Raj walks past the shop he used to frequent. The small door swings open and close, croaking in a repeated pattern. He peers into the window: families, friends and couples, having meals together and enjoying each other’s company. Mr. Amnah, the shop owner, busily instructs his band of waiters and waitresses to serve his hot dishes to the patrons. He seems content and happy. Raj pulls himself away from the shop and look at the street.
It is drizzling right now and the gravelled road glistens with rainwater. The tantalizing aroma of the spices still assaults his nose and ears and mouth – the urge to get a taste is nearly irresistible. He starts to walk with no destination in mind. “The further the better,” he thinks to himself.
He walks into a park and sits down on a bench. The rain does not show any sign of stopping. Not that it matters to him, for ever since the incident he has not fallen sick, major or minor. He takes a gulp of plain water from his bottle. It somehow soothes his body and calms him down.
A cricket ball dropped beside him. He looks around only to see a few teenagers with their bats, a surprised look on their faces. He knows what happened: they must have hit the ball too hard and his head sat in the middle of the trajectory. Typically a cricket ball can achieve a speed of 100 to 150 kilometres per hour, which means it travels around 40 metres every second!
Raj smiled at them and waved, shouting that he is alright. He knows he can’t be hurt by any means at all. When he took up the mantle of Defender, he knows that he must endure. In enduring, grow strong. He reminds himself. People think that superheroes get their abilities in a snap of finger, but the fact is that superheroes need to be trained. They need to succeed in countless drills, numerous practices, simulated mind tortures and potential grave dangers. Ultimately, they need to sacrifice a part of what makes them human to achieve superhuman. Übermensch. Raj was chosen to be a Defender, the epitome of protector. He still remembers the time he deflected three meteors away with his body at stratosphere. What a glorious time.
The teenagers wave back and turn away. Raj looks at them walking into the restaurant. It feels as if the smell of spices comes back. He used to enjoy the spicy food, but now he can’t at all. In order to feel no pain, he has rooted all possible sensors of pain from his body. Here goes the sensation of spicy, his favourite taste. He takes another sip of water and walks home. He needs to be ready for the Earth.