Fiction Fragment Friday
This weeks story was inspired by a dream. Essentially much of the first paragraph was directly in the dream, but there were no details. It was a vivid enough memory that I just started with that scene and let it take me where it would. Integrating a bus into the story came from another dream. I often have extremely vivid dreams and wake up thinking they would be good concepts for fiction. I don’t often capitalize on them. This time I did. Enjoy.
My best friend from High School sat next to my bed in the emergency room with a broken nose. As I looked over him, I realized that time had not been kind. Where my hair was still a bright red his was now mostly gray despite us being the same age. There were wrinkle lines all over his face and he looked tired. He held an icepack against his nose, but I could still see a trickle of blood running down his face under it. The look of annoyance was evident, but I wasn’t sure if it was because of the nose or the hour we had been sitting here in awkward silence waiting to talk to a doctor.
I hate going to the emergency room. I’m sure no one loves the experience, but I am particularly impatient. You check in and then wait to be called. They take you to a room, get your vitals, and then you wait for someone to come talk to you. They run tests and then you wait for results. I glance up at the sign on the wall and see they have an average wait time of four hours to see a doctor. I certainly hope that is not the case for more serious emergencies. The silence has gotten to me, so I finally speak up. “Hell of a day huh?”
“Yep” He nods but does not go on.
“You know you don’t have to wait. I’m fine really. You have more reason to be in here than I do.”
“Not leaving til I get some answers. Haven’t seen you in over twenty years. You step on my bus and all hell breaks loose in a matter of minutes. I find you passed out with blood running from your eyes and ears. That ain’t normal.”
He isn’t wrong. Minutes after I got onto the bus that morning someone fired a damned rocket launcher at it. Thank god I saw it coming, but still it took all my telekinetic strength to shield the bus and the force of it still tipped us over. The bus was laying diagonally propped up against the cars it fell onto when the hit squad opened the back door and pointed a flame thrower in. I didn’t have enough strength to make another shield and even if I did my shields don’t hold back heat. Instead, I telekinetically pulled the fuel line and sprayed the man with his own gasoline. He lit up like a Christmas tree. I can still hear the screaming and smell the scent of burning flesh. It sends a shiver down my spine that does not go unnoticed.
“Yeah, I’ll be fine. I was just thinking about that guy with the malfunctioning flamethrower. I know he was trying to kill us, but still he was a person and that was pretty gruesome.”
“Yeah, that was messed up. Pretty sure he was just trying to kill you though.”
“Even if that’s true and I’m not saying it is. Flame throwers aren’t exactly precision weapons. Not like the fire would have safely passed by all the other passengers.”
“True enough. There’s a lot of things you ain’t sayin though. The guy that came through the front window called you by name.”
A man armed with the biggest pistol I have ever seen in person had climbed through the busted out front window and yelled for me by name to give up. That was how Bobby Joe recognized me after all these years. When he tried to grab the man from behind, he got an elbow to the nose for his trouble. I was exhausted, but there was no way I was going to be captured and taken to some lab to be cut up. They wanted to see how my powers worked I would show them. I held my hands up in a placating gesture at first, then I thrust my right hand forward and with it entered the mercenary’s mind.
Every mind is unique and has its own defenses. A normal person typically has defenses I can tear through without any trouble. Someone with strong will might be exceedingly difficult, but I can still generally brute force my way in. This man had training. His defenses presented themselves as walls with mounted guns topped with barbed wire. It was a metaphor, but the way defenses look can tell you a lot about the person. This man believed in power through structure and defeating the enemy with overwhelming firepower. I saw the value in that, but I can also think more subtly. I condensed my mental image as small as possible too tiny for the guns to target. Then as I approached the wall, I looked for cracks. There are always cracks. Finding one I climbed in. I got mental images of this man’s family back home. They didn’t know what he did for a living, and he was terrified that he would lose them if they found out.
I took his fear and used it to create a scene. He was living out his biggest fear in his mind. His wife calling him a monster. His kids crying and running from him. His own pet dog growling trying to defend his family from him. The crack grew like it was filled with water expanding as it froze. The tiny crack soon burst, and the wall had a huge hole in it. Allowing myself to expand to my normal mental presence I stroll through the breach and into my victim’s mind. In his mind it felt like a half hour of mental combat. In the outside world I thrust my hand up and he almost instantly collapsed to the ground. I could hear the sirens coming in the distance and knew it was time to move. Everything was spinning though. I was so nauseous I threw up there in the bus. I had pushed myself too far and everything went dark as I lost consciousness.
“Knowing is dangerous,” I say to him. It is true. Everyone I have shared my secret with has been hurt in one way or another. Whoever is hunting me has resources and not just guns. In this day and age hackers are just as powerful at destroying a life as armed soldiers. They could make you disappear, empty bank accounts, and create evidence of you performing the most heinous crimes. Those were the people that they didn’t just outright kill. I could not let another friend even one I hadn’t seen since high school get involved.
“I already know somethin. I saw what you did.”
“No, you didn’t.” I thrust out my hand and went inside Bobby Joe’s mind. I saw his life over the past twenty years. The ups and the downs. Three children, two marriages, one divorce. Losses, stressors, and joys. There is no better way to know a person than to see inside their mind. There was a stubborn determination to him, and I was still very weak. He had no major defenses though and at this I had become a precise instrument. I left his mind knowing he would be dazed for a few minutes as things came into focus. “Goodbye old friend,” I said as I got up and slipped out the door. I slipped the hospital band off and slid it into my pocket before entering the waiting room. As I walked out of the hospital, I had a moment of regret. It would be nice to have a friend again. Maybe someday. Maybe.