Slide to Unlock
Recap: After a false start, John and his gracious host begin to get along. Little more is learned about the organization after him, but something about Diane sets him at ease, establishing a sense of normalcy in his crazy life. When she pokes fun at his powers, he plans to show this lovely lady just what his powers are.
Author notes at the end!
Take this as a lesson, if you want to impress a girl, don’t fry her car.
Showing my ability to Diane had started off good, with me popping the locks and sending the windshield wipers into motion on her little blue Capris. Then I thought I’d start the car from by the door, which I was leaning on jauntily, in order to impress her. Turns out that it’s much harder to start a car from the door than from the console inside, or even the hood, and I may or may not have fried her battery.
Yea, that won me like zero brownie points.
But Diane handled it well, she ruffled my hair when I offered to fix it and she sent me back to the house. “Okay Remote Control, go inside,” she had scolded softly. Like a dog with his tail between his legs, I slunk back into the house and crashed in a jumble of limbs in the chair I had so recently vacated.
When she rejoins me, it’s after calling the local mechanic, Fred or Frank, to come by and fix the battery. “I can pay for the new battery,” I tell her as soon as she enters the room. She arches an eyebrow and takes up her seat on the couch, leaning back with a small smile playing on her lips.
“Uh-huh, with what money?” she prods. For a minute I’m about to retort but I realize she’s right. I don’t have a cent to my name unless, maybe, I turn myself over to those crazy guys after me and they return a reward.
Which, by the way, is never happening.
Diane gets up, patting my knee as she saunters to the kitchen. “No crazy-experiment powers in the house, okay?” she says lightly and her smile strikes me deep.
“Of course,” I choke out after a moment, but she’s already in the kitchen. Instinctually, I follow her and that’s the sort of pattern we fall into over the next few days. I follow Diane around and she continues to lead me on.
I get itchy after a few days. It might be five, it might be four: I end up sleeping a lot for those days and eating whenever I’m awake. Diane is gone for most of the day. Taking advantage of this, I spend some time on the computer trying to find out anything I can about my own life. All I find is my obituary and that my funeral passed almost four months ago.
Well, there goes my hope of crashing my own funeral.
It’s just so odd, though, that I was declared dead. Obviously, I’m not. I was left in the arms of the army when I was grievously injured, so it’s not just a commander making a premature call because I could be a POW or whatnot. No, the army had me. And they still did–in that lab–but yet I’m dead. For some reason, the military killed me off.
I guess if you decide to play God, it’d be best to start with as clean of a slate as possible.
Diane comes home one evening. I’m sitting on the red couch with her laptop perched on my stomach as I scroll through reddit’s conspiracy tag. She walkes up behind me and pecks a soft kiss on my hairline, arms on either side of my head on the armrest. “You’re looking much better,” she tells me.
I grunt in return, eyes searching fruitlessly for any mention of a secret facility in Nevada or Utah or whereever I had been. Diane ignores my intense attention and opts for reaching lower to rub my shoulders, which are cable-taut under her fingers. She tries to work the knots out, but everything coils tighter as reddit crashes. “You aren’t going to find answers on the internet,” Diane murmurs, much like my mother when she had tried to explain to five year old me that the ice cream man could not be called to come back. I also wasn’t allowed to chase him. Just like now, Diane’s trying to convince me to stop chasing ghosts. “You just need to relax…rebuild…”
For a moment, I let that fantasy sink in. It plays across my mind’s eye like it has a thousand times before; as it’s played across every time I’ve slept. The illimitable future I could have had before the experiments: I finish my duty to the Air Force, work for the FAA or maybe a tech firm like Stark Industries, and start a family. Maybe share this future with Diane, grow old with her. Maybe just keep living under this roof that has hidden me so far andcould hide me for so much longer. It’s a future, though, that has gradually been eroded by my own choking laughter as I wake up from these dreams into the cold reality where men are out to kill me, unafraid of murdering innocent people who stand in their way.
There is no rebuilding.
“I can’t rebuild!” I say coldly and pull myself away from her, sitting up rigidly on the couch. I place the laptop next to me, out of harm’s away, as I lean forward onto my knees. For some reason, I always think more clearly when I’m staring at my feet. I can feel the twinge in my skull where the bullet blew it away. “They’re still after me. I’ve been here too long, I have to go!” I cry in dismay, anger and desperation leaking thickly into my voice. There’s a lump the size of Texas lodged in my throat.
Diane tries shushing me, to come around and sit next to me, but I shake violently–starting to feel the buzzing I had pushed away the past four days racing back to the surface. The lights begin to dim and flicker. Diane starts to back away. “John, you’re scaring me,” she says, making her way to the door.
I laugh, cold and hollow, as I try to pull the buzzing back in. But I feel so much safer with it as a blanket around me. I feel so much better knowing I can send twenty men flying with a single thought. I feel so much stronger when I remember all the damage I can do.
Then I catch the look in Diane’s eyes and the lights go back to normal. The buzzing slinks back to the abyss I had dropped it into previously. Nothing–including my own peace of mind–is worth hurting Diane.
“I’m scared,” I confess–remembering the shot waitress in the Blue Ridge and the chorus of gunfire as I ran–“I can’t let them hurt you, too. Or anyone else.”
Diane quickly crosses the distance to me, taking a seat at my side. Her arms wrap around my shoulder and my head falls into the curve of her neck. I can smell her perfume. I can smell, faintly, the sweat of her working all day. Above all, I can smell the shampoo she uses. I try to shift closer in the embrace, wrapping my arms around her, and I don’t know when I let my life become this way.
“Stay here,” she tells me and her voice is that of an enchantress. “They’ll find you in the city with all the cameras. They won’t find you here. Can’t find you here.”
“But they will,” I remind her and push away. The room is so much smaller as I stand up. The ceiling forces my shoulders to slouch and the doorway makes me almost hit my head. The hallway is hardly any better than the living room, but at least there I have room to turn around, to pace. The spell of possible asylum dissipates.
But it sits in Diane’s imploring look–this hope of relief and promise of security–so I tell her I’ll think about it.
I end up thinking about it for months.
This story had gone on an unplanned hiatus and now I’m starting to bring it back. I apologize about that and, if it happens again (which hopefully it won’t–we’re about to hit the climax!) I’ll let ya’ll know. The next part should be posted next week (I do try to keep a weekly posting schedule with this fyi).
So yea! I hope you like this part, I think it shows a little more John. The last two parts have been him a little more crazed and disjointed–but who wouldn’t be running for their life in the woods?