By Mary Wright (me)
He lay on the asphalt, letting the warmth from the sun soak into his soul, his dark palms and fingers feeling the roughness of the ground.
There were others like him, but he was the only one to gain his powers from it. It was beating down on him, with no roof or tree or overhand to obstruct his absorption rate.
All around him were stores that ran on solar power; and solar-powered vehicles and solar-powered electronics. Everyone was taking advantage of the sun for its Vitamin D and warmth, looking up at the sky as they got out of their cars as he lay in the far off part of the parking lot of a not-very-busy hologram mall. Most people visited for the experience of walking around and looking at things, while they actually did their shopping online.
Technology was catching up to science fiction. More and more, it predicted the near – 5 to 10 years, instead of 50 or 100 years – future. The authors of such works were known as sort of pseudo-psychics, rather than someone who thought big, or had a vast imagination.
In maybe a decade, he wagered, the world would know about people like him: the ones experimented on, the ones who had “superpowers” pushed upon them, because by then, white people would be included in the scheme. They – the original round of people tested and implanted with chips – were never going to be the coveted Superman or Batman, no. That would’ve been too simple, too nice. Racism played a factor in his gaining of this thing. That’s one thing that science fiction got wrong: that discrimination would be over. He took it in stride; he could have been shot as an alternative. That’s not to say he’s the worst one with the curse, but he doesn’t like it either.
A normal non-experimented-on person gains their power and energy and well-being from sleep.
He doesn’t sleep much, anymore. It’s kind of pointless, and his dreams go nowhere, anyway.
He must gain his energy from the sun. Annoying, it is, when it rains. He hates when it rains. He knows it gives life to the plants, but if he hasn’t reserved some energy from the day before (which he quantifies in his mind by thinking of a holo game’s health bar going up and down), he is drained, and no amount of sleep can change that.
In the winter (thank goodness he doesn’t live in a place with winter anymore) he – quite literally – felt like hibernating, because he could barely move or talk or do much of anything at all. He was very useless in winter.
He thinks of himself, often, as a plant, which undergoes photosynthesis, minus the advantage of making his own food in his body. He still has to buy it. He still has to have a job, and work, and buy food that other people have made.
For a pick-me-up, he used to drink coffee, take in the steam, and the warm feeling down his throat – the poignant disappointment when it was gone. That’s kind of how he thought of his life now. Someone drank the essence of his life, and he didn’t have it anymore. He felt empty, in mind, and in body.
For two hours, every morning, he lays down on the asphalt, shirt off, and dark eyes closed in concentration.
(He has an apartment, but doesn’t use it much. He pays for it every month, just like any other person. It’s more of a backup story to have if people ever care to ask about him.)
Patiently, he waits for the surge of energy to suddenly find itself within him. Then he gets up, brushes himself off, puts his shirt back on (he has found that his heart is the center of the absorption, and isn’t the least bit surprised), and goes off to work.
This is a very public secret to keep, but so far, he hasn’t had to hide it.
It isn’t obvious in the slightest what the deeper meaning of the act is – “Oh, what is he doing there? Is he homeless, ya think?”
They always think he’s sleeping on his back, and with his eyes closed and breathing as calmly and as the best he can, he decides to let them.
Since they never bother really look at his face, or talk to him directly, they don’t recognize him as the same man from the parking lot as the man in the holo jewelry store.
As much as he thinks about how his circumstances could be better, they also could be much worse.
I have a superpower chip in my head, he wants to say to the world, Where’s my holo comic? Where’s my media interviews? I gain my energy from laying down for 2 hours a day. I have time! I HAVE TIME!
He knows, in reality, that he wouldn’t like the spotlight.
He’s in charge of making sure the holo displays of jewelry in the mall look realistic enough, for 12 hours a day, every day.
As he adjusts the filters and mechanisms, he wonders if he’ll ever be able to change his life as simply as he can with these displays.
He doubts it.