What happens when an idiot gains superhuman abilities? Dark humor.
The Life and Death of Deadlier N. U.
August 15 2016 | Rate This |
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Spencer and Lyle walked along the rural, unfinished road. Lyle picked up one of the loose stones that were all over it and then he threw it at one of the overhead power lines. He missed it.

"Oh, man. I was that close," he said to Spencer. "And you didn't think I'd come anywhere near it."

Spencer looked over at him. "What are you talking about? I never said anything and neither did you. And who throws rocks at power lines?"

"What's your problem?" Lyle asked. Spencer didn't say a word.

Lyle intentionally kicked stones and dust with each step while Spencer only did so accidentally. They were only a few weeks away from starting their second year of college.

Up ahead lay a bit of woods that would run for around a hundred yards or so on each side of the road, but right now they trudged along in a semi-open area. Spencer reached out and touched a bunch of foxtails growing along the edge. The road wasn't wide enough to say it had shoulders. In fact, it was one lane and if two cars were going in the opposite direction on it at the same time, one would have to move into the weeds so the other one could pass.

"Look at that huge pile of crap," Lyle said with a laugh, as he pointed at animal defecation on the road. He went to it and picked it up, throwing some at Spencer.

Spencer dodged it. "Knock it off, you idiot," he told him. Lyle was reaching down for more when Spencer made a fist and pulled his arm back. Lyle stopped, got up, and wiped his hand on his shorts.

They continued walking. Spencer looked over at Lyle who looked at the road with slumped shoulders, still grinning to himself. Spencer shook his head and rolled his eyes.

They walked some more and Lyle would say some nonsense every now and then. Spencer mostly tried to ignore him but when he did reply it was short and curt. The only regular sound was Lyle's flip-flops flipping and flopping.

Lyle was on the left side of the road and Spencer was on the right. Spencer was wiping away the latest sweat that rolled near his eyes when Lyle stopped again. Spencer wondered what new biological fact of life had fascinated him now.

"Look at this," Lyle said.

"I'd rather not," Spencer replied.

Spencer continued walking but Lyle reached down and touched something. Spencer stopped and looked closer to where Lyle was. The township probably hadn't mowed the edges of the road the entire year, and the weeds were so overgrown they were hanging onto the road in many places. But even with all that, Spencer could still see that there was a clearing where Lyle was. And in that clearing was a small metal box with a matte finish. Spencer walked towards Lyle.

Once he got closer he saw that not only were the weeds cleared away where the rectangular box was, but that it sat in dirt that was weeded out into a perfect circle.

"What in the world is that?" Spencer asked.

"It's a box, you idiot," Lyle said. Spencer rolled his eyes again.

"It's definitely weird. Let's leave it alone," Spencer said.

Lyle was bent over with his hands on his knees as he looked at it. "No way. I want to see what it is."

Spencer took a few steps back as Lyle squatted and grabbed the metal box, which was about a foot long, six inches wide, and two inches deep. Lyle opened it and found a metal cylinder inside, with the same silver matte finish as the box.

Lyle started handling the cylinder and Spencer could see that it had a band around one end of it. That band showed a fluorescent, glowing green coming from it. It was bright enough that Spencer could clearly see it even in the sunlight.

"What are you doing? Stop that," Spencer told Lyle, swatting at a horsefly that madly buzzed around him.

Lyle laughed at him. "You're such a coward." He continued running his fingers and hands on it, and now even played with it, waving it around while he looked at it. He glanced at one end and noticed a closed iris on it.

"Look at that," he said. He poked at the iris and then he shook the cylinder. Finally he slammed the iris into the palm of his hand. Something jabbed him.

Lyle screamed and dropped the cylinder. He danced around, swearing and jabbering like some old coot. His brain couldn't keep up with his mouth and so he repeated a lot of his cuss words and phrases. Eventually he tried kicking the cylinder which had rolled only a short distance away from where he dropped it on the rough road. He mostly missed but connected with it enough that it bounced over a few more pebbles and stones before it came to a stop in the middle of the road.

Spencer just watched. He was about to say something but then the cylinder began to hiss. He backed away even further until his weathered boot heels touched the edge of the road and he felt weeds push into the back of his t-shirt. Lyle stopped his dancing and singing, and he watched too.

First, the cylinder melted into a metallic liquid and then it started smoking as if it was going to light on fire. But the smoke wasn't from heat. Or at least it wasn't because the metal was about to ignite. Instead, Spencer and Lyle watched as the metal evaporated into a gas. Soon it had all disappeared.

Spencer looked up at Lyle. "Okay. Now you definitely should be worried. You should go to the hospital."

Lyle looked back at him and shook his head. "Spencer, you're overreacting again. Why are you always so worried about life instead of enjoying it?" He shook his hand and looked at the red mark on his palm. Then he went over to the metal box on the side of the road and kicked at it.

This time he made full contact and the box went sailing over the weeds and down a hill, bouncing and rattling to the bottom of it as it disappeared.

"So you're okay with being jabbed by a cylinder that just disintegrated? Aren't you a little concerned about that?" Spencer asked him. He still hadn't moved from the far side of the road.

The sun continued beating down on them and Lyle ran the same hand he used to pick up the animal feces through his sweaty, oily hair. "I'm still here, aren't I? Let's keep moving."

They walked another 50 yards or so, with Spencer trying to convince Lyle that they needed to get him to a hospital as soon as they could. He suggested calling 911 for an ambulance but Lyle kept turning it down. They reached the part of the road where the open field transitioned into a wooded area. The shade the trees provided probably cooled the air by five to ten degrees. They hung over the road from both its sides, blocking all but a patch of sun here and there.

As they walked into the woods Spencer kept talking to Lyle about seeking medical attention, but instead of continuing to object to that idea, Lyle became silent, and Spencer could see that his pace was slowing. They arrived at a place in the woods where the trees were so tall and thick that there wasn't much undergrowth.

"I got to stop and rest," Lyle said as he started off the road and into the woods. "If I sit down for just a moment I know I'll be all right."

"This is definitely a sign you need to go to the hospital," Spencer told him.

"Will you just shut up ..." Lyle said. He sat down on the ground, his knees pulled up towards him and his head hanging down.

Spencer walked off the road too and stood next to Lyle. Spencer was about to say something more about seeking medical attention when Lyle suddenly lurched backwards and began convulsing.

Spencer stood there watching Lyle flop around uncontrollably, gurgling and making all sorts of horrible noises. Spencer's mouth hanged open and his hands remained at his side. Eventually, he remembered that he had a cell phone and that he probably should call for help. He quickly fumbled for his back pocket, but just as he whipped out his smart phone Lyle's seizure stopped.

"Lyle?" Spencer asked.

Lyle remained lying on the ground but his eyes were open, and he looked at Spencer as soon as he heard his name. And then he sat up. He gazed forward for a moment and then looked up at Spencer again, his hair messed up and his clothes covered in dirt and leaves, but otherwise appearing fine. "I feel great," he said to Spencer, as Spencer's finger hovered over the keypad on his phone.

Lyle shot up off the ground so quickly that Spencer stumbled backwards and almost dropped his phone. He regained hold of it and then stuffed it into the back pocket of his jeans again.

"You might want to take it easy. You just had a seizure," he said to Lyle, who was now brushing himself off.

"No. Like I said, I feel great," Lyle told him. Then he glared at the ground. "But I'm getting sick of getting beat up today. First, that stupid rod jabbed me and now I have this stupid convulsion!" He turned towards the nearest tree and punched it as hard as he could.

Spencer rolled his eyes. He heard the splintering sound and waited for Lyle to start yelling about all the bones he just broke in his hand. But Lyle didn't yell. And then he looked at the tree that Lyle just hit. Lyle's punch had taken a huge chuck out of it. The tree was about two feet in diameter and Lyle's punch looked like it had took about a foot high and six inch wide bite out of the left side of it.

Spencer snapped his head towards Lyle who looked back at him, and then at his perfectly okay fist. Then a big smile came over Lyle's face. And before Spencer could tell him to stop, Lyle punched the tree again.

The punch produced another splintering sound, but this time it was followed by creaking and popping. Spencer looked up and could see the trunk starting to come towards him. He turned and ran away from it as fast as it could. He did a pretty good job of evading the path it fell, with maybe only twig or two brushing against him as the mighty tree broke through the other branches around it, and then crashed to the ground with an awful noise. Birds chirped loudly and Spencer could hear maybe a squirrel or groundhog running away from all the commotion.

He slowly turned around and heard Lyle before he saw him. Lyle was laughing loudly and jumping around, slapping his hands together and yelling a triumphant yell. Spencer slowly worked his way through the leaves and sparse undergrowth of the woods back to where Lyle was. He looked back at the tree and then felt his head and torso again. Not even a scratch.

Lyle hurried over to him and grabbed him by the shoulders--hard enough that Spencer winced. "Did you see what just happened?"

"Yeah, you almost killed me," Spencer said.

"I punched that tree over! That rod gave me superpowers!"

Lyle let him go and went back to letting out whoops and hollers as he jumped around. He bent down and scooped up some leaves, throwing them in the air like confetti. Spencer rubbed one of his shoulders and then lifted up the sleeve of his t-shirt. Lyle's grip had left huge marks and Spencer thought for sure they'd eventually turn black and blue.

Spencer looked back at Lyle and before he could tell him not to do anything else reckless, Lyle was doing all sorts of things to test his newfound abilities.

First, Lyle started punching all sorts of things--pretty much anything solid he could find, which was mostly rocks and trees. He broke or at least damaged them all. And then he happened upon some broken glass bottles, and he quickly tested if he could punch them without hurting himself. He even tried cutting himself with one of the broken shards and found it didn't do anything other than leave some red streaks on his skin. Maybe if he kept at it long enough he'd break the skin or rub it raw--like anyone would if he scratched at his skin with his fingernails--but what clearly would have cut anyone else didn't affect Lyle.

He screamed at the top of his lungs, beat his chest twice, and then he started jumping up and down all over the place again. Spencer watched him. Lyle wasn't a great athlete but he wasn't a terrible one. His jumps seemed higher than normal. Spencer watched some more and then realized that Lyle's jumps seemed higher than normal because they were.

First it looked like Lyle was jumping about two feet into the air, and then it was two and a half. Three feet, four feet, five feet, and even six feet. At seven feet Lyle noticed what he was doing. He stopped, looked down at his feet, and then looked at Spencer who was just staring wide-eyed at him. Lyle's mouth was agape at first but then it turned into a gigantic grin again. He crouched down and then leaped as hard as he could.

"Woo-hoo!" he screamed as he rocketed into the air. Spencer's necked snapped backwards as he followed Lyle's trajectory.

Lyle crashed through the lower branches of a bunch of trees in the woods, powering through them and in some cases snapping them. Twigs, branches, and leaves cascaded to the ground as Spencer watched him go higher and higher until he smacked into the trunk of a white oak near its top. Lyle threw his legs and arms around it, holding onto it for a moment before letting go of it with his legs and pushing off the trunk with his feet. He fell to the ground and landed about 100 feet away from Spencer. The leaves and twigs crunched underneath his feet and Spencer could feel the thud on the cool forest floor even as he heard it.

Lyle rushed over to Spencer and Spencer just stared at him. "Did you see that?! Did you see that?! I don't just have superhuman strength! I can fly too! I can fly!"

Spencer didn't say anything and Lyle came closer, lightly slapping him on the face. "Dude? Are you in there? Did you hear what I just said or see any of that?"

Spencer reached up and touched his cheek. "Yeah, I saw all of that and I heard you," he said. Lyle wasn't breathing hard or sweating much more from when they were in the sun. But the sweat continued pouring off Spencer. "Why are you so happy about all this? This isn't normal and you need to get it checked out."

Lyle looked at him. "Are you crazy? I've got superpowers. I'm not getting anything checked out. I'm super strong and I can fly."

"You know--wait a minute. Did you just say you can fly?" Spencer asked.

"Yeah! Didn't you see me fly to the top of that tree?"

"You didn't fly there; it was just a really high jump."

"No, it wasn't. I flew there!"

And then they argued about that for a bit. Finally Lyle had enough.

"Man, I'm not letting you bring me down," he said with a wave of his hand. He turned and started walking back towards the road.

"I'm not trying to bring you down," Spencer said as he followed him. "I'm just telling you what I saw."

"And I'm telling you what I felt," Lyle said. He stomped on the leaves and around any shrubs and small trees he encountered at first. But then he smiled big again and started walking through them, with some of the low-growing plants just bending around him while others broke. Lyle ignored the tears and damage he inflicted on his clothes.

Spencer walked around all the obstacles he encountered the entire time, hurrying to keep up with Lyle. They kept arguing even as they reached the road, jumping down on the dirt and gravel. And then they continued in the direction they had been heading before they entered the woods.

"Whatever," Lyle eventually said. "It doesn't matter what you think. I know what I did."

"Now that we're on the road again, we should--"

"If you're going to say anything about me needing to go see a doctor I suggest you don't finish that sentence," Lyle said, turning his head to look at Spencer.

Spencer didn't finish the sentence. He just shrugged and they walked in silence for a bit. Spencer kept looking over at Lyle and each time he did Lyle looked back and smiled or laughed.

"Can you believe this happened to me?" Lyle eventually asked.

"No," Spencer replied.

"You know what I'm going to do right away?"

Again, Spencer gave him a simple, "No."

"I'm going to be a superhero," Lyle said.


"A superhero--just like in the comic books," Lyle told him. "And I'm going to do anything I want from now on. I'm going to go wherever I want and whenever I want. I'm going to be rich. And I'm going to get back at all the people who've ever wronged me."

They had reached the end of the woods and were walking back into open field again, with the sun greeting their return with rays that packed a punch--at least on Spencer.

"I'm going to have to come up with a name for myself," Lyle said.

"So you don't like 'Lyle' anymore?" Spencer asked.

"I'm not talking about changing my name, you idiot," Lyle said. "I need a superhero name for myself; I need to come up with that identity so I can have a secret identity."

"I really don't think you're thinking about what just happened to you," Spencer said.

"What did I say about not telling me to go see a doctor?" Lyle shot back.

Spencer held up his hands and quickly said, "I'm not telling you that. I'm just saying you've already decided to become a superhero when we should be asking how in the world did the impossible just happen to you."

"What about, 'Cheese Dip,' because I like cheese dip?" Lyle said.

"Cheese dip is fine but I don't have any on me," Spencer said.

"I'm not talking about eating some right now; I'm talking about that for a possible superhero name."

"Are you kidding?" Spencer said.

"Yeah, you're right. I don't want to go with anything that connects my superhero identity to my civilian one. So 'Cheese Dip' is no good," Lyle said.

Spencer rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"Maybe, 'Roach Killer,' because if anybody tries to hurt me from now on I'll squash them like a bug. Or I could just make it, 'Captain Crush.' Or how about, 'Destroying Man.' No, that doesn't sound right."

Spencer listened to him rattle off a bunch more possibilities, including formulaic ones like, "Big Dawg." Lyle also tossed out some names that Spencer didn't understand, such as, "B. F. D."

"I got it!" Lyle exclaimed. "It's perfect! You know what it is?"

"No clue," Spencer said with a shake of his head.

"Deadlier N. U.," Lyle told him. "Because I'm now deadlier than everyone else. I'll be like all those rappers with the cool names. Or like all those cool guys who steal stuff and get all the hookers in those video games."

Spencer stopped and tried looking at Lyle again. "Look, Lyle, you can't do this."

Lyle stopped and looked at Spencer. "Why not? Who's going to stop me?"

"I'm not saying anyone is going to stop you, I'm just saying none of this is a good idea," Spencer said. "You don't have to go to a doctor but to just rush into the idea of you becoming a superhero after what happened today doesn't make sense."

Lyle leaned back and let out a loud scoff. "You know what, Spencer, I've had enough. I'm not going to let you bring me down. I don't get you. You are always so scared about life, like a woman would be. I like having fun. And I'm definitely going to have fun with being a superhero with my new strength and ability to fly."

"I still say you weren't flying," Spencer said.

"Aw, you always think you know better than me," Lyle said. "But who cares? I'm the top dog from now on and it's time to introduce the world to me. Or introduce superhero me to the world--whatever. You know what I mean! And I'm going to start by proving to you I can fly."

Lyle barely bent his knees this time before shooting into the air.

He moved so quickly all that Spencer had time to say was, "Watch out for the--!" before Lyle flew straight into the overhead power lines.

The strange cylinder might have imbued Lyle with a bunch of new abilities, but it apparently didn't imbue him with immunity to electricity. Spencer watched as Lyle first got tangled in the power lines and then started sparking and smoking. He let out one long, unintelligible scream. One of the power lines broke in half.

Spencer jumped backwards to avoid the live wire and the body of Lyle. Both of them fell a safe distance away from him.

The smell was awful. Spencer looked at Lyle very quickly and then looked away as fast as he could from the smoking corpse, with some of Lyle's clothes on fire. At first he was worried the body was going to burn up but the flames died down. The stench remained, though.

Spencer ran a few more yards down the road to get away from it. He took out his cell phone and started dialing 911. He didn't have any idea how he was going to explain Lyle's electrocuted body or the downed power line.

As he waited for a dispatcher to answer he thought to himself, Huh. Lyle was telling the truth. He really could fly.
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Paul Hair is an author and national security/intelligence expert.

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