"I can't help it none, Bill. Sometimes I just can't get out of bed all day. I never like bein' still, it embarrasses me...I mean, what would mom and dad say...yeah, I know. I'm tired all the time. I...ain't even dressed. It's the middle of the day, and I ain't even dressed...yeah, OK. I'll see you there. I've already...drank a few this mornin', so I'll just...look, give me a few hours before I drive over, OK?"
A limp-wristed hand held the phone to his ear. The halfhearted agreement to go meet at a bar was still on his lips. Just him and Bill, drinking the days away. His only friend, and he was pretty sure he just took pity on him. He was a kind soul, Bill, always there for him after ma and pa died. Too kind to trust. He just felt bad for mean old -
What in the fuck.
It was just a feeling.
A feeling like lightning.
It'd been a cloudy day, sure, but there'd been no rain in the forecast.
The kid felt goosebumps all up and down his body. It was like he was being struck by thunder...the dog was freaking out, and there was something coming through the windows. A light, like shining a spotlight...there was no noise. All the air just felt like it'd been sucked out of his throat. The phone was dead in his hand.
Rust grabbed a revolver from the drawer, fumbling to put a few bullets in. He was just wearing boxers, for God's sake, but all he could feel was the electric razor running up and down his spine. Something was happening outside, and he didn't know what.
Pushing the door open, he couldn't even bring himself to raise the gun.
There was a man floating there, in the middle of the air, staring down at him. He had short blonde hair and a long red cape. And he looked like a robot, in the face. Just blank, staring at him.
His words caught in his throat. Petrified, he couldn't speak. There were supers out there in the world, sure, but none of them were like this.
None of them ever looked at anyone like this. With what he knew was pure hate.
That was all he'd said, the floating man. After twenty or so seconds of silence, that was all he said. Rust couldn't stop trembling. He felt like he was being shocked.
Then the glowing man spoke again.
"Did you know that ninety-six percent of your genome is similar to that of a chimpanzee? I thought that was an interesting fact."
"What?" the figure mocked, sneering. "What, what, what?" he kept going, affixing Rust with a stare that bored straight through his soul.
"I said, you mongrel little shit, did you know that ninety-six percent of your genome is similar to that of a chimpanzee? Because I thought that was an interesting fact."
The creature in front of him had roared the last word. Rust fell onto the grass, repulsed by some unknown force that clutched his spine and stopped his legs from working. He'd try to crawl away, but his eyes were fixed on the thing in front of him, the twisted visage that looked more like a reflection than anything. This was a nightmare, it had to be a nightmare. It had to be the drugs. Why else would this be happening?
In a flash, the man had moved. He was standing right over him on the ground.
He felt himself being picked up, but he didn't see it happen. He was just lifted by an invisible hand, raised off the grass uncontrollably into the thin man's hand, an iron grip around his throat.
"Isn't that an interesting fact?"
Rust squirmed, the gun fallen to the ground. He felt the air being choked out of him.
The sound wasn't coming from the man's mouth. His lips weren't moving. His voice - oh God - it was in his head somehow, vibrating around his very skull. It was the loudest thing he'd ever heard. He felt warm blood in his ears. A volcanic eruption, a thunderclap in his head, splitting his very mind into pieces.
The golden devil dropped him, and he coughed, gasping for air. He wasn't ashamed to admit he was crying, too, confused and unable to control himself.
The man was just standing there now, like nothing had happened. From what Rust could tell, he was staring into the house, as though he could peer right through the walls.
"Jus' leave me alone...please, jus' leave me alone..." he managed, curling into a ball.
When he looked back up at the man, he couldn't see any pupils in his eyes. God, he couldn't see his eyes at all. All he could see were two fists curled into balls, with steam rising off the knuckles. All he could do was pray.
Then the man above him sighed. And the steam on his hands went away. The electric feeling in Rust's skin went away too.
"Don't move. This will only take a second."
There was a little ball floating over him, like an eye. The man'd crossed his arms, and was looking away at the house, with abject malice in his eyes. Something predatory and evil. But it was sealed away. The man above him fixed his own hair, which had messed itself a little bit when he'd been glowing.
Rust felt a sting all over his body. Everywhere hurt. Some bright light, like a spotlight, covered the ground around him. It was on him, too. It turned red, then green, then a color he couldn't even describe, a color that seared his eyes and that he'd never forget.
DNA Harvest complete, the eyeball chimed. A little melody played, too.
The being above him sighed.
Rust didn't move.
He took it, out of fear, and found himself helped up to his feet, still barely able to stand.
This thin man looked just like him, but his eyes were golden, and full of something he had no words for. All he could do was stare, and try not to black out.
The man, the monster put a hand on his face.
"It's not your fault."
A moment later, he started to forget what was happening to him, what had happened...all he could do was fall forwards, into the arms of the gleaming beast before him.
He didn't remember being carried back into the house and put into bed, with his injuries gone.
He wasn't awake to see the gleaming creature turn off its glow and, after a moment of consideration, fill his dog's bowl.
He'd have no memory of what just happened.
When he woke up, all Rust felt was a little lost.