Mozart, Proust and Tulsa High
By Savage Midnight
Before Adam Knight became Adam Knight he was Chad Nash, and he was good at everything. His father would say, "You have to be good at something to be someone," and Adam believed him and so did Adam's mother.
Except after the piano lessons were over and he could recite Mozart's Jeunehomme from off the top of his head, his father said, "If you want to be someone, you have to know what others don't," and Adam believed him and so did Adam's mother.
Except after learning how to assemble a computer from scratch and discovering he could hack into one of the most complicated systems in Oklahoma, his father shook his head and said, "If you want to be someone you have to fight like you're someone," and Adam believed him, but Adam's mother didn't that time because she didn't like violence. She didn't like Adam's father, either, by then, but she stayed because no one walked away from his father. It just didn't happen.
Adam still took the self-defense lessons and the martial arts lessons, anyway, even though his mother told him not to. Except after he'd learned how to kill a man with a flick of his wrist, his father shook his head, frowned and said, "Your grades are slipping."
Well, Adam was good at everything -- even school -- and he refused to be bad at this. He was a natural learner, anyway, but the music and the hacking and the fighting had taken over his life and school wasn't about learning anymore. It was breathing space. Except it wasn't that anymore because his As had slipped into Bs and that wouldn't do.
So he stopped with the music and the hacking and the fighting and he read more books instead, because what more could he do? There wasn't anything he didn't already know from school. They'd taught him all they could.
Some of the books were hard and they hurt his head. Philosophy and Science and Abstract Literature that tied his mind into complicated knots. But Adam refused to be beaten -- nothing could beat him -- so he read and he read until his mind gave way and everything just sank in in the end. He didn't walk away from a book he didn't understand, so when he fell across the literary works of Marcel Proust he learned French just so he could understand them, even though the English versions were easily accessible. Adam liked a challenge. Or maybe he didn't like them as such, but rather he didn't know what else to do when he wasn't learning, when his mind and his body weren't overloading. His father would say, "You can't make cream out of milk without a little work," and by that time Adam had grown up enough and learned enough to know that his father's words weren't law and they really weren't all that wise, anyway, so why was Adam still listening? Dairy metaphors wouldn't help him down the line and if Adam wanted to be someone, he needed someone to teach him. Not a retired Marine with control issues and a need to relive his glory days through his son.
Except that before Adam found the incentive to leave Tulsa (he really didn't want to leave his mother behind) the worst kind of thing happened -- his body failed him and his mind refused to help him. Adam was being beaten by a disease and he couldn't have that.
He took to the bottle in a twisted effort to beat the disease in his own way -- if he was going to die it would be on his own terms. He'd be the one to destroy his liver, only him, and Adam didn't really consider the thought that he'd be dead either way. All he knew was that he wouldn't be beat, not by this, not by anything or anyone. He really wasn't all that bitter about dying, anyway, just a little angry and destructively determined. His body wouldn't fail him until he wanted it to and if it was going to, it would be by his doing.
He'd barely gotten underway with the excessive drinking when his plan was shot to hell and he was shackled to his bed because the disease was eating him alive, and Adam's body could no longer support itself. His mind remained sharp and alert up until the last few days, and he remembered his final, coherent thoughts, even now. He hadn't been angry anymore, or determined, just resolute, knowing that even though he'd been beaten, he hadn't really. So he was dying; it happened, but in his own way he was beating his father in the end. He was no longer his tool, his ticket to glory, and Adam took solace in that thought.
There was darkness and silence and then it was shattered by pain and thought and Adam realized he'd beaten death. It hurt -- God, it hurt -- but his body was his own and his mind was his own and he'd won, he'd won.
Except he hadn't done it alone and Lionel Luthor told him so. Lionel Luthor, a someone, and Adam grasped the chance he offered with determined hands because this someone was his savior and without him he would be nothing again. And he refused to let death beat him a second time and really, he wasn't that foolish as to say no. Here was a man that could offer him life and knowledge and everything Adam had craved -- everything his father had craved -- from day one, and his brain hadn't even contemplated the thought of saying no, of dying again. It was easy to say yes.
Things didn't stay easy, though. They went wrong and Adam lost control. His body couldn't save him nor could his mind, and he was beat again, beat by a someone, except this time his death was of no consequence to anyone else, not like it had been for his father the first time. Lionel Luthor didn't need him like his father had and Adam couldn't beat him with his death. He was a nothing, after all.
He still tried, though. He fought and he killed and he grasped at the last tendrils of his life while his humanity slipped away unnoticed. If others were to die so he could live, so be it, because survival instinct or no, Adam refused to let someone beat him, especially not a slip of a girl with chestnut hair and beautiful eyes.
Something snapped and shattered when Clark Kent -- a no one -- did just that, except it turned out that Clark wasn't a no one, but a someone. Not like Lionel Luthor, but something different. He was like Adam used to be -- good at everything -- and he savored the knowledge just as he savored his last breath, knowing somehow that he'd beaten Lionel Luthor in the end. His body was still failing him and his mind refused to help him and he was still going to die -- even his heart had stopped beating -- but he knew something Lionel Luthor had wanted to know and never would.
Adam died with Clark's secret on his tongue and his own secret buried somewhere in the silence, the knowledge that he'd won, somehow, and it made his death that much sweeter.