An explosion rocks me out of my dream.
Great roars blow out eardrums as the floor drops, turning into a slide aimed at a disintegrating wall.
Dozens of us are sprawled on the floor, scared shitless, sliding into the rising black cloud below.
I see a pillar coming up. I’m able to grab hold and crawl onto it. Someone slides past pulling at my shirt but can’t hold on.
When things settle and screams fade down to the street, the moans of clingers-on sound chilling. They pray. They say goodbye. They gasp breathlessly.
The outside wall is missing. It looks like we’re at least 25 stories in the air.
In front of us a city burns.
Then it’s too smoggy to see far. The black cloud rises up and reaches us. Engulfed, we cough and wonder where the edge of the destroyed floor has gone? One of us lets go of his pillar and glides quietly into the abyss. A woman screams, seeing it.
Through quick openings in the dismal smog there are glimpses of horror. I see people jumping from upper stories of other buildings overcome by smoke and flame, and a building collapsing followed by the cascading roar of its sound-delayed rubble seconds later.
There’s a woman hanging on the floor not far away, her fingers wedged in an air circulation grate, the only thing holding her from a 25-story plunge. She’s already lost her shoes.
I get her attention: “What’s happening?”
“Menstra’s strafing the city!” she sobs, terrified.
Obscure reference. “We’re being bombed?”
“Particle beamed!” the lady cries. “She’s flying that thing called the Shiite Bubble. It’s like a one-person attack machine. You know, that thing they say she designed!”
An older man crawls up the unnervingly tilted floor toward us, shaking. The look he shoots me is damning. Blood trickles in his eye from a glass cut. Broken glass is everywhere. A wrong move and any of us could slide off to our death.
“What are you doing here?” the man wants to know. His tone is familiar. While I can’t grasp a name, I know he’s got it against me because of my ethnicity. “Didn’t you get the memo? Shouldn’t you be down there throwing bombs?”
Yes, he’s a co-worker…and has always been hostile to me in the workplace. Many white and black Christian and non-religious Americans on this Earth are convinced that it’s better to be cautious, suspicious and unwelcoming to every Muslim than it is to be a victim of Jihad.
“Leave her alone!” shouts the sobbing woman, turning fear into anger. “I’m sick of hearing your bigoted bullshit! She’s as much a victim as we are!” She looks at me. “Don’t mind him, Pam! He’s a fool!”
That’s when I notice the bubble approaching. It’s her. The terrorist floats at us out of the smokey wall, the vilest face I ever want to see.
The bubble floats over our slanted, crumbling floor just a meter before us. It opens.
“Pam! Get in.”
“I fucking knew it!” screams the man.
“Why are you here for me?” I respond, apparently Pam.
“You weren’t supposed to be here today,” Menstra declares. “Get in now.”
The woman is betrayed. “Pam? You’re one of them?”
“Why doesn’t the air force shoot her down?” I wonder fiercely, pointing at Menstra.
The man knows. He’s been studying Menstra for some time. “Not that easy! That fuckin’ bubble has twin 5-point laser engines, a shatterproof dome with four modes: clear, mirror, tinted and radiant, a forward particle-beam blaster, a refraction net that deflects laser and heat-seeking attacks from behind, an extendable tri-legged walking mode, a methane torch blaster, and a gyro-balanced reinforced chair.”
“What the hell did we do to you?” I want to know.
The woman laughs nervously. “Our government assassinated her boyfriend 25 years ago!”
The bubble moves closer to the woman, now barely hanging on to the air vent. Menstra reaches out with a fist.
Menstra touches the frightened woman with a black ring.
The woman goes limp, lets go, slides, hits a pillar, and spins downward into the roiling gray clusters.
The man stares helplessly at me for some kind of comfort. “Menstra’s black ring kills anyone it touches except her.”
From my perch I’m able to reach out and grab both the man and Menstra. Intuitively I’m recalling my special abilities on this Earth. I can entangle the selves of two individuals by acting as a conduit between them.
I can give the blind the experience of sight, or the deaf a range of sounds. But only by being blind or deaf all the while.
I can force a perpetrator to feel the fear of his victim; but the victim will feel the predatory thrill of the attacker.
In this way I bring the perceptions of Menstra and the man together, instantly blending memories for just a moment. Long enough for this hateful man to know the story of his attacker, who he now knew grew up as Magda al-Assad in Syria.
Crippled and deafened in the truck bombing that killed her lover Kifar la-Nirah, young Magda al-Assad became bitter about life in general.
She hated being unable to walk , paralyzed from the waist down, and depending on anyone for help.
The concussion effected Magda profoundly. Paranoia backed by bottomless funds empowered her, but for a long time loss overwhelmed her.
Eventually Magda pulled herself out of her funk by focusing on the idea of revenge. She was literally fueled by hatred.
One of the wealthiest people on the planet, she hired expertise and combined their talent with her own highly educated engineering skill to create a fantastic vessel. Magda’s Shiite Bubble was made to give her personal advanced defensive and offensive capabilities. To her, existence was becoming ever-more dangerous.
In the Middle East, religious extremists and anti-Americans were joining forces and considered her family traitors for bargaining with Israelis.
That’s when they started calling her Menstra, as an insult. They would come to regret that slight, falling victim to her rage.
In this way I brought their perceptions together instantly blending memories for just a moment. Long enough for the attacker to know the absolute terror of the man under assault before her.
Yanking her hand away, Menstra closes the bubble and backs off, horrified. She backs into a passing news helicopter. They go crashing down in a fiery ball.
I have quantum powers here.
After touching an object, I can increase or decrease the probability of its behavior to the near certainty of normal, or to the almost complete uncertainty of abnormal.
I’ve been touching the floor and charging it with uncertainty. Because if the floor behaves normally, it is going to crumble, crash and drop us to our death.
A jarring snap and the floor breaks away from the inside wall like a jagged pancake. The man and I are on it.
Weightlessly we drop, the floor just below us. I look up and see fragments of stone, steel and class tumbling after me, all of us spinning through black smog.
We suddenly hit the floor and spin out and away from the rest of the building. Our slab emerges from the cloud and skims across a lower, still intact rooftop. Through the air we follow haplessly.
The slab breaks as the main hunk bounces us across the street toward a shorter building. Every time we ‘re about to fall away from the slab, it evens out and falls farther.
In a miraculous cascade of concrete that jumbled senses cannot account for, our small slab survives as it slaps the street six blocks from where our tumble started.