The back door slammed. “Hey, Dad!”
Dave sighed in relief. Maybe now he could focus on something besides whether the cylinder’s power was magic or science.
That night, Dave took his janitor’s cart back to his closet. He dumped the dirty water down the drain, still feeling that same tug towards the vault, almost like the cylinder was calling him.
Opening the crate would be a breach of trust. If anyone found out, he’d lose his job, but the chances of discovery were almost nil. The FBI came by maybe three times a year. The security guards were supposed to do rounds inside the warehouse, but hadn’t in years. He could pry it open for a peek and nobody would know.
Yeah, one little peek. One little peek wouldn’t hurt.
He grabbed a crowbar and snuck into the vault. Bingo. He pried open the crate and pulled out the cylinder.
Wow. Imagine the power it could give him . . . the power to make the news a little less depressing. Instead of, “three children died in a three-alarm fire,” reporters would say, “Today, a Real Life Superhero rescued three children from a three-alarm fire.”
He slid the cylinder up his arm. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea. Dave didn’t have time to fight an evil symbiot. He had a softball tournament on Sunday.
The world swirled around him. His stomach lurched and he closed his eyes.
Once the dizziness subsided, he peeked and gasped at a waterfall before him. Six moons reflected in the still waters lapping at his feet. Beside him, a neon-orange tree grew parallel to the ground. “Where am I?”
A gray-skinned man at least eight feet tall appeared before Dave. In his black armor and green cloak, the giant looked like he could snap Dave in half with his pinky. And Dave wore a 2XL in shirts.
“Who are you?” asked Dave.
“Zolgron, Champion of the Karonites. Fifteen hundred years ago, I was one of eight of my kind. We were a powerful race with strength and abilities far surpassing those of the other inhabitants of Gorlen.
“I resolved to make myself King of the Karonites and vanquish the champions of the seven other nations and take their land for my own. Before I even raised my hand to do this, my Creator seized me. He said he had made me and my brethren as guardians, not lords. He took a common, weak Gorlen and made him the new Champion.
As for me, he said I was too dangerous and must learn a great lesson before I could wield such power again. Until then I can only empower others.
“I’ve had more than three thousand hosts on fifty planets. When I attach myself to a host, I become part of it. When the host dies, I live on, taking another form. The shape-changing ability is the one thing he has left me.”
Dave’s jaw fell. “You’re the cylinder?”
“That is the shape I took. I can be as small as a mouse or as large as a dog.”
“How did you travel from planet to planet?”
“The Creator has transported me, as part of his ‘great lesson,’ apparently.”
“So, with you attached to my arm, I get some great powers.”
Zolgron nodded. “You can run faster than one of your sports cars. You have the strength of a hundred ordinary humans, can change shapes, and materialize objects at will.”
“Can I fly?” Dave flapped his arms.
“Not naturally. You could materialize a jet pack on your back, though.”
“This is so cool!”
Zolgron buried his head in his hands. “Creator, have I learned the lesson yet?”
“Wait a second.” Dave folded his arms. “How do I know you’re not evil?”
“I’m neither good nor evil. I’m simply a tool to be used as my host sees fit. I’m like one of your handguns.”
Dave protested. “But guns are evil!”
“Oh, one of those. Let me try this again. I’m like your mop. Your mop can be used for good or for evil.”
Dave laughed. “How could mops be used for evil?”
Zolgron smiled. “Watch.”
Several mops appeared and began to bludgeon Dave.
“Vile cleansing instruments, you shall not defeat me!” Dave fought one of the mops off, throwing it to the ground. He jumped in mid-air and decapitated another. He turned. Hundreds, no thousands of mops were coming after him from all sides. This was like a horror film shot in a cleaning supply store.
He cried out and mop heads repeatedly bludgeoned him.
The world spun. Again his stomach lurched and he squeezed his eyes shut.
Dave opened his eyes and stared at the shelf in the vault, crowbar in hand. He hadn’t even taken the cylinder out of the crate. It had been all a dream. A lousy, stinking dream. “I’ve got to stop eating Hawaiian pizza.”
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