Tower of Babel
Author: Isaac Woulms

Chapter 6
Ch.6

Eleven o’clock and four hours late, Ben returned to this world from his pained hibernation feeling for the bruises on his back. He trudged in front of the bathroom mirror and opened his eyes. Oh god I must be dead, was the first conclusion he drew from what he saw. The small cuts across his arms and shoulders were gone and the larger marks nearly healed. His busted lip and back unmarred from yesterday’s battle. Where’s something I can read? The words on the hand sanitizer’s bottle stood in formation. This can’t be real.

He came from the bathroom in a hurry. “What happened? Ben, your cuts,” Grandpa said.

“I don't know, but do you see what this means?”

“It means you can still go to school today.”

“So I just give up? I don't even try?”

Evan didn't respond. Ten minutes later, Benjamin was out the door and on his way to class.

Ben drove to school looking thorough his broken windshield, and pulled into the parking lot as the lunch bell rang. He grabbed his backpack by one strap and let it drag on the ground. Of all the people to be hanging out in the parking lot, Kevin and his girlfriend stood behind the dually for their scheduled after lunch make out session.

Ben didn't pay them any attention, Kevin’s queue to instigate a confrontation. “Looks like you ruined your already shitty car, Benny boy.”

A rebuttal came to mind, but Ben decided to keep walking.

“What's wrong? Are you going to go cry about it to your boyfriend? Fag.”

Ben turned around, and dropped his backpack.

“Round 2,” the bully said.

The flow of energy came to Ben’s fingertips. The turbine spun at full speed, fueled by the perfect mix of emotions to rip Kevin apart. The distance between them shrunk and Ben tried to decide what he would do first to ruin Kevin’s health.

He could focus on the head and force Kevin to head-butt the ground.

I could lift him up high and let him fall, he thought.

Perhaps bend his arms against the joint and snap them out of socket?

Break his bones against the truck.

Ben could hurt this bully the same way Shax had hurt him, but that would make me just like Kevin.

The cascade over his body cleared as he came to realize his balled fists and his heart pumping a heavy flow of blood to tense muscles.

Kevin, still advancing, slowed his pace and brought his fists up.

“What do you want from me?” Ben asked.

“What?”

“What have I done to you? When have I ever gone out of my way just to piss you off? What about me makes it so unbearable to you that you can't leave me alone? Is your truck not good enough for you? You always like to talk shit about my ride, but the only reason you’re driving that truck is because your mom took everything your dad had from the divorce.”

Kevin’s nose flared.

“Is that it? That sucks about your parent’s man, but at least you knew yours. And what about your girlfriend? She looks nice, but how invested is she in the relationship? Let's find out.” Ben looked over at Kevin's girl. “What's Kevin's favorite color?”

The girl scoffed and said, “You’re going to let him talk to me that way Kevin?”

“It's orange, same color as the truck,” Ben said. “What about his favorite number? Bet you don't know that either.”

“Ugh, Kevin? You'd better do something about him or else.”

“Answer the question,” Kevin said, uncertainty was riding in on a white horse.

“I'm not answering that stupid question,” she spat.

“It’s-”

Ben cut Kevin off and said, “47, his uniform number. How is it that I know more about him than you do?”

Kevin grabbed Ben by the collar and held him close. “I think you’ve talked enough as is.”

“I know I don't have nice things, but what I do have are things that are real. You can have your truck but I bet you'd rather have your parents back.”

Ben saw the knee coming, Kevin’s common first move, but his stomach felt no pain.

Still standing straight, Ben said, “You can hit me all you want, but you can't break me. Go fix your own problems instead of sharing them with me.”

Even someone as simple as Kevin could look through the doors to Ben’s mind, and saw something there.

The bully let go of Ben and walked to his truck.

Damn, I think he's going to try and run me over, Ben thought.

“Hey open the door. What are you doing?” the shallow one said.

He pulled out of his parking spot and rolled the window down.

“Who's going to take me home after school?”

“Find your own free ride. I'm going to find my dad.” Small quakes were in Kevin’s voice.

Is he crying?

The diesel engine roared in the distance at the girl shouting her distaste for Kevin’s absence. She stomped over to Ben, her heels nearly puncturing the asphalt. “Fuck you, Benjamin.” She then marched off holding on to a poor excuse of sophistication.

“So I understand you need a ride home?”

 

Ben haphazardly finished the assignment for the day, and sat mulling over the one that got away. Mr. Harrington lectured over the Alamo while Benjamin thought about his personal loss.

Twelve days of valor? I think I lasted about twelve seconds worth of shame. That’s all it took for Shax to turn me into a hood ornament. The memories intensified. I never really lost consciousness. Ci- Lilly talked him out of it. Pieces of time fell back in chronological order. It was like I was under some spell. The sudden regeneration came to mind. My lip was split wide open, and bruises last longer than a day. It doesn’t make sense. I almost forgot, Kevin kneed me twenty minutes ago and I barely felt it.

 The more he thought the more questions he found unable to answer.

“What do you think about Santa Anna, Ben?”

“He sounds like an all right guy.” Ben rested his neck against his palm. “If Cindy were here I’m sure she could fill me in on all the details.” She did sound like she cared about History, he thought.

“Who?” Mr. Harrington asked.

“You know the new girl that moved here last week. I think she already left to a new school.” If only I was joking.

The snickering died out and the room hushed. A few kids exchanged glances and shrugged shoulders. One joker in the corner laughed, and the dreaded odd man out sensation fell over Ben.

“She was here all last week, remember?”

The bell rang and some students gave Ben wry glances before they left. After the last kid departed, Mr. Harrington approached Ben. “Benjamin I don't remember any new students that joined the class last week, or for this semester for that matter.”

This is when Mr. Harrington delivers a classic, “just kidding,” but one never came. It wasn't just fourth period. Every period and every person he talked to denied any recollection of Cindy Mandolin, the girl that came to school last week, nope. She wore an all black uniform, sorry. The teachers called her name and people waved to her in the halls, are you feeling all right?

“How did she do this?”

It burned inside of Ben being the only one who remembered.


 

“Grandpa, do you remember the girl I told you about?”

“Benjamin, not this again.”

“So you do remember? Everyone else has forgotten.”

“Now you should do the same.” Grandpa sat in the living room recliner pretending to watch the news. The look in Benjamin’s eyes reminded him of Ben’s father whenever determination took hold.

“Grandpa I have to do something about Lilly. I have the powers so I should use them for something positive, right?” He looked at Ben and gave him a chance to continue. “If you’re not going to help then I'll just have to find this compound on my own.”

As Ben began to walk out of the room Grandpa said, “Even if you find the compound, you won’t find anyone there.”

“Maybe I’ll find them some other way.”

“Tell me why I should help you get yourself killed over some girl. You must have forgot how bad you were beat yesterday, and that was just one guy. Who knows how many others there are with powers like his. You discovered your powers three years ago so how long do you think they’ve had theirs? Tell me Ben, what makes you think you can do this?”

“Because I believe I can.”

Ben stared at him and he stared back. “What if that doesn't work?”

“I’ll keep trying until it does.”

The old man sat for a moment thinking of the time he spent with his boy. Eventually, Ben would leave the house, but Grandpa never thought it would be this way. “Get ready, boy. You’re about to get what you asked for.”

“Really?”

“But be prepared if it's something you end up not wanting.”

“So when are we leaving?”

“Right now. Get some comfortable clothes on and meet me out front. I'm grabbing something out of the safe.”

Ben donned a blue short-sleeved shirt, jeans, a grey beanie, and a brown leather jacket, leaving his room and everything else behind. They got in Grandpa’s sedan and Ben asked, “So where is this place at?”

Grandpa pulled out of the driveway and headed towards the interstate. “It's been a while since I've had to think about such things. Here, take this paper and read off directions.”

“So how do you know where this place is? Didn't you say the compound is hidden?”

“We’re not going to the compound. That was where it started. Chen had some other building as his headquarters. I was his assistant for many years and I knew all his secrets. Once it became apparent I needed to get me and your parents out of that hell hole, I went snooping around in some of his documents. Printed out a few files if I needed to bribe him, less I share the information with the public.”

“You mean the Pure Human Coalition?” Ben flipped through the files and directions Grandpa handed over.

“Aside from a group of fanatics, the general public wouldn’t agree with a child graveyard.”

“Why haven't you just distributed this information after you escaped with me?”

“I could have, but then who knows what would have become of you. I’d be thrown in jail or given the death sentence. You would probably be experimented on, or worse, if the Purist got a hold of you, straight murdered.”

“Grandpa, why did Dr. Chen do all this? It sounds like everything got out of hand?”

“If I knew that then I might have had a better chance to stop him.” Ben was engrossed with the papers in his hands. “On second thought, hand me the directions and just take a nap. At least clear your mind of this while you can.”

 

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