One Day at a Time. Short Story.

Jeremy took another sip of tea, his hands weren’t shaking anymore, which was a plus, but that didn’t mean the desire had faded away. He just needed to keep himself busy. That was all, do something distracting. He looked around the already spotless room, the rest of the apartment was equally clean. He had spent days cleaning and reorganising everything. He considered rearranging the furniture before dismissing the idea. He couldn’t go out with friends, as that would actually require friends to go out with. He had always been a bit of a loner, never really by choice but he accepted it, being alone was nice most of the time. This was not one of those times. He could feel a steady heat building in his hands, he clenched them then opened and closed them a few times, the heat lessened but not by much. He was in control here, not the power, not the desire, just him. He took another sip of tea, the cup felt cool to the touch though the tea was almost too hot to drink.

He couldn’t take it anymore. He concentrated, he’d only do it a little, that was all. It would be fine. The watched as a ball of fire formed in his hand, feeling the relief of the heat draining from his fingers. He felt a complete relaxation and waves of pleasure started to wash over him, the ball of flames started to get bigger, he found it drawing his eyes in, he could feel himself slipping away. He extinguished it with some difficulty and sat there, panting, his skin pale and sweaty. He looked down at his hands, they were shaking. Damn.

It had been three weeks since he had last used his power, they had told him that the first week was the hardest but that was a lie. Sure it was hard, but every day was hard. Every day was a struggle against the desire to use his powers. He took a deep, calming breath. The support group he had gone to had told him to ring if he was tempted, he hadn’t even considered it. He shook his head, he had been alone too long. His hands started to itch, a deep, maddening itch that couldn’t be scratched. It felt as though ants were swarming inside his skin. He clenched his hands tightly, focusing on his breathing.

When the itch finally died down it was replaced by that goddamned heat. He went into the kitchen and grabbed out a handful of ice from the freezer, he put it into a bowl with some water and rested his hands in it. It helped a little, but he knew it was only a temporarily release.

After a few minutes the water was steaming gently and Jeremy emptied the bowl, filling it again. The longer he could keep the heat at bay the easier it would be to refrain from using his powers. He didn’t want to end up like some of those other power junkies, strung out and living in their own world, or worse, going crazy with power and trying to take over the world. The injection was quick, painless, but getting powers brought on the most intense high he had ever experienced, and he had experienced many. For most people it was fine, they’d deal with it and move on, but for others it was more difficult. Every time he used his powers he felt a little of that pleasure, encouraging him to use them more, make himself more powerful, the more powerful he was the better he would feel. He knew all about it now, the news outlets had exploded with the story a few days after he had the shot. It had been kept all hush hush, though it helped explain the whole super villain/superhero dynamic that seemed to grow with the powers. Before everyone thought it was just the almost constant exposure to comics and movies when people were kids. He didn’t want to end up like that, killing people without regard, he had seen videos, they all had, of those who had gone all the way. It hadn’t been pretty. He had seen himself in them, the madness in their eyes, he could feel it in him too, bubbling just underneath the surface, waiting for him to slip up.

Jeremy paced back and forth in his small apartment, he had made the phone call he had been dreading, that he had had an accident. They had assured him they wouldn’t bring him in, but they were sending someone to keep him under observation. His skin crawled at the thought, they just wanted to spy on him, keep him under their thumb, make him weak. There was nothing wrong with him they were just afraid of his power, power that they couldn’t control for once. He stopped pacing and started taking deep breaths. “This isn’t you. These aren’t you real thoughts. It’s the powers talking. No ones out to get you.” He repeated it to himself a few times, eventually the thoughts faded but he could still feel that paranoia there. He kept checking out the window, though he told himself he just wanted to see the sunny day. The people down there made him nervous, there weren’t many, most people were in work, those who were stable and had lives. But the fear was there, what if they knew? What he was, what he could do? Would they run him out of the building? It was happening more and more, those who had taken the shots had started living in their own communities, away from the regulars. He had seen the pamphlets, but there was no way he would ever go there. They could keep track of everyone too easily, basically have them already round up for when they decided that those with powers were too dangerous to be allowed to live freely.

A knock at the door startled him from his thoughts. He paused with his hand on the doorknob, “Hello?”
“Jeremy Smith?”
“Yeah?”

“I’m Alex, I was sent over here?”
He opened the door, surprised to see it was a woman on the other side, her voice was quite deep, she smiled at him, “Can I come in?”
“Sure.”
Jeremy stepped aside.
“First things first, I want to make some things clear,”
Jeremy shut the door behind her, “I too have powers and I have been specially selected to deal with you and those with your kind of powers as I will be safe from them. I am not here to report on you or spy on you, however if you become a danger to yourself or others I am obligated to report it. I am stronger than I look, so if you do feel like attacking me be aware that I wont hold back. Ok, now that we’ve that all sorted, do you have any coffee?”
“Uh, yeah, in the kitchen. I’ll make you a cup.”
Alex nodded and looked around the apartment, “Nice place. Normally they shove people into the cheapest shitholes they can find.”
Jeremy nodded, “Yeah, my parents are paying for the place until I get things sorted.”
“Wow, not a lot of families will do that.”
“Yeah.” Jeremy didn’t say anything else, he didn’t like talking about his family. Alex nodded, more to herself than anything.
“So, I hear you had a bit of a set back, why don’t we have a chat about it?”

When Alex left Jeremy was feeling better, the heat from his hands was almost entirely gone and the itch was only an annoyance rather than maddening. His hands still shook, but that would subside soon enough. On the kitchen counter was a piece of paper with contact numbers carefully written on it. He took the paper and taped it beside the phone. Alex was right, he could do this, he controlled the powers, they didn’t control him. He took a look around his apartment again, the itch seemed to be getting deeper, more intense, maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reorganise a little.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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