a novel excerpt by Wred Fright
Grandfather had extraordinary power, but he was still just a man, an old man. Just like I had power, but I was still a boy, a young boy. Maybe I even had the power as an infant. I don’t know. Maybe there was a connection between my power growing and Grandfather’s power fading. Maybe he got a few more years than he otherwise would have gotten by guiding me along. Maybe his time was up like Old Father Time and the Baby New Year on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and given there was a war on, he tried to stick around a bit longer for my sake. Or maybe his sake. Maybe he couldn’t give up on his power or on life. Maybe he stretched time out as long as he could, and that’s why he disappeared. Maybe he was trying to stick around longer, but his time was up. Someday, my time will be up as well. That day is coming soon. I am old now like Grandfather was. And even though my last name is Fox, I can’t outfox death forever. Years later, as an adult, I researched the stopping of time. Physics was little help. The physicists just told me it couldn’t be done. Even if I could move, I’d bump into the air molecules around me which couldn’t move, and I’d be trapped. Or I’d be blind because there would be no light to see because without time no light could reach my eyeballs, which is what I always wondered about the flashlight that time in the war with Grandfather. Or I’d freeze to death because there would be no heat. Or I’d burn to death because if I moved I would be moving faster than light and I’d just burn up. Or they’d cite Einstein and say I’d grow to infinite mass or something as I headed towards the speed of light, which was impossible anyway since nothing was faster than the speed of light.
Clearly, I knew something they didn’t.
Of course, I could just be insane.
Anyway, I turned to mythology instead, and there I found some stuff. I found stories about stopping time almost everywhere. Certainly in Italy, then before that in Greece, before that in the Middle East, and before that in Africa. It seemed like every culture had at least one time-stopping story. It usually made a mess, and time had to be restarted to clean it up.
But I think it’s the opposite. I think time makes messes, and it stops to have them cleaned up. I don’t do the cleaning. I don’t know who does. But I do the stopping. I know that. I guess if time stopped me as well, then I wouldn’t know like everybody else doesn’t know when I stop time. This makes my heroism pretty unknown, which I think is fine now, but when I was younger it made me a bit sad that no one knew. I wanted to be a hero like any youngster does and always is in her or his own head. Like the time I stopped some madmen from starting a third world war.
They wanted to bomb Moscow out of existence before the Soviets got atomic weapons also or more of them anyway; I forget when exactly it occurred. In any case, I had to dump that bomb in the middle of the Pacific. That was quite a bit of work let me tell you. Superman may be able to do it in a comic panel or two, but for me it was a huge pain in the bum involving a boat. It still caused a tsunami, and a bunch of people died which I was not happy about, but it was the best that I could do, and it beat having the world becoming an atomic wasteland. Maybe if I hadn’t still been a boy, I would have saved the people who died as well. It was one of the times I dearly wished for Grandfather. Old people have a lot of memories. Maybe somewhere in them he could have come up with a better plan. The only thing I could think of was to get the bomb as far away from people as possible so dumping it in the ocean seemed like a good plan. I also wanted to get as far away from the thing as possible. There were a lot of horror stories about radiation in those days. In the comic books, one may have gotten super powers from inhaling hard water fumes or something, but in real life, one usually just ended up sick and dead. Fortunately, my secret origin involved no such radiation. Just magic. Or something. I don’t know how it worked. It just did. As my son liked to say, “First step of the sea.” Which I have no idea what that means, but it’s fun to say. It’s like I just stepped out of the sea with this power. I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t have it or Grandfather wasn’t sharing it with me. I don’t know what it’s like to have time be an unstoppable roller coaster where I couldn’t pause it whenever I needed a break. It must be horrifying for other people, that relentless drive to death. Aging constantly, peaking at adulthood, and then the slow decay into the second childhood being dependent on others all over again. All the superheroes seemed to be lacking parental figures, particularly the father. The superhero is a child’s power fantasy, he or she all grown up and powerful. Big not small. To reach that, the parent must be gone, maybe because the child thinks he or she will always remain a child with the parent around, even though that isn’t true. Anyway, Superman’s an orphan. So’s Captain Marvel. So’s Batman. So’s Robin. Wonder Woman doesn’t have a dad, at least in the stories I read; I think they gave her a dad later on. Initially though, her mom makes her out of clay or something. And The Human Torch is a freaking robot. Android, shmandroid. I suppose some of the superheroes had parents, but you never heard about them. Who were the Golden Age Green Lantern’s parents? Beats me. Ditto for The Flash, The Sandman, The Hawkman, and a bunch of others. Maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. Anyway, a lot of these characters lack fathers. I suppose that’s me as well, with Grandfather disappeared and Father dead. It was a very Golden Age Of Comics origin, except I was the kid sidekick without my adult partner. No Batman was there to take me in. I had to raise myself that way. I couldn’t tell Mother. She raised me the best she could, but I wasn’t a normal kid. Anytime I got in a jam, I could always stop time and get out of it, a trend I continued my whole life. That’s how I avoided my nutty daughter-in-law for years. My son had to put up with her crap because he was dumb enough to marry her, but I didn’t. I would just get myself out of there. I would spend an eternity doing something else like looking for the party stories Raymond Carver supposedly wrote before he gave up drinking. After I got bored with that, I’d return, and I’d be so ready for a change, I could even handle her nuttiness. After all, she was nothing compared with the nuttiness of all the gangsters I usually fought in the 1940s. There was the guy who trained squirrels to steal jewelry, and the guy who dressed up as a giant sausage and would only rob butcher shops. And, oh yeah, the moll turned gangster who left a pinup of herself at every crime scene, taunting the cops.
Of course, the gangsters usually never knew what hit them when I got on the case. I let the cops handle it once I had arranged things, and then I just hoped the cops didn’t screw up or end up being ones on the take. It wasn’t like I went around looking for gangsters specifically when I was out on patrol. I was just as happy saving a cat stuck in a tree. Gangsters just seemed to be everywhere in the 1940s. It was all spies and saboteurs in the first part of the decade and then gangsters in the second. In the 1950s, spies came back in with the Cold War. This one spy even noticed my appearing and disappearing act from watching film footage from a hidden camera. I had a hard time convincing him that his film was just messed up. I always was a terrible liar. Being an honest man, I suppose that’s to be expected. Television also came in with the 1950s. I suppose it was around a bit in the 1940s, but I never noticed it until the next decade. That meant there were more dang cameras that I had to watch out for. I never got into watching the thing either. TV always bored me. Maybe that was because of my power. I could always go see for myself something, and the view was always a lot better than that the little box offered me. In all my wanderings, I never did find Grandfather though. Now I am a grandfather myself, complete with dentures, Social Security, Medicare, and the rest of the old people stuff. I wouldn’t want to go back to a World War, but those were some good times.
They always are when you’re young.
Wred Fright also appeared recently at our “Special Projects” blog with a short tale entitled “The Little Squirrel and the Baby Eagle.”
Fast Guy Slows Down is available via the usual outlets– easiest way to purchase the ebook is here.