I wake up in the morning. I'm not, and I have never been, a morning person. I wake up and my alarm clock is a smoldering cinder in a Hawaiian volcano before it stops ringing. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, and changing out of my smoke stained pajamas, I look in the mirror. I look nothing like my Uncle Barry. I'm a bit shorter than he was, with red hair that his blond buzzcut would be horrified by. We're different, right down to my chin, which is just a tad larger than normal. I like to think it makes me look heroic. Just to emphasize the point, I try out my biggest, most noble grin, pearly white teeth showing through and through. Hey, when you wear a mask most of the time, you've gotta make do with what you have.
Getting ready for work is no problem for me. My uncle Barry was a police scientist… I'm not really anything. Independently wealthy is the term, not that I have money to fling around. I won the lottery a while back… Funny how lightning just strikes like that. The money's great, even if I don't use much of it. I have the freedom to pursue my own interests, to take my own pace. In the line of work I choose, that's a big plus.
It never fails to amaze me how different I am from my Uncle Barry. I pull my clothes on, and I'm on my sixth cup of coffee before my blurry vision begins to process the new dawn light. I may not like the morning, but sleeping in isn't really me, either. I have possibly the world's shortest attention span, lying in bed for hours every day doesn't appeal to me. Barry never had that problem… He was methodical, a scientist, he could study a problem for forever if it interested him. I go outside to fetch the paper, and read it with blinding speed. Even so, I only read the headlines. Barry and I were so different… But we have one important similarity.
We both call ourselves the Flash. He took the name from retired hero Jay Garrick, and with it he formed a legend. The Flash was one of the most prominent heroes of our time, known throughout the world, from the Americas to Asia as a defender of humanity, as the truest and most noble of the protectors of earth. He was the greatest hero a scruffy ten-year-old named Wally West had ever known.
Coming back inside, I look into the mirror again, and I say hello to the Flash. To me, to him. In the space of a minute, I've brushed my teeth and flossed well. In another second I'm out the door. Oh, I'm wearing the suit, too. Red, red, red all over, with lightning emblazoned on my chest and golden boots. Wings on the head, too, but we won't talk about that. I wear the costume of the greatest hero of all time.
One day, spending a summer with my favorite aunt, Iris, I got to meet him.
I remember the day; electric fire has burned it forever into my memory. I stared, wide eyed, as the Flash told me about the accident that gave him his power. I gazed at the vials of chemicals as he told about how he was struck down by a bolt of lightning… And suddenly the event repeated itself for me. Here and now I hear a burglar curse as I turn a corner. He has one foot inside a broken window. I shake my head, and grab him. From the expression on his face you'd think he'd been struck by lightning.
12 years ago, electrified chemicals spread over me, seeped into me. Flash was as surprised as I was… Lightning isn't supposed to strike twice. Little did I know lightning hadn't simply lashed out at me… It had chosen me.
The criminal stares at me, gaping. After a brief lecture on the merits of constructive behavior and a hard days work, not to mention failing to break the law, I leave him off at the Keystone city police department. I nod my head and grin at the sergeant on duty, and speed off into the streets at half of light speed. Twelve years ago I was standing, my favorite Flash T-Shirt ruined, slowly coming to grips with the realization that I had just gained superhuman speed. That was the happiest day of my life; it was the day I became Kid Flash.
Now I smile as I pass two pretty young women. They're about my age, give or take a year or two, and direly in need of some hero to fix their broken down vehicle. I don't know cars, but I know an opportunity to impress beautiful women when I see it. In half a second I've pushed their car to a mechanic's three miles away. The wheels smoke slightly and I leave cash for new tires. In another twenty seconds I'm carrying the girls, Kristin and Anna, I soon discovered, to the beach for a birthday party. I get two phone numbers out of the deal. Not that I'm going to use them, (my girlfriend, Linda, would hardly appreciate that) but I can always add them to the pile. Grinning at my own ego, I resume my patrol, checking every street in Keystone City for trouble, any way to help. That's what the Flash does, after all.
Barry and I were the world's finest heroes, a dynamic duo like no one had ever seen. Flash and Kid Flash, no matter the problem, be it a threat to Barry's home of Central City, or to its twin, my beloved Keystone, or even to the entire Universe, we could pull through. Nothing could stop us. Nothing could beat us. Nothing… lasts forever. Two months ago, to save the earth from destruction, Barry had to outrace an energy beam to its target. He had to move beyond the speed of light, shatter all his records and every law of physics on the books… And in doing so, he disintegrated, turned instantly from matter to energy. Even now I grit my teeth as I think of it. Despite being lost in the memory, I realize there's an explosion up ahead, near town hall. It could be a gas line, a simple accident… But it's NEVER a simple accident. Not in my town. Super villains are just gluttons for punishment.
Sometimes I think I am, too, considering the boots I'm trying to fill. Two months ago I stood, tears in my eyes, holding Barry's empty costume in my hands. The greatest hero on earth was dead… But I wasn't about to let people forget him. That day I took on the identity of the Flash, in tribute to a friend who had died like the hero he was. I was determined to keep the legend alive. The Flash is dead, long live the Flash.
I speed onto the scene of the explosion, picking debris out of the air before it can do any major damage. I look around and see the green-clad form of Weather Wizard. Weather Wizard, Captain Boomerang, Professor Zoom… Why the hell do all my villains have such lame names?
"Y'know, Wiz, you'd think by now you'd realize how useless it is to try and do ANYTHING illegal in my city," I scoff, running around him at super sonic speeds.
"Huh, you'd think," he replies, and raises his wand. Hail the size of basketballs pours down around me, sending concrete flying into the air. I curse mildly, avoiding the ice itself, and once more stopping the shrapnel from hitting anyone. Minimizing property damage has never been my specialty.
I officially made my debut as the Flash a week after Barry's death. There was only one problem: I wasn't the fastest man alive. My powers began acting up… I'd been reduced to sonic speeds. I used to be able to jog across the country in no time flat, but last week I couldn't have circled Kansas in an hour… And for days at a time I would find myself completely powerless. I was the fastest… guy in a red suit... with silly wings on the head…. alive. Probably.
Being the fastest man alive has its advantages. Like now, I reach out and grab the wand from Weather Wizard's hand so fast that he doesn't even know it's happened until I'm a dozen yards away. "Sorry, Wiz. Your toy's causing a little too much trouble for our fine city, I'd better confiscate it." I snap the wand into several hundred pieces and toss them to the ground.
"As you wish, Flash," he says, and presses a button on his belt. Uh-oh. That sounds ominous.
For the first time I notice the thick cover of clouds in the sky. They're dark, too dark to be natural, not when the sky is clear blue half a mile away. Something shines menacingly from within them, a flickering gold light I don't like the looks of at all.
Flickering gold lights haven't been kind to me lately. A week ago a flickering gold light brought my Uncle Barry back from the dead… Or so it seemed. A madman masquerading as the Flash had taken over Keystone city, and beaten the hell out of me doing it. Without my powers at their best I couldn't even hope to fight the Flash, even the fake Flash. Then something happened… The lunatic dressed as my hero told me he was going to make the world forget about Barry Allen…
For a moment, I'm so lost in my memories that I forget about the glowing haze above me. Smacking my forehead, I run towards Weather Wizard and smash the button on his belt into a million pieces. He doesn't stop grinning. The cloud cover begins to break, and a huge metallic orb lowers down. I think I may be in trouble. The thought barely lasts a nanosecond. After all, as of yesterday I am the fastest man alive.
Yesterday was the day a man calling himself the Flash told me he was going to make the world forget about my uncle. Yesterday was the day I picked myself up off the ground and realized why I wasn't as fast as I could be… The only reason my powers had been leaving me was because I was afraid of using them. I was afraid of replacing my Uncle Barry… But I was more afraid of letting that bastard do it. My speed returned with a vengeance; when I needed it, it was always there for me. When I was willing to use it.
I lead the imposter on a chase so fast and so long that he broke light speed, and was converted to energy before my eyes. As it happened I felt something… Something pulling me to move faster… But I stopped. I touched the thing, a force... Something fast… I touched it, and I have never in my life run like I can right now. After months of fear and self defeat… I'm the Flash, the fastest man alive.
Smiling, confident, I watch the glowing metal sphere. Weather Wizard is no doubt proud of it; it looks impressive, even for a man who can create rain with a wave of his hand. It's funny, a criminal smart enough to control the weather should be smart enough to steer clear of my town.
The orb flares, and I watch in awe as a hurricane flows out. At hyper-speed I can see it all, every little crackle of energy, every droplet of rain forming…. And I know I can't let it get far. Already it sends the rubble on the ground flying, shattering windows and crippling cars. No time to waste, and for me, that's saying something.
As Weather Wizard grins, I concentrate… I'm about to try something I haven't been able to do for two months. One of the advantages of super speed is the ability to vibrate yourself, your every molecule, at different frequencies. At certain frequencies, my Uncle Barry taught me, you can pass right through solid matter without touching it. You can phase out of tune with normal matter. If I can vibrate my hands to that frequency, I can just reach into the Wizard's contraption and pull it apart from the inside. I smile. It's been a while, but it's like riding a bicycle, you never forget.
I start moving my hands at ultra-speed, vibrating every molecule so quickly that to the normal eye they're nothing but reddish blurs. Approaching the sphere, I brush against it, testing… And plunge my arms in. Adjusting the frequency in my hands, I grip wires and tear them to pieces. Everything's working perfectly… Except that there's an odd yellow crackling going across the surface of the orb. Something super-charged the metal covering the sphere with energy… What on earth..?
I feel myself thrown back by a tremendous force. Weather Wizard is looking on in disbelief, almost as surprised as I am. His machine is a smoking pile of rubble on the ground, and the winds are already dying down. I stare at my hands, shaking now not because of any effort on my part, but out of sheer shock. Did I do that?
When I brushed against that force… That sort of SPEED force… I think something happened to me. As I look at my trembling fingers, I'm not sure what it is, but I verbalize it the best way I know how.
I pick myself up, brushing off the suit. Wizard is on the move, running as fast as his legs will carry him. Ten miles per hour or so. I crawl towards him at half the speed of sound.
"Going somewhere, Wiz?" I ask, tapping him on the shoulder. He turns, and swings at me with a left hook. I move behind him and let the force of his blow throw him off balance. I tap him on the shoulder, and the big bad super villain falls flat on his face. In thirty seconds he's in a jail cell, trying vainly to get someone to listen to his ill-fated evil scheme. I tell him to give it up, and receive for my troubles possibly the worst string of curse words I've ever heard. Some super villains just can't control their tempers.
I glance at the time as I leave the police station. Somehow it's crept up to twelve o'clock already… I guess time flies when you're having fun. It's about time for my lunch with Linda, and if I don't get a move on I'm going to be late.
Speeding home, I change at light speed. My costume, a special collapsible fabric, retreats into the lightning adorned ring I wear, and I put on a t-shirt and shorts. I speed over to Linda's TV station, and wait outside as she walks down the steps. I smile, stretching as though I've been waiting for hours, and walk to meet her.
"What took you so long?" I ask, smiling, as I take her hand.
"Not all of us can race television signals to antennas all day." She smiles back and gives me a quick kiss.
"Well, come on," I say, picking her off her feet, "I feel like Italian."
After lunch we return from Rome. She goes back to reporting the news, and I go back to making it. We have a good relationship that way. My patrol is mostly uneventful for the rest of the night… Preventing car accidents, kids falling off of monkey bars, nothing too big. It's funny, but for all the times I lost my powers over the last few months, I never stopped thinking of myself as the Flash. It's the up-bringing I guess; I was raised as a superhero, so I AM a superhero. The powers are just tools, and the mask is just how I advertise.
I turn on the TV to watch Linda at eleven o'clock.
"The Flash, Wally West, Keystone's most famous citizen, stopped an apparent ransom attempt today at city hall, when…" I gin. I love publicity, it's an ego thing. Of all the heroic virtues we super-types are supposed to have, modesty was never my strong suit.
I keep watching as I change for bed. Slipping under the sheets, I drift off to sleep half wondering again about the explosion I somehow caused before. I'll have to be careful with that. I wonder what else I can do?
I wake up in the morning. I'm not, and I have never been, a morning person. I wake up and my alarm clock is flying across the room before it stops ringing. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, and changing out of my pajamas, I look in the mirror. I say hello to the Flash… and hear a knock on my door.
I race to open it, and suddenly realize I'm not going very fast. Looking around, I try to speed up again… And nothing. What the hell? My powers can't be gone again, what's the deal? The person at the door is still knocking. I swear slightly and open it. It's my friend, Piper, one time super-villain. Reformed, of course.
"What is it, Pipe?" I ask, growling just a bit. I'm not in the best mood.
"Hey, just thought you should know your hero's fighting Captain Cold down town." He grins, idly twirling a flute between his fingers.
"Piper, what on earth are you talking about?" I ask, putting my hand to my face. I frown. Where on earth did I leave my ring..?
"The Flash, Wally! He's battling Captain Cold down town." He puts the flute away and continues. "Come on, bud, we can drive over there before it's over."
"Have you gone nuts? What are you talking about?" I ask, terribly confused. I'm really not a morning person.
"Earth to Wally?" He says, leaning against my door frame. I notice for the first time that my right leg hurts… It hurts to just stand on it. I look down and see an old scar I never had before going up my shin. Piper goes on. "You know what I'm talking about, man. The Flash!"
"Piper, I'm the…" I start, but he cuts me off.
"Y'know, Michael Hunt… The Flash… The Fastest man alive."