Hello. I’m kind of too distracted to blog much, and I have no interest in politics, so I’m posting more novel chapters. Hope you don’t mind. It won’t be all novel all the time, I promise. But your comments on my book are wildly helpful, and I’m addicted to them.
I’m going back to the original chapter numbering scheme and combining all 12,000 words of the original chapter three into one piece again. This is the first of two parts of the original Chapter 4. It begins with nudity. Enjoy.
David was naked, and he wasn’t sure why.
He looked down and saw his shoes were gone. He remembered that. His feet had been bulging and his shoes had fallen by the wayside somewhere up the street. His arms had both inflated, which explained his missing shirt. What about the pants? He thought. Even the underpants?
It was only then that he realized that this time, the transformation had included his whole body.
A cloud had lifted, yet David was in a darker place than he had ever been. With unflinching clarity, he recognized the enormity of his sins, and the crushing guilt had returned, ten times stronger than it was before.
Please let someone else have done this, he prayed. Let this be a dream. Or a movie. Or let me take it all back.
And if all that fails, at least let me die.
He had lost both his size and his bloodlust in an instant, the moment he saw his prey vanish into the skies, carried aloft by a brown and gold man with shiny white calves. He had seen a sheet come floating back down to earth and snatched it before it had hit the ground. He draped it around his exposed waist the way he wore a towel after coming out of the shower. He skulked off into a dark alley, away from the prying eyes of the police who had descended en masse on the scene of the crime, along with hordes of vans and cameras and loud, important-sounding baritones, each pontificating to their broadcast audiences about What It All Means.
As he made his way toward an empty alley, he saw a bloody, severed arm trapped between a cement wall and a Chevrolet. It was too much – he threw up and then stepped in the bile as he made his way toward the village outskirts.
The smell of the vomit, some of which still dripped from his bare and hairless chest, may have been what dissuaded most of the passers-by from stopping and questioning him, and given his scrawny, pathetic, half-clad appearance, no one could have imagined that he had been the one hurling cars just a few minutes earlier. One diligent policeman stopped and asked if he’d been hurt, or if he’d seen the incident firsthand. David used the opportunity to stare down at the ground and, when the cop seemed determined to stay put until he got an answer, he held out his hand.
“Spare change, mister?” he asked plaintively.
The cop hemmed and hawed before heading off to something more urgent.
David buried his face in his hands and tried his best not to cry. He failed.
“What?!!” Over the wind, Jeff thought she was speaking nonsense. Something about mushrooms…?
Clearly exasperated, Lisa motioned downward toward the ER entrance. “There!” she yelled.
Jeff saw, nodded, and slowed down to make a comfortable descent for both his passengers. He floated, feet-first, through the emergency room doors and made a soft landing right in front of the nurse’s station. He stooped to let Lisa slide off his back down to the ground, and she tried to smooth out her tattered skirt, which had not been designed for high-speed air travel.
Jeff spoke. No, he proclaimed. “This…citizen needs a doctor!” He held Vikki in as heroic a pose as he could muster, trying to mimic Superman’s stance as he held his cousin Supergirl after she had been felled in the first Crisis on Infinite Earths. Walthius was right – the classics would guide him through this. He had never used the word “citizen” in formal conversation before, but it seemed like the thing that Kal-El would do. He deepened his voice and was speaking in something akin to an English accent. He thought it sounded commanding.
Yes, commanding. Confident. Captainy.
In his mind, it also made sure that Lisa wouldn’t penetrate his disguise. What it didn’t do was get anybody in the hospital to move. They just stood there, slack-jawed, not quite able to adapt to the process of accepting patients who had just fallen out of the sky. They were gaping at him like he was some kind of mutant.
“Hurry!” he shouted, losing his newly acquired aristocratic dignity.
“Easy there, Jumper,” Lisa whispered softly. She walked up to the head nurse and said, matter-of-factly, “She needs help. Her arm’s broken badly, and I think she’s in a deep state of shock.”
The attending nurse nodded, picked up the phone, and within seconds, a stretcher appeared and whisked Vikki away into the bowels of the hospital. Lisa stayed at the station and started filling out forms.
Jeff took off his glasses and wiped them on his spandex-like uniform, which only smeared the water on them and made the visibility worse. Once he got them back on his face, he struggled with what to do with his hands. He balled them into fists and placed them on the side of his hips, but he wasn’t sure where to take it from there. He wished he had pockets. He finally let his arms dangle awkwardly on either side.
This isn’t how I wanted to make my debut, he thought.
He found a tissue in a box on the waiting room table, near where a little boy was playing with a small plastic airplane. The boy ran with the plane making jet engine noises, and he almost bumped into Jeff’s knees. Jeff smiled at him weakly, which was too much for the tyke’s agitated mother, who yanked her son rather roughly back to a chair near her, lest he touch the leper and have to end up wearing tights himself.
This wouldn’t do, Jeff thought. It wouldn’t do at all.
“Citizens, may I have your attention please?” he said in his most captainy voice. With a generous dose of bravado, he began his impromptu announcement speech.
“You seem alarmed by what you have seen,” Jeff said, his throat suddenly dry and scratchy. “No need. I serve the greater good.” He coughed. “Excuse me.” He swallowed twice to bury the phlegm, and that helped improve things a bit.
“Um, let the word go forth,” he announced, “that the Captain has arrived.” No contractions in his speech, he thought. Good. No apostrophes. Let each word ring out with power. There was no sting of heroic music to punctuate the moment, although the television hanging in the corner of the room did seem to get louder all of a sudden. Then the kid with the plane zoomed past him, making the appropriate sound effects. And someone else coughed, too, which, in turn, made Jeff hack up another batch of sympathy phlegm.
“Excuse me, miss?” he said, pointing to Lisa. “Could you, by any chance, get me a glass of water?”
Lisa lowered her eyelids halfway and drew her mouth together into a thin, angry slit.
“Anyone? Water?” A nurse with a glass appeared, and Jeff took a healthy swig. “Mmmm,” he said, nodding his approval. “Thanks a lot. Hit the spot. Thanks.” Oops! He thought. Too informal! “I mean, thank you.” Nice save. He made a point of handing the glass to Lisa, who flared her nostrils with contempt.
“And thank you, young lady. You know, I could not have done it without you, Miss…” he said, motioning for her to give her name.
“Sheila Glutz,” Lisa deadpanned.
“Miss Li… Sheila?” He raised his eyebrows, trying to get her to correct the record.
Lisa didn’t move. Jeff shrugged his acceptance.
“Miss Sheila Glutz,” Jeff announced to the rest of the room with confidence. “Sheila Glutz, then,” Jeff said. “A citizen this brave deserves a round of applause.”
Jeff started clapping, and, at first, only the airplane kid clapped along. Then everyone else in the room joined in halfheartedly. Everyone did not include the newly christened Sheila Glutz, who sidled up next to him to put a word in his ear.
“Knock it off, Downey,” she hissed.
Jeff’s blood froze.
Did she just say “Downey?” She couldn’t have. He still had the mask, didn’t he? And the Captain voice was pretty good – the accent was off, yes, but the gravitas was there. Only one contraction, and I fixed it right afterwards. Maybe he heard wrong.
Except didn’t she call me Jumper right after we first arrived…?
This took the edge off of his confidence as he continued his speech. To compensate, he put both of his fists against either side of his hips again, except this time, it had the effect of making it him feel like he had a distended stomach. “Let the word go forth,” he boomed, “that when injustice is, um, near…”
Lisa was subtly, almost imperceptibly shaking her head in disapproval. Jeff was trying to ignore her, but it wasn’t easy. His hands now felt like dead weights, and he kept wishing for those pockets. Except what would it look like for a Kryptonian to put his hands in his pockets?
“When injustice is near,” he repeated, shaking his head back at her tightly, trying to get her to stop throwing him off stride, “when liberty and justice are threatened, and the powers of evil are, um, evil, because injustice is near…”
“You already said that before,” the airplane kid said, before being snatched back and scolded by his mother.
“No need for alarm!” Jeff said, far more alarmed than anyone watching. Lisa rolled her eyes and turned her back on him. Be that way, Jeff thought. At least I can finish my speech in peace.
“Like I was saying to this young man,” he continued, indicating the airplane kid, who was now glaring at his own mother and losing all interest in the Captain, “The power of evil and the doers of evil – evildoers, if you will – will ever be with us.” There we go. He was gaining his confidence back, along with his accent. He started dropping the R’s at the end of his words. “This is evah as it has been, yes, yet not evah as it must be, for I can fight evil, as a Captain among average citizens like yourself.” Lisa was on the other side of the room, and the distance was helping. He was on a roll now. “I, the Captain, will be theah! To right the wrongs! To, uhh…”
He was stalled. He needed another phrase, and he’d already used “right the wrongs,” which was the best one.
“To help the helpless?” Lisa offered sarcastically, her back still turned. Jeff shot her a look, but he wasn’t too proud to use someone else’s material.
“Yes! To help the helpless! And to –“
“Is that you?” said the Airplane Kid.
“Yes!” Jeff said. “I’m the Captain!”
“Is that you?” the kid said again. Jeff nodded vigorously until he saw that the kid was pointing at the television.
On the screen was a special news report with the bold caption TERROR IN WESTWOOD. There were no shots of the giant or the girls. Only a gangly, pasty-thighed goofball in tights trying to shake a pick-up truck off of his leg. He looked angry and frustrated. Ripped from its proper context, it looked as if Jeff were the one throwing the cars, not the giant.
“No!” Jeff exclaimed. “I mean, yes, that’s me, sure, but it’s all wrong…”
Someone in the waiting room yelled “Terrorist!” and everyone hit the floor.
Everyone, that is, besides Lisa Meyer, who leapt onto Jeff’s back and murmured, “Time to fly, Jumper!” She dug her heels into his thighs and made a clicking noise, as if she were trying to kickstart a beast of burden.
“I’m not a horse, lady,” he complained. Then three beefy security guards entered the room, summoned by an unseen alarm no doubt triggered at the nurse’s station. All of them had their hands on their gun holsters.
“Jump now!” Lisa ordered. And Jeff complied, hopping adroitly over the heads of the guards, yet careful enough to keep Lisa from banging up against the ceiling. He slipped out between the last guard’s hat and the doorframe, and, in a split second, he was arcing upwards, back into the night sky.
After they were about fifty feet above the building, Jeff craned his neck backward and shouted, “You mind telling me how you know who I am?”
“What?” Lisa bellowed. “I can’t hear you. The wind…”
“What?” screamed Jeff. Was she trying to say something? He couldn’t hear anything, and he could barely see, either – his glasses had fogged up the moment they took off.
“We need to go someplace and talk,” she shouted.
Jeff couldn’t hear her. This was useless. He decided they needed to go someplace and talk.
David smashed the window and started rummaging through the empty apartment.
It was the perfect time for breaking and entering. All the cops were otherwise occupied trying to sort out the mess down by the movie theaters, and they’d set up traffic blocks so that nobody could come in or out of the surrounding area. That meant that unlit windows were unlikely to hide any unwelcome surprises.
The first two apartments he’d broken into were less than helpful. Number one was clearly a girl’s place – far better decorated than most, but there were still no usable clothes to be had. Number two was more co-ed with plenty of dirty dishes piled in the sink, yet all the men’s clothing was about two sizes too big. What kinds of girls share an apartment with fat guys? he wondered. Especially slobby fat guys. He’d found cash in both apartments, though – about $50 in the first and a twenty-dollar bill in the second. It wasn’t enough to live on, but it was better than nothing.
The third apartment was the mother lode. He discovered an envelope under a mattress with $200, and the guy was about his size, and with a decent taste in clothes. He put on a red button-down, long-sleeved shirt and a pair of jeans. He couldn’t find a truly acceptable pair of shoes, but there was a pair of dirty old sneakers that would do just fine for the moment. He found a piece of paper and scribbled two copies of an IOU – one for his victims and one for himself as a reminder, taking inventory for everything, including the cost of a replacement window. He was going to pay everyone back. He was going to make amends.
Amends. Sure. Who was he kidding?
Petty thievery was one thing. Mass murder was quite another. He wasn’t sure how to come to terms with any of that madness, but he could at least plant the seeds for some kind of redemption, beginning here.
IOUs are step one, he thought.
Step two, I turn myself in. Let the cops sort it out.
He turned up his collar and stepped out into the night, renewed by a fresh sense of purpose. What was the worst they could do to him? he thought. Kill me? I want to kill myself. I’m not even sure if I can. At least they can lock me up. Or they can try to, anyway.
David wasn’t sure how to deal with all the complications that were sure to arise. Not my problem, he told himself. Just do what you have to do. Plead guilty, and let the system do its thing.
He came up on one of the roadblocks and signaled to one of the officers taking statements. At first, the cop tried to wave him off, but David wouldn’t be denied.
“What is it kid?” the cop asked impatiently as he walked up to David. “We’re kind of busy here.”
“Officer, it was me.” With that out of the way, the dam burst, and the rest was easy. “ It was me. I did this. I threw the cars. I killed all these people. That arm – severed arm. I did that. And I also broke into the apartments up the street. But I’ll pay it all back. I swear.” The words all poured out in a jumble, almost overlapping each other.
The officer smiled wearily. “Kid, tonight’s not the night, okay? I’m taking statements. Go bother someone else.” He turned to go.
David grabbed him by the shoulder and turned him back to face him. Had his hand bubbled up, or had David just imagined it? David mentally willed his hand to stay small. He wasn’t going to go down that road again. Even so, it was imperative that the officer believe him.
“Hands off, pal!” the officer reached for his nightstick. David put his hands in the air. He could feel the beat of his heart, pumping a fresh rush of power toward his limbs.
No. No. His veins were pulsing now. No. Not now. Not ever. Although just one more wouldn’t make that much of a difference, would it? And it might make him feel better, since this guy clearly deserved it…
No. NO! He closed his eyes and managed to hold back the floodgates just a little while longer. His hands trembled, but the transformation didn’t take hold. So I can control this, he thought, basking in the glow of his inner triumph. I can stop it. I’m not really a monster.
“Sorry,” David said. “I just… I want to tell somebody what I know.”
“Yeah, fine,” the officer said. “As soon as I’m done with these reports, we’ll talk it over, okay?”
“Yeah. Sure.” The officer turned to leave. Ignorant, David thought. Nothing but ignorant. He’ll never know how close he came to dying tonight. And David was sure that nothing but a full-fledged demonstration of what he could do would convince any of these pinheads.
He had to talk to someone who might believe him.
That narrowed the list of possible confidants down to one.