Heroes Podium, Setalite City, 11:58 AM.
Thursday, February 24th, 2022.
Loren stood amongst the crowd, watching as the strongest man in the world smiled down at them. He had only seen the Hero a few times in his life, and it was always when he was in the process of stopping some kind of disaster or accident. He’d never had the opportunity to speak with him, although he wasn’t sure he would even know what to say if he did.
The guy had put himself in the way of unstoppable creatures and murderous things that came from beyond, all to protect them, people he didn’t even know. Loren would always have a measure of respect for the heroes that fought to protect them.
Hell, he had that same respect for the rest of the Peacekeepers; they had sacrificed a lot for them.
“The last few months have been very difficult, and the recent tragedy…It was a terrible loss of life, one I hope we can do our best to make sure never happens again. You lifted us up to become the pillars that support the world.” Paragon said compassionately,
The crowd cheered as the strongest Hero in the world, addressed them. Paragon had always been at the forefront of the heroic community; he had put himself between them and danger countless times, and even extinction a few rare times. He held a presence that felt like it was washing away tension and settled you.
“I refuse to fail you all after you have placed such faith in us, I will be better, we will be better.” Paragon said solemnly, “This, I promise you-”
Loren stilled as something wet splashed over his face, and he stared without understanding at the spot where Paragon had just been standing. There was a lumpy mess of unrecognizable meat and blood. The screaming started almost immediately, but he couldn’t bring himself to look away; it was like seeing Mark’s legs all over again.
Why had he… Paragon was dead.
A wave of force washed over him from the right, and the press of bodies smashed him into others, crushing him with the force. He fought his way out of the group surrounding him before another explosion from the opposite direction, tossed them back towards the first.
A foot smashed into his face, and he curled up into a ball as people stomped over him, trying to get away as quickly as they could. The temperature of the asphalt was growing hot, and when he forced himself to open his eyes, he looked down.
The road flashed orange, and then he was spinning through the air, looking down at the decimated crowd. For a brief second, he thought that one of the Heroes had plucked him off the ground.
Then he smashed into the cement of the sidewalk with a wet thump.
His vision was growing darker by the second, but the pain he expected to feel just wasn’t there. He managed to tilt his head down enough to see his body; there was nothing below his chest.
Another explosion went off, followed by a series of thumps, and he heard a woman’s terrified scream piercing the air before it began to sound a lot like a long, loud moan coming from directly above him.
Loren opened his eyes just in time for his brand new lightbulb, replaced only yesterday, to spark violently and shatter into a million pieces. He felt glass bounce off his forehead as he panted in what had to be his bed.
It was a nightmare, just a nightmare. Paragon wasn’t dead, Loren wasn’t dead.
Emma was clearly having loud vigorous sex with someone again, which seemed a bit strange to him considering that the last night, she had been adamant about not going back to her apartment.
He slowly felt his heart rate slow and then realized he could hear an argument coming from Emma’s apartment. Well, at least she was moving on from Mark; she seemed to have a thing for assholes though.
The glass on his carpet glittered and he sighed.
Loren stepped out into the stairwell with his rubbish bag and blinked as the argument from upstairs washed over him. It was almost the exact same argument she had with Mark the other night before the man had died.
Was this a normal thing for couples? You’d think they would just talk it out.
That dream had him feeling completely off his game now; he’d rarely experienced one so dark or visceral. Usually, he just had dreams of the opposite sex, or the images he had most recently been working on at work, the things that captured his attention the most, movies, anime, video games, that kind of thing.
That one though…Loren shook his head to rid himself of the thoughts, as Emma’s door slammed open, and a man’s voice echoed down the stairs.
“You’re lucky I even came here at all!” A man shouted angrily, “Don’t worry, though; it’s the last time! Find your own shit next time!”
The man stomped down the stairs, and Loren stared at him with wide eyes, before taking a step towards the man.
“You’re such a fucking asshole, Mark!” Emma screamed from above them.
“What the fuck are you looking at?” Mark snarled.
Loren blinked and then felt a flash of anger cut through him, overriding his complete meltdown.
“Hey asshole, how about you keep your fucking voice down at two in the morning?” Loren spat back, “People are trying to fucking sleep, got it?”
Mark spun around and stepped aggressively towards him without hesitation, but Loren had never backed down from anyone in his life, and he wasn’t going to start now, spooky ghost or not.
“Say that again.” The man hissed.
“Hey, asshole-” Loren started immediately, without a hint of fear.
The man grabbed him by the shirt and dragged him forward before slamming him into the wooden railing of the stairwell; it creaked from the pressure.
“Mark, you fucking idiot, he lives here!” Emma called angrily, “Stop it!”
“Yeah, Mark,” Loren said, amused, “Why don’t you take your little baby-arms and get the fuck out of the building?”
Mark throttled him back against the railing angrily, and it gave way under the sudden massive force.
“You fuck-” Loren said incredulously as he fell backward down the middle of the stairwell.
There was a moment where he watched the guys face transform into horror before he was suddenly too far away to make out the details anymore, and there was a split second of awful pain and a sickening crunch.
Loren listened as Emma moaned loudly above him, and a moment later, the light bulb sparked violently before it shattered in a spray of glass and sparks.
“Is this another dream, or is this reality now?” Loren wondered out loud.
Loren spent a moment listening to the exact same argument he’d heard several times already now.
“Am I seeing the future?” Loren said, bewildered. “What the fuck is going on?”
Loren focused his attention on trying to predict what was going to happen next, but nothing happened.
“Does that mean I’m already predicting it; what I’m seeing now is my power? or maybe it doesn’t work like that?”
Loren clenched his hands into his sheets and hissed as he accidentally cut his finger on a piece of the lightbulb. Fuck, it was all through the sheets; he would need to clean this up, again. He would probably end up stepping on some more as well.
Loren slowly swung his legs out of bed and pressed them down gently on the carpet, managing to avoid touching the glass again as he stood up. He couldn’t see without the light, and he knew from the predictions that he almost always stepped on some.
Loren looked up into the hallway for a moment, wishing he was able to reach the light switch there.
“Huh,” Loren said slowly as he lifted his hand and clicked the hallway light switch on.
Loren had no idea how he had gotten here; he had no memory of crossing the distance; he was just suddenly in the hallway with no transition. The argument upstairs reached its peak again, and the guy shouted furiously at the top of his lungs.
Loren stared over at the glass on the carpet, seeing the thousand tiny glints, and sighed.
Loren stepped out into the stairwell and immediately glanced up as the door smashed open again. Mark stomped down the stairs, angrily and glared at him as he stared the other man down.
“It’s two in the fucking morning,” Loren said darkly, remembering how the man had accidentally killed him in this very same spot. “Keep your fucking voice down, or you’re not coming back into this building, got it?”
“Fuck off,” Mark spat, and shoulder checked him on his way past.
“You first fuck-knuckle,” Loren said dryly. “Mark, if I see you here again, I’ll be calling the police.”
Mark scoffed, but paused at the mention of his name, eyeing him for a long moment. A few tense moments passed before he shook his head and stomped down the stairs without another word. Loren snorted before picking his bag of trash bag up and started towards the stairs.
“Hey,” Emma’s voice said hesitantly, and he glanced up at her. “I’m sorry he woke you, I told him to keep it down, but he wouldn’t listen.”
Loren rolled his eyes at the woman.
“You’re what woke me up with all the noise you were making directly above my bedroom, but he ended up getting louder in the end, I suppose.” Loren said, annoyed, “You know you somehow managed to shatter my lightbulb by shaking the ceiling so much?”
Emma actually flushed, which was interesting to see on the woman’s face after all the time he had spent with her while she cried in the ‘prediction’ he hadn’t seen her blush.
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, Loren.” Emma said, mortified, “I didn’t know-I’ll buy you a new lightbulb!”
Loren blinked as she said his name, he had forgotten that she had somehow already known his name before he had given it to her in the other world.
“Maybe just buy a sturdier bed,” Loren said dryly, before turning to head back down the stairs. “Night Emma.”
The sound of tires screeching out of the car park at a great speed set his teeth on edge, and another flash of anger cut through him. What the fuck was this guy’s problem? People were trying to sleep!
“I’m sorry!” Emma moaned pitifully, covering her face with her hands. “He’s such an asshole-”
The sound of shattering glass and metal on tarmac cut through the night. Loren immediately started down the stairs, and this time he could hear Emma following him. Loren tore out of the front doors of the building and tossed the bag of trash next to the bins.
He delayed the man for like ten seconds! How could the truck still hit him? It should have passed by already!
Loren could hear Emma calling out to him, sounding worried as he turned the corner and headed towards the cabin of the truck, ripping the door open and pulling the man out of the burning wreck before he fried and pulled him back across to the pavement.
“Mark!” Emma said, shellshocked as she stared at the wrecked remains of the car.
Loren idly noted in the back of his mind that the damage was different than the last time, but when he pulled the door open forcefully, he immediately gagged. Mark’s legs were completely punctured with jagged metal, and blood was pooling in a thick puddle at the remains of what used to be his feet.
He was dead, again.
Emma had seen the state of his legs from her position back on the sidewalk and immediately turned away with a sob, unable to bring herself to look at him. The sound of retching reached his ears a moment later, but he couldn’t drag his eyes away from Mark’s pale face.
If he’d only delayed the man for a few more seconds, fuck. Loren closed his eyes in anger at himself, and at Mark for being such an asshole, he desperately wished this was just another prediction and that he would wake up in his bed.
He just needed one more try; he knew that he could save him.
The sound of retching was suddenly replaced with one of Emma’s long, loud and lewd moans before something shattered above him. There was suddenly a pressure against his back again, and when he opened his eyes, he found himself back in his bedroom, staring up at the dark ceiling.
Loren jumped out of bed and immediately regretted it because he stepped on the glass on the carpet with a pained hiss. He didn’t stop as he stumbled out into the hall, distantly remembering he had somehow teleported last time but filed it away for later.
Loren pulled his kitchen drawer open, snatched a steak knife, and stepped out into the stairwell. He tore down the stairs, as the sounds of Emma and Mark’s argument started to reach its peak, and pushed open the doors before walking straight across the parking lot and stabbing the knife into one of Mark’s tires.
He ripped the knife out, and the thing hissed as the air abruptly left it, before repeating it to the other three, and then turned around and threw the knife as hard as he could into the trees that lined the car park.
Loren was halfway up the stairs when Mark stomped angrily past him without a word, and he stormed up the stairs, spotting Emma standing on the landing, looking upset, and slammed his door shut behind him.
“Try and get hit now, motherfucker.” Loren said darkly, boiling with anger.
Loren managed to calm himself after a few long minutes and was halfway through a bottle of water when the sound of a massive screeching crash occurred right outside the building, and he immediately strode over and yanked the window up to stick his head out.
The exact same Wrightway Inc truck had collided head-on with Marks’s car.
“You’re fucking kidding me,” Loren said shakily, as he stared at the truck as it slowly began to catch fire again.
Sirens started up in the distance as they made their way closer, and just as the first of the flashing lights appeared at the corner, a scream echoed from the bottom of the building before Emma’s voice started calling out ‘Mark’ over and over.
“It wasn’t even coming this way…” Loren whispered, “It never turned in any of the others, not a single time, it was always going towards central, why did it..”
The truck was completely on fire, and the man in the cabin was most certainly dead by now because Loren hadn’t dragged him out like he had the past times.
“I don’t understand,” Loren whispered, sitting down at his kitchen table.
He kept on waking up in his bed, at the exact moment that this lightbulb shattered. He checked his phone for the date, Tuesday, the 22nd of February. Was he time traveling? Going back to that moment for some reason? The first time it had happened after that dream, which he felt stupid for rationalizing it away like that.
It wasn’t a dream; that had all happened.
“Stop being a pussy and face the facts, idiot.” Loren hissed. “You died in the explosions; then you died when Mark pushed you down the stairs.”
What about the third time? He had just wanted to wake back up in his bed, for one more chance to save that asshole, and it had happened; no death needed. Could he do it again? He also somehow teleported that one time, could he do that again?
“Focus,” Loren said firmly and took a deep breath.
Priorities; figure out how to teleport again; once he had that down, he could attempt to go back again and then save Mark. That fucking truck was acting like it was magnetized to the guy’s location, so he would need to keep him inside somehow, at least for a couple of minutes.
Enough time that there would be no reason for the truck to still be around; if it still fucking appeared, then he didn’t know what he would do. If he was fast enough, he might be able to get to the intersection and flag down the truck driver, get him to stop somehow.
Loren stared across the room, narrowing his eyes in the hallway. He pushed all his desire, his focus, and his intent on being over there. Something tickled in the back of his head and his eyes widened before he turned to look at the refrigerator.
There was something inside that was doing something weird to his head. Loren stood up and headed over before pulling the door open. The chilly air wafted out, and he stared at the thing that he could somehow sense in his mind.
The bottle of milk hummed innocently.
“What the fuck?” Loren said, confused, before focusing on it.
The milk sloshed around in the bottle.
“I’m the fucking milk-mover now?” Loren said lamely.
He tried it on the bottled water in the door of the fridge, but he couldn’t feel it at all. It only worked on milk; it didn’t even work on the other products in his fridge, just milk. Loren turned around and went back to trying to teleport.
“At the height of his power, the Dairy Devil was capable of some terrifying feats,” Loren said dryly, “He once lifted three cows by the tits and tossed them into a woman’s backyard, all the while screaming that he had come for the milkshakes.”
Three hours later, Loren fell asleep on his kitchen table, completely unable to teleport, and with a half-finished glass of milk sitting in front of him.
He dreamt of car crashes, explosions, and blood.