The First Day
It began with a dream.
I had been reading Edwin A. Abbott's "Flatland" before bed. Rereading it, I first encountered it years ago. The inhabitants of Flatland are unable to see outside their two-dimensional world; the Sphere is able to appear and disappear at will by moving in and out of the Flatland plane, stupefying its denizens with his paranormal ability.
My mind went over and over it. I imagined moving away from the world, moving out and away from the people around me. Back and forth, sliding in and out of reality, helplessly tossed by some unseen current.
When I awoke up...something was different. After all this time I still don't know how to describe it. Like a sound getting louder until you finally hear it? But it wasn't just something I passively listened to, it was an awareness of possibility, of action.
I didn't do anything too strange that day. It was a Saturday, in fact. I didn't have any plans, so I ate breakfast and watched a bit of television. Eventually I went to get a few things at the bodega, the store on the corner.
I don't even remember what I was going to buy--Dinner, a snack, or was it just toilet paper? The dream still had hold of me, like my mind was stuck halfway into another world. The sidewalk and the store just didn't seem real to me. I was so preoccupied that I almost walked right into the guy with the gun.
Yes, cliché as it was, there was a guy with a stocking mask pointing a brutal-looking gun at the cashier. I was scared, of course; An intense fear that froze me in place. Deep inside, deep in the instinctive lizard part of my brain, I felt I had to do something.
And so I pulled back.
Long moments went by. The cashier started loading money into a bag. The gunman continued yelling threats.
I realized that they didn't know I was there. I looked down at myself; I wasn't invisible by any means, but I was shadowy. I have never truly figured it out, and now is not the time or place for theories. All I really understand is what it does to people.
The world still felt unreal, but now it was because I was aware of something else besides. Some other place that I had half-entered. I walked slowly around the gunman, watching closely. He didn't register my presence, and the cashier didn't either. They yelled something; to me it sounded like a whisper.
I felt like I was holding onto something tenuous; if I pulled too hard, it would break. If I panicked, I would lose my grip. I stayed calm, focused. I was fascinated. But I also felt something else--I felt a building anger. This wasn't much of a store, it was part of a huge chain that sent all its profits to some executive in an office building. But still--What gave this idiot the right to just take fairly earned money--his gun? How could he threaten this poor schmuck of a cashier? How dare he?
I reached out, grabbed the arm holding the gun and pulled it down.
Reality snapped back into focus. Both the gunman and the cashier were shocked by my "sudden appearance". Whatever I had done, it stopped in that instant--but it was just enough to change the course of events.
The course of events of that day...and perhaps every day to come.
To make a long story short, the cashier and I got the guy's gun away from him. Then we held him there until some cops showed up. The bastard shot up the floor and a display rack of corn chisp, but no one was hurt. The police and the cashier all shook my hand and told me I was a hero, a hero for taking down this moron and his unlicensed submachine gun.
That always makes me laugh. Or at least, chuckle..."hero".
The Next Days
I've always felt set apart from the world. Like, I didn't have the same rights or privileges as everyone else. "Sure, people are protected from illegal search and seizure, but not YOU." In my mind, it's a given that I wouldn't be afforded the same respect or attention that others get. I'm not talking about the cops--not just the cops, at least. I count you in this group as well, reader, whoever you might be.
Fortunately, in our modern world, there are conveniences that often let us bypass people who might not want to help us--bank tellers, ticket vendors, cashiers...
If I don't have the rights, perhaps I don't have responsibilities either. Someone like me--Do you really want me to sign your petition, donate to your cause, be counted as a member of your exclusive organization? What would they say if they saw me with you, what would they whisper?
I learned to control it. I learned to pull back whenever I wished, and no one saw me, no one cared. I took the change from a homeless man's cup, just to see if I could. But, really, that's a pretty awful thing to do; I dropped in some dollar bills in thanks for the insight he'd given me.
I wandered into people's homes, I looked at their furnishings. I didn't really want to spy on them; the thought embarrasses me, to be honest.
Of course, I did hang out at a porno shoot once. There was a certain voyeuristic enjoyment in that, even though I was just standing around with the lighting guys.
Incidentally, that industry is really screwed up. But anyway...
Eventually I realized that the modern world is a double-edged sword. The cashier wouldn't see me shoplift--but the security camera would, and the magnetic theft tags would sound the alarm. But exercise brought my ability even further. I can pull back even further, past the sensors and the locks, even the walls. Once, as a test, I carried a big-screen plasma TV right out of a big store.
Then I brought it around to the back and put it down in the employees' break room, just to see who would get blamed.
The Wrong Place at the Right Time, Or Vice Versa
I've met many who want to be heroes, for many reasons. I believe many wish for glory, attention--a motivation completely alien to me. I do understand those who wish for justice. I believe that every crime committed and not punished--every unrevenged hurt is a tear in the fabric of society, a dent in the shield of law, a tiny spot of tarnish in the dream of a better world. Like an abscess, it pulses with pain and poisons everything around it.
And there are those who would explain it even more dramatically than I. I was at a convention hall, attending an exhibition on computer technology. (I'll leave it up to you to guess if I had a ticket.) As I wandered a back hall, I noticed a woman slipping into one of the less-used corridors.
One of the skills I've learned is observation. This woman was stepping quickly, but quietly. She had something hidden in her jacket. How could I not follow?
Eventually we wound up on a gallery overlooking an exhibition hall. There was a man giving a computerized slideshow presentation to an audience of zombies. (No, wait, they were just middle management.) From where we were, it would have been well-nigh impossible to get a head or torso shot, especially with the small-caliber pistol in her shaking hands.
I had no idea if what I was about to attempt was even possible, but I needed to try. I stayed away from the physical plane...but, at the same time, I spoke.
She jumped and squeezed the trigger. Then she realized she'd left the safety on.
"Why?" I said, pushing all my breath into it.
"He deserves it!" she hissed.
"Why does he deserve it?" Keeping myself back while speaking required splitting my attention into two streams. It was like humming a tune while doing a crossword puzzle. But I could do it.
"He stole from all the smaller companies," she whispered. "He blackmailed and bullied them, sued them, bought them out, stole their code...he cut corners on the new building and took payments from the contractors, he laundered money from organized crime so they could fund their drugs and prostitution! He's ruined so many lives!"
It was turning out to be a fascinating day. "How do you know?"
Her eyes were wide, crazed, filled with white. "I heard it in his thoughts!"
Of course, I was torn. I'm always ready to believe the worst of a corportion, and he wouldn't be the first to go so low. And obviously I was no stranger to extra-normal phenomena. But to hear such an elaborate accusation based on the evidence of telepathy? To hear such vile, scandalous charges leveled against a fine, upstanding executive of SweepGlide Software?
"This will not help," I breathed. "You will tear a pointless hole in society...and the truth will be lost in the confusion."
Yes, you might recall SweepGlide Software, with its top executive recently charged with so many indecorous activities. The investigation traced connections to an entire passel of other executives, and it exposed all sorts of devious wrongdoing. And it couldn't have taken place without all those files from the main SweepGlide server...as if someone had gained access to the computer system--physical access--and explored it for days to map out where the incriminating data was and how to keep panicking sysadmins from deleting it too quickly.
Of course, if someone had done something like that, they would most definitely not have placed any illegal pornography on the guy's computer. That was all HIS doing.
There was a time, a moment when the city was threatened by a great menace. An invader that darkened the skies and brought terror to the streets, that coaxed all the nascent heroes from hiding to join into a single fighting force.
I'm sure you remember.
No one knew about me. Except her, and while we'd spoken once or twice, she didn't know much. And nobody knew about her, either.
I walked right into the meeting place. I had begun affecting black clothing...Of course, I wasn't the only one. It was amazing, or perhaps amusing to see the contrast. From business suits to casual clothes, from homeless to gaudy Mardi Gras and everything in between. Everyone had their own idea of what a hero was.
I walked in to the inner sanctum. I don't know if anyone saw me; I believe certain individuals are able to. It's not something I want to test too closely. Regardless, I wasn't stopped.
The main guy was there, the big boy in blue. I must admit to being just a bit awestruck. He had the opposite of what I have; people always noticed him. Not a "power", of course; just the respect people give him. That he's earned.
The moment I relaxed, he turned around. "How did you sneak up on me?"
"I don't know."
"You 'just do it', huh?"
He folded his arms. "Well, why are you here?"
Until that moment, I hadn't really thought about that question. The answer surprised me. "I want to help."
I told him what I could do. Most of it, anyway. And I learned that he understood something important, something I also discovered long ago.
He knew that power applied in the right place is more effective than random force. He understood that what I could do could be very important. And, while I do not wish to reveal everything I have done, I can say that...it was.
My meeting with him changed me...sort of. In an ideal world, I could work with the "heroes" to advance the cause of justice. But would they react to me as the rest of the world does?
Well, some haven't. I even mentioned him to her; I don't know if she ever went to meet him. I bet that might even be dangerous--she can certainly be dangerous to people. She says she can't "hear" me, and I suspect that's correct...but I don't know for sure.
I don't pretend to have all the answers; I don't always know what's right or wrong. But usually it's not too hard to figure out. There's a voice that will tell you, the voice that comes from growing up and learning from the people around you. Listen to the little voice in your head.
Listen to the voice that whispers...
John Evans 2009
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