“Dreamcatcher (Part One)” — A Short Story

I don’t remember the last time I got my ass kicked.

I also don’t remember the last time I got blasted through a couple of telephone poles and land head first into the side of a building. Life.

I couldn’t see and the back of my head felt like it literally was split in half. It was dark already, but even when my contacts kicked into night vision mode, I only could make out two bright blue-white circles.

Focus sharpened a bit. Those circles were now swirling spheresof light, and a couple of brighter slivers of light appeared now. Like they were blinking.

I think I was fully coming to. The spheres illuminated black clothes and levitated copper-red hair. Those starry slivers were her eyes. Her eyes. Fuck. That little girl’s powerful.

And from the look of it, the little I could make out in the pitch-black that surrounded us, she was breathing heavily.

“I really didn’t want to hurt you.” A tear fell down. She was scared too.

“Angel Magallon.” Benjamin Benson poked at the file folder that we shared in the back of a limo. “This is your target.”

“Target’s a bad word for someone we’re actually trying to help, you know that?”

“When you get a better word, Case, lemme know.” I let it go with a glare and a smile. Ben meant well, he always did. He’d just fallen into a dark spot after saving a huge chunk of Brooklyn last year. And possibly the world too. But that’s something he can discuss with you another time.

What mattered was the profile of this Angel person. She was just over 5 feet tall. Red hair, like sunset. “She has hair like Reese Palmeiro.”

“Eh, I realized that.”

“Are you and Reese still a thing?”

He paused in a typical Bensonian way that made you feel like he was processing an answer through dial-up. “I dunno.”

“Okay.” Back to Angel. New York native. Talented. Singer. Designer. Just plain artistic. Sounded like the skillset of a Natural. “What are this girl’s abilities?”

He cut his eyes towards me. “Check the bottom of the page, Casey.” He reached over and pointed to a page highlighted in red — I definitely should’ve noticed this first, but was drawn to her picture.

“So that’s her naturally given ability. Light absorption? She’s a fucking solar panel?”

“Kinda?” Typical Ben Benson answer. “Her skin captures light energy, and stores it.”

“Like a jar?”

“No. Or yes.” I loved seeing my closest friend try to put together words around me. His face tightened up like he was constipated. But after a couple of moments, he’d get it together and spill out everything smoothly.

Forget I said it like that.

“Alright. It’s kind of like a jar. Or a dreamcatcher. Like one of those Native American stories in which good dreams get captured and bad dreams pass through? Or maybe it’s the opposite.”

“I feel like I’m getting where you’re coming from.”

“Okay, cool. From what we’ve seen and heard, she absorbs the light, then is able to manifest it in whatever way she wants.”

“So you haven’t actually seen it close up.”

“No. But we have a guy locked up thanks to her.” He flipped to a new page in the folder. I literally screamed.

“The fuck happened to his balls?”

“Burnt clean off his body. Like a fucking laser, so very little blood loss. But he won’t be assaulting any more women after what she did.” Ben snickered a bit. “He approached her after some rock concert, tried to talk to lure her somewhere secluded. Then the lights went out and he couldn’t see a thing. He saw a pair of lights. Like her eyes turned into stars. Before he knew it, this bright light shot at him and hit him right in his crotch.”

I looked up guy’s rap sheet. Police had been looking for him for weeks after being connected to a string of assaults of women. Angel probably didn’t know she was a hero. “I guess no-dickhead had it coming.”

“I guess so.”

“So, I have a real question.” I closed up the folder; pretty sure I could get back to reading it later. “You flew me out from Seattle, from my nice bed to help me get this girl for you to help assemble your mighty band of Naturals. Why?”

It didn’t take long for him to figure out an answer. “Because I’m gonna need help. You and I are two of the only Phenoms left. This girl has powers that could rival my Axiom suit, without any armor necessary. If it was a suit, I’d be able to fry circuits. But I can’t take a risk with a human like this. Having you help would be huge.

“Besides,” he gave a sly smile, “you know Naturals way better than I do.”

“Hurt me?” Bitch. I grumbled, and pulled myself to my feet pretty easily. “You really don’t know what you did.”

She stepped back, almost as if in awe. I smelt burnt rubber and leather and looked down at my chest. There was a hole in my clothes, and my abs and chest were now showing. But no damage. Partially because being a Phenom meant my body could handle that sort of hit without harm. But my head still hurt bad from all the impact it took.

“You’re different.” “Like me different, but still different.”

“Yeah. We’re similar.” We both had genetic “cheat codes”, a weird mix of normal enough genes, that when sequenced right, led to a natural-born ability. Hers was light energy manipulation and projection; mine was converting physical and emotional pain into enhanced strength and power. As if having liquid metal coating my muscles and bones wasn’t enough.

I heard a chime in my head and a message appeared through my contact lenses. It was Ben. “You okay?”

I don’t really know what happened, I thought to him. One second, she looked me in the eye. The next, it’s pitch black. And now… I felt the back of my head and immediately felt the stickiness of blood on my fingers.

Perfect. I’m fucking bleeding, Ben.

“Isn’t that a good thing?”

Not really. There was a drawback to my ability: I’d lose my temper a bit. Fight-or-flight would kick in, and I never, ever ran away.

“Oh… no. Wait, Casey?” Ben was tuned out and I charged towards Angel. Her natural response: toss some more light spheres in my direction. I swatted some, not caring about how badly they burned my skin. Others bounced off my shoulders and legs, the heat melting my tactical gear off but leaving my skin just a little tanner than usual. My eyes stayed on hers, even as she put her hands together almost like Goku would in DragonBall.

The previous blasts were like softball-sized. This was much more massive, almost half her size and was so bright and hot that her clothing started to burn off. I was too driven on adrenaline to care at the moment.

She fired her blast. I leapt up about fifteen feet.

It fucking followed me in the air and hit me flush in my midsection. Now I felt skin burn, as if the sun smacked the holy hell out of me. And I’d felt this sort of thing in the past, just sparring with Ben and his suit of armor, Axiom. This outburst was effortless, natural, the light so intense that I was blinded again. Or my contact lenses blocked out all the light for me, cause in about a second, I could see myself float-falling towards Angel. Her eyes no longer went solar, but twinkled just like the stars above me.

“Night, night.”

She braced for impact with what little light energy she had left by projecting a pushing a pane of light in front of her. I dropped like a rock and smashed through the shield with ease and cratering the ground below me.

The girl stood there, hair the only thing left glowing. “You’re not going to hurt me?”

I felt my muscles finally loosen, and touched the back of my head. Whatever crack had formed when it got smashed earlier had already sealed up. I was calming all the way down right now, and looked at my tattered-up self. “I actually came to help you, Angel. This wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Her clothes were tattered too, like we got way too carried away with a bonfire. “I’m really sorry about your clothes. And your head. But can you tell me who the hell you are?”

I nodded. “Casey McAllister.” We shook hands, and she smiled a soft, but exhausted smile. “I used to be a superhero, named AceCalibur. My closest friend dragged me from the Northwest to talk to you.”

“Who’s he?”

“You know Axiom?”

She hopped up as if she ignited herself. “The fuck? You know Axiom? Can I meet him?” This was definitely not the girl who’d intentionally incinerate my clothes down to my everything-proof lingerie. “How do you know him?”

I laughed at the apparent fandom a little bit. “He and I watched each other become invincible years ago.”

We saw a pair of headlights approach us. “Guess he’s coming to pick us up now. I checked the display from my contacts. Dozens of missed messages. No actual word saying Ben was coming. And I was unarmed.

Ben, can you hear me? The headlights stopped a few feet away; you could barely make out the GMC between them. Definitely not Ben. Instead, men came out with ski masks and shotguns.

“That’s not Axiom.”

One more person came out, cloaked in a black shadow. I didn’t know who he or she was in the darkness, but I didn’t like the feeling that I got. It was like it had arms, legs, and was sucking all the air out of the room.

“You’re right.” It turned towards us. I hadn’t felt this cold in a very long time. Angel’s glow evaporated into the night. “I’m not Axiom.”