There was no going back to my old life. I was here, now, a part of something bigger. Something just six short weeks ago I could not fathom ever existed. I liked it. Sitting there, I was energized by these revelations. These men, all of them, were in awe of my abilities. Things that even I was barely aware of.
“So when do we start?”
Loud guffaws and laughter. “Such a hurry.” Mac said.
“Yeah, I’m ready. I’ve wasted so much of my life so far. I want to move on. I want to do something I think I’m good at. This gift, I never thought much about it. Now, I want to learn.”
Now everyone was silent.
Richard, Little Ricky was the first to intrude on the silence. “Perhaps we can all learn Mac.”
Everyone began to nod. Affirmation. I could feel such in only one. Mikey.
Mac looked about his crew, and nodded as well “Okay, let’s do something besides laugh at our new young friend.”
With that, the others pulled chairs out and sat down around me. Waiting, we watched as Mac went over to the wall behind us and started a video that played on the wall, where I had no idea there was a screen. There wasn’t, the wall became the screen. The projector showed the garage view as I exited the double doors. Checking to ensure they were locked, I looked about and then the lights went out. The screen turned black and the image of me, all about me, turned that weird green. Watching myself, I saw that I took off running. I knew where I was going, I had lived it. The others watched the video as I took off running toward and then off to the left side of the projection. The camera changed, a different angle, from back behind the escape ladder. It showed me as I jigged and jagged, avoiding cars, trash bins and parking blocks. On the left side of the screen, I stopped at the dim column and began to climb, the ladder invisible in the darkness.
Stopping the video, Mac asked us all. “Anyone here know how Dennis did this?” There was no response. “Dennis, what can you tell us about this?”
Silence. I didn’t know.
Mac came over next to me, pulled a chair up and sat. “Dennis. We don’t know. Did you remember where everything was when you saw it before the lights went out? Or did you feel your way there?”
Everyone was looking at me. I had no idea what was expected of me. Training I believed would be about me learning. Not me describing what I had performed. And this felt like a performance. At the time, it was real. Now, it was a replay. I was unaware there would be a payment of tuition for membership into this fraternity. I sat silently.
Moments passed. Mac looked sad as he finally sighed and spoke. “Dennis, I think we are asking things of you that at this time, you’re unaware that you are capable of. Please try to remember that here, with us, we know things, we know what the world could never understand. For the world, superheroes are like comic book characters with hugely exaggerated physical abilities. The reality is far far different. Whereas no one can fly, those super men don't exist; but we do. We can do things few in the real world are capable of doing. Nor any person in that world out there could even imagine actually exist. And even though we aren't bending steel bars or have x-ray vision, the capabilities of every one of us here in this room are all astounding. We here, are the true superheroes of the world. And sadly, we work in secret, because those out there would never believe we exist or can do what we do. Thankfully we have friends, and for taking care of us, we help them. But we don't know everything, even about ourselves. We learn things each day, all of us. Training Dennis, is indeed, for us all. Not just you.”
There were nods of affirmation all around. Jacob now entered the conversation. “Dennis, we all have our own experiences, our own realizations of our abilities. Most of us were like you when Mac found us. Wasting our lives, drinking so we couldn't feel. It's a pattern. Mac found each of us, and showed us a new life. Mac helps us to expand what we know, what we are capable of and to understand that those around us, have abilities different, and with you, they seem to be greater than our own. You can teach us, whether you know it or not.”
There has never been a time in my life when I felt as though I could teach. Never even being a part of anything. This was new to me. Looking around me, the men here appeared to be expectant of my next words. I was at a loss. There was no experience with which to relate.
“Okay.” Was all I could say. But inside, it wasn't okay. There was little recollection of the event. It just happened. I saw the ladder, the lights went out, and then I was at the ladder climbing. Closing my eyes, I leaned my head back and thought about it. Nothing. So I told them. "Mac, everyone. I think I understand the need to grow, to learn about each other. But sorry. I have no idea how I even got from the door to the ladder."
Opening my eyes now I could see Mac as he was nodding his head. "Dennis, it isn't important now. We know that people are capable of tremendous things when under stress. And it isn't just us gifted. When a mother sees a car on top of her baby she can lift the car. A man can run faster than a rockslide to rescue someone from getting hit. It happens. We would like to try to repeat it. Not the stress, but just the conditions, to see if you can do it when needed, or can it only occur for you when under duress."
"And no one else has ever shown any such abilities?" I asked.
"Well Mac, it isn't something that I knew I could do. So maybe, I don't know. I never thought about my ability to feel others. It just is a part of my existence."
Now Andre reached over and punched my arm lightly. "Perhaps we need to go to garage and maybe try a little sometting, No?"
There were acclimations all around as Mac rose from his chair. "Call out for Jaime to come in here will you Ricky." Little Ricky was the furthest back and he got up and walked out the double doors. Calling after him Mac continued. "Tell her to bring those night vision goggles."
Moments later a middle aged woman came back into the room with Ricky, they both had a couple sets of large cumbersome looking devices that I assumed were worn on one's head to give night vision. As she walked over to Mac, he introduced her to me. "Dennis, this is Jaime, she pretty much runs this facility. She does all the work scheduling and generally is the administrator. Be nice to her or you'll find the kitchen empty and all your clothes out to the laundry at one time."
Groans and acclimations all around. She shook my hand. She was warm, kind and filled with humor, yet serious. "Nice to meet you Dennis, I think we'll get along fine, just don't take on the bad habits of any of this rabble." The guys all began to point at Little Ricky who gave that deadpan pantomime of 'who, me?' Chuckles accompanied his attempt at innocence.
Taking charge, Mac dispersed three of the goggles. Then directed Jaime to the light switches. After unlocking the doors we all filed out to the garage. "Wait, wait." Exclaimed Andre. "Close your eyes Dennis, less chance to familiarize yourself first."
"Excellent idea Andre." Mac said. Then directed him to walk me over to the opposite side of the garage from where I had performed the maneuver earlier. Once there, he exclaimed "As I knock on the door to signal Jaime to cut the lights, open your eyes and then go for the ladder. Are you set Dennis?"
"I'm ready." I told him, unsure how this would work.
There was a knocking on the door, I opened my eyes and saw where the ladder was in relation to where I now stood. As the room went to black. I timidly took off at a trot toward the goal. It was unnerving, I knew, I KNEW to swerve to avoid the parking block that lay just a mere ten inches or so above the floor. Glancing around the end of another of the towncars that seemed to fill the garage, I ran to the column with the ladder and stopped. I heard the knocking as Mac signaled Jaime to turn the lights back on.
Returning to the group, there was a look of awe on each of their faces. With one exception, Mac. He was all smiles. "I can't be the only one Mac, please, let's try everyone."
"An excellent idea Dennis. Andre, this was your excursion. Hand those goggles to Dennis. Let's give you a bit of an advantage, you can study the path first."
Taking the goggles I adjusted them to my head and watched as the little Cajun dodged back and forth a bit as he scoped out the layout of the path. As I readied the goggles, Mac knocked on the door again and the vision in front of me went from normal, to ghostly greens. Watching as Andre took off at a trot and immediately tripped over a parking block. Curses filled the air as I watched him pick himself up and walk now, hands in front of him toward the far column. Still he knocked over a trash can and bumped into the column.
Then Mac just told Antonio to try next. I assume because he did not have on the goggles. He walked off, nearly a repeat performance. Mac now commanded, "Everyone, take off the goggles." He waited as we complied. "Does any one of you feel confidant enough to give it a road test?"
There was no assenting cry to try.
Another knock on the door and the lights returned. Mac led us to the doors and opened them again. We all returned to the classroom as Jaime took the goggles from us while we filed past her. Sitting back down where we had been previously, Mac walked over to us again and began that routine nodding of his head with an even bigger smile than any time previous.
The first to speak was Andre. The little Cajun was shaking his head as he began. "I not know how you do tis Dennis my friend. Tare was no light. Nuting to reference. Nuting to know how to step and not trip. I not know how you has done tis."
As I looked about me, there was that same blank look of awe in them all. "Well I don't know how to tell you this, but I had no idea I could do it, and still have no idea how it was done."
Now Mac asked me. "So Dennis, what went through your mind as you did it? Any thoughts, any clues as to how you knew what was where and how to avoid, well everything in the garage. I noticed, that even as you came up to the column, you walked around it to the side with the ladder. No hesitation, and unlike Andre, without your arms stuck out in front of you."
Andre now came back in with, "Can you see in ti dark man? Is tat how you do tis?"
"No, everything is as black as can be for me."
"Tin Mac, tis man is de bat man, de real bat man. He has sonar."
Everyone laughed a bit at that.
And Mac looked into my eyes and asked again, "Any idea how you did this?"
Possibly the most difficult thing I've ever done in my life has nothing to do with that decision to return here. Nor any other experience in my life, ever. Nothing prepared me for this, trying to understand, and then explain how I could run through a field of obstacles in total darkness.
I wasn't sure I knew.