I like to think I'm perfectly normal; completely average. Evidently, I can lie to myself with a straight face. I haven't been normal for the past week ... if I'd ever even been normal to begin with.
It was 11:47pm on a warm, late-May Friday night and I was cruising in a speed zone that was just shy of the sound barrier. Sonic booms, you understand; I didn't want to cause them because they eventually got investigated. Like the ones I'd caused in Grant Park on Monday that had the local police closing off the park for some scientists that were using strange gadgets to measure temperature, light, electricity and god knows what else.
Okay, so I could forgive myself for the ones I'd caused on Monday; and yes, I did state that as plural. I was in a pretty high speed zone back then not that I knew it. I'd thought time had stopped while I was fighting with three boys. I hadn't intended on fighting with three boys. I had intended on fighting with a single boy to teach him a lesson that he shouldn't make up stories about girls in general and my older sister in particular. I had intended on being most emphatic about that lesson but I hadn't done my homework as well as I thought and boy number 1, David Kessler, had quickly been joined by boys number 2 and 3, Bart Cauldwell and Mark Nemmins (in no particular order). It was the fear of the impending beating – Mark with a log upside my head in the park for the win – that caused me to reach ... something ... in my brain that had sped me up.
Sped me up ... speed zones. It really isn't rocket science.
Of course, speed zones isn't all that accurate a term – but this shit was happening to me so I got to pick the words. When weird shit happens to others, let them pick their own words. This was mine and I was going to own it.
The reason 'speed zones' wasn't wholly accurate is because the term 'speed zones' kind of implies a series of plateaus. It didn't really work like that but I was at a loss as to what other term to use. Basically, I was able to 'loosen' or 'tighten' this place in my head – and those words, 'tighten' and 'loosen' aren't really accurate either but see my rant a paragraph up if you feel like getting picky on me – and increase or decrease my speed accordingly. No plateaus, no dials, just a slow speed up as I loosened and a slow speed down as I tightened. Still, within that changing speed landscape there were 'levels' that I started getting to know better; levels I could jump to without the painstaking process of slowly loosening or tightening. Thus, 'speed zones'. I warned you it wasn't rocket science.
I have to admit that a lot of things filled my head over the past few days. I mean, I literally could have anything I wanted. I might not be able to outright steal it – there was a limit to the size of object I could carry, after all – but I could certainly steal enough money to buy it.
Think about it; I travelled so fast no one could see me ... not even a surveillance camera. I could be in and out of a bank, making off with fistfuls of cash, before they even know the cash was missing. A few runs like that and I'd be set for life.
Of course, my damned morality wouldn't let me do that. Trust me, I'd argued with it quite a bit. The argument went something like this:
Me: I could just walk into the vault in that bank and grab 10 or 20 packs of hundred dollar bills and no one would even notice it.
Morality: They'd notice it when they did an audit and then they'd start looking at the surveillance cameras.
Me: The surveillance cameras wouldn't see me either!
Morality: Maybe not, but then they'd start digging into the lives of the bank manager and the assistant managers and the bank tellers.
Me: But they wouldn't find anything because they didn't do it.
Morality: No, but they might find something else or they might just use one of them as a scapegoat and they'd lose their jobs.
Me: Yeah, but the police or FBI or whatever would be crawling all over this place which means more work and jobs for them.
Morality: Explain that to little tiny Tim who won't get that operation to save his life because his mother or father got fired for something you did, you Scrooge.
It went downhill from there and I'll spare you the details. Score: Morality – 1, Me – 0. I wasn't perfect but I was basically a good kid. Stealing was wrong; I just couldn't bring myself to do it.
My morality, however, appeared to be eminently flexible; it wasn't so strong in other areas. Like ducking into the girl's locker room while moving at invisible speeds. I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn't do it. I was a young, hot-blooded (I think) American male; I couldn't help myself.
I didn't touch them at all – my morality wasn't that flexible – but I did look. I didn't take pictures either – not that I could. I didn't know that then however. I hadn't even thought of pictures then. That first time, looking at Maria Guttierez and Stephanie Meyers while they showered, I hadn't thought of pictures at all. Most of my blood was somewhere south of the border; there wasn't enough left for much coherent thought. Trust me, if you are ever lucky enough to see either of those two naked, there won't be much blood in your brain for thinking – whether you're male or female, for that matter – and I got to see them both at once.
Yes, I said 'that first time'. I'm 14 years old, a raging bundle of hormones just over the heady peak of puberty. I can honestly say that I tried to resist but ... truthfully, what kid could resist something like that? I rationalized it as being completely harmless; no one would ever know I was looking and there would be no evidence or anything – but I knew it wasn't right. I did it anyway. I'm a bad, horny teen. Sue me.
Even talking to Father John hadn't stopped me. I knew he disapproved after I confessed to him what I had done that first time. I knew that I wasn't going to be forgiven for what I'm doing; in order to be forgiven, you had to be sorry about what you'd done. I wasn't sorry. I was going to hell.
Ah yes, Father John. He was one of the reasons that I was out running this late at night. I had gone to him under the auspices of confession, knowing he couldn't share anything he learned in that sacrament. As far as I know, he hadn't, either. Instead, he'd convinced me – somehow, despite some deep reservations that I had – to share this with my parents.
I'm still not positive how he'd managed to do it, either. I mean, I was dead set against telling my parents when I went into that church. I didn't want to take the chance that they'd hate me or whatever. Somehow, he'd managed to change my mind – and for the life of me I couldn't figure out anything he'd really said or done to do it. It was like he spoke the words and they just made sense.
Fucking priests. I'm pretty sure God is cheating by sending them some powerful mojo to do their jobs.
So, here I was moving in a different speed zone because I was so nervous I couldn't sleep. I'd had some hare-brained idea to maybe run myself until I was tired but, of course, using my speeding abilities didn't work like that. I'm not sure quite how to explain it but I don't get tired when I'm moving in a different speed zone. For some reason, my stamina or endurance or whatever increases from my normal lazy-but-reasonable to off the charts. I do sweat, just a little, when I'm moving in a different speed zone. I'm never drenched or anything but it does prove I'm actually doing work – and helps to underscore the whole amazing endurance thing.
The same thing happens with my healing, too. Mark Nemmins had whacked me a pretty good one during that fight on Monday but it had been healed before I got home. I couldn't explain it and I was tired of trying; I wasn't any hungrier, I didn't seem to need any more calories ... I could just move really, really fast. I was breaking concrete, physical laws and I couldn't tell why. I'll admit, it was more than a little frightening.
I did know that there was an ... okay, I hate using this word because it sounds completely cabalistic and new-age-y but I have yet to find a word that encompasses this better and believe me, I've looked ... an aura that surrounded me when I moved to a different speed zone. The aura evidently protected me but also protected my clothing and anything within about a half inch from me. I'd learned the hard way about that half inch, too. The soles of my new shoes were more than a half inch from my skin – and they'd melted when I went running.
It was a very expensive lesson. My Mom thought I'd ruined the shoes on purpose and made me buy new ones earlier that day. Luckily she hadn't made me buy the exact same model so I came away with some Nikes that were less than a half inch from my skin at every point. They'd cost me $150 of my hard earned lawn mowing money and I really didn't need them ... but nothing else would satisfy Mom.
Mom's an assistant district attorney. You don't argue with her. You cannot win.
As a matter of fact, it was as I was handing over my cash that the first thought of using my 'gift' to swipe some money hit me. I mean, it would have been so easy to speed up, grab all the cash from the till and come out of the whole thing with more money than I went into it. Nobody would see me; nobody would know.
Except me. I'd know. I was fairly certain I wouldn't have been able to live with myself afterward either.
I was passing a 7-11 and, on an evil little impulse, turned and went into the shop. The cashier was just handing change to a customer who had bought a bag of chips. The till was still open and everything. I couldn't help myself. I reached into the till...
... and took out a quarter. Then, put it on the counter right next to the cash register. I'm such a fucking rebel.
This whole thing was a mistake. It wasn't making me feel any better; on the contrary, I was feeling worse and even more nervous. Besides, the clock in the 7-11 read 11:48pm; 8 miles in well under a minute – not bad ... and no sonic booms, which was just as important. I was out well past my 11pm curfew; I could only hope that Mom and Dad wouldn't check on me.
Still, no reason to push it. If they caught me, my punishment wouldn't be all that bad as long as it was before midnight. If I were caught out much later than that I was pretty sure I'd be grounded until next year some time.
I turned around and headed back, dialing down the speed until I was moving at about 155-160 meters/second (yes, I use the metric system; it's more precise and I hope one day to be a physicist). Well below the speed of sound but fast enough that people couldn't see me. It was slower than when I'd come out but I had time.
I was passing by two storefronts when I happened to see something in my peripheral vision. I almost shrugged it off but something nagged at me. Something didn't seem quite right. It was probably nothing but I told myself it wouldn't hurt to look – I still had plenty of time. I sighed at myself bitterly and then reversed direction again – I wonder if it counts as mileage if you're constantly back-tracking – and headed back to the small space between the two shops.
I'm not some 'green activitist' or anything but I do know that we, as a species, are not very careful about the environment. We've gotten too good at sweeping dirt under the rug; hiding our garbage instead of disposing of it properly. This space between the two stores was a prime example. It was only about 8 feet wide or so but there was an old tire, some ruined electronics, a few plastic bags – in a word, garbage. There was garbage littered everywhere.
Even the human kind.
I gritted my teeth when I saw him ... and wondered, briefly what teeth grinding at half the speed of sound sounded like. I mean I'd heard Nevaeh grinding her teeth on the couch one night when she'd fallen asleep and it sounded pretty sick. I tried to imagine if I recorded it and played it a higher speed...
Stop. Focus. I have a bad habit of going off on a tangent when upset; I think it's a coping mechanism. My mind doesn't want to deal with the charged situation right in front of it so it moseys on down a different path. Like the time when I had that test...
Damn it. Stop. Focus on what's at hand.
There was a guy dressed all in black – black shirt, black jeans pulled down off his ass, even black shoes but with white gym socks (who does that?) and white tighty whities - with a black ski mask over his face. Now, it's late May in northern Texas; even at night, it's at the very least in the mid-60's. Balmy. Not ski mask weather.
Of course, the guy wasn't wearing the ski mask for the weather. He was wearing it so the woman he was raping wouldn't be able to identify him.
She was young, maybe early to mid-20's. Upright and dressed, she probably looked rather pretty. Lying down on the garbage infested ground, her clothes in tatters around her, blood from cuts and scratches bleeding like tears down her face and body ... not so much. The only hint I had that she was still alive was the glinting, mirrored surface of the knife held at her throat. That was what had caught my attention, actually.
It made me angry. Yes, I'd been a peeping tom and yes, I knew it was wrong and did it anyway ... but this was just sick. Shit like this made me ashamed to be a male. This poor woman could have been my mother or my sisters; if I left it like this, tomorrow it still might be my mother or one of my sisters. Or my friends ... or my sisters' friends or ... hell, even a complete stranger would be wrong. Having it be this stranger was wrong. My grasp on right and wrong may be a little slippery at times but I knew this: no matter who she was or what she'd done, she didn't deserve this. No one deserved this.
As I moved over to them, I recalled hearing somewhere that rape isn't about sex; it's about the power the rapist felt he (or she – could females be rapists? I mean there were some women who were much stronger than me and I guess they could force me but ... ENOUGH. STOP. FOCUS!) ... it's about the power the rapist felt he had over his victim. This asshole thought that he was a big man, thought he had power over the woman lying all but helpless thanks to the knife at her throat. He thought he could do whatever he wanted with impunity.
He was so, so, so wrong.
I'm basically a good person. I have evil little impulses from time to time and sometimes they're hard – sometimes impossible – to ignore. Tonight, though, I had justice on my side. Tonight, I could be an avenging angel.
For the past week, ever since I realized I was moving at incredible speeds, I've been worrying about what effect I have on the things around me while moving that fast. Newton's laws tell us that force is equal to mass times acceleration; my mass hadn't changed but my acceleration had. I mean, I'm moving so fast with respect to objective objects that I can probably do some serious damage without even trying. For that reason, I work hard to avoid people when I'm in a faster speed zone.
Not this time. This asshole deserved everything he got and more.
However, I started out carefully. He was plugged in to the woman and anything I did to him could affect her. I began by pulling the blade off her neck and then yanking it from his hand. Then, I bent his wrist back until it broke. It was far easier than I'd thought it would be. Far, far easier. There was part of me, though, that was almost sick at what I'd done. I had to choke a little bile back down my throat. I wasn't done yet; I'd have to save whatever guilt I felt for later.
I pulled him out as slowly and gently as I could – not for him, I could care less about him, but he wasn't the only one involved in this. I considered briefly about dropping back down to normal speed to make sure I didn't hurt the woman, but I couldn't chance it. Instead, I grabbed a nearby dirty plastic bag and used a piece from it to grab the guy's dick – his small, tiny dick – and gently extricated it from the woman's sex. I nearly gagged as I did it. I'm not homophobic. I'm just a lesbian in a guy's body.
Once I'd separated the two, all bets were off. I didn't even try to be gentle, I just pulled the guy upright and kneed him in the groin. I didn't use everything I had; I wasn't really worried about permanent damage – I just didn't want to kill him.
I thought briefly of something witty I could say – maybe "Time's up, chump!" or "Let me give you a foot up!" or something (yes, I really am that sad) – but then realized he wouldn't hear it anyway. As a matter of fact, no one would hear it. I'd always thought talking to yourself was more than passing strange.
I searched around for a second for something to tie him with but there didn't seem to be anything around that would work. Finally, I dug through some of the discarded electronics and found some long wires in what looked like an ancient television. I grabbed a couple of long pieces of that and hog-tied him, hands together, ankles together and then hands to ankles. I wasn't trying to be gentle or go easy on him. According to my Mom, that was the court's duty. Mine was to make sure, as well as I could, that he never did it again.
Yeah, judge, jury and executioner. Well, maybe not the executioner part. I was having enough trouble with the damage I'd already caused; I couldn't kill him. I could hurt him, though ... and I didn't care much if he didn't like it.
When he was out of the way, I turned to his victim. There wasn't much left to her clothes and I had nothing handy to wrap her in. I could use my shirt ... but that would most likely lead back to me. I'd really rather it didn't lead back to me. I didn't want anyone to know what I could do – not even my parents ... isn't that how I'd ended up here in the first place? Still, I couldn't have run by and done nothing. I'm not that cruel.
As fast as I was moving objectively, no one would see her so I decided to just take her like she was grabbing as much of her shredded clothing as I could. I'm sure the hospital would have blankets or sheets or something to cover her. If not, I'd improvise something.
I took the chance of dropping into normal speed for the briefest second it took to lift her in my arms; I had to listen to the startled scream of the rapist but I didn't pay much attention to it. Besides, the high pitched wail actually made me feel kind of good; like I'd accomplished something. I then shifted back to just under the speed of sound. I was avoiding sonic booms again. I really didn't care if they hurt the asswipe rapist but I didn't want anyone to put together the sonic booms in the park with what had happened here. Just having the scientist's going over the park was too close for comfort.
I got a better look at her as I started walking. She was definitely on the pretty side. Her hair was blond but I could tell it was bottled; the curtains didn't match the rug. She wasn't overly thin but there was a definite womanly curviness to her soft skin. She wasn't overly developed, either, but they were heavy enough to sag to the side very slightly as I walked with her. Her face was a long oval with brown eyes, and a long thin nose. I couldn't tell much about her mouth because it was cracked and bleeding and the bruising around her cheekbones and one of her eyes dulled the whole effect but I could see beauty underneath. Or maybe I just wanted her to be beautiful what with the whole damsel in distress thing.
I walked with her the 6 miles to the Regional Medical Center. I could have run but I figured I was on the edge of the sound barrier now and I didn't want to draw that kind of attention. It took me just over 2 hours of subjective time to get her there ... but only about half a minute of objective time. She weighed a good buck 20 or so ... but I wasn't even remotely tired or winded when we got there. Even my back wasn't cramping like it often did when I carried something heavy a long distance. I guess there's something to be said for that boost in endurance my new ability granted me.
The automatic sliding door wouldn't open for me, of course; electronics are geared for a slower input so don't really work at higher speed zones – as a rule of thumb, if I was moving too fast to be seen I was moving too fast to use electronics reliably. Instead, I had to use a manual door – pull, of course – to get her into the waiting room and then find a gurney to put her in. I was lucky that there was a blanket on the gurney to cover her with. Finally, I slowed down – markers would work at higher speeds if I wrote slowly but pens not so much and a pen was all I could find – and wrote a brief note stating that she was a rape victim, where she'd been raped and that police should be sent there to get the rapist who was tied up and waiting for them.
Writing the note was taking a chance but it beat the alternatives. I could only hope that no one would ever have any reason to match the note to my handwriting. I guess I could have just left her there and let the doctors figure out what had happened – but I was hoping to make sure she got looked at right away. Besides, someone had to let the police know where the rapist was tied up. Someone had to take him to jail. Hopefully not before rats came by and gnawed off his twig and berries, though; I hadn't bothered tucking them in.
Father John had told me that God had given me this gift. I'm not sure he believed it or if it was just something to say but I thought about it as I walked home. If He had given me this gift then maybe this was how He'd intended I use it. There's a cliché that says 'with great power comes great responsibilty'. I think it originated in a comic book somewhere – at least, that's where I heard it – but it didn't make it less true. No way was I going to dress up in spandex tights but doing little things, cleaning up my small corner of the world, wouldn't hurt me and I might even make a difference somehow. I thought, at least, that I'd made a small difference to the rape victim ... and hopefully a huge difference to the rapist.
I wondered briefly if it was too late to capture some rats and drop them right at the rapist's crotch...
No lights on at home so no one had noticed me gone. I opened the door carefully and then closed it just as carefully. I was still hopped up to just under the speed of sound and, for some technical reason I didn't know or understand, my ears didn't seem to work correctly at this speed but that didn't mean I wasn't making noise. Closing a door at the velocity I was moving would be tantamount to slamming it in objective time so I eased it closed as gently as I could and prayed it was gentle enough. I then walked as carefully as possible up the stairs, trying to avoid the creaky steps I knew about.
As I did, I wondered if the step would even have time to creak. At the speed I was moving, I couldn't have been putting pressure on the wood for more than a tiny fraction of a second. Granted I was applying full weight onto the step – but was I on the step long enough to make it creak?
I didn't know the answer but I guessed I'd find out sooner or later. Maybe I could test it by putting a tape recorder on the creaking stair and move up and down the steps a few times. I thought my cell phone might have a recording function...
It seemed that I reached my room without raising a ruckus ... and then remembered that at the speed I was travelling, I wouldn't know for sure until after I returned to normal speed. Keeping all of this shit straight was not easy. I had to juggle objective time and subjective time and before Monday I could barely arrive on time to class. Don't get me wrong, I like math and solving problems and I even found converting speeds and acceleration and the differing rates of travel between my subjective time and the overall objective time rather fun – once in a while. Dealing with it day in and day out was going to be a pain.
I had to chuckle at that. Here I was, given a gift that most people would die for and I was complaining. Whine, whine, whine ... but do it at super speeds.
I ran into a new problem as I was getting undressed. My clothing had blood on it. I wasn't sure what to do. If I put it in the laundry, Mom was going to have a cow. If I didn't put it in the laundry, though, what was I going to do with it? Hide it? No thank you; I'd seen that show and saw how it ends. The owner of the bloody clothes always gets it before the last commercial break.
Thinking about television had me groaning again ... which was weird in and of itself. I could hear myself groan. I couldn't hear anything else but my own groaning came in loud and clear. How the hell could I hear myself while everything else had faded out? Yet another in the long list of things to sort out when I had a few millennia.
Anyway, back to the groaning and cause thereof. I'd watched those crime shows. I saw the forensic tools they had. I'm pretty sure I had transferred trace evidence of my clothing and maybe even hair or some other fibers to the rape victim when I'd carried her. Hell, I was still doing that slow, slight sweat when I carried her so they might even be able to pull DNA from the sweat I'd left on her. If I did and they ran it through...
SHIT. I had to start thinking this stuff through before I did it. If I didn't, I was unlikely to remain free and sane long enough to reach my 15th birthday ... and that wasn't too far away.
I did the only thing I could think of. I dumped the stuff in my pockets on the dresser and got undressed. All the way. I was too afraid that some strange fibers from my boxers might somehow give it all away. I even took off my socks.
There is something remarkably freeing about walking naked through the streets. Unless you can travel faster than the eye can see, however, I don't recommend you try it. There was no breeze, of course, and the strange sensation of Big Stanley flopping around freely took some getting used to (yes, I've named it; hasn't every guy? 'Big' because, let's face it, no guy ever in history is going to call it little and 'Stanley' because – hey – he's a power tool) but after a bit it was really pretty cool.
Now the problem was what to do with the clothes. I needed a fire but where the heck was I going to find a fire in North Texas on a warm, late-May night? I ended up going down the highway 10 miles and dumping the clothes in the bottom of a trash bin at a construction site. I could only hope no one would bother looking in there.
I crawled in my bed much later (subjectively), relieved that my parents hadn't thought to look in on me. Lying in bed, waiting to fall asleep, I thought about what I'd done that night. I hadn't thought about it at the time but saving that woman felt ... good. It felt right. I was actually proud of myself ... even if I couldn't tell anyone that I'd done anything. It was at that point that I realized I didn't need to tell anyone. The joy I felt at having helped someone wouldn't feel any better if I bragged to someone else. I felt ... strangely relieved. I didn't need anyone else to approve of what I'd done. It had been the right thing to do. Sure, maybe kicking the rapist had been a bit much but even that felt good. My Mom was always saying that it was getting to the point where criminals had more rights than their victims and we couldn't always trust in the court systems to 'do the right thing'. Well, this time it wouldn't matter. This time, the rapist had been punished – at least partially – no matter what the courts decided.
Yep. Judge. Jury. Executioner.