Short Stories From Casey's Cabin (Family Ties)

by Ron Puskarich


A new generation of people. Are we ready for this change

   "Dad... dad wake up. " Through the hiss of the respirator and constant drip of the IV that had become the background music for all my dreams, my daughters words drifted through and pulled me from my slumber. I opened my eyes and looked around the blurry room through cataract covered eyes until they landed on the beautiful young woman sitting at my bedside. "Kate!" I exclaimed, my voice muffled through the respirator I had forgotten to take off in my excitement. Kate was the perfect daughter. She was everything parents could want; cute, funny, smart and healthy. From the day she was born until she turned 13. (13-17 were rough years.) Did the thought of reaching inside her brain and tinkering with some hormones cross my mind? Yeah. Did it cross my mind almost every day? Yep. Did the thought of going to get a pack of cigarettes (even though I didn't smoke) and coming back in a few years sound like a reasonable idea now and then? Oh yeah. Of course, these were never serious thoughts and her mother and I let nature run its course. I watched her closely throughout the years, watching for any sign that my gift had been passed through the blood. That nature hadn't been sidestepped once again. She never showed any signs of her father's abilities, thank God. Eventually Kate would grow into the perfect person sitting beside me today. "Kate." I said again pulling off the clear plastic mask covering my face. "It's so good to see you! Only one month left!" My eyes dropping from her face to her bulging stomach. "It's great to see you too, dad... Is this place treating you well?" I had checked myself into Shady Oaks Nursing Home 6 months ago. Kate would have taken care of me until the day I died, but I loved her too much to put a burden like that in her lap. No, a father's job is to protect his children from hardships in life, even if he becomes that hardship. "Yes, we picked out a really great place. So what brings you in today? You're a day early, not that I'm complaining." Kate always came to see me twice a week, every Wednesday and Sunday. Today was only Tuesday. "Dad..... I want you to tell me about the Gene Program." "Well, It was something we tried out about 80 years ago. Genetically modifying babies in the womb. They made them faster, stronger, healthier. They cut out any congenital disorders. Any likelihood of physical defects. They made them perfect people. You know John, the physical trainer here. He's a splicer, that's what they were called back then, splicers. He's 104 years old and doesn't look a day over 40." Worry set in, this was not something Kate would mention. "Why?? Is the baby okay?" Ignoring the question Kate asked, "Why did they shut it down?" "They shouldn't have. Just like the nuclear power scares years before, people overlooked all the positive things that came from it and focused on the bad. Politicians pushed agendas for pharmaceutical companies that saw bankruptcy in their near future. People as a whole are sheep and with the right herding, they all followed suit. You can't blame them that much. Going back to the nuclear power analogy, things were great but when they went bad they went really, really bad and the population panicked. The scientists forgot the story of Icarus and flew too close to the sun." "What went wrong? What was so bad?" "Sweetheart, all this is in the history books if yo.." "You were there dad, I want to hear it from you," she interrupted. "Okay... They began to mess with the brain. Trying to remove any chance of depression, schizophrenia, OCD, ADHD and anything else you can think of. Trying to make them smarter with better concentration and so on. Their reach exceeded their grasp. Some were born exactly as designed, most others.. they weren't so lucky. When the scientists would plug one hole, two more would take its place. There were disorders on levels never before seen. Kids clawing their eyes out on the playground, kids biting off their own fingers. There were even new disorders they didn't have names for. The list goes on but I won't talk about it anymore. Not now, not in your condition." "Before mom died, she told me that some of those babies... They were born different. That some could read minds, others start fires or send their consciousness across the globe. That some could.... Move things. She said it was always conspiracy theory stuff, that nobody believed it including herself.. Until she met you." This was it. This was the moment I'd hoped would never come. I looked away from her and stared out the window. My mind temporally thinking what a dreary day it was for Spring, before snapping back to the situation at hand. I had never lied to her and I wasn't going to start on my deathbed. I'd hidden it. I didn't want her to think her dad was any different than she was. I did have a "training" plan for her if the power ever arose but it never did. With a long sigh I reached down and put the mask to my face once more, taking a few deep breaths before lowering it again. "I was one of the last before the project was shut down. The government rounded up everyone of us they could find, which was almost everybody. I imagine they experimented with many and most likely killed the ones they couldn't control. I don't have some grand story of escape or hiding, they just never came looking. To this day I don't know why. My power was not that strong. I could move small stuff, the largest being once when I got a flat and didn't have a jack. I got the corner of the car off the ground just long enough to replace the tire. I should have called a tow truck, it put me in bed for 3 days. I got really good at moving small things very precisely. Your mom hated it when I made it look like it was snowing in the kitchen by raining down salt, I always moved it back to the shaker though, so I don't know what she got so worked up about. I'm sorry Kate, I just wanted to be a normal dad." "You have nothing to be sorry for." Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a quarter and held it out to me. "Will you show me?" Without a word I stretched out my arm and she dropped it into my wrinkled palm. The coin stopped dead an inch before it hit my hand. After levitating there for a moment I raised it to a height of about 6 inches and began to spin it. Slow and graceful, it was almost hypnotizing. "I hope this isn't scaring you Kate, it's not dangerous and I'm still your da.." Kate raised her hand, palm facing my hand and fingers stretched out like she was catching a ball. The coin ripped out of my grip faster than my old eyes could see. It stopped a foot from her hand and began spinning. Fast. Very Fast. It began to hum, then got louder and louder. It sounded like a helicopter taking off beside me, then the blur that was the quarter began to glow. Barely visible at first, but moments later burning a bright orange. Friction. "K... Kate??" The quarter rocketed into her palm as she closed her fingers around it. The sickening sizzle of human flesh burning followed right behind. "KATE!" The father in me forgetting all about the mind-boggling sight moments before in favor of the concern over my injured daughter. Dropping the coin on the hard wood floor it began smoking as the wood beneath it turned to embers. Kate held up her hand to reveal a burn that went halfway through her palm and slightly less intense burns throughout her fingers. I looked on as the holes and slices began to fill themselves in. Within seconds they were gone, not even a scar left behind. I reached again for my mask, realizing I had been holding my breath through this entire ordeal. After a few desperate gasps I dropped the mask and stared speechless at my daughter. "It stared last month." "So, so, so.. You haven't always had this? You weren't just hiding it all this time?" "No, of course not. And dad... I don't have it now." Kate said as her hand that was destroyed moments ago slid over her pregnant stomach. "It skipped a generation." "And got a lot stronger along the way... So, was it you or him that just did.. that?" I said. "It was me. I have it by proxy for now. Don't ask me how I know, but I know, he'll take it with him when he goes. I can feel it. Dad, I know I have no right to ask you this but, can you help me? When he's born how do I deal with it, what happens when he gets mad? When he's sad? If he's this strong now..." "I'll do whatever I can for you while I'm here honey but I'm 81 years old." Kate looked up from the floor. She always looked at the floor when she cried. Her blue eyes had taken on a light aqua shade, it looked almost as if they were slightly glowing from the inside. A single tear that had run down her cheek fell off like a tiny puff of fog. "What if you didn't have to be?" "....." "What if you didn't have to be??" "I don't understand where you're going with this Kate." "You said you weren't strong but were great with the small stuff. What if I fed power to you and you used that to... Fix everything. To fix your body, to build synapses in your brain. To make yourself as strong as your grandson, stronger even. Then you could help me, I'm so scared of the power, not the child I'm about to bring into this world." I thought for a moment. But only a moment. I was on deaths doorstep and nobody wants to die. A power unlike anything the world had seen before was a month away from entering this world and my daughter needed my help. The choice wasn't really a choice at all. "Okay.." Kate leaned forward and raised her hand, aqua tinted waves rolled off the tips of her fingers like heat waves off hot asphalt. As she gripped her hand around my forearm my universe imploded inside my mind. I could "see" every cell in my body and without conscious effort they began to grow younger but not fast enough. As one group of cells grew younger, others grew older. This wasn't a byproduct of the power but a product of my lack of control. I was using the power to steal life from one cell to feed another. I needed more precision. With my mind existing in a place I can never describe, I effortlessly moved to the part of my brain that controlled my power. I had no idea where it was before but I had never seen my entire body at cell level before. Synapses grew and stretched out like superhighways before me. I watched as they twisted and slammed into parts of my brain they never connected to before. As new connection after new connection was made I watched bewildered. What was it doing? Then as a final synapses connected the left and right hemispheres of my brain all the roads burst to life with activity. Back in the real world, my back arched upwards almost to the point of breaking. My skin began to stretch tighter over muscle that hadn't been there a minute ago. Inside my organs all found new life as they were essentially rebuilt. Bones grew strong again on the inside while scars and tattoos vanished on the outside. Beyond my body this new found source of power coupled with the rewiring of my own brain was causing unforeseen events. My saline drip bag popped as I unknowingly broke the hydrogen and oxygen bonds leaving only salt behind. Seeds in a bird feeder outside my window all sprang to life, grew and died in a matter of seconds. A model train car that sat on my desk filled with real coal had it's load turned into diamonds. Back in my mind I watched as the last cells were replaced and I was yanked back to reality. Even though I knew what to expect, I was still shocked when I opened my eyes. There I was, an 81-year-old in my 25-year-old body. Inside my brain I could feel a power that must be similar to what a god would feel. Kate opened her eyes and the aqua quickly turned back to blue. As she released her hand my forearm had been crushed in the exchange. With a glance it began repairing itself. "So, who am I?" I asked. "Brother?" "That works... I need a name. You pick it." "How about.. Chad?" ".... I'll think of something. Let me get out of this gown and I'll meet you downstairs, sound good swee... Kate?" A few minutes later I met Kate in the lobby wearing extremely ill-fitting clothes. As we reached the car I looked up into the gloomy sky. I mentioned how today should be a sunny day, given all that had happened. My eyes turned aqua and the clouds gently rolled away in a circle around me, leaving only blue sky as far as the eye could see.

                                                                          The End

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