I stepped back into the geek room with my arms crossed. Justin and Beaver were huddled over one of the desks farther away than usual, fiddling with something in front of a large black computer monitor. Obviously they didn’t hear me enter, so I cleared my throat to make it clear.
They both looked up and I’d never seen two whiter faces in this place than last Halloween when a few volunteers dressed up as ghosts for the school’s annual haunted house.
Neither said anything, so I took it upon myself to break the silence. “It’s been more than a week, guys. You asked for an extension, told me you might be onto something, but I’m finished waiting. Time’s up.”
Justin swallowed and set down his tools. He took a deep breath–I could see his chest shudder on the exhale–and straightened himself to the point he surprised me: I didn’t know nerds who hunched over all day could stand fully upright.
“It’s impossible, Keith.” He said my name with such certainly and conviction, I almost forgot who I was talking to. “We’ve looked at the glove finger to finger, took it apart and reassembled it countless times. Even unraveled a bit of wire to see what was inside, but that’s the thing, Keith, it was just wire. All this thing is”– he gestured wildly at the lump on the desk –“is a bunch of plastic and wires.
“There’s no power source. No mechanics. No way it did anything.”
I tried to keep my face calm, but my eyebrow managed to twitch anyways. I was determined not to let these two kids get the better of me, though, and tried not to show any weakness. First I had to be saved by some maniac blur, only to be humiliated like this? It wasn’t happening.
I crossed my arms tighter and clenched my teeth. “I swear it did something. I waved my hand, the TV came on. Simple as that. If it wasn’t the glove, what was it?”
Justin grinned. “See, Beaver and I, we thought about that, too.”
He glanced over his shoulder and raised his eyebrows. It seemed like a cue, because at that moment Beaver got up, walked around me, and pushed the door shut. I heard a faint click when he twisted the lock.
“Come here,” Justin said and flagged me toward the black monitor. As I approached, he turned it toward me, but I was still too far away to read the fine text. “There’re accounts of people being able to do strange things all over the world, and it’s been going on for centuries. Where do you think the notion of superheroes began in the first place? Sure, a decade ago, ‘heroes’ began appearing using technology to fight crime—but where did it start?”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Comic books?”
“Wrong.” Justin ran a hand through his flat blond hair and straightened his black glasses. “When it was noticed that some people were born, well, super, others wanted to exploit that. Comic book writers were a step ahead of technology, but once it caught up, people could buy a few machines and make themselves super, too. But”– here he grinned and I took a step back when I saw the glimmer in his eyes –“that doesn’t really make them super at all. Super is something you’re born with, not something you buy.”
He met my eyes and sent a chill down my spine, like he wanted to jump me or do something worse. I looked away, back at the door, and noticed Beaver was now blocking the exit. A skinny kid like him made a pitiful guard and it was a funny sight. I laughed.
“You don’t believe me, do you?”
I looked back at Justin and laughed again. “You honestly expect me to think I’m some sort of superhero just because this stupid glove turned a TV?” I shook my head.
“Alright then. Let’s make a new deal.” Justin crossed his arms. They had me cornered.
“Fine,” I said. “I’m listening.”
“Do it again. We’ll recreate the moment, just like it was when it happened the first time, and see what the glove does. If it does anything, you’re right, we’re wrong, but if you do something–”
“Shut it, alright?” I said. “I’m not trying some sort of experiment. I know what the glove did, whether you believe me or not.” I grabbed it off the desk and crossed the room, stuffing it into my pocket as I went. I faced Beaver and with a single glare he pulled the door open and backed away. I stormed into the hall not thinking, but stopped just as soon.
There he was, walking right toward me.
The maniac blur.
PART 6: The Confrontation