In an Instant

“Who are you?! Let go of my hand!”

“I can’t. You need to come with me.”

“Where?”

“To beyond the blast radius.”

He wasn’t in the mood to tell the kid that a resourceful lunatic had gotten his hands on a small nuclear bomb and had selected this town as a target. The madman had wanted money from the government, and they had called in the big guns to solve the problem.

He dragged the child outside, and towards downtown — the fastest route to their destination.

“That woman is weird; she just stands there.”

He looked around and saw a black haired woman. She was staring intently at the little red man, waiting for his more popular brother to appear. She had been doing that for quite some time; he had lost count of the days a long time ago.

“She is frozen in time like you just were.”

He had not lost count of how many times he had explained the strange state of the world. You couldn’t lose something you never had. Usually, he gave younger kids the silent treatment, most of them would just follow if he led. However, it had been a long day, and his strategy was forgotten at the moment.

“You see, my powers allow me to freeze time. And I can also share this power through touch”.

“I never met a speedster before.”

“I’m not a speedster…Wait, have you met a hero before?

“Sure, I met Topnotch Terry when I visited my aunt, he had just caught a bad guy and was signing autographs.”

Of course, he thought. Topnotch “The Famewhore” Terry, had probably shaken the hands of half the country by now. Not undeservingly so, almost every year he was in the list of top 10 heroes by people saved. You couldn’t dislike the result, even knowing the motive behind it.

“What do you mean you aren’t a speedster?”

Wonderfull. Why did he always get the talkers at the end of the day? No matter what gender, age, or sex, at the end of the day they never would shut up.

“I stop time; speedsters don’t. They just, you know, run really fast.”

“‘They just run really fast’? You’re not one of the smart adults, are you?”

He didn’t say anything. This wasn’t the first time he had been insulted by one of them, nor even the first time a child had been the offender. At this point, it had just become another human noise that he needed to respond to. And he responded by implementing the silent treatment, trying to mend his previous error.

Honestly, the kid was right. He had been a horrible student. And after the teachers had given up, the only job he qualified for was as a human guinea pig. In fact, that job had given him his current one, although he had wished for something better. His code name was Plan B. And if the heroes failed to save the day, he could be used to avoid the worst case scenario.

Not that the government liked using him. The show was more important than avoiding a few casualties here and there. But nearly 40000 people, was too much for the “it could’ve been much worse” speech to fix. Admittedly, some of the government’s unwillingness stemmed from the fact that he was a limited resource.

The lab had fumbled in the dark when they created him and had tried for 4 years to reproduce the result. The only thing they had to show for it was dead and missing guinea pigs.

“Where are we going?”

Giving up on his standard strategy, he answered:

“I already told you, beyond the blast ra– –”

“Yes, I know that, but where?”

“At a lake behind a mountain.”

“But what is it called there?”

“You said it yourself that I wasn’t one of the smart adults. My puny brain doesn’t know the name of it.”

They walked hand in hand, the child trying to maximize the talking, the man trying to minimize it. And after what felt like forever for both of them, the child gave this command:

“My legs hurt, carry me!”

This is what I get for choosing a brat from one of the big houses, the man thought. Of course, it’s better to get it over with now than to save them for later.

“Okay, but you have to squat down like this”, he demonstrated, “it will make things a lot easier.”

When he broke the connection, he considered leaving the crybaby there for a future date when he had more patience. But he thought better of it. He might not be able to remember which parent went with the kid.

Reconnecting required a short time of adjusting for both of them. But then they were trekking again; even a bit faster than previously. After doing nothing than walking for years, sometimes with extra ballast, he had gained a well-trained body. Not that he was going to win Mr. Universe anytime soon, but his small rider was child’s play. He had carried much larger passengers for the entire hike.

A period passed in silence, more or less. Piggyback rides always shut young ones up, at least for a while. But then, they all said the same thing because they were bored and no longer had the pain of walking as a distraction.

“Are we there yet?”

“No, and if you ask me that again, you will walk there yourself.”

He found it best to make them think that there were ages to the destination. No matter what the truth was. That way, they believed they had more to lose by annoying him. In actuality, they were close, but he wanted to keep it quiet as long as possible.

The remaining time passed in tense silence. Then the large group of his previous travel companions came into view. Seeing them only reminded him of the many trips he had left while it was a signal for someone else to start talking.

“Wow, are all these people from town? How many are there? Are my friends down there? Their names are….”

And on it went, it was almost like the little imp wanted to make up for lost nagging time.

However, the man said nothing. Still carrying his current companion on his back, he marched to the outskirt of the human gathering.

“Okay, when you get off, I’m going to let go of your hand, and then you just have to wait for your parents to get here.”

“How long will that take?”

“You’re not one of the smart kids, are you? You will not be conscious of any time passing.”

The fool walked right into that one, he thought gleefully. It was somewhat of an advantage to be a grown-up, even if you weren’t one of the smart ones.

“Goodbye.”

“Wait! I– –”

He was gone.