The clock struck three. In a windowless dungeon of a bedroom, a waste of inherent talent melded, once again, with his prized memory foam mattress. Ermen had currently tasked himself with the observation, isolation, and eventually dissection of every cinematic detail; pictured (or imagined) in an acclaimed drama- a real prime, honest to God, premium pay channel production. This being his third play-through, the analysis and annotated assumptions had become increasingly brilliant and sing-song or utterly presumptuous nonsense and bloviation- that however is a matter of opinion.
Three-quarters of the way through the night’s third episodic, something beckoned the relatively trim and fit bump-on-a-log to rise the full six feet his ectomorphic frame demanded. One could debate if the caller was nature, or life, or history- the universe, destiny, perhaps, but all semantics aside or asunder; whether it was the noise, the atmosphere, empathy, a sixth sense, fate, or a perfumatic bouquet of flowery concepts and potent truths- His complete attention was drawn to the portico, a stage just one cheaply insulated and poorly aging wall away.
What he thought in that moment is a puzzle even he may never assemble. Thoughts, especially to the cognizantly gifted, are infinite, flexibly bending and flowing, but ultimately unyielding. You can’t trust what somebody recalls they “remember thinking”. An eyeball witness, is an eyeball witness. Seeing is believing- and believe it or not, what the twenty-seven year old underachiever saw in that moment wasn’t quite as remarkable as how he saw- for starters it was through (semi)solid wall. His roommate, Walter, appeared to have had one (beer) too many and tackled what was the tight-knit artistic community’s sad excuse for patio furniture.
Bohemian apathy oozed out of the eroding sidewalk, crept by half-torched cigarette butts over the orphaned beer bottles of nights forgotten, leapt out omnidirectionally to various irresponsibly discarded disposables- and then a huge pulse of light emanated from the breezeway.
Ermen’s brain was jostled by what he most recently described as a “psychedelic, multi-dimensional flip-book” with “membranes for pages and helplessness for staples” First, a ray of light, followed by a humanoid figure at its apex, more strangeness, and finally, a Ray of plight. His vision’s structure hopped in flux, swiftly shifting from epileptic nightmare to a “disembodied voice’s HUD” of sorts.
A single bullet under God’s own nose. The trajectory, drag, rotation- every vector visualized. His focus sharpened; time slowed to dense jelly.
Numbers rolled like cab meters, attached to variables, nudging themselves in from “off-screen” But only one “stood out on the corner like a Burton street hooker”- feet per second. The digit exponentially climbed, like a tobacco death-toll in a government shock ‘advertisement’. Directional indicators twisted and knotted, the slug went serpentine and its speed quickly spiked inexplicably. A crimson splash and the velocity dropped along with all numerical computation. His vision then fractured. His kaleidoscopic view of the night sky continually splintered and wrapped in a multi-focal fractal. Outward; outward; away- Ermen fell, or flew rather, into a deep dissociative trance.
* * * * *
A fist slammed into Eric’s stomach, and he let himself take it. A blinding wave of nausea swept over him, and he threw up on his assailant. His vision swam, and he immediately regretted his decision. “You little shit! First thing you show up here, and it all starts breaking! You aren’t worth the checks they pay us, none of the rest’ll say anythin’-I’ll just bury ya out back, and they’ll never know!”
His newest foster father had snapped, and he couldn’t really deny the man had something of a point. All the other children here were terrified of him, and he HAD destroyed almost a thousand dollars’ worth of the man’s belongings due to his usual clumsiness. He knew he had no business still being in the foster system, but he needed to finish his final summer class so that he could graduate, and go off to college.
Eric felt himself being lifted up by his collar, his vision still too blurry for him to make out what was actually going on. His foster father’s hot, whiskey soaked breath exploded into his face, clearing his vision just in time to see a kitchen knife slam into his chest. It shattered.
The shards of metal tore into his foster father, not unlike a standard fragmentation grenade, leaving him bleeding and clutching his chest on the floor. The two youngest children in the house, Vivian and Alex, peered around the corner, frozen in wide-eyed terror. A knock came from the nearby front door, as Eric collapsed to the floor.
Two men appeared on the other side of the door, and surveyed the scene. One wore an finely tailored suit, a charcoal color very near to black, with a maroon vest, causing him to nearly resemble the mid-20th century stereotype of a proper English gentleman. His companion wore flowing black robes, with his head shaved, except for a long blonde topknot, flowing down to his waist.
A slight chuckle prefaced the soft words spoken by the well-dressed gentleman, “Well, I think you were a bit late with your predictions this time.” The blonde man glared over at him, as his eyes began to flash red. He continued to look over the room, seeming as if he was ignoring the accusation.
Vivian stepped forward, shaking with fear, and squeaked out, “Who are you?” The man who had spoken lifted his fingers without turning his head, and suddenly Vivian and Alex’s room appeared on the wall. They both screamed and dove under the covers of their respective beds, the man’s fingers dropped, and the wall returned to normal, muffling their cries.
The blonde man looked at the other and smiled, “I’ve never seen such a perfect use for that,” he turned to Eric, “and it seems like you might like some explanation?”
“Am I a ‘fester?” stammered Eric, it was all he could think to say. If he was one of the ‘festers, then his first foster parent had been right. They had beaten him, calling him demon-spawn, saying that his kind were sent here to tempt the wicked away from God, false prophets, devils sent to kill humanity. Social services had deemed them religious radicals, and had removed him from their care, but had never tested the veracity of their claims. He had been terrified of it being true.
Both men burst out laughing, lending the room an almost macabre air, with his foster father’s body now still, staining the floor crimson. The blonde man let out a final chuckle and said, “You can call me Eisner, and my companion goes by…” he turned and looked at the well-dressed man, who proceeded to step forward and bow to Eric.
“Mario, at your service,” his tone was wry as he straightened , “and yes, you are a ‘fester, as I guess it’s known colloquially; though to be honest, I prefer the ‘m’ in manifester, it sounds more scientific than ‘fester,” he shook himself in imagined distaste, “that just makes me feel like we’re some boil that needs to be lanced.”
“We’re here to offer you a deal,” said Eisner, “if you have any interest in being able to control your apparently newly discovered manifestation, then you will need training.”
“We’ll pay for your tuition at any university that contains an Academy, plus, unlike most others, we’ll tell you all of your options.” Mario finished his used-car salesman spiel and flashed Eric a movie star smile.
To say Eric was in shock, would be an understatement. His foster father lay dead on the floor of the living room, and the two men were behaving as if this had slipped their minds’.
“We’ll help cover up this…shall we say, accident?”
“Snafu… predicament, maybe,” Eisner inserted.
“It doesn’t matter!” Mario asserted, only breaking his overtly suave persona for an instant. “It doesn’t matter which you choose, these circumstances were not your fault, and current social climate being what it is, I’d rather give an innocent manifester what assistance I may, than see another of us taken away.” Eisner’s tone had turned quite grave, but a wry smile had still ghosted across his face.
Eric didn’t know what he should think. Manifesters were despised by half of America, and worshipped by the other, or at least that was the view that he understood, being bounced back and forth from foster home to foster home for his frequent tendency to break things. Eric had been raised by religious fundamentalists when he was young, and although the influence of constant years of being sent from new place to new place had lessened those beliefs, he still held the deep-seated fear of being damned for eternity. On the other hand, he needed control. The death of his foster father at his hands had not yet fully set in, but Eric understood that when it did, he would need something to keep the guilt from overwhelming him. This opportunity would allow him the freedom he needed to take care of himself, and the ability to move through society without breaking everything around him. He knew he couldn’t pass this opportunity up.
“When should I be ready to leave?”
The man who called himself Mario grinned, “Grab whatever you need, we should be leaving sooner rather than later.”
As Eric turned to run towards his room he barely heard Eisner to say to Mario, “Who said my prediction was incorrect? I recall looking for the ideal moment to get him to come with us… and was this not it?”