I remember it like it was yesterday. Actually, it was yesterday. Clarence Monroe was a hyperactive individual. Like a five year old hopped up on cough syrup and Twizzlers stuffed into the body of a twenty six year old man. However, this morning wasn’t like that. He didn’t zoom his way in and zip around the office. No overly happy Good Mornings or even a light speed peck on the cheek for all the ladies. True, Tricia from sales managed to catch him last week. His bad luck that’d she’d only recently discovered she could see at different vibrational frequencies, but I doubt that’d be what was bothering him.
I mean this is a man who, the minute his grandfather died, he grabbed his body and ran him out to Loch Ness as a last wish. No crying no mourning. He says he spent months crying his eyes out but, to us it’d only be a few seconds. Some nonsense about time dilation or the other. Yet the man I saw in front of me this morning emulated none of those traits. His desk was right next to mine, so every millimeter he dragged the chair across the marble floor was agony.
“Good morning to you too sunshine.” I laughed.” Let me guess, still dealing with Reeses’ Jiggy Juice?”
“What!?” he asked. Clarence squinted and cocked his head.
“Reese! Kelvin Reese! Bartender, our good friend. His ability is pleasure? Uses it to make god level drinks, instead of being a gigolo like we advised him?”
“Sorry Ter, could you mimic me? I’m having a lot of trouble understanding when you speak so slowly.”
I sighed. With a deep Inhale I placed a hand on his shoulder. That familiar tingle in my spine started before I opened my eyes to a world moving ten times slower than before. “How do you deal with this? It’s like living in sludge!” I complained.
“You get used to it.” He smiled, yet he said it in a monotone voice, a worrying tell.
“So yeah like I was saying, Jiggy juice. Had too much?”
“You still drink that shit!?” he shouted in surprise.” You know you’re literally drinking his sweat right? It’s how his power works, his bodily fluids contain enzymes that attack your pleasure center.”
“No no, I’m sure there’s like. Distillation and evaporation and...Something.” I nodded. My eyes darted left to right in a nervous bid to recall the specifics. “Whatever you need to justify drinking sweat.”
“Listen, we’re not talking about who drank sweat or semen or whatever. We’re talking about you! What’s up? Where’s all that speedster energy you usually have?”
He laughed an awkward laugh, if only to loosen up a bit.” So umm, I may have did something last night.”
“Oh did you text Chrissy again? Dude I told you! Body switching sex will fuck with you!”
“No, no!” he cringed.” God never again! No I uhh...I uhh...I played the lottery.”
A lengthy sigh, accompanied by an equally lengthy groan was my response. I took my hand off his shoulder went back to my work.”
“Ohcomeondon’tbelikethat!Dude...Dude!” without his power I just couldn’t keep up with Clarence. His speech was just too fast. It wouldn’t be long before I could understand him anyway though. That’s just how my powers worked. Given enough time and proximity to someone, I could copy their power for a period of time. Physical contact just sped up the process. Not a bad ability by any means but, sometimes it’d be hard to control. One time when I was four, I begged my mom to take me into a toy store for Christmas. Which should have been harmless, except one of the sales reps had a persuasion ability.
After twenty minutes of browsing I walked away with five action figures, six puzzles and god knows how many tiny plastic dinosaurs. Not to mention I’d made the manager shit himself for the hell of it. Come to think of it I may have been a troublesome four year old. “WHY? Why would you do that? What could you possibly need all that money for?”
“SeeIknewyou’dreactlikethis! This is exactly why I didn’t want to tell you!”
“So I’m supposed to accept you telling me this is our last day together?”
“No, no it’s not our last day don’t be so morbid. I’m not like other speedsters.”
“Lloyd on the second floor said the same shit! Where is he now huh? Ran into another timeline just like everyone else.”
“Not EVERYONE else.” Clarence protested. “Look at Caroline Gutierrez, she found her way back.”
“Yeah, after twenty YEARS of jumping through timelines and alternate earths.Caroline is evidence of god. She made it back here on a one in Fifty quintillion nine hundred and forty three chance. If you were that lucky you wouldn’t need to play the lottery.”
A somber expression formed on Clarences’ face. Great pain was about to come bubbling forth.
" They’re foreclosing on my mom’s house.”
“What!? But they can’t do that! She’s got SCA! What about all her medication! All her things...Your grandfather built that house!”
“I know!” Clarence shouted.” But they’re the bank, they can do what they want. I could ask for three raises and work overtime from now till foreclosure, I won’t even make half that money.”
I was dumbfounded, not only was I hurt that my best friend had kept such an important thing from me, but I was angry at myself that I couldn’t readily come up with a justifiable solution.
“It’s ok...we’ll...we’ll figure something out.” I nodded.” There’s speedster races all the time... we could win some money. I mean...you’re pretty fast right?”
“Ter I can’t build a house to save my life! No matter how long I read an architecture textbook or look at blueprints, it just ain’t happening. Super speed be damned.”
“Well you’d better learn! You can’t leave your mom like that. Or are you and Chloe going to welcome her into your little rat infested square?”
“Don’t knock that apartment. I remember you begging me to stay in it when you got kicked out.” He was right. When I was eighteen my father was dating this man who had the ability to always make people tell the truth. No matter what. That a grown man couldn’t control his powers to begin with was ASTOUNDING, but I digress. After three months of him constantly hearing you’re not my mother and home wrecking twink and my personal favorite, mom didn’t die for this. It was me or him, and I wasn’t about to make my father choose me over happiness. So I hope him and Darren are happy...wherever they are.
“Ok...sorry, you’re right but, there has to be a way, something better.”
“I am doing that something better, I’m trying my luck at the lottery.”
“But it’s a scam!” I shouted.” You know it’s designed to make you fail.”
Clarence smiled a calm smile and placed a hand on my back.” Listen Ter, I know you’re worried I’m gonna run back in time and play the right numbers, and you’ll be stuck right here in this timeline, but you have to trust me, I’m your best friend. I’d never leave you and mom alone here...ok?”
“And Chloe, you can’t forget Chloe.”
“Right, right.” He laughed” I can’t forget Chloe. Anyway, how about I come over and watch the draw with you tonight. I’ll sleep over so, there won’t be any worry about me running back in time or anything.”
He let go of my shoulder and gave me a wink before he zipped into the employee lounge for a cup of morning coffee, all before starting up his computer.
Work had gone on relatively uneventful. Save a bit of fire breathing and berserker rage. Clarence arrived at my house around nine. True the draw happened at nine thirty, but he was supposed to be here at eight, and for someone with super speed, that’s just ludicrous. We must have sat on that couch talking about nonsense for the next twenty minutes, because I didn’t notice the time go by.
“You doin okay man?” he asked.
“I’m fine , I’m fine.” I waved.
“You sure? I heard Wallace’s fire gets as hot as lava when he’s mad.”
“Yeah but, I only copy powers at like eighty percent. Doesn’t burn me as much when I use it.”
“Well, I guess that’s good. God, the higher ups need to do something about him. How the hell is a fire breathing supervisor a healthy work environment?”
“It’s not, but if we want money in our pockets we’d better take it.” I laughed.” Anyway, the draw is starting.”
A petite brunette walked out from behind the lottery machine on television. She looked like a model. Like it was either this or porn and she lucked out that she knew someone in that station. “Goodnight ladies and gentlemen. This weeks’ national lottery is estimated to be two hundred and thirty million dollars.”
“Two hundred and thirty million! Dude, if you don’t win...You run! You run your ASS back as fast as you can.”
Clarence laughed. “You could always come with me you know? Spend the night cuddling up and in the morning we make a sprint for Wednesday.”
I shook my head.” I still wouldn’t be fast enough to keep up with you. We’d break the barrier sure but I could end up days, years...Millennia behind or ahead of you.”
Clarence had a somber look on his face before he said “Oh.”
“Come on.” I tapped him on the shoulder with a smile.” The draw is starting.”
Clarence fished around in his pocket for the ticket while the brunette spoke. We both watched intently, as the balls bubbled around in the machine before the first one shot up. “The first number is...thirteen.”
“Holy shit! I got thirteen!” He exclaimed, sitting forward and staring attentively at the television.
“What really? Let me see.” I scanned the ticket with my eyes, sure enough. There in the first position, was thirteen. Before I could await the others though, Clarence snatched the ticket back, an irritated expression on his face.
“The second number is, forty five.”
“No shit!” Clarence chortled.
“The third number is, thirty nine.”
“Ok so if I win...We are quitting tonight!” Clarence stated, pointing a firm finger at the ground.
The last two balls flew into the tube at the same time...” The final three numbers are Forty three Twelve and Two.”
The woman finished with the usual T.V. drivel, thanks for playing and repeating the winnings and all that. From the ticket I realized he’d only lost by two numbers. I couldn’t see Clarences’ face, but I knew. I knew he was down, I knew his mind wasn’t in the right place and I knew exactly what he was thinking. “Hey, hey man you don’t even need to worry about that. I can take out a loan, we’ll do some over time. I promise, we’ll save your moms’ house I swear.”
He didn’t answer, didn’t even turn around. He just answered”Yeah” in a soft and somber tone. He was silent for a while, long after I took off the T.V. didn’t think the numbers being repeated incessantly could be any good for him.
“Clarence...you ok man?” I asked, squeezing his shoulder.
“Yeah, yeah, no...Yes!” He answered. His eyes drifted to an empty bowl on the table in front of us. “We need snacks, come on man what kinda sleepover doesn’t have snacks.” He grabbed the bowl and rushed t the door. “I’ll be right back.”
“Clarence wait!” I shouted as I ran over to join him at the door.” You can’t...”
“Easy there Ter. I’m not gonna run back to Wednesday. Just down the street.” He smiled.
“Who knows what you’ll meet. What’ll happen...”
“Ter, Ter, Ter...I already said, it’s just for snacks.” Clarence gave me a light pat on the back before he opened the door disappeared in a flash of colors.
I sighed, desperately trying to come to terms with the reality that I may have just lost my best friend. Suddenly!
“Boo!” I was jumped almost to the point of self-defection by him returning almost as abruptly as he left.
“Holy shit Clarence!” I shouted at unbearable decibel levels, all as I clutched my chest.
Clarence laughed a hearty laugh then shut the door behind him. “Scared you did I?”
“Damn near killed is more like.” I complained before taking a seat back on the couch. Clarence placed the bowl, now containing two unopened bags of potato chips and a jar of dip on the table before he joined me.
“I’m sorry but, that’s what you get for not believing me.” He shrugged.
“Yeah, yeah” I waved him off.” No line at the store I take it?”
“Nah I had these at home.” He chuckled.” I knew you were worried I’d run so I bought these after work. Let me tell you I must have been the first person anxious to lose the lotto.” He held his stomach and chortled with satisfaction.
“Frickin asshole.” I complained, all before I snatched a bag of chips and opened it up.”
“Come on.” He slapped my arm.” Let’s go to the roof. The streets are always awesome after lottery night.”
He was right, the sight of hundreds of speedsters running faster than the speed of light was something to behold. It was as if the entire city was having a rave as flashes of red and orange and yellow filled the streets below.
“How could something so beautiful signal something so horrible?” I sighed.
“It’s not horrible to them. In their mind they’re coming out on the other side to meet their family and friends. The only thing changed is them.”
“It’s selfish is what it is, and I can’t forgive any speedster that does it.”
Clarence chuckled.” Of course you can’t. That’s what I love about you Ter. Which is why you’ll never have to worry about me doing a thing like that.”
Unfortunately...That was a lie. We spent the night talking, joking. Enjoying ourselves. It was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time to be honest. Then come morning, he was gone. I thought maybe he’d had too much to drink and had a hangover, that’d explain the absence from work, but no call? No informing me? That was as far away from Clarence as humanly possible. By the sixth unanswered call the worry had set in. By this point I’d made up my mind that I’d go check in on him after work. See if he was ok, yet all I found was disappointment. Otherwise known as a hungry Chloe and a note.
Hey Ter, how are you doing? Good I hope...I’m doing good too. Or at least...I hope I will. Doubt I’ll ever be happy again though. Why you ask? Well see for the first time in my life, I’m going to lie to you Ter, I’m going to assure you that I’m ok, that I’m not scum and we’ll be best friends forever, just the two of us, but that’ll be a lie. In truth, I’m not strong like you Ter. I didn’t inherit invulnerability from a parent like you did. I’m weak and afraid. Sorta fitting for a speedster wouldn’t you say? Lol. Look, I’ve rewritten this awful letter over a hundred thousand times now, and there’s just no proper way to say sorry for what I’m gonna do, for what I’m feeling. Which is why when I get there. After I’ve won, I’m gonna pay off mom’s debt, give that you the rest of the money, and spend the rest of my life, trying to get back to you. I might die before that happens. I might get ripped apart by time, break the universe it doesn’t matter. Even that, will never be enough punishment for what I’ve done. I can’t be sure of when you’ll find this letter, but I pray it’s tomorrow. When you do please, take care of Chloe. You’re all she has now.
Chloe isa Golden Retriever me and Clarence had rescued from the pound. She is about as average a dog as you could think, except for a few hang-ups. Her fur is snow white and her eyes blood red. Her fangs would grow when she was agitated and her hair would stiffen to the hardness of needles. To top it all off, whenever I got near her I seemed to mimic certain psychic abilities. Most likely her condition was the result of a previous owner, though I couldn’t be sure.
Just then there was a tingling in my brain before a familiar voice popped into my head.” Ter! Ter!” it repeated, It was Chloe, she was most likely rummaging through the kitchen in anticipation of dinner when she heard me come in.
“Hey girl!” I chirped, taking a knee in order to greet her better. I was met with a series of playful bites and excited licks. “Easy girl easy.” I laughed.
“Hungry! Dinner! Feed!”
“Ah right! It is dinner time for you isn’t it?” I smiled. I knew exactly where Clarence kept the dog food, so it wasn’t a problem for me to find it and feed her.
After quickly eating up all the food. She came right up to me tail a wagging, all before she sat down and looked up at me while panting. “Alpha!” I heard in my brain.
I sighed.” Alpha is...not here Chloe.”
She stopped panting for a minute and looked up at me. Her red eyes glowing. A telltale sign that she was in fact, learning everything she needed from me psychically. A high pitched and stressful doggy whine echoed from her while in my mind all I heard was “Alpha gone! Alpha gone!? Never come back! Leave!” Chloe howled sorrowfully, if I didn’t know better I could say I felt it shake the walls.
“Shh, shh, shh, shh easy girl, easy.” I knelt again to try to calm her down.
Eventually when the whining stopped she started licking my face and I heard.” Ter, Alpha! Ter, Chloe Alpha!”
I don’t know what it was about her liking my face and calling me her new Alpha but it brought on the tears I’d been trying to hold back all day. “That’s right Chloe...it’s just the two of us now.Ter Alpha.”