Senses (Short story)
I see the mountain of muscle charge at me. Then I see the back of my eyelids. There is a low, soft tone, but it’s all I hear, so it’s oddly loud. I know exactly what happened. I open my eyes and I’m not there. I’m on the patio of apartment building in the summer of 2008. I am with Triana.
“I don’t know what it is you want me to say.”
“Can you at least tell me why?”
I don’t look at her. Then I do. I lean on the banister for support. My eyes are bloodshot and my head is pulsing. The night is a deep dark, but I manage to scrape together enough of the orange streetlight to see her face. She lowers her head, but keeps her eyes on me. Even in my state, I can feel her frustration as she turns and walks back inside.
I’m back in the gymnasium, staring at the ceiling. The bright white fluorescent lamps hanging from the ceiling blind me, and the silhouette of a large, bald man provides relief.
“Can you hear me okay?”
“What’s your name?”
I think for a second. I’m unsure whether to say Raymond or Ray. I go by both. My hesitation elicits a concerned look from the bald man. I see now that he’s wearing a white polo shirt and pale nitrile gloves.
“It’s Raymond!” I say quickly.
“Okay… Do you know where you are, Raymond?”
“I think I have a concussion. I think my molars slammed together.”
“Yeah, you’re good. We’re gonna get you over to the hospital. It’s just down the street, a’right?”
I’m walking through the lobby of the library. I see Triana, but I don’t look at her. I walk right past her. I can hear her footsteps stop behind me. I feel her eyes on me. I skip the potentially long wait for the elevator and turn right for the door to the stairs.
I’m on a comfortable bed in a moving car. I turn to the only other person in the room. She is wearing a white polo shirt and nitrile gloves. I see that she has a blue caduceus stitching on her shirt. I have the sudden urge to talk. Her hair is blonde and in a French braid.
“Hi.” She smiles.
“How are you?”
“I’m doing all right. How are you doing?”
“I feel okay… How do I look?” I’m all of a sudden scared I appear too unacceptable to be talking to her.
“You look just fine.”
“Still pretty?” I joke.
She looks away and smiles, shaking her head.
Triana and I are at the concert. It was my idea. The lead singer of Phunkrocksteady jumps off the stage and runs into the crowd toward us. The sound system is booming, and the thumping shakes my bones. He comes directly to us in the middle of the crowd. I’m excited, but the mob clamps in on us fast. I look back to see Triana get squeezed out. I turn from the concert and fight through the crowd of black shirts and red acne. I sit with her at the bar and watch the rest from the back. Outside of the mob, the atmosphere is refreshingly cool, almost as if there’s a breeze inside of the club. We rest our back on the bar and enjoy the music.
She leans in and speaks over the sounds, “You can go back in if you want. You don’t have to stay here with me.”
I smile at her. I lean in. “I’m not going back in there. It’s hot, and the music is too loud. My ears hurt.”
I’m in the hospital. On a starch white bed. They removed my gloves for me, and there’s an IV stuck into my arm with white tape. There are thin, almost sheer blankets over my legs. The fluorescent bulbs here are bright, but not blinding. I can see everything but not all at once. I look to my right. I’m holding onto Triana’s hand. Our eyes meet for a second, but my eyes get tired and wander on their own to another location. At the end of the room, my brother is talking on the phone.
“Oh, he’s up again. I’ll call you back, sir.” He shuts the phone and darts over smiling. “Hey, champ.”
“Do you know what happened?”
“Yeah. I got knocked out, right?”
“Yup. You feeling okay?”
“I feel concussed.” I notice my speech is slow. “How’d it happen?”
“He elbowed you.”
“What?” I manage to smile and chuckle once.
“Yeah, he got frustrated he couldn’t catch you with his punches, so he just let one fly. Don’t worry. He got disqualified.” He points to a table to my left I didn’t notice before. The green leather belt with the large shining gold medallion embedded in it sat face up on the table. I couldn’t see it, but I knew it still said, “World Boxing Championship - Middleweight” on the medallion.
“You sure you’re feeling okay?” He leans in to inspect my wandering eyes.
I think hard about his question. I brush my thumb over Triana’s hand in mine. I feel her grip tighten.
“Yeah. I feel okay.”
Dream (what happens after I fall asleep reading All-Star Superman for the 122nd time)
I am Superman. I see perfectly crisp and clear. Every color is vibrant and glows. Sky-like blues and sun-like yellows. The reds are bright, but also deep - like fresh, impossibly smooth velvet. I don’t look like a white man who grew up in Kansas. I don’t have blue eyes. I look like I always do, except I don’t. I’m somehow bigger, but I don’t look bigger. I am not only Superman, I feel like Superman. Not superior, “just” Superman.
I am on the greatest date with Lois Lane. Lois has dark hair. It’s full and shining and perfect. She is so strong-willed, she makes me feel more humble – like I don’t have superpowers at all (at least nothing that would impress her). Her conversation is easy, witty, and confident. Her eyes are in full smile at all times. Lois is also in costume, but just for today. She was granted powers equal to mine for 24 hours. She uses them to share a flight with me.
The flight is a delightful, celestial blur.
At the end of the day, just when her powers reach the last hour of their effectiveness, there is trouble. A group of bullies harass her, but she is unafraid. She is invincible, and she is confident. She flicks them away. Then her powers fade. So does her costume. She is wearing her dress clothes from work again. White button-up blouse, with warm gray jacket and skirt. They fit perfectly. Her work clothes don’t have the radiant blue and yellow of her costume, but she glows all the same. She smiles and crosses her legs, half-sitting on her desk at the Daily Planet.
Lois is peculiar. She doesn’t look like anyone I know from outside the Dreamworld. I don’t notice this as I dream, but the cast of my dreams is usually taken from my acquaintances outside the Dreamworld. Lois isn’t anyone but Lois. But she reminds me of someone I know.
Lois’s bravery makes me feel stronger. I turn to the thugs, already wounded. I puff up my lungs. I stare intensely. I feel the chill of my icy breath running from the pit of my stomach to my airways and to my breath. Somehow I know I have never done this before, but nothing has ever felt more natural. A blizzard blows out from my lips. The force of the winds are enough to blow the thugs down the street; the frostbite from the frigid blast is just icing. Just to be sure, my intense stare manifests itself in a hot beam of red. Th deep red bores a hole in one of their shirts and scalds his skin. It is more than enough to make them surrender and flee.
I suddenly become intensely focused on my very state of being. My existence as Superman is natural, but it is somehow new to me, but I have always been Superman, but it feels alien. I am outside of my body looking at Superman – me. Superman looks like an illustration. A perfectly drawn and colored illustration. But I am Superman. So who am I looking at?
Lois looks at Superman with those smiling eyes. I wake up.