The first thing I remember is work.
I was born on a small farm in southern Ireland. I lived with my mother and my maternal grandparents. My father was never in the picture, but it was hardly ever a problem. I never dwelled on him other than in passing thought. On our farm, we lived rather simply, raising cattle and horses to sell on the market. My grandparents had made a rather modest living, but couldn't afford to hire helpers. Since my mother never worked, the chores fell to me.
From a young age, I was taught how to work. As soon as I could walk, I was fetching buckets and animal feed and helping out in any way I was able. Without the help of my mother or any possible farmhands, it was always my grandparents and I rushing around the farm to get all the chores done. But outside of that, I was rarely addressed. My mother certainly never spoke to me, and I never attended school and was given no formal education. The kids in the town nearby always laughed and threw rocks at me, making me learn from an early age that leaving the farm was bad. So I never did.
I wasn’t abused or anything. I was never hit, or verbally mistreated, or overly controlled. I was simply… unwanted. I was generally left to do my own thing when not earning my keep through my work. I, quite literally, grew up having almost no one.
Still, it was all I had ever known. And since I was never hit or hurt, it wasn’t bad, either. Tusla (Child Services) couldn’t take me away if they came to my house, at least. I grew up, helped work on the farm, and outside of that was completely ignored. Life wasn't good, but it wasn't bad, either.
Then, I learned how to read.
If there was one thing in my grandparents’ house, it was books. My mother read the days away, and so I followed in her footsteps. Around the time I turned seven, I taught myself how to read. I read a lot. Fiction, mostly. I loved stories such as Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings especially. I was fascinated by these far-off and exciting places, was taken by them completely. I read whenever possible, realising just why my mother loved it so. But there was a downside to this development.
I realized that I was very much alone.
In my books, the protagonist always had a loving mother, or if not, it was a bad thing. The good mothers read bedtime stories, kissed their children and hugged them. My mother had never done any of those things to me. I couldn’t help but wonder why.
It occured to me, one day when I was around eight, that I should try to hug her.
It went about as well as you might expect. She had been reading underneath a tree. I just… walked up to her and tried to hug her. I certainly surprised her. She froze for a moment, in utter shock, until she composed herself enough to violently shove me away and give me a bloody nose. Then she said something, something that remains with me to this very day.
“If only I’d had the courage to kill you when you were born,” she’d hissed, with tears in her eyes, then walked away. That night she hailed a cab and left the farm, never to voluntarily return.
Maybe something was wrong with me.
That’s the conclusion I came to. I realised how lonely I really was after that day. The animals were my only friends, the only ones I could ever talk to. I read. Worked. Ate. Slept. It was a monotonous life, and one I was no longer satisfied with now that I’d tasted the idea of a different and much better life.
But at least it was something.
It was a late Sunday evening. The sun had long since set, and yet I’d been told, quite plainly, not to move from my spot in the entry hallway. I was dressed in brand-new, neat clothes that were the nicest things I’d ever worn, a white button-up shirt and slacks. I shuffled nervously. What was going on? My grandparents had been acting odd all day; I'd been given almost no chores to do, something that had never happened before.
Just as the thought passed through my head, there was a single knock at the door. Then, it opened.
I watched as a man, in his mid-to-late forties, walked into the room, wearing a very expensive suit. He nodded at my grandfather, who, to my astonishment, bowed deeply, as my grandmother curtsied. He said nothing to him, though, bringing his bright hazel eyes to me. Unsure of what to do, I copied my grandfather and bowed sloppily. Then I started.
Hazel. This man had the same color eyes as me.
Who was this man? I’d hardly ever seen anyone outside of the farm before, and no one ever visited, save for the post and delivery men. I found myself drinking in every unfamiliar and familiar feature on his face. He had wrinkles, a receding hairline, and looked to be very tired. I wondered why.
“Hello,” The man announced, leaning down slightly, as if he wanted to get a better look at me. “My name is William Tybur. I am your father.”
I echoed the thought aloud, barely a whisper. I was so lost. Had I done something wrong, messed up a chore so badly that I couldn’t stay any longer? If my father was here now, where had he been before this?
“We need to go,” William announced. “We don’t have much time.” He looked to the side, where I caught sight of my mother for the first time in two years, just outside the house. She was leaning against the doorframe, terrified and refusing to look inside or at her family.
I looked down for a moment, grabbing my favorite book for comfort from where it was perched on a nearby shelf as I followed my… father and my mother out of the house. There was a dark car outside, sleek and top of the line, waiting for us. William took my hand, and I kept close to him while we walked down the long driveway, frightened. There was a tingling sensation at the base of my neck, a sense of danger and warning seeping through my veins, pumping adrenaline into my blood.
And suddenly, my mother screamed.
I jumped and clung to my father, eyes wide as I looked around, trying to see what my mother had seen, then freezing. We had somehow been surrounded by men in dark cloaks, watching us menacingly. William stepped back, now looking unnerved, placing one hand on my shoulder as if to reassure himself that I was still there. My mother stepped back, looking as if she wanted to make a run for it. Two men shot out and grabbed her by the back before either my father or I could react. My mother screamed again.
“Lord Tybur, we must act you not to act so rashly,” one of the men holding my mother warned, long, dirty blond hair dropping out of a black hat. “Are you feeling uneasy because of the recent incidents? Or—” he looked over to me, blue eyes shining. He had an accent. “Has something else happened? Why are you bringing Catherine here and not only the boy you’re holding on to?”
William tensed but said nothing, his grip on my shoulder loosening slightly. I took advantage of that, yanking my shoulder out of his grip and taking several tentative steps towards my mother, Catherine. Had I never known her name before now? It didn’t matter. She was my mother and I loved her.
“Mother—” I began, reaching out a hand to the man held her captive.
“No!” My mother shrieked desperately, moving away from me as much as she could in the man’s grip. “I am not this child’s mother! I have nothing to do with him!”
“Don’t do this, Kenny,” William spoke in low tones. “Please. Gwen—”
“Gwen is dead, isn’t she?” The man, Kenny, accused. William bit his lip, and his eyes watered. That was answer enough. “Then I am loyal to HYDRA. Is what this woman said true? Do you not know her and that girl?”
My father paused briefly, before nodding stiffly. “So that’s how it is,” he whispered. “Yes. It is true.”
“Good.” He shoved my mother onto the ground and yanked out a long knife from his robe. The men seemed to make an even tighter circle around us. “You never existed, woman. No one knows who you are. You never worked in Lord Tybur’s mansion.”
“Ah…” I slowly let go of my book, moving towards her mother. The book thudded into the dirt. My voice hardly seemed to work. “M-mother…”
The woman was shaking as Kenny brought the knife to her neck, but yet she, for the first time I could ever recall, looked me straight in the eye.
“If only you had never been bor—” Her words were abruptly cut off as the knife went through her throat. I let out a whimper, now shaking violently as my mother’s body fell to the floor, blood staining the grass a crimson red. Kenny discarded her as if she was a sack of rice, then moved to me.
I was frozen, unable to take my eyes away from Catherine’s corpse. It was only Kenny placing a hand on my head that prompted me to look up as he placed the knife, slick with my mother’s blood, to my throat.
“No, Kenny!” William moved forwards. Kenny paused, with the knife still to my throat, and looked at him disinterestedly. “You can’t kill him.”
“You know why.” Kenny’s gaze moved back to me. “No. He poses no threat to you. Let him live a life of his own, anonymously.”
Kenny shot William an unreadable look, then he waved a hand, prompting his men to step back. William sighed heavily, then placed a hand on my shoulder when I didn’t move, taking me away from the knife. My mother’s blood traced a red line across my neck.
I couldn’t move. Only just barely did I hear William’s next words.
“Your new name… is Peter Parker.”
After that… incident, I was taken away from William. It would be that last time I ever saw him as a child as well. The man who had killed my mother handed me off to some of the other strange men, and I was off, away from the farm for the first time in my life.
They were taking me somewhere where they could keep an eye on me, they said, but also out of the way so I didn’t make things any worse than I already had. I never said anything, stayed silent and obedient like they wanted me to be. They never told me who they were or what my father had been trying to do that night. I felt so utterly lost. A nine-year-old boy, surrounded by large, burly men who looked very much like they just wanted to kill me and get it over with.
It took me years to figure out why they didn’t.
There were three rules to follow, they told me after several hours on an airplane. One: Never tell anyone about your past. Two: Do whatever you want, but don’t put yourself in the public spotlight. Three: When you graduate high school, join the military. Go get yourself killed for a greater good.
And so it was. That day, Peter Parker was born. And I did my best to put the past behind me.
I was taken to New York City, a place I had honestly thought was imaginary since I had only read about it in my fiction novels. They gave me to a woman who called herself May. She was my Aunt now. I was put into a public school for the first time in my life. I had my own room, my own toys. May treated my nice enough, but I could tell that it was all a show. She had a favor owed to the men, she told me. Her husband, Ben, had gotten on their bad side, and he, his brother, and his brother’s wife had been assassinated as a result. May had only been spared to care for me.
May wished that she hadn’t lived while her family died; I could see it in her eyes. I was a burden on her, too, then. Another person whose life had been ruined by my existence.
I was left to take care of myself. Make my own meals, clean up after myself. May didn’t interact with me more than necessary and I liked that. It was the only thing that hadn’t changed since I’d been taken from the farm, so I clung to it like a life jacket. I made sure to stay out of the way and do as I was told.
I am Peter Parker. I am Peter Parker. That became my daily mantra.
But I wasn’t. I wasn’t Peter Parker and I knew it. I saw it in how awkwardly I dealt with the other kids, how I had such little tolerance for school and sports. The other kids avoided me, and I them. Every time I went to school I was reminded of the children who lived in the town near my farm in Ireland. I wasn’t social. I was scared by big crowds. I kept to myself. I rarely spoke. I didn't know any math and my writing skills were minimal. The city frightened me. Technology frightened me. I was terrified that I was becoming too much of a burden on May, who had begun to start drinking. This wasn’t working.
If I couldn’t be Peter Parker, I’d have to become Peter Parker.
The revelation came to me abruptly one evening, perhaps a month after coming to New York. The person I currently was was not who I was meant to be. He was useless, a burden, hated by the world for making it a worse place. Peter Parker, though…
It came to me in a rush. Peter Parker, the boy who stood up to bullies and protected the underdog. Peter Parker, who kept straight A’s and always knew the answer to the problem the teacher wrote on the board. Peter Parker, slightly awkward but willing to give up his life for others. Peter Parker, the boy who played video games and with legos (that was what normal kids did, right?).
Peter Parker, a good person.
Peter Parker, a boy who didn’t exist.
I needed to make that good person exist.