Cynthia was finally allowed to see Ben, and finally realized why the police were calling Jake’s assault on Ben attempted murder. Ben’s fall down the stairs had resulted in Ben having a severe head injury that caused his brain to bleed. As far as his doctors were concerned, the concussion had been minor. But the brain bleed had left Ben in a coma for weeks, and they weren’t yet sure what had caused his amnesia.
“Is it permanent?” Cynthia was genuinely concerned.
“We’re not sure. Only time will tell.” The doctor shrugged as he left Ben’s room.
“There was a police officer posted out there until yesterday,” he had told her, after he admitted that he had no idea who she was.
“You started a group,” Cynthia told him, “for survivors. You called us Lightning Strikers Anonymous.”
Ben looked puzzled.
“We were all struck by lightning. You helped us cope. You helped us heal. Emotionally, anyway. We all have scars.”
“I think I would remember being struck by lightning!”
Ben sounded angry.
“But, the doctor said you don’t remember anything…”
Cynthia studied Ben, laying in the bed, looking confused, and almost scared.
“Do you remember Jake? He is – he is the one who – well, I guess he pushed you. He tried to convince us that the storm chose us. That the lightning sought us out. That it struck us on purpose.”
Ben laughed. Not just a snicker, he laughed hysterically.
“I guess it does sound silly,” Cynthia admitted. “It must be frustrating not being able to remember. Anything.”
She sat in the chair beside Ben’s hospital bed.
Cynthia told Ben that she worked at No Limits, the little Art Supply store in their small town.
“It’s a good thing I can wear sneakers to work. Lightning took four toes on my right foot!”
Ben’s expression changed from disinterest to disbelief.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to show you! I did show our group though. When I first joined.”
She didn’t remember anything else about the actual strike. She just remembers waking up in the hospital smelling of popcorn and bacon.
“Jake says he remembers everything.”
“Why did he try to kill me?”
Ben’s anger was fading. He was starting to listen to Cynthia.
“I don’t think he did. He’s actually a really nice guy. He’s just – he believes – he thinks he has super powers now. He tried to convince us that we all do.”
“There is no question that it changed us,” Cynthia continued. “But super powers? No. Definitely not. This is real life, after-all, not a comic book, or a movie!”
Ben laughed, a genuine laugh this time; and Cynthia laughed too.
“The leaves are changing already,” Ben said pensively.
“They sure are. It’s nice you can see them, from your window, at least.”
Cynthia sat with Ben for two hours, telling him about the other members of their group, and their experiences. She was careful not to use names though. Anonymity and privacy were after all guaranteed by their group.
“Will you come see me again, Cynthia?”
“Sure, I’d like that, Ben. Thanks for seeing me today.”
Cynthia stopped for a coffee in the hospital cafeteria on her way out. She had no idea where Jake was, and was worried about him. What would she think, if she knew he was making a spectacle of himself busking at the Butternut Squash Festival?
His cat Puddle had adapted nicely to living at Cynthia’s place. He had made it his business to chase dust bunnies and sleep on her kitchen table. And though she initially didn’t like the idea of having to be responsible for a pet, she did enjoy his company.
Jake had been busking his way through small various small towns as Chuck. He started with simple magic, but his “powers” were getting stronger, and he was getting better at controlling them. No one was more surprised than he, when he discovered he could create balls of fire-like energy and control them, tossing them up in the air and into crowds of amazed on-lookers.
“I know you.” The man who approached was confident, and sure. Jake was surprised, but not yet ready to worry.
“My name is Brian Todd. You’re name’s not Chuck. You are Jake Chester Masterson. And you are under arrest.”