Imagine you wake up one morning and discover that you have the ability to spew lasers out of your eyeballs like Cyclops (or the original Cyclops, the Comet). But maybe you're not all about the snazzy eye wear -- in that case, let's say your laser eyes are more controllable, like Superman's heat vision. Anything you can see, you can obliterate with a glance.
Superman's laser eyes beat Cyclops' laser eyes, just so we're all clear.
So What's the Problem?
Your eyes are tricky little devils. Even when you think your gaze is rock-solid steady, it's jumping around like a sugar-blasted kindergartner during Saturday morning cartoons. Thanks to science, you can see for yourself:
Keeping the screen a foot or so from your face, stare at the center of the left target for about 30 seconds. Then switch and look at the center of the blank square on the right. You should see an afterimage like an eyeball staring back at you against the white background. You've probably seen this parlor trick before, but the afterimage itself isn't our point -- try to keep that afterimage from moving.
You can't do it. You can maybe get it to stay mostly in the same spot, but it never stops wavering slightly. And the farther your face gets from the screen, the worse the effect becomes.
"Were you aiming at a passenger jet, Scott? Because that's what you hit."
The image moves because your eyes are constantly making tiny motions called microsaccades. These motions are completely involuntary, and can change your line of sight by up to a full degree. That may seem like an insignificant number, but it adds up over distance -- and it royally screws over your laser-eye power.
Let's say you want to prank your friend with your newfound superpower. He's standing halfway across a football field, rearing back to pass you the ball. You activate your laser vision, expecting to vaporize the ball right out of his hand and scare the piss out of him. Over that distance, microsaccades can divert your laser beam several feet away from your intended target without warning. You're aiming for the ball, but one moderate microsaccade and you've just jokingly incinerated your friend's entire right arm instead. Ooh! Burn!
"Sorry about that, Jimmy, I ... well, actually, I'm not sorry at all. Go to hell, kid."
But that's not even the worst of it. An off-the-shelf laser pointer has a range of around 2.2 miles. And that puny thing's like a Nerf gun compared to the double-barreled 12 gauge in your skull. That means every time you fire your badass eye beams, your natural eye movements cause you to gouge 2-mile flaming swaths out of the landscape. Unless you hate absolutely anything and everything around you, you'd better do like Mom always told you and keep your beams in your head.
So maybe the lowly superpowers we've discussed so far aren't really your bag. All this physical stuff is beneath you ... it's just not quite ultimate enough, you know?
"God's alright, but the world could use way more dinosaurs."
OK then, you're omniscient. You know every detail of life that it's possible to know: the ending to every movie, song, and book; the intricate details of supermodels' bowel movements; your mom's sexual preferences (she likes it from behind) ... everything. Every fact you could ever need, trivial or not, is tucked away somewhere inside your head. In fiction, any character with access to such an overwhelming amount of information usually turns out to be somewhat of a crazy asshole (see: Doctor Manhattan), but hey -- maybe you, random Cracked reader, are built to handle it. Maybe you are true god material.
In which case, we suggest investing in some maps of the Martian surface.
So What's the Problem?
It may all be in there, sure -- but how could you get it out? All that information can't be at the forefront of your thoughts simultaneously. You're going to need some way to filter through your own mind. Your brain has become the Internet on crack -- terabytes upon terabytes of information, all stored away in remote places, inaccessible unless you know exactly where to look.
You'd need to have the mother of all search engines programmed into your subconscious just to think straight. Every single piece of information would be buried by about a kajillion others just like it. You'd have to sort through billions of other people's pass codes just to remember how to unlock your phone. It'd be like reading through every page of every Google search -- and most people's minds go numb after approximately Page 3. You might have all of the information right at your fingertips, but you'd better hope your omniscience also came with a side effect of immortality, because you're going to need an immense amount of time to locate and analyze all that data -- destroying any usefulness the knowledge might have had (not to mention your oh-so-delicate sanity) in the process.
"I'll know how to fix the car as soon as I've sorted through all of Chinese history and several billion years of plate tectonics."
Still think you're mentally up to the task? Here, we'll answer that for you: no. No, you're not. So let's lower our sights once again and hop back over to the realm of physical superpowers, shall we? How about something like ...
Earlier we covered the considerable shortcomings of force fields at protecting you, but if escaping physical harm isn't feasible, there's still another option: super healing.
"You call that impalement?"
Say you're Wolverine without the claws, but with the facial hair (because sexy). Or maybe that cheerleader from Heroes, if you prefer your super healing abilities sans dong. You can get hurt just like you normally would, but that can't keep you down, because your body can heal from even the most catastrophic injuries at incredible speeds. It wouldn't matter if you broke every bone in your body at once, like Evel Knievel's entire life condensed into one calamitous clusterfuck of an accident -- you'd simply knit that shit right back together and come back for more.
So What's the Problem?
Two words: mental trauma.
This isn't the kind of thing you just "bounce back" from.
Regeneration doesn't eliminate pain. Walking through a wall of fire wouldn't be nearly as cinematic if you were wailing the entire time. And imagine lying broken on the ground after a failed attempt to ramp 14 school buses on a motorcycle and having to watch your liquefied organs regrow themselves in your shattered chest cavity like one of those stop-motion videos of rotting fruit played in reverse. Does that seem like the kind of experience a person could walk away from unaffected?
The extreme pain and horror you'd experience after a critical injury would leave serious mental scars, and trauma of that level comes with a bonus side effect -- post-traumatic stress disorder.
"It's hard to drink the pain away when your body is effectively immune to alcohol."
Let's go back to Wolverine for a second. What's he like? Sullen, moody, constantly on alert for anything happening around him (can you say paranoia?), prone to fits of berserker rage ... these aren't character traits, they're symptoms. The man's been torn apart so many times that he's now a walking mass of psychological scars. His berserker rage episodes? PTSD flashbacks, clearly. And no one notices what's wrong, because the man's invincible, isn't he? Well, regeneration may have healed his body, but it didn't save his mind.
With the extraordinarily long life this power grants you (because your cells can't be damaged by age, after all), you'll almost certainly be subjected to accidents that would prove fatal to any normal human. But lucky you, you'll be forced to live through them instead -- and each one will push you that much closer to complete mental instability. So ask your newly invincible self this: Is it even possible to enjoy an immortal body when the mind inside is shattered?
Nathaniel lives on a boat. He was inspired to try writing online by his friend Spencer's Internet success. If you feel like being an agent of good karma and helping him thank her, you should check her out here.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 3 Adorable Animals the Internet Loves (Are Going Extinct).
And stop by LinkSTORM to learn how to shoot lightning from your pie-hole.
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