Visits From A Man Named Nobody 51

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 51

T1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 // PT 48 // PT 49 // PT 50 //

“That’s a different problem, but repenting before God is only the highest form of repentance. You sought forgiveness from Stacy, which, apparently, she gave, at least to some degree.”

The car continued along the freeway as Paul considered what his mother said. Was that what he was after? He didn’t think so. “I wasn’t after forgiveness, Mom.”

“You were probably trying to be punished because you know what you did was wrong.” Her already normally soft voice was whisper quiet. She was sad about something. It was probably because Paul wanted punishment.

“I think people should pay for what they do,” Paul said. “I think they should get what they deserve.”

“I sincerely hope not,” his mother replied. “I want to give mercy, and I want to receive mercy. I know exactly what I deserve, and that’s why mercy is so wonderful.”

“You deserve to be happy!” The comment came out in a sort of muttered growl.

“And I don’t deserve to be punished for letting your father do what he did to us?” Paul’s head jerked at the question, which came out much more like an accusation.

“You were the victim!”

“And yet I let him do as much to you.”

Paul shut his eyes and took a deep breath. He hadn’t forgotten how he’d treated her as a child. He did whatever he wanted and expected her to let him. Then he got angry at her for giving him exactly what he wanted. It never made any sense. It only got better when he and Jordan became friends. 

“That’s not the same,” Paul said.

“It can’t be both ways, Paul. We either all get everything we deserve, or we all need mercy. But I’m of the opinion that if everyone got exactly what they deserve, we’d all be in a great deal of agony. And before you make some crass extreme counterargument, I acknowledge that some people are far more evil than others, but that’s not my point.”

“There is no one who is good,” Paul said.

“That’s,” she paused in shock. “That’s exactly right. Have you been reading the Bible?”

He’d never even considered telling her before this moment. It never came up. “I read the whole thing around the time he was arrested.” Paul refused to speak his name, and he’d die a million times over before he acknowledged that man as his father. 

Not that it worked. He was literally just like him, and he deserved exactly what that man got. 

A memory flashed in Paul’s mind. It was the night of Nobody’s first visit. The bastard had passed out drunk, and a bottle had tipped over. Paul set it right to be positive the alcoholic wouldn’t trip and hurt himself.

“Paul, are you there?” He’d been years away in the past and hadn’t heard his mother.

“Sorry,” he said. “I zoned out for a second.”

“I was asking why you read the Bible then?” 

That answer would lead to a lot of other questions. Paul had eluded to Nobody once or twice, but he’d never told the whole story. As he thought, he figured he should have lied to his mother, saying he’d read the Bible after he got close to Bill, but he couldn’t bring himself to lie to his mother or about Bill.

“I was looking for answers.” That was at least a part of the truth. “I didn’t find any. I read the whole thing. I think I’ve read it two or three times, but I don’t believe any of it.”

“Because of what happened to Bill.” She said it as gently as she could given her tone, but talking about Bill was always a way to get Paul angry. 

“Yes.” Maybe by being curt, she’d know to change the subject.

“We can’t accept just part of the Word,” she emphasized the capital. “It’s all true. It’s true that he’s sovereign. It’s true that he’s loving. It’s true that he’s the righteous judge, and it’s true that he calls us when it’s our time. We don’t get to pick when, and, to be honest, I don’t know that we’d ever accept the explanation even if he bothered to give it to us.”

“That part is for certain,” Paul muttered. 

“I’m going to ask about this girl now to shift the subject.”

Paul laughed. She could have just done it.

“I’m not doing it because I’m afraid or unwilling to debate or discuss this with you,” she explained. “I doing it because I’m trying to be patient. You’ve been patient, hearing what I’ve had to say. I think any more on this subject would just be an argument neither of us wants.”

“Yeah,” Paul admitted.

“I imagine Stacy is willing to allow you this chance to change,” his mother said. 

“But why? If I’m capable of doing what I did tonight, what else am I capable of?” And there it was. The last part of his question came out in whine of agony. He was a monster. He should be locked up before he hurt anyone. He wouldn’t be sorry if a bolt of lightning struck him down.  He needed to be punished. He needed to be stopped before he became that man.

“We’re all capable of horrible things, Paul,” his mother said. He couldn’t know for certain without activating the holographic feature of his PID, but he thought he heard a smile in her voice. “But you’re every bit as capable of becoming a kind, loving, patient man. If she’s ever willing to talk to you, maybe ask her why she was so willing to give you such precious gift as her own body. Why was she willing to be your girlfriend? I imagine it’s because she saw the man you could be, the other man you could be. I just wish you’d focus on becoming that man instead of avoiding the other.”

Paul glanced out the window as he ran a hand down his face to dry his tears. He caught the exit to his school from the corner of his eye, but he needed to admit something to his mother. “I’m so afraid of being him.”

“But if you focus on him, so that’s your target,” she said. “You have so many better options to focus on.” 

“Bill is the only better option I have, maybe Jordan or his dad,” Paul said. “I don’t know about so many other options.”

“I do,” his mother replied. “You’ve read the Bible. You have Enoch and Noah, Moses and David, the apostles and, most importantly, Jesus.”

“I thought you were changing the subject.” Paul muttered.

“I did, for an entire minute.” She sounded pleased at her quip. “And before you argue about it for the sake of arguing, go back and look at just one of those people. Would it really be so bad to be like them?”

Paul opened his mouth to say, “yes,” but that lie wouldn’t form on his lips either.

“Then there’s Paul,” his mother said. “Now there’s a case I think you could study. You could ask yourself why he called himself the foremost sinner, and yet he was still chosen to be an apostle to the Gentiles.”

Paul didn’t know what to say that wouldn’t either start an argument or get more Bible references. His contemplative moment turned into a period of silence.

“I’ll leave you to think on it now, but I hope you will,” his mother said. “We didn’t name you after the apostle, but you seem to focus on the punishments people deserved. It would do you some good to see the value of what mercy can do.”

“Ok,” Paul said.

“Thank you.”

Wait? Did she take that as a promise to look into it? “Mom —”

“I’m sure you’re near the school now, and you should see if Stacy is willing to talk to you,” his mother said.

“Mom, I —”

“I’ll talk to you later. I love you always, my son.”

She hung up. That was a dirty trick! She hung up before he could explain he was only acknowledging that he’d heard her. He shook his head. He didn’t actually promise her anything, and she knew it. He wasn’t obligated to study any of that stuff.

The car indeed pulled off the exit and started to pull around to one of the campus’s entrances. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 50

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 50

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The officer grabbed the door and opened it a bit wider to emphasize his point. Paul gave the him a slack-jawed stare even as he stepped out of the interrogation room. The officer escorted him around the building so he could collect his belongings and then led him out of the police station. 

“Bit of advice,” the officer said, “You might want to take a close look at how you treat the ladies in your life, and you also might want to look into how you react to certain things.”

Paul nodded. The officer probably wanted to arrest him and sentence him to whatever time in prison was warranted, but if Stacy and her new boyfriend were unwilling to testify, it wasn’t likely there was much to do. That left the officer no other option than to give that warning. A part of Paul wondered how that officer could operate in such a personable manner even though everyone knew Paul had done something terrible. 

What do I do? There wasn’t much else to do in the beginning other than use his PID to get a ride back to the school. For some reason, the officer’s words made Paul want to contact his mom, so he dialed her up on the PID and synched the wrist device to an earphone that he placed in his right ear. He just activated a privacy screen between himself and the driver when his mother answered. 

“Hello, my son!” She was always so cheerful when he called. Her good mood made him feel even more guilty.

“I really messed up, Mom.” Paul’s voice trembled as he spoke. 

“What happened?” There was no annoyed, resentful tone. Neither was she overly concerned as if she were freaking out that something was wrong. It was just a simple question. Maybe she didn’t understand how royally he’d screwed up.

He launched into the story. He kept interrupting himself. Each time, he thought his mother would respond with a rebuke, shout, or simple question; but she just listened.

“I’m on my way back to the university,” he said. “I’m not sure what to do.” 

“You’re not your father,” she said. 

It was every bit as much as what he wanted to hear as it was a lie. A tear rolled down his cheek. “But I did exactly what he would have done.”

“And what should you have done?” she asked.

“I should have treated her better,” he answered. “I should have been more interested in her than I was in … well, what we did together.”

“That’s true,” his mother replied, “but I’m asking what you should have done in that moment you saw them together.”

“I was so mad,” Paul said. “I couldn’t think straight.”

“Are you angry now?” his mother asked.

“A little, but, what are you getting at?” He glanced out the window to see how far the car had taken him since the conversation began. The freeway exit sign made it clear that, despite how long the conversation felt, they hadn’t been talking long. 

“I get that you were blinded in that moment, but you’re not blind now, so you have the time to think you didn’t have then. What should you have done?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I should have just left. Sure, we’d still have broken up. I don’t know that I would have realized what a jerk I had been being to her if I hadn’t done what I did, but at least no one would have gotten hurt.”

“We’re talking about controlling our bodies at church,” his mother said.

“Mom —” He didn’t want her to get into some sermon, but she didn’t seem to be in the mood to be stopped.

“You called me; that means you get my opinions, which I base on God’s word,” she said before continuing her point. “What I think is you try to control your anger by ignoring it. How’s that working for you?”

Paul muttered, “That’s not really fair.”

“But it is necessary,” his mother replied.

“So what am I supposed to do?” he asked, ironically feeling the grip on his temper begin to slip.

“The answer is simple to say but much harder to do,” she said. “You have to train yourself how to be angry without sinning.”

“And how do I do that?” 

“For starters, always start by asking if you have a right to be angry,” she said.

“So Christians don’t have a right to be angry?” He didn’t keep the sarcasm from his tone.

“The commandment wouldn’t be, ‘Be angry, and don’t sin,’ if we couldn’t be angry.” His mother’s patience seemed to make his sarcasm seem even more childish. “The fact that you think you can’t be angry at all is the problem. You associate anger with the violence your father inflicted on us, so you tried to avoid the one by ignoring the other, which is probably what he did, too.”

Paul didn’t say anything for a few moments. “So I am just like him.”

“No,” she said. “It’s true that you did something he had done, but that only makes you just like him if you respond the same way he did. He justified his abuse. He justified his anger. Is that what you did?”
“I don’t know that I had the chance,” Paul said.

“That wasn’t the question I asked,” she replied.

“No, I didn’t do that. I feel guilty. Like I said, I tried to turn myself in,” he said. 

“That is repentance.” His mom paused to emphasize the word “that.” She had a satisfied tone in that moment. 

“I didn’t ask God for forgiveness.” He was about to tell her he didn’t owe God anything, but she jumped into the conversation.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 49

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 49

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Fifteen

Jan. 29, 2036, 2:45 a.m. 

14 Years, 307 Days Ago

Paul didn’t have any luck finding Stacy until social media revealed just how badly he’d hurt her new boyfriend. Apparently, the man had ended up in the hospital for a dislocated knee. He walked through the sliding glass doors and stepped to the middle of a waiting area composed of hard plastic chairs.  He turned, just trying to get his bearings, and nearly tripped over Stacy, who yelped in shock as his arm just missed slamming into her. 

“What the hell are you doing here!?” 

Paul placatingly held up his hands and took a few steps back. “I’m only here to say you were right.”

It was hard to tamp down the anger again. His thoughts seem to argue with themselves.

She cheated on me!

I never treated her right.

Does that mean she can sleep around?

It means I failed her every bit as badly as she failed me. 

She scowled at him. “You’ve done enough.”

Paul took another step back. “I only came to say you were right, and I’m sorry.”

“You’ve said it!” For someone so beautiful, that enraged face held a special piercing horror to it.

“What’s going on here?” A police officer stood in the near hallway. Apparently, Paul’s apology and Stacy’s reaction drew the attention of the staff, but that actually did Paul a favor. 

“I’m here to turn myself in,” Paul said. 

“What are you doing?” Stacy’s face scrunched up in confusion.

“The right thing,” Paul answered. He turned his attention to the police officer. “My name is Paul Autumn. I’m responsible for putting .. “ He looked at Stacy. He didn’t know the man’s name. “Whoever it is she’s with, I’m the one who hurt him. I’m turning myself in.”

The police officer, a slender man with a face that somehow seemed to sag, looked from Paul to Stacy. “Young man,” he said, “I need you to understand that anything you say can and will be used against you.”

“I know,” Paul said. 

“Are you sure?” The officer asked.

“What are you doing?!” Stacy’s face shifted to one of confusion. Was she worried, or was it Paul’s hopeful imagination?

“I already told you,” Paul said. “I’m doing the right thing.” He looked back at the police officer. “I’m responsible for that guy being here, and I’m sorry. I’d like to leave my insurance and number with the nurse before you arrest me.”

The police officer’s brown eyes widened in shock, and he let out a chuckle. It looked like he’d just tripped and fallen on a PID containing a million dollar account number. “Um, that’s not really how it works.”

“Ok.” Paul turned his back to the officer and crossed his hands behind his back. He turned his head so he could see Stacy.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked. 

Paul smiled at her. “Because people should be accountable. Tell your new boyfriend I’m sorry for what it’s worth. And for how I treated you, I’m sorry for that, too.”

He hadn’t actually intended to turn himself in, but the moment the police officer showed up, it felt right. How many beatings had his father handed down before he wound up in prison? He wouldn’t go that far. He’d pay for what he’d done. It was all probably over. His scholarship. His experiment. Any hope of a job was probably down the drain given he’d have an arrest record. 

The police officer put the cuffs on him and read him his rights. As he did, Paul had a thought.

“Would you tell Jordan what happened?” He asked Stacy. 

She stared at him for a long moment before giving a quick nod. 

That was something, at least. They’d probably let Jordan stay in school. Paul decided to invoke his right to remain silent during the entire drive. He contemplated everything that led to that moment and decided it was probably how it was always going to go. He was always like his father. He was always just one explosion of anger away from what he’d done. 

By the time he reached this realization, the officer had pulled into the police station. Booking consisted of a mug shot and fingerprints. Somewhere along the line, he asked that a lawyer be provided for him. They put him in a large, white room that only had a few chairs. 

He sat there, playing everything over in his mind again. 

He wasn’t sure if he’d fallen asleep or if he just blinked, but the sound of the door opening drew his attention. The same police officer who arrested him entered. He looked somehow both annoyed, with furrowed eyebrows, and amused, with a slight grin. 

“You said you hurt him,” the officer said. 

“I did.” Paul didn’t bother to hide his confusion. 

“Well, I suppose you did at that, but you made it sound like you tried to kill him,” the officer said. 

“I almost did,” Paul said. 

“I don’t know about that,” the officer said. “His knee was reset. He’ll limp for a time, but he should be fine after a few months if what the doctors say is true.”

That was a relief in a way, but it didn’t change the fact that Paul had gone out of control. “I don’t understand,” he said. “You make it sound like I didn’t do anything wrong.”

“Based on that young lady’s statement and her boyfriend, you didn’t,” the officer said. He stood up and waved a hand at the door. “You’re free to go.”

“No,” Paul said. “What … what did they say?”

The officer shrugged. “Said you two were doing some sort of stupid wrestling contest, and things went south.”

Paul let out a frustrated breath and shook his head. “That’s a … “

The officer held a hand. “Now young man, I’m going to interrupt your incredible act of well-meant stupidity.”

Paul froze, unsure whether to feel insulted or not. 

“I imagine your story might be very different from theirs,” the officer said. “And I suppose only one of you can be telling the truth, but the problem I got is, that while you may be confessing to all sorts of things, if the supposed victims don’t report a crime, I have no case. So if you could just stop wasting my time and take the free chance you’ve been offered, I’m sure we could all use a little sleep and a perhaps a bit of time to think.”

Paul stood there dumbfounded. They’d lied for him? Why? 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 48

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 48

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 // PT 47 //

Paul was still burning with anger and shame. The conflicting emotions caused him to freeze in his doorway. “I think I might have killed him if I didn’t see those reflections.”

“I’d rather not contemplate what would have been, but I have a question: Why are you so angry?” Nobody asked.

Paul slammed the door to give his frustration something to do. The wood near where the latch met the frame cracked at the force. “She cheated on me!”

“Is she yours?” Nobody always had that sanctimoniously calm tone, and he had to know how angry it made Paul.

“She’s my girlfriend!” Even though he felt foolish, Paul couldn’t keep from shouting and gabbing his thumb into his chest. The rage wouldn’t allow him to control himself.

“And how did you treat her? Did you love her?”

“I never cheated on her! I never did anything to hurt her!”

“Is lack of abuse good treatment?”

Paul let out a frustrated sigh, clenching his fists. A tear rolled down his cheek. 

Nobody didn’t give him time to answer. “What was your relationship about? What did you do with her when you were with her? Was she your helper and trusted friend, or was she the object of your lust?”

Paul walked over and slumped down on his bed. The rage seemed to deflate, leaving the shame no opponent to distract it. I used her. 

“Most people these days treat sex like a going for a walk or like a hobby.” Nobody stopped and cocked his head. “I suppose that’s my opinion, but I can’t help but feel that way. They want to have all they sex they want to have without any of the cost. But when we think of sex that way, one can’t help but eventually see people as an object of their sexual fantasies rather than people. That’s why sex is reserved for a husband and his wife. The understanding should be that you are pieces of one another. If sex is a leisure or fitness activity, it’s selfish, but if it’s a demonstration of love, it’s about sacrifice, giving up a part of yourself for the sake of the other, for their pleasure.”

“She never said anything,” Paul whispered. “I’d come see her, and we’d be together. Then I’d head off back to the lab.” His voice trembled with remorse, and more tears came. “I hardly ever even called her.”

No wonder she left me. I never deserved her to begin with.

“I still hate you,” Paul muttered as he got himself together.

“You have no idea how ironic that statement is,” Nobody said. “Even though you hate me, you listen.”

“I still haven’t forgotten how you helped me,” Paul admitted. “But I still hate how much your advice hurt.”

It was a strange contradiction that Paul couldn’t wrap his head around. Nobody’s advice and encouragement helped him escape an abusive father, improve his relationship with his mother, and find a better father figure. Of course, that same encouragement led Paul to lose that father figure. 

“I wish life only gave you good things.” Nobody stood. “More importantly, I wish the presence of pain in your life didn’t so easily blind you to the good things that are there. Human beings take so much for granted. Then, when we lose something or someone we cherish, we hate God for taking them, but we forget He gave them to us in the first place, and we get even more angry because we can’t help but notice all the missed opportunities we had.”

Again, Nobody’s voice seemed to shake, as if he too were fighting back tears. He cleared his throat. “You focused on your goal, and you had a great accomplishment today.”

He was talking about the experiment. 

“I’m close.” Paul didn’t feel any of the satisfaction he did an hour ago. 

Nobody shrugged. “Does that success matter in this moment?”

It didn’t. His shame and regret for ruining a good thing made his pride in the experiment seem stupid. Paul offered a similar shrug in return.  

“Another thing that happens when we use people to satisfy our lusts is that we forget they’re people we can share our joys and sorrows with.” Nobody stood. 

“What do I do?” Paul asked. He hated himself for asking the moment the question escaped his mouth. 

“You already know where I look for answers, and I think you already know what to do in this case.” Nobody lifted up his arm and tapped a device on his wrist. Was that a PID? It was so thin. 

The sensation that accompanied Nobody’s teleportation was the same. A part of Paul focused on the new information, even as he contemplated Nobody’s words.

As the temperature fluctuated, and the surging electrical sound rang in Paul’s ears, a strange web of electric blue light formed around Nobody. The pattern was spherical, perhaps a perfect sphere. The field seemed to grow from Nobody’s feet to the top of his head. As soon as the field surrounded Nobody light flashed, and he was gone. 

Paul let out a chuckle. Of course Nobody didn’t bother to turn a corner or close a shower door. Paul already knew about the vacuum field. But how did he connect the fields without tearing a hole through the planet?

Paul laughed again. The jerk was teasing him, forcing him to ask questions. Paul decided not to let his mind wander down that path. He had a lot of more important things to do. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 47

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 47

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 // PT 46 //

Paul smiled. “This is the first step.”

Jordan returned the gesture. 

It was amazing. Paul has been striving to understand how Nobody did it for more than ten years, and he finally had made real progress. There were more questions to answer, but Paul couldn’t stop long enough to consider them. This was amazing! It was so awesome!

“I have to tell Stacy!” 

Jordan rolled his eyes. “Fine.” It came out a resigned sigh. “I’ll clean up and draft the paper.”

Paul darted out of the room and sprinted along the campus. He flew past the cafeteria and into the Sigma Alpha Sigma sorority house. 

“Paul!” One of Stacy’s sorority sisters, maybe her name was Amy, called to him, but he didn’t want to stop. 

He ascended the stairs and burst into Stacy’s room. His mind barely registered the feeling of a white towel on her door nob as he swung open the door to find Stacy in her bed with another man.

Shadows seemed to creep around his vision. His heart swelled with fury, and all he could see was the man with his girl. Blond hair, deepened a shade of brown by sweat, fell over his face and shoulders. He had a narrow face highlighted by a five o’clock shadow and brown eyes. 

Paul couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t even think. All he could do was stare at that face. 

Stacy called to him, but Paul barely heard her. He stomped over to the bed.

The man tried to kick at him. Paul laughed. A kick? Paul had once been thrown through a table! He grabbed the man’s leg and yanked. A strange pop came from the man’s hip as Paul twisted, still pulling. The bastard flew out of the bed and slammed into the wall. The dry wall collapsed, and a mirror fell from the wall, shattering despite the carpet on the floor. 

Paul finally saw something other than that bastard’s face. Each shard of the broken mirror, a mirror Paul had never even seen before, reflected Paul standing. The look on his face horrified him. 

It was a perfect reflection of his father’s face.  He remembered his promise to himself.

I’m never going to be that man!

Paul shut his eyes, trying to remember the promise even as every fiber in his being wanted to kill the man on the floor. Shame and guilt warred with anger and betrayal.  

“If you can stand and walk, get out.” 

“What are you doing?” Stacy screamed the question. She’d finally managed to get out of the bed, a sheet wrapped around herself. 

“I could ask you the same question.” Paul heard himself and was afraid at the rage barely hidden in a whisper.

She betrayed you! How long has she been sleeping around? Is this the only other man?

Paul heard his own knuckles cracking as he clenched his fists. 

This is it, Paul thought. This rage is what he must have felt

But that wasn’t the real issue. He was hurt, ashamed, confused, and sad. The anger was a reflex. 

The man managed to get to his feet. He looked at Paul, who had his father’s large, stout frame even without lifting weights. If that idiot fought him, Paul might kill him. 

They locked eyes, and the man jerked as if frightened by something. Then he limped slowly out of the room.

Paul shut his eyes, trying to will away the rage. 

Stacy reached back and slapped him.

Everything seemed to freeze. Paul stared at her with eyes wide with shock and fury. Stacy trembled for a moment and then stood tall. 

“This is the first time you’ve come to see me in a week,” she said. She slept with another man, and now she’s lecturing him? “The only time you bother to see me is when you want sex. I thought you were different. I thought you actually cared.”

“Are you trying to justify your own actions against mine?” Paul’s tone caused her to take a cautious step backward. “So you cheated on me because I was inattentive. So what should I do now that you’ve created on me?”

He wasn’t looking at anything as he pondered his own questions, but the last one caused him to look at her. She looked back at him, and he recognized that face, too. It was the same look of determination he used to give his own father.

I won’t be that man! 

He replayed the last three minutes of his life in his head. I already am that man.

His head fell. “I’m sorry.”

He left, careful not to come anywhere near her. A part of him wanted to lash out. He’d forgotten how strong he actually was. He wanted to go find that man and pummel him into oblivion. Instead, he stalked through the campus toward his dorm.

Every step, his mind replayed what had happened. A part of him still wanted to kill him.

He made it to his door.

“It was you, wasn’t it?” He hadn’t opened the door yet, but he knew. He turned the nob and entered.  “You put the mirror in there at some point.”

Stacy could have bought it. She was right. He couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d taken her out. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d spoken to her. He was so busy. The closer he got to the answer, the more he pulled away. Who knew what changes Stacy made to the room between visits, but Paul doubted it was her. That mirror had to be put exactly where it would land exactly how it did. If it hadn’t, Paul might have killed a man.

“Yes.” Nobody sat at the chair beside Paul’s desk.

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 46

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 46

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 // PT 45 //

Fourteen

Jan. 28, 2036, 8:19 p.m. 

14 Years, 308 Days Ago

Paul stood next to Jordan in a chamber that was hardly big enough to contain the equipment they needed. The applied physics team was nice enough to provide materials and do some basic setup, but after some brief excuses, they headed out, leaving Paul and Jordan to do the rest of the work. They didn’t think the experiment would work. If it did work, there was, of course, the small possibility that they’d create a black hole in the middle of Pittsburgh. 

They were being overdramatic. 

With the help of computers, Paul ran simulations thousands of times. Yes, one of those times formed a Black Hole, but that one in thousands chance was contingent on the vacuum they were forming actually connecting to some other random vacuum. So as long as they didn’t expand the tube into the atmosphere, that could never happen. 

A metal shell in the back of the room looked a lot like an egg, and it served two purposes: First, it would contain the spacial vacuum Paul and Jordan sought to create. Second, it would show them if their vacuum field needed a container. 

It shouldn’t. Nobody would have had to build little stainless steel chambers everywhere. That was the big news this experiment promised. A self-contained vacuum would be a big scientific advancement in and of itself, but it was just the first truly big step toward Paul’s goal. 

The egg, there really wasn’t any other thing to call it, contained various instruments. The test was to see if they could create a field in natural space without, well, breaking the fabric of space. 

Most thought that the egg itself would just become a vacuum. This would mean the experiment was a failure. It would mean the school would have wasted thousands on a project that hadn’t made any new advancements. It might even mean Paul and Jordan would lose their scholarships a little more than a year before graduation. 

Two feathers rested at the top of the egg’s interior, where the vacuum shouldn’t reach. They were held up by clamps that Jordan could release with the press of a button. In a vacuum a feather would fall as quickly as a brick. If the feathers fell quickly, that meant the egg had become a vacuum, and they’d failed. 

Of course, if the feathers just slowly drifted all the way down, that would also mean they failed. 

“Do you want to activate it?” Jordan asked. 

Paul smiled. “No, you can do it.”

Jordan shrugged. “I was … I was sort of actually hoping you’d do it.”

Paul chuckled. “That way, it would be my fault if we destroyed the Milky Way.”

Jordan gave a wry smile. “I mean, if we really mess this up, at least we know no one will remember us.  We’ll have destroyed all life in the galaxy.”

Paul cocked his eyebrows as a thought hit him. “Doesn’t the Bible say the world will end in fire or something.” 

Jordan’s head jerked back. “That’s 2 Peter.” 

“Sure,” Paul said. He didn’t know the verse. He just knew he read it. 

“I keep forgetting you’ve read it,” Jordan said.

“I didn’t memorize it, but, ‘destroyed by fire’ is a pretty memorable phrase,” Paul said. He hadn’t so much as looked at the Bible Nobody had given him for years. “So if the world is supposed to end in fire, we should be fine.”

Jordan smiled. “That … That’s actually true.” 

That worked? Paul was actually just trying to be sarcastic and maybe send a not-too-painful jab in Christianity’s direction, but it actually seemed to make Jordan feel better.

“In that case, I’ll do it!” Jordan positioned his hand over the control station that activated the equipment. “Start the recording.”

Paul walked over to the room, where a control panel sat where most would put a light switch. The room was open to most of the scientific courses of study, and it was equipped with cameras that could record to the cloud, documenting the experiments. Paul pressed the familiar red-circle button and returned to Jordan’s side. 

“Self-contained spacial vacuum attempt experiment: First Trial.” Jordan spoke in a booming orator voice, trying to be sure the cameras picked up the audio. He activated the system.

Paul immediately smiled. The air in the room dipped to freezing, swung up to an incredible heat and normalized. Water dropped from the egg as if it had suddenly dropped from the sky. It was exactly how it felt whenever Nobody traveled. 

Also, the world didn’t end, so that was nice. 

Paul crowded in closer to Jordan to look at the monitor that connected to the camera inside the egg. Everything seemed to be working still, and that was another plus. But they still didn’t know if the experiment was successful or not. 

Jordan looked at Paul and smiled again. “This time I think you should do it.”

“Um, the world is probably safe from us at this point,” Paul replied.

Jordan nodded. “Uh-hu, but now I think you should do it because it’s sort of your project.”

Paul chuckled. “Ok.” He reached out, holding in a breath as his finger rested above the button that would open the clamps holding the feathers in the egg.

He pressed the button. They watched the screen. The finger-like clamps holding the feathers opened at the same time. The feathers slowly flittered downward. 

“Yes!” They both shouted. Paul wanted to jump around, but that only meant the upper portion of the egg did not have a vacuum. If the feathers never dropped, it would be because they never made a vacuum in the first place.

“Come on!” Jordan said. 

The feathers swung around each other.

“Come ooooooon!” Paul said. 

The feathers swung in the air, drifting downward. They’d only traveled a few centimeters, but they seemed to be taunting Paul. 

Then, one feather shot down as if it had turned to stone. The second feather drifted up. As it fell back down, the pace shifted. One moment, it was a feather, drifting down. The next moment, it could have been a brick. 

“Yes!” This time, Paul and Jordan leapt into each others arms laughing. “We did it!” 

They laughed and celebrated another few moments. They then talked over each other, checking the readings and looking at the data. How big was the vacuum field? How long did it last? 

A thought occurred to Paul. “Shut it down!” 

“What? What’s wrong!” Jordan asked.

Paul slammed his palm onto the emergency shutdown button. Jordan stared at him as if he’d gone mad.

“Look,” Paul explained. “We don’t know the effect a sustained field will have. We have the data we need, but let’s not try our luck by leaving that field open too long.”

“Right,” Jordan said. “Good point. Let’s not tempt fate.”

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 45

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 45

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 // PT 44 //

Her hand in his sent shivers along his body. She led him down a hallway, and all he could do was stare at her hair as it swished around her long, slender neck. She opened a door and guided him into a bedroom. 

An enormous bed dominated the room. It had a red quilt that matched the color of the wooden frame. A vanity sat along the far wall. She stepped over to the it and pointed at another door.

“Bathroom is in there,” Stacy opened a drawer and started shifting through its contents. “Take off your shirt.”

“Um, what?” Paul stood dumbfounded trying to look at the door and Stacy at the same time. 

She turned around, holding a white pull-over t-shirt. “You gonna wear that beer covered shirt for the rest of the party?” One of her eyebrows curled up. 

Paul shrugged. He took the shirt and went into the bathroom before taking off the old shirt.  When pulled the soiled shirt off, he saw Nobody sitting on the white lid of the toilet.

Paul cursed in shock. 

“What’s wrong?” Stacy asked from the bedroom.

“Nothing,” Paul lied, staring at Nobody. “I just almost tripped is all.”

“This path only ends in heartbreak.” Nobody spoke softly. Apparently he didn’t want Stacy to know he was there any more than Paul did. 

“What are you doing here!?” It was hard to shout while whispering, but Paul managed it. 

Other than the sink and the toilet on which Nobody sat, the only other fixture was a bathtub. A muted-glass wall with a small door topped the rim of the tub, allowing it to serve as a shower without the use of a curtain.

“What are you expecting to happen?” Typical. He ignored Paul’s question to ask one of his own.

“Even you have to know what I’m hoping to get out of this. You wouldn’t be here if it weren’t at least possible,” Paul whispered even after turning on the sink faucet to cover the conversation. 

“Why her?” Nobody asked.

“Have you seen her?” Paul asked in reply. 

“Is she special?” Nobody asked. “She certainly isn’t your wife.”

The fire that always lived deep in Paul’s chest seemed to grow hotter. “I’m not a little boy you can just order around.” The words came out in a growl. “I even know where you’re going with this, but Bill died. He died never having what he wanted.”

“Do you truly think Bill regretted not having sex?” Nobody asked. 

“I’m sure he regretted a lot of things.” Paul used one of the towels that hung on a rack fixed to the door. He wet a part of it and used it to wipe his chest and stomach. “I’m not going to let go of an opportunity like this.” 

“One of the great lies of sin is the idea that what you think you want is going to satisfy you,” Nobody said. 

Paul smiled, turning the towel so he could dry off. “I have every intention of being satisfied.”

Nobody’s head sank. He stood up and opened the small door of the combination bath and shower. “Is that really all she is to you?”

“She’s smart, beautiful, and successful,” Paul said. “Any guy would be lucky to have her.”

“But is it that you want from her?” Paul felt Nobody’s eyes lock onto is own despite the opaque mask he wore. 

“I don’t know, but I know I want this,” Paul replied. 

Nobody carefully stepped into the shower. 

Paul chuckled. “Are you seriously going to teleport from in there?”

Nobody paused with the door half shut. “Did you want to talk about how I do it?” His head turned back to the door to the bedroom. “Or did you have other things on your mind.”

Paul looked from Nobody to the door. He only got more angry. “You’re not going to take this from me. You wouldn’t tell me how it works anyway.”

“No,” Nobody replied. “I wouldn’t. He shut the door.” 

Paul watched as the plexiglass flared with bright light. As always, the temperature seemed to dip to freezing, swing to boiling and shift back to normal as the light of the teleportation burst to life. 

He turned around and turned off the sink faucet. Then he put on the plain shirt Stacy had given him. He looked in the mirror. Bill died without so much as enjoying one moment of being in a relationship. Paul refused to miss out on those same things. Of course, that didn’t mean he was guaranteed to get what he wanted. He took a few deep breaths, and walked out.

Stacy sat on the bed. She was beautiful. She wore a strange smile that Paul felt both encouraged and confused by. 

“You’re more shy than I thought you’d be,” she said. 

Paul shrugged. “I don’t really know what to say.”

They both laughed. “You’re weird,” she said. 

“I don’t think I’m weird,” he replied.

“You are.” She used her hand to pat a spot on the bed beside her. “Let’s talk.”

Paul sat down. Next to her, he could smell whatever perfume she wore. He couldn’t identify the scent, but it might as well have been some sort of magic potion. It seemed to cloud his thoughts. “I don’t want to miss out in life.” 

“What would you miss out on?” she asked. 

“Someone … “ His voice caught. “Someone close to me died a while back.”

Her face and posture shifted. She frowned. “Who?”

Paul shook his head. “It’s hard to explain. Can we talk about you for a while.”

She tilted her head. “What do you want to know?”

He looked into her eyes. “Everything.” 

They talked for what seemed like forever. She told him about growing up. She told him about her goals to have her own business. He just listened. It was much easier to listen to her talk than to think about his life. She talked about growing up. She talked about getting into college. 

“Isn’t this boring?” She laughed and shifted as if she meant to stand. 

He snatched her hand. “No!” He smiled. “It’s not boring at all. You’re amazing.”

“I’ve just been talking.” She chuckled softly, letting herself settle back down onto the bed. “I didn’t think you’d listen to all of that.”

Paul smiled. “I already told you. I want to know everything.”

She returned the smile. She leaned in, gently kissing his lips. He was nervous at first. It felt like all of his muscles came to life at once. He held himself back for a moment, afraid to let his desire take over. Then she grabbed his head and climbed onto his lap. After that, they both let their passion run wild.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 44

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 44

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 // PT 43 //

Paul and Jordan arrived at the Sigma Alpha Sigma sorority house more than an hour after the party’s scheduled start time. Paul didn’t really know the rules of a party, but he felt certain that showing up at the start time was considered uncool.  The four-story building seemed to be jumping with music. It was an effort not to stare at it. They weren’t the sort of people to be invited to these sorts of places. 

“I don’t think I’m going to go in,” Jordan said.

“What?” Paul asked. “Why not?”

Jordan gave him a flat look. 

“What good is it being all religious if you’re never going to have fun?” Paul asked.

Jordan jabbed a thumb at the sorority house. “What they’re doing in there might seem like fun, and maybe some of them are great people, but the majority?” Jordan shrugged. “Dude, they’re in there to get drunk and get laid. It’s not about actual fun; it’s about gratification.”

“Maybe I need a little gratification.” Paul said. 

Jordan gave him a look of pity, which bothered Paul.

“Dude you can do or not do whatever you want, but don’t get all judgmental on me,” Paul said.

Jordan closed his eyes as if Paul had just called him a name. He took a deep breath. “Fair enough. You have a right to do what you want, and I know you like Stacy. Just, just be careful, ok?”

“You’re really not coming in?” Paul asked.

Jordan shook his head. “It’s not about not having fun. I think all those people in there think they’re having a great time. But tomorrow half of them will be hungover, and another percentage will walk to their dorms in shame, regretting the fun they thought they were having. Go in there and take Stacy out on a real date. Get to know her.”

“That would be really great,” Paul said smiling and raising his eyebrows. 

“Not that way!” Jordan said. “Sure, she’s pretty, but what do you like about her?”

“You just said she’s pretty,” Paul replied.

“Lot’s of girls are pretty,” Jordan said.

“Not as pretty as her.” Paul smiled again. “If you’re not coming, I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Jordan returned the smile. “OK.” He at least made an effort to hide his disapproval, which Paul supposed was something. 

Paul turned around and looked at the door. He had no interest in the drinking, but he wanted Stacy. Maybe it was shallow, but was there anything wrong with a man wanting a woman? How did relationships really start without physical attraction anyway?

Paul climbed up the three stone steps to the building’s large oak door. He pressed the doorbell and waited. The already ear-bursting volume of the music seemed to triple when the door opened revealing a short brunette wearing a sleek black pullover dress. 

She was smiling when she opened the door, but one glance at Paul caused her to frown. “Um … “ 

She jerked and looked at her PID.  The invitation link must have pinged her device. She shrugged as she glanced at the notification. “Come on in.”

Paul walked in. He hardly got both feet inside without having to push through the crowd. Was it legal to have this many people in one place? Paul turned sideways to maneuver past two dancing women and had to pull one kissing couple apart to get by. They only grunted, pulling away from each other for the second it took to let Paul past. Paul had never understood the cliche “bull in a China shop” until that moment.

“Woooo!” A male student, who wasn’t wearing a shirt, passed by with a clear plastic cup full of some drink or another. “Welcome to the party!”

Beer splashed on Paul’s face before he even knew what was happening. Paul could hardly see. He sputtered and tried to wipe his face. 

“Dude! Don’t waste it!” the student said chuckling. “Respect the brew, man!” The cup only had about another centimeter in it, but the man tossed it back and let out another wail, walking away.

Paul was preoccupied with trying to get the alcohol out of his eyes. 

“Not really used to this kind of scene are you?” Even despite the amused derision, Paul knew Stacy’s voice.

He took another moment to use what used to be a nice button-up shirt to wipe up his face. However angry he was, he was that much more determined to talk to her.

“Worth it if I get to see you.” He gave what he hoped was a winning smile. 

She laughed and shook her head. “Flattery got my attention,” she said. “But what got you in the door was how nice you were.”

“Nice?” It was strange. Paul had to basically shout to be heard, but he doubted anyone outside a one-foot radius could hear him. 

“When you helped that cafeteria worker,” Stacy said. 

“That?” Paul asked. “I was just cleaning up a mess.”

“You didn’t have to,” she said. 

“I didn’t have to throw my food all over the place either, but I did. Well, we already discussed whose fault that is,” Paul replied.

Stacy frowned at him. Her brown stare grew harsh. Why? Didn’t he just compliment her.

“So what, you’re just going to stare at me and tell me I’m pretty?” Her tone frosted over. It was almost like she was a different person. 

“Well,” Paul thought for a moment. Something Jordan said before he left seemed to echo in his mind. “Look,” he said after another second of thought. “What I want is to get to know you. Yeah, you’re pretty, and I bet a lot of guys are into you. Yes, I’m one of those guys, but I’m not just after you for, well, you know.”

She gave him a skeptical look, but she seemed to be at least calming down. “You want a drink?”

He shook his head. “I don’t drink.”

Her lip quirked in what might have been a smirk. “You don’t drink.”

“No,” he said. 

She shrugged, but her posture seemed to shift again. Did he just pass some sort of test? “Come on,” she said. “I’ll show you where you can clean your face and maybe find another shirt.”

She grabbed his hand and proceeded to guide him up the large spiral staircase that lead out of the main floor where the bulk of the partygoers were frolicking.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 43

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 43

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 // PT 42 //

Jordan shrugged and started making his way to a table. As they walked, Paul’s eyes were drawn to a woman.

Woman was an understatement. Her name was Stacy Ailman, and she was beautiful. She had long blonde hair and beautiful brown eyes. Paul’s eyes drifted down to the pale-white halter top she wore, and the secrets the criss cross of cloth barely contained. 

Then he stepped right into one of the cafeteria’s support beams. His tray of food slammed into his body. His head bounced off the cement pillar. His pride was crushed under a mountain that had somehow fallen onto him.

His vision flickered for a moment before he realized he’d fallen on his butt, covered in food. His stomach growled as if reprimanding him for wasting the meal he’d just finished preparing. 

“Are you ok?” Jordan had set his food down and rushed to help Paul up. 

Stacy was laughing with a group of other women at the idiot who’d just embarrassed himself. 

Paul tried to fling what he could off his shirt. “I’m fine.”

“What happened?” Jordan followed Paul’s eyes to Stacy. “Ooooh.”  He chuckled for a moment before he managed to cover his mouth with his hands. “Sorry dude, but that’s funny.”

Paul couldn’t blame his best friend for laughing. He honestly couldn’t focus long enough to be angry about it. Stacy was still staring. Well, I have her attention.

He took a deep breath and made his way over to her table. Jordan started whispering at him. His friend seemed to get louder as Paul got closer. 

The look Stacy gave Paul when she realized he was heading her was wasn’t the most encouraging. It felt like she was investigating an ugly dog that was cute to look at, but not worthy of petting. 

“So I’m going to need about $40,” Paul said. He had no idea what he was doing, but he was determined to use this opportunity to talk to her no matter how horrible it was. 

“What?” Stacy asked.

“To replace my shirt,” Paul explained. “It’s your fault.”

“My fault?” Stacy looked at the women to her left and right as if they could offer insight to the situation.

“Yeah,” Paul said. “You’re so beautiful I can’t look away.”

Her jaw dropped as the women around Stacy started chuckling.

“Seriously,” Paul said. “You should have some sort of warning sign that you ware. Danger, looking at me may cause loss of attention and possible collisions with stationary objects.”

The women kept laughing, but Paul couldn’t shut himself up.

“Not that the stupid sign would do any good. I couldn’t look away from you for a second to avoid a pillar, so looking away for a sign wouldn’t really have happened, but it might have given you some sort of legal loophole to work around.”

Paul wasn’t sure laughter was the reaction he was supposed to go for, but Stacy wasn’t laughing like her friends. In fact, she started to look a little angry.

“So you’re a pervert, staring at me, and that’s my fault?” she finally asked.

“I’m pretty sure Van Gough wasn’t angry people looked at his paintings when he hung them up,” Paul said. “Besides, I’d sooner avoid looking at the sun on a nice day than look away from you. In fact, it is a nice day. The sun is out. I still can’t take my eyes off you.”

The peanut gallery gave another round of chuckles. 

“So I’m not pervert for having eyes,” Paul said.

“But it’s my fault you can’t control them?” Stacy asked.

“Yeah,” Paul said. “I mean I suppose on a genetic level you could blame your parents, but Zeus and Persephone would probably just shrug as if it couldn’t be helped.”

The giggles from the ladies grew into outright laughter. 

“Who are you?” Stacy asked. Is it just me, or is she honestly a little amused? Paul thought she was fighting a smile. He honestly had no idea what he was saying. 

“You can link your PID to my account, Paul Autumn. I’m usually in the science building, so you can drop off cash if you prefer.”

“That explains the smell,” one of the girls around Stacy muttered. 

Right. He’d been working more than a day straight. 

“Standing by Stacy, a flower would smell like crap,” Paul said.

Stacy jerked back at the sound of her name. Ooops.

“So you’re a pervert and a stalker?” she said.

“You’re head of the cheerleading squad, class representative, and we have the same biology class. I’m not a stalker,” Paul replied. “You, however, could probably do with a bit of courtesy in learning the names of people you’ve literally had study group with.”

Her eyes dropped for a second, and Paul felt jealous of the white floor tiles. Why should they get her attention? 

“Ohhh,” Paul said. “Surprised to realize that you might be a little oblivious?”

She looked up at him, but he cut her off. “I can’t blame you. It’s not like the sun can really notice how many retinas it burns because people stare at it, and you’re much more beautiful than some stupid ball of gas.”

The girls around her giggled again.

This wasn’t exactly how he thought getting to know a woman should go. In fact, Paul was pretty sure conversations should involve more than passing insults, but it’s what he had to go with. 

“Anyway, Let’s make the balance due sixty, because you also made me drop my food. I’m going to go eat now. You can bring payment whenever you have the money available.”

Paul walked away. He was about to get another tray of food when he saw a cafeteria worker cleaning up the mess he made. Paul changed direction and started helping.

The worker smiled at him as they swooped up the food with a large, white towel. Paul smiled back when the work was done. 

“Thank you!” the worker said. 

“It wasn’t your fault,” Paul replied. “You shouldn’t have to clean up other peoples’ messes.” 

Paul finally collected another tray of food and made it back to Jordan. Paul barely set his tray down when Jordan started laughing.

“What was that?” he asked between guffaws. “Are you some sort of poet or a comedian?”

“Hey, I talked to her,” Paul said in his own defense.

“Well, you insulted her a lot, but in a strangely romantic way,” Jordan admitted.

“Yeah, that probably could have gone better,” Paul said finally digging in to the food.

He’d shoved everything he could into his mouth when he noticed a shadow. He looked up to find Stacy standing in front of him. 

“You helped him,” she said. 

“Who?” Bits of food flew out of Paul’s mouth as he asked the question. Smooth guy. Real smooth. 

Her eyes glanced at expelled debris and back to him. Paul tried to swallow the rest and promptly started to choke. The coughing that followed was a disgusting mess that made Paul wonder if he should consider avoiding women for the rest of his life. Jordan, thankfully, handed Paul a napkin that he used to avoid more gross embarrassment than he’d already earned.

“The custodian,” Stacy said. “You cleaned up with him.”

Paul got himself together and tried to wipe himself up to at least appear human. “Well, I mean he didn’t make the mess.”

“Oh,” she said. “I remember. That was my fault.”

She smiled, and Paul suddenly forgot where he was. She had to use some sort of special tooth paste or something. Teeth just weren’t that white. 

Paul shrugged, trying to regain the momentum he’d had. “That’s my view of the situation.”

“Fine.” Stacy held up a folded piece of paper and set it on what might be the only clean spot of the table left. “Clean yourself up. You look horrible.”

She walked away before Paul could respond. It was probably fair. He’d done the same thing. Paul looked down at the paper. 

He reached out and picked it up. It was a building and a time. Apparently there was a sorority party scheduled for that evening. Did he just earn a date? Did that actually work? 

“Huh,” Paul said. 

“That was so weird,” Jordan said. 

“I’ll admit it,” Paul said, “but at least it worked.”

… To be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 42

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 42

PT1 // PT 2 // PT 3 // PT 4 // PT 5 // PT 6 // PT 7 // PT 8 // PT 9 // PT 10 // PT 11 // PT 12 // PT 13 // PT 14 // PT 15 // PT 16 // PT 17 // PT 18 // PT 19 // PT 20 // PT 21 // PT 22 // PT 23 // PT 24 // PT 25 // PT 26 // PT 27 // PT 28 // PT 29 // PT 30 // PT 31 // PT 32 // PT 33 // PT 34 // PT 35 // PT 36 // PT 37 // PT 38 // PT 39 // PT 40 // PT 41 //

Thirteen

Oct. 14, 2032, 2:31 p.m. 

16 Years, 89 Days Ago

“Why are you so excited about this?” Jordan asked.

They were walking across the square at Carnegie from the lab to the cafeteria for some food. The sun was starting to hide behind some of the large, square buildings, proving that they skipped lunch.

“Because it means we’re close!” Paul said. There was no containing his excitement.

“Let me get this straight,” Jordan said. “We create a spatial vacuum. That pressure causes the water in the air to collect into a puddle, and that somehow means we’re close.”

“Yes,” Paul said confidently. Of course, he had seen that effect.

Each time Nobody had visited, there was always an inexplicable bit of water. Their experiments over the years had produced the same effect. Paul’s theory of teleportation involved creating a vacuum between where the person is and where he needed to be. That vacuum caused the very moisture in the air to condense. 

“I’m glad one of us is excited,” Jordan muttered.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Paul asked. 

The cafeteria came into view, and they each increased their pace without saying anything. Paul’s stomach rumbled. Had they skipped breakfast? 

“Paul, we created a true vacuum, which isn’t even anything new,” Jordan said. “We’ve been working for years, and all we’ve done is create a different shape of a vacuum tube.”

Paul snatched the handle of the cafeteria’s door and cocked an eyebrow at his friend. “You’re strangely sullen.”

“I’m just hungry,” Jordan said.

“Now I know you’re upset,” Paul said. “You lie about what you’re mad about, and I start wondering if it’s the end times.”

Jordan looked away in shame. “I just don’t know how we’re going to create a pocket vacuum that spans the planet without, well, destroying it.”

Ok, so that was an actual issue. Creating a vacuum between one area and another would make movement between the two much easier, but that vacuum would require the obliteration of everything in the vacuum. 

“We’ll figure it out.” Paul followed his friend inside. 

A data monitor on the wall drew Paul’s attention. Oh, Paul thought. So we skipped a few meals.  

The screen showed the date as Oct. 14, 2032. They’d apparently worked through dinner last night. They’d also missed breakfast and lunch. 

“And you’re strangely optimistic,” Jordan grumbled. “I just don’t get why you’re so excited by this when it looks so much like a dead end.”

They practically flew around the buffet line, snatching whatever they could get their hands on. Each time Paul saw a different piece of food, his stomach seemed to demand more and more. 

“I told you where the idea came from right?” Paul whispered. 

His friend and mother were the only two people who had any idea. They knew Paul had seen someone teleport, but they didn’t know anything else about Nobody. They certainly didn’t know how often and for how long the stranger had been visiting Paul.

Jordan nodded as he dumped half a tin of mixed vegetables onto his plate.

Paul took the other half. “Well, when I saw it … “ Paul emphasized the word it to ensure his friend knew what he was talking about. “ … there was a puddle.”

Jordan’s face screwed into a look of bewilderment. “But how? How did he travel from one end of the vacuum to the other without, well, destroying the planet?”

Paul shrugged. They made their way to the cashier to pay for their food. “What if we don’t create one vacuum?”

Jordan looked away long enough to pay for his food. “What good would that do?”

Paul stepped up in line and held out his PID.  He passed his wrist over a scanner, and the device instantly connected the cafeteria’s account to Paul’s, transferring the necessary funds. 

“What if the trick is creating two vacuums, one at location X and the other at location Y, and then connecting those two vacuums … somehow.” Paul was thinking out loud more than explaining anything. 

… To be continued …