Chapter 80: Believe

When John opened his eyes, he only saw white. A soft sheet was resting over his face, and he heard the hum of a microwave from close by. He gently grasped the sheet; he wasn’t sure when it had worked its way over his head, but he was used to moving around in his sleep. Maybe he’d get a chance to grab a bite of whatever the person who actually lived here was cooking before he left. If it was big enough, they’d never notice a few missing bites.

“You might want to keep the sheet over your face,” a familiar voice said. “Your power shut down when you managed to slide back.”

John’s hand froze. He didn’t want to move. If he moved then he might just wake up again, and he’d have to go another day, another week, another year alone in his nightmare. The seconds ticked by, broken only by the ringing of the microwave.

John listened to the man’s feet softly padding on the tile floor and onto the carpet. He heard a plate being placed on a table next to his head along with something that smelled like coffee.

“You probably don’t want to use your power right now. I’ll wait in the other room while you eat. I can get you a cab home or to the nearest bus station when you’re done eating.”

John didn’t wait, he tore the sheet from his face and looked Will straight in the eye.

His breath caught in his throat when he saw Will meeting his gaze.

“I-I’m back.”

The events of yesterday flooded his mind, and he felt a phantom pain running over his entire body.

Will leaned down and placed a hand on his shoulder. He smiled gently.

“You’re back.”

It took John a moment to realize that there were tears running down his face. For the first time in over a month, he had said something without hearing his words echoing through the half silence. He wanted to shout and jump and run home and hug his mother.

But his limbs felt like they were frozen in place and his breath was catching in his throat. His eyes began burning as they overflowed with tears and his shoulders started to shake with every labored breath.

Will sat on the couch next to him and let him weep into his shoulder. He stayed silent, maybe because he didn’t know what to say, maybe because he knew that there wasn’t anything to say. Either way, John was grateful for the silence. For just a few minutes more, he needed to be invisible.

“How long was I…?”

“About seven weeks, we think,” Will said. “It’s hard to say exactly when we forgot, but that’s how long it’s been since you were at a meeting. Someone who sees you more often might know better.”

John’s eyes grew wide. “My mom. How will I-?” He took a deep breath. “She doesn’t know about my power. Will she know she forgot, or will she just think I disappeared?”

“I don’t know, kid. I don’t remember forgetting, just being told that I did. She may notice that she hasn’t seen much of you, or she may think you ran away.”

John felt his fists clenching against his will. He could handle her being angry or happy to see him, but the idea of her thinking he’d been missing for weeks; she’d been through that once before. He had had to watch her come home every day, hoping his brother would be coming home despite everything telling her it was impossible. Even if she hadn’t known it at the time, that wouldn’t make the day she remembered any better. It might make it a hundred thousand times worse.

“Calm down,” Will said. John hadn’t realized that his breath had been growing shallower and shallower. “The important thing is that you’re back. Whatever happened that got you stuck, you managed to get out of it.”

At Will’s words, a face drifted across John’s mind, and his hear froze.

“What is it?”

“I saw him. I saw-” John’s voice caught in his throat, and he had to take a deep breath. “I saw Eclipse.”

Will took a sip of the coffee in his hand. “Oh.”

They remained silent for a moment.

“Is that why you lost control?”

John nodded. “He’s also the reason I was able to make it back. I don’t know how he did it but…he kind of shoved the knowledge into my head.” His knees retreated towards his chest and he clasped his hands around them. “He was so…normal. If I couldn’t sense him I’d never know who it was.”

“You’d think that someone that insane would show it,” Will said. “But that never seems to be the case.”

“Shouldn’t we warn somebody? Tell the Council that he’s in town?”

Will shrugged. “We could. But even if they don’t know, it won’t do any good. We can’t stop him from attacking, and we have no idea when he will. Telling them won’t change that. It’ll just make them paranoid for a few weeks.”

John’s grip on his legs relaxed slightly, but his hands were slowly clawing their way into fists. “So we just wait? What kind of hero knows that a monster like that is out there and just sits around doing nothing?”

“What do you want to do? What will make you more ready to face someone who can rip a city apart just by walking through it?”

John looked Will in the eye. “A hero doesn’t ask what will make him ready, because it’s his job to be ready for anything.”

Will made a sound somewhere between a scoff and a grunt. “That’s a nice dream, but the man who said that died alone and in constant pain, because he believed it could be true.”

“You didn’t disappear because you believed. You disappeared when you stopped.”

John left his still full plate on the table and walked out the door.

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