The disadvantage of not simply collapsing into unconsciousness, I discover the next morning, is that my brain has the time to sift through everything that’s happened and cudgel me with it. All night long, an endless parade of ape-men cowered before me and begged for their lives as I killed them in a hideously inventive number of ways. With many of them, the hair fell away from their faces just before I landed the final blow, and I looked into their human eyes and human expressions and saw fear there. It made me feel sick, and it made me feel good, too – which made me feel sick as well.
So my sleep wasn’t exactly what you’d call restful. On the other hand, waking up to no voicemail from Edgar is extremely refreshing, and another long shower does a lot to clear out the nightmares. I try wrapping my cast in a trashbag for this shower, and rubber-banding it shut at the top; it basically works, but if I try to put any weight on it, the trashbag slips on the wet tub floor, and my leg starts to tingle by the end of the shower. It’s differently obnoxious than taking a shower with my leg sticking out, but not necessarily better. I conclude that the whole situation stinks and resolve to simply heal as quickly as possible.
That reminds me to start my power-checking regimen. I prick my finger with a sewing needle in case the super-healing has kicked in, but no dice; it bleeds like normal. I cross “invulnerable” off the list with that one, too. The whole list takes about half an hour to come up completely negative, during which time anyone watching would have had me committed. I’m pretty sweaty by the end, too, and I realize that superpowers or not, I should really get out of the house more often and get some exercise.
The cast gives me a decent excuse to put that off for a bit, at least, and instead I boot up my computer and start looking for Aaron Lovell. I find a bunch of stuff that’s clearly not him, based on location. One of them is a mixed martial arts fighter from England, and I consider how much worse off I would have been if I’d had to deal with that Aaron Lovell. These guys haven’t seemed that smart, but muscle memory alone probably would have let him lay me out.
A few entries down, I come across a LinkedIn profile for an Aaron Lovell in my city, and learn that he was an advertising executive. He looks like your standard late-forties suit: glasses, bald head with a fringe of short hair at the sides, pressed shirt and tie, slightly weird smile. Absolutely nothing like the monster that came at me, in other words. I dig around some more and find his Facebook page, though, and people are posting “I’ll miss you, man” messages, so it’s definitely him. His profile picture is him with a woman of his age and a young teenage boy standing in front of them.
I’d really been hoping that he didn’t have a family, that he was some renegade weirdo living off in the woods alone. I knew it wasn’t likely, but still, seeing that photo hurts like someone’s just slapped me. My face goes cold and my whole head rings for a second, and I can hear my blood in my ears as my heartbeat spikes for a few seconds. Weirdly, the sensation isn’t that far off from the all-over ice cream headache I got right before the attack. It’s definitely not the same, though. That was just physical discomfort. This is guilt; guilt and fear.
I’m not usually an emotional guy, so maybe I don’t deal with this as well as I should. I guess a good technique would be to take some time to analyze what I was feeling, consider the root causes, examine where they have rational bases versus irrational ones. But given that it took a dose of genius juice for me to realize that the reason I didn’t like my boss was that I was afraid I was going to become him, you can probably figure that that is not how I handle the situation.
No, I get angry. Angry at myself for feeling scared and guilty, angry at whomever is doing this to me, angry at the universe for allowing it. I slam my laptop shut and stomp around my house for a while without the assistance of the crutches, enjoying the ache in my foot in a perverse sort of way. The pain is satisfying. It’s got a tangible, addressable source, unlike everything else I’m dealing with right now. I’m just about to progress from banging around to yelling rhetorical questions at the furniture when my phone buzzes. I check it to see a text from an unknown number that says only, “Jonathan Caraway.”
This is the thought process that follows: What on earth? Oh, this must be Brian. That’s the name of the second guy. He’s got a stupid name. Geez, man, you killed the guy, you could show some respect. Not my fault he’s got a stupid name. Shut up and go look him up.
That all flashes through my head in about the span of a second, and it serves to dump metaphorical cold water on my rage. I’m abruptly calm, I’m a little bit ashamed of how I was acting, and also my foot hurts a lot more than it did while I was worked up. I limp back to my bed and open up my laptop again to do some more googling.
This one is, if anything, worse. Jonathan was a local high school student, just turned 18 this year. His Facebook pictures show him with friends and parents, looking young and vital. He looks like a great kid, someone his parents would have been proud of. I don’t see anything at all to connect him to Lovell, nothing to indicate that he’d ever even heard of the ad man. That’s not to say that there is no connection, of course. I’ve still got to hope that there is one, as otherwise I’m back to the plan of just waiting for these things to happen. But it’s nothing obvious.
At the top of his wall is a post from Sharon Caraway, presumably his mother. It says that a funeral service will be held for Jonathan in a week’s time. I make a note of the time and location, although I’m not entirely sure why. It seems deeply unlikely that I’ll learn anything useful at a funeral service. Maybe it’s like Brian said: I just need to know more about the kid. I was the last person to see him alive. I owe it to him to know who he was.
I poke around on the internet for a while longer, though I’m not really certain what I’m looking for now. I check out the ad agency that Lovell worked for. I scope out Caraway’s school website. Nothing jumps out at me, and eventually I realize that I’ve given up clicking on links, and am just staring at a paragraph of text, not even reading it. I take that as a hint that I’ve absorbed about as much information as I’m going to today, and close the laptop again.
A Netflix movie and a pizza later, I’m back at work. Edgar is gone by the time I get there, so I assume that the drug test didn’t show any evidence of whatever’s going on with me. I could probably have assumed that by the fact that he didn’t call to tell me that I was canned, but I wouldn’t put it past Edgar to wait for me to show up just so he could fire me to my face.
Work is back to being the quiet, boring job that I had grown to quietly loathe, a fact for which I am profoundly grateful today. I’m able to shut my mind off while I’m doing my rounds and let my thoughts settle for a while. I spend my down time staring at the dimly lit street outside, watching the occasional car go past. Several times, I notice a police car cruising by, and I can’t blame them. There were two weird deaths here in as many days, and even if they don’t know that the second one was sort of a homicide as well, they’ve got to believe that it’s something worth keeping an eye on.
I think again about Officer Peterson, who had come by to ask Edgar about me. Obviously he’s working the case, or however that actually goes. All I know about police departments, I’ve learned from procedural dramas. Maybe I can talk to him, see if he knows of any connection between Lovell and Caraway. There’s got to be a way to ask that doesn’t sound suspicious, like I’m fishing to see if he knows anything about me. After some consideration, I decide that the “trying to understand” angle is probably the best, especially since I really don’t have any idea why this is happening. My definition of “this” just has another facet that the police don’t know about, is all.
I briefly consider going to see if Edgar’s office is unlocked to get the number off of the card, but think better of it. “I wanted to call the police officer who was asking about me” is not likely to be viewed as an acceptable excuse for going through my boss’s stuff. I can probably just call the police department and ask for him, anyway.
There is no way I would have thought an idea and its consequences through that well last week. There’s definitely been a residual effect. I’m not saying that the attacks are worth it, but at least there’s a silver lining.