For this throwback thursday, I’ve decided to go with a piece I was lucky enough to have published earlier in the year. It’s a short fiction story that…well, I’ll let you see for yourself. Enjoy!
Psych Consult #63
`“Drop the rum, put on your cape, and go to work.” I say to Hercules, who is slumped against the wall. He responds with glassy eyes and a dazed expression. It is going to be another one of those days.
I sigh and think back to when this all started. Ten years ago, I was a normal psychologist working at the Cranston Medical Center. One day, a mad scientist, calling himself Cronus, announces on live tv that he wants to “rebuild Olympus”. He then decides to “make Olympians” by launching a radioactive missile into Rhode Island. While thousands died in the explosion and fallout, around 200 souls made it out alive…with “gifts”.
`Most people with gifts enlisted voluntarily in the new Olympus branch of the FBI. The branch deals with terrorist threats, natural disaster relief and occasionally…unregistered “Olympians”.
Some of the gifts were horrible disfigurement. Other gifts were major boosts in IQ. And Hercules here got super strength.
“Unfortunately,” I think as I step towards Hercules, “Only the muscles got stronger.”
“Code name Hercules. Real name Michael−“ “No! I don’t deserve that name.” Hercules yells, his eyes wild. I hold my ground and say, “Easy. I was just trying to connect with you. You. The human you.“ Hercules tenses and screams, “The human me? Michael chose to go on a date that day. Chose to ignore the call. Chose−“ Hercules falls silent and his eyes get lost to the past.
I remember the day he spoke of. A twisted man held an elementary school for ransom. Forces all the adults out− but makes the kids stay. There were 113 children from grades K-5 left in the school. Not a single one went home that day. Hercules arrives on the scene late, sees the aftermath and just howls. And when Hercules is finished wailing, he called the agency and said, “I’m done.” Now he resides in an alley two blocks away from an abandoned elementary school−unable to escape that day.
Hercules picks up the bottle and takes another swig. Time for a different approach. I walk around him and pick up his cape. The smell makes me retch and there is an unidentifiable stain. Holding the cape at arms’ length, I say, “How about this? We go back to the office, get you a new cape, a warm meal and then, maybe, we can talk about your future.”
“At least take a phone so that we know where you are.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Come back and watch the game?”
I throw the cape at Hercules’ feet. Time for a different approach. “Look. You’re number 63, Hercules. You have assignments piling up. You are going to come back and do your duty.” Hercules gets a crazy look in his eyes and stares into my eyes, making my head buzz with thoughts…and strategy. He extends his arm, the number 63 gleaming in the fading daylight and says, “What could you possibly understand about duty?”
I inhale and pull back my sleeve, revealing a gleaming number 6. As the shock registers on his face, I calmly say, “I’m not on the frontlines. I just get people back there. If you don’t want to come back, that’s fine. Obviously I can’t force you.” I turn my back on him and my head clears up a bit.
I’m halfway out of the alley when he says, “Wait, What did the missile do to you?” “Made me a pacifist.” I respond. When my joke doesn’t diffuse the tension, I confess.
“I hear voices, all the time.”
“How do you live with that?
“I just close my eyes until they go away.” I say, fighting the urge to do just that. “I do that too.” Hercules responds, standing up. He’s…taller than he looked in the videos. And as the fading sunlight illuminates him, he looks like a real he−
“Blurrrp.” Hercules belches.
Well…he looks tall, anyway. “Please, at least take a phone. Just for emergencies. My code name is Tiresias.” Hercules nods and I toss a spare cell phone in his direction. He catches it easily− I guess he still has the reflexes. But judging by Hercules’ downcast eyes, he’s still not ready. But Hercules is curious.
“What’s your gift?” He asks.
“That’s classified.” I respond, walking away.
“Why…why is it classified?” Hercules yells, trailing after me.
I stop, bracing myself for what comes next. I turn to face Hercules’ blue eyes. I can almost hear the wailing, but ignore it to say, “My power is too terrifying for normal Olympians to handle.”
Hercules shakes his head and says, “I’m not scared.”
“Oh really?” I respond, chuckling slightly, “Then why are you here in this alley?”
“I failed, I’m just…”
“Scared to fail again? Your muscles may be big, but you can’t hide behind them. I see fear all over you.” I taunt.
“I am not scared!” Hercules bellows.
“Yes you are. You’re terrified to try again. And who knows?” I say, ready to land the killing blow, “There are more than 113 kids in the world. Maybe you can save one this time.”
Hercules bellows and his fist comes flying towards me. I drop away and to the left, sending his fist colliding in the brick wall. I shield myself from most of the rock fragments, but I feel one graze my cheek. I reach up to my face and feel a warm wetness. That I didn’t see coming.
Hercules stares at me, dumbfounded. “I’ve never seen anyone avoid one of my punches before. How did you?”
I smile and say, “I have to get back to headquarters. See you there.”
I tear my gaze from Hercules and walk out of the alley. My phone vibrates in my pocket. Unsurprisingly, it’s the agency.
“It’s a go. We’ll see Hercules soon. When? I don’t know, I can’t tell the future.” I say.
I tuck the phone away and head towards my car, hoping for a more difficult mission on the horizon. Reading minds makes negotiating way too easy.