"I don't think you guys understand just how much damage is going to happen when this block goes boom.” Charlie said expressing his worry while standing next to a rather large piece of steel. The block stood straight up in the middle of the exam room on a specially made dolly doing its best imitation of a door without a wall. A full foot taller than himself and a foot thick, Charlie knew exactly what was going to happen when he jumped through that much metal, a boom big enough to cause substantial hearing loss. He only wanted the doctors to know what they were getting into.
"We need to see and record the necessary data when you jump through an inanimate object Charlie, its invaluable at this juncture.” Dr. Anders stated signing yet another set of papers his aid had given him. The woman stood behind him handing papers back and forth with a timed precision only gained with years of practice.
"I can tell you exactly what's going to happen Dr. Anders," Charlie remarked turning around, “this block of steel is going to blow up like a case of dynamite."
"We have thought of all the necessary safety precautions Charlie and taken the steps to ensure nothing will happen to us or you. Now, we’re running late so could we please carry out the day's schedule?” Dr. Anders asked impatiently pointing to the end of the track with his pen. He turned and walked toward the door that led to the booth before Charlie could make another statement in a huff as the aid trotted to keep up. The conversation was obviously over, how nice of the doctor to tell everyone in such a polite manner.
Charlie walked down to the end of the track mumbling under his breath about the test, or more to the point what was about to happen. He looked up at the booth noting the metal plates covering the glass, part of the safety precautions obviously. They would need every inch of that protection just to keep their heads. The other doctors would be upstairs in the booth with Anders this time Charlie hoped and as time for testing drew closer the doctors came in, waved, and entered the second door heading up. He sighed with relief…at least the doctors would be safe Charlie thought.
Just past the metal block, someone had moved in a special load of dirt and shaped it to make an embankment. Whoever took the time to haul it all in wasted all that dirt and energy for nothing. There was no way he could make the ten-foot distance to the barricade, and the four-foot wall wouldn’t be enough protection from the blast that was coming. The good doctors had no idea what was going to happen, but they were sure going to find out in ten minutes. All Charlie hoped for was just one run, because if that block did what he thought it would then there might not be enough of him or the room left on this earth to make a second run.
Dr. Anders noted the booth was filled to capacity this morning with people and equipment as he walked in. A large monitor in the south corner setup for extra viewing took care of the other doctors. Anders knocked around until he found his usual chair at the front.
"Good morning Dr. Anders." Cliff exclaimed happily.
"Good morning Cliff. Are the cameras and sensors ready?” Dr. Anders asked the tech going to his seat.
"Yes sir, everything’s ready.” Cliff answered still smiling.
Dr. Anders could tell Cliff was excited from his movements and speech. The room felt charged with electricity, to a point where Anders could barely keep his own seat. Everyone waited for the magical moment, waited eagerly for the boy to jump through that large block of metal, and then watch what happened. He gave Cliff the signal with a smooth nod, acting calm and collected after the other doctors filed into the booth. He was in charge and as such he had to remain calm, not fazed or flustered in the least by the extraordinary event about to happen.
"All right Charlie, its thumbs up buddy,” Cliff said over the intercom. All eyes turned to the monitors with a childlike sparkle.
The boy looked up at the protected booth, said a small prayer, and then stared at the floor getting his energy just right. After two quick breaths, he slowly jogged down the track warming up his legs. He used another pass to gauge the distance to the block and a third pass to build up courage for what was going to happen. The doctors in the booth eagerly shifted from one foot to the other waiting for Charlie to jump. Dr. Anders relieved his tension by twisting the hard plastic cap of his pen around the tip continuously. They all wanted to see what the power would do to the block of metal, had been waiting for an eternity it seemed, so why was the boy making them wait longer. And yet he never slowed as he moved into his fourth pass at the block of steel. Charlie just picked up his speed to a sprint, feeling the tingling in his head spread through his body like liquid fire, like it did every time he used the power. The block stood only a few feet away as he ran at it full tilt, toward the smooth black face never slowing, never fearing for one second of slamming into it. There was never a chance of physically touching it as Charlie jumped with five feet left leaving nothing but a trail of light that struck the steel square in its middle.
The doctors gasped in unison as the light trail passed through the block of steel, appearing in the same location on the opposite side. Charlie suddenly jumped back to reality, becoming flesh again from the fabulous light a foot or two past the block never slowing or missing a step and that saved his life. He barely made the barricade, leaping over the four foot high wall just before the conclusion of the test.
Dr. Anders rose from his seat a second time with excitement over what Charlie had just done. He watched the glow in the center of the block of steel grow and envelope the metal so quickly in the bright white light it almost flashed. For a second the block faded out of the room, as if it was disappearing from this world, and then the damn thing just exploded like a bomb. Not one of the doctors calculated the potential explosion correctly as the concussion struck the shielded booth like a giant hammer swung by an even larger giant. The doctors went sprawling backward onto the floor from the blast as broken glass from the windows showered all of them like rain. Anders barely covered his face as the tiny missiles flew at him, stabbing into the exposed flesh of his hands and face. A second later reality shifted back to a normal setting but it took much longer for someone to actually start moving.
Dr. Anders rose from the floor untangling his extremities from the mass of arms and legs of the other doctors. Alarms were blaring loudly in the booth and on the floor of the testing room. Suddenly, whirling toward the door of the booth, Anders remembered the boy was downstairs.
"What about Charlie? Is he all right?” Dr. Anders yelled. The door was already closing though as he spotted the lab coat of Dr. Peters racing downward toward the floor and the boy.
Damn that was loud he thought, tried to tell him but would anyone listen? Oh no, we have it all covered! Charlie rose from his crouched position behind what was left of the earthen barricade and looked in shock at what he had done. The larger chunks of debris destroyed the four-foot wall reducing it to half of its original size. He slowly stepped over the remaining two feet of the dirt berm walking up to the dolly with legs of jelly. Almost at once, both doors to the exam room burst open spilling personnel into the room. The door from the hall slammed open as soldiers with weapons drawn entered in a two by two cover formation ready to light someone up. The door to the booth crashed opened a split second later as Dr. Peters ran into the room and upon seeing the armed men slowed.
"Whoa! Whoa guys,” the doctor screamed raising both hands high, “everything’s under control here. No need to use the massive weaponry."
At first the soldiers didn’t move, but then slowly lowered their weapons at Dr. Peters urging. Cliff finally shut off the loud alarms as the doctor turned to Charlie.
"Are you all right? Did you get hit?” Dr. Peters asked catching his breath.
"Yeah," Charlie nodded. "I’m fine…I tried to warn you guys but you wouldn't listen. Now do you see why that steel block was too big?”
Dr. Peters could only nod in quiet shock at the assessment from the boy as he looked around surveying the damage firsthand. Dents and rips from flying debris covered the large metal protective sheets that enclosed the booth while some chunks were lodged in the walls like stuck tennis balls. A shiver ran down Peters spine at the thought of what might have happened if any of those large chunks had actually pierced the metal around the booth. Dr. Anders then walked up stunned from the scene also.
"Are you all right Charlie?" He asked, touching the boy's shoulder absently while looking around in astonishment.
"Yeah, I'm perfect, but the room is a little messy." Charlie replied.
Dr. Anders nodded slightly in shock, and then turned to look at the dolly where the steel block once stood and began to laugh. The giggles bounced off the walls echoing eerily, almost like that of an insane man. Everyone stood still watching the man lean back and loose great guffaws to the ceiling.
"Have this cleaned up in thirty minutes and I want another target, only smaller this time.” Dr. Anders yelled getting himself under control.
"You want another run, after what just happened?” Charlie asked in pure shock.
"I think we need to stop…at least give the boy a check up to make sure he’s hasn’t been hurt." Dr. Peters stated trying to stop the order from Anders and regain some control.
"Nonsense, Charlie is perfect and I for one want to see that again." Dr. Anders said loudly, walking away. A small giggle still escaped with each step.
"That man does not have both oars in the water.” Charlie said in whisper.
"Oh yes he does, they’re just not going in the same direction or the same speed." Dr. Peters finished with a whisper as well.
Excerpted from "Runner" by R Kane. Copyright © 2014 by R Kane. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.