Now, maybe you’re noticing that I’ve gotten two sizeable static shocks in about as many hours – once getting onto the bus, and once leaving the church. And maybe you’re thinking, “Dan’s a smart guy, and he’s on the lookout for manifestations of weird powers. Surely he is also thinking about this?” Seems reasonable, right?
I don’t have a clue. It totally escapes my attention, and I bumble on home just glad that I didn’t cause a scene at a funeral. Once there, I sink into my usual oblivion of Netflix and delivered pizza, neither of which involve unusual amounts of electricity. The steady patter of the rain on the roof calms and relaxes me, and I fall asleep in my boxers on the couch watching a brainless comedy.
When I wake up, the movie’s over and the Netflix menu is staring at me accusingly. My tongue feels like greasy cardboard, and the world’s in that grey twilight that could just as easily be dawn or dusk. I fish my pants off of the floor and fumble through the pockets for my phone to find out what time it is, but when I finally get the phone free, it’s dead. That probably means it’s morning, though, since it had plenty of charge last night, so I figure I might as well get up and find out what the day looks like. I sit up, stretch, and click the remote at the TV to turn it off – but nothing happens. So I hit the button a few more times, just in case it didn’t get the message at first, but the TV stubbornly stays on. I open up the case to mess with the batteries, and one of them has burst, leaking a white crust all around one end. Clearly, this is not my day for electronics.
I lever my cast off of the couch, tuck my phone into the waistband of my boxers and limp-hop to the kitchen to get some new batteries. And that’s where I finally catch on to the fact that something’s up, because when I reach for the fridge door, every magnet I have on the front of it falls off at once.
My first thought is, “Power outage!” Which is dumb on so many levels that my brain basically shorts out for a second trying to process it. I remind myself that I’ve just woken up, shake off my stupidity, and get down to trying to figure out what is going on.
Whatever it is, it’s weird. I can’t get the magnets to reattach to the fridge at all. They slide off just like the fridge is made of plastic. I try tossing them at the fridge, and that works fine as long as I’m a couple of feet away. As soon as I approach, though, they demagnetize again. When I hold two of them together, they don’t repel each other, either. I’m shutting down the magnetic fields somehow.
In the back of my head, an idea starts clamoring for attention. It’s something about magnets, but I haven’t quite got the shape of it. I poke at it for a moment, hoping to get it to take form, but it stays vague. I know it’s something easy, something I should know, and probably something important, but I cannot put my finger on it. I pull out my phone to open up Wikipedia and see if it rings any bells, but of course my phone doesn’t turn on because the battery’s dead. Then it hits me — magnets! Magnets are bad for computers! My phone is a tiny computer! I’ve probably just fried my phone!
A wave of frustration washes over me as I look at the black screen. As it does, all of my fridge magnets leap off of the floor and slam into me like tiny kamikazes.
Suddenly, the absurdity of the situation strikes me. I’m standing in my kitchen in nothing but boxers and a cast, angry at a piece of plastic, with ladybugs and dinosaurs stuck all over my legs. I can’t help it; I start to laugh. And when I do, the magnets fall off, clattering on the linoleum at my feet.
That’s about all I need in terms of a hint. After a bit of experimentation, I demonstrate what I just discovered by accident: when I’m tense, the magnets stick to me. When I relax, they leave me alone. By blanking out my mind as best as I can, and thinking only of ocean waves crashing on the shore, I can even put a magnet back on the fridge and have it stay there, just like a regular person could. It’s amazing what passes for progress for me these days.
Okay, so I can attract magnets. I was never a huge science geek, but I’m pretty sure that means that I have to be a magnet. And if that’s the case, I should be able to attract metal, right? It makes sense in my head, so I put my hand palm up in front of the fridge door and tense up as hard as I can.
The first thing that happens is that all of the magnets fly off and pelt me in the face and torso, which anyone with half a brain could have predicted. As I throw my hands up and stumble backwards, though — which does nothing, since they’re all sticking to me already — the fridge door comes open and smacks into my hand, sticking solidly. I can feel a thrumming in my palm, like a cell phone on vibrate.
With difficulty, I peel my palm away from the door, then think about the ocean until the magnets drop away from me again. As I’m putting them all back on the fridge, I abruptly realize how stupid my test was. Aside from hitting myself with a dozen tiny missiles, if I’d been wrong about how strong the attraction was, I could have tipped the entire refrigerator over onto myself. It would have been the pile of rubble on my foot all over again, except this time, I would have dropped it onto my entire body.
Suitably chastened, I take a handful of the magnets and retreat off to the living room where there aren’t any large metal appliances, and sit down to continue my practice. After a few hours, I feel like I’m really starting to get the hang of it. Not only can I pull the magnets toward me, I can also push them away, or even keep them hovering above my hand. I’ve still only got an operative range of a couple of feet, but in that space, I can manage pretty total control. All in all, I’m feeling pretty good about my progress.
When I go to push myself off of the floor, though, I lower my hand and immediately hear a loud zap as a blue bolt leaps to my hand from the carpet. I get the most painful electric shock I’ve ever had, my pinky finger goes numb and a small wisp of smoke drifts up from the carpet. I yelp and shake my hand wildly in the air, then stick my pinky into my mouth. Neither of these things help at all.
Obviously, there’s more than magnetism at work here. Unfortunately, I’m totally out of my depth. I’d like to do some research on it, but I’ve already fried my phone and I’m afraid to go near my computer now. I could go to a library and ask someone there for help, if I knew where a library was, which I don’t. I could call my friends to help, if I knew any of their numbers or had a landline phone. And since my car’s trashed, I can’t even drive around and hope to spot something.
As it is, I only know how to get to three places by bus: the church where the funeral was, my job, and the hospital. And of those three, I can only think of one that might have someone who can help me. I sigh to myself as I put on clothes and run a comb through my hair, which needless to say is standing straight up. Brian’s going to be sorry he ever met me at the museum that night.