and Lyle walked along the rural, unfinished road. Lyle picked up one of the loose
stones that were all over it and then he threw it at one of the overhead power
lines. He missed it.
man. I was that close," he said to Spencer. "And you didn’t think I’d come
anywhere near it."
looked over at him. "What are you talking about? I never said anything and
neither did you. And who throws rocks at power lines?"
your problem?" Lyle asked. Spencer didn’t say a word.
Lyle intentionally
kicked stones and dust with each step while Spencer only did so accidentally.
They were only a few weeks away from starting their second year of college.
Up ahead
lay a bit of woods that would run for around a hundred yards or so on each side
of the road, but right now they trudged along in a semi-open area. Spencer
reached out and touched a bunch of foxtails growing along the edge. The road
wasn’t wide enough to say it had shoulders. In fact, it was one lane and if two
cars were going in the opposite direction on it at the same time, one would
have to move into the weeds so the other one could pass.
"Look at
that huge pile of crap," Lyle said with a laugh, as he pointed at animal
defecation on the road. He went to it and picked it up, throwing some at
dodged it. "Knock it off, you idiot," he told him. Lyle was reaching down for
more when Spencer made a fist and pulled his arm back. Lyle stopped, got up,
and wiped his hand on his shorts.
continued walking. Spencer looked over at Lyle who looked at the road with
slumped shoulders, still grinning to himself. Spencer shook his head and rolled
his eyes.
walked some more and Lyle would say some nonsense every now and then. Spencer
mostly tried to ignore him but when he did reply it was short and curt. The
only regular sound was Lyle’s flip-flops flipping and flopping.
Lyle was
on the left side of the road and Spencer was on the right. Spencer was wiping
away the latest sweat that rolled near his eyes when Lyle stopped again.
Spencer wondered what new biological fact of life had fascinated him now.
"Look at
this," Lyle said.
rather not," Spencer replied.
continued walking but Lyle reached down and touched something. Spencer stopped
and looked closer to where Lyle was. The township probably hadn’t mowed the
edges of the road the entire year, and the weeds were so overgrown they were
hanging onto the road in many places. But even with all that, Spencer could
still see that there was a clearing where Lyle was. And in that clearing was a
small metal box with a matte finish. Spencer walked towards Lyle.
Once he
got closer he saw that not only were the weeds cleared away where the
rectangular box was, but that it sat in dirt that was weeded out into a perfect
"What in
the world is that?" Spencer asked.
"It’s a
box, you idiot," Lyle said. Spencer rolled his eyes again.
definitely weird. Let’s leave it alone," Spencer said.
Lyle was
bent over with his hands on his knees as he looked at it. "No way. I want to
see what it is."
took a few steps back as Lyle squatted and grabbed the metal box, which was
about a foot long, six inches wide, and two inches deep. Lyle opened it and
found a metal cylinder inside, with the same silver matte finish as the box.
started handling the cylinder and Spencer could see that it had a band around
one end of it. That band showed a fluorescent, glowing green coming from it. It
was bright enough that Spencer could clearly see it even in the sunlight.
are you doing? Stop that," Spencer told Lyle, swatting at a horsefly that madly
buzzed around him.
laughed at him. "You’re such a coward." He continued running his fingers and
hands on it, and now even played with it, waving it around while he looked at
it. He glanced at one end and noticed a closed iris on it.
"Look at
that," he said. He poked at the iris and then he shook the cylinder. Finally he
slammed the iris into the palm of his hand. Something jabbed him.
screamed and dropped the cylinder. He danced around, swearing and jabbering
like some old coot. His brain couldn’t keep up with his mouth and so he
repeated a lot of his cuss words and phrases. Eventually he tried kicking the
cylinder which had rolled only a short distance away from where he dropped it
on the rough road. He mostly missed but connected with it enough that it
bounced over a few more pebbles and stones before it came to a stop in the
middle of the road.
just watched. He was about to say something but then the cylinder began to
hiss. He backed away even further until his weathered boot heels touched the
edge of the road and he felt weeds push into the back of his t-shirt. Lyle stopped
his dancing and singing, and he watched too.
the cylinder melted into a metallic liquid and then it started smoking as if it
was going to light on fire. But the smoke wasn’t from heat. Or at least it
wasn’t because the metal was about to ignite. Instead, Spencer and Lyle watched
as the metal evaporated into a gas. Soon it had all disappeared.
looked up at Lyle. "Okay. Now you definitely should be worried. You should go
to the hospital."
looked back at him and shook his head. "Spencer, you’re overreacting again. Why
are you always so worried about life instead of enjoying it?" He shook his hand
and looked at the red mark on his palm. Then he went over to the metal box on
the side of the road and kicked at it.
time he made full contact and the box went sailing over the weeds and down a
hill, bouncing and rattling to the bottom of it as it disappeared.
you’re okay with being jabbed by a cylinder that just disintegrated? Aren’t you
a little concerned about that?" Spencer asked him. He still hadn’t moved from
the far side of the road.
The sun
continued beating down on them and Lyle ran the same hand he used to pick up
the animal feces through his sweaty, oily hair. "I’m still here, aren’t I?
Let’s keep moving."
walked another 50 yards or so, with Spencer trying to convince Lyle that they
needed to get him to a hospital as soon as they could. He suggested calling 911
for an ambulance but Lyle kept turning it down. They reached the part of the
road where the open field transitioned into a wooded area. The shade the trees
provided probably cooled the air by five to ten degrees. They hung over the
road from both its sides, blocking all but a patch of sun here and there.
As they
walked into the woods Spencer kept talking to Lyle about seeking medical
attention, but instead of continuing to object to that idea, Lyle became
silent, and Spencer could see that his pace was slowing. They arrived at a
place in the woods where the trees were so tall and thick that there wasn’t
much undergrowth.
"I got
to stop and rest," Lyle said as he started off the road and into the woods. "If
I sit down for just a moment I know I’ll be all right."
"This is
definitely a sign you need to go to the hospital," Spencer told him.
you just shut up …" Lyle said. He sat down on the ground, his knees pulled up
towards him and his head hanging down.
walked off the road too and stood next to Lyle. Spencer was about to say
something more about seeking medical attention when Lyle suddenly lurched
backwards and began convulsing.
stood there watching Lyle flop around uncontrollably, gurgling and making all
sorts of horrible noises. Spencer’s mouth hanged open and his hands remained at
his side. Eventually, he remembered that he had a cell phone and that he
probably should call for help. He quickly fumbled for his back pocket, but just
as he whipped out his smart phone Lyle’s seizure stopped.
Spencer asked.
remained lying on the ground but his eyes were open, and he looked at Spencer
as soon as he heard his name. And then he sat up. He gazed forward for a moment
and then looked up at Spencer again, his hair messed up and his clothes covered
in dirt and leaves, but otherwise appearing fine. "I feel great," he said to
Spencer, as Spencer’s finger hovered over the keypad on his phone.
shot up off the ground so quickly that Spencer stumbled backwards and almost
dropped his phone. He regained hold of it and then stuffed it into the back
pocket of his jeans again.
might want to take it easy. You just had a seizure," he said to Lyle, who was
now brushing himself off.
Like I said, I feel great," Lyle told him. Then he glared at the ground. "But
I’m getting sick of getting beat up today. First, that stupid rod jabbed me and
now I have this stupid convulsion!" He turned towards the nearest tree and
punched it as hard as he could.
rolled his eyes. He heard the splintering sound and waited for Lyle to start
yelling about all the bones he just broke in his hand. But Lyle didn’t yell.
And then he looked at the tree that Lyle just hit. Lyle’s punch had taken a
huge chuck out of it. The tree was about two feet in diameter and Lyle’s punch
looked like it had took about a foot high and six inch wide bite out of the
left side of it.
Spencer snapped
his head towards Lyle who looked back at him, and then at his perfectly okay
fist. Then a big smile came over Lyle’s face. And before Spencer could tell him
to stop, Lyle punched the tree again.
punch produced another splintering sound, but this time it was followed by
creaking and popping. Spencer looked up and could see the trunk starting to
come towards him. He turned and ran away from it as fast as it could. He did a
pretty good job of evading the path it fell, with maybe only twig or two
brushing against him as the mighty tree broke through the other branches around
it, and then crashed to the ground with an awful noise. Birds chirped loudly and
Spencer could hear maybe a squirrel or groundhog running away from all the
slowly turned around and heard Lyle before he saw him. Lyle was laughing loudly
and jumping around, slapping his hands together and yelling a triumphant yell.
Spencer slowly worked his way through the leaves and sparse undergrowth of the
woods back to where Lyle was. He looked back at the tree and then felt his head
and torso again. Not even a scratch.
hurried over to him and grabbed him by the shoulders–hard enough that Spencer
winced. "Did you see what just happened?"
you almost killed me," Spencer said.
punched that tree over! That rod gave me superpowers!"
Lyle let
him go and went back to letting out whoops and hollers as he jumped around. He
bent down and scooped up some leaves, throwing them in the air like confetti.
Spencer rubbed one of his shoulders and then lifted up the sleeve of his
t-shirt. Lyle’s grip had left huge marks and Spencer thought for sure they’d
eventually turn black and blue.
looked back at Lyle and before he could tell him not to do anything else
reckless, Lyle was doing all sorts of things to test his newfound abilities.
Lyle started punching all sorts of things–pretty much anything solid he could
find, which was mostly rocks and trees. He broke or at least damaged them all.
And then he happened upon some broken glass bottles, and he quickly tested if
he could punch them without hurting himself. He even tried cutting himself with
one of the broken shards and found it didn’t do anything other than leave some
red streaks on his skin. Maybe if he kept at it long enough he’d break the skin
or rub it raw–like anyone would if he scratched at his skin with his fingernails–but
what clearly would have cut anyone else didn’t affect Lyle.
He screamed
at the top of his lungs, beat his chest twice, and then he started jumping up
and down all over the place again. Spencer watched him. Lyle wasn’t a great
athlete but he wasn’t a terrible one. His jumps seemed higher than normal.
Spencer watched some more and then realized that Lyle’s jumps seemed higher
than normal because they were.
First it
looked like Lyle was jumping about two feet into the air, and then it was two
and a half. Three feet, four feet, five feet, and even six feet. At seven feet
Lyle noticed what he was doing. He stopped, looked down at his feet, and then
looked at Spencer who was just staring wide-eyed at him. Lyle’s mouth was agape
at first but then it turned into a gigantic grin again. He crouched down and
then leaped as hard as he could.
he screamed as he rocketed into the air. Spencer’s necked snapped backwards as
he followed Lyle’s trajectory.
crashed through the lower branches of a bunch of trees in the woods, powering
through them and in some cases snapping them. Twigs, branches, and leaves
cascaded to the ground as Spencer watched him go higher and higher until he
smacked into the trunk of a white oak near its top. Lyle threw his legs and
arms around it, holding onto it for a moment before letting go of it with his
legs and pushing off the trunk with his feet. He fell to the ground and landed
about 100 feet away from Spencer. The leaves and twigs crunched underneath his
feet and Spencer could feel the thud on the cool forest floor even as he heard
rushed over to Spencer and Spencer just stared at him. "Did you see that?! Did
you see that?! I don’t just have superhuman strength! I can fly too! I can
didn’t say anything and Lyle came closer, lightly slapping him on the face.
"Dude? Are you in there? Did you hear what I just said or see any of that?"
reached up and touched his cheek. "Yeah, I saw all of that and I heard you," he
said. Lyle wasn’t breathing hard or sweating much more from when they were in
the sun. But the sweat continued pouring off Spencer. "Why are you so happy
about all this? This isn’t normal and you need to get it checked out."
looked at him. "Are you crazy? I’ve got superpowers. I’m not getting anything
checked out. I’m super strong and I can fly."
know–wait a minute. Did you just say you can fly?" Spencer asked.
Didn’t you see me fly to the top of that tree?"
didn’t fly there; it was just a really high jump."
"No, it
wasn’t. I flew there!"
And then
they argued about that for a bit. Finally Lyle had enough.
I’m not letting you bring me down," he said with a wave of his hand. He turned
and started walking back towards the road.
"I’m not
trying to bring you down," Spencer said as he followed him. "I’m just telling
you what I saw."
"And I’m
telling you what I felt," Lyle said. He stomped on the leaves and around any shrubs
and small trees he encountered at first. But then he smiled big again and
started walking through them, with some of the low-growing plants just bending
around him while others broke. Lyle ignored the tears and damage he inflicted
on his clothes.
walked around all the obstacles he encountered the entire time, hurrying to
keep up with Lyle. They kept arguing even as they reached the road, jumping
down on the dirt and gravel. And then they continued in the direction they had
been heading before they entered the woods.
Lyle eventually said. "It doesn’t matter what you think. I know what I did."
that we’re on the road again, we should–"
you’re going to say anything about me needing to go see a doctor I suggest you
don’t finish that sentence," Lyle said, turning his head to look at Spencer.
didn’t finish the sentence. He just shrugged and they walked in silence for a
bit. Spencer kept looking over at Lyle and each time he did Lyle looked back
and smiled or laughed.
"Can you
believe this happened to me?" Lyle eventually asked.
Spencer replied.
know what I’m going to do right away?"
Spencer gave him a simple, "No."
going to be a superhero," Lyle said.
superhero–just like in the comic books," Lyle told him. "And I’m going to do
anything I want from now on. I’m going to go wherever I want and whenever I
want. I’m going to be rich. And I’m going to get back at all the people who’ve
ever wronged me."
They had
reached the end of the woods and were walking back into open field again, with
the sun greeting their return with rays that packed a punch–at least on Spencer.
going to have to come up with a name for myself," Lyle said.
"So you
don’t like ‘Lyle’ anymore?" Spencer asked.
"I’m not
talking about changing my name, you idiot," Lyle said. "I need a superhero name
for myself; I need to come up with that identity so I can have a secret
really don’t think you’re thinking about what just happened to you," Spencer
did I say about not telling me to go see a doctor?" Lyle shot back.
held up his hands and quickly said, "I’m not telling you that. I’m just saying you’ve
already decided to become a superhero when we should be asking how in the world
did the impossible just happen to you."
about, ‘Cheese Dip,’ because I like cheese dip?" Lyle said.
dip is fine but I don’t have any on me," Spencer said.
"I’m not
talking about eating some right now; I’m talking about that for a possible
superhero name."
"Are you
kidding?" Spencer said.
you’re right. I don’t want to go with anything that connects my superhero
identity to my civilian one. So ‘Cheese Dip’ is no good," Lyle said.
rolled his eyes and shook his head.
‘Roach Killer,’ because if anybody tries to hurt me from now on I’ll squash
them like a bug. Or I could just make it, ‘Captain Crush.’ Or how about,
‘Destroying Man.’ No, that doesn’t sound right."
listened to him rattle off a bunch more possibilities, including formulaic ones
like, "Big Dawg." Lyle also tossed out some names that Spencer didn’t
understand, such as, "B. F. D."
"I got
it!" Lyle exclaimed. "It’s perfect! You know what it is?"
clue," Spencer said with a shake of his head.
N. U.," Lyle told him. "Because I’m now deadlier than everyone else. I’ll be
like all those rappers with the cool names. Or like all those cool guys who
steal stuff and get all the hookers in those video games."
stopped and tried looking at Lyle again. "Look, Lyle, you can’t do this."
stopped and looked at Spencer. "Why not? Who’s going to stop me?"
"I’m not
saying anyone is going to stop you, I’m just saying none of this is a good
idea," Spencer said. "You don’t have to go to a doctor but to just rush into
the idea of you becoming a superhero after what happened today doesn’t make
leaned back and let out a loud scoff. "You know what, Spencer, I’ve had enough.
I’m not going to let you bring me down. I don’t get you. You are always so
scared about life, like a woman would be. I like having fun. And I’m definitely
going to have fun with being a superhero with my new strength and ability to
"I still
say you weren’t flying," Spencer said.
"Aw, you
always think you know better than me," Lyle said. "But who cares? I’m the top
dog from now on and it’s time to introduce the world to me. Or introduce
superhero me to the world–whatever. You know what I mean! And I’m going to
start by proving to you I can fly."
Lyle barely
bent his knees this time before shooting into the air.
He moved
so quickly all that Spencer had time to say was, "Watch out for the–!" before
Lyle flew straight into the overhead power lines.
strange cylinder might have imbued Lyle with a bunch of new abilities, but it
apparently didn’t imbue him with immunity to electricity. Spencer watched as
Lyle first got tangled in the power lines and then started sparking and smoking.
He let out one long, unintelligible scream. One of the power lines broke in
jumped backwards to avoid the live wire and the body of Lyle. Both of them fell
a safe distance away from him.
smell was awful. Spencer looked at Lyle very quickly and then looked away as
fast as he could from the smoking corpse, with some of Lyle’s clothes on fire.
At first he was worried the body was going to burn up but the flames died down.
The stench remained, though.
ran a few more yards down the road to get away from it. He took out his cell
phone and started dialing 911. He didn’t have any idea how he was going to
explain Lyle’s electrocuted body or the downed power line.
As he
waited for a dispatcher to answer he thought to himself, Huh. Lyle was telling the truth. He really could fly.