Omni-man Zero

by Byron Molix

A ledge, in the isolated hills of New York State. That was where I was... sitting on a ledge overlooking a craggy area far from the main road back to civilization. Perched with my toes on the edge, I sat with my arms wrapped around myself rocking back and forth to a deafening silence. It'd been at least two days and three nights. Three nights since...

Rain poured down from the occluded sky overhead. It pelted the car R. J. Schuman and his wife were sitting in. It was a hell of a time for the car to break down. It was the beginning of their week long vacation, and they had begun the festivities by taking a three day trip out of the city. He had booked a cabin for their overnight stay, but had brought along the requisite gear for camping if Sarah had possibly changed her mind. Things had gone well, until they had packed the car to leave and were halfway down the highway in an isolated stretch of the road.

Thunder crashed after a lightning strike had nearly blinded R. J. what was in front of him. The sheet of falling water turned into a solid fog for that instant and when he could see again the first thing he noticed was a pair of lights coming towards him, the next thing he noticed was that they belonged to a trucker's eighteen wheeler. Without a second of hesitation, but shaking with fear, he turned the wheel. The little car responded smartly, sliding out of the path of the onrushing behemoth. R. J. turned to look after letting a sigh pass his lips.

"Rene, look out!" Sarah had said. A simple wish that they could make it home without further incident went ungranted. It was just not his night. The trunk of the tree loomed brightly in the car's path. R. J. slammed on the brakes, and the car began to skid on the slick roadway. The car spun to the right, and impacted the tree on its left side, the engine block taking the most damage from the collision. After a few brief moments, he got vision back into focus and thought to check himself for injury, his next cognizant thought was to check Sarah.

He found that she was unhurt, just a bit shaken up by the events. After taking stock of their situation, he suggested they take refuge away from the car. He said that it might explode, but she just smiled and said that he was getting that from movies. It was a normal question Sarah would ask when she was being flippantly contrary. Unlike most people's, R. J.'s grandfather actually worked as a screenwriter for many years finally making it to writing Broadway plays in the afternoon of his career. When Rene Schuman died, while his namesake was still a child, watching movies and plays became the boy's favorite pastime in a form of connection.

Rene James worked at gathering together as many of the camping supplies they had in the car as he could and then bundled up against the elements in the jacket he had brought. Stepping from the car he extended a hand to Sarah through the driver's side. She accepted his hand and slowly came from near wreck into his arms. He looked into her eyes and wondered though the falling rain, why he felt so pensive. Telling himself everything would be all right he picked up the bundle of supplies and lead Sarah away from the car. He looked back after they had moved twenty feet down the road.

At that moment, lightning struck as when the refugees from Gamorah were turned into pillars of salt. It destroyed the tree the car was melded to, splitting it down he middle and starting a fire all the way from the tip to the base. R. J. began pushing onward faster. Sarah didn't understand why he had suddenly quickened his pace and began to draw her hand back from him. The fire reached the car and began licking at the gas tank.

There was a loud boom which rocked the highway forest clearing as a plume of fire, smoke, metal and glass exploded upwards from the remains of the Schuman's car. Like a large fragmentation grenade the bits of what once was their only form of transportation spread out, up, and down. Sarah cried out in sudden terror and again in pain. A large piece of the car had hit her from behind knocking her forward. A hail of debris had pelted her body from above after that. Luckily the metal covering her had saved her upper body and waist from harm. Her thighs and legs were riddled at odd increments by shrapnel however.

R. J. was at her side immediately. He was unharmed and cursing his luck for it as well. There was another flash of lightning and a thunder clap, and Rene's upward casting face was able to make out a depression in the hillside not more than thirty feet from the roadside. A second lightning strike illuminated it enough to tell him it was a cave. With great care he prepared to move Sarah into the cave to wait for help. Gingerly he lifted her up and helped her the distance to the available shelter. It seemed to take an eternity. Finally, he helped her to lie down on the cold stone floor.

"You'd better go for help, Rene. I can't make it very far... my legs hurt too much," she said. He looked at her, fighting obvious pain as the stone she lay on slowly grew darker with her blood. If she was so brave, he couldn't help but be as well.

"Sarah, are you sure? I don't know where the nearest phone is, it might take me hours...." The look she gave him stopped his sentence cold. She had utmost faith in him, he just had to have faith in himself. Without another word, he wrapped a set of blankets around her body to keep her warm and stepped out of the cave. A flash of lightning illuminated his body as a silhouette as he went down the hillside.

Several fruitless hours passed and R. J. made his way back to the cave his wife was lying in through memory alone, forcing himself on through the mist covered landscape that had come up in the early morning to take the place of the thunderstorm. He was exhausted mentally and physically, but his love bolstered him onward. If only he could collapse beside Sarah and hold her tight through the rest of the night he knew they could get back home just fine.

As he pushed through the last set of bushes before the cave his eyes saw enough even though it was obscured by clouds of white mist, and he ran forward, stumbling and ripping gashes in his clothes to reach the cave. Sometime after he had left the cave entrance had been filled in with a bulbous blackness. When he got to the cave entrance itself, he could clearly make out rubble and boulders blocking access to the cave itself. He began digging with a wild abandon, tearing rock, soil and pebbles out of the way in groups.

Tears streamed from his eyes as the sharp rock ripped gashes in his hands, his fingernails were battered by using them like claws and blood flowed freely from his veins. He was not crying in response to the physical pain though, it was the thought that he had betrayed Sarah. He couldn't help but remember the feeling of dread he had felt, and how easily he left her side when she was in pain. Worst of all was he thought that she was probably severely hurt. R. J. dug for two hours without rest.

Finally, he had cleared away everything but one large boulder. The large rock had obviously fallen from further up the hill somewhere. R. J. wrapped his arms around the boulder, the last thing standing between him and Sarah. He hung limply against it, dwarfed in its shadow as it lay against the opening covering it completely. Fifteen feel tall from tip to base, and dug into the ground with all the force of its mass, the boulder was an immobile obstacle for a man like R. J. The thought that the rock might be flush with the cave entrance mobilized R. J. into action. If this rock cut off air to the inside....

He strained his muscles to their utmost, trying to shift the rock even an inch so air could reach the inside. R. J. didn't care if he unbalanced the rock and it landed on him. If Sarah could live, he could gladly give up his life. He reluctantly did the math that told him how long she would have been without air since he got back. R. J. refused to give up faith in her, but he was rapidly loosing hope. When the rock didn't shift after long minutes of effort he slumped against it. Here was a shattered man, without emotional or physical reserves pitting himself against the forces of nature to no avail.

It would have been stubborn to continue. He slumped slowly down the side of the rock, crying to himself about the unfairness of the situation. Why did she have to be killed like this? The car was his fault, but a rock slide he couldn't accept. Why would God do this to Sarah? To him? He looked up into the sky to the sight of the sun beginning to peak around the edges of the horizon. Another day, he thought. The day he would have to bury Sarah.... Without a word he stood to his full height and looked at the slab of rock blocking the way to his wife's body.

"Sarah..." he said in a whisper. The name energized him however, and in that moment all the despair, disgust and sheer hatred toward that rock built up like steam in a pressure cooker. He wasn't going to leave things like this. He could not... no he would not! He planted his feet and grasped the rock again, left hand on the far edge. "SARAH!!!!!!" he screamed at the rock.

At that moment, the rock shifted under his palm. He didn't care, so focused on his wife that he was no longer dealing with the real world. The work of a thousand lifetimes was done in a second, as the boulder began to roll. With a final defiant push, he threw the slab of rock away from the hillside to shatter on a cliff face over 500 yards away. The man turned to look into the interior of the cave, the darkness. He saw a still shape, unmoving and he knew the woman was dead. Screaming rage and anger to the heavens he leaped backwards off the ledge, and some force caught his falling form.

It's been two days since then. I know how much time has passed, but I don't remember what happened in those days. Looking out over the landscape beneath my toes tells me one thing... I'm through with grieving. The blasted landscape of canyons torn through forest floors, destroyed waterfalls and the numerous boulders crushed to pebbles can never be allowed to happen again, for any reason. I lost my head, but now I can see what I have to do. While I have breath, no one else will suffer from the circumstances of fate.

I stood and leapt from the ledge, gripping the blanket I had tenderly placed over her shoulders when I had said good bye. It was torn on the edges, and blood stained near the bottom, but I wrapped it around my body nonetheless. The wind whipped the blanket about me like the broken wings of a falling bird, but I focused my mind and then I was in control. I rode the air currents off towards civilization, determined never to look back in regret. Sarah was buried here, and nothing should disturb her rest.

Last Panel:
A rock cairn lies at the top shelf of a basin, twelve yards from the cliff edge leading down. A huge headstone has the following words lovingly inscribed upon its surface: "Dearest Sarah / April 10, 1997 - April 18, 2023 / Beloved Wife, Sister and Daughter / May fate treat you kinder in Heaven"

Copyright © 1997 Byron Molix, all rights reserved.
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