BENDING REALITY BY JD STENZEL

CHARACTERS (IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE):
Theona Whipple-boutique
Dutch Ellifson-ladder truck driver
John Higgins-fire/rescue "Higgins"
Shirley Evans-dispatch (fire and rescue)
Angie-dispatch (fire and rescue)
Arthur Gallespie (driver of the Cuda)
Dallas McKechum (trucker)
Phil Sandia (special agent, FBI)
Dan Schmidt-sergeant (police)
Kim Avery (Anchor, Channel Nine News))
Joe Frundby (Chief of Police, Sioux City, IA)
Mark Torin (central character)
Jarred Van Epps (FBI agent)
Greg (owner, Easy's Bar & Grill)
Ed (general Manager, Easy's Bar & Grill)
Travis (cook, Easy's Bar & Grill)






CHAPTER ONE




The intersection camera captured clear images of the area just south of 42nd Street where crowds had began gathering. The camera gave the police a glimpse of what these curious folks saw, but no one in authority seemed to have the foggiest notion how to explain what seems to have happened. Rescue was immediately dispatched.
Theona Whipple has owned The Majic Touch, an upscale-looking discount beauty boutique on the southeast corner for the past eighteen years. She called 911, saying that at 42nd and Nebraska an orange car had "taken off and was in the air." Her patrons left and were gathering outside to see what happened; two of them still had shampoo in their hair.
Theona gave dispatchers as much information as possible before locking up her boutique and running to join those across the street. She stood near the scene in utter disbelief, her hands over her face, mouth agape, in awe of what has taken place.
Theona had seen plenty of accidents in the past, and some were horrific. This was different; this was like a real close encounter with something completely unnatural, and was witnessed by many. The news reporters might even want to interview her. There might be publicity for the Majic Touch any publicity would be welcome, especially when it's free!
Foghorns, sirens, and an array of lights closed in on the scene. The crowd of stunned gawkers parted to allow rescue vehicles through, but when cruisers reach the area where the ladder would set up, there was no one to control. Spectators are already well back, for fear of their lives. One hundred feet up, give or take a couple of feet, there was a very clean Firecandy Orange1971 Plymouth Barracuda, engine now off, just hovering motionless. The car was not in a tree, hung by cables or anything obvious. The Cuda was nevertheless suspended in mid air.
Ladder truck six stopped about thirty feet from where the car should be on the street. Dutch Ellifson, driver of the ladder truck, let dispatch know that unit six had found the scene and was ready to begin rescue operations. John Higgins climbed aboard the boom cage and began to extend the outriggers, and then extend the boom ladder up to the driver's side of the car.
Another crowd was gathering just up the road at Jackson and eighteenth, where the driver of a fully loaded semi and trailer was in the process of calling 911. "Emergency; what is the nature of your call?" Shirley, the senior dispatcher, prompted. "Name's Dallas McKechum; I drive me a big truck and rat now I'm off the road—and I don't mind tellin' ya, I'm a little--" The dispatcher interrupts: "Sir, what is your location?" "Well… lessee; I'm about eighteenth and, I'm guessin' Jackson, and I'm west—well, I was wesbound, but I'm still facin' westbound." The dispatcher immediately responds: "OK, Dallas; are you injured?" "No ma'am, but I ain't safe, neither!" Shirley asked Dallas, "Please explain the nature of your emergency?" A little frustrated, Dallas insisted loudly, "I'm a damn hundred feet up and ain't hit nuth'n, and don't know how it happened." Shirley Evans, who has heard them all, craned her neck and waved to Angie, another dispatcher, mouthing "'another one!" "OK, Dallas--just try to stay calm; rescuers are going to be there in a couple of minutes, so do not move, OK?" Dallas had no problem with that.
Just as Higgins got even with the ashen-faced victim in the Cuda, Shirley dispatched unit four to eighteenth and Jackson. Higgins heard the dispatch and wondered what was going on. This doesn't just happen. Vehicles from this planet do not defy gravity. "What's your name?" "Arthur Gallespie." "Are ya hurt?" "I don't think so, just a little embarrassed. [naughty word removed]! Man this is more than a little freaky; nothing like this has ever happened. I hope like hell I don't just fall out of the sky," Arthur said frantically as he peered over the door of his car. Arthur's eyes were as wide as billiard balls.
Higgins said, "I'd like to be more reassuring but I don't know what's holding you up. Best thing is gonna be getting you the hell out of there, and quick!" I pissed my pants," Arthur volunteered. "Don't sweat it; let's just get you out of there. Can you open the door for me, sir?" Arthur pulled the handle and gently eased the door open as the ladder inched up beside the car. Higgins was careful to not put the ladder under the car, because if the car fell on the ladder it would certainly tip the whole rescue truck over. "Grab my wrist as I grab yours, and I'll help you into this ladder cage," Higgins explained. "I think I can do that," Arthur replied as he grabbed his steering wheel with one hand and extended the other toward Higgins while backing out of the vehicle.
"I've got you, I've got you—hold onto the cage railing here, and here, and we'll get back down," the rescuer assured Arthur. "Everyone's gonna see I pissed myself," Arthur worried. Higgins really didn't care, but nevertheless explained: "Look, man; you probably don't live around here, and you don't know those people—so what difference will it make tomorrow?" "Point taken. Thanks," Arthur replied.
"OK, Arthur; you can get down on them steps there…" pointing to the back end of the ladder truck. "… and visit with that officer in that dark blue Chevy-- over there, you see it? Higgins again pointed to make certain Arthur understood. "Sure, and listen—thanks, man. I really mean that," Arthur said before making his way over to the unmarked Crown Vic with a bazillion antennas and black windows.
The same scene was playing out over at eighteenth and Jackson, more or less, right down to the unmarked Crown Vic. Dallas received similar instructions once he was hauled down from his Kenworth. Straightening up his long-sleeve fancy black button-down cowboy shirt, Dallas, a tall, thin Virginian with a short gray and white beard and moustache, sauntered over to the driver's side of the dark blue cruiser. Agent Phil Sandia motioned Dallas over to the other door, and to come in. Dallas sat quiet in the electronic mother of all police cars as agent Sandia conversed with his colleague a couple miles away.
"How are we gonna go about getting these vehicles down, Jarred?" The radio beep came back: ka-pink… "Can't say as I really know. Rescue says this Cuda over here is solid, like it's anchored, but to what?" Carl replied. "This truck ain't exactly budgin' either. I don't know what to--" Just then the Kenworth and Cuda simultaneously began floating gently back down, until each came to rest precisely where the vehicles had been in traffic prior to all hell breaking loose.
There was hardly a hushed whisper as agent Sandia, hand over his 9mm Baretta, opened the passenger-side door of the semi. The seasoned agent deftly drew his weapon as he entered the cab and made his way between the seats. With the full cab and sleeper area visible, Sandia could see that no other person occupied the semi. Sandia holstered the pistol and exited backward, then climbed down from the rig.
The truck driver met Sandia as he approached his cruiser again. "Names Dallas McKechum, nat's ma rig, sir. What'na hell's goin' on?" "I'll need you to get back into my car and fill out an incident report," Sandia replied. Dallas, eager to not have his logbook looked at, wanted to be as cooperative as humanly possible.
"OK; there wern't no accident, though, really. I just sorta took the hell off--straight up (making a motion upward with his hand), nat's a Gawd's truth." Sandia looked Dallas straight in the eyes and said, "Well, y-know, this sort of thing happens," knowing it didn't ever happen before noon today. "The hell you say! I ain't nevah heard o' no damn big truck flyin' up lak a damn rocket, boss! Have you?" Sandia smiled and said, "[naughty word removed] yeah; you're about the second one today." Dallas did the bubble-eye in disbelief. "Bullshit, chief; ain't nuth'n lak at evah hapn' da me 'fo dis heah."
"I'm gonna ask you to drive your vehicle to an impound lot, if you can get it started ok. Don't worry about any impound fees; you're not in trouble, but we have to find out more about the circumstances surrounding this incident." Dallas, nodding as if in total agreement, said, "Sure, just give me directions." Sandia said, "You'll be following my car, and we'll have escorts in front and back. Don't stop for traffic unless you see me stop; is that clear?" "I reckon I can manage at," Dallas replied.
Dallas fired up his "ol' girl" and waited for Sandia to leave. Dallas was particularly proud of his rig, and had taken it to the truck wash just that morning. "Ol' girl" looked like a black and chrome mirror. It wasn't what you might call a "chicken hauler," meaning it wasn't a show truck, but it was clean and elegant enough to make money and feel decent driving it.
Dallas, like most owner-operators, was taking it in the shorts due to out of control fuel prices lately. Giving his truck a bath was getting to be a rare thing. Pretty don't make money, and Dallas was in it for the money as much as anything else. Today he'd been hauling rubber for Bridgestone and was on his way to deliver in Portland, Oregon.
The motorcade quickly headed west to Pierce St. and then turned south. The other motorcade and the Cuda was en route to the same destination, just ahead of Sandia and his forward escort.
News crews intermittently lined Pierce St. as the convoy of cruisers and a large semi and trailer pass by with lights and sirens. Flying vehicles could be a huge breaking story, especially in "Siouxland," where not much of national significance happens. Dallas rolled down his window and cheesed up a smile for each camera he passed.
The now larger motorcade turned north onto I-29 then exited a mile north onto what becomes Dakota Avenue over the bridge into Nebraska. Reaching old highway 20, the motorcade bore west about a mile and a half to C&H's tow yard. C&H handles eighty-five percent of all police and rescue tow calls in the tri-state area by contract.
After parking his rig inside the secured area, Dallas was eager to call his dispatcher (who is also his third wife of twelve years) She hadn't been home when Dallas tried to call before. After two rings the phone is picked up: "Hon, ya ain't gonna b'lieve this; I was drivin' along mindin' my own damn bidniss, rat-- 'nis bitch—I mean she cut me off, an a couple seconds later I was scooted up, about a frickin' hunerd foot! I [naughty word removed] you not, darlin'-- I was up ere!"
A moment of nothing from Terri, and then a heavy exhale: "K, so what are ya tellin' me? "I'm tellin' ya ma truck zoomed off th' ground, an fo I knew it I was shitt'n ma pants, 'bout a hunerd foot up!" Some more silence before she asked: "So, Dal; gonna be on th' news tonat?" Dallas answered, "I reckon so, hon."
Sandia and police sergeant, Dan Schmidt, approached Dallas as he was talking to his wife. Sandia wore the basic low-profile business package; a dark gray casual suit, light blue shirt and dark blue tie give him away as a high-ranking fed, as do his black lens aviator shades (which are instantly transformed into tactical shades if he draws his weapon). Sandia had just turned thirty-nine four days ago, and was always meticulous about his looks. He shaved twice daily and wore his short, black hair like Ward Cleaver.
Schmidt asked Dallas if he'd mind grabbing the truck's registration, license and bills of lading. Schmidt didn't say anything about the logbook, and Dallas wasn't going to volunteer it unless ordered to. "Got any scale receipts?" Schmidt asked as he halfway turned toward his squad car. "Yeah; I'll grab it fer ya."
Dallas' load put him two hundred pounds over gross, and the scale receipt would show that, but Dallas wasn't worried about being overweight. In most states a semi and trailer can be nine hundred and ninety-nine pounds over the legal gross and just get a warning. Don't be an even thousand pounds over gross weight and try it though; you'll pay dearly.
The interstate fuel tax (IFTA) and insurance were found to be current and Schmidt couldn't find anything irregular about a tire shipment to Portland. The inspection sticker appears to be the right color for the year. "Your brakes in adjustment?" Schmidt asked Dallas. "Yessir; ever other moanin' I ad-just 'em, an taday ain't no differn't. Schmidt turned to Sandia and said, "There isn't much here for me to do. It's in the FBI's court anyway, right?" Sandia heightened both eyebrows and closed his eyes tight as if he wasn't exactly thrilled, but nevertheless was intrigued.
Whatever had occurred on this day wasn't still happening. No other reports of flying vehicles came in the rest of the day. Kim Avery, Channel Nine (Fox affiliate) News anchor had a field day with Sioux City police chief, Joe Frundby during a live press conference. There just weren't any answers, only speculation. The conference was short. "I will personally undertake to discover the nature and scope of what has transpired earlier today, and I'll keep the media posted," Frundby told reporters before the conference ended.
There have been thousands of sightings of things yet to be explained to the public; our government officials only admit to those brought to light through tiny shreds of evidence. This time the press had it all on film and the public still would be left to wonder about what happened. In the end, that's really all anyone can do.














CHAPTER TWO

"The grail you seek is pure purpose of heart. Only by purging the abstractions of thought into a vacuum can you unlock the potential within you. This is the pathway to causal effect. You can affect all things within your experience to one extent or another. You are part of everything…and everything is part of you…"

…eeep—eeep—eeep—eeep—EEEP—EEEP Swack

"…Everything is at the same moment involved with two contexts: yours, and its own. The transparent filter between realities can be made to flex, if you are aware of its outline you can follow it along a pathway between realities. You can manipulate the veil as you wish, so be careful with your wishes. Become your environment; become the veil…"

…eeep—eeep—click. Five thirty-five a.m., and it began to be difficult for Mark to want to get out of bed in the morning. The file downloads have been incredibly interesting! Mark had recently been bombarded with specific dreams, which answered questions about some of the deeper meanings of life. Mark was fast becoming an independent thinker, and with each passing dream more and more pieces of a huge puzzle began to fit together.
Mark Torin is an average man of forty, slightly balding and very tall—perhaps six four. Being Mark Torin was a lot like hard work for little pay, but there were certain benefits. No one else quite possessed his optimistic outlook on life.
Mark put on his terri cloth bath robe and half-ran down the hallway to see who was pounding on the door at six in the morning. Across the foyer he could see through the big oval glass on the front door; suits. Salesmen, he thought. As Mark turned the handle and began opening the door, both special agent Sandia and agent, Jarred Van Epps, were drawing badges and introducing themselves.
"Would it be alright if we spoke for a few minutes this morning, Mr. Torin?" Sandia asked. "Is there some sort of trouble?" Mark asked. "No sir, we're just following up on an incident you may or may not have witnessed—we just want to know which. Have you got a few minutes you can spare?" "Sure; I guess so. Come inside."
Sandia and Van Epps entered into the foyer and followed Mark into his living room. "Mark, can I get your social security number and date of birth?" Van Epps asked. "Yeah; 555-21-0087. I was born July 16, 1962." "How long have you lived at this address?" Van Epps asked. "Not long; about a year and a half." Van Epps wrote each response in a little brown leather-covered notebook.
Sandia leaned forward on the couch, over his own knees, and touched all of his fingertips on his left hand with those on his right, elbows on his legs and asked, "Did anything out of the ordinary happen yesterday, particularly in the a.m. hours—anything at all?" Mark tried to recall the morning in sequence, but nothing particularly odd stood out. "No; I can't really say anything strange happened, why?" "Tell me, Mark—can I call you Mark?" Mark shrugs: "I call myself Mark, so I guess it's alright."
Sandia tried to fake a smirk, but Van Epps didn't want to seem amused. "Great. Tell me where you might have been at about eight thirty." "In the morning?" Mark quizzed. "Sure. Let's see, I would've been halfway to work." Van Epps asked, "And is that your Mirage out there in the driveway?" "Belongs to the bank, but they let me drive it around," Mark chuckled. .
Sandia pulled three photographs out of a manila envelope and laid them on the coffee table beside Mark's easy chair. "The first shows your Mitsubishi just in front of a brightly colored sports car; you see the sports car?" Sandia wondered. "Yeah; OK, I kind of remember that car—he had this stereo going full-blast; it about shattered my windows!"
Mark's eyes widened as he saw the second photo. "Was anyone hurt here?" Mark wondered. "No, fortunately," Sandia responded. Van Epps said, "I took that second photo myself yesterday, and the third one, too. What can you tell me about what you see?" The image didn't look real. It looked like a semi and trailer superimposed over a pretty bunch of maple trees, or visa versa. "What exactly am I looking at here?" Mark asked. "We were hoping you might be able to tell us. We've never seen anything like it, but you were there when it happened," Sandia explained.
Mark wondered if the investigators could tell he had begun to sweat. Mark's face was a little flush, and the temperature in the room began to rise noticeably. "Can I offer either of you something to drink?" Mark asked calmly. "No thanks, we're fine," Sandia forwarded before Van Epps could accept. Mark ran some tap water, then took a crystal tumbler from the cabinet in the tiny butler's pantry off the kitchen. He filled it as soon as the water ran cold enough, then returned to the living room.
"So what's the deal; can cars fly now?" Mark asked, looking at Sandia. "As you can see, apparently some vehicles can fly—how, is still a mystery," Sandia acknowledged. Mark said, "I hadn't seen either of these two vehicles do anything like leave the earth, though, so I'm doubt I can be of much use to your investigation."
Sandia considered Mark's statement believable, but still, prompted: "You're absolutely positive you saw nothing abnormal regarding these vehicles?" Shaking his head as if searching a mental database, slowly from side to side, then increasing the side-to-side motion of his head in a narrowing pattern until Mark's eyes were level with Sandia's: " Nope." Sandia and Van Epps left calling cards with Mark before they left. Mark watched through the door glass as a dark blue Crown Vic exited the circle driveway.
Mark vividly remembered far more than he had shared with the investigators; Mark recalled the Cuda—how it was too nice to belong to such a dickhead! Mark considered it a drive-by assault at about two hundred decibels. He also recalled how the trucker never did fully stop at the four-way on 18th St., and nearly smashed into his Mirage.
He now had confirmation that the information he'd been given in his dreams was real, and he was somehow responsible for what happened to the vehicles. There are certain moments when he could affect other objects to do unnatural things.
It was now about seven a.m. and Mark was rushing to get ready for work. Mark was usually in the habit of getting up early enough to watch the news and grab something to eat. No news is good news; there wasn't enough time. Mark finished dressing and straightening his hair, and after brushing his teeth, he was out the door and on his way to work.
The first four-way Mark came to was uneventful, but when he was stuck behind someone daydreaming at the next four-way, he decided a little test was in order. Mark imagined all four hubcaps coming off as the driver in front of him began to move. As the newer Camry began moving all of the hubcaps except one flew off their rims and began rolling outward.
The driver of the Camry heard the metallic noises and immediately pulled around to the right and parked so as to retrieve his hubcaps. As the car turned the corner to the right, Mark saw why there were only three; the hubcap belonging to the front right wheel was missing.
Mark eased through the intersection laughing quite hysterically as the man stopped to pick up his hubcaps. "This is totally frickin' cool," Mark thought about some possibilities as he headed north on Nebraska Street. As he passed by a modified black Honda Civic with gold rims and chrome accents being started by a teenager in oversized clothes and Coolio-looking hair braids, he began to think about the car's horn blowing at three times normal volume. The horn didn't blow three times its volume, but it did blow—much to the disliking of the young occupant who began pounding on his steering wheel to get it to stop honking.
Mark slipped a Sheryl Crow CD into the stereo and began singing along to "If It Makes You Happy." Now his curiosity was fully piqued; what is possible? His mind raced as he began thinking about this wonderful gift and how it might change his life. If he can lift a fully loaded semi and truck, what else could he do, or not do?
Mark's demeanor and attitude had changed by the time he pulled into the driveway at Easy's restaurant where he managed the kitchen. Mark was five minutes late, but was no longer concerned with what his boss would say. Despite an overwhelming rush of empowerment, Mark appeared reserved. He decided that he shouldn't let on that anything unusual was happening to him.
Easy's is an upscale combination bar and grill, as upscale as it gets in Sioux City. Greg's new Mercedes SLK roadster was parked in the lot; not the best time to be late for work. Greg only comes in about once a week to see how things are going, otherwise his time is spent traveling. "Why does he even bother coming in? The place would run fine whether or not he ever shows up," Mark Thought to himself as he parked.
"How ya doin', Mark?" Greg asked as Mark approached the host's booth where Greg and Ed, Mark's immediate boss, were conversing. "Any better and I'd be canonized a saint," Mark replied. "Fat chance, Markie," Ed said smiling. "Why not just say 'Markie Warkie,' and piss me all the way off," Mark thought as he smiled at the two fashion egotists before him.
Mark wanted to test himself further, but didn't want to be obvious about it. Mark was afraid if anyone found out about his strange ability to cause things to move one of two things might happen; either he'd be turned into a circus freak, or misused by his own government. The military would undoubtedly find the abilities advantageous.
As Mark passed by Ed and Greg he thought about the light bulb over their heads exploding like he'd seen John Coffey do in "The Green Mile." Instantaneously the bulb sparked and exploded. "Holy [naughty word removed]!" Mark said, "I'd better grab a fresh bulb and change that out."
As Mark walked down a corridor toward the utility closet where bulbs are stored Ed said to Greg, "That kid's gotta be a little psychic; he was looking at the light before it exploded!" Greg hadn't noticed. As Mark returned with a new bulb Greg said "I'll get that.
You'd better get to the kitchen area and prep some salad, because Becky never showed up and we're behind." Handing the bulb to Greg he said, "Sure thing; I'll get right on it," and headed for the kitchen. "Thanks a bunch," Greg said Mark really can't stand how superficial and phony Greg is, and blatantly homosexual. Mark had a sense that perhaps instead of working for someone else, he'd soon have more than enough wealth to meet his needs.
Travis was standing over one of the three grills seasoning some top sirloins. With his back toward Mark, he couldn't see that Mark had begun slicing lettuce without so much as touching it, nor could he see that bunches of broccoli and cauliflower seemed to magically disassemble themselves. Mark was careful to be sure no one saw him as he thought about his salad.
"What's the matter with Becky?" Mark asked. "Ain't sure; I guess she just couldn't make it. Greg is the one who took the call, so he'd be able to tell ya." Mark carefully placed his salad ingredients into separate containers, then on a large cart to be wheeled out to the salad bar. "You finished that quick," Travis said in sort of a lame chuckle. "I don't mess around," Mark replied as he exited through a set of double doors with the cart.
During the course of his workday, Mark thought about different ways he could make money with his gift. He decided that theft was out of the question, and whatever means he used couldn't gain him wealth at the expense of another. His mind began to center on the idea of becoming the next big lottery winner. If he won the lottery, he reasoned, no one else would be disappointed if his or her ticket wasn't a winner. After all, they don't really expect to win.
The rest of the day Mark pondered what he might do with a lot of money. He knows rich people, and there isn't much to like about them. Rich people become vain and self-centered, as though they were products to be promoted and sold, and they tend to be superficial. Mark vowed to himself that if he became wealthy, he would help as many people as he could. He thought about starting a foundation to help people learn trade skills along with counseling services to help people focus their lives more productively.
After work, Mark stopped into the Cum & Go gas station on Pierce Street and bought a single Powerball lottery ticket, letting the lottery machine pick the numbers "randomly." The Powerball lottery drawing would be Saturday, just two days away. Mark returned home and placed the lottery ticket in the catchall drawer of his bedroom dresser.
After thawing a couple of salmon steaks and boiling water Mark's supper was nearly finished. Onto a frying skillet Mark arranged the steaks in an olive oil and Sakae/teriyaki sauté, after the onion, peppercorns, red and green banana peppers and mushrooms softened. The potato was a six-minute nuke job without frills, just a little margarine.
As he sat down to eat supper on the couch Mark turned the television on and flipped to the Channel Nine News station. Halfway through the broadcast Kim Avery recapped the events of yesterday morning, saying that the police are still investigating two incidents of "flying vehicles," and that police are "still baffled." The report seemed surreal, as though it was part of a movie.
The mind argues against what it cannot reason, At this point denial would typically set in and an average person might reason away the entire incident; chalk it up to an elaborate hoax involving pranksters and dismiss the possibility of flying vehicles.
Mark remembered to set his alarm before drifting into oblivion, his mind now racing with thoughts and scenarios of things to come, and new possibilities. As he drifted further and further into his first REM state, his thoughts redirected into a calm and serene equilibrium. He was now open to communicate.
Three white-light beings were suddenly before Mark's projected consciousness, warning him against the dangers of drawing attention to himself. They emanated thought without lips and when these beings spoke there was pure reception within Mark's consciousness, as if each expression became part of Mark's being.
"The pathway lies before you which divides you from others. Every thing you have ever experienced becomes focused into whichever of several actions you could take. You could envelop someone with your side of the veil. Once someone is enveloped by your side of the veil, it is possible to manipulate their minds without detection, causing them to do as you would have them do.
Soon you will need the Four Pillars. Only we know their location, and they will protect you from harm. We will watch, and be with you. Soon your life will change completely, as you become aware of who you are…"
…eeep—eeep—eeep click.
"…It will be difficult to humble yourself before authority, but you must. Great things for mankind approach as you become who you are. You will inspire others to become who they are, and all of humanity will evolve its frequency to a much higher level…"
…eeep—eeep click. Why me?" Mark wondered as he rolled out of his bed. "I'm so average." Perhaps Mark had been chosen precisely because he was average. There were always very unusual things about Mark. Nothing, which set him apart from anyone else on the outside, but his mind, was unburdened by pretence or insecurity. He saw truth where there appeared none.
After a bowl of Grape Nuts Mark checked his e-mail. "Where does all of this junk mail come from!?" Mark wondered as he kept rapid-firing the delete icon. He suddenly scrolled to a new message from daniellec @aol.com," and replied:
"Where have you been? I've missed you sooooo much! I may be moving soon. If I do, I'll keep you posted should I get a new e-mail address. Life is pretty different for me lately. My dreams are so intense. I just feel like I'm on top of the world.
How is it going at college? As for your question about the new job—I'm managing a kitchen at a local bar and grill, and the pay is nothing to brag about. Wish me luck in the Powerball tomorrow, KO? Thanks. Love, MT."
Mark used to enjoy instant split-screen chats with "daniellec," and she would always encourage him to hold out for a better tomorrow when things weren't exactly going well in his life. She always believed he could achieve whatever he set out to accomplish, and Mark considered her a rare friend, even though the two had never met.
"Thank God it's Friday," Mark thought as he sent his reply. It suddenly occurred to Mark that since he'd be out of a job as soon as he quit anyway, why bother going in? He picked up the phone and left a message on his boss' answering machine:
"Hi, Greg. I won't be coming in today because I have to take care of some urgent personal issues. Sorry for the short notice, but I really had no choice. I'll see you on Monday; hopefully I'll get it handled by then. Thanks."
Mark concentrated on his cordless phone returning itself to its base, and as soon as he let go of it the handset drifted smoothly toward the base and gently fell onto it. As he looked toward his parquet flooring Mark thought about one particular board coming up from its position and levitating about a foot above the rest. There was a cracking sound and a snap as the board came up.
Several of the adjacent boards were damaged as the rising board ripped the tonguing from their edges, and a few boards were heaved up because they were interconnected with the one which rose up. This was unanticipated, and Mark felt ridiculous as he tried to envision the boards re-seating in their original positions.
As the boards regained their original positions there was severe splintering caused by the boards forcing into one another again. Mark began to understand that although he could manipulate objects, the objects being manipulated still conformed to the remaining laws of physics.
It's a damn good thing he didn't decide to send the vehicles "a hundred feet in the air" while they were beneath bridges! There would have been tragic results and likely death to account for, Mark didn't want that on his conscience. From now on, he resolved to not cause things to happen until he'd thought about the possible consequences.



CHAPTER THREE

At Sioux City Police Headquarters Chief Frundby and special agent Sandia discussed the case of the airborne vehicles, having poured over video images and finding nothing new.
"It doesn't seem even remotely conceivable that nothing out of the ordinary appeared on the tape except for the car lifting up. Have your people gathered any new leads?" Frundby asked. "Not a one. My partner and I did interview the driver of the silver Mirage seen on the tape, but Mr. Torin, the owner, insists that he didn't realize anything unusual had happened at the intersection," Sandia replied. "Do you believe him?" Frundby asked. "Right now there's no other option," Sandia replied.
Frundby said, "We'll keep the file open and see what turns up, but there's not a lot more we can do without more to go on." Sandia gathered his laptop and hard copy images of both scenes, adding, "It's just a damn good thing no one was hurt. If those vehicles hadn't come down smoothly as they did, it could have turned out differently."
You've got that right. Listen, thanks for the visit. If my department finds anything new we'll get hold of you," Frundby advised. Sandia opened the chief's office door and exited. "Sounds good. Thanks." Sandia headed for the Sioux Gateway airport, where he caught a one-hour shuttle flight headed for Des Moines.
Mark had drifted off to sleep, and slept productively. When he awoke saw himself as a part of the world, rather than it a part of him. He began floating upward out of bed after flipping the comforter and sheet aside. Mark righted himself with his head just touching the ceiling, legs crossed in a sitting position. Mark concentrated on what all of this means. How great to be a man embraced by such power! How great the responsibility.
Mark's mind gave back the walls between memories he repressed when no rational connection could be made as the events happened. Memories which had no inherent value or context exploded with color and clarity as connections were made. Mysteries were solved
The net result was a total cross-referencing of each nuance of each fragment or flicker of a memory. Mark made connections where such were impossible before, and the sensation of synapses firing a little over a thousand times faster became quite painful. To reduce the pain, Mark concentrated on a pure white nothingness. Before long the pain had vanished.
Mark floated gently down to the bed, feeling so exhilarated that he put his clothes on and drove himself to a secluded and quiet place on a dirt road near the Winnebago Indian reservation. He pulled the keys and got out of his little Mitsubishi, then closed the door.
The area was crisp with a gentle, morning breeze and the smell of grasses and trees. Mark imagined himself soaring at a sparrow's pace around and between, then over the tops of the trees, and immediately he began to soar. Mark soon discovered that flight was more fun when he positioned his hands out in front of him, or at his sides.
Mark laughed as he conjured up images of famous flying superheroes. He perched himself on a "Y" in a particularly huge tree affording himself a wonderful view of a small herd of nearby buffalo. Mark watched the gorgeous, dark beasts romp near an old truck parked in their grazing field, the yearlings kicking as they galloped.
Tonight would be the lottery drawing, and the jackpot was estimated at seventy-five million dollars. Mark had never thought much about being rich, and this would open many doors in his life. All he really ever wanted was to not have to worry about bills anymore. He began to understand that life was about to become extraordinarily interesting.
Mark drifted slowly back to his car, taking in the beauty of the gentle, green hills. He drove to his brother, Bruce's house about an hour and a half to the north, in Worthing, South Dakota. He knocked, and after a few seconds the door opened.
"Hello; how have you been?" Mark greeted. "Just fine, Mark. Come in." replied Bruce's slender mid-thirties wife. "Is Bruce around?" Mark asked. "No; Bruce isn't here, but come on in. He'll be along in about a half an hour or so." Thanking Corin for her hospitality, Mark entered and followed upstairs to visit in the living room.
Mark was careful not to talk about anything that had been going on regarding hovering vehicles or himself flying about, but he caught Corin up on other trivia in his life, such as his job, and how things were going in general. He made a point to say that he was playing the Powerball lottery, and that the drawing would be tonight just before ten pm.
At about three fifteen Bruce walked in, greeted Mark and proceeded to kiss Corin as he passed on his way to the restroom. "That was a pretty crappy day! I'm glad I'm outta there," Bruce complained before closing the bathroom door. When he emerged, Corin asked what had happened.
"Well, let's see…there was the ammonia leak. Three people had to be taken to the hospital, which left us short-handed when maintenance got it fixed. Jeff, my supervisor, fired two Mexicans for fighting, and I forgot my friggin' lunch this morning! Other than that I had an alright day," he replied cracking a grin.
"What about you, Mark?" Bruce asked Mark. "How the hell have you been?" Mark interlocked his fingers behind his head and leaned back comfortably on the plush, suede sofa. "No complaints; I just keep on keepin' on, you know."
Corin volunteered, "We should play some cut-throat after awhile. As I recall you kind of embarrassed me and Bruce last time you were here. We want a re-match." Laughing, Bruce said, "Damn straight! We were just goofin' off last time, but we're gonna play serious this time." Mark said, "Rack 'em up whenever you're ready; I'm game." The three went down to the basement and Corin began racking the balls.
Bruce won the lag to see who would break, and he smashed the cue ball hard into the others scattering them widely. Nothing fell into any holes. "Go ahead, Mark," Corin said. Mark studied the balls and plotted out his strategy, then called the four ball in the side pocket. Mark gently shot into the four ball, and it fell in. All of his balls similarly fell into their holes as he called them, and no one but Mark was able to shoot after Bruce's opening break.
"This sucks!" Bruce said laughing as he began to rack the balls again. "Let somebody else play too, why don't ya?" Corin joked. "Yeah, dammit!" Bruce reinforced.
Mark broke into the rack hard, scattering the balls, but nothing fell into a hole. Corin aimed at the eleven ball, calling it into the corner. The eleven fell, and three more fell as Corin played. When she tried a bank shot on the seven ball into the side, it just missed.
Bruce made two of his balls before missing, and he was thoroughly disgusted. "I was robbed! Hon, this table must not be level," he complained to Corin, who shook her head from side to side as if to say to Bruce that he shouldn't have missed such an easy shot. "Why don't you take your time and aim? Your brother's gonna kick our asses again."
Mark didn't have an easy shot, though. He was snookered behind Bruce's fifteen ball and couldn't do much. He banked two rails and tried knocking the five into the side pocket. He managed to hit the five, but it went nowhere near a pocket, and came to rest against an end rail. "I believe you're right, Bruce. This table is warped," Mark said chuckling.
Corin won the second game, and asked if anyone was hungry. "I've got a pot roast cooking, and it's probably about finished," she added. Sounds great, Mark said. "Yeah, let's eat; I'm starvin' my ass off. I never got lunch today," he reminded Corin. The three went upstairs and had supper together. Afterward they sat in the living room watching "The Matrix," which everyone had already seen more than once. Some movies are just that good, and it was enjoyable—again.

…to be continued…


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