The rest of the weekend passed in automatic pilot mode. I was pretty much recovered from the depressive phase – or maybe I was starting to get used to it.
I decided I needed a friend. Not Beacon. So on Tuesday, I called Carson Levitt. Carson is forty-eight, and he’s an assistant prof at UT – Austin. He teaches in the McCombs Business school. Before that, he was an instructor at UT in Dallas and he helped a good deal in finishing my degree when I was foundering a bit after my parents died. Beyond being a prof who’s actually done some real-world experience, he’s a renaissance man. Philosophy, science, art – you name it.
I got a hold of him at 4PM from the office. The phone in his office rang twice, and he answered gruffly. “This better not be about your goddamn grades.”
“Fuck my grades.”
“Donovan? What the hell, man? Why are you bothering us busy academics? I’ve got young minds to corrupt.”
I hesitated. How do you tell one of the sanest people you’ve ever known that an alien intelligence has taken up space in your brain and is gifting you with superpowers? Once in a while.
“I was wondering if you’re busy this weekend.”
“Not terribly. What’s going on?”
“I – uh - thought we might get together, get some good food, talk.”
“Hmmm. Old friend, there’s something on your mind.”
No kidding. “Yeah, but I’m not sure just how to approach it yet. I could really use that computer you keep up in your skull.”
“Or opportunity. But … mostly trouble.”
“You want me to come up?”
I thought for a minute. What I had in mind was a demonstration. That would best be handled where I had a measure of privacy.
“Yeah, that would be great. Hey, I’ll get some brisket and beans. We’ll eat ourselves into a coma.”
“Okay. I’ll leave early Friday afternoon. I should get into your palatial estate about seven.”
I felt a sudden immense relief. This was my friend, doing what friends do best. “Thank you, Carson. I owe you.”
“You’ve got me really curious, Don. It’s not like you to get all mysterious on me.”
“These are mysterious times, Car. I promise, all shall be revealed.”
He hesitated a bit. He knew I was out of character. “I’m looking forward to it. See you Friday, my friend.”
I pressed the hang-up button. Despite the fact that my downstairs neighbor had seen me exhibit something unusual, I still harbored a fear that I’ve been the victim of some kind of delusion. Yes, I still had those damned rifles, but since I had no witnesses to that encounter (except Beacon, and I’d have to say that he’s an unreliable witness in some respects), there was still a possibility that I would need to seek out, as they say, professional help.
Later on that day, I had lunch with Michelle again. She seemed to be in a better mood. I was too. My conversation with Carson had helped a good deal. I didn’t feel that the burden of my problems was solely my own.
So I was feeling bit lonely. Michelle was a good friend. I was thinking that if there was a chance there could be something more substantial, I owed it myself to find out. Over sandwiches at a nearby diner, I ventured a question.
“So how are things?”
She looked at me with a lopsided grin. “God, Don, you’re really smooth today.”
I might have blushed. “Yeah, I’ve never been good at this kind of thing. Sorry.”
“What, do you want to date me or something?”
I decided I could dish it out too. “Maybe.”
That brought her up short. She took a long sip of water before continuing. “Well, I’d have to think about that. Part of it is that I don’t want to jump into something new just because something old went sour. And part of it is that whole work-relationship thing.”
“Yep. I’ve never been involved with someone I work with before.”
She tilted her head and said, “So you know about my love life and its recent conclusion. What about you? Who was that woman you were seeing a few months back?”
“Karen? She was okay, but we didn’t seem to have any real chemistry. Besides, we were buried in work at that time. I kinda let dating fall by the wayside.”
“Tell me about it. Logan sort of took my extended hours as a license to look around. After three years of living together, he couldn’t handle me having to devote time to work projects.”
I hesitated. I didn’t want to open a wound. “So, he …”
She made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “I don’t know if he actually was technically unfaithful. I just had a feeling. I confronted him and he said that he’d “been out for drinks” with an old friend. And then he flat out said that he didn’t think it was going to work out between us. We went back and forth. Finally, I asked him what he wanted. He couldn’t look at me, and he finally mumbled something about moving out.”
“Jesus, Michelle, I’m sorry.”
She made a typical Michelle gesture, an exasperated combing up her hair on either side of her face with her hands. I had seen her do that a hundred times during the project. “Yeah, so am I. So was he. We’re all so fucking sorry.”
I didn’t know what to say. We left the diner in silence. Obviously, this was not the time to see about establishing any relationship beyond our existing friendship.
The rest of the week went by in the usual stream of whim-critical requests and minor system emergencies. I didn’t get a chance to talk with Michelle again until Friday around four. I was closing my office when she came by.
“Hi, Don. Got any plans?”
I hoisted my laptop back onto my shoulders. “I’m meeting my friend Carson in a bit at the cabin. We’re going to catch up on stuff, slow-cook a brisket.”
She smiled. “Sounds good – wish I could join you.”
I grinned and said, “The door is always open.”
She said, “I think I may have to take you up on that sometime. Have a good weekend, Don.”
For about five seconds I considered asking her to join Carson and me at the cabin. But then, if things went as planned, I could see her saying to my colleagues at work, “Hey, our purchasing manager can float in the air and make things move with his mind.” Or worse, “Hey, out purchasing manager thinks he can fly and move things with his mind.” Either one seemed like a good way to lose a job.
So I said, “Thanks, Michelle. You have a good weekend as well.”
Friday afternoon traffic was a bit heavy, but I managed to stop for provisions. My favorite meat market had a nice ten-pound brisket. I had other groceries already at the cabin. One more brief stop for a twelve-pack of Shiner, and I headed for the cabin.
I got to the cabin about 6:30 and unloaded, and started the AC. We were in the first week of August. Living in Texas gets you acclimated somewhat to the heat, but August can try the patience of even the hardiest native. I relaxed with a beer.
So far, I had had indications of when the powers would become useable. I would start to feel an anticipatory buzz, like when you’re getting ready to go on a date with someone you like, or when you’re at a show you’ve really been anticipating. I was attributing this to the changes in brain chemistry as a result of those long-ago modifications.
So my plan was to spend time with Carson and when I felt the time was right, do a classic redneck quote: “Hey, hold my beer and watch this!” And then I would either astound him by floating two feet off the ground or give him reason to doubt my sanity.
The unknown part of the plan was how Beacon would react – presuming he’s real. Presuming any of this was real.
I heard a car drive up. I came outside to the porch just as Carson opened to the door of his beat-up pickup truck. He carried a small bag with him. Carson is tall, about six-four, lean as a rail. His once dark hair had gone gray in the last few years, but he still looked fit. He’s one of those insufferable people who hardly exercises but still manages to look like he’s spent hours in a gym. He came up the wooden steps wearing blue jeans and an outrageous Hawaiian shirt.
He grabbed my hand and gave me a one-armed hug. “Hey, there, Don. Good to see you.”
I smiled. “And good to see you. It’s been too damned long. Come on in and have a brew.”
I opened a couple of Shiners and handed one to him. He took a long pull and sat down on the easy chair, swung his long legs up on the footrest. I took my usual position on the old leather sofa, feet resting on the oak coffee table.
I said, “I should have seen you coming a mile a way in that shirt, Carson. God, that thing would make a peacock cry.”
“I hope so. I’m trying to single-handedly destroy the rep of college profs as conservative, staid fellows.”
“Hell, I figure you got that taken care of ten years ago when you gave a lecture on marketing philosophy while wearing a kilt and a tuxedo tee shirt.”
I took a sip of my beer. “So how’s Renee?” Renee Tyler was the last woman I remember him being involved with.
“Gone. She decided I made a better friend than a mate.”
“Sorry to hear it.”
He shook his head. “It wasn’t traumatic. I think we both went into things hoping for more than there was available. Or possible. I’m forty-eight now, and I’m not really made for permanence. And Renee wanted a bit more structure. But what’s going on with you? You have me curious, my friend. Care to go into what’s troubling you? Women? Work?”
I wasn’t quite sure how to approach this. I temporized. “Carson, I’m going to need to get to this in my own way. I do promise before the weekend is out, I’ll be spilling my guts about this.”
He looked at me quizzically. “Wow. This is a first. Donovan, I’ve never really known you to be coy about things, so my guess this is something traumatic. Or, failing that, something so out of the ordinary that you’re not quite sure yet how to even attack it.”
I smiled. “Yeah, that would be fairly accurate.” I paused. “In the meantime, let me ask you something. I recall you being fairly knowledgeable about astronomical matters. You still keep up with that?”
He nodded. “As much as I can. I’m no pro, but I do talk regularly with those who are at the school.”
“What the current view on the Fermi Paradox?”
“That’s interesting. Does this have something to do with what you wanted to talk to me about?”
I grinned wryly. “Could be.”
“All right, I’ll play. You know that we’ve been discovering exo-planets all over the place, right?”
“Yeah. Every other science piece I see on the web, practically.”
“Well, some of what they’re seeing makes astronomers think life is far more likely. Several of the discoveries have been terrestrial-type planets orbiting in or near the Goldilocks zone.”
“I’ve heard that, too.”
He took a sip of his beer. “If anything, this has made the Fermi Paradox even more puzzling. Interstellar distances are huge, of course, but if a civilization out there had the will and drive, then over the course of a few million years, they could have reached most of the galaxy, or at least most of the interesting real estate.”
“Presuming a civilization would last a few million years.”
“That’s the hickey, of course. It’s just not just intelligent life you need to get a spreading civilization. You need intelligent, technological, curious, and expansive life. There’s no guarantee that all of those attributes will be present if intelligence exists. You could posit intelligent shrubs who make brilliant poetry out of leaf patterns, but I doubt they’ll be on the bridge of a starship.”
I said, “Well, not get good ratings anyway. What’s this about a ‘great filter’?”
He looked thoughtful. “That’s being postulated as the main reason for the paradox. The great filter is actually several filters. Whether the planet develops life, or it develops multi-cellular, or after that, goes on develop sentience, civilization, etc. And if that civilization survives its technological development, doesn’t blow itself to hell.”
“Okay, so what you think?”
He frowned. “I’m not sure. What we lack are facts. We have one overwhelming one, though – we haven’t been contacted. Whether that’s due to a great filter or if we’re just in a bad galactic neighborhood or in a quarantine zone, we simply have no way of knowing. Personally, I think intelligence is quite rare. After all, it took over three billion years to get to it on this planet, one that seems tailor-made for it.”
I went to get another couple of beers. I handed one to him. I asked, “What about computers?”
“You mean if artificial intelligences exploring around? The Borg? That’s a possibility. But what’s the motive? Why would a machine civilization spread?”
“To prevent other’s from spreading?”
He looked dubious. “I suppose it’s possible. Anyway, remember my law about predictions?”
“How can I forget? You drummed it into me in that securities class. ‘The set of things that will happen contains fewer elements than the set of things that can happen.’ But that doesn’t stop speculation from being fun. Or necessary.”
He chuckled. “True. Anyway, the whole Fermi paradox thing is so open-ended, it’s not going to be settled for a long while. Or it could be settled next week.”
Or tomorrow, I thought.
“But enough about hypothetical aliens. How’s work?”
Another sip of beer. “Oh, it’s not too bad. We’re still wrestling a bit after the last update to the requisition system. A fair amount of hand-holding with suppliers, and too many you’re-killing-us complaints from AP. We’re working it through.”
“You’ve been there three years now, right?”
“Yeah. The last two years as purchasing manager. Long hours sometimes, but manageable.”
He looked at me thoughtfully. “Going to make a career of it?”
I was brought up short. Finally, I said, “Well, I’m thirty-two, Carson. I hadn’t much thought of it in terms of a career. The money’s been good. It holds my interest, I guess. I like the people I work with.”
“Something to think about – the price of oil has been high for a few years, but I have the feeling that’s not going to last too much longer.”
“I’ve heard rumblings about that. But hell, I’m good at what I do. Even if there’s a decline, it won’t last. I think I’m safe.”
He shook his head. “Look, back in the 80’s when you were still a zygote, the oil patch hit a downturn that took a couple of hundred thousand jobs with it. And before that, they were just as sure as you are now that they’re jobs were safe. Oil is a commodity, and commodities have histories of boom/bust cycles. Corn, wheat, gold, sugar, petroleum – you name it, it’s always been a roller coaster. Just keep in mind that the job that you think is guaranteed isn’t. All jobs are temporary jobs.”
“Jesus, you’re really worried about me. I’m touched, Carson.”
He showed me his middle finger. “Okay, go ahead and think you’re immortal. That’s what I did in my thirties. Just keep your options open.
I laughed. “Okay, will do. Anyway, if we’re going to have that brisket I promised, we need to get things ready. You want to cut and rub the meat while I prepare the smoker for tomorrow?”
“Work, work, work. I put in a hard week teaching the unwashed youth in Austin something about business, and now I have to be your kitchen wench.” He stood up and went to the refrigerator.
“Oh, bullshit. It’s still summer, so you’ve been doing one little MBA thing. Meantime, I’ve been in the corporate world slaving to get petroleum products to you Austin weenies.”
Laughing, he pulled out the meat and unwrapped, grabbed a trimming knife from the kitchen drawer. I went outside to clean and prep the slow cooker. I’d fire it up early in the morning, get a nice slow heat going, and sometime tomorrow afternoon, we’d have fork-tender brisket. While I worked with the grill brush, I contemplated my actions if I could indeed convince Carson of the changes that had happened to me.
And part of me wondered if, in my desire to share this thing with a friend, I had somehow placed him in danger. The energy entities that took their shots at me might become indiscriminate in their targeting. I started feeling like a low-life – someone involved in a crime who, out of selfishness, involves his best friend. I don’t know that the obligations of friendship require that amount of commitment.
I looked at the setting sun for a moment, hitting the clouds with red streaks. It was still quite warm and sweat beaded on my forehead. I finished with the grill and stocked it with charcoal and wood chips.
I was leaning towards not saying a word about my “gift”. If I felt the abilities come in, I’d do my best to ignore it. I was operating under an unproven assumption – that if I didn’t exercise them, I wouldn’t get that mind-fucking low that required four Vicodin to be tolerable. So, Trask – fake it till you make it, I guess. Make up some bullshit about the job or other nonsense, and send Carson home Sunday feeling like he helped me over some minor personal drama. And if Beacon decided to initiate conversation, do my best to ignore it. If that was possible.
Carson came out on the porch with a beer in hand, and leaned against a porch rail. He glanced at the sunset, smiled and said, “You about through with that thing?”
I looked up. “Yeah, we’ll be good to go in the morning.”
“Great. What’s on the menu for tonight?”
“I’ve got some chicken breasts thawing in the fridge and some big Idaho bakers we can microwave. Mixed veggies in the freezer.”
“That’ll do. Knowing your love for old sci-fi, I brought my copies of The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet. Between Gort and Robbie, it’s robot night.”
“Klaatu Barada Nicto,” I intoned.
I prepped the breasts for oven frying and set the oven to pre-heat. Ten minutes later they were in the oven. In another fifteen minutes, I could nuke the potatoes and the veggies right after that.
I slipped the first DVD into the player. The sleek white flying saucer hovered over the DC Mall and grounded. Klaatu came out, got shot and Gort appeared to the Bernard Hermann music and demonstrated his disintegrating eye beams.
We watched the movies with fondness, despite riffing on the wooden dialogue and dated effects. I’ve always been a big fan of the old science fiction movies, and Carson was even more so. He had Blu-rays and DVDs and even some old 16mm movies that he’s played on a creaking Bell & Howell projector from time to time.
And now it seemed like my life was going to part of a science-fiction movie in real-life. Do I have monsters inside me, I wondered? From the Id?
It’s to laugh.
We ate the chicken, drank beer and watched the movies. We did the conversational bullshit that we had long practice at, and around midnight, Carson said, “Well, fella, you made me drive hundreds of miles to get here, and this old boy is tired. I’m gonna turn in.”
“Wuss. Why, I remember you used to go strong to four in the morning in Austin.”
He stood up, yawned. “Well, that’s because I was riding herd on a group of B-school students who thought that beer and tacos equaled a healthy diet. I’ve matured since then. Good night, Donovan.”
I dropped the dishes in the dishwasher, then wandered outside. A first quarter moon hung low in the southwest. My folks had bought this place back when I six years old. To me, it was always the place I thought of as home, even though we spent most of our time in suburban Dallas. I explored the woods, flew model airplanes, took walks with Mom and Dad, watched meteor showers, shot off fireworks, and had my first tremulous explorations with girls here.
I leaned against a porch pillar. Memory is funny. When you’re young, your days are crowded with new things, new experiences. That’s when all the firsts happen. As you get older, you by necessity encounter fewer and fewer firsts. My life had been starting to be routine. Along that course the years happen faster and faster because there’s nothing much to distinguish them.
After a long night of beer and bullshit years ago, Carson had said to me once, “Do something new once a month – even once a week if you can find the time – because that way you stay young.”
Okay, Carson, tomorrow you might see something new.
I looked at the sky one last time and caught a bright meteor cleaving the sky through Cygnus. Good sign, I thought. I made a silent wish that I had the wisdom to do what was right. I came back into the cabin and thankfully was asleep within minutes of my head hitting the pillow.
My phone buzzed the next morning. I groaned and rolled out of bed, grabbed my ratty old robe and stuck my feet in a pair of flip-flops. I went outside and fired up the smoker, then back inside to make coffee. It was seven AM. I heard Carson snoring in the guest room.
I finished prepping the brisket with a dry rub and took it outside. I horsed it in into the smoker and watched the temp go to 225. Perfect. I closed it up and went back inside.
I grabbed a mug of coffee, dosing it with a little milk. I went back to the porch and sat down on the ratty old wooden chair, sipped my coffee, and admired the morning. In a couple of hours it would be getting hot, but now it was just right. We were still a couple of months away from our first cool front. I loved it when the first breath of fall would come in. Autumn was always my favorite season.
I heard a groan from inside, and then some noises as Carson roused himself from the depths of slumber. He made a trip to the bathroom and then made coffee-getting noises from the kitchen. He stumbled out onto the porch, carrying a mug, and blinking in the sunlight.
“Jesus Christ, Donovan. I knew you had a wide range of perversions, but I never thought that getting up at the crack of dawn and sitting in the sunlight was one of them. I thought I taught you better than that.”
I laughed as he sat down in the other chair. He sipped at his black coffee and tried to come into focus. I said, “I checked, Carson. Neither one of us are actual vampires, so it won’t kill us to see the morning sun once in a while. Besides, I heard it builds character.”
“I’ve got megatons of character. Character frequently oozes out of me when I’m walking.”
“Oh, perfessor, that’s gross.”
He took another sip of coffee and ran his fingers through his short graying hair. “What’s on the agenda for today.”
Good question, Carson. So far, the abilities had manifested about once a week, conveniently on a Saturday. I had no idea if this was going to be a regular thing. I remember that I started feeling really good when the abilities came on. I tried to examine my mood.
Hmm. Not really feeling it. I was beginning to think that this whole superpower gift should be returned.
I said, “I thought we might run into town and get some breakfast. Jax still does a pretty good omelet.”
“Okay. Let me suck down this caffeine and shower.” He got up and went back inside. Shortly I heard the shower running.
That’s when Beacon decided to show up. The voice popped into my head. “Donovan.”
I jerked my hand up in surprise. Coffee splashed out of my cup and onto the table. “Jesus, Beacon!”
There seemed to be the ghost of a laugh in his reply. “No. Just me. So you want to reveal everything to your friend? Are you sure that’s wise?”
I looked inside the cabin door. In a few minutes, Carson would be coming out. Without speaking, I said, “Do I have to talk for you to hear me?”
“No, your thoughts are sufficient.”
I thought, “Okay. Does this mean the countdown on my abilities has started?”
“No. That starts when you first use them. Until you move your first object, or fly, you’re okay.”
“Good to know.”
He hesitated. Then, “Donovan, I understand why you feel the need to share the knowledge of your unique fortune with someone.”
I might have spit a bit of coffee out of my mouth. “Fortune? Put a ‘mis’ in front of that if you want me to believe you.” I was getting used to saying things in my head. If Beacon talked to me while I was out eating breakfast with Carson, I didn’t want to just sound off. People would notice.
“Actually, Donovan, yes, fortune is the correct term. While it may not seem like it at times, I think you will find that these powers will be able to make you find resources in yourself that you never knew existed. Despite the pain that accompanies their use, you will be performing important tasks.”
I heard the shower shut off. “Beacon, I get the feeling you don’t want me to talk about this.”
Beacon: “Donovan, if you feel the need, I’m going to have to trust you. You do realize that if you reveal too much, you run the risk of being subject to untoward actions by your fellow humans.”
“You mean they’ll lock me up somewhere, or try to turn me into a weapon.”
“Or worse. We’ve dealt with this before.”
“I keep forgetting that. That bothers me.”
“Donovan, do you know what the most dangerous thing about being a superhero is?”
Oh, boy. “What?”
“Being a human being.”
I heard footsteps inside the cabin. “We’ll take this up later. I’m going to tell him everything.”
“Very well.” The voice inside my head went silent.
Carson came out dressed in old cords and a polo shirt, bare feet in old sandals. He had made a pass with a comb through his hair, but it still looked a bit in disarray. He looked at me and said, “I’m hungry.”
I stood up. “So let’s go get some breakfast.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Jax is a diner just inside Breckinridge. We got there about nine AM. Jo, a woman of indeterminate age, has run it for thirty years. We sat down at a booth and she brought us coffee and water.
“Hey, Don – how are you?”
I smiled. “I’m fine, Jo. How’s Bill?” Bill is her husband.
“He’s busted his leg last month, working on the roof, but the doc says he’ll be okay in about six weeks.” She looked at Carson. “Hey, perfessor – haven’t seen you here in a while.”
Carson said, “Hi, Jo. Sorry to hear about Bill.”
She said, “Could have been worse. Could have busted his damfool neck.” She gave me a crooked smile, and dropped the menus on our table. “Sue will come by, get your order.”
We had a moment of quiet. There were half a dozen others in the restaurant, paying attention to their eggs and coffee, murmuring about the weather and sorghum crops and family. I’ve always loved coming here. My folks would take me here during summer weekends. I recall ordering my first cup of coffee at the age of seven. They had watched indulgently as I doctored it up with four teaspoons of sugar and a generous helping of cream. Ever since I’ve been a caffeine junkie, though I have moderated the sugar a bit.
Sue, a sandy-haired woman in her early twenties, came by, order pad at the ready. “Hey, Don – hey, Carson – it’s been a little while.”
Carson smiled and said, “Too long. Good to see you, Sue.”
“Whatcha want today, hon?”
Carson thought for a moment, then said, “How about three pancakes, some really crispy bacon, and a couple of scrambled eggs?”
“Sure thing.” She looked at me. “Same thing as always, Donovan?”
“I’m consistent. It’s one of my charms.”
“You keep telling yourself that, sweetie. Okay, four eggs over easy, and a ton of hash browns.” She stuck her tongue out at me, and turned away.
Carson looked at me disapprovingly. “Son, that kind of thing will lead to an early grave.”
I said, “Hasn’t yet.”
Carson regarded me over the vapors rising from his cup. It seemed there was an unasked question in his expression.
I waited him out.
He took a breath and said, “Don, I keep getting the feeling you have something really important on your mind, and you’re just trying to work up a way to tell me. It’s annoying.”
“Kind of. I know that you’re not the type to let it all spill, but I’m hoping for a hint.”
Was that a mild buzz in the back of my brain? Beacon trying to caution me?
I said, “Look, I know you think I’m being cagey, but let’s hit that when we get back to the cabin. No hints, no runs, no errors.” I smiled a bit.
He smiled too. “Fair enough, Don.”
Presently the food came, and refills for our coffee. We came at just the right time – the diner started filling up rapidly. The next ten minutes were occupied by satisfying our hunger, punctuated by expressions of satisfaction. I love a good breakfast.
We talked of random things while our empty plates were pushed aside and we worked on our third cup of coffee. I asked him if was looking forward to the fall semester at UT.
“Good question. Don, I’ve been an associate prof there for a few years now. You know me – I love the academic life, I get a kick out of teaching. But it’s getting harder and harder to land tenure. And I think I’ve pissed off a few of the powers-that-be. Or want-to-be. To tell the truth, I’ve given some thought to hanging it up.”
This surprised me – and saddened me a bit. I had loved the time that Carson and I had spent together, and some of the long conversations we had had over the years are some of my most treasured memories. The university milieu was where I’ve always imagined he would be.
I said, “Really? What – what do you think you would do?”
He paused for a second. “I honestly don’t know. I’m too young to retire, even if I did have the means. And, no offense, the corporate world leaves me cold.”
“Yeah, I get that. Oddly enough, when I’m feeling disenchanted with the office, I start thinking about teaching, or going for my business MA. I don’t know.”
I paused for a minute and picked up the check.
Carson said, “Hey, my treat – you’re providing bed and board.”
I stood up, said, “Yeah, but you’re thinking of becoming unemployed. You need every penny, dude.”
“Well, at least let me get the tip.” He threw a five on the table.
We left the diner, waving at Sue and Jo. It was starting to get warm. It promised to be a hot day. I could see some buildup going on in the cumulus – we were liable to get some scattered thunderstorms later this afternoon. We took the drive in silence for a couple of miles as I pondered just how to go about my Superman routine.
We pulled into the road to the cabin, pulled into the driveway under the oak tree and got out. Carson started to head up the steps into the cabin, and I hung back by my car. He turned around and looked at me.
“What, did you forget something?” He asked.
“Carson, the next few minutes will either scare the hell of you. Or me, if I’m wrong.” For in all this time, I still had not one concrete witness who could swear to what I thought I could do. What I was sure happened. Well, my neighbors the other day, maybe. But I still wasn’t sure.
Carson stood on the first step, said, “Okay, Don. Lay it on me.”
I closed my eyes and silently voiced, “Beacon?”
I felt a wave of immediate relief when he answered. “Go ahead, Donovan. Show him.”
I looked up, and levitated to about six feet off the ground. I could feel the same rush of well-being, the surge of happiness that was like a drug.
Carson’s reaction was more than I could hope for. His mouth fell open. He came down off the porch steps on wobbly feet, and stood about ten feet away. His mouth made fish motions as he tried to find his voice. His eyes were as wide as saucers.
I rose another ten feet and hovered over him. He tilted his head back, still unable to speak. He moved away from me. I think I was grinning.
Finally, he said, “Donovan…please tell me. How the FUCK are you doing this? How?”
I took pity on him and drifted down. He grabbed my shoulders, said, “I’m going crazy.”
I shook my head. “If you’re going crazy, I got there first. For my next trick…”
I pointed to the stacked up cord of wood on the side of the porch. I extended my hand and lifted three pieces of wood, brought them up to about twenty feet, and said, “I can fly. And make other things fly.”
I had the logs pirouette in the air in a little spiral, weaving in circles.
“Carson, your mouth is open again.”
He looked at me, closed his mouth. He shook his head, glanced up again at the logs. I gently set them down by his feet. He picked one up. Just ordinary oak firewood. He ran his hands all around it.
I thought silently, “Beacon?”
“How strong is this power?”
He paused for a second, then, “You could lift your car up fairly easily, I would imagine.”
“Carson, I promise to tell you every thing. Now this can only last a half-hour or so. Watch.”
I pointed at my Civic, reached out. I felt the weight and heft of the Honda, and with a brief mental nudge, it rose from the ground. I lifted it about three feet.
Carson said, finally, “Oh, no, no, no … where is the energy coming from? It’s gotta come from somewhere. Don, it’s gotta come from somewhere!”
I let the car down gently. I rose into the air again, then did my best Superman impression. I zoomed up, circled lazily in the sky while he watched, then did a slow glide about a hundred yards north, and then made a slow descent towards the cabin. I swooped in for a perfect two-point landing.
I took his hands in mine, said, “Want to go for a spin.”
I’ll give him credit. He was game. “O-okay. Not too high, though.”
We rose into the air, his hands clasped around my forearms. We got to about twenty feet up, and then I heard a car horn.
I panicked. What I should have done is gone fast to the ground, but I didn’t think. The intense euphoria of exercising my abilities had dulled my thoughts.
Carson and I turned in the air, and I saw Michelle standing by the open door of her Toyota, eyes wide and unbelieving.