My Super First Day

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I still owe the Cafe an apology - one I plan to deliver, if they ever let me in there again.  In my defense, I really did think it was something in the coffee at first; some cocktail of LSD and speed with maybe a dash of roofie to make me zone out.  But I didn't touch the coffee, of course, between that first sip and the nightmare start, running my pen in a little white trench in a book with a blood-red cover.

I had just experienced my first Flash.  I'm sure now that the Trigger was still in the area, maybe even still there in the coffee shop.  He (she?) could have been sitting next to me the entire time.  I wish I could have met the person that first turned this thing on inside me, but at the moment, I was too occupied with other realities.  

I thumbed through the book, page after page of utter gibberish.  Some of it looked like the kind of math I failed in high school, all lowercase Greek letters.  There were things that looked like subway maps, spread across tens of pages.  None of it made any sense.

An old man, enjoying a sandwich, leaned over from his table.  "Ambidextrous, eh?"  He gave me a conspiratorial nod.  Who eats the sandwiches there?  Empty pens littered the table like corpses.  I felt dizzy.  Drugs.

My friend Chuck once a wrote a novel in a weekend on speed, a manic dash through the creative process.  He said the crash afterward was what success felt like.  But drugs made no sense - why would anyone drug someone in a bookstore coffee shop?  Maybe coffee beans could go bad and give you hallucinations.

Just then, the barista seemed to notice me.  "I can ring you up for that, ma'am," he said, "If you're ready."

I flipped the book closed.  The cover was deep red tooled leather.  I flipped it over.  $34.95.  Shit.

"Actually, I'm going to shop a bit more, thanks."  I found a little pile of the books in the stationery section, just outside the coffee shop.  These were the nice ones - the kind they keep in self-sticking plastic to discourage people from doing exactly this.  I slid the used book into the plastic, ruffled the pages of a new one, and struck out for the checkout on the other end of the store.

Later, the cops would find evidence of my episode still inside the bookstore, with the security tag active.  I wasn't trying to prove anything.  It's just that I'm a bit of a weasel: if I'm going to pay a week's worth of lunches for a journal, it might as well be a blank one.

----

I haven't been to a doctor in over two years.  No insurance.  I had been putting it off, the way people put off taking their cars in.  I'd had an ear infection, a sprained wrist, and a killer case of athlete's foot for months.  I just knew I wasn't going to get out with just an oil change.  I needed an overhaul.

On the way home, though, my brain just kept chanting at me.  Drugs drugs drugs.  If I had a blood test, I'd know what did it.  And if I knew that, I might know who to blame for the $35 hole in my pocket.  And if they were responsible for the book, they might be responsible for my medical bills. I sensed opportunity.

Was that the point, anyway?  Creative druggings to sell stationery products?  If the stuff had long term effects, would I be buying custom letterhead next?  Personalized pens?  I imagined myself drowning in a sea of upscale office supplies.

There is no hospital anywhere in the tangle of urban sprawl that I call home.  We have freestanding ERs here; tiny offices with blithely ironic names like Community Urgent Care and Neighborhood ER.  Cozy niches for minor catastrophes.  The nearest one was called Family Emergency.  (I imagined the name better attached to a bar in a busy downtown - "I have to take off early today, boss. Family emergency.")  I was third in line, after a guy who looked like he'd manhandled an electric stovetop and a kid in a soccer uniform, pressing an icepack to his leg.

"Picking up someone?" the stove guy asked.

"No, I passed out in a coffee shop.  Sort of."

"How do you sort of pass out?"

"I guess I was sleepwalking, in a way." I said.  "I'm getting some bloodwork done.  Yourself?"

"Macaroni and cheese," he said.  "Sort of."

The kid got called in, and checked out a few minutes later on painkillers.  He looked dazed and loopy, leaning on his mother's shoulder as she broke into a passive-aggressive argument about the bill.  Then, it was my turn.  

Drawing blood always wigs me out; I closed my eyes.  They told me to wait in the exam room for the results.

This time, the Flash made me nauseous.  One minute I was sitting on the exam table, the sanitary paper sticking to my legs below the hem of my shorts, and the next I was laying back, being blinded by one of those eye exam flashlights.  In the corner of my eye, I something that looked like a giant matchstick sculpture swam into view.

"That seemed to do it," a voice said.  The light clicked off.  "Can you hear me?"

I nodded.

"Can you tell me what this is?" The doctor, who was finally coming into focus, motioned to the matchstick figure.  It was a tangle of tongue depressors and cotton balls.  The supplies cabinet had been raided.  It looked like a three-dimensional rendering of the subway maps I had drawn.

"I did that, didn't I?"

He nodded.  "You wouldn't stop until we pried the sticks out of your hands.  You have an enormous amount of serotonin in your blood," he said.  "As well as about fifty different organic compounds that should have knocked you out cold on their own.  Any idea how this many toxins got in your body?"

"I had a coffee."

------------------

I had receipts, with salespeople's names on them.  The last dozen were marked TARIN; I remembered her - a little blonde girl who could have passed for a seventh grader from behind.  This morning's coffee was prepared by JEFF.  He was new, ginger-haired, and taller than a refridgerator.  The police showed up just in time to catch him finishing his shift.

The book that I stashed had a thumb print, in coffee, on the back cover.  If I hadn't wrapped the whole thing in plastic, it would have rubbed off.  Lucky, I suppose.  Contrary to all sense, I was actually building a case.

I sheepishly told them my idea about the drugging conspiracy.  The cops didn't take the idea, but the press did.  They took it to the front page.  "Bookseller Accused in Latte Poisonings"; "Barista Denies Knowledge in Coffee Caper"; "Mind-Melting Mocha Mars Multimillionaire Merchant."   

While the headlines poured out, I kept having Flashes.  The resultant artifacts piled up: a twisted-up coat hanger, a sonnet written on the back of a Chinese takeout flyer, a whole menagerie of origami animals.  The drugs were supposed to be flushed out of my system.  I wanted to go back to Family Emergency to make sure, but I couldn't afford it.  I started to think I was going crazy.

I might have never figured it out, if it weren't for the nurse.  For weeks, she kept telling the cops that she threw the tongue depressor sculpture away - but one day, Chuck saw it being carried onto a school bus by a kid in a soccer uniform.  The kid confessed to stealing the evidence.  He said it was what he needed to pass a science assignment, the one he would never have finished after being doped up so badly at the ER.  Somehow, I had accidentally done his homework for him - not well, mind you.  The sculpture was two molecules short of what it was supposed to be - some fluorocarbon - but the teacher had missed the flaw somehow, and given the kid an A+.

After that, more Triggers started to make themselves known.  My neighbor had locked his keys in his car on the night I made the Coathanger Thing, and the single woman across the alley had been trying to entertain her sister's one year old without any toys in the house, the night I folded all those origami animals.  Whenever someone nearby really needed something, I would Flash the solution.  People started calling me Genie.

I didn't so much feel like pressing charges anymore.

It has been a year, and I have to be honest, I still don't like it much.  I have no way of telling what problems I'll solve, or when I will solve them.  None of my friends can count on me to have a conversation without zoning out.  What's worse, there always seems to be something wrong with my solutions; they're never long-reaching, always hacked together on the spur of the moment.  They work well enough for the person who needed them, but in the long run, and for anyone else, they seem to be useless.  I wish I could find that first Trigger, the first person who made me work my broken magic.  So far, I haven't had any luck.

So maybe this will work: if you were in the bookstore cafe at Highway 121 and Sandy Lake Road on July 25 of last year, and you really needed a polynomial solution for the Travelling Salesman Problem, I might just be able to make you famous.

Tell us about your Super First Day! - #mysuperfirstday - MySuperFirstDay.Ning
© 2009 - 2021 toenolla
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toenolla's avatar
{BTW, if it isn't obvious to everyone, this is part of a storytelling project where people take on superhero personas. I will be
"in character" in the comments on this journal. Everywhere else on DA will be considered "out of game."}
Chaoseed's avatar
Oh, we ALL need a polynomial solution to the traveling salesman problem!
toenolla's avatar
Sounds really useful, right?

But trust me, unless you were in the right place at the right time, you don't want this one. Something...bad happens when people steal each others' Flashes. Really bad.
Chaoseed's avatar
Well, I don't want to be selfish--just publish it in a journal so everyone can see it. :)