One that makes me feel like I feel when…
Veronica sat by herself at a table on the sidewalk, contemplating the effort involved in putting another cube of expensive raw sugar into her coffee. It seemed like a lot of effort. The morning sun was oppressing her; she was glad she’d remembered to grab the big movie-starlet glasses on the way out the door. She contemplated the effort involved in fishing them out of her pocket and putting them on.
Getting out of bed this morning had been difficult; getting dressed and leaving the apartment was… well, when she looked back on her life from far in the future, she’d rank getting herself out of bed this morning, getting down to the cafe, ordering food, making a few phone calls, among her accomplishments.
This was, bar none, the worst hangover she’d ever had; it was, honestly, worse than anything she’d ever imagined.
She was not, by and large, subject to terrible hangovers. She went out quite often, she drank as much as seemed appropriate, she did whatever drugs were offered her socially, and she went home — to someone’s home, anyway — and slept it off and in the morning she was generally fine. Those few mornings when she felt what could only be after-effects from the night before, she found that a big glass of water and a couple of Advil did the trick.
It was, she remembered, easier to move once you got moving; that was how she’d gotten dressed and down here: by rolling out of bed and not stopping until she was seated with a coffee in front of her. She resolved to deal with the glasses and the sugar in one continuous movement.
But, she thought, it made more sense to wait; she eyed the little number-on-a-stick that served as a marker, allowing the waiter to bring her her food. If the food arrived and she’d just finished the thing with the glasses and the sugar, she might be too exhausted, too dissipated, to eat it before it got cold; so it made sense to wait until the food arrived, to let the glasses be the first major effort, flowing seamlessly into the sugar thing, and then, once motion was underway, embarking on breakfast.
She was pretty sure she’d made this plan before, just now.
“Whoa!” It was Harold. She’d texted him earlier, in her burst of getting-dressed-and-out-the-door energy, and told him she wanted him to meet here here. She hadn’t expected to be at all punctual.
Harold plunked down in the other chair, across from her. “You look rough as hell,” he said. “Must have been a night.”
She decided that the time was now, for the sugar and the glasses. She made it all happen in what she hoped was a smooth motion that didn’t look as though she’d been sitting here planning it for fifteen minutes.
“It’s not that I don’t want to be seen with you,” she mumbled, “But the sun is oppressive.” The glasses hid half her face. She found them quite fetching, but she had to remember not to get a tan with them on, because it would make her look like a Maori or something, just her chin colored.
She sipped her coffee. The extra sugar was just right.
The waiter brought her food, and Harold helped himself to her potatoes.
“So listen,” she said, around a mouthful of breakfast burrito. “The pills you sold me.”
“Yeah,” said Harold, “I had some complaints about those, they don’t do anything. I’m really sorry about that, my supplier promised me that they were going to be this amazing body high…”
She was waving him off. “No,” she said, “The pills were fine. I want more of them. In fact, I want to make sure I have a regular supply, can you do that?”
Harold shrugged. “I don’t know,” he said, “I’ll have to ask, the guy… I think he made them, he’s this crazy smart scientist guy from up Pill Hill.”
Pill Hill, the teaching hospital.
“Okay,” she said, “I don’t care, can you find out where to get more of them? And if it’s a problem at all, I want you to get me the guy’s number, okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” Harold sat back in his chair. “Listen, Veronica,” he said, “If you don’t mind me saying so, it’s not like you to be so… single minded about something. And I wasn’t kidding, you look rough. Maybe you want to lay off whatever it is that’s…”
She stared at him, contemplating the effort involved in telling him to mind his own business. She opened her mouth to tell him to fuck off, but different words came tumbling out.
It had been almost ten when she’d taken the pills. She was having a really good night; she’d shown up with a fun group of people, the gender mix leaning female enough to make the evening slightly more about dancing than about foreplay. She’d been having a magnificent time, and she’d had a lot of drinks purchased for her and hadn’t ended up going home with anybody.
A couple of people had peeled away from the group, but she and enough others had stuck together through a couple of transitions between different clubs, and she was confident that they were going to be at this one for a couple of hours, and probably until close, dancing and drinking; so a couple of pills that were supposed to be some sort of fine-grade designer thing seemed like just the ticket.
She was dancing, half an hour later, when they started to take effect; she noticed that she could see the composition of the body of the guy she was dancing with, could see through him as though his skin was not there; more than that, she could watch the blood flowing, could see the lungs inflating, could see everything, the whole gestalt of his being.
This was not necessarily an unusual experience; the impression — conviction! — that she could be one with, and know, in sum, all things, was a common part of her week-on-week experience, because she was a habitual experimenter with new drugs.
“Fuuuuucckkkk,” she breathed, watching her dancing partner’s synapses firing. She looked around; she could see the same thing happening to everybody else in the room, could see all the physical processes interacting with one another that made a packed, throbbing, pulsing dance floor possible.
She just let herself be lost in it for a while, seeing all of it, feeling all of it. She found that she was able to literally watch the music, to see the waves traveling through the air, through the flesh of her fellow dancers, through her. She could feel the bass take her, and let her go, and take her again, at a specific frequency, which she was able to pay attention to in real-time because…
Well, because she could know all things, and be one with them, obviously. Commonplace stuff.
But as she danced, she became gradually aware that her perception of all these things was happening many times faster than seemed reasonable: she could hear each wave of each piece of the music passing through her ear, could see it traveling through the air, could, if she wanted to, step this way or that way to avoid it; if she moved just right, she found, she could actually dodge the sound waves, moving her head so that each wave was blocked by someone, and if she kept moving she could stand in the middle of the dance floor in perfect silence because none of the waves was hitting her ear.
As she was executing what seemed like an amazing new set of sound-avoiding dance moves, it suddenly became clear to her that she was not standing on the floor: she was, in fact, hovering a few inches above it.
That was when she really came up short, because nothing like that had ever actually happened before. She was actually able to move her feet over other people’s feet, while keeping her weight evenly distributed and… Well.
If she thought about it… if she let the sense of awe at being able to perceive all things sort of slip into the background, if she thought about the fact that she’d had quite a lot to drink — she wasn’t actually feeling any sensations from the drug, other than the fact that she could move faster than sound waves, could see the molecular composition of everything and everyone around her, and, apparently, could fly.
She’d never been one of those people who mistook what was happening to her because of drugs for reality. Drugs were great, frankly, and she liked them a lot, but they weren’t real, they were just ways of altering the physical processes of her perceptions and sensations; ways of fucking with her senses, no different from rubbing her eyes in order to see the sparkly light show.
It was harder than she expected to get off the dance floor, because nobody seemed to be able to get out of her way quickly enough and she kept running into them; eventually, as she floated higher off the floor, and she realized she could control the direction and height of her…. Hovering, it became easier to simply fly.
So she flew outside, to have a breath of fresh air and decide what to do next.
There was a doorman outside who was totally not looking at her, but that was because he was paying attention to a line that’d formed beside the door, and everybody in the line saw her literally fly out the door of the night club.
Amid cries of, “What the fuck, dude,” and “Whoah, I think that chick’s flying,” she landed and simply walked away.
Nobody was willing to get out of line in order to chase her down, which made her smile. She turned a corner and walked down a dark alley, listening to the doorman, who hadn’t seen a God-damned thing, getting everybody calmed down. It sounded like he thought that they were all trying to get him to look behind him so they could rush the door.
She looked around. The sound of the voice came from behind her; looking through the darkness with eyes that apparently now compensated for minor inconveniences like pitch blackness, she could see that the speaker was a young woman about her own age, but having a very different night: She was sitting propped up against the wall, looking worn out and generally homeless; there was a hand-made sign next to her that said “Every little bit helps.”
“Yeah?” Veronica stood very still.
“You can’t do that. You can’t just fly.” It sounded like the girl thought she was breaking a rule, like “No Jaywalking.”
“No,” said Veronica, “Clearly, I can’t fly. I didn’t fly.”
“I saw you.” Again, the accusatory tone.
“I don’t know what you saw,” said Veronica, “But it wasn’t…”
“Take me with you.” The voice was plaintive. Clearly, the girl wanted to be somewhere other than where she was.
“I’m just going to another club,” said Veronica.
“I don’t care, just… when you fly away, take me with you.”
Truthfully, Veronica didn’t have any idea what she was going to do next; that was what she was out here to decide, once she’d cleared her head. She took a deep breath and let it out. It suddenly occurred to her that she should be careful about flying in her little going-out-dancing dress. She frowned.
Her bag was inside, still, in the coat check; it had her phone, her ID, her cash. Her cigarettes.
“Hey,”said Veronica, “You got a cigarette I can bum?”
The woman did something complicated that Veronica finally realized involved a fanny-pack under the front of her clothes, and a rumpled pack of Basic brand cigarettes appeared; the woman shook one of them out and lit it, then shook another one out, lit it off the first one, and handed the first one to Veronica.
Veronica took a deep drag. It was harsh; she hadn’t smoked since… well, since the last time she’d been out clubbing late. She blew the smoke up toward the sky, watching the eddies of wind that carried the smoke with her extra-sensory powers.
Something blew down the alley. There was a fluttering sound, like dry wings, that she realized was paper: a stack of large-sized paper, stapled together and folded into quarters, blew into the alley. Veronica reached down and picked it up; unfolding it, she could see that it was a set of blueprints, plans for some space that was being renovated from one thing into another; someone had discarded them after looking at them.
Just the sort of thing, she thought, that I’d need, if I was some sort of… of heist movie star.
She blinked at the piece of paper, distracted by the sight of the chains of molecules lined up to be paper.
“Hey,” she said. “What’s your name?”
“Liz.” The voices sounded leery.
“Liz,” said Veronica, “would you like to go on an adventure?”
There was a brief pause.
“Shit yeah,” said Liz. “What’re we going to do?”
Veronica frowned at the bundle of paper. It had provided inspiration, but it wasn’t providing her with any specific plans.
She looked out of the mouth of the alley; across the way, shining through the fog like a blue and white beacon, was an ATM for a prominent bank. Veronica wondered if her superpowers came with super-strength or something, or of they were just limited to flying and speed and…
The ATM was suddenly right there in front of her, and she was reaching through the front of it, avoiding the molecules and just putting her hand in the empty spaces, and then teaching the big stack of 20s inside how to do that trick, and then she was holding a brick of bills as wide as her hand could carry; and then she was back in the alley with Liz.
“Hey,” said Liz, “What the hell happened, you sort of… flickered.”
“Come on,” said Veronica, “We’re going.”
The entire night seemed to be lit with blue, red and white flashing lights, and the Bugatti had way too many gears which were controlled by a paddle shifter that she wasn’t sure worked right. Nevertheless, they were going very, very fast.
Veronica looked back at the sea of blue and white lights in her rear-view mirror and grinned. She wasn’t sure whether she should be terrified or guilt-ridden or what, but what she felt was exhilarated. It had been the best night of her life, by a long margin.
In the passenger seat, Liz was shouting some variation on “Fuck you pigs!” over and over and over again, in between “Woo hoo!” and “Fuck yeah!” She had a big bottle of red juice drink in her lap that Veronica knew was at least 50 percent vodka. A couple of showers and a visit to an open-very-late salon — well, a person recommend by a friend of a friend who was willing be woken up for a stack of twenties — had done amazing this for her: Her dreadlocks, bleached white and then died in rainbow swirls, flew behind her over the seat, the wind from the open top transforming them into a sort of flag.
The top was… well, gone. It had been some sort of puzzle-folded carbon fiber umbrella thing, which was probably extraordinarily clever but hadn’t survived being taken down at a hundred and five miles per hour. The car was in remarkably good shape, other than that; the cops hadn’t managed to try pushing them off the road because they hadn’t managed to catch them yet.
It turned out that having superhuman reflexes made driving insanely fun.
They were approaching the point where the freeway they were on — empty of other traffic, this time of morning — would enter a complicated series of interchanges and she’d have to decide whether she was going south, toward the open road, or north, back up into the city. She was leaning toward the open road, although the “open road” wasn’t necessarily a fast road: it got windy pretty quickly, according to the on-board navigation system, and that would mean slowing down.
The light did something crazy, stabbing down from above all of a sudden; she realized that she’d been hearing a helicopter for quite a while now, and it was now right above them, and they were fixed in its spotlight.
“Well, shit,” she said. “That’s going to be a problem.”
“Fuck you, flying pigs!” Liz was not wearing a seatbelt; the Bugati, built for someone with serious pretensions of being a Real Racing Guy, had five-point harnesses; Veronica had taken a moment to familiarize herself with the workings of the system when they stole it, but Liz preferred to.. Well, now she was standing up, waving a middle finger at the helicopter, just in case they couldn’t hear her.
Veronica briefly considered grabbing her and pulling her into her seat, where at least the extensive airbag system could help compensate for the lack of seat belts, but fuck it. She was trying not to think about the level of trouble she was going to be in at the end of the evening, which seemed to be rapidly approaching; she was trying even more not to think about what kind of trouble Liz, who could not run at hyper speed or fly or walk through walls, was going to be in.
While she was trying not to think about that, a Highway Patrolman stepped out into the road ahead of them and tossed a couple of long, spiked strips in front of the car; Veronica went right over them. She felt the handling change immediately.
“Well,” she said, “Fuck.” The car slowed down; she wasn’t going to attempt a hundred and twenty on flat tires, no matter how super her reflexes were.
“What?” Liz had been flashing her tits at the helicopter; Veronica couldn’t tell if it was a taunt, like mooning an enemy before battle, or some sort of complicated offer. She hadn’t quite managed to fall out of the car when the tires went flat; now she sat back down, hard.
“Tires are flat,” said Veronica. The Bugatti drifted to a halt; the sea of lights behind them came up on them, surrounding and enveloping them. Someone in the helicopter was talking to them over a loudspeaker.
Veronica looked at Liz. “I have to go,” she said, “I’ll try to get you out.”
Liz looked concerned — for the first time that evening — but by the time she opened her mouth to ask whatever she was going to ask, Veronica had bounced out of the top of the car and was gone, traveling north well in excess of what the Bugatti could have managed.
Harold set her second coffee in front of her and plunked down into the chair across from her. She stared at it, contemplating the effort involved in putting a couple of cubes of expensive raw sugar into it. Harold solved the problem by plunking some sugar and cream into it and stirring before pushing it across the table at her. She felt better for its being there, comforted by its presence if not actually inspired to move enough to take a sip.
“That,” said Harold, after doctoring his own coffee and taking the first sip, “is quite the story.”
Veronica shrugged using only her eyebrows, and looked away. She wasn’t sure why she’d told him about it anyway.
“As it happens,” he said, “My Facebook feed is alive, this morning, with pictures of a high-speed chase through our fair city, last night, which ended when the driver of the stolen high-end sports car *dissapeared.* So I don’t know whether to believe you, or to believe that you woke up before I did and read the same story.”
He leaned back in his rickety cafe chair and sipped his coffee. He was holding the saucer under the cup, which Veronica had only seen done by Europeans in movies.
I don’t care, she thought.
“I don’t care,” she said. “Look, the whole thing is completely unbelievable, maybe I passed out last night with the radio on and heard a story about that chase and made the whole thing up in a dream before I woke up. Anything’s possible, yeah?
“But I remember with a clear vividness of detail the flying part conking out and just barely getting on land before it did, and I remember the super-speed losing potency in the middle of the damned bridge, and I sure as hell remember walking off the bridge and trying to hail a cab when all I felt like doing was fall down, so I’m convinced, in my own mind, that it all happened.”
The little speech gave her the energy to take a sip of her coffee. The coffee made her feel much better. She was, altogether, feeling better.
“So, you want some more.” Harold sounded dissaproving.
“I definitely want some more. Very much. If you have any…”
“I was positive I’d sold you enough tablets for… well, for you not to be out.”
“I gave them to everybody in the group I went out with. As far as I know, I’m the only one who got superpowers…”
“Superpowers.” Harold sounded disapproving of the very idea.
She sat and stared at him for a while.
“I’d also like to know,” she said, “when you talk to your scientist friend, what the likely interaction profile is. I…”
“Interaction profile,” said Harold. “You want to know what other drugs you can take while on those.”
“Yes please,” said Veronica. “You don’t think flying a million miles an hour on ecstasy would be fantastic?”
Harold shook his head. She didn’t remember ever having seen this puritanical streak from him.
“I’m not sure what the problem is, Harold,” she said. “If it’s as impossible as you say, then you’re going to sell me some bunk pills and make a bunch of money. If I’m telling you the truth, you get some entertaining stories.”
Harold shrugged and looked away, holding his coffee up to his face, like he was hiding behind it.
“Look,” she said, “if it makes you that uncomfortable, just give me the contact information for your scientist friend, and I’ll call him myself…”
Harold sighed dramatically and set the cup down on the table.
“This is against my better judgement,” he said, and reached into his pocket and pulled out an Advil bottle, exactly like what you’d buy from a mini-mart if you had a bad hangover.
She stared at it for a second until he sighed dramatically and opened the bottle, spilling out a handful of familiar little pills.
“Fine,” she said. She reached for her ridiculously-overstuffed-looking clutch.
“So,” said Harold, “What sort of super villain hi jinx are you going to get up to tonight?”
He still sounded prissily disapproving.
“Super villain,” she said. She liked the sound of it. “Do you think I should make a costume?”
Harold rolled his eyes dramatically.
She finally got something to come loose in the clutch; a slightly rumpled brick of twenty-dollar bills landed on the table.
“Well,” she said, “The first thing I have to do is, I have to get someone out of jail.”