I visited a parallel dimension last year in which Superman really existed. Not only that, he was a smoker. He could smoke 20 Dorchester dead in ten seconds flat and, most amazingly of all, not complain about an aftertaste. Superman said he smoked because he was worried about his weight.
Of course I had the goods on our red-pantied friend. Over a low fat pastrami and rye bread sandwich I told him everything. Superman was devastated to learn he was known only in my dimension as a fictional character; I felt kind of superior over this until I spotted myself as a walk-on part in an early episode of The Cosby Show. We reached an agreement. In return for a modest percentage of his merchandise royalties I would divulge his secret identity to no-one. We shook hands. I went to hospital.
Over the next few days I was visited regularly by the man of steel. He brought me gifts of grapes, chocolates and office equipment. Such was his guilt over my injury he broke down into tears one day and we had to call in the Navy to evacuate us. We became good friends. He told me his innermost secret and I told him mine. His innermost secret was that he was not at all from Krypton, but from Bognor Regis. His powers had nothing to do with the size of the sun – in fact they had been granted by an ancient genie called Simon, who was working, at the time, as a Redcoat in Butlins. Superman had asked Simon, “Can you make me fly, so that simply by stretching my arms out in front of me thus I would take off – despite this being an obvious contradiction of Newton’s first law?” And Simon had replied, “Yes.” Superman had asked Simon, “Can you give me super strength – but no super mass, please, that would send me plummeting down to the earth’s core – which appears to vary proportionatly to the strength of any foes I might come up against?” And Simon had replied, “Yes.” Superman had asked Simon, “Can you give me x-ray vision, laser beam eyes, bullet resistant skin, super speed, no need for air in space or underwater, and an allergy to green rocks?” And Simon had replied, “Yes.” Superman said, “Good. Then I wish for all of these things.” With his other two wishes he had fixed the spring in his bed and made Aunt Mabel’s cake less stodgy.
My innermost secret concerned a young pig called Porkulike.
Superman said he concocted the Krypton story (over a chicken kebab) because it sounded more plausible. He had told it to everyone, including his mother – who was surprised to learn that her memory of his birth had been telepathically programmed into her brain by Kryptonian technology – especially the bit about the ducks. Superman told me this was a classic example of a double bluff; the best other example he could think of was the Roswell incident – which really had been a weather balloon, except that the army in the area had wanted to raise its profile.
One night, Superman boasted he could pick up any girl in the world, and he promptly demonstrated this by lifting a 32 stone female sumo wrestler high above his head. We were in a bar at the time – a little known superhero’s bistro in 34th Avenue that conveniently serves drinks with a straw for those that wear masks. By amazing coincidence our bartender was none-other than Simon, the ancient genie who had granted Superman his powers – he explained to us he had left England for tax purposes. Superman was so surprised to see his old friend he jumped out of his seat and didn’t return for several minutes, having only slowed down somewhere east of Saturn. Whilst he was gone I seized upon the moment and asked Simon to grant me three wishes. Of course the genie was obliged; furthermore he was doing a free baseball cap that week as a special offer (the competition was tough these days, what with the rise in popularity of car boot sales).
Perhaps you have painted me an egoist, dear reader; perhaps you would expect me to wish for riches beyond my wildest dreams, super powers of my own or, indeed, a NICAM home cinema system: no. In fact, three wishes were two too many, for there was only one thing in the world that I wanted. After Simon had read through the various disclaimers and clause 24 of the 1936 Genie Act (clearly prohibiting the use of genies in the bringing about of world peace) I told him about Sandra, the butcher’s daughter.
Sandra, Sandra, Sandra. How many times had I walked past that peeling shopfront, glancing casually through its window, as if to evaluate the poultry prices? I never did work out whether it was her eyes, blue as the coolest sapphire, that attracted me so, or her personal preference for not wearing gloves when handling the meat. I had ignored the allegations, and the stomach pains I had born, determined not to let them effect my custom. Good God, her brand new sports car – attained, seemingly, to commemorate the event of my crushing rejection – could have been bought on the back of my chitterlings alone. Why do you think I slaved day and night over the invention of a dimension hopper, only to find that her alternative counterpart had been put away for an unimaginative marketing of ‘Labroburgers’?
With a nod it was done, and Simon congratulated me on my wise choice of wish. I bid my new found friends farewell and returned to my own dimension.
It was an oddity indeed to know that the woman of my dreams was finally madly and passionately in love with me. Her beaming smile was a ray of light. Her warm embrace was a taste of joy. Everything seemed perfect in that moment, and my head and heart felt as though they could both burst open with happiness. But our first night of long-awaited lovemaking seemed more symbolic of the shifting of her father’s produce than the culmination of four years of hope and obsessional fantasy. We lasted but three days, after which I became bored and disillusioned. Sandra was devastated by my termination and promptly ceased to exist (I realized afterwards I should have been more careful with the wording of my wish there). The police launched a massive search and Sandra’s father launched a sufficiently massive brick through my sitting-room window. I was a wanted man. I ran to the only place I knew I would be safe: I jumped again into the parallel dimension.
There’s a lesson in this for all of us, which I feel strangely compelled to express in verse:
If thou feels compelled to dream
Dream then, please, of bricks and mortar.
Emptiness, only, thou shalt find
If thy dreams come true of the butcher’s daughter.
As you might have guessed, I tracked down Simon and wished him for a house.