The Chronicles of Z’va’Xin - issue #5
The Chronicles of Z’va’Xin
Shades of grey
As soon as Dave was through the door to his small one bedroom apartment, he dropped his two heavy suitcases just inside the door; went over and flopped out on his blue denim couch. A few hours earlier, he had left Xin and the hidden science ship in the badlands of Drumheller. He had made plans to go back there in a couple of weeks, but first he had to square a few things away here in Calgary.
Damn, he should be exhausted for all that had happened to him, but he wasn’t. It was another reminder that he was not the same person that had left this apartment about four weeks earlier.
He laid back in an attempt to take a short nap but he couldn’t relax, his mind was racing with all that had recently happened. After only a few minutes, he decided to get up; take a shower and then go out to get a decent meal. There was next to nothing in the fridge, and next to that there was a crusty jar of mustard.
It wasn’t until he had his clothes off and caught a glimps of himself in the bathroom mirror that his transformation hit home. He had always been in fairly good shape, but that body in the mirror wasn’t the one he left for the Badlands with. He now had the physique of a gymnast – muscular but well proportioned, and he had abs! He left with the beginnings of a keg and came back with a 6-pack! Next he stepped on the scale, but he couldn’t get an accurate reading. It gave him a reading of 400 pounds (the maximum limit) and then went black. Xin had said his body was denser, but he didn’t really think much about it till now, after killing his scale.
After his relaxing; almost therapeutic, hot shower, he ambled into the bedroom while drying his hair with the brisk rubbing of a navy blue coloured towel. From the corner of his right eye he noticed the answering machine’s small red light flashing; walked over; pressed the play button with a tiny pang of dread.
“You have, three, messages,” the emotionless, digital male voice announced.
“Beep! May 30th, 6:06 p.m....”
“Hey Dave, this is Yamir. Listen, I’m a bit worried when you didn’t show up for work yesterday, and now again today, well... Call me as soon as you get back, OK?”
“Beep! June 3rd, 9:15 a.m....”
“Dave, this is Yamir. We’re all getting real worried about you. I called you in as a missing person yesterday. I wish I knew where you were going on your vacation. I wasn’t much help to the police. I gave them your Dad’s number. I know you two aren’t close, but it’s all I could think of. I hope wherever you are, you’re OK. Bye.”
“Beep! June 8th, 7:23 p.m....”
Dave’s father’s thick Dutch accent was recorded next. “Ello Davit. I know I aven’t calt for a while. Anyway, de police calt me today askink about you. If you get dis message, might want to call de police an tell dem you’re OK. I ope so.”
“End of messages.”
First Dave called the Calgary Police and told them he was OK; gave them some lame excuse about a mix-up about his days off at work. An excuse they didn’t seem to buy, but it gave him a reprieve for the moment. Next he dialed his Dad.
“Ello,” his Dad answered.
“Hi, dad, this is Dave. Don’t worry, everything is OK. It was just a little mix-up at work about how many days off I was taking. They thought I was taking two weeks, but I’m sure I told them I was taking both my vacation times back-to-back.” Dave hated to lie but what was he going to say – the truth?
“I’m glat to ear. I was worriet when de police calt. I figure it must be serious if dey are involve. Maybe nex time you will tell someone where you are,” his father admonished.
“Funny you should bring that up.... I’m really not that happy with my present job, and am planning on doing something else like... um... like join the Peace Corps. So don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a while.” Dave was never that close to his father, but he still found it distasteful to lie to him.
“So what, dey don’t ave phones at de Peace Corps?”
“Not always, it depends where I’m placed. Anyway, I’ve got to get going. Like I said, don’t worry if you don’t hear from me for a while – I’ll be OK, bye.”
Dave hung up the phone before his father could even reply a good-bye. He couldn’t stand all the pretending between him and his father. It was a lifetime of going through the motions of a father/son relationship. They had everyone fooled, but there wasn’t much love – it was mostly all words. It was for the benefit of everyone else. Dave’s father never wanted children, but Dave’s mother (God rest her sole) did, so she made it happen much to his father’s displeasure and inconvenience. His father sucked it up and resentfully played the father role for 35 years, but Dave was getting tired of the performance. Maybe this was the last curtain call.
Dave called his friend Yamir next.
“Hi, Yamir. This is Dave.”
“Dave! What the hell happened man? We were all worried sick about you! The police are looking for you.”
“I’m OK. I called the police already and straightened it out. It’s just a little mix-up with my days off. I took all of my four weeks off at once, and I guess the company put me down for only the two. Our office administration – do I need to say more?”
“I hear you,” Yamir agreed with relief.
“Listen, have you had dinner yet? I was planning on going to the sports bar and get something to eat. I’ll tell you about my vacation there.”
“Sounds good,” replied Yamir. “Is seven OK for you?”
“Seven is fine, I’ll see you in a couple of hours.”
A couple of hours later, Dave parked his yellow Toyota Matrix and entered the restaurant/bar. The sports bar was a typical looking rustic venue, complete with a wooden canoe nailed to the upper half of a wall, and a moose’s head mounted on another. These were just a couple of the more noticeable decorations among the dozens of other woodsy paraphernalia nailed or glued to the barn-like walls. The place had wood floors, wooden chairs; just a lot of wood in general, but the food was good, and except for the three or four decapitated animal heads, Dave didn’t mind the rest of the decor. Some of the stuff hanging on the walls reminded him of the days he had spent at his Uncle’s farm in southern Ontario.
Yamir was already sitting at one of the booths with his head hidden within an oversized menu.
“Hey, Yamir!” Dave greeted.
Yamir’s head poked up out of the menu, his black eyebrows went up forming little arches. “Hi, Dave!”
Dave sat down and a short while later told Yamir about his vacation over a burger, but leaving out the part about meeting a 65 million year old alien probe, and being turned into a superhuman.
“Yamir, if you had the opportunity to do something amazing; something you dreamed of doing, but was dangerous, would you do it?”
“I guess it would depend on how dangerous. I see things as a balancing act sometimes. Does the need to do this amazing thing equal or outweigh the danger?” Yamir strategized. “Also, as long as all the possible safeguards are used, the danger can be lessened. There are dangerous jobs but if you are reckless, the danger is further compounded. Now you have me curious.... What is this amazing dream job?”
“Well, it’s not exactly a job, and you wouldn’t believe me if I told you, so let’s just say it’s sort of like being an explorer...”
Yamir swiftly cut Dave off. “Oh man! You’re not talking about diving for shipwrecks again are you?”
Before Dave could answer, a new voice interrupted their conversation. “I don’t know guys, he doesn’t have a towel on his head, but he looks like a terrorist to me.”
Dave turned around in his seat to see three burly men standing in a group a few feet behind him. One was standing with his hands on his hips, displaying an advertisement for a beer company on his brown T-shirt, the second had his arms folded over a black leather jacket, and the third was leaning back against a table. “Yeah, I think you’re right,” agreed the leather jacket one.
“Yamir is Indian if it’s any of your concern,” corrected Dave.
“A Paki or a woo-woo Indian?” came back the insult from the first – the inebriated brown T-shirt one.
“Pakistan is another country.... You guys are drunk. I suggest you give it a rest.” Dave felt the blood start to pound in his temples. The thing he hated the most was bullies. They were nothing but cowards that picked on the weak to make themselves feel big. Dave remembered his experience when he was eleven. Every day on his way to school, an older boy a head taller than him would push him around, and sometimes even put him in a head-lock. This had gone on for several days until one day, Dave couldn’t take it anymore, he became so angry he punched the giant in his stomach with all his might. He hadn’t even thought of the consequences, but the look of shock in the bully’s eyes was the last thing he expected to see. After that incident, he was no longer bothered by the taller teen. As far as the bully was concerned, Dave was a crazy kid who was no longer worth the trouble.
Dave stood up to talk to the rowdy, drunken trio, and talk his way out of a confrontation, which this was quickly becoming. No sooner had he stood up and turned around, but a big, meaty fist slammed into his left cheek. It should have knocked him down on the ground; probably breaking his cheek bone, and even knocking out a couple of teeth, but it didn’t. It hurt a little, feeling more like a slap, and it hardly moved his head from the force. The T-shirted thug just stood there nursing his bruised knuckles, surprised as much as Dave at the utterly unexpected result.
“Gee, I didn’t realize we were going to have a bitch slapping contest.” Something came over Dave. He was going to try to talk some sense into these goons, but now he was edging them on; just looking for an excuse to fight. Yamir couldn’t believe what he was seeing and hearing.
The same thug that threw the first punch, now took another swing at Dave’s face, but this time he saw it coming. Not only did he see the fist coming, but it seemed like it was moving in slow motion. He easily ducked the attack resulting in the drunk staggering and almost falling.
Dave’s genetically enhanced ears heard a wind-like sound to his right that turned out to be the leather jacket guy taking a swing at him. He quickly turned toward the sound, but this time it was too close to evade, so he just grabbed the noisy fist as if it were a softball in his right hand, and instinctively squeezed. The man screamed as Dave could feel the bones crush under his grip like a bag of peanuts.
This shocked Dave back into reality. The sweat felt cold on his forehead as he realized at that moment these three thugs were no match for him, and if he continued on this course, he would become the bully, if he hadn’t already crossed over that line.
“Yamir, get out of here! I’ll be right behind you,” Dave yelled.
Yamir, who had been frozen in his seat staring at the surreal display in front of him was snapped back into action by Dave’s familiar voice. He got quickly out of the booth, and a couple of seconds later was at the side door exit where he paused.
“Go! I’m OK. I can handle these guys,” Dave shouted.
Yamir went outside, and then towards where he had parked his car.
Dave turned back to confront the two thugs who were still in the fight. The leather jacket guy was now sitting on the ground cradling his broken hand as if it were a newborn baby, but with an expression of extreme pain and shock.
Now two men came at him with unfounded retribution written on their faces, but Dave’s initial anger for them had now dissipated. Keeping his eyes on both of them, he easily dodge their wild punches and kicks. To Dave, the two men were moving in slow motion, but in reality, he was moving faster than humanly possible. Had they been sober, it would have made little difference – they would still have been sparring with the air. This enraged them even more as their futile attacks became even more chaotic.
Dave had been trying to figure a way of slowing these two down without hurting them. He just needed a few seconds of respite so that he could make it to his car without them following; then it came to him. He saw the heavy-duty coat hooks that were at eye level mounted on thick wooden posts nailed between all the booths. He quickly tripped one of the combatants, sending him sprawling on the wooden floor. Ignoring the other’s punches to his head and upper body, he picked him up with both hands on either side of his belt, and hooked him up on one of the nearest posts. Dave was surprised at how easy it was. The guy must have weighed over 200 pounds, but it was like picking up a twenty pound bag of potatoes. The result was almost comical as the frustrated thug was now suspended on the hook and flailing away in an exaggerated running motion. When Dave turned around to do the same with the other guy, he didn’t need to – the last bully was running towards the main exit. Dave was not surprised – when the going gets tough, the tough guys get running, he mused.
For the first time, Dave looked around the large room to see about a dozen people silently staring at him with looks of disbelief from various random booths. The stillness was interrupted by a low male voice making a phone call to the police. He didn’t see anyone making the call, but he knew it was coming from the kitchen area, from behind a closed door; clear on the other side of the restaurant! Taking advantage of the lull, Dave ran out through the same side door that his friend had used only a minute earlier.
Outside in the parking lot, Dave saw Yamir now in his car, and shouted to him. “I’ll meet you at my place!”
“OK,” came back the reply; Yamir drove off as Dave ran to his car, and soon followed.
Twenty minutes later both friends were sitting on Dave’s couch. Yamir had an odd expression on his face as they sat silently looking at each other.
“What?” remarked Dave as if to imply that nothing had happened that should warrant the third degree stare.
“WHAT? What the hell was that back there? Did you take a black Ops self defence course, overdose on caffeine, get bit by a radioactive spider... what?
“Well, not exactly, but I guess you could say I’ve been working out a bit,” Dave joked. Yamir wasn’t laughing.
“Listen,” Dave continued, “you won’t believe me if I told you, but I can show you part of it. I’ve changed or more specifically – was changed.” Dave laid his left arm on the couch between them and let it go limp. “Try to lift my arm off the couch.”
Yamir humoured his friend as he grabbed Dave’s wrist and tried to lift it unsuccessfully. Only when he stood up and used both hands was he able to move the arm up off the couch. “Holy crap!... It must weigh a hundred pounds!”
“Actually, my arm weighs about 90 pounds. I can’t weight my whole body at once, I’m too heavy, but a man’s arm weighs about five percent of his total body weight. So I weigh somewhere around 1,800 pounds now, give or take fifty pounds. Oh yeah, and I don’t need a calculator anymore, but I’ll tell you about that later. Anyway, I could tell you all kinds of crazy stuff but it’s best if I show you. I’m going back to Drumheller this coming Saturday. I want you to come with me, and I’ll show you what’s going on. Is it a deal?”
If Dave’s arm was some sort of trick, it was a good one as Yamir didn’t feel any resistance whatsoever from Dave. It actually felt like a dead weight. What was Dave up to, and what was at Drumheller? No amount of pleading changed Dave’s mind – he refused to tell him any more. Puzzled but very curious, he agreed to go with Dave.
Dave waved goodbye as Yamir drove his too small car off into the dark. He looked up at the clear night sky stippled with hundreds of shimmering stars. Each one was a possible location for an adventure just waiting to happen. “Which one of you will be first?” he whispered.
He didn’t know how Yamir would react to Xin and all the rest of it, but he wanted to tell someone. He needed to tell someone. Dave remembered a quote from Jacques Cousteau: “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”
He was about to embark on the greatest adventure of the twenty-first century. He would be the first human to go beyond the Moon, the Solar System, and perhaps even the Galaxy; yet, there would be no fanfare, no parade, not even news coverage of this remarkable event. He had wanted to somehow announce it to the world. Dave ran it over in his mind many times, in various scenarios, but he just couldn’t see it working. Governments would want to take Xin and the science craft apart to learn their secrets. He would be turned into some sort of medical experiment in an underground lab somewhere... No, the world wasn’t ready for this, and maybe that’s what frustrated him so. In his ideal world, he would come forward, tell the world of what he was about to do. The world, in turn, would be amazed; support him 100 percent, eagerly await his arrival back from his adventures, and write the history of his explorations. It was a nice dream, but the world was never so simple or black and white – there were always too many shades of grey.
(To be continued.)
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© 2011 Robert G. Moons
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