The fare slid in on to the backseat. The car dipped so hard, on what was left of the suspension, I thought it was going to do a back-flip. Whole lot of man for one man. “What’s up, buddy? Where to?”
“D.C.,” he said.
“No. I said D.C.”
“Yeah, I get that, heard you the first time. But it’s not as if I’m going to drive you the two-or-three-thousand-whatever-it-is miles there, so which airport we going to?”
“None of them, unless you think you need a runway.”
“Okay, I don’t have time for this. Get out of my cab.”
“Time, like so very many other things is something you have in plenty.”
“Fuck. What are you? A Jehovah? Scientologist? Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buying. Now out of my cab, now. Before-“
“Before what? You throw me out? Now wouldn’t that be something for all to witness.”
Dick had a point. When I turned around, it was clear, even sitting, that he was closer to seven feet than six, and was somewhere around three hundred pounds. Not the lard ass I pictured either. He was hewn from solid rock. Figuratively speaking.
“You don’t sound the way you look,” I said.
“Appearances. You can never can go by them. Take yourself, for example.”
He allowed himself a little smile.
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll bite. Who are you?”
“My name, that is unimportant, but you can ascertain, I’m sure, the party to which I belong.”
“The kind of party that usually wears a lot of spandex and likes their underwear outside their trousers, I’m guessing.”
“Samuel, it is time to take your birthright and assume your father’s mantel.”
Oh. Shit. “Jesus, you always talk like that?”
“-never asked me before deciding to bequeath all of his worldly possessions, i.e. his goddamn superpowers, to me before he died. I never wanted any part of his life. He was absent most of mine. I never wanted anything from my father. Because the only thing he ever gave my mother was stress and not much else. Turns out saving the world every day doesn’t pay so good and governments the world over are happy to accept the services of someone who doesn’t ask for anything in return.”
“Samuel, these are dark times. The people of this world need-“
“-to still get from A to B. Hence my current line of non-stress-related, your-problem-not-my-problem work. Meetings, hair appointments, hook-ups with their mistresses. That’s what’s big in real people’s worlds. The shit you guys all get yourselves mixed up with? It doesn’t touch any of them in this bubble we’ve created for them to live out their simple lives. Reality is none of whatever you’re here to bug me about is ever going to come within a million miles of their lives. Unless there’s a warhead or two involved, in which case their shadows will be burnt into the pavement long before they have any idea they’re being nuked to kingdom come. I kind of like being disconnected here with them.”
“Hmmm. Well I’m afraid, Samuel, you do not have that luxury of choice.”
“Go on then. I’m all ears. Oh, and by the way, the meter’s running.” I pulled away from the curb.
“I’m sure if your father had the option, he would have bequeathed his abilities to someone in his bloodline more accommodating and, let’s face it, deserving. But he did not have that option. It is the order of things with your kind. When his flame was extinguished, yours ignited.”
“How poetic. And, believe me, I know. I was running along Venice beach when he must have popped his super-clogs. Clearly. I ended up two miles out into the Pacific. And nice crack about the runway earlier. FYI, I don’t require one. The scare I got from instantaneously ending up out in the ocean launched me 10,000 feet straight up. Managed to get shit under some kind of control before I ended up in orbit. The speed, the flight, the invisibility, the strength, the rest of it. Handy for opening stubborn jars of pickles and the odd spot of shoplifting. But the novelty wore off quick enough. So spare me the whole ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ sermon. Plenty of people out there with the ability to run fast, but that doesn’t mean they have to be Olympic sprinters.”
“That’s much too simplistic a view.”
“I’m a very simplistic person. If I have no interest in doing something, I don’t do it. Simple as.”
“This is most disappointing.”
“I can imagine. Look, if I could pee in a cup, give you a blood sample, pass on this shit to somebody else, I would. But…”
Silence from the back seat.
The deafening sound of thinking, deliberating, weighing up the pros and cons, the positives and negatives, the angel on the good shoulder debating with the devil on the bad.
“I feel your frustration,” I said. “It’s palpable. The whole moral dilemma of what you’re considering.”
The silence continued.
For a guy his size, you couldn’t even hear him breathe, but then he wasn’t any normal guy.
And neither was I.
I heard the synapses in his brain fire, then gave him the benefit of doubt in the microseconds that passed until the tendons and muscle in his right arm, his punching arm I have to gather, coiled. Before his fist was midway along its flightpath, I had caught it, crushed it and almost twisted it clean off the limb it was fixed to.
“The way you’re clenching that comic book lantern jaw of yours tells me you’ve never experienced pain before.”
“I know. Phenomenal, isn’t it. And that’s me being objective. Honest to God. Because I couldn’t give two shits about it. Now, put out as I am about being lumbered with these abilities, this selection box of powers, I have no desire to die to pass them on to the next on in line, whoever that’s supposed to be – thankfully dear old Dad didn’t gift my mom with any other children.”
I pulled in to the side of the road.
“Not sure that it’s of any use to you, whatever your name is, pardon my ignorance, but there’s an emergency room just around the corner. I’d drop you, but I assume you have no money to pay your fare and you’ve already cost me ten bucks I’m not going to get back.”
He just stared at me.
“Kind of cold, I know. But my powers of apathy have been given a boost too.”
“You know,” he said, gathering his arm up, “at least if you’d taken those powers and used them to exact some kind of evil on the world, that would have preferable in some way. At least you’d see the value in them, then.”
He opened the door and stepped out on the sidewalk. “But the most dangerous thing to do with immeasurable power… is nothing at all.”
“Ah-huh. Shut the door after you, man. Thanks.”