A superhero story set in Toronto Canada
|I had never been so angry before in my life than I was at the person sitting next to me in the hospital after she told me my mother had passed. She was filling out forms and other paperwork with one hand while her other tried to console me. I almost snapped when she asked me to spell my name. Granted, Cyrinica isn't a typical name but she seemed to lack any understanding of the emotions I felt. She didn't see the rage in my eyes as I glared at her until she guessed the spelling on her own. I was a tiny bundle of fury ready to snap.
Nobody even told me what had happened. I had woken up to my mother barging into my room and opening the window to quickly toss me out. She didn't even say anything to me that I could recall. The next thing I knew, I was taken out of a snowdrift and put in an ambulance, then a doctors room, then in my seat in a waiting room where I wondered what had happened. The social worker came in to give me the news before sitting down and ignoring me. The non-threatening colour of the walls and decorations doing nothing to soften my mood.
We sat for hours, though she frequently left to get drinks or use the restroom, but neither of us talked. Or if she did, I ignored her. I wanted nothing from her, I wanted to go back home with my mother and wake up like it was all a dream. I was angrily looking at my feet when someone else came in and exchanged a few words with the social worker. His voice seemed shaky but strong. When the woman left, he was alone with me and he knelt to look at me.
“Cyrinica?" I nodded at his question. "Hello, my name is Bruce.” He introduced himself sounding like he was ready to cry but trying hard not too.
When I looked up at him I could see he had a winning smile, if somewhat forced, on his strong jawline. I couldn't help but feel better just seeing it. Looking into his eyes, I felt safe.
“Hello,” I responded, speaking for the first time since I had asked where my mother was. My voice cracked.
“I’m so sorry to hear about your mother.” His strong voice trembled.
“Did you know her?” I asked, wondering why I had never met him before if he had.
“Yes, I did. A long time ago. We lost touch but I got a call when she passed and I came as soon as I could.”
“I don't know what happened,” I stated, wishing he would tell me.
“I don't know the full details, the police and fire departments need to do their thing. But what I have been told was that there was some kind of gas leak or fire. It spread fast and exploded. Your mom got caught in it trying to get out through a window. She threw you out first. Thankfully the snow broke your fall.” He explained, unsure of himself.
“Why couldn't she have gotten out with me?” I was unable to process what he was saying.
“There just wasn't time. She needed to make sure you got clear. I'm sure she didn't ‘want’ to die, but making sure you survived was more important to her.”
“I miss her already.” I started crying and he held me close.
“I know, but it’s a parents right to sacrifice themselves to protect their child. Even if it's only a chance. You might not like it, but don't blame her. And don't blame yourself. She would do it again if she had too and none of it was your fault.”
I cried harder, his embrace making me feel more safe and secure than the pitiful attempts of the social worker. It was the only thing keeping me from feeling truly lost. His words were a bit heavy-handed at the time but I was thankful for them later on when I started to process everything.
“Where do I go now?” It finally dawned on me that if there was a fire then I didn't have a home anymore.
“Didn't they say? You are going to live with your father.” The clever grin I was going to get quite familiar with appeared on his face.
“I don't know who he is. Are you going to take me to him?” For a moment, I was afraid of meeting a total stranger and having to live with them.
“No, Cyrinica,” he paused. “I... am your father.” His voice went deeper as he said the words, imitating the famous quote in part to lighten the mood but mostly, as I learned later because it was the only chance he would ever have to use it legitimately. He was lucky I got the Star Wars reference.
I was stunned, I stopped crying to stare at him. “Are you going to take me away in a spaceship?” I asked, still angry enough to think ruling an empire with an iron fist would be fun.
“No, but I do have a helicopter illegally parked on the roof. Want to come with? Sky tour of Toronto then, well I would say ice cream but it’s winter. How about we decide in the air?”
He stood up and held out his hand. I smiled and took it. On the roof, he gave me his jacket and helped me into the helicopter, it was big on me and made moving difficult but it felt warm. We lifted into the air and the city sparkled with the sunlight on the snow. I was looking out the window for a long while before I looked beside me, at the man smiling at me, pride beaming from his eyes.
As I looked away from the window in the helicopter, dad still had that prideful grin he had almost any time I was in his field of view. In the seven years I had known him, he never seemed to lose it. Even when we fought, over stupid things or big things, no matter who was right, he always had that grin in the end. Any time one of his board members thought he was having a rough day, they would text me to come by and visit him. I never got tired of seeing his eyes brighten up when I walked in on him. Of course, his jet black hair had gone a bit grey since we had first met but he never lost his youthful charm.
“You sure you will survive without me around dad?” I asked, prodding him.
“Well no quite frankly, but I survived on blind luck for years before you so I should be able to do it again for a few weeks.”
I laughed, shaking my head. Dad was always his favourite target for his jokes. “Right, just remember, if you think it's a good idea, it probably isn't. In fact... do the opposite.”
“Well… I wasn't going to rent out your bedroom to a frat but since you said that… hmmm…”
I fixed him with my best evil eye until he got some sense into his head.
“Maybe not,” he conceded, nodding as if he had just been given some enlightening advice.
I laughed and shook my head, returning my gaze out the window. The mountain that part-timed as a volcano was close and the view of Canadian wilderness was breathtaking. The train tracks that led to the train station we were heading for whipped by beneath us. As we started to land in an open portion of the parking lot of the tiny station, I saw where the other students had started to assemble near some SUVs. Normally I’d have travelled with my new classmates, but dad was already in British Columbia inspecting one of his mines so I went to see him first and he escorted me the rest of the way. It took me longer to figure out than I like to admit but he probably planned things that way.
After touching down, I got out of the helicopter and took my bags from the luggage area to toss to my father as soon as he looked at me. He stumbled to catch them and gave me a look that I smirked at before running over to where people were gathering. Trying to keep my hair in place while exiting a helicopter was always futile but I did my best. I handed my student card to the man with the clipboard who checked me off before returning it. Evidently, everyone had been waiting for me to show up so we all piled right in. There was some extra room, so dad hopped in as well to come see the place I would be working from, another clue that he planned on tagging along ahead of time.
On the trip to the station, our professor went over the ins and outs of our extended field trip, keeping any of us from socializing. He discussed the recent seismic activities and how we were lucky. Most field trips to volcanoes in Canada tend to be rather uneventful unless you make a whole year of it and are still usually disappointed. Not a week as part of a geology class. We were also lucky to have gotten the first slot of the semester so actual classwork got pushed back a week on top of that. He explained how solar flares were causing the magnetic materials in the earth to react and that seemed to be the cause of the minor quakes that had been going on. It was going to be our job to check on sensors and place more in our area so we could compare it with the solar activity.
Personally, I just took the class because university field trips are fun and when your dad owns metal mines across the country, learning geology is a no-brainer. Dad was just tagging along for the first day because he needed time to accept that I was going back to school.
Thankfully, it was a shorter trip than I expected through the rough terrain to reach the facility nestled in the forest. Though the lack of actual roads did not make it comfortable, making the use of SUVs actually necessary opposed to those using them for city driving only. It was easy to tell what had been built for scientific research and what had been added on to accommodate students. Solid stonework that looked like it had been there for a hundred years next to what looked like a portable classroom bolted on. We piled into the add-on portion with our luggage, cluttering up the floor almost instantly.
My Dad, since he knew or wanted to know everyone, introduced himself to the volcanologist who was chatting with the professor who sent the rest of the students to find lockers.
“Hello, my name is Bruce.” They shook hands. “I own Campbells Canadian Metals. My daughter Cyrinica is going to be staying here and I thought I'd check it out for myself.”
“Dr Forgrove. That's quite an unusual name. But quite lovely.”
“Really? I thought Bruce was quite common but thank you either way.”
The man blushed in embarrassment and I shook my head with my hand on my face. “Dad, don't be an ass. You know he was talking about my name.”
“Oh,” he said as if it was a revelation. “Well, that does make more sense. She was named after the
ancient city of Cyrene on the northern edge of Africa, almost on the Mediterranean.”
The two men nodded with interest. I glared at my father to finish the story there and move on. He pretended not to notice.
“The ruins of which, she was conceived in after I met her mother.” He explained with enthusiasm.
My elbow in his ribs earned me a confused look as if he couldn't understand my motivations. “Dad stop, now.”
“Why? It was a wonderful day.” He replied defensively feigning ignorance.
“Because if you don't, I am going back to posting updates about my sex-life on social media.” I threatened in an angry whisper.
His eyes went narrow for a moment before he muttered, “Well played Campbell, well played.”
As accepting as he was of how I lived my life, he didn't want to hear about it. Or have a repeat of the board meeting where everyone's phone vibrated the morning after prom and he discovered they all followed me.
Leaving him to his own devices after the threat, I went to go find myself a locker. Thankfully, students being the models of efficiency that they are, only a few had chosen lockers instead of talking with one another. They were stacked on each other so I was able to grab a higher one. I wasn't that tall but nobody was short enough to prefer the lower set. I was trying to hang my purse on one of the hooks when another girl put her hand on the door next to mine and gave me a look over. I turned to see her snarky smile and gritted my teeth that I couldn't have even gone a few minutes before someone kicked up a fuss.
“So,” she said in a tone I pegged as ‘prissy’. “You must be the rich bitch.”
I sighed. As I squared myself to her, and as I withdrew my hands from my locker, I used my right hand to flick the door hard and slam it open. There was a sudden bang and the near-miss of her hand as she pulled it away from the door quickly. She checked her hand in surprise to make sure it wasn't hurt while I checked her out. We had a similar build and height but I was certain I could take her if it came to it. Assuming nobody tried to stop me.
She looked at me in surprise for a moment while I tried to think of something witty to say but she opened her mouth before I could. “Well then, that settles that.” She smiled at me and offered her other hand. “Rachel Green, a pleasure to meet another woman with an attitude problem.”
I sighed in relief. Shaking her hand I returned her smile. “Cyrenica Campbell. A rather dangerous way to test someone.” I commented while nodding at the lockers.
“Yeah, I've been blessed with quick reflexes. Still clumsy as anything but I do move quickly when I need too. Also, I don't normally do ‘tests’ like that but you seemed different.”
We laughed, and I forgave her for the unusual greeting. Her last name was apt if you looked at her eyes, piercing green. I'd have expected them on a redhead instead of a brunette but genetics don't always conform to expectations unless you actually study it. “Different how?”
“You know how deranged serial killers can spot another just by looking at them? Kind of like that.”
“I'm rich, I pay other people to do my killing for me.” It was my turn to act prissy and snobbish.
“Ah Hah!” She exclaimed, pointing at me. “Instead of getting confused or creeped out, you took a serial killer joke and ran with it. That's the kind of person I like to meet. I knew I was right!”
I shook my head with a smile, “Fair enough.”
It's rather disorienting to be shaking your head right as the ground starts to shake because you suddenly panic about just what your body might be doing. Rachel caught me as I fell over and screamed in panic.
“No, it's not you, it's an Earthquake! The planet is just being a dick!” she shouted ‘quietly’ to calm me down.
It was brief. Some things fell over or out of the lockers, but things stopped shaking and returned to normal soon enough. I stopped feeling like I was the one who was shaking.
Rather than exclaiming in a panic, after checking that everyone was alright, Dr Forgrove started shouting directions to everyone. He wanted the new sensors placed immediately before another one hit. Prepared maps were handed out and each pair picked up a sensor kit. I handed mine to dad for him to carry while Rachel and I looked at the map. We grabbed our backpacks and headed out into the forest. I had just met her and she was already covering for me, not mentioning my minor freak out to my dad or anyone else when they asked who had screamed.
Giving a pair of people who just met a map and compass then telling them to find things is the best way to figure out if they will get along. Rachel and I were almost reading each other's minds from the get-go. Mistakes were laughed off even after getting ourselves lost for the first hour until another team asked what we were doing in their area. Dad hung back, content to carry things while we found our way.
“Place the sensor side against the ground. Clear any debris that might hinder readings.” Rachel read from the instruction book.
I had already assumed I needed to clear the twigs and crap out of the way. “Done and done. Anchor bits next right?”
“Yes.” She replied, reading a lot more but not considering it important enough to bother mentioning.
I used a power drill to sink the anchors in place. “We turn it on now?”
“We are supposed to take pictures first. I assume to help other people find it? I would think they have a GPS in them.”
“Maybe, but handheld units to find them might just be too costly to hand over to students. Also, I've seen people fail to find things in front of them without pictures.” I overacted an innocent look.
“Or they just want to know if it was set up properly!” Dad yelled his opinion at us casually.
“So very true.” We ignored dad as Rachel continued. “Now, give me a pose. If some poor souls need to find this thing again, let's at least give them some fun.”
I posed for Rachel who took pictures of the sensor while I showed it off like it was a fancy car in a game show. The other sensors we took turns posing for. Despite the instructions to use distant pictures to show off the surrounding area, we elected to do some close-ups including some selfies like the sensor was a celebrity. Having our fun, it was easy to feel like we had known each other for years. We paused to swap social media contact info.
“Why couldn't we have met in kindergarten?” Rachel asked. “It feels like we have to make up for lost time.”
“Aside from the logical reasons?” I asked and got a quick nod. “I don't think the world could have handled us together in our younger years. We had to mature to a point when we were almost ready to act responsibly.”
“Oh, I get it. If we had been around each other during our dumbest mistakes, they would have been catastrophic. Now, if one of us goes off the deep end the other is there to grab a life vest before jumping in after.”
“Exactly! Also, two adults get themselves out of trouble a lot easier than two kids.”
“In to and out-” She started before our conversation was interrupted by another violent shaking of the earth followed by a dead silence.
“We might need to check the sensors, but I am reasonably certain there was an earthquake a moment ago,” I stated sarcastically from my seat on the ground.
Just as Rachel was pulling me to my feet the ground shook again and she lost her grip. This time, however, the shaking hit much harder and there was the unmistakable blast of a huge explosion atop the mountain we could see through the sparse trees. The explosion was an amazing sight, but in the moments that followed, we could see a ripple in the air coming towards us. It was distant enough to dissipate sufficiently that when it hit us, our eardrums remained intact, but seeing it come at us was terrifying. The impact would have flattened us had we not hit the ground and covered our ears.
Dad had dropped the gear and was running over to us after the blastwave passed when the unmistakable sound of an incoming object that we couldn't see with the sun in our eyes sent our faces back into the ground. We felt its impact nearby and then looked up. Getting to my feet I could see something shiny in the ground surrounded by a small crater. I couldn't see much, but it vaguely resembled a ball or shell with spikes on it. Long silver spikes that jutted out in every direction. It hissed as it cooled and the melted soil looked like spikes had passed through it meaning the object may have looked like a metal sea urchin with spikes all around its round body. Cracks in the metal body from rapid cooling were already starting to form.
“Bring the camera! I think we just discovered something new!” I shouted while turning to find Rachel getting to her feet.
She and my dad were coming over when the ground shook again and I fell. Into the pit, and onto the silver spikes jutting out from it. In an instant, I couldn't hear or feel anything but cold all through my body. It hurt to even move my eyes as I tried to follow my dad as he jumped into the pit with me. I couldn't feel it as he took my hand in his. His lips moved but I couldn't tell what he was saying. I saw Rachel standing at the edge, horrified, and then turning to run after my dad shouted at her.
Even though I wanted to say something, anything, I couldn't. I could only try to read my fathers lips as he tried to keep us both calm. All I could do was lay on the ground, looking at him instead of the long silver spikes coming out of my body. Then, he turned away. Dad got up and ran to pick up a log and throw it in the pit. Again he left to gather other things and it wasn't until he looked closely at me that I could see the glowing red reflection in his eyes. He looked up to see if anyone was nearby before throwing himself to the ground beside me. I couldn't see it coming but I could see the pain in his eyes as he tried not to scream. He had tried to block the molten rock with debris but ultimately used his body to protect me a moment longer. I could see the flames from the log on fire, him crying on my limp hand that he held to his face, and I so desperately wanted to speak with him.
It was then, that his eyes changed like they were seeing something bizarre. The spikes impaling me looked like they were melting in the heat. The coldness I felt seemed to warm. My vision started to blur, and the last thing I saw was my dad mouthing the words “You are going to be alright” and hitting me with his winning smile. I was certain I suddenly heard him telling me he loved me. Then there was darkness, and I was alone.
I wasn't sure what to expect. I had assumed I was dead but it seemed to be taking a long time for it to happen. Either the wait for the pearly white gates was a long one or hell was just waiting with nothing to do. Limbo or purgatory was a possibility but if there was no afterlife then I shouldn't have been able to have any thoughts on it at all as I dissolved into oblivion and lost all conscious thought. If I was conscious enough to be annoyed, then I couldn't be in any kind of oblivion.
The other thing that seemed odd to me was that I was certain I could still feel and move but there was no tangible effect. My vision was utter blackness except for the colours your brain tends to make up when it's not receiving any new input.
My mind wandered as I waited. Consciousness slipped between thoughts without rhyme or reason as I grew more restless as if tucked tightly into bed when you aren't tired enough to sleep. Sometimes I felt warm or cold depending on what my brain rolled for dice. Angry at my inability to move when I got cold again I tried to yell and flail my arms free.
Then I felt something crack...
The closest I can get to describing a familiar sensation is to compare it to waking up in the early hours and trying to do something while keeping your eyes closed so it's easier to get back to sleep. I was sure I was awake, but I couldn't see anything. There was a slight sense of what was around me, but I couldn't see it. Also, my movements had a sluggish feel to them like they do in a dream when you want to move but you don't because you rolled yourself in your covers.
There was only one thing I could see with any clarity as I slowly moved my head around and it was some kind of rectangle. It was the single point of reference I had and the only reason why I realized how slow my body was. Getting to it was difficult, to say the least. I looked downwards and saw my body, or rather my skeleton. It looked like I was nothing but bone with a layer of plastic wrap around me while sitting on a cloud of fog. If I had been afraid of heights, it would have sent me into a panic. Assuming I still had lungs to hyperventilate with. I looked back at the rectangle and could see the thin fog under it as well. Since I wasn't falling, the rational part of my brain finally had something useful to contribute and suggested the fog was ground so I decided to try moving on it.
While if you had ever known me before, I wasn't considered an 'expert' in 'walking' as such, it was normally a lot easier than it was at that point. My legs seemed trapped in the fog and had taken me some time to notice but, despite the slowness of my movements, I was able to break myself free as if I had been buried in mud that had dried up. I have no idea exactly how long it had taken me to get out but walking wasn't much easier after that. Unlike my other movements, falling over seemed to happen at the normal speed. It felt like trying to walk underwater but without buoyancy to help out. So I fell back on my second preferred form of self mobility, crawling. I rarely fall over doing that anymore.
Almost everything else in my vision was blackness other than the thin fog below and the solid square ahead. Unlike my skeletal body that glowed silver in my mind, it had a reddish hue to it. As I got closer to it, I noticed something else close by. The shape was unusual, but I recognized it as one of the seismic sensors I had placed. I didn't think I had moved, but knowing I was still in the forest was unsettling. That feeling got worse once I was close enough to the rectangle to notice the definition on it. It was a memorial, mine, mine and my fathers.
‘Died in a volcanic eruption’ it read after the typical memorial names and dates.
I was certain I hadn't any lungs left because I was trying hard to hyperventilate finally. Instead, I was just starting to feel hungry. I tried picking up the plaque to read it again but it seemed stuck for a moment on the fog and as it came free, it occurred to me that the fog really must have been the ground and it had been mounted on the stone. Rational brain offered its two cents worth and suggested I might be a lot stronger than I used to be if I could pull a mounted metal plate off stone. I put it back in place as best as I could manage.
Two things came to mind after that. First, I was officially dead for at least long enough to have a memorial made for me. Not that it would have taken that long, according to the plaque and my recollection, I was buried under a lava flow, so they made the fair assumption. The second thing was that the plaque would have been facing the direction people looking for it would be expected to travel from. So I started to crawl in the same direction and hoped to find the station I had, far less recently than it had seemed to me, arrived at with my dad.
The trip seemed to be going well until I felt pressure on my head and something in the way of my hands. After some tentative feeling around, it dawned on me that I had run into a tree. It had been impossible to see or even feel directly as if I had lost all sense of touch other than what my bones felt. I didn't so much feel it on my hands as felt the resistance to my motions. If I hadn't been looking at my hands, I might not have even noticed it either way. Getting around it, I started sweeping one arm in front of me while the other supported my crawl. I noticed other seismic sensors as I went, using them to gauge my progress until something much bigger appeared in my way.
I was so relieved to finally be able to resolve something significant. The metal panels containing the student section of the research station, the bolts and wiring seeming to hang in the air in some places. Thinking in terms of X-Ray vision it made a lot more sense and I could see a door handle. There were still a lot of things I couldn't see like the wooden door I remembered being there, but the hinges were. Mindful not to break anything, I tried turning the knob and saw it snap when the locking mechanism couldn't take the strain. Unable to sigh, I kept pushing until I finished the job of breaking the door and opened it. Some things, like the plumbing, lockers, tables, and chairs were all visible to me because of the metal within them, even if I was looking away. As if my new sense didn't depend on my eyes or the direction they were in. I moved to the locker I had put my purse and things in but it was empty. None of the lockers had locks on them and it was soon obvious the station was currently unused.
On the wall was a clock. It was comforting to watch it tick by with the metal hands showing that time was still progressing at a normal speed. 3:25 was the time and it made sense to me that if it was in the AM then of course nobody would be there. The monitoring equipment along one side of the research section ticked away and would work without someone there for as long as they needed. Since I didn't have my watch anymore, I decided to move one of the chairs to steal the clock off the wall. I figured if whoever had to replace it knew my situation, they wouldn't begrudge me the theft. I then realized that someone was going to show up at some point and wonder why someone would break in to steal a clock in such a remote location. When I was finally standing on a chair and pulling the clock down, it read 4:33 and I was stunned. It had taken me over an hour to move the chair ten meters and climb on it. I wondered how long my trip back from the forest had taken when it had been hours moving at a normal speed to get there in the first place.
Clock in hand I decided to leave. I paused briefly, recognizing a bunch of wires and bits on the wall as a phone. Who could I call? I had no family left, and I hadn't ever memorized the numbers of anyone else. I dialled 911 instead. However, there was a problem. Either the phone didn't work or I couldn't hear anything. It struck me that I hadn't heard anything at all since waking up. I tried to speak regardless and found myself unable to draw the breath to do so. Logical brain informed me that ‘of course I can't talk, no more lungs’ as I remembered my inability to hyperventilate in panic. I hung up the phone, hoping I didn't break it as well in the process and left the station. While the ‘road’ to the station was hardly deserving of the title, the reflector poles every ten meters helped keep me on it as I started walking down it. Although occasional trips to the ground provided frequent reminders of the consistency of gravity, I was getting better at it and was soon falling less often than I did in heels.
It took a long time to reach the first reflector poll, almost two hours, but it had been a greater distance from the front door than the others were from each other. The rest were almost an hour apart and at about noon I looked up trying to find the sun. I had a vague sense of where it was, more like a gut feeling, but saw none of its light. My shuffling feet carried on down the road and I could still sense where the sun was setting, and so slightly where the moon was rising. The scientific portion of my brain deduced it had to do with their respective magnetic fields. Once I had figured that out, I couldn't help but be aware of it at all times. It was a surprisingly soothing way of passing the time as I walked down the road. It took me days and at no point did anyone pass me on the road. Not a scientist or police officer investigating the 911 call I had made.
The train station was distinctive. The rails were easily visible of course but the solid steel of the train resting on them filled my view. Again, as I approached, I could see more and more details. Beer cans or bottle caps on the ground, scraps of metal that had fallen off, anything metal was visible to me unlike everything else. Power lines and underground pipes from the station would have lead me to the nearest town but I wasn't sure if I wanted to go there. There were still no people I could see around me as I hid at the end of the train. I looked at the clock to see what time it was only to realize I had crushed it in my grip at some point. I had been so focused on tracking my progress with the sun and moon that I had forgotten about the clock in my hands and simply held onto it. Too tightly as it turned out and I was suddenly rocked with the realization that if I couldn't breathe, then I couldn't swear. All the portions of my brain were suddenly angry.
Abruptly, I noticed movement beside me as I stood on the tracks. The train was starting to pull away from me. While I am certain it would have been painfully slow to anyone else, I wasn't sure my arm could reach it in time. Grabbing at it was instinctive, but I had a lot of time to think about it as my arm slowly extended. It was going to travel east, that would take me closer to Toronto where anyone I might still want to talk to would be. My hand missed the rung of the ladder I was grabbing for, but as I fell over, my open grip hooked onto one of the lower ones that I gripped tightly. I could sense, feel being a bit of a stretch, I was being dragged by the train but as slow as my movements were, they seemed steady enough that I was able to pull myself up the ladder. I have no idea how many kilometres of dragging it took but I was 'soon' on the ladder entirely and pulling myself up onto the roof. Rolling onto my back, I looked up and saw nothing but felt the sun drag over the sky as the train moved.
Something odd came over me, while I was sure the sun was in the sky, it felt cooler than it had before. Temperature hadn't occurred to me earlier, even when I had days to feel the change during the night. That meant it was either raining or snowing. While I was certain it wasn't still September, I grew up in southern Ontario so I never assumed anything with the weather at any point in the year. I enjoyed the cool sensation since it had probably been a while since I had had a shower.
The train stopped a few times during my trip but when it started going backwards for more than what it would have needed to attach cars or switch tracks, I rolled over to take a look around. Two issues with that, first, I still couldn't see so bringing my eyes around was useless. The other was that I rolled myself off the train and fell to the ground. It worked out for the better because I watched the train disappear into the west where I didn't want to go.
As I got up, I felt it easier to do so. After being encased in rock for however long I had been, moving around had done me some good. While I was still slow, it only took me a few minutes to move the ten meters that would have almost taken me an hour or so to move before. Having a panoramic view of anything metal around you isn't as disorienting as you might think. We can hear things around us and ignore most of it, so it was a lot like that except that, without other senses, you focus only on it. Other trains were in the yard and some were moving but I wasn't fast enough to catch them.
I walked towards on that looked like it had its engines pointed in the right direction and passed a control hut. It was puzzling at first to see something on the wall but once my abstract portion of my brain filled in the gaps, I realised I was looking at coveralls and a raincoat with a zipper. My next thought was that I probably looked like a skeleton and if I did run into anyone, they would flee screaming and not be helpful at all. It took some effort and guesswork, but I was reasonably confident that I had put on the coveralls and raincoat without destroying them. I could see some steel toe boots just inside the control hut and opened the door, probably breaking the lock as well, and put my feet into the boots. They were bigger than they needed to be for my feet even before they were reduced to the skeleton size they had become but that was just a comfortable margin of error for me to avoid ruining them in the attempt. When I walked away they came with, so I called it a win. Someone had left a hard hat laying on the ground that I only noticed because of the metal bits that I could see matched the pattern I had seen inside the hats I wore whenever I visited a work-site with dad. I put it on to add to my disguise, thankful the buckle was metal as well.
While I am sure I was still a frightening sight, a shambling collection of clothing, it was probably better than whatever I looked like under it. I made it to another train and froze as I saw red blurs in one of the cars. The door was open and I was about to climb in when I noticed them. They were like a pink fog, but it wasn't until they started moving that I realized what they were. Human forms, I could see the iron in their blood plus whatever other metals they contained move around in a human shape as they ran past me and off into the distance. My disguise must not have fooled them. It amazed me that such trace amounts were visible but with there being nothing else in the air to sense, the contrast was enough. I finished climbing into the car, hoping that whoever I scared off wouldn't come back with anyone. If they had been homeless men riding the rails nobody would likely believe them but I still felt bad for the fright.
Inside I closed the door, slowly, and sat down next to a collection of items that must have been possessions left behind. There was a sleeping bag, I assumed, it was hard to tell but the long zipper seemed to make it obvious. Then random containers. I was still feeling the dull huger I had been feeling since I woke up so I tried tipping every container into my mouth. I had no idea if anything got into me, but I was still hungry after so they could have all been empty.
The train started to move a while later as I waited and I was happy to be going east again. Knowing what humans looked like with my new sense made avoiding them easier at the next several stops. That and being able to move ‘fast’ enough to be on par with a feeble senior citizen didn't hurt. I was able to steal a roll of foil duct tape that I was able to put on the underside of my clothing during one trip, making it a lot easier to see and discovered I had a hood I could pull tight over my face. I am sure whatever colour the tape was wouldn't have been the most subtle thing in the world to be wearing but the whole point of putting it on the inside was to keep it hidden.
Taking a turn on top of the train, I was amazed I could see more clearly in the city than anywhere else I had been. I was so excited to finally be home that I was almost at the port of Toronto when I noticed the train was slowing down. Having mastered the art of rolling off trains, I landed with a heavy thump just outside the port and shuffled off away from the waterfront. With so much metal around me, it was easy to navigate around obstacles though seeing street names on signs was a no go. People were soon all around me but kept their distance, no doubt assuming I was some weird homeless person bundled in a raincoat I probably didn't need if it wasn't raining. I couldn't tell what the weather was like.
It dawned on me while I was walking that I didn't have a set goal in mind. I needed some time to think. My focus had been getting back to the city, and surprisingly enough I succeeded with only a minimum of mental scarring on those who saw me without my disguise. I noticed a building had a strip of dull spikes on a ledge to discourage homeless from sitting there but if falling off a train wasn't going to bother me then neither would those spikes. Sitting down, I didn't even notice they were there as far as comfort was concerned.
I had come so far, right across the second largest country in the world. All to get to my home. It made sense that I would keep going to the actual house, but depending on how long I had been gone, someone else might be living there. It bothered me that all my old life would have been swept away. That being said, there was something I was almost certain wouldn't have been and it was buried in the backyard. How I was going to get from where I was to the mansion my dad had taken me to all those years ago after meeting me for the first time I wasn't sure. Addresses are only helpful if you can read street names and I didn't even know what ones I had to take to get there. I cursed my reliance on the GPS I used on the rare occasions I was insane and drove myself in Toronto traffic. Normally I would just take the subway but I knew my appearance and lack of money would get me stopped and I still wanted to avoid a fuss. Also, not being able to talk made asking for help problematic.
I was still pondering this when a bright figure approached me. Unlike the faint red fog, a person appeared as this one looked almost like a silver ghost. I could make out details on her face and could see her mouth moving as if she was talking. I still couldn't hear her but I was puzzled why anyone would appear in such a way. She took me by the chin to examine me closely and I could see the fog of her body concentrated in the major blood vessels. I assumed it was some kind of condition, or injection so she could get a diagnostic scan done. After a few minutes, she let me go and left. I watched her walk away and fade as she passed beyond my ability to sense her.
I was still confused and pondering when a small red fog approached me with a metal cylinder. The, I assumed a child, stood in front of me for a moment before passing the cylinder to me. I recognized it as a thermos and I remembered my hunger as I held it. I did my best to open it without damaging anything. It wouldn't be nice to destroy something like that when the child was just trying to offer their food to someone in need. Not that I could feel anything, but I did my best to tip the contents into my mouth. I slowly raised it, assuming it was emptying, until I held it fully upright and it was for better or worse, empty. Handing it back to the child with only slight dents, I saw them scamper off to join the larger red fog standing back and the two of them continuing down the street.
I still had my dull hunger even after I supposedly ate something but while I was contemplating the two encounters I shifted my position because the spikes I was sitting on were bothering me. It was only after I shifted again that I realized I could feel my bones. Sitting there for hours and not feeling anything, then after eating something I suddenly could. My mind raced, trying to figure out what the connection was. Suddenly logic-brain connected the dots. When I was buried, I could feel temperature changes, winter and summer, water and ice had broken my prison. I was in the rain on the first train and moved faster. The food I wasn't sure was there after scaring off the poor men from their spot on the train. Water was the key and it made sense. Buried in lava it would have been the first thing to go. How I was alive without it I had no idea but I was hardly the first life form to be able to get dried out and survive.
My first thought was to find a fire hydrant and see if I could manage to open it, wondering if it was winter or not and how much havoc it could cause. However, as I walked down the street I saw a food cart being hosed off by its vendor and decided that was a better call. Not only would he have only been doing it in warm weather, but it was an easy thing to turn off and wouldn't flood the street.
I could already feel myself moving faster and knew that if I had tried finding a source of water earlier, like the pond next to one of the rail yards I switched trains at, I could have been better off a lot sooner. As I approached the red blur of a man and the metal container of his cart, I could see he had stopped to look at me. I extended my hand and he offered the hose, no doubt assuming I was just some thirsty vagrant. He must have gotten worried because it looked like he was trying to pull it back when I put it in my mouth and used the water gun at full blast down my throat for several minutes. While I was losing most of the water down my clothing, simply unable to accommodate the water into my body fast enough, I was feeling better and better as I went. My hand forestall any more attempts to take the hose from me, I just waved him back while I drank, my motions got faster and smoother.
The big surprise was the dull ache of my ears as they slowly started to register sound again after a painful pop. My vision went almost unnoticed since I was used to the metal sense and it just seemed to clarify what I was seeing very slowly. Others had come around to look at me as I continued to drink from the hose and replace my water. No doubt they thought I should have drowned. It wasn't until I started to cough that I stopped drinking. My lungs did their best to empty the water they contained onto the sidewalk but it’s a strange feeling to do that, yet not need them to breathe. The instinctive reaction simply acted until they were clear and suddenly I could feel myself taking a deep breath. I had bent over to cough out the water so when I stood up again I took another breath and was finally able to speak again.
“Oh damn, that felt weird!” My voice was hoarse and not at all what I expected but I didn't care so much.
The blurry man who had given me the hose was the first to speak to me. “Are you alright?” The Mexican accent was surprised but also concerned and compassionate.
“Eh, been better, but also worse.” My voice still sounded unlike what it should be so I kept at the water, actually feeling it going down my oesophagus was glorious.
“Why are you not dead?” The man who asked had been one of the onlookers who gathered around me. It was almost a novelty to see the old man as more than just a red fog though I could still see he had a metal joint in his hip.
“I don't have however many PHDs it would take to answer that.” My voice was finally getting into the more feminine side of hoarse. “But let's just say I was thirsty.”
Everyone started to laugh, it was a bit of an understatement.
“Are you alright now?” The vendor asked.
“Not sure,” I replied. “One less problem at any rate.” My voice kept getting better with every use.
“Your skin, it’s purple. You should go see a doctor.” A woman suggested as she angled herself to look more closely at my face.
“I’m working on it. I could use a cab ride home though.” My throat finally felt normal and I was sounding a lot like my old self, yet still a bit different.
It was a man in a fine suit who pulled out his phone and ordered me a ride. “A pickup should be here in a few minutes. What’s the address?”
I suddenly wondered if I wanted to say. Not certain if I wanted to make it easy for anyone to find out who I was before I was ready to deal with it. Before I could decide he spoke up again.
“It’s alright,” he put his hand up to stop me from answering. “I will just tag you as a fragile package. No questions, just a safe ride to wherever. I will cover the charge.”
Someone had made an app designed to get people home with a minimum of fuss. Handy for those avoiding stalkers or just not wanting to get dropped off noticeably in front of their homes. When the soccer mom van pulled up the driver seemed surprised, but she ushered me in without questions.
“If you need clothing, I have some in the bag on the seat.” Her kind voice informed.
It was heartbreaking to know there needed to be such infrastructure in place to help people in bad situations but I was grateful for it. The woman driving didn't even look back as I swapped out my stolen clothing for the baggy pants and hoodie she had gotten to fit any size person she might have had to pick up. I told her the general area I wanted to go to and she took me there. I was almost home… or at least the place that had been at one point.