May I Write of Heroes – #1: Haywire
Warning. There be some foul language. There also be some pirate language, but you be readin’ that arrrrready.
And a one and a two and a ready, let’s go…
That’s all I could think when he looked at me under his glasses, the kind with the thin wire frames. They were glasses you’d see on a general manager at Burger King. They didn’t match his pressed suit or his neatly combed hair. But that wasn’t it.
There’s something else about him.
From the second he walked in the room, he made me uneasy. It could have been how intent he was on closing the door behind him. It could have been the way he walked, like a ballerina trying to be less graceful, but struggling. It could have been a lot of things, but it hit me the most when we shared glances.
It wasn’t frightening. Maybe not on the surface, at least. But it was unsettling. It opened the door to weird thoughts. I began to ask myself what was really possible. You ever have those moments? You ever see something just weird enough that it makes you question what could happen next? It gave me the feeling that the ground in that shitty little room could crumble. It sounds ridiculous. But, in the end, it really wasn’t. Not with all things considered, anyway.
He didn’t say a word for the first five minutes. He slid into his chair without making a sound, untied the string holding my file together, and laid it out on the table, like a book.
His head bobbed with a single chuckle. Then he spoke.
The derision in his voice snapped me back into the moment. My shoulders dropped. I could handle being insulted by assholes in suits. I had years of experience. My friends called me Haywire. Whenever they needed someone to cause a ruckus, they called me. I was proud of it. It was more my identity than my cop family name, or my grandfather’s first name that became mine.
“Yeah. My name. The fuck you care about it?”
He smiled and flipped through the pages in the folder he brought with him. I leaned forward, trying to sneak a peak. He closed the cover a little and stared at me until I sat back. He took a second. He was getting the words ready.
This I was used to. Cops had been giving me this talk for years. They’d start it off by telling me how much promise I have. They’d tell me that they wanted more for me. They’d try to be my friend, or my father, or my brother.
Franky, you’ve got more to you than this. I don’t want to see you back here ever again. You’re a good kid, now act like it.
“Your name is Franklin Murphy Doyle, and you’re a problem for this city.”
He said it so plainly. Every word slamming into place. There was no pretext, no emotion in his face. He was explaining a simple fact; basic addition or the laws of gravity. I couldn’t respond. I had no insult to throw back. Though it felt like I should have been hurt by the words, I didn’t feel anything but a quick rise in my pulse and sweat beading on my hairline.
“You’ve been a problem for a long time, which is astounding as you’ve only been alive for sixteen years. Since you were twelve, everything you’ve ever done has seemed to revolve around destroying some structure of society.”
I had attempted to isolate a weaker part of myself a while before. That part that tells you to be afraid, the part that watches and worries. It had almost died before that day. But it was poking me in my side, whispering in my ear, telling me that maybe my family’s reputation wasn’t going to be enough anymore.
He sighed and took his glasses off. He trained his eyes on me. He looked deeper.
“You’re very interesting, Franklin. There are a lot of interesting stories in your folder. But reading them, one after the other, gets a little boring. Do you know why?”
I still tried to show that I didn’t give a shit. That was my only response to everything I couldn’t control.
“Maybe you’re desensitized? Too many violent video games.”
His grin was brief.
“That’s amusing. But no.”
He folded his glasses, put them his pocket, and then clasped his hands. He looked like a judge, all except for the ugly brown fabric of his jacket. Judges only wore black.
“No, Mr. Doyle. Your file is full of boring stories because they all end the exact same way. Lack of evidence.”
This smile stayed. He wasn’t frustrated. I could have handled that. He was prying. This wasn’t about me hacking into the computer. It wasn’t about the hack at all.
“In fact, each time you’re in here, it’s concerning some problem that most people can’t explain. For example, three years ago, a motion sensor went off in your school after hours. Security cameras caught movement, a person dressed all in black. This person was about your height at the time, about your build. This person stole hundreds of dollars worth of chemicals from the labs. Chemicals we know you were researching. Chemicals that can be used to make a rather potent explosive.”
“I was let go for that.”
“I’m well aware. They couldn’t place you at the scene. They couldn’t place anyone. There was absolutely no sign of forced entry, no missing keys or keycards. The patrolling officer didn’t hear anything. The chemicals were found later in a storeroom. But the video is still there, plain as day. It either shows a young man, or a ghost walking into the lab and leaving with dangerous materials.”
Those goddamn cameras. The school didn’t tell anyone they were put up. They were well hidden too.
“Who you gonna call?”
The man smiled.
He hadn’t introduced himself. And his suit was brown instead of the usual navy blue. I couldn’t see a badge. And I had never seen him before that day. I had never seen him in the precinct that my father worked every day, the precinct I knew like my own backyard.
They must have brought him in. Some kind of scared straight deal.
“You’re very amusing, Mr. Doyle. But this is serious. I want you to tell me how you can do the things you do.”
“Ya know. Even if I did any of that stuff. Why would I tell you how? Wouldn’t that be like squealing on myself?”
He answered quickly. So I responded as quickly as I could.
“No? Why not? If someone tells you how they commit a crime that they claim they didn’t do… that just doesn’t make sense.”
He straightened in his chair.
“Normally, you’re right. But this is a special situation. I’m not a police officer.”
There it was. The start to a really messed up day.
“You’re not a… Why are you here, then? What ARE you?”
His chair creaked. He leaned forward so slowly I thought he was going to pounce. He didn’t take his eyes off of me the entire time. His voice drew in. It became a whisper and even less. I still don’t know if any sound ever came out of his mouth.
“I’m a recruiter, Franklin. This is an interview.”
I stood up. The legs of my chair screeched across the floor. I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t know if he was screwing me around or if he was just plain crazy.
I nodded, then went to the door.
The knob was warm. So warm I recoiled.
“Don’t leave this room, Mr. Doyle. If you do, you’re going to be charged for hacking the Governor’s laptop. You weren’t as clever as you normally are. There’s a fingerprint on the trackpad. They have it.”
My shoulders began to tingle. Fight or flight response. I faced the door, still unsure whether I’d take my chances with the evil I knew.
“What happens if I don’t leave? What happens if I stay in here with you?”
His hand gripped my arm. His chair didn’t move, he didn’t take any steps, but he was standing behind me.
“If you stay, I will show you a world where you might feel more at home.”
It was creepy. He was creepy. He came way too close, way too quickly. I pushed him back with my elbow and opened the door.
Officer Mulby blocked the doorway. His arm extended. His hand reaching for the doorknob that wasn’t there anymore.
“Mulby, man. This guy is seriously freaking me out.”
He didn’t move. Still stuck, looking like a pantomimed ice skater, he stared through me with blank eyes. Behind him, the rest of the world was motionless and silent to match. Ms. Therber’s stack of forms and filings hung in the air beside a half-cuffed biker making a paused run for freedom. Two young cops stood in his way, one already on his way down to take out the guy’s knees. Their hair stuck out in all directions. Even with this, I didn’t realize exactly what was happening before I saw three small birds beyond the window. Their wings outstretched, they were flying, but mot moving.
The man in the brown suit pulled hard on me. I saw the still-framed world outside vignetted by the door frame. And then it disappeared with a slam. The door locked on it’s own. I was spun around and sat down in my chair, across from the already seated stranger.
“Mr. Doyle. I can imagine how strange this all may seem.”
My face ached from my wide eyes. My jaw drooped so low I could feel the muscles stretch in my temples. Other than that, I didn’t feel much of anything.
“Strange? Fuck strange.”
He smiled. Nothing made me more worried than that smile.
“I’m here on behalf… no, perhaps I should start more simply. Mr. Doyle, are you acquainted with the scope of the universe?”
Nothing registered. I still saw those birds in my mind. Had time actually stopped or was I moving faster?
The man waited for a moment and then continued.
“Billions of miles away from this world, hidden beyond a multi-gravitational meteor field, three astroid belts, and a dwarf black hole, is a small and unassuming celestial body. I can’t find much of a different way to explain it. It isn’t a star, it’s not a meteor. It has an atmosphere, but I wouldn’t exactly call it a planet. It is, however, a world.”
My eyes burned. I hadn’t blinked since my ass met the chair. Still, he continued, just as calm as he had been when he was making some kind of sense.
“It’s a world that hosts the best of the best, the greatest individual entities in the universe. We call them Exemplars. We call it Hypostatica. Do you understand?”
He exhaled through his nose, loudly.
I don’t know why the flash of metal; the mere fact that a gun was staring me down, didn’t surprise me as much as the make of the weapon. It was one of the old revolvers I used to see in the movies my old man liked.
His trigger finger squeezed, the hammer lurched back.
“This should clear everything up.”
Gunshots are bright, and loud. I didn’t see the bullet come out of the barrel or anything like that, it wasn’t an action movie. I heard the blast, my world went orange, then white. Then I felt the heat. It hit my nose first, then slid along my skin. It seared, but it was over so fast I couldn’t really remember the pain.
The room came roaring back in a blurry swirl. The man held his gun pointed to the ceiling. He looked smug, almost proud.
“Do you understand now?”
I meant to scream. I meant to grab the gun and blast him in the face. I meant to get up and run out of there. I didn’t do any of it. My mouth quivered. A single sound like a car that won’t start came from my throat. After that, I just stared.
He huffed, putting the gun down.
“Humans aren’t the most intuitive bunch are they? Listen, kid. You ever read comic books?”
I think I nodded. At least, he seemed to understand me.
“Ok. I come from a world that’s full of the kind of people you’d find in comics. But unlike those stories… That’s all we have there. We only accept people with special talents.”
“You fucking shot me…”
“Oh, you’re sharp, aren’t you? Yes, I shot you. But have you noticed that you still have a face?”
Without thought, my fingers went to my nose and cheek. As if I was expecting something different, I was more than a little surprised to feel skin instead of blood and bone.
I came to a conclusion pretty quickly.
“It wasn’t real.”
He laughed. Another sound, a low whirring, came with it.
“Oh no, Franklin. It was very real.”
The gun was in his hand again. I reacted as heroically as possible. I slid down in my chair and hid under the table. He sent seven shots into the smooth stone wall, creating a circular pattern of dents.
One bullet went at my face. Seven went at the wall. Eight bullets in a revolver? My head shook on it’s own. I sat, knees drawn to my chest. I was not going to come out.
Metal tapped on the table top.
“Franklin. This weapon is just an extension of me. I’m not going to explain how, but every thing you’re experiencing right now is just an extension of me. The point is, I can’t hurt you. You have a gift. You’ve never been cut. You’ve never seen your own blood, save losing a tooth or popping a zit. I’m right, aren’t I?”
I went into that room expecting a slap on the wrist. I wound up being shot in the face and living to argue about it. I was not in the right mind to remember anything about my childhood.
“I just want to go home, man. Let me go home.”
Foot steps. He walked towards the door. The knob creaked. The hinges groaned. I heard voices. Beeps and rings. I heard arguing, a scuffle. I scrambled across the floor, not caring about leaving on my feet.
I gripped the grass between my fingers and pulled myself across the threshold. I was finally out of that room.
I should have looked up before I started celebrating. I should have at least remembered that when I went into the room, I left linoleum, not grass.
A blast of green light shot across my vision. Then a red beam.
A mechanized voice growled above me.
I saw the shadow, a jumbled mess of a dark shape. I heard a heavy object whistle through the air. I felt my entire body go through the ground and make a nice Franklin-shaped print.
I pushed up hard, climbing out of the hole I had made and falling backwards away from it. I scuttled across the war-torn, too-green lawn of an enormous castle-structure. The shadow showed its owner. The monstrous man held the offending hammer, bringing it back for another swing. He ran straight at me.
A small figure, covered in a mechanical suit, pummeled him to the ground. The voice coming from the form was raspy, but young and definitely feminine.
“Trailer, STOP GANKING NEWBS!”
The guy with the hammer pushed back, sending a wave of energy she had to block.
“Dammit, Joan. If he’s here, he’s fair game!”
My hands couldn’t find the door frame no matter how much I searched blindly. I didn’t want to take my eyes off of the dozen fighters slugging the hell out of each other.
The man in the brown suit pulled me up. I spun around, looking for the interrogation room. If I got back in there, maybe everything would go back to normal.
It was gone.
The man turned me around. His smile was ear to ear. He yelled out in a familiar tone. Authority was with him.
“Disruptions, listen up!”
The riot died down. Every weapon stopped swinging. Every pair of eyes turned to us.
“Meet our newest shield.”
The girl in the robotic outfit waved. The man with the hammer shrugged. Everyone else had some reaction in between.
The man in the brown suit patted me on the back, half reassuringly, half in an attempt to make me stop looking for the room that wasn’t there anymore.
“Welcome home, Haywire.”
Posted on 05/02/2012, in Hypostatica, Projects, Short Stories and tagged errant studios, fiction, freewriting, heroes, literature, science fiction, Story a day, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.