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His uniform of the day was the same spacesuit worn by marines who were fighting the Russians on the moon. No space marine was his size and under earth’s gravity he could only walk stiff legged to the target on the ground. Having had its top sheared off last time the dust now swirled around Bernie as the docs and techs took helicopters to the new bunker a few miles away. Every inch of the suit pinched and dragged across his skin. It was having the opposite effect of an isolation chamber. In isolation his nerves were at peace and he felt as if he could touch whatever his imagination brought to his attention. With each step in the suit his mind was drawn inward. No one over three hundred pounds was ever sent to the moon. He kept saying No the entire time they dressed him but the soldiers doing it were under some new medication to block his effect, they were not efficient as their own senses were not integrating. In isolation he could be a solar sail wafting on the photonic winds of a strange star. Now his mother was dragging him and spanking him in public. Through the glass of his helmet he saw between the bunker and the floor of the cave the black smoke rising from
the generator trucks. No, Bernie thought as they walked him stiffly to the center. Hastily he moved from the target but this only took him off camera, the wave was aimed at him no matter where he stood. “It is a harmless wave,” he could hear the general’s words in his head set. The general had insisted on the suit to protect Bernie, its flexible armor could withstand a boulder dropping on the wearer. “A standard household outlet has far more power and a shock from your toaster is more damaging to cells.” The general paused. “But remember nothing will be painful except your mind’s response to the wave and the wave will not cease until you respond to it.” The wave was both dynamic and finely tuned; it reached in and found his deepest, oldest and original pain, his birth trauma. Pain will dilate time even for a new born; the moment was frozen forever in his memory on the entire canvas of his blank brain which was also oversized. The moment frozen with every strange detail given emphasis and none of it was resolved. Bernie tripped and fell back into camera range. Writhing would describe the action of the suited man on the desert floor. What he was trying to communicate to the bunker was unseen as those inside the bunker struggled for survival.
Bernie rolled and faced the sun and saw on the lunar shield 3 small red ants walking aggressively, as desert ants do, across the glass. He remembered how as a child he fried ants with a hand lens. Now he was an ant and the many other insects he tormented and tortured then killed as a boy. As his head over heated he identified with an especially juicy queen ant he dug up one sunny day. Saying his brain was being fried is both a subject observation that Bernie was able to make and a medically accurate one. They had to find that sweet spot, the trigger.
He did not know how much later he woke but when he did the ants were gone, all of them. It was night and that made the flames around him all the more impressive. Forgetting the earlier warning Bernie twisted the helmet off. Burning rock has got to be one of the smells of hell, he thought. Still sprawled on the ground he replaced the helmet, breathed the cool air and relaxed for a second on the blackened earth. The tight spacesuit was a force multiplier and it now proved its worth. The climate control removed sweat and added oxygen when the suit saw necessary. The boots and
gloves had micro grip-and-release potentiators which worked weakly in the moon’s gravity and strongly on earth. “The worst ever,” was how Bernie marked the jolt he felt. As a boy he told his dad about the painful jolts. But his father was like most fathers, an army man and told him, “Men don’t talk about pain. Not if you want to get in the army.” So Bernie shut up but he could not ignore them and he even remembered the strong ones, and the strange places where the electricity visited his body and the especially ill-timed ones like around girls or in church. But the jolt of electricity was so strong this time as to offer clarity and insight into the world around him and his new place in it. He did not care about the millions who would soon experience only a sample of what he had been living with every day of his life. They would be coerced by a small display of his power. Because he was doing it to save their lives and he had no way to turn off this incredible power he could at least choose the weapon. Wasn’t that better than death?
On the way to the bunker he saw the bodies of wild sheep, all dead and burning. He came to a depression which was not there before the test. The concrete bunker was charred but in one piece except it was upside down and buried in the crater.
Bernie rapidly dug down to the door and tore it from the hinges with his new found strength. Several were clearly dead and the rest were huddled in the far corner. Bernie could see what happened; the ones who worked closest with him were fine, the general, Dr Y and some of the testers. But the security guards and the invited guests were all dead. Bernie struggled not to dip into their dead minds; he did not want to see their last minutes. “There was fire and wind and a giant pair of hands,” the general fell to his knees. “It was the giant hands that saved us.” The others, the obvious suicides which were performed in haste and madness; “You couldn’t stop them?” Bernie asked. “I didn’t see.” The general said. “Things became unreal and dreamlike.” Dr Y added. “I was looking through my face plate at ants and then there was fire. Then I got up and dug you out. They weren’t my hands. Not until I got here and dug you out and that was in these.” He waved his gloved hands. “We must be like ants to you now.” The general said. He revealed himself as a religious devotee, all along that was what the general was looking for; he wanted Bernie to be his savior and the world’s.
“No, it was nothing like that. Maybe we unleashed some quantum power but I have no control. It was something one of you did.” Bernie was not comfortable with the general who was now bowing before him, “Please.” With multiplied force he picked up the general like a big doll. “Look, these are my hands.” Bernie worked open the airtight seals. His hands were knobby, hairy, scarred and with nails and cuticles bitten to blood. Bernie’s hands were nothing like the perfect sculpted pair which saved them. Everyone looked at his hand and was satisfied. Once in the air Bernie experienced a new sensation as the old pain under his fingernails drained into his finger bones. Looking around Bernie saw them all looking at him. He closed his eyes so they would not see his eyeballs roll up into his head as he internalized what was happening in his skeleton. Now he remembered the panic in the bunker and the power that grew around him, shaking the ground where he stood. All his tormentors in one place, they would be killed by his involuntary reaction if he did not act. He turned the desert upside down so they were under rock. By the time his power hit were they had been only sand remained. He did not remember using hands and he was not sure if he saw hands or if they had been suggested to his mind by the others.
For Bernie the test was a second dilation of time. The first involved a big weak child with an equally large though empty and weak mind and at the time it only encompassed a medium size room, his mother and several masked people. By the age of 32 the mind was formed and getting full, fortunate for Bernie’s tender heart that he saved those he could by mentally hugging them. He knew what the army wanted him to do and he did it but not to those who were familiar to him. More of the frozen moment of time revealed itself, he had responded with his entire body to save them, his mind had turned to the source of the wave to slap it back while his body already understood what was about to happen and was rushing to the bunker to save them. Until now he had always believed his thought speed in his brain was the quicker than his body, especially his body. But now he reasoned the body is faster because it is the more real of the two with and it integrates prior knowledge into the muscle and bones, whereas thought is not yet real. He was able to see the future and changed it. However he had to wait for the memory of doing it to form before it became available to him. He was the pain injector, the army’s newest tool who could weaken the enemy’s mind with fear through the injection of pain, that is the stimulation of painful memories. The most
painful of which are the emotional memories. Only Bernie, of all of the army and civilian volunteers could be this weapon. His well of pain was deep. It was deep beyond their needs. Because the psy wave did actual damage to Bernie’s brain cells the brain when it repaired itself created a stronger version. His brain was learning to respond to the wave faster and send back more energy. The army did not know how lucky it was that Bernie was a compassionate man. Until now he was intuitive about people’s thoughts and moods and he was adept at reading minds of sympathetic others. He could read the general but not Dr Y whose thoughts were in Japanese. However since the broadcast of massive waves to inflict pain on the enemy Bernie found he could enter everyone’s mind to elicit infant and primal fear.
He used to say women crying bothered him when it actually did not bother him and that was what bothered him. As before no one could stand to be near him. No matter how virtuous a person lived self-loathing was present even if long dormant. Bernie woke the feeling in others as he struggled to contain it in himself. The more he struggled the more subtly he transmitted.
Contact with others was like his marriage, constant eggshells. Despite his compassion he refused to wear a defusing device, the lead helmet. “I got used to it. If you want to work in Psycorps you will have to get used to it too.” Following the disaster in Nevada the army handed Bernie back to Psycorp who was more equipped to handle him. Barracks full of crying soldiers and the suicides motivated the army’s decision. Bernie told them, “Be cheerful on the outside and if you try not to cry near me I will try to keep my focus to myself… and the enemy, of course.”
Psycorp engineers designed a pyramid for the army to build, when it was done the peak served as Bernie’s home and office. This worked like the sighting on a gun and let the military use him to focus the wave at any time. As the initial wave enabled Bernie to enter any mind at will now the energy of the targeting systems for the military’s offensive weapon was making him glow. Psycorps allotted the hours of access to him. His pyramid was in Hoboken NJ near where he grew up and close enough to the shore for the navy to use him as well as the army, air force and lunar marines.
He expected to take R and R with the old gang but he could not leave the pyramid and the atmosphere inside Bernie’s quarters was not conducive to socializing. For civilians, those not conditioned and on mind blockers, the base of the pyramid was as far as they could approach. Sensitive types had to stay across the street or further away. He had to have his furniture, books and magazines made of fireproof materials. He no longer needed food and like his hand on that first day, he was pulsing with electricity. The grotesque body that tortured him transformed into a perfect human form without diet or exercise. Even his deformed bones grew straight. He missed eating at first but along with his improved normal senses he was discovering mental senses which linked him telepathically not only to other men but all living things and objects. He could also find the gold deposits on the moon and take the temperature of the sun’s core. But his tastes for food as well as his sex drive were gone. Sometimes he felt the pressure in his head. His brain was expanding and his skull plates where being moved, reopening the cranial sutures would have been a debilitating pain to others but Bernie simply observed it like a distant lightning storm. He was all alone in his peaked room with his pool table, he made it another training ground for his mind. While making the
numbered balls disobey the laws of physics he began to apply his power to himself and his cells. His interest in ants was satisfied as he could now see them at the molecular level. Like a gas excited to a plasma state the wave was no longer necessary to Bernie’s ongoing transformation. He felt at peace in his soul as he intuited the peace of the human race and as he extended that peace. Mainly Bernie tried to be where he was since no one got hurt if he kept a narrow focus. Even the Golden Adonis could sleep wrong and wake up in a bad mood. Despite all of his new power it felt the same as ever to be himself. The general was still around, Bernie made sure to keep him close so that he might never forget that he was still a soldier and like all real soldiers he preferred peaceful means of preserving our way of life. But the general paid a price, the shell of his mind was dulled by the meds and Bernie had to dip into the memory of who the general was in the beginning. Now all the general did was sit hunched in a chair and grow fat with the years. To avoid attack the enemy had to disband its army. Bernie was developed as a defensive weapon who could prevent conflict. He was not simply a wall to separate combatants; he had to control everything on the other side of the wall which he did by continually extending the wall around every human mind
on the other side. His effect was to compel the Russian armed forces to disburse into the general population. He entered their minds and showed images of what they must do. And if former soldiers met they had to forget that they were once military men; it was easy for Bernie to detect the military mind and plunge it into a dark place. In the street the former Russia soldiers had to immediately go in opposite directions out of fear of Bernie. Being American he spoke no foreign language but centered his control on the observable fact that men rarely look into each other’s eyes and when they do it is a prelude to violence, tears or something shameful. He also knew or assumed most Russians love their mothers and he hated his and he also used that to push the emotion of guilt and selfloathing. He detected military men by their background pain, his ability to see it in others was growing. The analogy was how before that first test in the desert the rifle barrel of the guards reflected the lamp light and made huge circles on the dome overhead, the soldiers looked rock steady but the light trembling over their heads gave them away. That was their pain and the light is their pain wave; Bernie could see the wave over everyone’s heads.
Under Bernie something special happened in time in America as both cops and rednecks, black folk and crackers all were able to stand outside the pyramid and look to Bernie and see their own hidden pain and feel relief in knowing Bernie is a brother. A strange peace descended on them. Now if Bernie had a problem or a question he dealt directly with the president. His polarizing effect was such that the American people did not trust anyone else. Like sex and food he could choose to not breathe. When he wore the asbestos suit he did not breathe and at times he changed his appearance to go about unrecognized. He had to work hard to contained his mind when he went out so as not to disturb anyone. Because of the terrors he was born with he always lived in an under-skin. The outer skin and the false signals were filtered out. His mind expected the same of others and when he looked at others he saw them at a level which went beyond the skin. He saw the expression hidden in the eyes and how the inner person was holding up. As he circulated in his disguise women found his intensity unfairly disarming or not to be trusted. Most men liked and trusted what they saw in him but a few hated him instantly and without reason.
The president suggested what the diplomats wanted which was for Bernie to make a visit to Russia and try to end the war. The Russians rejected the official offer and Bernie instead went secretly. He visited the Russian people in their minds. Every soul had been contained in a deep well of their own fears, fear of what might happen. Disbanding the army had that effect. He could speak no Russian so he had to search for that person who he could enter and understand. The boy with lucid images dancing in his head was profoundly deaf; he was 14 and did not know his own name. A fat boy and huge like Bernie was at that age, he was neglected the same way as well. He grew up in a bomb shelter. He could not hear the sirens or the all clear and so he stayed there full time. Women’s mouths opened and the boy could feel them screaming, the shrillness and hot breath, he enjoyed that. The fat boy had a laugh seeing the wildest kids from the school yard where they huddled in terror. The entire shelter vibrated and the place became overheated with everyone else crying. The boy in the shelter wore a strange smile; he showed how happy he felt in what he thought was safety and comradery. To cheer others he pulled his shirt up over his big belly and made himself a clown.
After a while his naked belly was chilled and he too was afraid, they were all bunkered and all feeling the same fear, the terror of life about to end. As the boy settled Bernie became afraid for him. Bernie could not fend off what he felt in the shelter, as one with everyone in fear; the experience was coldly calming for one who was otherwise omnipotent and all knowing. Outside the bomb shelter few people could stand to be near him with their minds so full of things they don’t want to think about. He was always driven to feel a sympathetic emotion and in the bomb shelter he found it. No one was special, parents and children, weak and powerful, students and teachers, awaiting their fate in fear. The civilians were never a target but the attack was also on the pride of a people at the spectacle of their defenders unable to even stand up before the enemy. They created in their own minds the myth of the American weapon. Bernie could not resist temptation and entered the mind of a young woman sobbing with a baby in her arms. He learned immediately the baby was a daughter and the woman’s husband is on a secret military base near the shelter, the place the enemy was bombing. Along with the passionate images some of which Bernie viewed and others he saved for later, he saw images of her street and ones she got from the TV news
that supported her fears. The news showed some of the terrible things Bernie’s thought waves forced people to do. His pain was everywhere, spread all over Russia and generalized. Now Bernie had to stay in the shelter, this bombing run like the course of the war was tied to his empathy. Of course no bomb could harm him but he had to stay, if he stayed underground only distant thuds would reach the shelter. If he ventured out the shelter would become a tomb and his every step would be a crater. The woman sobbing was a comfort to him; no one in the shelter was at risk, although her husband was likely beyond Bernie’s protection. Bernie knew better than to get involved, he thought, Let sleeping gods lie.
His consciousness left the Russian bomb shelter with a snap of awareness that he was being lied to. Bernie had trusted Psycorps when they told him that he was only being used to destroy the Russian soldiers’ will to fight. What he experienced in the shelter told him that as before he was being used to aim conventional weapons. A nonviolent solution was the long standing promise of the general. That was what the general wanted in his heart and so the betrayal must be at another level.
“I need to talk to the president about making peace.” Bernie was elbowing through his aids. The word peace was unfamiliar to them. The mind blockers they took to be around Bernie made them slow and stupid. “There you are, sir.” A thick tongued aid said. “Not that.” A mobile urinal had opened in a discrete corner. “Bring me my good asbestos suit.” Bernie ordered. In padded uniforms and helmets the helpers were indistinguishable and hopelessly inefficient. They were a buffer to keep Bernie contained. When Bernie entered one of their minds it was like walking into a dark and empty warehouse with tar spread across every floor. From his private rail rocket at the base of the pyramid he hurtled toward Washington. He made the arrangements for the meeting on the 15 minute trip. Dealing with Bernie was one of the president’s main tasks. Bernie’s personal rail rocket hooked onto the mainline, he had a private car always ready in the tram station under the Washington monument, it sped him down the senators’ tunnel and up a tube directly into the Oval Office. Bernie was reminded of what a freak he was by the men gathered for the meeting; they all wore protective head gear of various styles
and configurations all of which used woven lead draped across the face down to the shoulder to block some of his devastating effects. In the Oval Office his perfect physique was evident through the tailored asbestos but his skin was indeterminate as it radiated. Bernie’s body at rest was a generic optimization of the human genetic code. Except his mitochondria which were energized from an internal source. His eyes were clear although no two observes or photographs agreed to the color and his regrown teeth flashed but few could see that detail. Many who tried to catch a glimpse of him in his New Jersey pyramid agreed, it was as though a chunk of the sun was up there. On the way to help cool off and organize his thought he tried to jot down his experience in Russia but the flame retardant paper crisped and his steel pen wilted before he could write a word. Entering the Oval Office he dared, for their physical safety, not to look from his shoes or the eagle’s head in the carpet as he spoke to the president at his desk and the many men and women standing in a circle. “You have no idea what we did to them. Soldiers cowering in fear of the pain wave, their highly trained and motivated men savaged by their own thoughts, and we kept bombing them. You were killing them beyond the
breaking point, and now they are living in bomb shelters feeding on hatred and revenge. We took their pride and they hate us with a passion. Their hatred is all they have. They practically want to wipe us off the map.” Muffled by his veil the president spoke, “But that is great, that was what we wanted. We have destroyed the enemy.” “Not by bombing homes and killing their women and children.” Bernie wanted to press the images into their heads but he did not dare. An unfamiliar voice hidden from view spoke, “That is the price when you go to war.” It infuriated Bernie, to unmask the voice, especially the way he was feeling now, a peak into that mind would surely kill the man. “Who said that? Do you think the children could choose the side they were born on? They are not just pathetic victims, like the thousands of Americans killed in cars; they are noble sacrifices. The combination of bombs and pain waves has built their hatred and resolve to incredible levels.” “Senator Sanders, speaking; the psy weapons are only aimed at enemy troops.” “Then why are you wearing radiation-proof underwear and that stupid headdress?” Of all of the things Bernie could be doing, a day like today, he might have sent everyone in the
pyramid out for a long lunch so he could spend an hour expanding into a solar sail, or he might have appeared on Titan to go exploring in a cave on the silvery methane sea. His serene life was all based on a lie and now he had to deal with the truth. Now he had to force himself to exist as a contained form and one wearing a heavy suit on top. “You lied to me and used me. I was born with a genetic mutation and you used it for a weapon but like those murdered children, I did not choose which side to be on. What you did was wrong and now only I can right the wrong. The side I want to be on is the right side. I must go there,” Bernie said, “I must comfort the enemy.”
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