The Super-Peasants of Gluten, Syphilis
The small village of Gluten is quietly going about its business. It's a lovely Spring morning. The farmers have been tilling the ground for the new planting season, and some may come to town for seed or supplies. The small livery stable may do some business as well, for the two rental horses there are the only ones within miles. The baker may be finishing up his morning baking, or not, depending on how early he got up, and opening his small shop. The barber, butcher, tailor, and blacksmith will also be preparing for the day's activities, and the shopkeeper may already have sold some small item to an early riser. As for the old parson, he's probably slept in. Let's just hope he has his sermon ready in time for the Sunday service in three days.
Pieter Malcolm sighed as he threaded a needle. Lately he had been doing mostly patchwork. It made him enough money to get by, and he couldn't really expect the people of Gluten to be ordering custom-fit waistcoats with matching vests. Pieter picked up the brown shirt and flipped it inside-out, then put his fist in the sleeve to hold it open as he patched it. As he did so, he noticed an even larger tear on the bottom of the shirt, as if someone had caught it on a branch and just kept walking. "I'll need a whip-stitch for that," Pieter thought, and looked at his spool of thread. To be on the safe side, he'd better buy more. A good whip-stitch would take a lot of thread. Pieter set down the shirt, patch, and needle and left his shop, walking down the street toward the general store.
BOOM! Cosmic radiation blast and everyone has superpowers!
One second, everything was normal. The next, there was a piercing bright light. Startled villagers shut their eyes, but before the eyelids fell the light was gone. For that second it felt as if the air was heavy and constricting. Whatever that was, it was over, but most people had a faint ringing in their ears. And some were affected even more.
Pieter gasped and stood. The atmospheric pressure had been heavy and he had bent to a crouch in the street. Now he felt fine. "I must have imagined it," Pieter thought. He shook his head slightly and continued on his way to the store, but stopped short. An old woman was lying on the ground, her face to the road. Pieter ran to her. Upon turning the woman over, the tailor recognised it to be Mrs. Jenkins, the widow mother of a young farmer who lived outside of town.
"Mrs. Jenkins!" Pieter called. There was no answer. She didn't move. He slapped her face lightly, trying to rouse her, then glanced up and about worriedly. "Miss Templeton!" Pieter called to the shopkeeper, not calling the lady by her first name even though he was a year her senior, "Mrs. Jenkins is unconscious!" He jumped to his feet and hollered, "I'm going to get Webster!"
Pieter sprinted to the next building and threw open the door to the little barber shop, seeking the person in the village with the most medical expertise. "Webster," Pieter called, "someone needs help!"