The core of it all was that the girl had to get my heart; that part was certain and I had already set the dominos in motion that would mark her as the only match for the donation. But I had to die for that to happen-- a task easier planned than executed. Reaching my hand toward the dashboard, moonlight washed over my forearm making my skin appear ghostly— the foreboding accuracy of the image sent a chill up my spine and it took a few tries to get my shaking hand to flip on the heat.
I tightened a webbing strap that ran along my narrow waist and sandwiched my chest between the two steel plates that I’d had molded to fit around my torso like a vest. It looked like part of an elaborate Roman costume, but with how much it weighed, it would have been impossible for even a strong man to wear while standing. Good thing I wasn’t a man. The plates were thick enough to take a bullet and allow my heart to keep beating, but this…
Hot air spewed from the vents out over my shivering hands, but did nothing to warm them. I nosed the VW a few inches further. The ancient engine rattled. It was a sound that had become comforting to me over the past month. Like the voice of an old friend. Or more like my only friend.
The perpendicular traffic blazed by a mere 12 inches away now and the VW rattled on oblivious to what I had planned for us. My eyes climbed to the dashboard clock. 11:23.
Inhaling deeply and trying to relax the muscles of my body, I reviewed what I had seen in the vision. The vision. Previously, at any given time, my mind would have been full of numerous ones that I could choose to review. But lately, my sight had narrowed-- focused down to a singular point in time--every dream for months now had just been an exact replica of the one I had first had a year ago.
It always started off the same. At a diner only one mile away sat two men, the harvesting crew from the Lifeflight helicopter. They lounged at a red vinyl booth. Dinner plates had been pushed toward the napkin dispenser against the wall. Though it was nearing midnight, the clanking of forks against plates came from all around. Mabel’s Diner had a reputation for pie among the truckers and was rarely empty. Somewhere in the kitchen a platter clattered to the floor. Back at the booth, the older man, the pilot, turned toward the noise, casually observant. He had never been able to turn away from an accident no matter how inconsequential. If something broke, he wanted to witness it. That gawking tendency was what carried him into the organ retrieval business.
“My first time in Philadelphia,” the heavy-set pilot grunted.
“Hmph. You haven’t missed much,” a young slick-haired surgeon said from across the table as he shoveled another forkful of blueberry cobbler into his mouth. Rob consider ordering one of those, too.
“Well, this place is good.”
The surgeon only chewed. Ominously quiet. Like a volcano that could blow at any moment, Rob thought. Getting conversation out of this guy was like pulling a plant out of a seed. Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, the older man pushed himself to keep up some semblance of a conversation. This was only his second flight with Dr. Lars Kale, but it didn’t take long to understand that this was a man who, like any surgeon Rob had ever met, could snap into a carnivore without provocation. Long ago, Rob had realized that working with surgeons was like living with an alcoholic parent. Sweet as sugar one moment and cruel as a snake the next. And this snake was way up there on the corporate ladder with the authority to fire boring helicopter pilots, no questions asked.
The thing about today was that Dr. Kale had been provoked. Only an hour ago the two of them had touched down at Philadelphia Mercy Hospital on an organ retrieval call. Motorcyclist; no helmet, was all that Rob had been told. He and Dr. Kale had made the short flight from North Carolina Regional only to be turned away at the Philadelphia hospital. There had been some kind of mix-up. There was no motorcycle death; no organs, not even a red cooler full of ice. This was a failed mission. And obviously tallied up to wasted time in Dr. Kale’s book.
Another forkful of blue-stained pastry disappeared into the emotionless maw of the surgeon. He could be blaming the dull helicopter pilot right now. Rob balled up another tiny shred of napkin, rolling it about with his fingers, mentally dancing around options of what he could say to remind the doctor that this wasn’t his fault.
Two burly truckers jostled past their booth giving a moment of distraction. Rob’s hold on his fears slipped and a few excuses eeked out.
“I had no way of knowing. I just pick you docs up and fly where they send me. I’ve never in my 23 years had a crank call. Really, how would a person even go about making a fake organ donation call…?”
Kale held up his hand and only glanced up. “Don’t worry about it. It’s obviously not your fault.” He smiled. The action never reaching his grey eyes. “Chalk it up to some quality time spent on your first visit to Phillie.” Another fork of cobbler disappeared into his mouth before his teeth slid noisily along the stainless steel tines.
I jerked into wakefulness as a car horn blared. The Volkswagen shook, as the SUV-- some grocery store assault vehicle-- blew past, mere inches from its front bumper. Headlights from the perpendicular traffic drug their yellow beams across me as I blinked my eyes into seeing what was actually in front of them.
I breathed deeply and the pleasure of the act, that of simple inhalation taunted my resolve. I was going to miss being alive.
I coughed the breath out hastily, steeling myself against soft thoughts. It was time to finish the job. Knowing it was one of my last uses of the powers I had been born with, I closed my eyes and reached mentally for Mabel’s Diner. It was odd how this power worked. Like a part of me could be sent out flying on a reconnaissance mission. A few times in my long life I had imagined that if I ever had children and had to explain it to them, I would say it was like having your own fairy and you could see what she saw and tell her what to do. She could flit off and see other places, granted they weren’t too far away, and do your bidding. All you had to do was think it.
But I would never have children. No fairy either. What I had was control over energy-- all kinds—thermal, emotional, kinetic, molecular bonds, water tension, weather, the list went on and on. Because really, everything had to do with energy. And I was its ringmaster. Well, there were a few of us ringmasters who kept the lions from destroying the circus. Balancers is what we called ourselves.
I was a balancer. I had a job to do; my last job in fact.
Another shiver passed down my spine rattling my bones beneath the metal plates I wore. The VW sympathetically rattled along with me. I hated to think about wrecking her, so I focused on the diner.
It didn’t take long and I was there-- not in a vision this time, but seeing the location as it actually was at this moment.
The method was actually very simple. So simple that it was actually more odd that average humans couldn’t do it also. I sent out a string of energy, not much different than having an emotion, except that I stayed with it. This is what the humans couldn’t do. Those few millejoules of energy would jump along from molecule to molecule, be it air, tree, person, whatever, to the destination I picked. Which was right now, a point three feet above the pilot and surgeon’s booth.
The next part of ‘seeing’ the scene was a bit trickier, but still basic physics. Really no more complicated than the energy transfer from cup to cup along the string of a child’s homemade telephone. Instead of noise transfer, this was light and instead of cups, I had quarks of energy that worked like mirrors sending their information skipping along a string of molecules.
What I could see of the diner was blurry—this was a long distance for the picture to travel. But I could make out enough to tell that the visions were right on. On the table discarded near the napkin dispenser and the finished plates was the pilot’s walkie talkie.
The volume knob at the top was currently in the off position. The organ harvesting team didn’t plan on getting any more calls tonight. But, crucial to my plan was that they hear the next call that would come in. Focusing on the electromagnetic energy of the walkie, it didn’t take much effort to practice a little telekinesis and rotate the circular knob into the on position and then continue the turn until it reached full volume. A low static hum came from the device now, but with the bustle around the diner, neither of the men noticed.
That was it. I pulled my mind’s eye away from the scene at the diner and stared out the windshield before me. Just below the horizon of the dashboard, seeming larger than they were a moment ago, the red digits on the clock radio switched to 11:24. One more minute.
I still had a final domino to nudge into place. The truck driver. Ray Stevens. Father of two, divorced, driver for Calico Foods. He was running late on his delivery and pushing the speed limit. He was now only a few blocks away from me and covering the distance fast.
Was I really strong enough to do this? I knew I had the willingness to die, dying for the betterment of the planet was what I was created for. But I would admit that I was scared, not really of death, but of failure. Would I be able to stay strong long enough to keep a shield up to protect the truck driver and also slow down the semi so it didn’t kill anyone else? Normally, yes. But tonight it would all have to be done in the moments that my soul left this body. On top of that it was still just theory that being T-boned by a speeding semi would be enough to kill me.
I could hear the roar of the 18 wheels approaching, close enough now that even human ears could have discerned it from the rest of the traffic. One minute passed so quickly. I looked left and could pick out the brilliant headlights of the big rig among the sea of smaller ones.
Lead churned in my stomach as I brought my foot to hover over the gas pedal. My palms were sweating on the steering wheel. In my entire life, I had never experienced sweating palms.
Now only three blocks away, Ray shifted his immense truck into cruise control. Just as I had seen that he would. The highway here straightened out giving drivers the feel of a freeway. It was a favorite location for the cops to hang out and catch motorists who got carried away in this feeling and forgot that they were still in town. Ray was now going 15 miles over the speed limit.
70 miles per hour. Being struck by something at that speed would cause certain and instant death. The gruesome crushing injuries aside… I couldn’t count on those alone because drivers were ejected from cars all the time . But it was a fact that the brain impacting its own skull at 56 mph was fatal. I had a 14 mph cushion.
I could see Ray now, staring forward. I could feel his emotions—he was eager to meet someone. He was distracted. I shielded him and prayed it would hold.
Two seconds. A shudder of fear and dread shook the core of my body. Another first for me.
I checked my shields. And stomped the gas pedal.
The VW shot forward four feet. Directly into the path of the oncoming semi. Ray never even touched the brakes. There was no squeal of protesting metal like I had read about. Only silence and those headlights. They were the size of wrecking balls as they impacted my thin driver’s side door with the ferocious speed of a meteorite.
My second to last thought was that I was being killed by light. Killed by energy.
My last thought was of her.