Culture

When it first became apparent that significant numbers of people had spontaneously gained superhuman powers, a wave of apocalyptic panic swept the world. Commentators predicted a new dark age, in which superhuman gangs would rove the earth, laying waste to civilization and enslaving the unheightened populace. People flocked to stores to stock up on water and non-perishable foods. Abandoned backyard fallout shelters were rebuilt.

Then the hysteria gradually dissipated. A few murders were committed by mutated suspects. Mutants with pre-existing criminal backgrounds went on sprees of looting and destruction. However, the widely predicted consolidation of mutants into a single tyrannical political entity never materialized. Mutant powers proved as prevalent among cops and national guardsmen as among violent criminals. The body politic breathed easier, aware that, even in a new world of mutant abilities, decent, law-abiding people vastly outnumbered the psychopaths and bullies.

Instead, the Ghost Flu changed the world in subtler ways. Few people allowed the sudden acquisition of mutant powers to alter their sense of identity. Most individuals who discovered that they were immune to radiation or could elongate their limbs did nothing much about it. Most went on being accountants, truck drivers, office managers, or whatever they were before the post-flu mutations. If they didn’t keep their powers completely secret, they limited them to the occasional impromptu demonstration at backyard barbecues and family reunions. A handful sought out more lucrative occupations centered around their new abilities, or tried to leverage them into show business careers.

But the world has adapted around them, of course. The heightened went from being national oddities treated with no small amount of prejudice, to the focus of modern media and politics. In a world where Brad Pitt demonstrates his ability to freeze things with merely a touch, the fact that your neighbor can breathe underwater seems almost mundane.

Let’s take a look at how different things are.

Culture

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