“Put him down!”
“What the fuck did you do?”
“I stopped us all from being burned to death. Some of us aren’t fucking flame retardant!”
“Roy, put him down right now.”
“I will when he lets Vince go.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. Rich is right; he was having a mental breakdown. He didn’t even seem to notice the fire.”
“Then what do you suggest? He’s got to deal with it when he wakes up, and he can’t stay out forever.”
“Can you still craft fake situations after you’ve already put someone under?”
“Sure, I just have to look in their eyes again. Why?”
“I’ve got an idea.”
* * *
Vince’s eyes snapped open as he jerked upright in his bed. He could still hear the voices bickering somewhere in the depths of his mind, but he couldn’t really remember what they were saying. His brain felt groggy, like he’d barely slept a wink last night. It wasn’t really surprising; that had been one hell of a detailed dream. He swung his feet out of the covers and hopped onto the floor, officially beginning his day.
The sunlight streamed through his window. Outside the neighborhood was just waking up. It was a quiet little cul-de-sac, mostly full of three bedroom houses cut from the same set of design templates. The exception was the Adairs’ house down the street, which had been custom-made and easily dwarfed the rest of the abodes surrounding it. Vince never understood why Charles Adair wanted to live in a neighborhood like theirs when he clearly belonged in a higher income area. His mind slid over the question, unable to even conceive of it as something he should dwell on.
The clock was blinking seven thirty, which meant he’d managed to oversleep again. Hurriedly brushing his teeth and throwing on clean clothes, Vince paused briefly to shave in the mirror and style his light-chocolate-colored hair. It was so dull and ordinary, no wonder he’d given himself a mane of silver in his dream.
A ritualistic hunt for his sneakers, the modern manifestation of killing a buffalo, wasted five more minutes, so by the time he stumbled down the stairs into the kitchen, Vince was beginning to be on the cusp of truly being late. Coach was going to be pissed.
“Morning, champ,” his father greeted him, currently poised at the stove whipping a spatula through some recently cracked eggs. There was also the distinctive sizzle of bacon and the unmistakable scent of coffee filling the air. Father took all his meals seriously; he believed that the fall of modern society would come from lack of home-cooking rather than gangs or violence. The red apron that was draped across his torso was worn and threadbare, not to mention a bit frilly around the edges. Vince had told him for years he needed a new one, but it had been a gift from Vince’s mother before she passed, so Father was loathe to give it up.
As he took a seat at the table Vince’s head throbbed, images from his dream rising unbidden from the depths of his subconscious. His father, faking his own death, only to emerge years later as some legendary criminal. It was so ridiculous, yet for some reason Vince felt a pang of queasiness in his stomach.
“How you feeling today? Any new symptoms?”
“Symptoms?” Vince said uncertainly.
“Well, there’s the memory loss they warned us about,” his father said with a sigh. “You got cracked on the head during practice yesterday. Minor concussion, and given that you were taken down by the Daniels boy I’d say that was getting off light.”
“Right... right,” Vince said, new memories rising up to take the place of the ones from his dream. “Roy tackled me when I intercepted that pass, and I knocked my head on the ground.”
“Whew, glad that mind of yours is still working. We Reynolds men can’t afford to lose too many brain cells.” His father gave him a wink at the joke, and then slid a steaming pile of fluffy eggs onto a pair of plates. Bacon joined the former future fowls, followed by a cup of coffee on the side. He sat the plate in front of his son then sat across from Vince with his own.
The Reynolds men... but only Vince’s last name was Reynolds, wasn’t it?
A throb came from his temple and Vince shook his head. Whatever thought had been perched at the edge of his mind was lost in the impromptu head-banging, so Vince turned his attention to breakfast. The food was crisp and delicious, as always. For a police officer, Vince’s dad had a surprising amount of hidden culinary talent.
“You’d better hurry,” his father said. “Nick will be here any minute, and I hate the way that boy drives when he’s running late.”
“Nick Campbell. Son, are you sure you’re okay? You’ve known Nick since you were kids, and he’s been driving you to school since he got his license. If you forgot him then maybe we need to go back to the doctor for more tests.”
“Right, no, I know Nick,” Vince said, his brain catching up to his dad’s description. “I just forgot he was picking me up. I’m fine: a little slow on the uptake, but fine.” He was, too. The concern and care in his father’s voice had banished the uneasy feeling that had been lingering in his gut. It was a stupid dream. His father was the best man he knew, whatever reason his subconscious had possessed for casting him in the role of villain was irrelevant. It wasn’t real.
Vince gobbled his food hurriedly while his father slowly turned his own attention back to breakfast. The man kept a wary eye on his boy, checking for any further symptoms that indicated a serious issue.
“So, you nervous about your upcoming finals?” It was a blatant topic change, and Vince accepted the spirit with which it was intended.
“I guess I am. More than I realized, anyway. I had a stress dream last night that was unbelievable.”
“Oh yeah? What happened in it?”
“Well, the first part is the weirdest. It was set in a world where people actually had super powers.”