Visits From A Man Named Nobody 63

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 63

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Eighteen

November 20, 2036, 2:21 p.m. 

14 Years, 13 Days Ago

Paul felt truly excited to be approaching his home. He hadn’t seen his mother in quite a while. He couldn’t help looking out of the car window during each turn. A smile came on his face. He spoke with his mother here and there about life and how things were going, but he hand’t been home since Christmas the year before. He took a short flight to get most of the way, some 200 miles, and sent a message for a ride the rest of the way.

The vehicle he was in turned the corner, and the smile on Paul’s face melted in to shock. A black, four-door car sat in the driveway. Paul’s PID dinged, and he jumped a the noise. It was just the driver connecting with his unit to collect the fair for his ride from the airport. Paul slowly got out of the car in a daze. 

It was the same color, make, and model. Paul reached out and touched the car, scrambling to think about what it meant. Maybe it was just the same type of car. It wasn’t like there was only one black car in all the world.

He tired the rear door, surprised it opened. He leaned in, looking at the center console. There it was: the tiny dent he put in it when he hit it in frustration. It was the exact dent, and this was the exact car Nobody had used to drive Paul home.

“So I guess you like it.”

Paul jerked at the sound and knocked his head against the frame of the car. He spun around even as he rubbed his skull. “Where is he!?”

“Where is who?” His mother stood before him in a long, form-fitting pea coat. Some blue jeans peaked out from under the black overgarment. A few streaks of gray had started to creep into her black hair, which was loose around her head and shoulders. 

“Who’s car is this?” Paul asked.

She laughed. “It’s mine.” She cocked her head at him in confusion. “I’m glad you like it?” Her voice squeaked as if it were more of a question than a statement. 

“You bought this car?” Paul asked.

She nodded. 

“When?” 

She shrugged, “About six months ago.”

The math flew through Paul’s mind. “Did someone come to borrow it from you. He’d be about my height with black hair.”

Her face lit up with a bright smile. “What’s going on?” She reached into her pocked and produced a key. “I had this key made for you, so you could borrow it whenever you wanted.” She walked over and held it out to him. “But no one has come to borrow it. Who would?”

So he did steal it! Well, Nobody borrowed his mom’s car without asking. Sure he returned it, but it was stealing regardless of whether or not he gave it back.

Paul held the key staring at it in thought. Then he looked at his mom. “I don’t visit you enough; do I?”

“Come on inside,” she said. “I have some food ready.”

Paul followed her in, and they both removed their coats. Paul wore a university shirt. He wasn’t exactly all about school spirit, but his mom liked the idea of seeing him in a school shirt. His mother wore a simple blouse. It was black with a series of white specks that made the shirt look like a pattern of stars. 

Sure enough, there was a feast on the table even though it was several days before Thanksgiving.  He chuckled. “Your church friends coming over to eat, too?” He tried to keep his tone even, but he never felt comfortable around her church friends. They weren’t bossy or preachy. They were a lot like Jordan, or even Bill. But it wasn’t exactly easy to sit around a table full of people who seemed determined to talk about God in some way, shape, or form.

“They’ll be here for Thanksgiving, but not today. I wanted my son to myself.” She sat down at the table and offered a silent prayer before making a plate. 

Paul bent over and gave her a side hug and a kiss on the cheek. “I’m glad to be home.”

He walked around the table and sat down across from her. 

“So you like the car, huh?” She stabbed her fork at a slice of ham. 

“Yeah.” She offered him the serving dish of meat, and he took it, gratefully plopping a few slices on his own plate before setting it down. 

They traded food as they spoke. 

“So did you notice the mileage change?” Paul asked.

She laughed. “I only pay attention to that stuff when I think it’s getting close to the time I need to change the oil.”

“What about the small dent on the back seat center console?” They’d finished filling their plates, and Paul set to cutting up his food.

“There’s a dent back there?” She took a bite of her own food, completely oblivious to the fact that someone took her car, drove it almost 200 miles,  and returned it.

“Yeah, I saw it when I was checking it out.” He also put it there, but he didn’t intend to say that. 

“The truth is I did buy it hoping you’d use it, which, yes, would mean I’d get to see you more.” She rolled her eyes as if he’d just caught her cheating in a board game. 

Paul let out a breath. “I’ll come visit more, but I wish you’d just say what you want.”

She took a bite, giving him a flat stare as she chewed and swallowed. “What I want is for you to want to come visit me more. I certainly don’t want you to show up on some regular basis just because you think you have to.”

“It’s not that,” Paul said. “I know I should visit more often, and I do want to. I just get caught up on work and other things.”

Her eyes glittered. “Do any of those other things have a name, maybe?”

“No.” This time he gave her the flat stare. 

“So no one since Stacy?” Her tone was as gentle as anyone could make it. She wasn’t trying to bring her up, just see if there was anyone new. 

Paul shook his head, trying to hide his frustration and shame. “Not me, but Jordan just got engaged.”

His mother dropped her knife and fork and clapped excitedly. “Oh that’s wonderful! Do you have a picture? What’s her name? How long have they been dating? What—“ she paused. “What’s wrong?”

She read his expression. Paul offered her a smile and worked at his PID, trying to find a picture of the three of them together.

“It’s OK.” He found a picture and sent it to her PID. 

“Ohhh, she’s beautiful! They look so happy!” She looked at him and narrowed her eyes. “So why does my son have that fake smile he uses when he wants everyone to believe he’s not angry about something.”

“I talked to them about it,” Paul said after swallowing another bite of food. “The truth is I was jealous about their relationship and how much time they were spending together. I felt left out, but we’ve worked it out.”

She stared at him.

“OK, so we don’t hang out like we used to,” Paul admitted. “But things are good in the lab, and I’m still his best man at the wedding.” He took another bite of food. “The truth is none of us really know how to act around each other, so we hang out every now and then, but we haven’t figured it all out yet. Honestly I still have to figure out how to be happy for them instead of thinking about how I’m losing out on two friends.”

“I see.” His mother grabbed a roll and used it to scoop up some mashed potatoes. “It can be challenging when relationships change.”

“How did you do it?” Paul suddenly realized she had experience. One minute, he was living there and hanging out, the next he was at college.

“I have to accept that you’re your own person,” she said. “I have to remind myself that I know you love me, and then I have to appreciate the time I do get with you.”

“Even if you have to buy a car to try and get me to spend more time with you?” 

She smiled. “It’s completely fair to provide motivation for people to come see you. But that motivation isn’t obligation, and that’s the real trick. I don’t want to guilt trip you into spending time with me. I just want to make sure I give you plenty of reasons.”

Paul nodded. That made a kind of sense. 

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 62

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 62

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Nobody turned off the freeway at the exit to the university. 

“Your friends love you, but their lives are changing, just like your mom’s life changed when she met Bill, and your life changed when you and Jordan went to college,” Nobody said. “You’re not losing Jordan and Lidia anymore than your mother has lost you.”

For some reason, the comment made Paul feel a touch guilty. Sure, he’d called her at least once a week just to say hello. They even played an online game or two just to spend time together. His guilt grew as he tried to remember the last time he’d gone to visit. 

Before that day, he’d just been thinking about how busy he was and how much fun it was to hang out with Jordan and Lidia. Now that he’d felt ignored for a while, he’d wondered if his mother felt the same way, cast off for the new and exciting life as if she’d never mattered. He stared at his PID, but he decided not to call her right there. He’d visit her tomorrow or the next day.

“It’s confusing when you visit,” he said quietly as he let his arm drop to his side. “On one hand each visit gives me a chance to see how your teleportation works. But then you get to talking, and I just want to rip off my own ears.”

“Has nothing I said ever helped you?” Nobody asked.

Paul gave a wry chuckle. “In a way I suppose a lot of it helps.”

He found the strength to call the police when his father was at his worst. He made a friend out of Jordan. And then there was Bill. Losing him hurt, but would he really rather never have met Bill? Wasn’t the life they had together worth holding on to?

But I miss him so much! I’d wouldn’t feel this pain if I didn’t know him.

“You wouldn’t feel loss so strongly if you didn’t have such a great relationship to begin with,” Nobody said. “One day, the pain fades, but that love, it lasts forever.”

“Stop!” Paul said. “Stop reading my mind.”

“I’m not,” Nobody said. “It only feels that way from your point of view.”

“What does my point of view have to do with anything?”

“Honestly, everything,” Nobody answered. “And the way you choose to look at the relationships in your life will have a tremendous impact on the anger you still struggle to control. Your anger comes from two placed, pain and possessiveness. If you can let go of just one of those, you’ll see a remarkable change.”

The car pulled up to Paul’s dormitory. “I have to return this car.” He didn’t say anything else until Paul reached over to open his door. “Are you in control of your life?”

The question froze Paul in his place. He wanted to argue he certainly wasn’t any god’s pawn or play thing. The problem was, he knew he didn’t have any real control. His scholarship was controlled by the board. His friends were pulling away. He’d pulled away from his own mother. He didn’t know if he’d ever have the thing he really wanted. 

“Life is life,” Paul said. “And if I can’t have the thing I want, the least I can do is try to be happy when people I love find it.”

“And what is it you want?” Nobody asked.

“Why do you ask questions when you know what I’m thinking and what I’m going to say?” Paul sank back in his seat and ran his hands down his face. “It’s pointless talking to you.”

“No it isn’t,” Nobody said. “Sometimes a conversation is more about helping a person understand what they’re thinking. I’m asking you to just say it out loud.”

“I want someone in my life I can keep!” He didn’t shout. In fact, it almost came out in a sort of whine. Admitting it felt strangely good and painful. “My mom, Bill, and now Jordan and Lidia, I love them, but I know they’re not mine. I feel like some sort of cool game I played as a kid. Sure, it’s fun to play for a while, but eventually you beat the game or get bored and move on. When will I meet someone who wants to be with me and not go or die?”

Of course, as soon as he said it, he realized how impossible that was. No one has control over when they die. 

“I suppose it’d be nice if there was a being who was eternal and willing to always be with you and never let you go,” Nobody said. “Of course, that means you’d have to believe in Him.”

Paul rolled his eyes and got out of the car. He didn’t even feel guilty about slamming the door. If God had been there Paul’s whole life, why let him get beat as a child? Why take Bill? Why give him such great friends if they were just going to go off on their own one day? And how did a person have a personal relationship with a god anyway?

Paul didn’t even bother looking at Nobody. He just stormed into the dorm and tried very hard not to think about how rejected and alone he felt. 

The End of Chapter Seventeen.

… to be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 60

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 60

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He left, trying to be as cheerful about it as he could be. As he wandered through the mall, he used his PID to request a ride. 

He made it to the exit and saw a car waiting. He took a moment to look around, failing to see anybody around. He knocked on the driver’s side window, intending to ask if the car was there for him. The PID indicated his ride was still a few minutes out, but the driver might not have taken the time to say he was there. 

The tinted window rolled down, revealing Nobody’s masked face. “I’ll take you home.”

Paul stood there, dumbfounded. It was strange to even consider. The man could immediately teleport wherever he wanted. Why would he own a car? What wasn’t strange was the fact that he was there. Nobody almost always seemed to appear when Paul was at his most angry or frustrated. It also happened to be when Paul least wanted Nobody around.

He went into the back seat and buckled in as if Nobody were indeed the public driver  he’d requested. 

“You own a car?” Paul asked.

“I’m borrowing it,” Nobody said.

“The perfect and holy Nobody stole a car?” Paul challenged. 

Nobody, who hadn’t started driving yet, turned back in his seat. That opaque mask covered the flat stare, but Paul felt it just the same. “I didn’t steal this car. More importantly, I’ve never once said I was perfect. Anyone who says they’re without sin is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

The phrase felt like a Bible verse, which annoyed Paul even more.

“So what it is?” Paul asked. “What’s the little pearl of wisdom you plan to throw at me before you drop me off and vanish?”

Nobody turned back in his seat and began to drive. “Why don’t you tell Lidia how you feel?”

Paul shut his eyes. His anger surged, but he wanted to keep it under control. “What does that have to do with anything?”

“Answer the question that I asked,” Nobody said.

“No!” Paul said. So much for keeping my anger in check. “You think you can just randomly appear and ask all these pointed questions, and I’ll just go through your imagined script without wanting answers of my own?”

Nobody didn’t say anything. 

“Why do you get to have all the answers you want, and I have to sit here and be interrogated?”

Nobody didn’t say anything.

“So you’ll ignore me unless I answer your questions?”

Nobody didn’t reply.

“Then pull over,” Paul said. “I’m done explaining myself to you.”

Not only did he refuse to say anything, he just kept driving. 

Paul’s rage flared, and he flung his fist into the center compartment nestled between the front seats and the back row of the car. By some miracle, he managed to pull the punch, but he still put a tiny ding in whatever material the compartment was made of.

“Let me out!” Paul roared.

The car pulled over. Paul stared at the door. What was he going to do, walk the rest of the way to his dorm? Maybe he could call for another ride? He glared at Nobody.

“Lidia and Jordan are happy,” Paul muttered, resting back in his seat. The car pulled off the side of the road and continued its journey.

“So,” Nobody said. “Don’t you think you could do more for Lidia?”

“I wouldn’t do that to Jordan, ever, and Lidia isn’t some sort of thing we can fight over. She could have kept trying to start a relationship with me. She didn’t.”

“Why not compete for her?” Nobody asked.

“I already said I wouldn’t do that to Jordan, even it if worked that way, and it doesn’t,” Paul said. 

“Why?”

“Because it’s wrong.”

“So there is a wrong,” Nobody said. 

Paul flung his arms in the air. “Of course there is!”

“Who decides what that is?” 

Paul rolled his head in disgust. There it was, his inevitable need to turn this into a conversation about God.

“Everybody knows there is a right and wrong,” Paul said. 

“But who decides what that is?” Nobody asked.

“You’d say God.” Paul didn’t bother hiding the sneer from his tone. “But people know what right and wrong is.”

“But where does that awareness come from?” Nobody asked. “If were were simply mammalian animals, we’d kill each other or worse just to satisfy our animalistic needs and wants. Some people stoop to those methods because their need seems so great to them they have no choice. So we do indeed have morality, but what is the source of that morality?”

Paul waited, frustrated at the logic. He thought years back about how Dorny would rant and rave at him for hours. There wasn’t any logic in what he said, just random thoughts filled with portions of the Bible even Paul knew were misquoted. Of course, thoughts of Dorny only led to thoughts about Bill, who also spoke with such reason and logic.

“You know the worst thing about your religion,” Paul muttered. “You all can’t get along yourselves. Some of you say this is what God wants, and others say this is what God wants.”

“When I want to understand what God wants, I turn to his Word.” Nobody said it so softly it was hard to hear under the engine of the car. 

“Yeah, but you can’t even agree on that!” Paul shouted. “And what does any of this have to do with Jordan and Lidia.”

“Everything,” Nobody said simply. “Everything comes down to a person choosing what master they want to satisfy. If you wanted Lidia, you could pursue her. She may refuse you, but that’s her choice.”
“I’ve already told you, I’m not going to try and take Lidia from Jordan. She’s not a thing to steal,” Paul said. 

“Then why do you covet her as if she were a thing?”

… to be continued …

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Greetings all,

Without getting into too much detail, we’re just trying to enjoy this Thanksgiving. I didn’t post on Wednesday (sorry for not announcing that), and I don’t expect you’ll see anything from me until Dec. 1. I might post a new entry to Visits, and I’ll post the video for the Week 3 of December on YouTube at the very least, but I’m taking it easy this holiday weekend. There is news and notes, and I’m excited to share it.

Have a bit of patience with me as we get a few things under control or managed. I’m not sure when I’ll offer more explanation or how much explanation I’ll offer. But I imagine I’ll be back on track next week. If not, I’ll at least update you.

For now, I urge you all to be with those you love. Surround yourself in love. Share it with everyone you can. Never miss a second. I am thankful for all of you. Your support has been priceless to me. I’m thankful for this chance to share my art and my dreams. I’m thankful for the chance to chase this dream.

I’m thankful for my wife and family, and the family they added to my life. No words can express that joy.

I’m most thankful for God, who created us all. He created my family. He measured my steps. He took a horrid, wicked man and by his grace, saved me through his Son Jesus Christ.

I am truly a blessed man, and I wish you all a blessed Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 56

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 56

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Seventeen

August 1, 2036, 9:25 p.m. 

14 Years, 124 Days Ago

Lidia sat next to Paul with her head on his shoulder. From her point of view, she was reading a book while they waited for Jordan to get out of the bathroom. She had no idea how much it tortured Paul to feel her on him. The first reason he didn’t say anything was because it made her happy and comfortable. The other reason was that he couldn’t understand how he’d end up in this situation. 

He worked so hard to help Lidia and Jordan see that they were the ones who liked each other, and somewhere along the way he came to realize how wonderful Lidia was. The one of the only things more powerful than his jealousy over their relationship was how stupid he felt for being jealous in the first place.

But neither of those were the worst of it. Jordan came out of the bathroom, and Lidia basically teleported to him. She flung her arms around him, and they kissed each other. They they started walking along the mall. It was like every time one saw the other, Paul vanished. The world fell away when they were together, which meant Paul ceased to exist. 

And they had no idea how lonely that made him feel. He didn’t just miss out on any hope or chance at a relationship with a wonderful woman, he felt like he somehow lost his best friend. They found happiness and love, and he was just more alone than he’d been in his entire life.

They actually made it to the end of the long segment of stores as Paul watched them walk. They turned the corner, completely unaware that they’d left him there. For a moment, he wondered if they’d notice if he went home. Maybe then they’d be ashamed. Maybe then they’d realize how insensitive they were being. But if he left, and they never even realized it, it would be the final proof. It would prove they didn’t care about him in the least. As long as they were together, nothing else mattered, especially not Paul.

He couldn’t bear that thought. Better for them to occasionally offer him some sort of token comment or chance to contribute to life before they vanished into one another’s eyes. Better to be a footnote in their lives than a distant memory. They didn’t even thank him for setting them up together. 

So Paul headed after them in a sort of jog. He ignored the panic in his heart as he turned the corner and couldn’t see them right away. He caught sight of Lidia’s hair and followed it to a pet store.

They were peering in at a group of puppies. 

Lidia cooed at a small white dog that had a single black spot where its back met its tail. The dot looked a little like a bullseye that made Paul chuckle a bit. 

“Aren’t they adorable?” Lidia asked. “Paul you should get one.”

“Why?” Paul asked with a chuckle. 

“Because they’re adorable!” Lidia’s overuse of the word didn’t really justify the reason in Paul’s estimation.

“I wouldn’t even have the first clue how to care for a dog. Also, they’re—“ 

“Jordan, can we get a dog?” Lidia asked.

Paul smiled. “ I don’t know that Jorda—“

“I’ll tell you what,” Jordan said. “Let’s not buy a dog now. We’ll talk about it. And if we still want a dog when we’re not looking at one, we’ll see what we can afford.”

“We?” Paul asked. 

“I think it would be fun,” Lidia said.

“Dog’s are pretty hard to ta—“ Paul said 

“Maybe, but let’s not make a decision in the moment,” Jordan said.

Paul let out a sigh. A few deep breaths helped him calm himself.

“Paul,” Lidia said, “do you think that getting an animal is a good test run for having a family?” 

“There’s no way I’m going to get—“

“Maybe we should talk about marriage more before we talk about having kids,” Jordan said.

“Wait, you guys are talking about marr-“ Paul said.

“It’s just a dog,” Lida said. “And it might help us see how we think as adults and parents.”

Paul realized he really didn’t want to be involved in the conversation, but it seemed clear they were already thinking about marriage and family. He wanted to be happy for them. He wanted to be excited. But given how the current conversation was going, he couldn’t help but feel even more left out. 

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 52

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 52

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The driver helpfully pulled in front of Paul’s dormitory. He stepped out only realizing how exhausted he was as he stretched. He forced himself to make the climb to his room. Each step seemed to be just an inch or so higher than the last. 

He found his floor and started down the hallway, targeting his door like some sort of sleep-deprived missile. He decided to message Jordan and take a sick day just to regain his energy. He was about to do just that when he noticed a note tucked into the crack in his door. 

He almost didn’t reading, supposing it would be Nobody, offering some vague connection that would only give him more to think about, but Nobody’s conversations and messages weren’t typically in public areas. 

That’s why he used his thick fingers pluck the note out and read it. 

“Paul,” It read. The handwriting was Stacy’s. “I never wanted this to happen. I certainly don’t want you to go to prison. Neither does Nathan.”

Paul supposed Nathan was the new boyfriend. He tamped down a surge of anger and resentment, forcing himself to continue reading the letter.

“I admit that it was wrong to cheat on you. I admit that I should have spoken to you or even just broken up with you, but when I’m with you, you’re just so powerful. You’re like some sort of vortex, and anyone near you just sort of gets caught up in whatever you’re doing. I think this can be a wonderful thing, but it’s scary, too. You terrified me tonight.”

And there it was, the condemnation that Paul’s mother refused to give. Just like his father, Paul was a bully. Maybe he was more polite in his posture at times, but deep down, Stacy sensed his rage. Paul shut his eyes, trying to focus his thoughts. How could he get rid of that anger? Hiding it clearly didn’t work. 

“I think you loved having me, but I don’t think you loved me. I know this hurts to hear, and I promise it hurts me to say it. I fell for the man you could be, and I think you can still be that man. I hope you will, at least. We don’t want you to get in trouble. We just want to go our separate ways. If you really want to make up for it, be the man I think you can be. That man is special. Never, EVER, be the man you were tonight again. That man is horrible and frightening. I’m writing this as a letter because I don’t want any electronic trace. Be happy for me. If I’m wrong, and you loved me, please be happy for me. Don’t hate Nathan, appreciate him because he makes me feel loved. Be the man I though you could be. Please.”

There was a curious amount of space before the next portion of the letter.

“I don’t actually know how to end this. I’ve thought about it for an hour. It’s me, Stacy, and I’m pretty sure you already know that. But, just to be sure.”

Paul’s hand trembled. A part of him wanted to crumble it up and burn it, but he couldn’t make his muscles obey the impulse. The letter was a perfect summary about how he’d felt his whole life. And the question terrified him. Even after what he’d done, Stacy was willing to give him a chance to be the man she thought he could be. Who was that man? Was it the same sort of person Bill would have wanted Paul to become? 

Why did everyone seem to think a person could just say, “I want to be this sort of man,” and then suddenly become that man. Did people really become who they set their minds on becoming? Didn’t people just sort of be who they were and others would decide if they were good or bad? Maybe people tried their best, but they just were who they were. 

That was the question Paul didn’t have any answers for. Did he ever really have a choice in who he could be, or was he destined to be just like his father?

He carefully folded the note back up and opened his door as softly as he could. Then he went inside, setting the letter on his study table before falling on his bed, still wearing all his clothes, and falling fast asleep.

… The end of Chapter fifteen …

… To be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 46

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 46

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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

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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 41

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 41

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Finally! Paul wasted no time charging the man. He unleashed a flurry of punches, all of which Nobody dodged as if Paul were moving in slow motion. Nobody didn’t make any effort to retaliate. 

“Fight me!” Paul shouted. 

“Why?” Nobody asked. The jerk wasn’t even out of breath.

“Because if you don’t I’m going to kill you!” Paul meant every word. He wouldn’t hurt so bad if he hadn’t trusted Nobody and let Bill into his life.

“Would you rather have lived a life never knowing Bill?” Nobody asked the question even as he ducked another wild punch from Paul, who fell to the ground sobbing.

“I don’t know.” Paul managed to speak through the tears. “It hurts so much.”

Nobody stood far enough away to dodge in case Paul got up, but he was out of fight. He was out of energy.

“The lives we have on this world are always temporary,” Nobody said softly. “People tend to act as if they’ll live forever, if not a nice long while, but we don’t have any say in it.”

“So God gets his kicks out of ripping the people we love away from us!” Paul rolled over and sat up, but he still didn’t have the strength to fight anymore. It took everything he had to keep from just sitting there and crying forever. 

The anger he felt gave him a distraction, and that’s what it had always been. The rage was a tool to keep the sadness at bay, but none of it ever worked well.

“I believe Bill was a great Christian, loved by God,” Nobody said.

“So what?” Paul sat there covered in road grease and bits of trash from the alley. 

“So what I think is that God called his child home,” Nobody said.

“We were his home!” Paul found a pebble and threw it. Nobody dodged it easily. 

“So we come back to the question of property. You don’t own your mom. You don’t own Bill. The people in our lives are gifts, but they’re not property.” Nobody took a few steps closer as if to test Paul’s willingness to lash out again.

“It’s not the same!” Paul screamed.

“Then what is it?” Nobody asked.

Paul stammered a bit, trying to find a way to explain how he felt without making it seem like Bill was some toy he wanted to keep to himself forever, but he couldn’t think of a way. “Fine,” Paul said. “I wanted Bill. He was supposed to be my dad and my mom’s husband. We were supposed to be a family.”

The words came out more like whimpers than the ones before it. 

“Nobody this side of Heaven understands why we lose the people we love when we do.” Nobody spoke in that soft, gentle whisper he always used. It was hard to hear through Paul’s sobs. He wasn’t even sure he cared enough to listen.

“You loved him.” Nobody said.

“Of course I did!”

“You wanted to make him proud,” Nobody said.

“Yes!”

“Then make him proud,” Nobody said. “Become the man you know he’d want you to be.”

Paul couldn’t shout anymore. He couldn’t even speak. All he could do was curl up into a ball and cry. The temperature swung from normal, to freezing, to hot, to normal again. Just as quickly, less than an eye blink, a light flashed, which meant Nobody had left.

“But how do I do it?” Paul finally managed to say. “He taught me everything. How do I be the man he wanted me to be when he’s not here to tell me what to do anymore?”

Of course Nobody would leave those questions unanswered. He never really said anything. He just pointed at some dumb Bible verse or quoted the Bible and left it there for Paul to think about.

Isn’t that what Bill would do?

The thought came unbidden, and Paul shoved it down. No! I won’t turn to the one who took Bill from me!

Isn’t that exactly what Bill would want?

Paul lost the energy to argue even with himself. Whatever happened, he couldn’t think of what to do.

“I don’t know what to do without him,” he muttered. 

Someone embraced him. For a split second, Paul jerked in surprise, but the slender arms and gentle manner were familiar to him. 

“Neither do I,” his mother whispered. She had to have sat next to him and wrapped him in her arms. 

“Stop!” Paul said, trying to pull away. “That dress of yours is expensive.”

“I don’t care,” she said softly, gripping him tightly even as he tried to stand. The tremble in her voice made it clear she was crying, too.

Suddenly, another pair of arms wrapped around him. Paul glanced to his left to see Jordan there. The moron! He didn’t know what to say or do, so he just held Paul quietly. He was the greatest friend anyone could have. 

“We miss him, too,” his mother whispered. “I’m just doing my best. I’m just trying to do what he’d want, and it’s not because I  don’t miss him; it’s because I miss him. It’s not because I’ve stopped loving him; it’s because I still love him.”

Paul codlin’t even speak. The dam of anger he’d tried to hide his sadness behind had come crashing down, and the tears wouldn’t stop. 

Jordan gave him another squeeze. He didn’t say a word. But that firm hug said everything. It said, “I don’t know what to say, but I’m here.”

They were a trio of well dressed idiots from the perspective of anyone who might have seen them. They were all sitting in a filthy alley holding each other and crying as if they’d been beaten or robbed. 

Paul felt that way. Maybe I did think of Bill like mine, but that’s only because I wanted to be his.  

Paul kept thinking as he cried. Even his mother had gone silent. 

Paul wondered what Bill would want. It wasn’t hard to imagine. He’d want Paul to do what his mother had done. He’d want Paul to become a Christian. 

He couldn’t do that. He couldn’t turn to the one who took Bill from him. 

Was there something else? Yes. 

“We’re going back to work on the project tomorrow,” Paul said. 

That was something he knew he could do. 

The End of Chapter 12. To be continued …

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 38

Visits From A Man Named Nobody 38

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Twelve

May 11, 2029, 6:16 p.m. 

18 Years, 243 Days Ago

The principle called names as Paul waited to hear his. Even if Paul weren’t close to the top of his class, he’d still hear his name quickly since his last name began with the letter a. 

Sure enough the principle called out, “Paul Autumn,” which allowed Paul to stand and walk down the grass isle between folding chairs and up to the stage that had been set up on his high school’s football field. 

The crowd clapped politely. Of course, a few people shouted. 

“All right, Paul!” That would be Jordan.

“I’m so proud of you!” And there was his mother.

Paul fought down a smile as he climbed up the wooden steps and started shaking hands. All the big wigs of the staff were up there. Paul eventually made his way to the principal, who handed him his diploma. That was more a formality these days. In reality, his credits and qualifications were already digitally sent to Carnegie in Pittsburgh. 

Paul wasn’t sure why they were still interested in him. He hadn’t worked on the project in more than a year. Every time he thought about it, he thought about Bill. He could study without the sadness hurting him so much. He’d even had a few ideas bounce around in his mind, but if he came anywhere near those white boards, all he could think about was the life he was supposed to have and was denied.

Paul plastered a fake smile on his face and turned to the person with a ComPad. The man snapped a photo, and Paul immediately felt his PID, personal information device, vibrate. These days, everyone had one. These functioned as watches, phones, and Blue Tooth connections to other devices with more space. 

Paul made his way back down the stairs and to his original seat to watch the rest of the graduation. He looked down at the red certificate folder. On a whim, he opened it. He expected to see the fancy lettering giving his school name and his own name. The folded piece of paper that rested on top of the protective plastic sheet was what caught his eye. 

A flame of anger seemed to blossom from Paul’s gut. Of course. It would be too much to hope that Nobody was gone for good. Paul waited for more than a year to face the man, but of course he was too much of a coward. So here was another note.

Paul opened it if for no other reason than to consider ways to refute Nobody’s claims. “Pain eventually fades, unless one refuses to go through it. Don’t worry, you will see me tonight.”

Paul felt a different sort of smile form on his face. Finally! He was going to be able to look Nobody straight in that mask and tell him everything he wanted. Paul turned around and eventually found his mother sitting in the bleachers. She wore a simple blue pull-over dress. She’d stopped crying after a year, but she was still alone. She seemed OK, but she shouldn’t be OK, she should be deviously happy, and Bill should be next to her. 

She noticed Paul looking and gave a cheesy grin and thumbs up.  Paul shook his head. Over the past year, he’d been concerned that she’d start hounding him about religion. True, she was different, and some of the rules of the house changed, but the changes in her life were so like what Bill would do that Paul couldn’t bring himself to resent her for it. 

So why am I the one who’s acting like he forgot Bill? 

Maybe his mom felt better remembering and doing things that he would do. Paul just felt pain and anger.