Yeah, come here. Closer. Iâ€™ll tell you. For a dollar.
What? You think Iâ€™m messing with you, bro? No way. I wouldnâ€™t do that to a fellow traveler on spaceship earth.
Seriously, she exists. iâ€™m telling you, man, she does.
no this ainâ€™t no hollywood-DC-Marvel bullshit Iâ€™m telling. itâ€™s the guaranteed fact. No hold barred. The fact. Sheâ€™s real.
Yeah, she can fly, she can kick an elephantâ€™s ass and she can see through walls.
No, sheâ€™s not hot, but who cares? Sheâ€™s the real thing. No spandex, men-in-tights bullshit here, brother; just straight truth.
Huh? No. No one knows who she is. They say sheâ€™s got no social security number, no driverâ€™s license. Though, you ask me, she donâ€™t need any of them.
Now how would I know that? A job? I mean, how do YOU make money? Jesus, man, you want a lot for a dollar.
Look, hereâ€™s what I heard. Thereâ€™s this chick, see, and sheâ€™s saving the world. Only itâ€™s not because she gets a kick out of the glory. I even heard she runs from the cops, the cameras AND the IRS. Heh. Just like you anâ€™ me, eh, bro?
Thereâ€™s this guy, downtown, you know? He says he seen her jumping over the 4th avenue theater just to avoid some damn ktuu trucks. Yeah, serious! I guess she had just saved some poor bastard from stepping out into the street â€” guy was drunker n shit â€” when the news van stopped, and two guys with cameras jumped out. Hippie chick on the other corner got a blurry cell pic of her. Fat lot of good thatâ€™ll do. Cell phone cameras suck. What? Just â€˜cause Iâ€™m askin for money donâ€™t mean I ainâ€™t seen a cell phone. Shit.
Anyway, gimme a dollar. Yeah, I told you about her already. Gimme a dollar.
What the hell? Why you taking out that knife. Asshole! Donâ€™t come near me, iâ€™mâ€¦..
Sarah put down the stack of dirty mugs and plates, and began pushing the muffin and scone leavings into the trash can. It was getting late in the morning, and the mad caffeine-crazed crowd was leaving for the day, getting their highly paid, over-cologned asses out to theri jobs, while she emptied their leavings. Ick.
One day, she thought, Iâ€™m gonna be one of those over paid assholes. Goddess knows I deserve it, with all this karma debt.
She finished the trash can crumb routine and switched to what she thought of as the run-the scalding-ass-water-over-the-plates-so-lame-o-boss-lady-wouldnâ€™t-complain routine. Jez wasnâ€™t such a bad sort, just prone to over sharing her complaints about whatever happened to not be working at the moment. Kind of a drippy faucett of lukewarm water that spilled out into as many professional interactions int eh coffee shop that she had. Oh, in front of customers, she was all business. But get her in the back room, and Jez would fill your ear full of the whiny stuff.
Pete, over in the corner, eyed Sarah with his nervous little stare. She was going to have to confront him one of these days, she thought, just as soon as she grew a spine. Nice enough guy, she supposed, but kind of creepy and low-affect. She had met him at the coffee shop, and he’d seemed pretty mellow at first, so she’d responded to the roommate ad he’d posted on the bulletin board out front. Heâ€™d been looking at her differently for the past two months, ever since she had moved in. She sighed.
She scratched at the month-old tattoo on her left shoulder and grimaced. She knew she had to get the damn dishes into the washer before she could go home, and it was getting to be that time.
Fifteen minutes later, Sarah stepped out the door and pulled on her coat. It was cold, but she liked it that way in the first few minutes of leaving the cafe. It was leaving the coffee beany smell behind and exchanging it for the cold crisp air of Anchorage that made the biting chill worthwhile. It wasnâ€™t till her nose finished being shocked at such a temperature change and began to smell the car exhaust that she remembered that she had to bus it home. Her eyes took in the filthy road-dirt encrusted snow on the sidewalk, she sighed heavily and made her way to the bus stop to head home.
The ride home was pretty uneventful. Even if the crazy guy in the back of the bus muttered just a little too loudly today about his twelve cats and the CIA implanted nano-ticks they carried in their purple fur. Even if the bus driverâ€™s leering eyes looked her up and down as if he could see through her heavy coat, carhart jeans, and big clunky army surplus bunny boots. The ride seemed to fly by, though sheâ€™d be hard pressed to say what she thought about. It was almost as if she was in another world all the way home. Not that she stressed too much about it. For one thing, any way the bus ride was shorter was a good thing. For another thing, the spacing out had been happening more and more lately, so she was kind of getting used to it. Not like the bus ride was even voyeuristically fun anymore.
She walked the four blocks from the bus stop to her complex, through the security (yeah, right) gate, and up the stairs to her third floor apartment. Stairs smelled like cat piss and cigarette smoke again, but at least the fish and the booze smell were gone. She grabbed her mail and was halfheartedly sorting through it when she realized that she was standing at her door.
Her half open door. With someone in her apartment. Making noise.
â€œShit,â€ she half-thought, half said.
Movement in the apartment stopped for a second, then the noises abruptly terminated with a large crash. She was frozen in place, but for some reason knew the sound of her television hitting the floor. Sheâ€™d look back on it later and wonder how the hell she knew what that sounded like.
â€œFuck.â€ This last from inside the apartment, accompanied by the sound of the window being opened (Again, sheâ€™d wonder later at the clarity of her hearing).
Somehow, Sarah pushed the door fully open just in time to see a pair of hands dangling from the window. More like fingers, really. With a strange kind of clarity, she ran toward the window, whether to grab the fingers or what, she didnâ€™t know.
In her clarity-ified state, she still failed to notice the TV cord. Her foot caught in it, it resisted just enough to cause her to trip, flailing, toward the open windows and the just-letting-go fingers. The cord kindly pulled loose from the wall to allow her to fall even faster, and she hit the ledge with her stomach, a tight little â€œoofâ€ being forced out of her as her belly fat decided to punch the window ledge back. Her own fingers hit the sides of the window casing on her way out, not bothering to even attempt to scrabble for purchase. They were that dumbfounded.
She fell. Toward the ice covered pavement below. In the alley. Time did indeed slow down, as she closed her eyes to avoid noticing the broken glass she was definitely hurtling toward. Then time slowed even more. And again.
Sara Juneau opened one eye; just a squint. Yep, the broken glass was still there. About a foot away from her squinted eye, in fact. Time really must have shut down, packed up shop, and left, because she wasnâ€™t falling.
Cautiously twisting her neck to see the blurry figure of the burglar running off away from the complex and onto the side street that adjoined the alley, Sarah had another one of those moments:
Time wasnâ€™t standing still. She wasnâ€™t in an episode of Star Trek. The cars and buses drove by on that very same street adjoining the alley. little eddies of wind pushed the paper wrappers across her squinty field of vision. She opened the other eye.
She opened them both fully. Really, really wide.
â€œthe hell?â€ she thought AND said.
One foot below her, the ground looked back impassively.
â€œIâ€™mâ€¦floating?â€ she said, quite clearly and out loud.
â€œShit. Now how do I get down?â€
A stray cat chose that moment to stroll by, look up at her, and do that impassive cat shrug thing. Like itâ€™s no big deal. Like the cat had seen his share of floating humans every damn day, thank you very much. And then it walked on, nonplussed.
Sarah began to be aware of her own body, floating almost perfectly horizontal in the air a foot above the ground. She moved her left foot toward the ground as an experiment. It felt like overbalancing, so she slowed it down. Then the right foot moved as if it had a choice, slowly and deliberately to the ground. She moved her hands, still flung out to protect her if she had fallen (or, more likely, to be smashed into the broken glass as they covered her face in a vain attempt to keep said glass out of her eyes), toward the sides of her body.
She slowly touched ground, swiveled a bit to get her hips under her (how the hell?), and stood up from the resulting crouch. Because she couldnâ€™t do anything else, she glanced up behind her at the third floor window that she had fallen through. it looked like it always looked from this alley: dirty and old. No broken glass, which was a blessing since it was damn November already, and the snow was sticking.
Sarah brushed her hands together, as if they had gravel from the alley road on them. She brushed at her carharts and her jacket. She looked around, saw no one, and walked, tentatively, around to the front of the building. She punched in the security (hah!) code, walked up the stairs, through her door, and firmly but gently closed the door behind her.
Nothing. Not a damn thing. Not even a little lift.
Sarah shut her eyes. She squinted. She raised her arms to the air, even tried to flap them a bit (the flabby back-arm fat swished through her curly out of control hair and made her stop flapping).
Nothing worked. She sat on the sad futon, itâ€™s misshapen mattress like a sign of defeat under her butt. She picked up the phone. Put it down again. No one to call. It was a hard thing to realize that you had no friends, but even harder to realize even your acquaintance list was short.
When Sarah was three years old, her mother would put her in her high chair, and sing to her while she made her lunch. Dippy 70â€™s songs, lullabies, whatever. It didnâ€™t matter. Sarahâ€™s mom would sing it. Sarah could still hear her motherâ€™s voice. She could HEAR it, not just in her imagination, but in loud, clear, almost in-tune glorious stereo as if she were in the same room with it.
When Sarah was twenty, and halfway through her failed attempt at college, right after the experiment with alternative lifestyles, she had gotten into cocaine. Sheâ€™d spent a year or two joining the ranks of users, then abusers, then spent a little time at a rehab to put herself back together. During that last two weeks in the hospital, as she sat on her poorly made, thin-mattressed bed, she realized something. She couldnâ€™t hear her motherâ€™s signing any more. It was gone. Finished. Like it would never come back.
This was like that time. As soon as Sarah walked back up the steps to her apartment, and started cleaning up the broken TV, she began to try to fly again. Float, rather. Tried raising her toes above the carpet. Tried moving her heels up and her hand out till she stood like an awkward ballerina in her bunny boots, skinny legs masked by the heavy carhart pants, toes pointed and supporting her weight. She realized that she was missing something, a feeling, like that time with her motherâ€™s voice. Something that felt right, felt like a part of her; something that she already desperately missed.
Sarah placed the dustpan full of broken TV into the trash can, and carried the rest of the chassis outside to the dumpster. She thought about calling the police, then her landlady, then her mother. Nothing felt right. None of that would make her feel better, and she knew that it wouldnâ€™t find the burglar or create some sort of TV movie justice. She sighed.
It was the Punny Humans that did it. Every single day, at the end of school, Sam and Ralph would meet at the front playground, sit against the wall, and wait for their mothers to come pick them up. Sam would invariably reach into his backpack, and pull out a comic, usuall a new one from the comic store. Ralph would always instead ask Sam to read one of the old ones his uncle still kept in his parentsâ€™ basement. Silver Surfer, especially. Fantastic Four, the Hulk, whatever he could grab from his uncleâ€™s untold gazillions of old comics. The exhaust of the cars lining up outside the fenced yard to pick up kids at the end of the day mixed with the sickly sweet smell of the weirdo trees that grew around the school. It was a heady mixture, and Ralph found himself drifting off into the comics that Sam would read aloud, especially the old ones Ralph would bring.
Heâ€™d say, â€œYou punny humans must obey me!â€ or some such Galactus utterance. The Silver Surfer, tragic hero to the last, would fly off and save whatever punny human he could. Ralph would figure out later that puny meant small, insignificant, and unimportant. It made sense, if you were Galactus. Ralph ALWAYS felt punny. Especially when he went home to his house and listened to his parents spend more time each trying to make the other listen. Trying to control Ralph and his brother. The screaming, the fighting, the yelling: all par for the course. Thatâ€™s how his uncle, the depression man, said it. His uncle lived in the spare room of their house, and sometimes ate dinner with them in the dining room. Heâ€™d sit in his room all day, watching a little TV he put in there. It sat on a small kitchen table, where he kept a phone (for the calls, dude, from the chicks, heâ€™d say). The phone never rang. Ralph had never seen his uncle use the phone, but it was there, like silent witness.
His uncle would say, â€œIâ€™m gonna watch a little TV,â€ after dinner. And then heâ€™d look right at Ralph, whoâ€™d have to stifle his giggles at the pun. It was punny. His uncle was the coolest adult Ralph knew, because he treated Ralph like a grown up. Like a smart kid. Not like a pawn to be traded for small victories, like his parents did.
Ever since that fourth grade year when Ralph had met the first of the few rare common souls in his life, heâ€™d been a comics fan. He wasnâ€™t proud. He read superhero comics, he read â€œseriousâ€ comics, he read porn comics, he read alternate history comics. He didnâ€™t care. If it was a book with pictures and words, heâ€™d read it. Of course, heâ€™d never admit to the sizable collection of Archie Comics slowly moldering in his own spare room now that he was ACTUALLY a grown up ,rather than being treated like one by his uncle, Vic. Ralph always gave his comics away. He knew other obsessed collectors, young and old men (rarely women, go figure) who spent a fortune on card stock boards and acid free plastic baggies to store their precious comic books in.
But Ralph knew the secret. They werenâ€™t going to sell these comics, no matter how much they poured over Wizard or ComicShop or the like. Comics were like little bricks of self esteem they could cobble together into a wall that kept out the bullies, the assholes, the guys who drank Bud Lite and watched football on Sundays in a big circle jerk. Ralph knew this, so gave all of his away. Yes, he liked to visit the conventions, and the big comic shops in the nearby big city. Walking among the smell of new and old comics was as heady a mixture that would always carry with it the smell of car exhaust and weirdo trees in his mind.
Ralph built up a collection of comics starting around the age of 19 or 20, when he finally had a steady job but relatively few bills. He bought bags and boards and big plastic water tight boxes to keep them in. But then his dad had died. His mother was devastated. They couldnâ€™t spend more than an hour without screaming at each other in life, but they somehow hadnâ€™t been able to spend more than an hour away from each other at all. She followed his father to the grave within a week of his passing.
Which left Ralph depressed, vaguely guilty he wasnâ€™t actually sad, and with the job of taking care of all the CRAP his parents had accumulated across the 30 tumultous years of their marriage. Piles of shitty old things that only mattered to them. And they werenâ€™t that old. It wasnâ€™t like they had gone senile and started saving carpet scraps because they didnâ€™t know any better. These people kept EVERYthing. Old wood, rusty nails, outdated lamps. Hair brushes, gifts fro 15 years prior that they never opened, boxes and boxes of schoolwork from Ralphs elementary and high school days. What the hell were they thinking?
Uncle vic was nowhere to be found; all the contact info Ralph could find was ten years out of date. So Ralph had the honor, the freaking pleasure, of cleaning up all the old crap. And, since he was his fatherâ€™s son, he couldnâ€™t just back up a dumpster to the garage and start throwing shit in. He had to go through each and every box. Every dusty old, blanket-covered piecs of shit his parents had owned. When he got two-thirds of the way throught he stuff int he garage, and found a key to a self storage place, something snapped. Ralph got up, walked out, and drove home. He grabbed his comic books, now twelve years of them, put them in the back of his grey pickup, and drove them to the library. He left them on the steps, since they were closed for the night, and walked away.
Ralph was 38 now, and still read comics weekly. He had a subscription to all his favorites: Superman, Spiderman, Batman, Justice League, and the few Vertigo books he could get his hands on. But as soon as he was done with it, he gave it way. Passed it along. Left them on airplanes and in coffeeshops and at Burger Kings for some lucky kid to find and read and maybe become just as obsessed. It was no small wonder his love life was confined to a quick paid fuck outside the local strip joint once a month. He felt pathetic, old, and knew he was at least sixty pounds too heavy.
But when he opened the covers of another flimsy superhero comic, he was no longer fat old Ralph. He was in fourth grade again, punny but significant, believing with all his heart that men in tights could fly, and that right and wrong were simple, and that if you just hit the bad guys hard enough, theyâ€™d let you win. That, and the scantily clad hot women superheroes made him feel funny, down there.
He wasnâ€™t alone, and sad, and unloved when he was riding that all-too-briefly experienced collection of pages of artwork and words. He was strong, and kind-hearted, and compassionate, and righteous. he could save the hot girls and the grateful men. He could do anything, and was revered for it. He wanted to believe, even for that quick 20 pages, that the world was bright and colorful and bold. He knew it in his bones.
—–#SECTION MARKER 1#—–
It was a quick walk to Jackâ€™s Place, a diner where Sarah had breakfast most Sundays. She walked in, took off her ski coat, and hung it on the coat-rack near the door. She walked past the Seat Yourself sign and grabbed her regular booth. Taking off her leather jacket, an affectation that became important when she had moved to Anchorage, she threw it on the booth seat, and slid in next to it.
The red leather squeaked as she sat on it, and she felt the familiar dips where hundreds of butts had pressed the padding down.
â€œThe same, hon?â€ said Edie, the waitress who looked about 60 but was probably more like 50.
â€œYeah, sure, thanks, Edeâ€ said Sarah, not even bothering to read the menu. It hadnâ€™t changed in eons according to the wait staff, and looked like it hadnâ€™t been cleaned in as long, either.
Edie flipped over the coffee mug and poured a hot steaming mugful of the watery stuff. Sarah added in one cream cup, and one fake sugar. She sipped.
Edie smiled as she took the menu form the table and went to the next table. â€œWhatâ€™ll it be, hon?â€
Sarah had been coming here for the last 7 years, give or take. Sheâ€™d moved up to Anchorage with her dumbass boyfriend, who swore there was a land of riches up here. Heâ€™d heard of the high pay that fishermen made, and was planning on tour guiding on the cruise ships in the summer, and. And. And.
It was always â€œandâ€ with that guy. Theyâ€™d lasted an entire winter together, until he never came back from one of his commercial fishing trips. Sheâ€™d spent a lot of time crying, and eating Ben N Jerryâ€™s, and drinking whiskey, and lying on the couch staring. Almost a year and 40 pounds later, sheâ€™d begun looking for a job, deciding that one place was as good as another to be depressed. Sheâ€™d been in Anchorage ever since.
Her breakfast came â€” two scrambled eggs, wheat toast, and patty sausage. side of hash browns â€” and she devoured it. When she was finished with the food and about 3 more cups of the brown water in the mug, she went and grabbed the Pressed, a local newsprint rag with local â€œindieâ€ culture. Since she nominally considered her self indie, she read it. Mostly the Dan Savager column, which she found hilarious, in a sad sort of way.
She was deep into the â€œmy gay boyfriend likes to fuck dogsâ€ letter when the gunman came in.
He looked dirty. He smelled dirty, even from way back in her booth. His hands shook, and probably not only from the cold. His face looked like a caricature of a native guy. He looked scared, like heâ€™d sat outside the diner screwing up his courage and was forcing himself through this now. All this Sarah saw in a moment, before he actually got to the cash register.
Sarah didnâ€™t think he was the smartest guy around, what with picking Sunday morning – the busiest day of the week and time of day – for his heist. He probably didnâ€™t even pick it, she thought.
Most of the other people in the place hadnâ€™t even given him a second glance. The people sitting nearest the door and cash register looked frozen, some of their food halfway to their mouths, like hovering insects, unaware of imminent doom.
He tottered a bit as he moved toward the register. He fumbled in his pocket and suddenly his face changed. He was a hardened criminal, just like that. He pulled out a small, dirty gun and aimed it at the register.
Edie was sorting checks at the register. She slowly raised her eyes and head up to see who was waiting, her eyes narrowing with a kind of calculating surprise. Sarah knew that look. Sheâ€™d seen it on her mother, on her boyfriend the fisherman, on any number of city dwellers who had no where to go and nothing to lose. The gunman looked strung out enough to shoot, thought, regardless of Edieâ€™s world-weary ways.
There was no thinking about it. Sarah sized up the situation, and the next thing she knew she was running toward the gunman. Everyone and everything around her seemed to slow down. The way the gunmanâ€™s eyes widened in slow motion shock as she moved up on him. He wasnâ€™t much larger than she was, and she was moving FAST. She didnâ€™t have time to figure out what she was going to do, let alone how she was running so swiftly, before she slammed into him, grabbed him around his waist, and carried him with her through the door into the waiting cold.
â€œIce.â€ she thought, as soon as she hit the parking lot. “Shit.”
Her booted feet flipped up into the air and she and the gunman went careening toward the wall opposite the diner door. She thought she saw his gun fly out in the opposite direction as he threw his hands out to break his own fall, but she couldnâ€™t be sure. They both slammed into the brick wall of the neighboring business, and bounced off. She spun off on the ice, hit a parking berm and rolled to a stop. The erstwhile robber spun out into the street. A big SUV rolled right over him, crushing him to death. She saw blood burst from his mouth and he rolled over and over. The SUV slid into a parked car as it tried, too late, to avoid the spinning gunman that it had just rolled over.
Sarah got up to her knees and vomited up her breakfast. A crowd was gathering from the diner, just outside the door. All were focused on the accident and dead criminal. All of them except Edie, who was looking right at Sarah. Edie pointed away from the scene of the accident, mouthed the word, â€œrun,â€ and pointedly looked back to the street in front of the diner.
Sarah found a patch of gravel to get some traction, and sped away, toward home.
â€œYou got the stuff?â€
The two men stared at each other across the distance of one Chicago airport seat.
â€œSo, what did you find out?â€
â€œItâ€™s right there. Read itâ€
â€œJesus, man, just tell me. What does it say?â€
â€œIt says, Mr. Patient, that the nanotests were successful.â€
â€œSheeit. Thank the gods.â€
â€œYeah.â€ The grey-haired man chuckled, â€œall three of them.â€ He sobered up and said, â€œbut there were problems.â€
The much younger man was almost a mirror image of the older man in his dark blue suit and light blue tie, except for the brown hair. His own expression hardened, and he said, â€œwhat?â€
The older man cringed a bit. â€œThey got out. Not all of them, but enough to infectâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦Jesus Christ,â€ interrupted the younger man. â€œthatâ€™s not good.â€
â€œNo, it isnâ€™t. But at leastâ€¦â€
â€œâ€¦they got out in the middle of nowhere.â€
â€œOh, well, then who cares? No one there â€˜cept the damn Eskimos, right?â€
â€œCourse, weâ€™ll need to go get them.â€
â€œYep.â€ Mr. Gray Hair sighed. He knew what this meant. He knew how obsessive Mr. Brown Hair could get. And even if Mr. Brown wasnâ€™t his boss, by god he could make it rough.
Mr. Gray sighed again. â€œWell, Iâ€™ll go get the tickets.â€
â€œOk, then,â€ said Mr. Brown. â€œIâ€™ll have them send us the gear. Probably some jackets, too.â€ This time, his chuckle wasnâ€™t even close to mirthful.
She ran. She was scared and she ran. Sarah knew in her bones that she had killed that guy. He didn’t deserve it, she only wanted to get him away from the kids and their pancakes and it didn’t matter, in the end. She had killed him. And then she ran. Like a coward.
Everything LOOKED slow, but it wasn’t. She’d tripped twice before she got the hang of lightly hitting the ground with her foot before pushing off with it. It was like walking on clouds might feel, if she had ever walked on clouds. It also had the distinct air of walking on ice. Ice on a pond that had just frozen over. Ice that you weren’t sure would hold your weight. ALL of the ground felt that way now.
The first time she tripped, she slid across an actual pond. Good thing it was frozen-ish, even if the particles of ice and water flew up into her eyes so she could hardly see. She left a big wake in her passing, a wake made of bunched up ice as if a meteor had hit. She had looked behind her after recovering from the first fall.
When she had done that, the whole world seemed to snap into normal time again. She looked back, saw the could-be-a-meteor trail of her passage across the pond, and realized that SOMEONE, somewhere would see her at the end of the runnel and put two and two together. She ran again. And tripped. Again.
This time, it was over a traffic railing at the top of the hill next to the pond. She pushed off near the pond, ran up the hill, and tried her light step to hop over the railing. Her left boot had just missed clearing the railing, and she fell, tumbling across traffic, through the whizzing cars. They didn’t look like they were whizzing to her. but they seemed to be a slow moving corridor that she slid through, street ice cutting her clothing to shreds and ripping into the first couple layers of flesh on her chest and torso. THAT was going to hurt as soon as she ran out of adrenaline.
Luckily, she hit a bush, then a wall behind the bush, near an apartment building on the side of the street she had skidded across. It hurt like hell, but at least she was out of sight. Because she wasn’t speeding by the waking world just by lightly jogging anymore, and she figured anyone could see her. It was like a strange dream where even the most fantastic things seem commonplace and real. She would have pinched herself except the pain from her road rash hurt her more than any pinch would, so she figured if she were going to have woken up, she’d have already done so.
Sarah curled up into a ball around her ripped flesh, her tattered clothes, and her rapid heartbeat. SHe breathed calmly while the world moved on by, once again in normal speed.
As soon as her breathing regulated itself, and the pain became too much to sit with, she slowly stretched out a bit in the bush and realized how cold it was. There had been a cold snap just this week, of course, and it was in the teens, temperature wise. She left BOTH her damn jackets at the diner, and she must be covered in blood, and she looked down, and…
…nothing. Well, not nothing. But less than what she figured she’d see. Her clothing was tattered, and full of road dirt, yes. But her skin beneath it was clear. It hurt like hell, but it was clear. She could see her breasts under the tatters of her bra, and her belly fat was still there. “Too bad that didn’t rip off while I skidded by,” she thought, with the near-miss hysteria she seemed to be encountering more often lately. Her skin, in fact, looked pretty damn good for having been pushed through and across the icy skin of a pond, and then dragged across an asphalt road and then tossed into a wall through a fairly prickly bush.
Curiouser and curiouser, she quoted.
Sarah Juneau got to her feet, looked around, and slowly stepped out of the bush. She gathered her tattered flannel around her front, and realized that she was about 2 miles from home.
A slow grin spread across her face and she “jogged” home. It took her about 2 minutes. It only took her 3 tries to stop at the actual security (hehe) gate. She found that stopping before the actual building was key, so her speed didn’t take her past her destination, like a fast forward on a Tivo.
She walked upstairs, as running would probably take her through the roof, and grabbed an old hoodie from the front closet. She put on a big fluffy pink hat, and a pair of wool mittens her mom had sent up a few years ago. She slipped her house keys back into the pocket of her carharts and went back out into the street. It was time to test this thing.
Sarah slowed the world down, or sped herself up, depending, until she could see the open highway ahead of her. She stopped, and then glanced at her watch.
“Allright, let’s do this.” She seemed to be talking to herself quite a bit, lately.
She ran the 18 miles to Eagle River in about 3 minutes.
It felt like running for 3 minutes. Which meant that her out of shape flabby body was out of breath and tired in the first 30 seconds or so.
The world slowly drifted by her, but the scenery moved as if on a crazy timeline of its own. THERE was the off-ramp a mile from the start of her jog, THERE was the five mile mark, THERE was the beginning of Eagle River, a suburb of Anchorage. The jerky movement of …time? space? she didn’t know…was hard to get a grip on, mentally. She settled on her Tivo metaphor and figured she was on the triple speed fast forward. Going fast, but hard to figure out when to hit the Play button.
She stopped by the side of the road at the end of the Hiland Loop offramp. Breathing hard, cramping in her stomach and legs, she stood still, letting the world jerk back into realtime. A car approached to make a right off the freeway. The driver spared her a glance, and rolled through the stopsign. It was like he hadn’t seen her at all.
She suddenly grasped her stomach and fell to the ground. The intense pain hit her like a battering ram to the midsection. “Aw, fuck,” she thought, doubling over in waves of pain, “what the hell!??”
Her mind cleared enough during the lull of one of the waves that she realized that she was…HUNGRY. Not just man-i’d-dog-a-hot-dog hungry, but I-haven’t-eaten-for-a-fucking-week hungry. But she had just eaten. And then saw a man…strike that, killed a man. How could she be hungry?
It didn’t seem to matter that the logic was flawed; her stomach continued to assault her with hunger pangs more intense than any she’d ever had in. her. life.
She looked across the street and thankfully saw a McDonald’s, it’s shiny greasy arches beckoning to her from across the road. She somehow straightened out and walked slowly, as if in great pain, across to the fast food restaurant.
Once inside, she pulled off her mittens and hat, and opened her coat a bit. She was hot from the 3 minutes of unfamiliar exercise, and the Mickey D’s was hot from all the luscious, greasy, sexy food behind the counter.
She shuffled up to the register.
“I’ll take 3 Quarter Pounder meals.” She assessed her hunger again, willing herself to remain upright.
The kid behind the counter looked at her funny, whether at her strange half-bent, half-ramrod straight posture, or the big order, she wasn’t sure.
“And four apple pies, and three double cheesburgers.”
He stared at her. She stared back, daring him to say anything. She knew he wasn’t supposed to laugh at the fat people who ordered huge meals.
But she wasn’t that huge. She let him wonder where her companions were, paid for the meal, and grabbed the tray (“for here”).
She found the corner booth in the kid play lounge. It was SUnday morning, so not too many rugrats in here, yet. She scarfed two quarter pounders and a double cheese before the hunger began to abate.
She took that opportunity to get up and fill a plastic cup with diet, no REAL coke.
“goddamn who cares,” she thought. “I just ran from Anchorage.”
Sitting back with the rest of her quickly consumed meal, she leaned back. She didn’t feel full, exactly, but at least it wasn’t a painful thing to remain unbent at the middle.
Sarah looked to her left, and saw a pair of toddlers staring at her. The crazy lady with the wild curly blonde hair, the chubby cheeks, the old jacket, hat and mittens. Beagle River must not get it’s share of homeless people, since the toddlers looked on with what might have been awe, or might have been deer-in-the-headlights fear.
“Anton! Julia! come back here! Leave the …nice… lady alone!” Their mother hustled them back to the other side of the play place.
Sarah Juneau sighed, got up, emptied her tray into the trash, and put on her outerwear again. “Time to run home real quick,” she thought, and didn’t bother to stifle the giggles.
—–#Section Marker 2#—–