Shaw Martin sat in his stuffy college Calc 101 class, staring in horror at the inside of his wrist. He traced the spidery, indigo lines that ran up his pasty arm. Why hadn’t he noticed them before? God, they were terrifying. Well, not the veins themselves, but the thought of them. Carrying blood round and round our body, through our heart, pumping it back out. Jesus, what a chore, huh? How does the whole thing not go terribly wrong?
Terribly wrong. Shaw suddenly felt trapped. His sandy curls grew dark with sweat. People began to glance at him as he tried, unsuccessfully, to quietly gather his belongings and make his way to the door.
“Sorry,” he whispered to the gawkers. “So sorry.”
Four days later, he had almost gotten used to ignoring the veins when the bones started making themselves known. He went and got his eyes checked. Something had to be terribly wrong.
* * * *
“You’ve got 20/25 vision.”
“Yeah, but I’m not seeing things right.” Shaw tried to look the doctor in the eye, but kept getting distracted by the sight of his bones.
“No. Too clear.”
Shaw watched, fascinated as the bones gripped a pen and notepad.
He left with a reference to a psychiatrist.
It rained that evening which only made the air thicker. Footsteps followed him as he trudged to Scales & Suds on campus. He could hear shoes squeak on the wet concrete right behind him but he didn’t dare turn around. Slipping inside, he pressed himself against the wall and glanced back out the door. Thankfully, they were gone.
What’s going on? He tried to think but the others were so loud, trying to talk over the music. It beat in rhythm with his pulse. Distraction.
Shaw stood at the bar waiting for his order, feeling the crush and bump of the crowd and beginning to shake. Something had to be terribly wrong. A stiff shoulder pressed up against him. He glanced. Stared. The human body really was fascinating. Humerus. Clavical. Shaw squinted. Hmm.
“How’d you break your collar bone?” Shaw asked, trying to start a conversation.
The guy stared hard at Shaw. “What the fuck, man?” he finally said. “How do you know that?”
Luckily, the waitress came out and handed Shaw his Styrofoam box of greasy fried cod and fries with a smile.
“Freak,” the guy threw at him.
He thanked her and hurried back outside. It was drizzling again.
Two days later, he was still at the park, soaked and sipping cold coffee someone had left beside their car. He had tried to go back to the little cracker box house his parents left him, but the squeaky shoes had followed him. He heard them on the kitchen linoleum and ducked out without locking the door. Why bother? They were already inside.
His gift. To see inside human bodies. Inside was a tree with branches and organs growing on the branches. There were two kidneys, like giant lima beans , two lungs like overgrown fish gills-filling and deflating, filling and deflating, intestines and the heart. Pump pump squish pump pump squish.
“Your heart is beautiful,” he said to a lady pushing her toddler on a swing.
The police came and he finally got to see a doctor that understood him.
“So, you have x-ray vision,” Dr. Mulligan said. She didn’t laugh. In fact, she nodded and looked very serious, a wrinkle forming between her brows, like Shaw’s mother used to do.
“Yes, exactly. I can’t see inside the skull though. Why do you think that is?”
“Shaw, let’s talk about your parents.”
“They died fourteen months ago. Both of them on Highway 65. It was an accident.”
“Yes. I know, Shaw. And that’s a very difficult thing, to lose your parents. You’ve been doing very well, though.” She flipped through her notes. “Attending college. I’m sure they would be very proud of you.”
“They wanted me to be a doctor.”
“And what do you want to do?”
“Well, I do want to help people.” He glanced at her to see if he could trust her with his secret. She nodded, her chin resting on the bones of her hand. “Okay. I want to be a super hero. I’ve wanted to be a super hero since I was nine. I’ve designed a cape and everything.”
“I see,” she said and stared at Shaw for a moment longer. “Okay then. I’m going to write you a prescription, Shaw, for a medicine called Haldol. It is very important that you take it every day.”
“Will it help me to become more of a super hero?”
“Well,” she said, seeming to weigh something and then sighed. “No, Shaw. It will help you to stay in society, to be a part of it and to have a more normal life.”
Did it ever stop raining in this town? Shaw came to a corner, where a homeless guy was sitting under a garbage bag, a brown cardboard mush of a sign clutched in the bones of his hand. The sky groaned and lit up.
“You all right, Kid?”
“I don’t know,” Shaw answered. “I’m not sure. I think something must be terribly wrong.”
“Ha,” he groaned like the sky. “You’re the smartest person I’ve met yet. Have a seat, Kid.”
“All right.” Shaw said, lowering himself onto the wet sidewalk. Water rushed by in the gutter, fell from the sky, cleansed the world.
He reached a wet hand in his jacket and took the first pill.
Well, that was just fantastic. Beautifully composed, visually arresting and a gripping story as well. Really enjoyed it.
I feel for Shaw and hopes he makes it. Great story.
“Will it help me to become more of a super hero?” I’m glad she was honest with him, but it’s also a little sad.
without delusions of being a super-hero, I stare at my veins and wonder about all the activity pulsing & flowing within. & I’ve broken my collar bone twice – have you got X-ray vision that extends over the Atlantic Ocean or something?
X-ray vision. What a perfect choice for his psychosis. So beautifully ties the crash and his future aspirations together symbolically. Excellent story.
What a poignant story. The images you created are complete and beautiful. I half expected the psychiatrist to confirm his x-ray vision. I was so convinced that what Shaw was experiencing had to be real. The ending, a kind of “giving in”, works well.
Wonderfully written as always Shannon. Your ability to see beyond the “norm” is astounding.
This is sad, but part of me hopes he actually has super powers. Wonderfully written.
I believe in his superpowers. Unfortunately, too many people react the way the man at the bar did to things they don’t understand. Well told story.
It’s all the trick of some psychic villain, making you think you’re delusional so you can’t stop him!
LOL, I have to agree with Aidan and John. I believe in his super powers too, and I think the psychic villian is society.
Solid story. The admission about his cape leads to the end, giving in to try and rejoin society. Everyone should be a super hero for a little while.
I think it maybe doesn’t matter whether he does or doesn’t have the powers, in the end. He still needs to grieve the loss of his parents and find his own way in life. Good story.
Brilliant writing. Just plain fantastic storytelling. Crazy or special? Sometimes there is a fine line I think.
Good story! It would be neat to have a super power, but too many people, like this doctor, would likely just do everything they could to push you back to “normal” society.
What a great take on what Super Heroes would REALLY be like. Wow.
Love the description of the inside of the body being a tree. Great story, though I’m a little sad he took the pill. It seems to me that medication is our society’s answer to everyone who is different or special.
There was one typo. You used the wrong form of break in this sentence: “How’d you brake your collar bone?”
Other than that, well-told tale.
Thanks for the catch!
If only they’d let him keep his power and helped him through it, he might have made a fine addition to any doctor’s surgery – no x-rays or cutting people up to identify what the problem is!
Very cool story, sad and hopeful at the same time.
This was beautiful, and you portrayed what he saw perfectly. I believe he’s got a real power, but it would be a bit distracting. Haldol, huh? She went straight for the hard stuff.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry… Great exploration about the terms for fitting into normal society.
Wow. Great stuff. That ending just rocked, rocked, rocked. Thank you for writing and posting. Peace…
Terrific story – funny that he chose to fit in – he had seemed pretty content choosing his own path up to that point. I hope he does choose medicine in the end 😉
Always have enjoyed reading your writing. I have a little something for you over Windspirit Girl. If you already have one, it’s a shiny, new one that simply notes one more admirer. http://wp.me/pQy5t-8c
A great reflection on the overuse of pharma. Some things outside of ‘normal society’ just don’t need to be ‘fixed’. Sure Van Gogh would still have an ear and Poe wouldn’t of died on the side of the road, but we would of lost many great treasures.
Some should live fast and bright, so those choosing the simple life can live vicariously in the ongoing works.
I haven’t been by your blog lately, stupid me, and am blown away by what I have missed. Your talent is unmistakable, Shannon. This is just another example of it. Wow.