I’ve accepted that I’ll never know all the facts about that night, and that includes how I got back to my apartment. I woke up in my living room, my torso on the floor and my legs on the couch. I tumbled to the floor and laid there, trying to determine whether last night had really happened. A woman’s voice said, “Your phone’s ringing.” I stood up and looked behind the couch. Tara was lying on her side, just starting to regain consciousness. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw George’s legs sticking out from behind the counter of the kitchenette. I didn’t see Barry anywhere, but I was sure he’d turn up.
I heard the phone ring again and, after some effort, found it stuck between the cushions of the sofa. The Caller ID read “Work.” I pinched my nose and answered. “Hello?” I said, in my best sick voice. “You’re an hour late,” one of my twenty-or-so managers said, “You better have a good reason.”
“I guh da flu,” I mumbled, throwing in a coughing fit for authenticity, “I can’t wor toduh.”
“Geez, you sound like shit,” he said. “You know what, take the day off.”
“Tankoo,” I said, and hung up. Someone was clapping.
“Not the best I’ve heard, but not bad. You should try talking through a tissue next time,” Tara said, struggling to her feet. She looked around. “What the fuck happened last night?”
George bolted to his feet and shouted, “Does anyone feel probed!”
“Oh, that,” she said, brushing her hair back with her hand. She looked puzzled. “Where’s Barry?”
As if in response to her question, the closet door swung open and Barry spilled out. He quickly scampered to his feet, and brushed off his smoke-stained coat. “Why was I in the closet?” he asked. George was about to say something, but I shook my head. Now wasn’t the time for jokes. “I’d have to assume the alien put you there.” I said. “…And I just realized how crazy that sounded.”
“That’s probably one of the least crazy things about last night.” Barry said.
George turned on the TV. “And in breaking news,” the TV announced , “A piece of satellite wreckage crashed into Oak Valley State Park just after two o’clock this morning.” The report showed footage of emergency vehicles near the park’s entrance. George’s car was gone. “While it hasn’t been confirmed, there are reports that this may have been a spy satellite. Whether it’s ours or another nation’s is still a matter of speculation.” The footage switched back to the anchor, “In other news, do you know what your cat is doing when you’re not home? See the startling images when we come back.”
We stared absently at the television as an ad for mattresses played. “Okay,” Barry said, “We met an alien whose ship just crashed, he did something to us with a glowy round crystal thingy, and now it’s being covered up. Should we start panicking now, or when the NSA storms the building.”
“What happened to my car,” George asked.
“The government probably took it,” Tara said. “But I think that’s the least of our problems.”
“We should probably decide on a story to tell them,” Barry said.
“My car,” George muttered.
“Do they even know we were there,” I asked. “I mean, how did we get here?”
“My car!” George shouted and punched the wall. His fist broke through the drywall and several inches of concrete behind it, a puff of gray dust taking their place. He remained motionless with his arm in the wall for what seemed like hours but was, in fact, just seconds. “Umm, guys,” he said, “Look what I did.”
“Holy shit, we have superpowers!” Barry exuberantly exclaimed. “Let me try!” He ran up to the wall, drew his fist back and punched with all his strength. “OOOOWWWWWWW!” he screamed as his hand slammed against the unrelenting barrier. He grabbed his bloodied right hand with his left and cradled it. “FUUCKKK!” he shouted.
“This is so cool,” George said, oblivious to Barry’s incident. He walked over to the couch and lifted it above his head with one hand. “Holy shit, guys! Do you see this?”
“Yes,” I said. “But I really wish I didn’t.” George lowered the sofa to the floor and approached Barry. He grabbed him by the legs and lifted him above his head. “Put me down!” Barry shouted.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” George said sarcastically, “Do you not like being the first person to get lifted overhead by a fucking superhero?”
“George,” I said, “First, put him down, second, having superpowers doesn’t make you a superhero.” Barry nodded. “You heard him, put me down!”
“Say ‘please,’” George replied.
“Please, put me down you idiot.”
“Oh? Sounds like someone wants to go higher.”
George raised Barry so that his head was brushing against the ceiling. “Cut it out!” He screamed, as George started to walk around the living room, holding Barry at arm’s length over his head.
“George,” Tara said, “You might want to stop.”
“We’re just having fun,” George sad, doing a quick spin and crouch.
“And how do you know?”
“His eyes are glowing red.”
Sure enough, his eyes were a luminescent red, and were growing brighter and brighter. “Put. Me. Down!” he shouted. A beam of red light zipped across the room and burnt another hole in the wall.
At this point, I was convinced that this was a fever dream or that I was insane. “You guys are covering my security deposit,” I said.
George lowered Barry to the floor, and he examined what he’d done.
“So Barry has heat vision,” Tara said, “Fantastic.”
“Just like Superman!” Barry exclaimed.
George laughed, “Seriously, I’m like Superman. You’re not even Cyclops.”
“Be nice, George,” Tara said, “He’s better than Cyclops. He doesn’t have to wear that stupid visor.”
“I thought that visor was cool,” Barry said.
Tara glared at him, “You’re really not helping yourself here.” She looked back to George. “He has heat vision, which is still pretty impressive.”
“Thanks, Tara,” Barry said, looking at the floor.
“Do it again.” George said. “I didn’t get a good look the first time.”
“Please don’t destroy any of my stuff,” I added.
Barry stared at the hole that George had made. A bright flash emanated from his pupils and sent more dust flying. “Awesome.” George said. “Do me next.”
“What?” Barry, Tara, and I said simultaneously.
He slapped his chest. “Shoot me with your eye lasers.”
“Okay.” Barry said, and poised himself several feet in front of George.
“Do you really think this is a good idea, George,” I asked.
Barry turned to me, “The man wants lasers, so he’s gonna get lasers.”
Barry’s eyes started glowing again, followed by a bright beam straight to George’s chest. George stood still, and when the beam dissipated, I could see a hole about the size of a quarter in his shirt, but the skin underneath was unscathed.
“Awesome!” Geoge nodded, and looked to me and Tara, “I wonder what powers you guys have.” I wondered the same thing. I looked at Tara and saw that she was standing on her toes, bouncing up and down a bit. She noticed me staring at her.
“I thought I could fly.” She said, “Is that so weird?”
“Yes.” I said.
George opened a drawer in the kitchenette and took out a pad of paper and a pen. He spoke aloud as he wrote, “super strength, heat ray, flight, super speed, telepathy…” This went on for a while. When he was finished, George handed me the list. “Try all of these.”
Neither Tara nor I could lift the couch. And we couldn’t shoot lasers from our eyes or fly either. Then he told us to run to the door and back. It took me longer than I’d like to admit. I got back to where I’d been standing.
George looked to Tara, “Your turn.”
“Okay.” Tara said. She didn’t move. George kept looking at her.
“Run to the door and back.” He said.
“Again?” She replied.
George looked at me and nodded.
Tara looked worried. “What?” she said, “What is it.” George took his cell phone from his pocket and opened the stopwatch feature.
“On three, I want you to hit the light switch next to the door, run here, then hit the light switch again, and then come back here.”
“Just trust me.”
“Fine.” She shifted uncomfortably.
“All right,” George said, his thumb hovering over the ‘Start Timing’ button, “One, Two, Three.” There was a brief flicker of darkness and two quick ‘beeps’ from George’s phone. George showed me the results. 0.14 seconds. He showed Tara.
“Bullshit,” She said, clearly shocked.
“If I had to guess,” Barry piped in, “Your perception changes when you go at super speed.” George pointed to Barry and gave him a thumbs up.
“But wouldn’t the friction cause me to catch on fire or something?” she asked.
“An alien gave you superpowers. Are you really trying to rationalize this?” I asked.
Tara was about to respond, but George interrupted. “We still need to find out what your powers are.” After half an hour of experiments that involved lighters, playing cards, blindfolds and other miscellanea, we still had nothing. “I have one more thing to try,” George said. He got a can of beer from the fridge. “Hey, Matt. Heads up!” He hurled the can at me like the Hulk on a particularly belligerent binge.
Do you remember that scene from Spiderman, where Peter Parker gets into a fight, and he sees everything in slow motion? This was nothing like that. It happened at full speed, a metal fastball coming right at me. I’d never done a backflip before, but I did one then. The can passed below me as I rotated in the air. Then it smashed through my TV.
“Damn!” George and I said at the same time, but for different reasons.
“You got the super…dexterity…thing.” Barry said.
George nodded. “Yeah, that one doesn’t really have a good name.”
“What the fuck, George?” I said.
“You could have killed me! What if I didn’t have super reflexes…dexterity… whatever? I’d be dead!”
“Of course not,” George said jovially, “Tara would have caught it in time.”
“Actually,” Tara said quietly, “I wasn’t really paying attention.”
After a moment of tense silence, George said, “Well, no harm no foul, right?” Sparks shot out of my TV. “I’ll get you a new one.”
We tested out our new powers and the structural integrity of my apartment for a couple of hours. George was tossing pieces of garbage into the air for Barry to zap, when he suggested that my abilities might give me enhanced accuracy. I believe his exact words were, “Like Bulls-Eye, but not such a dick.” He was right. About the aim and about Bulls-Eye being a dick. It was just past noon when George remembered that his car was missing. We decided to check outside, hoping that the alien had sent George’s car back with us. Fortunately, the car was parked along the curb in front of the building. “Yes!” George shouted. Tara and Barry were looking around.
“Dammit,” Barry said, “Why didn’t he send my car?”
“Um, Barry,” I said, “Do you drive a green Prius?”
I pointed across the street about half a block down. Barry’s Prius was sitting in front of a fire hydrant, several tickets sticking to the windshield and a boot on the wheel. “Seriously?” Barry jogged to his car and pulled one of the tickets. “Two-hundred dollars for blocking a fire hydrant!” He looked his car over, “If I’m blocking the hydrant, why’d they boot me?”
“Need a ride?” George said, sliding into the driver’s seat of his car.
“Uh, thanks,” Barry said, walking back across the street.
Tara’s cell phone buzzed. “Dammit!” she said, after reading the text, “I’m late for work. Can I get a ride, too?”
“No problem. Where to?”
Tara looked around. “Actually, it’s only a few miles west of here. The Starbucks on Winnetka.” She got into the front passenger seat.
“Coffee sounds good right about now.” I said, getting in the back seat, Barry just getting in on the other side. We rode in silence to the Starbucks.
George parked in front of the building, and we all got out of the car. Inside the store, Tara rushed through the employees only door at the back, while Barry, George, and I ordered at the counter. We were receiving our coffees when Tara returned wearing her uniform. “We should meet up again later,” she said, grabbing a napkin from the dispenser and a pen from a cup next to the cappuccino machine, “here’s my phone number and email.” She scribbled the information on the napkin.
“Hey Tara, I need some help over here,” said the barista who had just served us. He was juggling several large and obviously complicated orders.
“Got to go,” Tara said, then turning to her coworker, “Coming, Chad!”
The three of us walked back outside, “So where to, Barry?” George asked.
Barry looked at his watch, Mickey Mouse’s short arm was pointing at one, and his long arm was pointing at twelve. “You know, I could probably just pick up the bus from here.”
“Are you sure,” I asked.
“It’s really no trouble,” George seconded.
“No, it’s fine. Thanks.” Barry walked off to join the group standing at the corner. George shrugged and we got into the car.
“So,” George said, “What now?”