“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”
I was sitting alone in a flower-covered field in the mystical place that is the home of many members of my mother’s family, including my Mama herself.
Now, before I go any further, I should explain that I was the only person here who you would consider alive right now. Mama and the rest of the people here existed only in spiritual and mystical forms, their bodies having died a long time ago.
After we’d first discovered this place (or it discovered us), Dad, Molly, Jennie, and Fran visited here for a while with me and the others in between our missions with the JSA Reserves and Infinity Inc. But in time they all yearned to remain in the real world, so yesterday I bid them all goodbye from here. They wished me the best of luck in my training to understand my new powers and said to call them if I needed anything.
I embraced all of them and again congratulated Dad and Molly on their pregnancy. Jennie and Fran especially seemed to be a little concerned about leaving me behind, but I assured them I’d be fine, and I’d be back before they had a chance to miss me. I was thinking to myself how great it would be in a few months when I had some little brothers or sisters.
Still, I couldn’t help but be a little envious of the babies Molly was carrying. I knew those bundles of joy would have a wonderful life from day one!
My own life had been shaken up from the very beginning. I had been born to a woman using the alias of Alyx Florin, whose real name was Rose Canton. By the time I was born, she had long ago fled my father — Alan Scott, alias Green Lantern — for fear of her evil side, the Thorn, hurting him. Then, shortly after Jennie’s and my birth, she had to flee the hospital due to the same fear. (*) Before she fled, she signed papers to allow me and Jennie to be legally adopted by new families, with the stipulation that we be adopted into separate homes.
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Green Dreams and Precious Illusions,” Infinity Inc. Annual #1 (1985).]
I often wondered why Mama didn’t want us to be raised together so we could grow up alongside each other, but I eventually figured it out. Mama was afraid her Thorn self could and would come after us at any time, so she figured if she split up her beloved children, who would be Thorn’s targets, she’d help prevent a tragedy from happening to us.
Jennie-Lynn was the one who got lucky. She was raised by Julian and Myrna Hayden, who loved her dearly and treated her like a royal treasure. I’ve met the Haydens a couple of times and truly wished they could’ve been my parents, too.
Instead, I was adopted by James and Shirley Rice, and as I later found out, they had argued big-time about whether to adopt me or Jennie. My adoptive dad wanted me, but my mom wanted Jennie, and they couldn’t afford to adopt both of us. Unfortunately, I later heard that this was why the Haydens didn’t take me along with my sister.
The first several years of my life were good, even if my mom did seem a tad distant from me at times. But then, in the last year before I manifested my powers, things took a nasty turn.
My dad lost his job and turned to the bottle instead of hitting the pavement in search of work. From that point on, my parents argued almost constantly, and I had to do my best to juggle school, a part-time job, and comforting my little brother Jeremy when I was home. It really was a horrid situation.
But it then came to a head. My mom opted to leave my dad and take Jeremy with her. When I tried to help them make up, Mom thought I was siding with Dad, so she left me behind. I’ve never seen or heard from her or Jeremy since then. I truly hope Jeremy is doing well. He was a good kid, and while we were growing up, we were as close as brothers with a ten-year age difference could be.
After they left, I tried to get Dad to realize what a problem his drinking was. That caused him one day to snap! He grabbed me by my shoulders and pounded my head into the wall a few times! I was so stunned I had no chance to defend myself against the blows. I could’ve suffered a bad head injury or even been killed by my dad’s fury!
But then my powers flared up for the first time and caused me to change into my shadow form, which allowed me to pass safely through the wall. After I came back through the wall, I reprimanded my dad, who promptly fainted in horror upon seeing my newly powered-up shadow form. I figured my dad had just fainted from his drunkenness, and I went to clean up. I was briefly stunned when I saw my new dark form in the mirror! I stared at myself, watching intensely as the darkness subsided, and I faded back to my normal appearance.
Shortly after that, I was reunited with Jennie-Lynn, and I decided to follow her dream of being a super-hero and JSA member. (*) We then met other JSA kids, and instead of joining the JSA then, we founded our own team — Infinity Inc. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See “Origins and Outcasts,” Infinity Inc. #4 (July, 1984) and “Generations,” Infinity Inc. #1 (March, 1984).]
My life is quite a story. Even recalling it all after so much time has passed, it’s hard to believe, really. So I decided to let that train of thought go for now, and I started reading the book of quotes Mama gave me.
“Todd? Todd, baby?”
I heard a voice in my head as I began to awaken the next morning. Under normal circumstances, something like this would be an indication that I either had an active imagination or just that I was nuttier than a fruitcake. Come to think of it, I never did like fruitcake much.
But my circumstances at this moment were hardly normal by any perception. I was staying in a mystical paradise inhabited by the souls of various matriachs from my mother’s maternal family line.
And as for the voice in my head? I spoke back in my thoughts the moment I knew whose voice it was. “Mama,” I said, “I’m all right, don’t worry! I guess I just slept in a little late.”
“It’s OK, baby,” Mama replied. “Come get your breakfast. You’ve got an important lesson today!”
A couple of hours later, after I’d washed up and finished my breakfast, I went to see the sorceresses who were also my family.
“Todd,” Phoebe said, “there are many aspects of your powers that we will guide you in, but there is one thing you must know — something intrinsic to knowing both yourself and your full power potential.” She paused a moment, then continued, “Our powers aren’t just any garden variety of hocus-pocus! They are based in something that is as far away as your eyes can see and as close as your heart can touch.
“All of us who have the power of the Silver Phoenix are literally gifted spiritually. Our souls are superhuman. We can have humanlike understanding, but in general we are of a much different evolution than most other humans, even your father!” I was a little stunned by that admission.
Then Ellen cut in, “Todd, I know that you believe both you and your sister are gifted psychics. Like us, you have communicated both feelings and words with mere thought.”
I interrupted, “Sure, well we are. I mean, it’s a spooky power, but kind of cool, too.”
Ellen cut back in as my words trailed off. “Todd, the power you and your sister share is far more than what most people would label psychic! Psychic infers powers that are based in the mind, something wholly organic. But our so-called psychic abilities go beyond that barrier!”
I listened intently; this was really getting intriguing!
“Our power of mystical communication comes not from our minds, but from our hearts and souls! Our souls are so strong that we have a level of empathy that’s unimaginable to most other people. We see and feel people’s pains and pleasures, joys and sorrows, hopes and dreams without even so much as needing to recite an incantation!
“We believe we were gifted with this power so that we would possess a high level of sympathy and compassion for the less-powerful people on Earth. It allows us to understand and to better help those in need. But it can also be a heavy burden at times. It can be very stressful.
“Todd, you never were able to know of your having this gift before! It’s very possible that some of the toughest times in your life, some explainable periods of great anger and sorrow, were due to this power activating on a subconscious level and causing you to feel others’ pain, even though you could do nothing about it then.”
“Wow!” I said. “But how is this possible? The only mind tricks I could ever do were chat with Jennie and use my black hand touch to show others their nightmares! How is it possible that I could have all that power?”
“That is something we sometimes wondered about, too, Todd,” Ellen continued. “Especially when we came to realize that a mother of our family had passed her full gift onto a son instead of a daughter as it had previously always been!
“The ancient sorceress who gave Althea the Silver Phoenix power once said she didn’t believe there would ever be a man worthy of possessing that full power; that women were loving and protective, while men were abusive and cowardly. Considering how things were then, that’s very true of that time, but both women and men have evolved much since then!
“And the fact that a young man now stands before us as an inheritor of our full gift shows things truly have come full circle. Todd, the fact that you inherited the full level of the Silver Phoenix power means you are far more than any other human male could ever dream of being. Indeed, beyond any doubt, you are very special!”
I just stood there stunned; I couldn’t believe this at all. Now I knew I had a lot to learn!
Later, I flew through the early morning sky over Gotham City toward Dad and Molly’s home. I had talked it over with my mother’s family, and we decided that I needed to take a break from my training for a bit, so I decided to use the time to visit my parents. I contacted them about what would be a good time for me to come. They said the coming Saturday morning for breakfast would be good. I was especially curious how Molly was doing. Even for a woman of her will and stamina, carrying three babies must be terribly hard!
And I’m also still adjusting to having light powers. As I flew through the sky, I knew I was surrounded by a strong silvery-blue aura so bright I likely either looked to the people below like a falling star or a stove pilot gone out of control!
So to protect my parents, I landed a few blocks away from their home, then dissipated the aura around me while changing from my new costume to my regular clothes. I then walked the rest of the way to Dad and Molly’s home. I knocked on the door and greeted them, giving Molly the bouquet of flowers I’d brought for her.
“Son, how are you doing?” Dad asked as we sat down in the living room.
“I’m doing good, Dad!” I replied. “They’ve got me doing a lot of practicing, and adjusting to having both light and dark powers at my disposal is kind of weird, but also kind of wonderful!” I smiled slightly, and Dad and Molly smiled back.
“Speaking of adjustments,” I continued, “how are you guys doing? How are you, Molly? I know you must be kind of tired with carrying all those babies.”
“I’m doing well, Todd,” Molly replied. “I’ll admit I have a bit of a hard time sleeping with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes show going on inside me, but I’m very happy!” Then, as if needed to illustrate that point, I saw a slight jerking in her stomach area. Sheesh. I hoped all those babies weren’t spending too much time jockeying for space inside my stepmom! Then again, if they were anything like their parents, likely all they were doing was competing with each other. Hoo-boy, I can’t wait ’til they’re born, I thought, shaking my head.
Dad and Molly giggled, and then Dad said to me, “Since you seem to be so interested, anyway, we hope you’ll be able to make it back in about a month when the babies are due!”
“Sure, Dad!” I replied. “Wouldn’t miss it!”
Then we settled in the kitchen to have our breakfast. It wasn’t anything fancy, just bagels, cream cheese, and lox, but that was OK. Molly whispered to me when my Dad was reading an article in his paper that she had wanted to make something special for breakfast, but Dad wouldn’t allow her to. He wanted her to rest, so he went out himself and got some things from the local deli. She said after all this time, she knew better than to argue with his will. We then giggled as Dad was putting down his paper.
“Not talking about me behind my back, are you?” he said.
“Nope, not at all, dear,” Molly replied with a wink.
Dad burst out laughing and said to Molly, “Hon, I hope if our kids inherit nothing else from us, that at least they get their mother’s spirit!”
“Dear,” she said to Dad, “One of the most interesting things will be to see exactly what they get from us, and only time will tell us that.”