My name is Lance. Lance Thorn. God, that’s a shitty beginning. I’ll work on it.
I don’t even know why I’m doing this. I’m keeping a journal because I’m bored, and because it seems like a thing to do. I don’t know if I’ll give up on it. I don’t know if I’ll publish it.
Kind of a metaphor for my life. I really don’t ever know what I’ll do until I do it. You probably think I sound pretty boring right now. Reading this, I think I sound pretty boring right now.
But I have to write this down, I think, just so I can believe it happened. To make it real, and not just something in my head. I did not think I’d be part of The Event. I was a non-event everywhere else in life.
There’s a life story before the Event, but now it just seems like it happened to a different person. The Event is the real beginning of any story about me worth telling.
The Event, in case you’ve been living under a rock, was that big light show in skies all over the world on August 12 a decade ago. Popular opinion now is that aliens showed up in their spacecraft, a massive fleet that dwarfed the population of every living creature on planet earth, enough to colonize it twenty times over. But rather than setting a single alien tentacle on the surface of terra firma, they just hung around in the upper atmosphere while a flickering lightshow was broadcast across the earth.
Scientists are pretty certain it was a message, but they haven’t decoded anything yet, despite it being the most witnessed, and most documented event in human history.
It made every self-important asshole on earth feel like a very small fish in a very big ocean, and threw every religion in the world into paroxysms of paranoia and denial. But the aliens showed up for just over two minutes, left their message, and left, leaving no trace of themselves.
We still don’t have many answers about what actually happened. The official government stories were keen to never admit to any existence of extra-terrestrials, and around the world people were admonished to wait for the facts before jumping to conclusions. Rather than coloring it with any particular story, they just kept calling it “The Event”. It became a joke, and no matter what it’s officially called now, people just popularly call it “The Event”.
There are other names for it. New age types call it The Awakening. The internet has a host of names for it, a popular one at the moment being The Great WTF. Twitter has a #wtfsky hashtag that is filled with analysis and conspiracy theories.
All we know is that shortly after The Event, or whatever you want to call it, strange shit started happening. The most obvious were random individuals, all over the planet, with no seeming common thread between them, that started exhibiting superpowers.
No one really comes out and says it, but it’s true. The aliens gave us superpowers. We’re still trying to figure out why. Maybe one day we’ll decode the message they left us, and it will all make sense. Unless it wasn’t even a message. Sometimes a light show is just a light show.
I wish I’d seen it. I’m the only person I know who wasn’t in a coma or buried in a bunker or something who didn’t stop their car, get out of their house, and just stare up into the sky, trying to make sense of what they were seeing.
I remember the day of The Event well.
Sleep that morning started alone, in a bed that was too big for me. I had bought it with the wild ambition that one day a beautiful woman would sleep next to me upon it. Instead, most mornings (like this one) I woke up curled in the center under the blankets in a fetal position.
The alarm screamed from my smartphone, and I crawled to the edge of the bed, arm dangling in the cold air down to the floor. Not really awake enough to defend my actions in court, I fumbled around and found it, tried to swipe it silent with my eyes closed.
One hour, twenty-two minutes later, my phone was ringing. Not the alarm, but an actual phone call. I awoke with the immediate precognitive realization that I had overslept. I saw the time on the phone and the number that was calling me.
Then, I called out a heartfelt imprecation to the god of Fuck and whirled out of bed in anger at myself and the world. The covers tore off the bed along with me in my panic frenzy, and I carried them halfway across the floor with me to the bathroom to give myself the ol’ “ten-second shower”.
The ten-second shower, if you are curious, involves soaping up your armpits and crotch, and then splashing the whole thing clean over the sink. I did this, and then toweled everything dry, and rummaged into the clean, but unsorted clothes still in the clothes basket, under which my persian cat Sir Jitters, now slept.
I then threw on my rumpled clothes, and wondered if they smelled like cat, or if it was just my imagination, but had no time to waste. My unlaced shoes slapped on the linoleum floor as I crossed the kitchen in three long-limbed steps. My fingers turned the knob and put my shoulder into the interior door leading to the garage. I was so rattled, so frantic, so out if it, so full of dread, that my fingers were shaking as I pressed the button to open the garage door. I tried to take a moment to calm myself as the light from the morning sun began to stream in, revealing my beautiful and tiny little Mini, my pride and joy, gleaming in the light. I smiled at her.
Then I remembered my boss, calling me on the phone, wondering where the fuck I was. I remembered the conversation we had the week before, about me being on time. About how serious I was that I would never be late again.
And I remembered that my phone was still laying on the floor in the bedroom, probably ringing even still, along with my wallet in the bedside table drawer, and my keys that were in the pants I’d worn yesterday crumpled by the bed.
Another frantic thirty seconds were spent tearing through my house, and I was so freaked at this point that all I remember are snapshots. Me, scrambling jangly key bits and billfold into pockets, calling out several more times to get Fuck’s almighty attention, banging my head on the frame of the car getting inside too quickly, backing out of the garage without remembering to close the garage door and having to snap the remote off of the visor and point it in the general direction of my wide open garage door, stabbing my thumb angrily upon the button. Seeing the nosy neighbor lady staring at me over her garden and shaking her head from side to side.
“Fuck!” I screamed, heart pounding, head racing, trying to think of how I was going to save my shitty job.
This time I seemed to get Fuck’s attention. My phone started ringing again, and this time the phone number on my phone was different. It wasn’t my boss, but my boss’s boss, Maria.
Overhead, the unprecedented celestial event I mentioned before was happening, but I was not aware of it at the time. I swallowed and cleared my throat, tried to think fast, and answered the phone.
My palms were slick and all I could hear myself saying in my mind, over and over again was, “I’m dead I’m dead I’m dead”. It became my sacred mantra of self-fuckery, but I tried to ignore it. I pushed the speakerphone button on the steering wheel and spoke into the air, twisting the wheel to dart to the right around some asshole who was taking their sweet time to make a left.
“Hello?” I said. I wasn’t sure if I sounded scared or pissed.
“Good morning, Lance,” said Maria’s voice, surrounding me in the car in an unsettling way that made me feel like the car, my car, was chastising me. “What time do you think you will be coming in to work today?”
I winced. “Sorry, Maria, look, I…”
There was a meaningful silence on the other end as I grappled for words.
“My cat was sick last night. Puked everywhere,” I began.
“I don’t need the details,” she said, her voice a whine of disgust. “Something broke again, and you’re the only one who can fix it. Harper is losing their fucking minds.”
I groaned. Harper Daniels. The Harper Daniels. Our biggest client, and my worst nightmare.
“What’s the problem?” I asked, trying to do two things at the same time. I often struggle with multi-tasking, and in the face of the one who decided if I deserved a raise or not, who decided whether I deserved to be employed or not, I opted to put every ounce of focus into listening to what she was saying. I was not going to mess this up, I was going to really listen, and think through this. When I applied my mind, I could do amazing things, I figured. You’re smarter than she is, Lance, I figured. Think about this like an engineer.
I was so focused on listening to what she was saying, that I made a wrong turn and missed the long explanation that Maria had just given me.
“…just how the system is built, that’s what Jeff says.”
I was panicking now, and another uncomfortable silence began. I’d have to walk back. I heard the part about Jeff, so I cleared my throat and started with that.
“Wait, okay. So Jeff has already been looking into it. Can you restate it for me, exactly what Jeff says the problem is?”
It was an old trick I had learned when falling asleep during company meetings. If someone calls on you and you haven’t been listening, ask them to rephrase the problem for you. Managers always love to talk, and to say the same things over and over, so they never seem to catch on to the charade.
“Jeff says it’s old code, written for an old version of the compiler that’s not supported anymore. The compiler was written by a former employee—”
“Right,” my mouth said for me. “Ed Grimmel.”
“Who never gave us the source code, and died a few years ago of prostate cancer.”
“Which is why I keep saying we should rewrite that.”
“We’ve discussed this. We don’t have money in the budget for that right now, Lance.”
Do you have money in the budget to piss off Harper Daniels? How many millions would it cost you if they walked out the door? I kept it to myself, feeling the old familiar frustration rising up to the back of my throat. I swallowed it down, and tasted acid.
“Right. Okay, Maria.”
“How close are you? Do you remember last week when Mike talked to you about being on time?”
Fucking die, bitch, I remember thinking, relishing the words in my mind. Everyone does this, as it turns out. Everyone says horrible things in their head that they’d never dare to say out loud, but it’s important to mention for the sake of my story. I’d never have said it to Maria in a million years, and she had no idea I was thinking it. Instead of telling her how I really felt, I said this:
“Yeah, I remember. Sorry, it won’t happen again. I promise. I’ll…” I trailed off, remembering my lie at the last second. “Next time I’ll let my cat die, or something.” My laugh sounded nervous to me, but it turned what I said into a joke, and I really hoped she would buy it.
Her answering sigh told me that she had not, and I felt the skeevy feeling of someone who has told a lie, but has to stick with it, even though I suspected she did not believe it.
During this conversation, The Event was happening. In the sky overhead at that moment, while I was distracted with more earthly matters, bizarre lights could be seen, pulsing in the sky, and would be seen all over the world. They seemed vast even though they were distant, and for just over two minutes they hovered there, drifting somewhere high above, just inside the atmosphere. Then, the lights vanished as if they had never existed.
Reconstructing the details of what happened next from third-hand accounts a bit:
Down below, on earth, the driver of a semi-truck hauler was distracted by this celestial sight, leaning forward across his steering wheel, peering up through the glass into the sky. He was not even looking at the road. He did not even see the little Mini cross the street in front of him, just as the driver of the Mini (that being me) was too distracted to notice that the light at the intersection was red.
Somewhere in the middle of a bullshit rationalization to Maria that I knew to be bullshit, and that she knew to be bullshit, I got hit hard enough by a truck to be sent into orbit. Witnesses say I went airborne, but I’m pretty sure I passed out almost immediately from the impact and whiplash, so did not get to experience the fun part.
The car was upside down and almost flattened when they found me, and the pictures I’ve seen of the accident are shattered glass and plastic everywhere. I’ve stared at that picture many times, but I don’t know how I even fit in what remained of it.
They cut me out of the vehicle and rushed me to the hospital. I woke up about a week later for the first time for just a few minutes, full of morphine, and learned my catalog of injuries:
Fractured tibia, ribs, punctured lung, bruised spleen (how did that happen?), compound fracture on my femur, some broken fingers, a pulverized kneecap, internal bleeding, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Thankfully for the rest of me, I got off pretty light with these injuries, as my head broke most of my fall. To say I had a concussion would be an understatement. From the x-rays I’ve seen and the charts I tried to read, it seems that my poor hard skull did its job very well, but still barely managed to keep my brains in my head. The reconstructive surgery on my face was very painful, and my own mother didn’t recognize me afterwards. I also lost some of my memories, and sometimes develop a stutter when I’m frustrated that I never had before.
It was the work on my head that kept me in the hospital for months. There were seizures, electroshock (just mild shocks, I was told, nothing like in a horror movie), surgeries aplenty, rather mad scientist-esque experiments in which holes were drilled into my skull and sharp instruments hacked away at malignant or ruptured blood vessels in my brain, or whatever it is that doctors really do. I lost the ability to see and talk for awhile. I drooled and laid about on a morphine drip and was basically at the mercy of the medical community the entire time.
In the end it took a couple months to stabilize me, and I was out for most of it. Apparently my brain led to some kind of advancements in neuroscience, and thanks to my health insurance plan, probably the only good thing about my employer, I was only going to owe $5,000 or so for my care when all was said and done.
I went through a typical invalid’s existence, while the kind-hearted but overworked medical staff of Abbot Northwestern nursed me back to health. I watched a lot of TV, surfed the web, and learned about The Event. It was all anyone could talk about.
I got to the point where I could walk a little without throwing up, where I could listen to a stranger speak and follow the thread of the conversation. Where the seizures finally stopped, and the migraines settled into mild headaches. They weaned me off of morphine, and in the process I literally tried to kill the doctor, and served the rest of my detox in restraints.
Then, seven weeks after I’d been driven over by a freight hauler, I got my first real visitor.
Cover Art for Mindbender courtesy of Zaina Isard @ http://zainaisard.com
©2015 Zaina Isard