain was playing tricks on him, making him think he could read a comic book. He reached in and pulled out a brand new issue of Superman. It had just come in the mail yesterday, on his thirteenth birthday. He opened it up, and started to read�
What happened next is only explained as part of the supernatural. The clock stopped. Time had frozen, and Mark had no idea. He continued to read, completely oblivious. He was completely lost in the comic book. Had time not stopped, he would have been mince meat for Mrs. Katzenmeyer. He finished and shut the book, and looked up at the clock. It was the same time it had been when he started.
His eyes widened.
The cover of the comic book, an image of Clark Kent the reporter, dressed in a suit and tie, had begun to shimmer and glow.
�What � whAAAAt�� His voice had cracked again! What was going on? �AAHH�aAAhhh�� His Adam�s apple had begun to reveal itself, a little bump on his neck. He gripped his stomach and doubled over. The intense pain he had felt, temporarily relieved by vomiting, had returned. His clothes were feeling much tighter. His feet were extremely uncomfortable in his shoes. The loafers felt too small. His ankles were now visible � he was outgrowing his pants at an alarming rate. His butt, once basically an extension of his back, was now too big for his pants. The small, boyish �Mark Jr.� was growing to manhood, snaking its way out of his tighty whities. He fell on the floor, screaming in agony.
Time was still frozen.
He tried to get up, but he couldn�t. The feminine screams of pain were deepening. His voice was changing fast, manly roars emanating from his mouth. �AAAAAAHHHHHHH!�
He finally got up. The pant hem was now at his knees. He was six-foot-three. He looked in the mirror and was greeted by his same face, only much paler. �What�s�what�s happening�� He was so exhausted he could barely breathe. His voice sounded like his Dad�s�a deep, rich bass. His stomach started to push outward, and he could feel his arms growing. Power rushed through him. The veins on his hands � larger now � and neck bulged out, adrenaline and testosterone coursing through. He roared again. Seams burst, cloth ripped, and soon his sweater was on the floor. He grabbed his stomach again. His nipples, once as flat as his stomach, were pushing outward; he could see them through his now-nearly-transparent shirt. The buttons began to pop off, his pectoral muscles tearing their way through. He watched as his soft little belly tanned and grew, hard muscle appearing as a stacked eight-pack formed. The seams on his shirt started to push out too, his shoulders heaved as they broadened and became muscled. The twig-like arms started to grow, pushing against, then ripping right through the fabric as huge biceps grew into existence, tanned and sculpted, perfect in every way. His hands trembled. He could hear bones cracking as his hands and feet grew and reformed, thickening and aging along with the rest of his body. Then he noticed the comic book.
As Mark had grown taller and older, the image of Clark Kent had done the opposite. He was shrinking, the clothes in the picture now too small for his small, teenaged body. They both looked ridiculous � part man, part boy. It was as if they were trading places.
Mark gritted his teeth and moaned. His jawline had begun to change. The soft angle of it began to become hard and chiseled, meeting symmetrically at a cleft in his chin. His cheekbones restructured, his sky-blue eyes darkened to the deep color of the ocean, his eyebrows thickened and his smooth face became calloused and rough as sandpaper, a day-old beard poking out from his cheeks. His face was almost square; his jaw had become so structured. The greasy black hair slicked back, save for one little curl, dangling on his sweaty forehead. He smiled, gleaming white teeth. He knew exactly who he was. The pain was worth it. He looked down. He was only wearing his underwear. Shreds of clothing lay on the floor around him, torn apart by his gorgeous physique. His briefs were almost as bad, but had somehow managed to stay on. Only the elastic remained in one piece, and his package peeked through. He looked at the comic book. There he was, an artistic rendering of Mark Kent, the teenaged boy. Then he noticed � the Mark of the picture was wearing his school uniform. Which meant�
He looked down again. He was wearing the black pinstriped suit from the picture, and he looked hot in it. All six-foot-three and two-hundred-and-twenty-five pounds of him. He wore it well. He unbuttoned a couple of buttons from under the green tie, and he could see the famous �S� logo peeking through. He couldn�t help but laugh. This felt great. Did he have superpowers too?
He pulled out a paper towel from the dispenser, tossed it up in the air, and promptly laser-eyed it. Two singed pieces fluttered to the floor. Awwww, yeah. He did have powers.
Time started again. He could hear movement in the halls. He reached down to pick up his backpack and was greeted by a briefcase in its place, a Daily Bugle logo on its side. He smiled, and walked out of the school, not even bothering to give Ryan a demonstration of his powers. That wasn�t the noble way. He had been chosen.
He was Superman.
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