Friday, April 15, 2011

FICTION: The Changents by Darrell Albert

Bio--A boy struggling to fit in finds himself kidnapped by a group of outcasts. He is forced to go along with their plans. Underneath the serious nature, lies a quirky, thought provoking story with unpredictable surprises and outcomes.

Part 1: When the colourful are colour-blind

"Hey loser, why aren't you saying anything? Aren't you even going to fight back?" were the first words I heard on my first day of senior year at the bus stop.

"Sorry," I said.

"He's so pathetic!" the bully said as he walked away with his friend. He was right. I was pathetic, because most seniors in my class had cars and didn't ride a lame ass bus.

I reassembled myself on the dirty sidewalk. As I started to get up, it seemed I felt somebody help me get up. I looked around and I was alone. "Weird," I muttered. When I got to school things went the same as the bus stop. The boys took a lot of time out of their day to harass me. I almost felt important, like a gangster who was so cool that everyone wanted to kill him. The girls would even look away, as to fully remove myself from their peripheral vision. The lesson is, if you are the type to end every question with "If you want," you don't stand a chance. I tried hard fitting in. I didn't even know how people knew what type of clothes was in style. I knew I loved my flat cap though.

I finished my homework on the bus ride home. I wanted to retire into some video games and a 6-pack of soda. My parents were always working, and I usually preferred to be alone anyway. This is what I ultimately strive for, peace of mind from the daily grind. After my eyes started to hurt, I went outside for a walk. It's funny how the street lights often go out when I walk under them. I had some problems lately getting intrusive thoughts, coincidences and flashes of insight. I was hoping they would go away. But it happened again on this stretch of sidewalk. This time wasn't a trivial issue though such as predicting the next song on the radio. I looked ahead, and I had a vision that a school bus full of kids on their way back from a basketball game was about to crash with no survivors. It was a feeling like déjà vu where the feeling continued a few seconds as if showing me the future. As quickly as my mind showed me these images, I ran ahead. I saw the bus coming from the right. I ran fairly close and screamed. The bus driver noticed me, and seemed to get the message. He turned the steering wheel, but it wasn't enough. The bus crashed gently against the curb. I ran over to see if everyone was ok. People blamed me though for distracting the bus driver.

The last person to come off the bus was a young boy. He ran towards me. He seemed to be chatting with someone, but there was nobody there.

"I had everything under control, you dunce!" he said. I wondered how he noticed me, as I was just being my usual spectre self in the background. "You distracted me!" he continued. This strange boy said who was wearing what appeared to be a t-shirt of an anime I wasn't familiar with.

When it comes to words, my brain was like an Apple IIe computer. The only thing I could say as I made eye contact with the ground was, "Hey, I like your flat cap".

He stared off to the side as his eyes got bigger and said, "You know I could kick your ass."

He thought I was being fuckin' mean! "No, I’m serious!" I said, trying to convince him. I was guilty of thinking of myself and being sad that I made someone upset with me. I moved my shoe when a cricket almost made contact with it and asked, "What's your name?"

The boy got into my face and shrieked, "I don't have one! I almost got killed back there! I'm just a water boy for my school's basketball team! My friends call me Water boy even. My team and I had that bus accident way under control. “I knew you would come anyway. In fact, we were EXPECTING it.

I tried to make him like me again by saying, “My name is Zac, but everyone calls me Prozac. I'm used to it now. It's a badge of honour."

Water boy seemed shocked, "I know somebody who goes by the name of Skitz for the same reasons! Water boy suddenly ignored me to look off to the side listening to something again. Suddenly he left. I wondered if I'd said something to put him off.

Part 2: To ever-rest on ground moral-high

Weeks went by, and my routine was the same. My depression increased though from increased coincidences and foresights. I told myself it was all just coincidence when something weird happened, even the bus accident. I always envied Mt. Everest. Not in the usual way where it is a symbol of achieving a daunting task. To me, the blasted thing took a beating all year round from all the elements. All it knows is loneliness and pain. It has no concept of joy as a reference point. In other words, Mt. Everest has nowhere to climb.

The next day was worse than normal. My first teacher caught me not saying the pledge of allegiance. She wanted me to go to the front and recite it alone. I walked up, cracking my wrist with one hand and picking at my lip with the other hand. My hair was messy, and one of my socks was hugging over part of my pants. To top it all off, when put on the spot, I often blanked out. After a couple phrases, my palms started to get sweaty as I paused. I forgot the fucking' words!!

The teacher mocked, "Didn't you learn this in like, kindergarten? Since I'm a teacher, I guess I gotta hold you back about a decade." She loved the laugh she got, and didn't see a need at all to stick up for me.

"Sorry," I said as I scratched my thumbnail with my other hands index finger. I then proceeded to run out of the school. I felt another strange force trying to keep me in the room, but it let go. I was crying as I raced home. I didn't even think about what grabbed me. I stared a moment at the front porch through my tears. It looked like an expressionist painting. I then noticed a window was partially open despite it being cold out. My body was shaking even worse than before. My brain turned on me. All the reasons I should die came flooding to the fore. I ignored the window, ran inside and picked up a large knife. I know, this must seem a bit dramatic over a trivial incident like my teacher. To me it symbolized my entire attempt at life to fit in, and my constant failure to do so. I proceeded to cut my wrist.

Suddenly I heard someone shout, "Now." A second later, yet another strange force grabbed me from behind with that familiar tight warmth. Water boy jumped out of the closet and said, "Don't you dare dipshit." He continued with caved-in eyebrows, "You know that day on the bus jerkwad? We were waiting for you to come." I didn’t' know what he meant when he said "we." "Well, don't just stand there looking dumb," he continued.

"Sorry," I said, analysing the tiling on the floor. "We can go to the living room and sort things out, if you want and stuff."

He actually agreed to my idea and followed me to my embarrassing living room full of stupid pictures of myself and other relatives. He seemed to roll his eyes at the pictures of my grade school's futile basketball attempt. Water boy sat on the floor and I sat on the sofa.

I broke the silence. "If I may ask, what did you mean by 'we' and how did you know I was coming to you on the bus?"

Water boy answered, "I have a friend that only I can see. She was watching you for a while, and told me where you would be. We know that you can see briefly in the future. There is another in my outfit that can do it too.

I said humbly and with utmost respect, “I'm sorry, I just don't understand. Who are you talking about?"

Water boy made a fist as if he held the last laugh tightly contained inside and spoke as if I were missing the obvious, "I can talk to spirits."

I felt like this was just another prank somebody was playing on me. I started to get up as I shook my head.

He resented my reaction, and now had his fist raised at me, “Are you as dumb as the smartest brick? I'm not making this up!" All of a sudden, he paused and looked in an empty corner again, as if listening.

I stood there fidgeting with my hands and asked in a shamelessly whining timbre, “If it is alright, I have some homework to do. Is it ok if we call it a night? I mean, if you want or whatever."

"I can see you don't believe me," said Water boy like a travelling salesman giving up gathering up his vacuum demonstration. "Well, believe me on this. Gale has been watching you for weeks. We will meet again!" Water boy headed for the door, which he treated like his own by slamming it.

I ran after him. To no effect, I yelled, "I’m sorry. Let's talk some more." I always felt terrible when I fucked up trying to keep people from being angry with me. A second later, I painfully remembered the incident with the teacher. Being a bit paranoid, I also wondered if there was some truth to what Water boy was saying. I lumbered to my room. My mind had a habit of talking that my mouth refuses to do while pacing back and forth. Suddenly, the doorbell rang and I remembered my relatives were coming tonight. I kept up the 'pace".

After about an hour, mom yelled, "Hey, come down for dinner."

I said, "I don’t feel well, and I have a lot of homework to do."

She yelled again and louder, "Oh come on, there is plenty of time for that. Besides, my cooking will perk anyone up."

I had a hard time saying no to people. It seemed every time I gave a reason, they would counter me with something that undermined MY reasons. As I went downstairs you could feel the awkwardness in the room as everyone looked at me. Everybody was seated and waiting for me. My whole family basically thought I was really weird. As everybody was talking I couldn't believe how phoney it all was. I finished and went back upstairs.

Part 3: Souvenirs from home

A week passed and I was glad that Water boy never showed up. I figured he made it up. Fantasy must have been his safe place too. I can't explain those experiences where I felt that warm force touching me though. Since I had a pleasant weekend with a new video game, it only made sense that something bad would happen soon.

Normally, if I felt strongly about something in class, I would brave sharing my thoughts. This didn't prove to be a good idea. I loved studying the human mind because it held the answers for human motivation. I noticed so much hypocrisy from neurotypcials. In History, I thought hard on worldly problems. I often questioned our History book, and criticized the U.S. for many things it had done that I thought were wrong.

I kept writing about controversial subjects. Over the week, people were growing afraid of me despite that my ideas were about healing and not hurting. The girls avoided me and called me creepy.

In psychology, I wrote a paper about how some individuals would benefit from suicide as they are forced into a world that doesn't accept them no matter how hard they try. This brought the attention of the teacher. "I will not accept any more papers based on your personal thoughts. Who are you to come up with ideas and question this great country that makes it possible for you to even express yourself? And I will not tolerate wasting class time on your attempts to get attention. We all get picked on. You have to learn to suck it up like a man".

I didn't need to a vision to tell me that bigger was coming for me. I was right.

The teacher removed his glasses and rubbed the top of his nose with his finger. He said angrily, "I'm required to send any students hinting at suicide to Principle Judd."

He buzzed the office, set it up, and chaperoned me to Principle Judd's office. He was expecting me. My psychology teacher left, as he did his duty, and won't be fired for ignoring suicide procedure.

"Well Zac, I have received lots of complaints by students and the faculty about your behaviour lately", Principle Judd said in a fake sincere way. "You are here suspended for two weeks so you can get the help that you need. I'm sure your parents will agree. Don't look at this as a punishment. When you get back, we'll work something out to get you into one of our many fine school programs. It's past registration period, but we can work something out."

That night, my mom was pissed and asked why I would write a paper on such disturbing topics. My bones were shaking from the feeling of condemnation I felt from my parents and the whole school. I yelled, "I didn’t mean to scare anybody! It's not my fault!" My mom ignored me and started yelling at my dad. I saw him get up and move towards the phone. When I heard him say something over the phone about committing me, I panicked.

Just then I felt that familiar tug s on my arm and I was literally being led outside! My panic led to a hysterical fit. I was being dragged across a back road behind my house towards a park. I couldn't free myself.

Water boy came out of the shadows as I was let go. He placed something on my wrist. "So we meet again,” he chortled, enjoying the drama he created. "So how does it feel to finally GET IT that life has no place for you? I knew it was best to let you learn for yourself where the main road would take you." I ignored him and noticed some guys mixing something near some trees.

Water boy snapped his fingers in my face and said, "Now don't try to take a detour". He was now holding a detonating device that must be for giving me a shock through my wrist device if I ran away.

Suddenly one of the strangers up ahead came running over. He wore a flat cap just like mine. I could barely see this face as the streetlights all were out. He caught me looking at him and said in a hurried voice. "The name's Skitz"

Skitz ignored what I said and said he had a vision earlier that brought a feeling of urgency. He was almost begging as he asked, "Do you sense anything about an explosion, fire, or furnace room?" I was surprised that he knew that I have these visions too.

I stuttered a bit like I sometimes do and said, "Mine comes only when it feels like it. Sorry."

Skitz looked disappointed. He looked off towards the other stranger mixing still and spoke, "Hey Insomnia, please hurry and get that solution ready! We can't take a chance". As Skitz went towards Insomnia to badger him, I felt like the invisible ghost again. At least I wasn't the only one with Gail to keep me company. I walked towards Skitz to see what was going on as I heard him mutter as he bounced up and down on his toes.

Insomnia answered loudly, “This has to set! It can't be hurried. You stick to your element and I will stick to mine from the periodic table." Insomnia seemed very proud of what he was doing. I wondered if he was some mad scientist or something. A minute passed. "Ding," Insomnia said calmly in defiance to Skitz's impatience. I laughed as Insomnia put on gloves and loaded the liquid into a Super Soaker squirt gun. Insomnia put the gun in his messenger bag and started running somewhere. Water boy gave Skitz the detonator for my wrist. Skitz turned to me, "Let's get a move on". We ran towards Insomnia. I noticed Water boy was cleaning up the campsite. I didn't know what Gail was doing. I panted trying to keep up the pace with Skitz and Insomnia until they reached a bus stop.

After a moment, I heard Insomnia grimace and say to Fritz, "I HATE it when I KNOW I'm right about something, and have the proof, and people STILL don't take me seriously!!" I wanted to answer that I go through that almost daily, but remained safe and silent. Than he was bragging to Skitz about his new technological inventions and completely lost me. I settled into my head as I waited.

Part 4: Space and Arms races

"It's about time," Skitz said as he saw the bus finally come around the corner. We boarded and sat down. It was a long ride. He then talked to himself, as if in argument. "Maybe my vision is false. But I’m not informing the receptionist at the Capital again, he said as he whistled. When we got off the bus Skitz led us towards the Capital building. I was very apprehensive about all this about an explosion and a fire as we were heading for the capital building. What were these guys up too?

I saw somebody pacing in the distance. Fritz led us to him. The gentleman seemed an eccentric fellow. He immediately reached in the grocery bag for something.

Skitz was the first to initiate this strange coffee clutch, "Well Frankenstein, I hope you 'hacked' it and found the information I need from that computer of yours."

The middle aged Frankenstein fell answered as he waved his arms around, "Oh, what kind of a 'hack' do you take me for? Of course I succeeded! What do you expect from the guy who singlehandedly solved all the conspiracy theories on earth!!!.....Oh dear diary!!" He studied me before reaching into his bag for a map of the capital building. "Now those red marks are all the security cameras. I gave Nature Critic a copy, and I'll go back to the campsite and get one to Water boy." I wanted to leave these guys at this point. I was terrified of the shock collar. I kept quiet. It's what I do.

Skitz turned his attention from Frankenstein to us now. "We have tilled the 12’ Th of never. LET'S GO!" he said.

I stood still and pondered, "Who really are these Changents? Were they lying to me about their objectives? What kind of technology does Insomnia have access to?"

My mind was interrupted by Fritz as he barked, "Hey Pro-Zach, move your ass!"

I spun around and held my ground as I freaked out, "What the fuck are we doing? What kind of trouble are you getting me into?" I was shocked at my tone.

Skitz grabbed my arm but I tried wrestling myself free. "I NEED to know," I said with oddly placed tears forming in my eyes.

Skitz said without a teaspoon of reassurance, “I am not at liberty to tell you. This is your first lesson as a Changent", Skitz said as he took out the wrist detonator. I uprooted myself from the ground before deciding to continue towards the capital building. Frankenstein left us, but went back to pacing as deep in thought.

Once we reached the front entrance, a person dressed in white came out and walked towards us. I thought we were busted. Rather, this well dressed person whispered to Skitz barely in a voice barely audible to me, "I hypnotized everyone that is in the building at this time. I can only cover the front entrance. The back is just an emergency exist, but take note anyway." Nature Critic walked by Insomnia and discreetly handed him some papers. I could only read the heading. It read "Putting the Cart before the Horse: A psychologist’s perspective on eliminating hate through hypnosis--Nature Critic."

Insomnia put the papers in his messenger bag and pulled out what appeared to be a bottle cap. He aimed it at Fritz and me before Skitz took it and scanned Insomnia. He then would click it whenever we walked within range of a red dot on the map. He must have tricked the cameras somehow because Fritz gave the camera a middle finger with one hand and a peace-sign with the other as he led us past one. Fritz kept following the map and disrupting the cameras. There were people walking everywhere, but nobody even glanced at us even though we must have looked quite suspicious. This must have been that Nature Critic's doing.

I suddenly had my intense déjà vu feeling come over me. "Hold it," I gasped. I waited a moment for the vision to pass. I was in this EXACT hallway. It snapped into place like a jigsaw puzzle piece.

I had a sense that police cars were coming. I forced a long breath and said "The cops are coming, hoping these guys would cancel their sinister plans and run back out.

"We gotta work fast", Skitz said to my dismay. We ran faster through a few more twists and turns as the temperature was getting increasingly hot. We finally found a big heavy door guarding the furnace room. The door was locked.

Suddenly, as if it was business as usual, Insomnia pulled out another strange device about 4 inches long and held it against the lock. Just then, bang on time, police sirens started blaring.

"You're a Changent all right," said Skitz as my vision was real. Insomnia held his device against the lock as a beam of light shot out into the lock. After a long wait, we opened the door and a large thick blast of smoke blew in our faces.

‘Insomnia told Skitz in a smug tone "Well don't feel left out SKitz, you are a Changent too" as he saw fire on the walls. We used a nearby garbage can to hold the door open once we went inside. It suddenly hit me that WE were not going to set fire to the capital, but SAVE the capital FROM the fire.

Skitz said as he coughed, ""This is the same room as in my vision. I hope we got here early enough." His eyes surveyed the room and continued, "It looks like an electrical fire." Insomnia pulled out the neon green and purple Super Soaker from his bag and started shooting his special solution onto the walls. The small amount of liquid expelled seemed to expand once it made contact. It seemed to stay cold as ice and wouldn't evaporate.

At this point, we all were almost passing out from the heat as well as the smoke which penetrated every molecule of air in the room. We heard bullhorns outside but we couldn't worry about those right now, but it won't be long before they get here.

Part 5: The Monster's Frankenstein

Suddenly Insomnia blurted out, "That about does it." We gathered up the tools but as Insomnia was leading the way toward the door, he fell against the garbage can, knocking it over. The door slammed shut before we could stop it. Skitz tried opening it, but it was locked again. Fritz ignored the door and saw that Insomnia was passed out. He reached into Insomnia's bag for the pen shaped lock-opener. It was damaged from soot collecting in the tiny metal joints that create the key.

"Shit," Skitz said with fear in his muffled voice. He looked at Insomnia and sighed. "Help me move em' he said in a friendly fashion as I must have put all the pieces together by now. We moved Insomnia away from the heaviest smoke and Skitz went straight into CPR. I helped him. We managed to revive Insomnia and told him to just stay lying on the floor and continue breathing through his shirt. But we knew we had to find a way out or all three of us would die. Skitz proceeded to use his phone to get hold of Frankenstein. "Why isn't he picking up?" Skitz blurted. He called Nature Critic, but he didn’t' pick up either as he must have been busy with swarms of cops outside. He put the phone down defeated and said, "Where is a water-boy when you need him to put out a fire?"

"No!" I screamed as I saw Forever Freeze all over the wall and floor. I braved touching a drop. It was ice cold, but was no longer freezing. I used a nearby shovel to bring some over to Insomnia.

"What do you think you are doin'?" Sputtered Skitz.

"There's an iron in fire after all! Stop gabbing and start dabbing," I yelled with a rare assertiveness that lost something from my weakened voice.

After covering Insomnia's body, we coated ourselves with the rejuvenating liquid. "That will help our bodies from the heat, but what about the smoke?" I moaned in a surrendering tone.

Just than Skitz and I got a vision at the same time. We both talked it out as we got the details. My voice lamented laced with hope, “I see smoke escaping the ceiling."

Skitz echoed, "Now I’m outside all of a sudden, in a struggle. I can't see the face."

I pondered, "Another fire? Green smoke everywhere."

Fritz ended, "No danger, I'm free. Wait, no. It's all black".

When I was free I started looking around at the ceiling. Skitz ignored his vision and helped me with mine. We looked through dense curls of smoke until we saw a small crack leading to a hole. 'Hit that fucker with the shovel! Skitz said ecstatically. I stood up on a nearby table, held my breath, and swung the shovel at the crack repeatedly. The ceiling started chipping away. After a minute or so a big chunk of the ceiling broke off. Smoke was gushing out. "This is now a smoke free building" I said smugly. "Good going!" SKitz laughed. We stopped the fire, and saved our lives.

"Shit Zack, We still need to get that door open before the REAL 'heat' gets here."

I was looking at Insomnia on the floor wondering what to do. Skitz was trying to see if WE could escape through the ceiling. The other set of rafters was too thick.

Moments later someone finally showed up with that familiar bullhorn we've been hearing and positioned him just down the hall and thundered, “WE KNOW YOU ARE IN THERE TERRORISTS. COME OUT WITH YOUR HANDS BEHIND YOUR HEADS.”We tried yelling that we were locked in but the cops were too far away. I turned to Skitz "Leave it to nearotypicals to assume we are terrorists even though our objective is to save some sorry asses today. It's a love crime, not a hate crime!! As I said this, it hit me that I did the same thing being suspicious of what the Changents were going to do at the Capital. I immediately assumed the worst. Skitz smiled as he knew what I was thinking and said, "We live in a world where we don't trust each other. We focus on the "bad". Police don't stop somebody because they did something RIGHT, they focus only on mistakes. Employers, teachers, and people in general ignore the good in people” Skitz pulled out the wrist detonator and I screamed as he pressed the button. Rather than the horrible shock I expected, I felt a feeling of ecstasy come over my entire body. "SKitz smiled, "You assumed this was an instrument of pain. There are weapons of mass euphoria. But why wouldn't you resist such thoughts with all the weapons of war that we see on the news daily. Insomnia wanted to invent a weapon that brings joy rather than pain.

Suddenly, we heard footsteps. SKitz smiled as if he was figured out a puzzle. It was as though he was a member of the Wild Bunch about to walk proudly to his doom. He turned to Insomnia but addressed me, “If it's your style to kill, now is your chance." I went ballistic and spoke, "What the fuck? I've never even THOUGHT about killing anyone. Fritz laughed as he continued to wipe soot off Insomnia's face from the lingering smoke. "Don't speak so soon Pro-zac." As a Changent, you walk in a lot of different shoes. Even the outlaw that goes by the pan-handle Cowhand Luke started out a pacifist before his father was killed in a bar fight that started simply because he bumped into a mean drunk."

The bullhorn suddenly erupted, "IF YOU DON'T GET OUT OF HERE IN 30 SECONDS WE ARE MOVING IN. Fritz laughed menacingly as he saw the Super Soaker half full of Forever Freeze.”I'll shoot the feds in the eyes with this. You hide behind the door with the shovel. I'll worry about Insomnia, you just run when you see a chance. Oh and did I mention that I have a thing for socks?" I held the shovel behind the door when a gas canister exploded behind the door as curls of green smoke shot underneath it.

When I awoke, Water boy was hovering over me as he boomed, “Do you think you are Sleeping Beauty or something? I didn't wake you up by kissing you by the wall. You were out for days." Water boy looked off to the side as Gail told him something. He laughed and said, "Gail says she is happy you are back."

"And I am too", Nature Critic said in a comforting timbre. You have a kind heart.

I chuckled weakly and asked, “Is Fritz and Insomnia alright?"

Water boy hesitated but forced an answer, "Insomnia is alive, but his wounds are severe. Skitz didn't make it and Frankenstein is in jail.

I turned to Water boy and asked sleepily as my subtle grin turned into a subtle frown, "What happened?"

Water boy continued, “I was waiting at the campsite with Gail for Frankenstein to show up and let us know everything was running smoothly. When he never showed, Gail and I headed for the capital. The place was buzzing with cop cars by then. Nature Critic was hidden near the front, able to hypnotize people, but his limit is within a 20 foot diameter. Many cops were using the emergency exit and he couldn't do anything about it. I went to him. He gave me his copy of Frankenstein’s map. As I headed for the Capital a clump of frightened cops burst out of the building, as if they saw, well....a certain ghost. After Nature Critic turned his attention to them, I went inside the building. I followed the map, and used the camera jammer to "forget" if you will my personal frequency. You and Insomnia were lying on the floor 40 feet from the furnace room. I heard multiple screams upstairs mixed with Skitz's attempt at pithy chatter. I didn't want to leave Skitz, but I had to get you guys out. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Cowhand Luke materialized out of the smoke and said "Leave Skitz to me". I called on Gail to help me get you and Insomnia out. The rest of the story I learned from a letter written by Cowhand Luke next to Skitz's body. Skitz was shooting cops with Forever Freeze as Cowhand Luke assisted him with his 6-gun. They were cowed outside the back exit when a cop jumped Skitz. Skitz quickly grabbed some rope from his belt and started strangling the cop. That is when I heard a sniper shot followed by the thud of Skitz hitting the ground face down literally biting the dust on the ground."

As Water boy mentioned Skitz we both let our guards down and sobbed a bit. I was also worried about Frankenstein in jail, but didn't inquire."

Water boy’s tone darkened and he pressed on, "The sad twist is that you all were not even the suspects in this scare. Gail overheard that it was a suspicious acting person who merely had obsessive compulsive disorder and was drawing attention by walking up and down the steps multiple times. To a near typical, THAT is considered suspicious and creepy. They don’t realize that the true creeps know how to act normal. As usual the man with OCD was labelled a lunatic without any benefit of the doubt. But you became the target because of just one mistake, which was Frankenstein’s grocery bag full of maps to reach the capitals basement. He drew too much attention just by wandering around the capital with a grocery sack. Next mission is rescuing that idiot."

Instead of reacting to Water boys speech, I just blurted out, “Who the fuck is Cowhand Luke?" Just then, a mysterious dark figure came into the room. He had a dirty cowboy hat and wore one of those plain black long down puffy women's winter coat. He appeared like something from a Matrix movie set in Alaska or something. I was so nervous I could only say, “I like your coat."

He bent his head and spoke so quietly I could hardly make it out, “It feels protected in a maternal way. I have no time for real women's constant crises. They call me Cowhand Luke. I participate with the Changents when I feel like it. He continued talking to me, but I could see it was just a chance to get some things off his chest to Nature Critic. “Nature Critic puts the cart before the horse. His gruelling study of permanent fatal hypnosis only masks the symptoms. He actually admits his work would only fool the DNA glitch which makes humans defective. It would require a hypnosis dose for everybody entering the world. “I on the other hand believe in weeding out the most hateful among us, thus curing the disease."

He paused as he held up his shiny silver revolver.

Rather than argue, Nature Critic addressed me, "Cowhand Luke is right, in that I use psychological methods, but also education to stamp out hate, after the fact. I have not figured out yet how to hypnotize someone permanently from conception. It is so rare to find people who can do what I do, that we have been looking for years to find another. Having just one more would have really helped at the back entrance to the Capital, and SKitz may have lived. It is important that people like us find each other for support."

Water boy interrupted in a commanding tone, "That is my job. You want to know why people like us are not in relationships. It could be because humanity only needs so many Changents, and if our kind procreates wily Nelly, there would be more shipyards than sheep. Nature fixes this by making us LESS desirable!! We often see relationships as a waste of time and would rather be alone. And of course there is always masturbation. “He interjected with a laugh before finishing his thoughts. "Nature has a different plan for us!!" The changing seed implants a kind of magnetic pull towards social justice. When we do nothing, we feel trapped and restless. We find enough comfort in our abilities and companionship to motivate us ahead.

Nature Critic took the opportunity, “I don't agree that nature knows what it is doing. There are so many of us that commit suicide because there is nothing for us on the main road and many of us WANT to be loved. We end up hearing police sirens when we deserve wedding bells. I am devising a way to hypnotize people to remove the ridiculous notions we as a human race carry when selecting a mate, such as warped perceptions of beauty, seeking only the opposite gender, conformity, or silly notions of masculinity, which would give people like you and I chance. A simple peanut explains it best; women are judged by the shell, and men are judged by the nuts."

Suddenly a doctor entered the room. He didn't give a name, but I could tell he was somehow mixed up with the Changents. He spoke with conviction, “Give the poor kid a break. He's MY patient you know.

Everybody said their goodbyes and started walking out the door.

Water boy paused and asked me, "So Prozac, what would you like to see changed in this world?" My answer came quickly, “Stop the ridiculous tradition of the senior prom!" Everybody was laughing as they were leaving, even Cowhand Luke. It was as if everyone understood. Water boy said in his usual dramatic when he was almost out the door, ‘Till next time, Cole slaw for brains."

I looked at the ceiling as I saw the bumps meld into shapes and before speaking aloud, “I can do anything I set my mind too. I'm a Changent."

Just then I felt something touch my arm as a glow appeared against the wall. It was a gentle and reassuring light. It had to be Gail! I closed my eyes as I remembered what Water boy told me about her. I felt bad for her, being born in 1820 and all with such forward thinking and never finding love. Water boy said that she had a passion for nursing, but didn't say much else about it. Well, I sure didn't need convincing as I felt my busy mind succumb to Gaels soothing light.

The Changents send birthday cards to remind all of their worth

The Changents send happy death day to sooth the mystery of the void

The Changents sing the beagle for those who didn't inherit the earth

The Changents feel the pain of a million billion weak

The Changents blink not his own pleasures which he refuses to seek

The Changents see through life's ironic anomalies

The Changents withhold no hands of healing beyond one's own family

The Changents go sleepless, hungry and thirsty crying in pain

The Changents stay in when it's sunny, and goes out in the rain

The Changents believe those wearing rags because it "suits them"

The Changents mistrust 'them in suits' and rags 'me

The Changents can't see, touch, taste, feel or hear

The Changents know all the subtleties and varieties of fear

The Changents know also the little lingering pains inside

The Changents know a broken heart, spirit, and secrets hard to confide

The Changents know the fear of death, and waits with all to see them pass

The Changents will be alone, as the waits till the last

The Changents have not skills, money, love, fame or friends

The Changents want joy not jealousy, as means to justify the end

The Changents wait till you all are fast asleep

The Changents will get busy to sew what you reap

The Changents know that selfish smiling loses speed

The Changents know there is always somebody else in need

The Changents never stop mourning after a death

The Changents never love another if his mate runs out of breath

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