He was almost surprised that the gas station was running as he pushed the dusty metal handle of the glass door.
Dusty. As if it would be anything else. This was the desert—everything was dusty.
It didn’t exactly look like a five-star establishment, either. The refrigerated shelves lining the walls were sparsely filled and water dripped sporadically from the corner of a swamp cooler on the wall. The fluorescent lights buzzing over his head gave much less light than the mind-dazzling sun outside. Part of him welcomed the change—the familiarity of it—and part of him wanted to run back to the vastness of outdoors, something that had been denied him for too long.
He headed towards the beverages, reached in for a sports drink, gritting his teeth as the fabric of his long-sleeved shirt chafed against his wrists, where the skin was raw and red. He chuckled softly. Finally free of their metal restraints, covered in soft cotton, the welts there ached more than they had in years.
“Find everything you need?” a lazy voice asked as he headed towards the regsiter. He did his best not to jump. The voice was eerily similar to Agent Forrester’s. Not that Forrester would ever be a problem again.
He remembered when he’d thought Forrester was the nice one, the encouraging one. I just want to see what it is you can do, he remembered the man saying. It took him a while to realize that there were no nice ones.
He grabbed a bag of Cheetos and a Snickers bar—almost unbearable indulgences—and threw them on the counter next to his drink. “Yep.”
The stodgy man behind the counter shook out the newspaper in front of him. The fugitive froze with a shock as he recognized his own face on the cover. He’d made sure to change his appearance when he left the facility, but in truth he’d almost forgotten what he’d looked like in the first place. He didn’t even know how long he’d been there—time was the first thing they stole from him.
“That’ll be ten-forty-five.”
His eyes snapped to the face of the man in front of him. The shorter man didn’t appear to recognize him. Maybe he only read the comics.
“I’ll take twenty on three, too,” he said, tossing a few bills on the counter. He didn’t wait for his fifty-five cents, but swept his purchases up in one arm and headed to his car—his third since he’d escaped, a pretty black convertible. He set nozzle to pump and let the sun sink into his skin. He’d darkened the sunglasses he’d found in the first car—the outdoor sun nearly blinded him. He couldn’t remember when he’d seen it last.
Yes, he could.
He tried to shake off the memory—shake off the ache of seeing her one last time, of not knowing where she was now. Not that it mattered that much.
He replaced the nozzle as the pump stopped, and then he caught sight of the man inside the shop staring at him, glancing down at the newspaper in his hands momentarily, then back, as if debating.
The corner of his eye twitched as the man reached into his pocket, pulling out what looked like a cell phone.
He should’ve grabbed another bag of Cheetos.
He drove off the lot casually, no rush. He grabbed at the energy coursing down all around him from the sun and with a mental flick, sent it hard towards the ground underneath the station, then pounded his gas petal.
He was doing eighty by the time the explosion shook the earth, a cloud of fire and smoke pluming in his rearview, wider than the space the station had taken up. That call couldn’t have gone far, but the agency would find out soon enough anyhow. He knew they were already on his trail.
He pushed the convertible just a little harder. It was sloppy, but it was a start.
Years of demands on who he was and what he could do played themselves like a cacophonous orchestra in his head, complemented by his own screams as they’d tried means other than asking. His pleas for death had always been drowned out by the rest of the noise.
They wanted to know what he could do? He’d show them what he could do. What he was truly capable of.
He eased off the gas as he headed towards a more populated part of the desert—no measly speeding tickets for him, not now. Freedom sizzled in his veins like soda pop, and he threw his head back and laughed.
It was funny, really. They’d spent so long focusing on how inhuman he was, he was going to become exactly that—inhumane.
And then they’d have no choice. They’d have to take him down, finally give him the peace he’d asked for for so long.
But first he was going to have some fun.