COPYRIGHT JUSTIN P. DREW 2009-THE END OF ETERNITY DO NOT STEAL THIS MOTHERFUCKER.
Phil steps out of the cab. The driver looks to him and says “What, you’re not paying?”
Phil pauses, and thinks, He doesn’t have to pay. Let him go.
The driver thinks back, What am I, fucking insane? Make him pay extra.
Phil grunts. He turns and hands the man two twenty dollar bills and thinks Keep the change, asshole.
Phil is now standing in the heart of Boston, the buildings reaching into space all around him. Ahead of him is a coffee shop, and he doesn’t need his Advantage to see his mother through the glass wall. She sees him and starts waving, Phil smiles and starts toward her. As he pushes through a large crowd, he gets quick thoughts-Buy groceries-Why’d she leave me?!-Am I gay?-U2 is gonna rock tonight-but does his best to keep them at bay. His mother can usually tell when he’s messing with other people’s thoughts, even without any enhanced brainpower.
Phil and his mother have always had an odd relationship. She has never approved of the steps he’s taken, and has always seem to regard his Advantage with a sort of irritation, as if Phil could shut it off at will. In fact, as far back as Phil can remember, his mother has been referring to his abilities as “The Unfair Advantage.”
“Ahh! The Amazing Phil Fox and his Unfair Advantage! I pity the child who befriends you unknowingly!” Phil remembers her saying after he had convinced another boy to give him his ice cream. This memory is patchy for Phil, as all memories are for him. Phil figures it just goes with the territory; he spends so much time concentrating on other people’s pasts that he has all but forgotten his own. Sometimes he will remember himself in someone else’s good memories (and bad memories, dreams, and nightmares.) His mind will do that copy/paste trick and Phil will live someone else’s life for a few minutes. The only memories Phil can trust are the memories regarding the Advantage, and even those come in flickering lately. It all comes in like a fading radio station, you get decent-sized chunks but after awhile everything gets absorbed and whitewashed by static.
Phil’s father died when Phil was ten, and the saddest part is that he can barely remember anything about the man. He can remember how his father looked to a tee, he sees each graying hair and every wrinkle as perfectly as you see the creases on the back of your hand. But he has no recollection of any single conversation with his father, no memories of playing in the yard or building a tree fort. The pictures in his mother’s photo albums are alien to Phil; he can’t recall a single situation.
His mother looks at him critically when he sits down. He sees a pain in her eyes, he tries to get at it but for one reason or another he can’t even get close to his mother’s mind. It’s like she has an electric fence surrounding her thoughts, controlled by a code that Phil has never been able to crack. He tries and feels a light shock run through his body.
“Stop it.” She says.
“You’re using your Advantage to try and read my thoughts.”
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are. I can feel it.”
Phil snorts. “How? It’s not like you have my, um, abilities.”
His mother rolls her eyes. “Some normal people are just in tune with it. Like how you say Gary Grubsnag can tell when you do it to him.”
Phil’s jaw drops. “When did I tell you that?”
His mother leans back. “Last time? Every time? Jesus, Phil, what’s become of your memory lately?”
Phil’s eyes dart around the room. He starts to stutter. “I dunno, I’ve been busy lately.”
She shakes her head, and they order. They have weekly lunches, but Phil can never seem to recall what occurred the previous week. For this reason, the lunches seem to run together. They make small talk, Phil’s mother updates him on his seemingly endless roster of aunts, uncles, and cousins (all of which rarely seem to ring a bell.) He shares with her what he remembers of the previous week, usually descriptions of things he ate or stories he isn’t aware he stole from other people. On one occasion he told her soberly that he took a pregnancy test and it came out positive. She laughed an empty, frightened laugh.
“I know who kidnaped the Emily girl.” Phil says, munching on his steak.
“Oh you did now?” She responds. “Who was it? Was it you?”
His eyes shoot from the (should I propose oh my god what if she says no I should wait until she finishes med school or should I propose right now?) couple dining three tables away to her face. “What?” he asks, appalled.
By the look on her face, he can tell she’s joking with him. He relaxes a bit.
“Okay, but seriously, who is it?”
He takes an extra eighteen seconds to chomp his steak and swallow it. “A guy named Travis, err, I forgot his last name. He is a real psychopath. He has stolen a shitload of kids, from everywhere.” He looks at her face. “You passed him once, in a long hallway at Macy’s.”
Phil sees this instance not because his mother remembers it, but because Travis does. He’s located Travis, on a sick day off from work, and Phil is currently going through Travis’ mind like a book. He knows Travis’ last name is Collins again, he knows that Emily’s remains are still in the apartment, and he knows that Gary Grubsnag isn’t even remotely close to catching Travis, despite the pretty big hint Phil provided.
“Oh, I passed him, did I? How long ago?”
“Years. But he remembered you. There was something about you that startled him. Something off about you. That’s all I got.”
Phil’s mother cuts herself another piece of steak, grinding the knife into the plate. She pops the morsel into her mouth and chews loudly. The sound makes Phil uneasy.
“That never happened, Phil.”
“It did. I saw it.”
“You didn’t see anything. You’re broken. You need help.”
Phil responds by staring at her. You’re absolutely right. His hands moves instinctively to a small blue journal in his jacket’s inside pocket. The place where he writes notes, records of events that seem to evaporate upon arrival.
Phil’s mother continues. “There is a place I want you to consider. It’s like a rehab, but for people with mental issues. If you’ll just let me take you there-”
Phil recoils. “What in the hell? No!”
She glares at him. “I’m not asking you to make any decisions right now, just to consider their services.”
“And become a patient? Let them do tests on me? Electro-therapy and other shit?”
“They could fix you!”
“I’m not broken!” Phil doesn’t believe a word his mouth had just spoken, but the idea of moving into a facility is more terrifying than death or prison.
“Oh, you’re not, huh?” Phil’s mother is glaring at him.
She stares at him. “What’s my name?”
Phil looks offended. “What?”
“What’s. My. Name. Come on Phil, answer me.”
Phil mutters for several seconds, and finally his mother interrupts.
“You know, you could be living a normal life right now. You could live without this problem, you really could, hon. Your memory is turning to shit. If you spend any more time in other people’s lives, you’re going to forget yours.”
Phil has become visually irritated. “You don’t know what it’s like, Mom. It’s like... having an extra set of limbs, or having an extra sense. I couldn’t stop using my powers any more than you can go a day without your eyes. Or your hands.”
“It’s simpler than you think, Phil. I’ve been doing research.”
Phil doesn’t think she’s telling the truth. He tries to delve into her subconscious and see what is really going on -ZAP! He feels that all-too familiar shock.
By the look on her face, Phil knows she knows what he just tried.
“You’re truly hopeless, aren’t you?”
Phil gets up silently and begins to walk away.
“You always do this, Phil! You need to cut this out!”
That’s funny, I don’t remember doing anything of the sort. I don’t remember ever speaking to you before today.
“Phil come back! PHILLIP JAY DEE FOX COME BACK HERE THIS INSTANT!”
Phil starts off. His mother stands up, making a scene. People around him start to gawk, and this makes Phil angry. He can feel it pulsate through his body. He clenches his hands into fists, and brings them up to his chest. Suddenly, he punches downward with both hands. All around the room, plates go flying, chairs fall over, people are knocked over and winded. By the look of Phil’s mother, you’d think a hurricane wind is pelting her.
People all over the restaurant are screaming. Helena Fox marches forward, following her son out the door, but he’s disappeared into a yellow taxicab before she can grab him. She stands there, staring at the cab as it pulls away.