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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
John stayed out of things until he didn't. Whoops!

Submitted: February 08, 2019

A A A | A A A

Submitted: February 08, 2019



Always a work in progress...

A middle-aged man walked along a sidewalk in a small Ohio town.  He was cordial to the folks who greeted him along the way, but didn’t seek out any more interaction than that.  He was happy to just keep to himself and live his life.  He looked over his shoulder at a pickup truck ‘barreling’ down the ragged, pothole-laced road.  He turned, and watched the reckless driver speed by.  Suddenly, a teenage boy, who was playing ‘cat and mouse’ with his friends, ran across the street in front of it.  It wasn’t a fair contest, and the young man was immediately struck down dead.  The truck driver hit him so hard; ‘John’ didn’t think the kid, really, ever knew what happened.  This accident, coupled with an incident that happened at his work last year, and other things, would come back to haunt the intensely private man.

John didn’t have a family.  He, and his dog, lived in a nice brick home off of Main Street.  It would be all his in another twenty-five years.  Until then, he would have to share ownership with the bank.  He had worked for the city the last five years, and didn’t seem to aspire to be much more than a civil servant.  He led a very simple life, filled with the mundane, routine events most people experience day to day.

It was a few weeks later, on Sunday, that he walked to the city athletic fields to watch the intramural soccer games.  Options for entertainment around there, on a Sunday afternoon, included watching the cars drive by from your front porch; or (literally) watching paint dry or the grass grow.  The kid’s sports activities offered something to do for many.  There would be games happening on each of the three fields, with elementary through high school kids participating, throughout the busy Sunday.  He watched intently as the ten-year-old soccer squads clumsily ran back and forth in confusion.  It made him smile a little to see the little ones struggling to master the game, and he was impressed at how much effort they put out.  The coaches yelled, as they ran back and forth on the sidelines; in an attempt to coral the uncoordinated children, and direct them ‘ever forward’ to the opponent’s goal.

John liked to come out and watch the youngsters, because it gave him hope for the future.  He got to see leaders, and followers, as well as a few heroes, develop right before his eyes on the field of ‘battle’.  The children didn’t look very impressive on this particular day though.  Some of the parents’ reactions to their children’s troubles getting the ‘hang’ of the game made the opposite impression on the man.  It was amazing to him, just how nasty adults could be sometimes. 

Another advantage to being at the athletic fields was their close proximity to the train tracks.  There were two or three of them that were only a couple of hundred yards beyond the third field that lay farthest away from the grandstand area.  The ‘super pee wees’ were playing there today.  Trains were one of John’s favorite things, and it delighted him to be able to watch them lumber along the old tracks; headed for ‘points unknown’. 

He sat in his lawn chair chewing the second big bite of his hot dog, when a fast-moving train, with several engines pulling it along, sped past the sporting event.  It was one of the fastest trains he had seen go by, and he could feel the power as it roared down the tracks.  A couple of minutes after the front of the train disappeared; a great crashing noise could be heard in the distance.  No one thought much about it, until, to the crowd’s horror, the box cars in the procession began buckling and flying off the track in the distance.  An alert referee blew his whistle loudly and excitedly motioned for everyone to run in the opposite direction of the tracks.  John looked on at several children, who were playing in the tall weeds on the railroad’s property.  They were oblivious to the danger, which was coming towards them at a furious pace. 

Parent’s were screaming, and running toward what would, in a few seconds, be a tragic ‘killing field’.  The giant cars were buckling, in a violent chain reaction.  The danger was getting closer and closer to the section of the tracks adjacent to the sports complex; making a deafening racket as it happened.  The kids now saw the danger, and began to run for their lives.  It was too late, as some of the cars; right next to the field, were suddenly standing on end and being shot like ‘Tiddly Winks’ toward the panicking kids.  Just before overrunning the children, the mass of train car projectiles stopped dead in their ‘tracks’ (no pun intended).  It was, as if, they crashed into a mystical, invisible wall, standing between the carnage and the kids who were nearest to it.

Everyone in the crowd seemed to be catatonic; watching the events unfold before them.  They looked in disbelief, at the hundreds of tons of broken, twisted metal, which had once been boxcars, pressing against whatever was holding it back.  It was like a kid, standing outside your window, pushing his nose against the glass (if a kid was capable of such destruction).  Everything, harmlessly, fell to the ground, after the motion of the ‘unstoppable’ mass of debris ceased.  Bits and pieces of the wreckage now fell past the place, where, apparently, some ‘divine’ force had temporarily drawn a ‘line in the sand’.  The crowd erupted in cheers and applause, because the children were saved!  It was a genuine miracle!

There was a big mess to cleanup, and many, many children to check out and hug, so John excused himself from the situation and headed toward home.  Hundreds of people, from town, raced toward the commotion; as John calmly walked in the other direction. 

His hot dog had fallen on the ground during the ‘great Ohio train wreck’, so he made a sandwich when he got home.  He would have to settle for whatever sports he could find on the TV this afternoon.  It was a couple of hours before the sirens, yelling, and screaming subsided, and things ‘slowed’ back to a normal pace. 

A few days later, it was back to the mundane.  John was blowing debris out of potholes with compressed air, so they could be lined with adhesive, and then filled with asphalt.  It was hot and the crew was moving extra slow, so it was going to be an all day job.  When he saw that his guys began to get overheated, they all took a break, and sat under a tree to sip some water and recover.  The town’s lone newspaper man approached the group and motioned for John to get up and walk with him.  He had a serious look on his face, so John figured he better comply.

They stood by the maintenance truck, away from the others, and talked quietly.  The man handed the curious city worker an advanced copy of that days’, evening newspaper.  The front page displayed the first two, of many, pictures of the ‘incident’ at the athletic fields.  One was taken from an angle that showed the boxcars being held back miraculously.  It had the children in it, near the ‘barrier’, and the parents, who were running towards them.  A second picture was of John, with a determined look on his face.  He had his arms raised, and the palms of his hands were aimed at the ‘frustrated’ train cars, that never reached their intended victims.

He knew he could make the photos, or even the reporter, ‘disappear’, but he had ‘meddled’ enough already.  After pleading, unsuccessfully, with the reporter not to publish the photos, John considered leaving town before the paper hit the streets.  The fact that he didn’t, weighed on him later, when there were monumental decisions to be made.  He took the rest of the day off work and sat in his home, waiting for the fall out of his ‘powers’ being exposed. 

That evening, a knock came at the door, and John reluctantly got up to answer it.  He could hear the clamor of a large group of people, who, he surmised, had gathered around his home.  He was sure the community had taken the time to dust off their pitchforks and make torches to burn him and his home up.

John opened the door, and, instead of an angry mob, saw the mayor, with a group of people standing calmly behind him.  John watched quietly as the Mayor of ‘Podunk’ recited his memorized speech; thanking the man, who had just appeared in town five years earlier, for ‘saving’ the children at the soccer game.  The faces, of the people in the crowd, told John many stories in just a few seconds.  Some looked amazed and reverent; some looked cynical that a mild-mannered guy like John could have saved anyone.  Some looked concerned, and, even angry that such a man, or ‘being’, might really exist.

The following two weeks seemed to be good ones for the ‘town savior’.  John couldn’t count the meals that were delivered to his home; the expensive gifts, and even marriage proposals lobbed at him by some of the ‘burgs’ most eligible, beautiful women, and one gentleman.  Each night, John would look out of his front window at the ‘fans’ who would gather in his yard; holding candles to commemorate the ‘hero’ who saved so many.  He worried that the town folk ‘celebrating’ him would bring unwanted attention from surrounding towns, and even, nationally.

After three full weeks of very little privacy or peace, John sat in his new recliner chair and watched his expensive, new wide-screen TV.  He put the last bite of Mrs. Davidson’s ‘award-winning’ apple pie into his mouth, and thought about having to go back to work tomorrow.  He hadn’t taken any vacation since starting his city job, and, thankfully, had built up enough to cover a ‘sufficient’ cooling off period, after ‘that’ big day.

Not surprisingly, the pothole job was still underway when John reported to his first day back to work.  He took up his position with the compressor contraption, and began to blow the dust and debris out of potholes.  Many of the town’s citizens intentionally walked by; so they could, again, express their thanks.  John actually thought this whole thing might blow over.  So far, no crowds of ‘out of town’ people swarmed the town.  He’d seen that kind of thing before, though it was usually over a piece of burnt toast that resembled a saint or something like that.  He thought groups might come to condemn him for doing great works without invoking a recognized deity’s name.  Others might come to worship the newfound ‘god’ that wielded such power.  With none of that happening, in three weeks, he thought, ‘Yeah, things are going to be alright’. 

Mrs. Johnson approached the worksite, and John’s coworkers alerted him that, yet, another fan was there to ‘thank’ him for the miracle he performed.  John moved a step towards the woman, and came face to face with her.  She didn’t smile like the other admirers, but, instead, had a sneer on her face.  John was completely taken aback when the woman, he had never met before, spat in his face.  “Wh…wh…why?” was all he could get out before the woman let loose on him.  “You let my boy die!”  John had no idea what this crazy lady was talking about, until he remembered reading the story in the paper about the Johnson boy being hit by a truck some weeks ago.  He had forgotten all about it, though it happened right in front of him.  She berated him for a solid two minutes before she shoved past him and ‘stormed’ away.

John avoided people for the next few days.  He spoke to his workmates only when necessary, and generally kept to himself.  There were murmurs around town that John may not be the hero they thought he was.  Some were angry about him ‘letting’ his job mate, perish last year after a city vehicle ‘backed’ over him; crushing the poor guy to death.  Some even grumbled about the tornado that took down several houses a few years ago, while the ‘great, powerful protector’ lived just down the street from them.  John’s prepared, frozen dishes, provided by grateful families, had been depleted, and he endured just enough time in the grocery store to pick up a few things to keep him fed.  After the ‘looks’ people gave him, while shopping, he knew he was going to go to the town, down the road, next time.  ‘Went from hero to zero in record time!’ he thought to himself, as he boiled hotdogs to go with his canned chili.  While his dinner heated, he took the time to pull some of the toilet paper, from his ‘non fans’, out of the trees in the front yard. 

With a giant ‘wad’ of Charmin in his hands, he looked at the three, black SUVs that screeched to a halt in front of his house.  The men, who came to visit him, sat in the living room, while John turned off the stove and made a quick ‘Coney’.  He ate, as he patiently sat and listened to the ‘pitch’ they had brought to him.  Twenty minutes later, they were storming out of his home with scowls on their faces; with John walking close behind them.  “It was a fluke”, he said, then added, “it was a mistake….I did it without thinking!”  The SUVs raced off, running through red lights and crosswalks, where people, literally, had to run for their lives to get out of the way.  John sat, in his chair; feeling dejected.  He watched the local news story about the ‘call’ for police to investigate the supposed ‘hero’ frequenting the ball games of young boys.  The police promised they would look into the ‘man’ who showed such a great interest in the town’s littlest male citizens.  John was disgusted with the whole thing now.  He could hear the chants of the same people who were praising him earlier.  “Pedophile, pedophile, vile, vile pedophile…”  He just sat in his spiffy new recliner for hours listening to that, and other things being yelled at his house; until it was bed time.  He leaned forward and slammed his fist down on the coffee table, sending its splintered carcass flying in a thousand directions.  He didn’t notice the little tremor that went through the town as a result.  The protesters did though, and most left in a hurry.

No one saw much of John for the next month or so.  He ‘barricaded’ himself in his home after a big shopping trip in the next town over.  He watched, as the President announced that a planet-killing asteroid was due to hit the Earth in a few days.  Though the men in the SUVS briefed John on that fact a month before, the news was, otherwise, successfully contained world-wide; until just the last minute.  People were heading for the hills with their families; trying to get away from something no one could possibly get away from.  Others took up a candle-light vigil outside of the home that housed their only possible savior; the ‘man’ who they loved, hated, then loved again, that could help them.  John felt terrible as he peeked through the curtain.  He repeated quietly, “it was a mistake; just a mistake”.

Somehow, for the last few hours of humanity, no mechanical conveyances, to include planes, cars, etc, would work.  It had nothing to do with the asteroid, and it perplexed those, who were trying, in vain, to get to a ‘safe’ place.  John was quite capable of saving the Earth from its impending doom, but decided that the only action he would take would be to ‘turn off’ those things that distracted people from taking stock, and being with their families before the ‘end’.  He intervened with the machines, but, otherwise, decided to do as he had done since this latest, but not first, incarnation of the ‘human’ race began to inhabit the moderately sized rock called Earth.  He felt pity for those, who inhabited it, but would not get in the way of what was to come.  He felt bad that his previous action, made some, in their last week’s of life, suffer through the uncertainty, and suspicion of an individual who made something happen; something that wasn’t part of the natural order of things. 

It was minutes before the asteroid would strike, and John opened his door to a wee little knock.  He looked down at the tiny girl standing there with a pitiful look on her face.  She couldn’t have been more than three years old.  He knew that she was being cheated out of a life that hadn’t even begun.  It wasn’t fair that it all be ripped away before she had a chance to live it.  A look of anguish came to the ‘being’s’ face as he continued to look down at this beautiful little creature with tear-filled eyes.  It really made him think.

It had been three hundred and twenty-five years since humanity ended.  John sat in his chair and watched a digital video of a 90s sitcom as a storm raged outside.  He awoke a few minutes earlier from a nearly one hundred and fifty year nap.  He had consumed all of the food he ‘stowed’ in during his first fifty years after the ‘event’.  He didn’t need to eat, but had quite enjoyed doing so while humanity existed.  He looked out and saw the fiery lava that covered most of the planet’s surface; turning the ‘sheets’ of rain that were falling onto it into steam.  He wondered what the ‘powers that be’ had in store for this place next time.  He settled into his comfortable, ‘otherworldly’, brick home to wait out, what might be tens of thousands of years or more.  ‘Got through that last cycle with only the one mistake’, he thought to himself; as he pointed the remote at the TV to fast forward through Ross and Rachel’s ‘we were on a break’ argument.  “At least there is something to watch this time”, he said out loud, before laughing at something Joey said to Monica.

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