On the most dangerous mountain in the world, Barry groped for handholds. He had studied rock climbing for years, spent his father’s fortune in training, equipment, and locating the mountain. He had given up friendships, love, and a family for this sole purpose. Now, hanging upside-down over a three-mile gap, having lost, broken or used up all of his equipment and supplies, he was damned if a smooth rock surface was going to stop him.
Barry took a deep breath and screamed with all his might. Kicking off with his feet, he scrabbled madly with his fingers, breaking two of them, as he scurried up rock ledge. Abruptly the rock ended, and he wrapped his arms around it spent, but alive. From there, it was a simple matter to slowly roll his body over to the top of the precipice and inch away from the end.
Barry turned as he stood and, holding his injured hand, stood to face the cave mouth. Perhaps it was the lack of oxygen, but he thought he saw sparkles on the inside.
“Naskigtago Kukon,” he breathed, and the sparkles seemed to brighten.
Inside, the cave, as Barry’s eyes adjusted, he had bumped face-first into something soft and warm. He jumped back with a gasp.
The woman standing before him taller and darker-skinned than any human could possibly be, and also more beautiful. She looked at him with irisless, yellow eyes and smiled. She spoke without moving her mouth.
“Welcome, human Barry. I am Naskigtago Kukon, but you already know that. I have watched your climb. Be proud. You have come farther than any of your species.”
Barry couldn’t speak.
“Now that you have woken me, I must leave your world and find a new place to rest. I assume you are here about the…” She paused, as if trying to find the right word. “Wishes?”
“Yes, Kukon,” Barry said, finding his voice at last. “Yes, please.”
“According to human folklore, I should grant you three. What do you wish more than anything?”
“I want to be a superhero!”
“I want superhuman powers.”
She paused to consider.
“Is that all? I promised you two more wishes.”
Barry tried to think, but deprived of oxygen as his brain was, nothing happened.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted. I want to fight evil. I want to wear a costume. Most of all, I want powers. That’s what I wish for. I wish for superhuman powers.”
“Very well, human Barry. I have promised you three wishes. You will have three superhuman powers.”
Barry found himself in his back yard in Nebraska, with Kukon hovering next to him. His climbing attire had been replaced by a red, spandex unitard and white cape.
“Human Barry,” she said, “I grant you powers beyond any human’s natural ability. I give you the power to kill your foes.”
Barry pointed his finger at a tree. With a loud noise, a lump of lead shot out and struck the tree with incredible force, making a small hole.
“Your kind are slow. I grant you speed.”
Barry ran in a circle faster than any human had run before, breaking the four-minute mile without even winding himself.
“Your minds are limited. I grant you telepathy.”
Barry found he could reach out to others. He realized how much he missed his mother and reached out to her. He heard strange, repeating notes, and then a click.
“Oh, Barry, is that you? Have you come back from that crazy expedition of yours? Are you okay?”
“Yes! I’m fine. I’m better than fine! I’m psychic now.”
“Oh, yes, I wondered about that. Couldn’t you just have used the phone?”
Barry felt a sinking feeling.
“Well, it’s late,” his mother said. “You always forget it’s six hours later here. Can you psychic me in the morning? We can talk then.”
There was another click, and she was gone. Barry turned around, but Kukon had vanished, gone to another world. He sat down in the grass and shot another bullet from his hand.
“I could have just bought a gun, a bicycle, and a telephone,” he said to nobody.
The next day, he put his red spandex suit in the garbage.