Paradox – Prelude I

“Good shot,” the man said looking down and patting the boy on his back, “that must be almost three hundred yards.”

The teenage boy smiled as he looked up from the iron sights from his prized twenty-two long rifle, the rifle his grandfather gave to him. He remembered his grandfather fondly, a gentle and kind man who attended church on Sunday, no excuses. Every Veteran’s day, his grandfather would dress in his pressed and cleaned uniform, the head of an eagle proudly displayed on his shoulder, to attend various events around the city to receive an award or congratulations from one group or another. After his grandfather died from lung cancer, the boy and his father continued the family tradition of shooting every weekend out in the desert.

“Thanks, dad,” that boy replied. He looked up at his father looking for the rare approval but only saw stern eyes looking back.

“You know,” the boy’s dad said in a voice that did not sound happy, “most riflemen can accurately shoot at fifty, maybe a hundred or a hundred and fifty yards if they are good with a twenty-two, but you’ve hit everything, including what I struggle to hit with grandpa’s Garand. Care to explain?”

The boy looked down. His dad had acted very excited as his bullseyed every target on their makeshift range just outside the backyard, but now that he had succeeded, his father was angry. “I just did what you told me to do.”

His father frowned. “No, you didn’t!” he yelled. The nearest neighbors were miles down the dusty dirt roads and would not care, even if they could hear him. “I told you that you are not to use your powers, at all. And here you are, using them for anyone to see. Look at me,” the man said as he stuck the boy with an open palm, “you face your failures like a man.”

The boy stood straight up, his head and eyes locked forward, brushing off the pain he felt from the physical blow. He was used to it now and he knew it was easier for him to just keep quiet. It would do him no good to yell or try to run, his father would track him down. He could make holes to shoot cans at long distances with his rifle, but his father had the ability to scan an area and find exactly what he wanted, including car keys, his glasses, his wallet, or even his son.

When his powers first emerged last year, he ran away, hitchhiking to nearby Las Vegas with an old hippy that was returning from a trip to Area 51. He thought he was safe hiding among all those casinos and people, but his dad immediately found him and brought him home, bloody and bruised after he beat the hell out of him. When they got home, his mother explained that the family was cursed like the demons on the nightly television news. He promised repeatedly that he would live his life as a mundane.

The boy did not flinch as his father pressed his forehead up to his. “You lied to me you. You promised me you would never use your powers again. Do you know what they will do to you? To your mother? They will hate you, son. They will hate all of us.“

“I’m sorry, sir. I was just trying to hit the targets.”

“You must resist, Tommy. These powers will corrupt you and then you will be lost forever.”

The boy flinched when he heard his name. That was his name, but also was not. The boy turned as he scanned the desert landscape for familiarity but he only felt more out of place. He did not belong here.

“What are you doing?” his father asked. “Don’t you turn your back to me, boy.”

The boy ignored his father. This was Nevada, he was sure of it. He grew up here, raised cattle with his family and the cowboys.

“I asked you, son, what do you think you are doing?” his father asked as the anger in his voiced returned.

He turned to stare at the older man. “This isn’t right. I’ve never been here before, but I have memories of playing in these fields and branding the cattle, until the day I finally had enough of your abuse and left to join the Marine Corps.”

“You are confused, Tommy,” his father said. “We’ve been out here too long and your mother will be worried. I won’t tell her about your failure but you will not use your powers again.”

The boy shook his head in defiance. “No,” he said as the older man started to walk away.

His father turned around. “Tommy, you get your ass back in that house now before I whip your butt.”

“No,” the boy said again. “These are not my memories and you are not my father.”

The older man raised his fist to strike.

“I’m right, aren’t I?” the boy said unmoving. “You can’t hurt me anymore because I know the truth. This is inside my mind and now I control it.”

His father’s fist never hit him. Instead, he glowed for a moment before changing shapes, his beer gut disappearing and replaced by a firm, muscular build. The receding and greying hair changed to a full head of brown hair. The man became twenty years younger and looked very familiar. The boy knew this person because it was him, the image he saw when looking in the mirror. And his eyes glowed red with anger and power.

“It doesn’t matter,” the young man, his doppelganger, said in a growling voice, “I will be free again. And when I do, I will have my vengeance on this world.”

The vision faded away to black nothingness as a new voice screamed in his ear.

“Wake the hell up,” it said. “I don’t have time for this crap and Net can only loop the systems for a short time or they’ll figure it out. Larson, wake up!”