You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, Part 6

Posted: 14 January 2013 in fiction, writing, You'll Never Believe A Man Can Fly
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Chapter Three (continued…)

Davies had walked back to his office and when he’d got there, taken off his jacket from habit and hung it on the back of his chair. On the walk from the meeting, he’d decided to check job opportunities, as he suspected he may well need to take advantage of any soon.

He sat in front of the computer and moved the mouse while looking at the screen, reading the headlines on the job agency’s website. The mouse was under his hand and he was already using it when he stopped as the penny dropped.

He lifted his hand and stared at the mouse. He hadn’t reached for it. He had a habit of doing just that, he knew: reading the headlines on the screen while he fumbled for the mouse. But this time it had been there immediately. On any other day, he’d have written it off as just a coincidence, but today wasn’t any other day.

It’s nuts, he thought. Completely impossible. Then he thought of the table upstairs and realised that he was changing his opinion quite rapidly as to what was and wasn’t impossible. He looked up and checked the office door was shut, then took the mouse and placed it on the far side of his desk. He reached out and said, to the open air, “Come here.”

The mouse stayed where it was.

Davies reached out his hand again and said, harder this time, “Mouse – come here!”

Again the mouse stayed where it was.

Then he realised he was doing it wrong. He couldn’t tell his fingers to form a fist by telling them verbally to do so. He just wanted to form a fist and it duly formed. Davies followed though the thought and suddenly reached out his hand, palm down, picturing the mouse resting beneath it.

This time, the mouse didn’t stay where it was at all. It moved, speedily and accurately, and half a second later, it was below his hand.

“Holy shit,” Davies said, and then looked again at the door, double-checking it wasn’t open. In front of his eyes, the door handle moved, then the door opened a few inches, then slammed shut. A thought struck him, sparked by a movie he’d seen in the Christmas holidays last year. He glanced at his desk and closed his eyes for a moment. Then he opened them and snapped his fingers twice. Before him, the surface of his desk, never tidy at the best of times, tidied itself up. Papers organised themselves and were duly paper clipped together, and his phone and hole punch moved to their respective corners of his desk.

He opened his drawers. The same had happened in them – each was neat and better organised than he’d left them.

“Oh, great,” he said, “I’m Mary Poppins.”

– o –

Dr Rosemary Clooney was far less satisfied with her desk. In contrast to Davies’, her work area was usually pristine. She’d once spent two hours looking for a report that had slipped under her keyboard and the embarrassment factor (which had been legion) had ensured that it would never happen again.

Until this afternoon. She’d just spent the last hour, since the astonishing meeting with Toster and Docherty ended, reading the files and papers on the material, reviewing every scrap of information she had on it.

And five minutes ago, she’d realised that there was one sheet of paper missing.

The office no longer looked neat and tidy. It looked like a small tactical bomb had hit it. She had opened every folder, looked in every file. It wasn’t there. In a mark of desperation, she’d even lifted up her keyboard but there was no sign of the sheet of paper.

There was a knock on her door and she said “come in” without raising her head from the waste paper bin.

The door opened and Jez Docherty walked in. He was surprised because the room looked empty. Messy like you wouldn’t believe, but empty. And then, as he watched in some bemusement, what he’d taken to be a white sheet thrown over an area in the corner moved, rose and turned vertical. He realised he’d been looking at the rear of Dr Clooney, but thought it best not to mention it.

“Yes?” asked Clooney as she turned and looked at her visitor. “Oh! Sorry,” she politely said, feeling anything other than polite. She didn’t trust him. She couldn’t have said why but she didn’t. It was just a feeling, but she considered herself an excellent judge of character. And she was… as long as you excluded men who she found attractive. And, crucially, as she’d have been the first to admit, Docherty was attractive. Six feet four inches tall, with close cropped hair, he had, she’d noticed, perfect teeth and hazel eyes, a combination that was always dangerous for her.

And given that this was the sort of physical type she very much found attractive, she was pleased at the curious fact she’d realised within moments of meeting him: she didn’t like him. At all.

“Not a problem,” said Docherty, who knew that Clooney neither liked nor trusted him. It wasn’t that he could read Clooney; he just naturally assumed that no one liked nor trusted him. It didn’t bother him, not with the job he had.

He took another, obvious, look at the room. “Lost something?” he asked.

“Yes,” replied Clooney. She wasn’t inclined to say what and to her surprise, Docherty didn’t pursue the matter.

“I was wondering,” Docherty said.

“Yes? What about?” asked Clooney.

“Well, some minor questions, really. Nothing too important, but they’re questions I’d like answered, if you can.”

“Mr Docherty,” Clooney said, shifting some papers off of her chair and from the visitor’s chair in front of her desk. She gestured with her head to the now empty chair. “Sit down,” she said and then moved to her side of the desk. She looked around briefly and then with a mental shrug, dropped the papers on the floor before sitting herself in her chair. “Mr Docherty,” she said again, “There’s nothing I can tell you that’s not in the report I gave Dr Toster, a report you’ve no doubt already read.”

Docherty was still standing and Clooney smiled good naturedly at him. “Look, the least you can do, since I went to the effort of clearing you a space, is to sit down.”

Docherty smiled back at her. “You’re right.”

“Yes?” asked Clooney.

“Yes,” said Docherty. “It’s the least I can do… so it doesn’t matter whether or not I do so, right?”

Clooney shook her head partly in bemusement, partly in disbelief. “What do you want, Mr Docherty?”

“As I say, just a few questions.” Docherty reached into his inside jacket pocket and pulled out a small notepad, took a pen out of the spiral binding and flipped open the cover. “You said that the material could be mutagenic only if it was exposed to dead tissue.”

“Well, yes, it would have had to have had the heat and force applied to it first, but…” She didn’t get any further before the next question came and when it did, it astonished her.

“What would happen to the dead tissue?”

“I beg your pardon?” She looked at him with surprise.

“The tissue that was exposed. You know, exposed to the material. What would happen to it?”

“It would constitute part of the combined vapour that would form as a result of the exposure.” Clooney was puzzled, and beginning to lose her patience. She couldn’t see where he was going with this, nor why it was supposed to be important.

“Yes, yes, but what about the rest of it?” Docherty was quietly persistent. But persistent he was.

“What ‘rest of it’? There wasn’t any ‘rest of it’. In the trials, the dead tissue was utterly consumed.” Clooney stopped. There was something there, but she wasn’t sure why alarm bells had started ringing in the back of her head.

Now Docherty sat, and crossed his legs. “Ah…” he said, understanding that he was watching her brain click into gear.

He waited for a moment. “It’ll come, give it time,” he said, and only got a look from her that, had her hair been formed of snakes, would have turned him to stone. He watched her intensely and a few seconds later her eyes widened as she made the final connection. “There it is,” he said, getting another Medusa-like glare from her.

“We only used grams of material, a thousand at max.” She couldn’t believe she’d missed the implications, but the thoughts which were now speeding through her brain were brought to a shuddering halt by Docherty’s next question.

“So, you’ve no idea what the effect would be if the dead tissue was, say, 190 to 200 lbs? And was previously a career criminal name Samuel Withers?”

There was a long pause before, under narrowing eyes, the mouth of Dr Rosemary Clooney said simply, “no”.

“OK,” said Docherty. “Next question – I’ve only two more. Where did the material come from?”

The temperature in the room seemed to drop ten degrees as Clooney considered her answer. “America,” she finally said. She watched Docherty write the answer down and then said “A small farm outside a town in Kansas,” waiting for Docherty to make the connection. She was hoping for the same time lagged response she’d had to go through a few minutes ago. She was disappointed as Docherty put down the pen.

“Really? I suppose it was called Smallville,” Docherty said, without a smile. “Dr Clooney, this is serious business. I’d be obliged if you’d actually tell me the truth.”

“The truth? I don’t know where it came from. We were given it under a contract from the Ministry of Defence. We’ve always referred to wherever it came from as ‘The Site’.” Clooney shrugged. “It’s not unusual; we get sent material all the time to work on.”

“OK, where do you think it came from then?” asked Docherty. “Best guess, doctor.”

She pointed up at the ceiling. “Somewhere out there. There were elements in there that I’d never seen before, and that were unidentifiable. Who knows, maybe it did come from Krypton.” She smiled to take the sarcasm out of her tone, and was only partly successful. “You had one more question?”

Docherty sighed. “OK, to the best of your knowledge, experience and guesswork, what mutagenic changes could hypothetically occur to a person? And I stress, could, not would.”

“Ah, that one I can answer. I’ve a list of everything that I could conceive happening to someone who was exposed to it under the circumstances you outlined earlier.” She reached behind her to the printer, pulled a sheet of paper from on top of it and handed it to him. “There you go.”

Docherty looked at both sides of the paper. They were equally blank.

– o –

Davies smiled and waved at the security guard as he left the agency. He wondered whether he’d be either smiling or waving when he exited the following day, or whether his expression would be grim, as he was escorted from the building.

He had a lot on his mind, to put it mildly, and he felt like walking. Walking had always helped him get his thoughts in order, and he enjoyed the solitude. A short while later, he looked at his watch and was surprised at the time; he thought he’d left work about thirty minutes ago. He shook his head. More like ninety. His arms ached and he stretched them above his head, irritated that his shirt came out of his trousers. He pulled it back down and found that it only fitted in when he pulled it tight. He yawned and automatically stretched again. This time he felt a tightness at his back and heard material tearing. What the…?

He took his jacket off and felt by his shoulder blades. He could feel air and knew that he’d torn his shirt. He swore, quietly, then put his jacket back on, becoming rapidly convinced that whatever his body was going through, he needed to get it checked out in a hurry.

He really didn’t want to go to his local doctor; the hypochondriacally inclined general practitioner was a lovely bloke, but he did have an almost supernatural faith in the words “Let’s get that checked out”, and he positively enjoyed sending patients for blood tests. Davies wasn’t quite sure why he continued to stay with a doctor who was convinced that he himself had every illness going, and he knew the doctor would schedule him for any number of tests. But needs must…

Davies crossed the road and fumbled in his pocket for his mobile phone. He walked past the local cinema which had an Anthony Hopkins season playing, and was almost knocked over as a crowd of noisy teenagers came along the street, talking far too loudly. For a moment, Davies wondered if his hearing had suddenly become hypersensitive, but then he rationalised that he had always found crowds of teenagers too loud. Noticing an alley running down the side of the cinema, he ducked into it, pulling the successfully located mobile phone out of his pocket at the same time. As he left the main road, the light dimmed and he hoped that he could get a decent signal. He looked down the alley and noticed that it ran for some distance. He was, for a moment, stuck by how a city’s architecture always seemed to develop its own style. You could never, for example, mistake the alleys of New York for those of London, nor those of Johannesburg for Toronto.

He was just trying to remember his doctor’s number to see if he could get an emergency appointment when he heard raised voices. He looked up and saw in the shadows three adults and a small child some way ahead of him. For a moment, he couldn’t see them clearly and then, when he blinked hard, it seemed as if they were rushing towards him, as the area, several hundred yards away, snapped into focus. And what he saw turned his blood cold.

A well-dressed middle-aged woman held her small son to her body, trying to get him behind her, her other hand half-covering the single string of pearls around her neck. By her side, a tall moustachioed man was trying to calm down the third adult, who wore a peaked cap and held a gun in front of him, pointing it at the couple.

Davies started to run towards them, and as he did so, he threw the mobile phone at the assailant. He had no idea why he did so, but the phone, thrown with incredible speed, rocketed towards the mugger, hitting him on the arm, just below the shoulder. There was an audible crack! and he cried out in pain, dropping the weapon.

When Davies was thirty yards away, he realised that he was moving far faster than he’d ever run before, and on instinct, he threw himself at the now unarmed and cursing man. He left the ground and hit the guy doing twenty miles an hour; the mugger collided into the wall close by, sliding to the ground, screaming in pain. Davies stood in shock and started shaking, sweat pouring from his forehead. He was lifting a trembling hand to wipe away the sweat when he felt a touch on his arm and whirled around to find the man with a moustache looking at him in disbelief.

“Who are you?” the male asked.

Davies didn’t get a chance to respond, as his peripheral vision picked up the mugger aiming the gun at them; Davies spun around leaning towards the threat. There was a loud noise and Davies reacted before he consciously realised doing so, throwing himself into the air, beating the almost 900 miles per hour of the bullet. It hit his shoulder, gouging out a wedge of flesh and muscle. He landed and while his body was still registering that it had been shot, he picked up the man with his other hand and threw him twenty feet away onto a pile of rubbish bags, feeling some satisfaction as he saw him fall hard.

“Bloody hell! Are you ok?” asked the now rescued mugging victim, prompting a giggle from the man’s son. “Mum! Daddy said a naughty word!”

For some reason that struck Davies as very, very funny and he started to laugh. “Yeah,” he said in reply, “I’m fine.”

Then he fainted dead away.

– o –

© Lee Barnett, 2013

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