Gifted

Gifted
by Tom Jolly

Everybody thinks their own baby is special.

We noticed that Jimmy could shape things before he was one year old. Baby bottles would show his fingerprints, and I thought he was going to be a superman. Jennifer just thought he had a good grip.

A month later, some of the wooden bars on the side of the crib had been twisted into S shapes. Yeah, he’s gonna be a superhero, I thought. He’s powerful, he can change things.

“The humid weather just made the boards warp,” Jennifer said. She couldn’t believe it. But I knew Jimmy was the next step in evolution, the New Man.

A few days later, Jimmy was howling. By the time Jenny got out of bed and reached him, the mobile above him, the one he couldn’t quite reach, had stretched into his hands like molten glass, and he was quiet.

“Cheap plastic,” she said when she came back to bed. “That mobile with the birds stretched out.”

“What do you mean, it stretched out?”

“It got longer, like it melted.”

“Did you take it from him? He might choke or something.”

“He’s not going to choke. It’s too big,” she said. She rolled over, fluffed her pillow, and tried to go back to sleep. I listened to Jimmy murmuring happily on the baby monitor, then got up to check on him myself.

I turned on the light and looked in at him. The mobile had stretched like taffy, the birds and bright plastic flowers elongated into ghastly apparitions. Spattered drops of plastic covered Jimmy’s blanket. I touched a drop with my fingertip and sniffed it. It was still wet, with a plastic smell.

What the Hell?

Concerned, I watched him fidget with the mobile for a few more minutes and finally went back to bed.

I lay awake awhile and wondered how we were going to raise him. How do you tell a kid who can’t talk yet what’s okay to do and what’s wrong?

The next morning, he started fussing for his morning feeding. Jennifer dragged herself out of bed and went in to his room, picking him up.

She sat down, lifted the corner of her nightshirt and let Jimmy breastfeed. I came in with two cups of coffee and the newspaper. She sighed contentedly.

Jimmy started getting fussy.

Jennifer stirred and said, “I think I’m a little dry, I might have to supplement with a bottle today.”

Jimmy’s sucking became louder, his fussing more urgent.

“Ow!”

As I glanced up from the paper to look at Jennifer, I saw the liquid remnants of the mobile on the floor below the crib.

“Put him down!” I shouted.

She screamed. I saw her hold Jimmy away from her, howling, as her breast collapsed into a red pool on her lap. Jimmy howled even louder as she clutched him, and he grabbed her wrists with his chubby hands. Her wrists turned to liquid, splashing to the floor, and her hands, still tangled in Jimmy’s sleeper, fell into her lap with him.

“Fuck!” I ran over to her just as little Jimmy, in a panic, clutched at her.

Jennifer and her chair, liquefied together in a brown and red and white waterfall, splashed into a flat puddle on the floor, with part of her fluid remains pouring into the hissing furnace grate. Jimmy sprawled in the glistening pool that used to be Jennifer.

I couldn’t breathe. I leaned over to grab Jimmy, to rescue him from his … his what? What the Hell was I thinking?

I backed away. Jimmy started crawling for his crib, howling for attention. It bent and twisted, melting into a pool of plastic and wood before he could get near it. Crap.

I ran like Hell, hearing him scream behind me. Dear God, what had we created? I made it to the door, grabbed the knob, and yanked it open. My back felt warm. I’m a dead man, I thought, pausing idiotically for a second before running out the front door.

There was a guy standing on my front lawn, plastic cup of coffee in one hand, thermos dangling in the other, like he was watching a fireworks display.

He nodded to me and put his thermos down in the grass. Who the Hell was this?

I turned, panting, and listened to Jimmy scream, then heard the scream change as he dropped into the basement through a liquid floor. It stopped after a while. I hoped he’d drowned in his own fluids, for everyone’s sake.

I put my hands to my face and began sobbing.

“I’d guess I’m a bit late to do you any good,” the man said. He raised his cup toward me and said, “I heard your kid manifesting a week ago.” He tapped his head with his free hand. “Really powerful.”

I turned my tear-streaked face to him. “This … this has happened before?”

“Not like this. Their powers usually kick in at puberty, when they can control it.”

I stared at him in disbelief. “Your kid has powers too? Your kid grew up?”

“Yeah,” he said. He turned to face me. The right side of his face was a mass of fire-scorched scar tissue. “But let me tell you, my friend, teen angst is no joy, either.”


Copyright © 2015 Tom Jolly