Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Fiction

Alarms

This is my list of superpowers I wish I had:

— Flight

— Invisibility

— Mind Control

— The Ability to Stop Time

— The Ability to Speed Up Time

***

But I don’t have a single one of those superpowers. All I have is a supercurse. My curse is that I set off alarms. Smoke alarms. Car alarms. House alarms. It doesn’t matter what kind; I set them all off as soon as I get close to them. Close is usually about thirty feet.

I don’t know why I set them off. I haven’t always been like this. I used to be fairly normal. Fairly normal means:

— You can wear a wristwatch without it constantly beeping.

— You can drive a car without disabling the alarm first.

— You can have the smoke detectors turned on in your house.

— You can walk around the neighborhood without avoiding every parked car.

— You can go to the Walmart in Chanton without it being evacuated.

I am no longer fairly normal.

***

I keep a little, spiral notepad of lists tucked away inside my purse. I make lists all the time, and every list I make has five items on it. The lists comfort me and bring order to my life. They make me feel good. Jimmy says I make the lists because I was potty trained way too early. He thinks he’s clever when he says this and usually throws in the phrase “anal retentive.”

Dr. Zimmerman says Jimmy doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Dr. Zimmerman doesn’t think most people know what they’re talking about.

This is why I see Dr. Zimmerman:

— Ran up student loan debt

— Was stalked by Doug (ex-boyfriend)

— Lost focus and flunked out of college

— Took a few too many (okay 12) Tylenol PM

— Landed in the emergency room

I want to tell Dr. Zimmerman about what’s happening to me. I want to tell him I’m setting off alarms. But how do you explain something so irrational to such a rational person?

I used to see Dr. Zimmerman every week, but I haven’t seen him in over two months. He’s left me a few phone messages. I think Dr. Zimmerman is worried about me. I think I’m worried about me.

***

This is my list of things I would do first if I didn’t set off alarms:

— Take a long walk without avoiding parked cars

— Visit a friend (need to make some new friends first)

— Go to Walmart again

— Get a job

— Visit Dr. Zimmerman

***

When I was twelve, I would put on a black leotard my mother bought me for dance class and imagine I was a superhero. I would call myself Cara Cool and run through the house establishing order. Establishing order meant making my little sister put her stuff away. Kelly and I shared a bedroom, and she was always tossing her dirty clothes on the floor. Establishing order meant lining up the books in the living room until their front edges made a neat line across the bookshelf. I liked things neat. I liked things straight. I liked things perfect. I thought it was my job to establish order in the bedroom, the house, the world.

***

It is a Wednesday night, and I lie in bed staring up at a ceiling dotted with green luminescent stars I put up right before Jimmy moved in with me. I spent hours making the ceiling look like a winter’s night-sky. It is perfect now, every star in the right place.

Jimmy doesn’t understand why I put them up, and I’ve had a hard time explaining it. I tell him that the stars seem so stable to me. So unchanging.

“Cara, you awake?” whispers Jimmy opening the bedroom door. He’s been out drinking with his friends. I don’t say anything. I shouldn’t be mad at him because there’s no way I could have gone out with him, and he really shouldn’t have to stay home just because of me.

“Cara?” he says again.

“Yeah,” I say.

“You want to do something?” he asks.

“Okay,” I say, knowing what he means by “do something.”

Jimmy and I have been together for almost six months now. Together means we have regular sex. Regular sex means different things to Jimmy and me. Regular to Jimmy refers to frequency. Regular to me is more of a qualitative statement. Kind of like a regular meal or a regular day. I like regular sex.

When I turn on the light on my nightstand, Jimmy’s already got his shirt off.

***

When we’re done Jimmy rolls off of me, and I go wash up. The light is already out when I crawl back into bed.

“I want to go somewhere,” I say, speaking up at the stars on the ceiling.

“Where?” asks Jimmy.

“Anywhere. Not far.”

“You can go places.”

“Not where I want to go.”

“Where do you want to go?”

“I’d like to go into Chanton again. Maybe go shopping.”

“You have the money for that?” asks Jimmy.

“I can look at things,” I say.

“Someone might find out your secret,” says Jimmy. “Can you handle that?”

I think about it. “Well, I want to go someplace,” I say.

“Go to Whitson Park tomorrow.”

“I’ve been to the park.”

“Go again. It’s a nice park.”

“Will you come?”

“Can’t,” says Jimmy. “Got things to do at work.” Jimmy works at the Gamestop in town, and he’s trying to make manager. He’s already got a business degree, but manager jobs are hard to find these days.

All jobs are hard to find these days. I can’t find one, but I set off alarms.

***

When I was a junior in high school, I read The Metamorphosis in an Honors English Class. I used to try to imagine what Gregor Samsa felt like when he found himself turned into a giant cockroach.

As I lie in bed with Jimmy snoring next to me, I start thinking about Kafka again. I hadn’t thought about him in years, but I can’t get him off my mind tonight, can’t stop thinking about poor Gregor Samsa.

I pull my elbows in tight to my body, extend my forearms into the air and wiggle my fingers as if they’re little insect legs.

While I wiggle my fingers, I wonder what sound a cockroach makes. I’m not sure, so I make a long, wavering squeal. I lift my legs into the air and kick them up and down five times. I wonder if superheroes ever feel like cockroaches.

Jimmy rolls over onto his side. “You okay?” he asks.

“I’m fine,” I say. But I don’t think Dr. Zimmerman would say I’m fine.

***

I remember the night I started setting off alarms pretty clearly. It began around midnight while I was in that funny state between waking and sleeping. I was thinking about my student loan and my bills and how I probably wouldn’t be able to pay next month’s rent. Then I started thinking of my ex-boyfriend, Doug, who used to follow me everywhere, staring at me, telling me how I belonged to him. And suddenly my world was filled with sound.

The first alarm to go off was the smoke alarm. I turned on the light, got out of bed, put on my robe, and dashed to the bedroom door to smell for smoke. Jimmy came up next to me, and the alarm on his wristwatch went off. He pressed the stem over and over again but nothing happened, so he took off his watch and tossed it on the bed. Then the alarm clock on my nightstand started to beep.

Jimmy and I ran out of the house as fast as we could. When we got to the sidewalk, the car alarm on my Subaru went off. Then the alarm went off on Jimmy’s Ford.

It was a night of sounds. Some of the sounds came from the alarms, and the rest came from Jimmy. This is my list of things Jimmy said:

— “What’s going on?”

— “I don’t see a fire.”

— “Why’s the car alarm going off, too?”

— “I think it’s you.”

— “What are you doing, Cara?”

I don’t remember saying much. I stood in the center of the front yard with my arms wrapped tight across my chest and my fingers tucked into my armpits. Jimmy told me to stay put. Then he turned off the car alarms and went inside to unplug the clocks and take the batteries out of the smoke alarms.

When Jimmy called me to come back inside, he was sitting on the dining room table with a smoke alarm in his hands. He put the battery back in and the alarm went off.

“It’s you,” he said.

“What do you mean, it’s me?”

“You’re setting off the alarms. What did you do?”

“Nothing,” I said. “I was just lying in bed thinking.”

“You had to have done something.”

Jimmy and I talked for almost an hour. Finally Jimmy went upstairs to go to sleep, but I slept downstairs on the couch.

***

But I didn’t really need an alarm because I always seem to wake up on my own. Before Jimmy got up, I went outside to figure out what was going on. I didn’t go near the cars but walked over toward Mr. Wilkin’s house next door. I took one slow step after another, pausing a long time between each step. I passed the hydrangea bushes along the edge of the house without anything happening, but I hadn’t even gotten to that invisible line that divides our properties when Mr. Wilkin’s smoke alarm went off. I backed away, but the alarm kept on going. Mr. Wilkin came out, looked around the left side of his house and then the right, studying everything carefully. He held his nose up as if he were sniffing for something. Then he looked over at me. “You see any sign of fire?” he asked.

“No,” I said, looking down at the ground. “I haven’t seen anything.”

“That’s strange. I’ll just reset the alarm then.” He went back inside and a few seconds later the alarm stopped. I guess I was far enough back because it didn’t go off again.

I ran back into the house, curled up on the couch and covered myself with a blanket. That was two months ago.

***

This is my list of the places I can still go:

— Anywhere in the house

— The backyard (can’t go past the pear tree near the fence next to Mr. Wilkin’s yard)

— Part of the front yard around the porch

— Whitson Park

— The bathrooms at Whitson Park

Anyplace else would probably be a bit of a risk. Someone might see me, and then what would I say?

— Hi, I’m Cara.

— I set off alarms.

— You’ve never heard of that?

— Most of my friends set off alarms too.

— It’s perfectly normal where I come from.

What would I really say? What could I say?

Dr. Zimmerman says I’m too controlling. He says I should try to relax. He says I should take more risks. But I don’t think Dr. Zimmerman ever thought of this.

***

I keep a calendar on the side of the refrigerator and mark each day I set off an alarm with a red X. I mark my period with a blue X. Birthdays are in green and the day I’m supposed to pay each bill is in yellow, but I haven’t paid a bill on time in months. I used to mark my visits to Dr. Zimmerman in purple, but I’ve put away my purple pen.

Jimmy says my calendar is too busy. I like it though. It makes perfect sense to me and gives my life a little more order.

***

Jimmy and I sit at the kitchen table eating breakfast: leftover peas and baked chicken from the night before. Money’s real tight right now, so I don’t waste anything. I’ve quit my job as a substitute teacher. I wasn’t crazy about it anyway. Too many people. Too much noise. Chaos all day long.

“How’d you sleep?” asks Jimmy.

“Fine,” I say, chasing a pea across my plate with my fork. Once I eat this pea, I’ll be down to five.

“I heard you making noise in your sleep.”

“I was pretending I was a roach,” I say.

He looks at me.

“I can’t help it,” I say.

“Pretending you’re a roach?”

“No, setting off alarms.”

“I know,” says Jimmy.

“I haven’t done anything wrong.” I stop chasing the pea, stab it and stick it in my mouth.

“I know,” he says again. “I’m not blaming you.”

“But you’re mad.”

“Not mad,” says Jimmy. “More like frustrated.”

“So am I.”

“There’s got to be something we can do.”

“Like what?”

“Go to a doctor.”

“I’d set off his alarms,” I say.

“Go back to Zimmerman,” says Jimmy. “Go to someone. Get some help.”

“I don’t know what people would say. I don’t think I want to find out.” I imagine people flocking around me and staring right at me. I don’t know what they would do to me, but they sure as hell didn’t treat Gregor Samsa very well.

After breakfast, I take a smoke alarm out of a drawer and put a battery in it. It goes off. I take the battery out, put the alarm back into the drawer, and mark another red X on my calendar.

Someday the alarm won’t go off when I put the battery back in. Someday I’ll get out of this house and go where I want to. Someday I’ll even go back to Walmart. I’m trying to stay positive.

***

I’ve tried to figure things out. I really have. The best I can figure is that I’m damned for some reason. I try to think of the things I have done that may have earned me some kind of cosmic punishment.

This is my list of why the universe may hate me:

— Not going to church.

— Having too much sex (or not having enough sex).

— Not finishing college.

— Not calling home enough.

— Maybe it’s random.

***

After Jimmy finishes his breakfast and heads off to Gamestop, I go outside and work in the garden, making sure I don’t get close to Mr. Wilkin’s house. At around noon I drive out to Whitson Park on the east side of town, pulling far over to the right side of the road so as cars go by I won’t set off their alarms.

While I’m driving, I start thinking again about what Jimmy said at breakfast about seeing a doctor. When I get to Whitson Park, I gaze at a sea of parked cars, each one with an alarm waiting for me to set if off. I could park on the far end of the lot and walk around all the cars to get to the park. Instead, I turn the car around and head toward Chanton, toward Dr. Zimmerman’s office.

***

This is my list of my favorite superheroes:

— Batman

— Storm

— Spiderman

— Wonder Woman

— Daredevil

***

I used to drive into Chanton to work every day and imagine that my favorite superheroes lived out on the edge of town. Batman lived off the main road in a large stone mansion. Storm lived over by the swimming pool at the country club. Spiderman lived on top of the water tower. Poor Gregor Samsa lived in the loft of an old barn. But Gregor Samsa wasn’t a superhero.

***

As I pass the city limits sign, the traffic gets heavier and the chance of setting off alarms on passing cars gets even greater. I’m hugging the right side of the road as tight as I can, but when I set off an alarm on a passing SUV, I pull off the road and park my car. I start walking toward the center of town on foot. I like walking more than driving. I feel like I have more control. But I wish Dr. Zimmerman didn’t work all the way downtown.

I do fairly well for quite a while, walking in a ditch well off the road, keeping my head down. I don’t even look up to see if anyone is watching me, but I know they are. I can feel it.

I set off my first alarm walking by an old Victorian house on Hammond Street. I don’t think I’m anywhere near the house, but the alarm goes off anyway. It’s one of those high-pitched beeping alarms, loud enough to send its squeal sailing across the neighborhood. I don’t know what to do so I start running. I set off the fire alarm on the next house I pass and then the one after that.

Now I’m running as fast as I can, and people are staring at me, staring out their windows, but I don’t look up. I keep running until I see an alley to duck into. I run down the alley, feeling as if my heart is about to rip out of my chest, when I see a big cardboard box leaning against a dumpster. I climb into the box and squat real low and pretend I’m a cockroach.

I listen for a long time, listen for someone coming after me, someone looking for that crazy girl who sets off alarms. Finally, I dig a hole in the box with my index finger and peek out of it. I don’t see anyone so I crouch low in the box. Cara the Cockroach is hiding. Cara the Cockroach is afraid.

***

This is the list of my fears I made for Dr. Zimmerman:

— Fear of people

— Fear of noise

— Fear of getting hurt

— Fear of not having money

— Fear of fear

***

No one comes near the box for over half an hour, so I crawl out and start making my way toward Dr. Zimmerman’s office again, following alleys all the way.

I’m real careful and set off only one alarm along the way, a pickup truck that speeds past me as I try to cross the street to get from one alley to the next.

When I get to the center of town, I sit down on a bench and count the windows in the office complex where Dr. Zimmerman works. It’s all doctors in the building. Five of them. But I’ve noticed that before.

Dr. Zimmerman is on the third floor. All I can think as I stare up at the window to his office is that as soon as I get near the building all the alarms are going to go off. But Dr. Zimmerman says I need to face my fears. I hope he knows what he’s talking about.

***

I take half a dozen steps toward the building, and the fire alarm goes off like a Klaxon. I expect people to start flooding out of the building, but that’s not what happens. It’s not like the fire drills at school where everyone quickly heads to the doors with administrators looking hard at their watches.

I brace myself against the blast of noise and step inside to the large lobby filled with potted plants, black leather chairs, and an oak coffee table littered with magazines.

The alarm is so loud now I can barely stand it. A man in gray coveralls comes down the stairs and moves up close to me. I tense up real tight. “You’re going to have to go outside,” he shouts, his breath uncomfortably hot on my ear.

A few more people filter down the stairs, through the lobby and out the main entrance. The man in the coveralls goes to the entrance and stands there pointing outside as if people don’t know how to get out of a burning building. He signals me with his right hand, but I turn and run away. I think he yells at me, but I don’t hear him as I work my way up the stairs past a small trickle of people.

***

As I climb the stairs I practice what I’m going to say to Dr. Zimmerman.

— How have you been?

— I’m sorry I stopped coming.

— Dr. Zimmerman, I need your help.

— Can we talk?

— I have a situation.

I can’t even whisper the word “alarm,” not even with alarms going off all around me. So I just recite my five little phrases over and over, unable to hear my own words.

I pass the second floor and head for the third and say the “I’m sorry I stopped coming” part for the fourth time when I look up and see Dr. Zimmerman coming down the stairs.

“Cara,” he mouths.

“Doctor Zimmerman,” I shout.

He shakes his head and points to his right ear to show that he can’t hear me.

I move closer. “I need your help,” I yell.

“We have to get out of the building.” Dr. Zimmerman gently grabs my wrist and pulls me after him, but when we get close to the main entrance, I pull away from him and shake my head “no.”

“I need to talk to you alone,” I yell.

He nods and leads me down a hallway out a door marked “Emergency Exit.” We enter the alley and walk away from the building until we get to a spot by a telephone pole where we can talk.

***

This is the list I made about Dr. Zimmerman after our first meeting:

— Long, gray hair

— Big nose

— Soft, blue eyes

— Large hands

— Gentle voice

***

“What’s wrong?” asks Dr. Zimmerman.

I don’t say a word.

“You need to start coming back to therapy,” he says.

“I can’t.”

“We can change your time if Monday’s not good for you.”

“That’s not it.” I’m looking down at my feet even though I know he doesn’t like it when I do that.

“Then what’s wrong?” he asks again.

“I’m setting off alarms.” I cross my arms and squeeze my ribs real tight.

“Alarms?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know why.”

“Is this a new compulsion?” he asks.

“It’s not a compulsion.”

“Well, something is driving you to do it.”

“I’m not doing it on purpose.”

“Cara, doesn’t that sound like a compulsion?”

He’s not getting it. I’m not making myself clear. Coming here was a mistake. I want to run away.

“Cara, what’s going on?” asks Dr. Zimmerman.

“I set off alarms,” I say, speaking slowly. “I set them off automatically whenever I get close to them.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know why.” I want to cry now.

“Cara, do you really think it’s you?”

“It is me.”

“You’re making connections that aren’t there.”

“No, I’m not.”

“You feel you’ve lost control, don’t you?”

I nod.

“Why do you think you’ve lost control?” he asks.

I give him the “I don’t know” shrug.

“Cara, look at me.”

I look up at Dr. Zimmerman’s big nose and try to smile.

“Why have you lost it?” asks Dr. Zimmerman.

“I don’t know,” I say.

“Well, don’t you think you should try to get it back?” he asks.

I have no idea of how to get control back. How can you control something so random? Or is it random? I close my eyes and do what I have done before—I concentrate real hard and slowly count to five, whispering so softly Dr. Zimmerman can’t hear me. As I reach the number five, the fire alarms stop blaring.

***

I’m standing in the alley now, repeating the number five over and over to myself. Dr. Zimmerman stands there looking down on me.

“The alarms have stopped,” he says. I don’t think he even realizes I stopped the alarms myself.

“I know,” I whisper. But I’m careful not to break my concentration, afraid the alarms will sound again.

“Cara,” says Dr. Zimmerman, “you need to make another appointment. Our usual time is still open.”

“I’ll be there,” I say.

“Are you okay now?”

I nod.

Dr. Zimmerman turns to go back inside and motions me to follow him into the building and down the hallway.

“I’ll see you next Monday,” he says to me as he heads up the stairs.

I go out the main entrance, concentrating all the way until I’m standing near the bench again, wondering which way to go. To the left is the way back to my car. To the right is the way to Walmart, almost half a mile down the road.

I go right.

***

I walk down the sidewalk, counting my steps in fives. As I pass a red Honda, I see a dent on the passenger door. I stop and gaze at the gash in the red paint. The car alarm sounds. I count to five slowly under my breath and the alarm stops.

I walk to another car and count again. The alarm blasts a loud, low whooping sound. I close my eyes and concentrate, but the alarm seems to get louder. I open my eyes and look across the street and count five windows in a drugstore. I count them out loud, almost chanting each number. When I hit the number five, the alarm stops.

I walk down the street practicing setting off alarms and silencing them again. Sometimes I don’t have to count out loud. Other times I do. My control isn’t good. But Cara Cool can set off alarms. Cara Cool can turn them off again.

***

This is what I think about as I walk to Walmart:

— What good is setting off alarms?

— What is Jimmy going to say?

— What will I tell Dr. Zimmerman on Monday?

— How am I going to get home?

— How am I going to pay all my bills?

***

As I approach the store, I see a black Buick parked off by itself on the far end of the parking lot. I walk over to it and set off the alarm. Then I stop it again. This is a good place to practice, so I set off the alarm and stop it over and over again. On the fifth try, the car unlocks. I concentrate, counting slowly under my breath, and the car locks again. Then I count down from five and unlock it.

“Yes,” I say. This is my power. This is my superpower. I just hadn’t recognized it, hadn’t learned how to use it. I am Cara Cool, and Cara Cool is setting off car alarms. Cara Cool is unlocking cars.

I step closer to the car and look in. This is my first conquest as a superhero. My first prize. A simple car. Nothing too elaborate. A coffee cup in the cup holder. A tan coat in the right rear seat. A strap sticking out from under the passenger’s seat.

I look around and think about my student loans. About the rent I’m not going to be able to pay next month. About the job I don’t have.

And as I look around, I’m all alone. For once, no one seems to be watching me. I open the car door, reach under the seat and pull out a purse. I tuck the purse under my arm and start walking to Walmart as fast as I can.

And as I walk, it hits me. I’m not Cara Cool. Cara Cool is dead. Maybe there never even was a Cara Cool. I am Cara the Cold, Cara the Cruel, Cara the Dark, Cara the Demon, Cara the Nightmare. I approach another car, concentrate real hard and listen to the locks click open. I walk on feeling a great sense of power, a sense of pleasure. I am Cara Chaos, supervillain.

***

Here is my list of my favorite supervillains:

— Doctor Doom

— Lex Luthor

— The Green Goblin

— Catwoman

— The Joker

***

I walk through the parking lot, passing car after car. I set off an alarm and then stop it again quickly. “I am Cara Chaos,” I whisper. “I am the Green Cara. I am Cara Luthor. I am Cara Doom. “

As I walk, I hear a sound coming from deep inside my head. It is an alarm. Or is it a scream?

***

As I get to entrance of Walmart, people skitter around, moving in and out of the store in a steady stream. I wonder what I’m going to do inside. I wonder what will happen if I lose control. I wonder what people might say if I’m discovered.

But I have power now. I can clear the entire building if I have to. I softly count to five and feel my power. I am Cara Choas.

I pull the purse tight into my ribs, and take a deep breath. I take one step into Walmart and hear someone yell, “Stop!”

I stop. I’ve been discovered. I squeeze the purse so tight I can feel the circulation to my arm cut off.

“What are you doing?” It’s a low angry voice.

“Nothing,” I whisper. The purse feels like lead now.

“Come back here,” says the voice.

I’m about to turn around when I hear a softer voice say, “Leave me alone.”

I look over and see a man grab a woman by the arm.

“I said it was over,” yells the woman.

“No, it isn’t,” the man growls, pulling the woman away from Walmart toward a blue station wagon.

As the woman pulls hard, struggling to get loose, I think of Doug, my stalker ex-boyfriend. I think of how he tried to push me around. How he tried to intimidate me.

“Leave her alone,” I say, but my voice is no more than a soft whisper.

“Mike,” says the woman, “you’re hurting me.”

I move past the couple to the passenger door of the station wagon. Mike looks at me, more like right through me. “This isn’t any of your business,” he says.

“It’s okay,” says the woman. “We were together.”

“It’s not okay,” I say.

“Be careful,” says the woman. “You don’t know him.”

“It’s not okay,” I say again. I can’t help looking down, but I’m still able to block their way.

“Damn it,” Mike mutters, letting go of the woman who backs away toward the Walmart entrance.

“Move,” he says.

But I don’t move. Instead I lean back against car door and close my eyes. I feel Mike grab my right wrist and I scream, and as I scream, the alarm on his station wagon goes off.

“See, you set off the damn car alarm,” Mike growls.

I feel Mike’s hand squeezing hard on my wrist, and I feel the weight of the purse under my arm.

I slowly count to five and the alarm on Mike’s wristwatch goes off. Then I open my eyes and look down. The alarm apps on a cell phone in his pants go off too.

Then I just keep counting to five over and over again and alarms start going off on all the cars around me.

“What in the hell is going on?” shouts the man.

“Five, five, five, five, five,” I say, my voice getting louder with each number.

Now there’s a large crowd in front of Walmart and people really are watching me. They’re all watching me. I want to turn into a cockroach and slide under a car and hide.

“Let her go,” someone yells.

Mike just keeps squeezing my wrist.

“Leave her alone,” someone else says.

Mike lets go but not without a push which sends me flying away from the station wagon. “Screw you, you crazy bitch.”

“Are you okay?” says the woman moving toward me.

“And screw you too,” Mike says to the woman. He jumps into in his car, slides over to the driver’s seat and speeds away, the alarm still sounding. “I’m so sorry,” says the woman. “He gets kind of crazy.”

I want to say something, but I can’t. I just stand there shaking.

“Everything’s okay,” I hear another voice say, and I look up at Jimmy. “Dr. Zimmerman called and said you were headed this way.”

Jimmy pulls me close, and I roll my fingers across his back, counting each finger as it touches his shirt. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. The alarms around us shut off one by one.

***

I guess the rule is that you don’t always get to pick your superpower. You may not even get to pick whether you’re good or evil either.

As we drive away from Walmart, I make Jimmy stop by the black Buick and slide the purse back under the passenger seat. When we pass my car, Jimmy says, “We’ll get it tomorrow.”

On the way home, I tell Jimmy everything that happened. All he says is, “It’ll be okay.”

***

Jimmy and I have dinner, talk for a while and go up to bed. We don’t do anything. I think he knows I’m exhausted.

I count to five and put the battery back in the alarm clock on my nightstand. It doesn’t go off. Then I carefully reach over and turn out the lamp next to the clock. Still no alarm. I count to five again, and the alarm sounds. I take a deep breath and hold it. One. Two. Three. Four. Five. The alarm stops.

“Cara,” says Jimmy. “What are you doing?”

“Be quiet,” I whisper. “Cara Cool is working on her superpowers.” Then I stare up at the ceiling, concentrate real hard, and watch the stars brighten above me.

© 2012 S. L. Gilbow.

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S. L. Gilbow

S. L. GilbowS. L. Gilbow is a 2011 graduate of Clarion West Writers Workshop. He has published six stories to date, five in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and one in John Joseph Adams’s anthology Federations. He debuted in the February 2007 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with “Red Card,” a dystopian SF story in the vein of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” which was later reprinted in John Joseph Adams’s Brave New Worlds. Gilbow is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and navigator with over 2000 flying hours in the B-52. He began to write short stories as he neared the end of his Air Force career. He currently teaches English at a high school in Norfolk, Virginia.