You disgust me, Corporate Zombie, Josh thought to himself. Or to be more accurate, thought at the man walking by him in the park.
As a young child, Josh saw part of a television program where a scientist in a white coat claimed human beings only used ten to fifteen percent of their brain. It was something he'd never forgotten. Stories of the paranormal and unexplained were of unrelenting fascination, and over time he became convinced there had to be something out there, something more. That last eighty-five percent had to have some purpose, didn't it? So he spent a little time each day exercising his brain. If it was like a muscle, it would only get stronger if it was pushed. He'd project his own thoughts at others or try to read theirs. Sometimes he tried very hard to move small objects with his mind. Of course, deep inside, Josh knew none of it would ever work.
Corporate Zombie, as Josh had dubbed today's first subject, was in his late twenties or early thirties, clad in an obviously-expensive black suit and matching silk tie. His hair was short and perfectly styled, and his black dress shoes were polished to a flawless sheen. The soft, unearthly glow of the wireless earpiece affixed to Zombie's ear was reminiscent of a cyborg, adding to the automaton persona Josh had attached to him. He walked briskly along the cobblestone pathway, thumbs tapping away at the iPhone cradled in his hands as he spoke. So concerned was he with his money-making and multi-tasking, he never once stopped to take in the park's majestic cypress trees, spring wild-flowers, or its many sculptures.
It was just after ten in the morning, and Josh was enjoying his usual breakfast burrito on his favorite wooden park bench. He took another bite, savoring the mix of scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and grease as he watched Zombie cross the street and disappear around a corner, heading toward the SUV (though the man was alone, and had no terrain rougher than a speed-bump or a six-inch pothole to traverse ) Josh had no doubt was parked nearby. With CZ gone, Josh scanned for his next victim.
News flash, Soccer-Mom: your kids aren't that special, Josh directed toward a pudgy woman in her late thirties to early forties. She was armed with a digital camera, relentlessly capturing every precious action her achingly-average four-year-old took. Josh's attention was stripped from Soccer-Mom when he noticed a man having a heated conversation with a tree.
Though his actual age was difficult to discern, Josh's initial impression was around fifty-eight or so. A dirty brownish-gray beard spilled down his chest, and he occasionally pushed his fingers through the thinning, unruly mop spraying in all directions from his scalp. His face was dirty and haggard, his eyes sunken and dark. He began to pace back and forth, still speaking and shouting to no one Josh could see. Sometimes he'd wave his hands frantically through the air, as if trying to make a point.
You, my friend, are an uber-nut, Josh thought at Mr. Kook, the moniker he'd instantly bestowed upon the man.
The second the thought had left Josh's mind, Mr. Kook's head whipped around. His frenzied eyes glared at Josh, and his waving arms became still. Then he began to shamble toward the wooden bench where Josh sat, dumbstruck.
"You!" Mr. Kook shouted, raising his right arm to point a crooked, filthy finger at Josh.
"Holy crap," Josh muttered to himself, frozen. "He's Tom Cruise crazy."
Then Josh ran. His half-eaten breakfast burrito fell to the cobblestones with a wet plop.
His third-shift tech support job allowed much less opportunity for exercise than it did for beer consumption; Josh was pudgy, out of shape, and panting for breath halfway across the park. He stumbled often, and every time he looked back, Mr. Kook was there, stalking after Josh with an unrelenting pace.
Josh's mind raced, but his thoughts refused to come together. He ran on, darting one way then another in an attempt to lose Mr. Kook in the wooded section of the park. He ducked behind bushes, hid behind trees, and avoided running in a straight path in an attempt to lose the crazed man. But no matter what, Mr. Kook came straight to him.
"You!" he shouted as he closed in, chilling Josh's blood. Josh kept running.
His heart pounded so loud in his ears, Josh thought it was going to seize at any moment. But the terror gripping him was so unnatural, so unlike anything he'd ever felt, he kept running. Even if his heart exploded, he knew it would be preferable to what awaited if he allowed Mr. Kook to catch him.
Just when he thought he couldn't take another step, Josh burst out of the trees. He'd reached the north side of the park. There were fewer people here than the south side, where he'd been having breakfast what seemed like hours ago.
He stepped onto the cobblestone walkway and bent over, bracing his hands on his knees as he caught his breath. River Street, bustling with traffic, was less than thirty yards away, and Josh's sense of fear was waning. He almost began to feel silly.
Josh's blood chilled again as Mr. Kook plodded out of the woods. Josh turned to face him, transfixed by the man's piercing, accusing eyes. He backed away. Nearby, park patrons took notice of the confrontation. They gawked, but none moved or said even a word.
"You," Mr. Kook said again. He was no longer shouting, but Josh felt no less terrified.
"I'm sorry!" Josh finally screamed, still backpedaling. "I didn't mean it! What the Hell do you want from me?"
At that Mr. Kook halted. A puzzled look crossed his face, and he began to push his fingers through his hair again. He then held them out to Josh. Just as Mr. Kook opened his mouth to speak, Josh stumbled off the curb and into traffic. The River Street bus slammed into him, thrashing his body against the pavement. In one horrifying, fluid motion, his body twisted into an impossible shape, and his head smacked against the pavement with a dull thud. Josh was dead in an instant.
The bus screeched to a halt, as did all the other cars on River Street. With a hydraulic hiss, the bus doors opened. The driver, a woman in her early fifties with dark brown hair, bounded down the steps. She covered her mouth with her hands and began to weep.
The people nearby began to form a crowd, several of them dialing 911 from their cell phones. Mr. Kook made his way to Josh's side and kneeled down beside him. A melancholy glaze covered his eyes.
"You," he whispered as he closed Josh's eyes with his left hand. "You were like me… I thought."
With a jerk, Mr. Kook raised his head, turning it back and forth as if looking for something. Then he stood and shuffled away. The crowd parted to let him pass, most of them never taking their eyes from Josh's broken body. As if nothing had happened, Mr. Kook resumed his mumbling, sometimes incoherent ramblings to no one in particular, again haunted by the voices no one else could hear.
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