- A Serialized Novel -

This isn't a superpower. It's a curse.

So now you’re wondering exactly what my boss was doing there, right? Well, so was I. Not that I wasn’t a bit relieved because I was afraid that the officers would eventually connect me to the old man in the coffee shop or the little kid—or, worse, the streaker that actually had been me, though not on purpose. I was really going to have to learn to control this ability of mine and watch my stray thoughts.

How I gained control of my power—if you can really say I control it—is a story for a different day. Right now, we need to go back to the fact that my boss was standing in my apartment and seemed to know way too much about what had gone on earlier—without even saying a word.

Keep in mind, though, that I didn’t know about the memo back then. I just thought I was going to get fired…

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“Um, sir, I know I am extremely late for work today, and I know I didn’t call in sick or anything—not that you would believe that I was sick now, standing here looking at me, but if you knew the morning that I had, I think you’d understand—or maybe not because that look you’re giving me says that no answer is going to be good enough right now, so… I apologize, sir,” Clayton finished, sighing. He couldn’t even give the man an explanation. The thing was… he didn’t have one. Even if he was slowly starting to accept that he could be any age, he knew that no one else would. And changes didn’t seem to be instant—he didn’t know how to control this thing. He couldn’t prove what he could do.

And he wasn’t entirely sure that he wanted to.

“You know, Mr. Moore, you have a great potential.”

“I do?” Clayton asked, surprised. He didn’t think that his employers had thought that much of him. Actually, the general sense he’d gotten was that all of them were either surprised that he’d been allowed into the internship program or ignored him like the low level flunky that he was. “I… Um… thanks.”

“I could see you becoming quite an asset for the agency.”

“Really?” Clay perked up then, wanting to smile. Ever since he was little, he’d wanted to do something great, something important and worthwhile. Yeah, he went through the superhero phase like any other kid. He wanted to be like the ones on television and in the comics, and he was waiting for that day when the radioactive spider bit him or he got struck by gamma rays or learned that he was from another planet.

Huh. Maybe he was from another planet. One where age didn’t matter and one could be any age they wanted simply by thinking about it. That was an interesting thought. Clay knew he’d have to try and figure out how what he did was possible, but he really wasn’t sure that he’d find anything. This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to exist.

“Yes, I do believe so. Of all of the interns in the program, though, you seem to have the most difficulty… conforming.”

“Oh, um, well, that is…” Clay fidgeted under the suited man’s stare. He didn’t know what his boss was doing here, after all. Had this been a random visit? It was weird if it was, and if Clay was getting fired, he kind of figured he’d have a call or an email telling him not to show up as opposed to his boss showing up at his house, but it really was hard to say with these things. He didn’t know. He hated not knowing, but then, what did he do? He could shout that he had an ability that no one else did and that he couldn’t be fired but had to be kept around to help save the universe.

Only… how did turning into an old man or a child save anyone? Other than Clayton—maybe, and that was a big maybe—depending on the situation. He didn’t know.

“You need to shape up if you’re going to stick around, Mr. Moore.”

“You mean, I’m not fired? Because I kind of figured that I would be,” Clay said, half-relieved and half-worried by this. He didn’t understand. What was with all this patience? He didn’t deserve it. Unless they… knew. Could they know? Did they know what he could do?

Was that it? But if they knew… How did they know before he did?

Had they made him like this? They’d turned him into this thing?

“You’re not being fired, Moore. As I said, you have potential,” the suited man said with a slight smile that was starting to worry Clayton. A lot. “You were the one who reorganized the records room, weren’t you?”

“Oh, that. Yes, actually. It was driving me crazy. No one was putting those boxes back where they belonged, so I did, but I didn’t finish that yet, and I’m sorry if I caused more problems by moving them around. I guess because everything’s electronic now, most people don’t bother with that stuff, they think it’s not important and they can shove it wherever they want, but it gets messy in there and we always have to go looking for the hard copies—and they don’t exist half the time so it’s not fair that the place is a mess on top of all of that.”

“See? That’s what I mean. Get changed, kid. You’ve got a lot more work to do.”

“I do?”
“You said you weren’t done with the room. That’s your project. However long it takes to fix those archives.”

“But, sir… Those archives go back decades if not hundreds of years and some of it is classified above my level and…” Clayton trailed off as the man in the suit gave him a look. “Uh, yes, sir. I’ll get right on that, sir.”

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Clayton sat alone in a dusty back corner of the archives, wondering what stupidity had possessed him to get stuck with this job. Maybe he was too much of a perfectionist. Or maybe they’d caught one of his rants about never being able to find anything in here on tape. He was sure that looked priceless. His hair would be every which way, grabbed and almost pulled out in frustration, his tie would be undone, his shirt untucked, and he’d bounce around like a hyperactive monkey or something, screaming about people never putting anything away or bothering to use the file system or thinking that one box was as good as another.

He sneezed, again. He must have some kind of allergy to the dust in here. Years and years worth of files, an endless monotony of them, and he almost wished that there had been something far more sinister to the suited man’s visit than the prison of this bureacracy’s paperwork.

He’d tried reading through some of it, trying to find something interesting in the classified stuff, but all he seemed to find were boring, pointless documents. Maybe all of this was code. Maybe it was all useless.

Maybe he just didn’t care because what he’d really like to be doing was testing out his newly discovered ability. He could be any age, right? Was that really how it worked? He had to find out. He had to know. He had so many questions about what he could do, and the drudgery of sorting through these papers was not helping him keep his mind off of that.

He’d experiment with it here, if he thought that he wouldn’t get seen. Unfortunately, this place had cameras everywhere. They had to be watching him right now. He had to keep plugging away at his job, working the rest of the day until he could go home and then… Then he would experiment. He would figure it all out, document everything, including this morning’s fiasco.

He winced, thinking about that again. Well, at least now he knew that he’d never stand a chance with Cailey—and he didn’t even think he wanted that anymore. He should never have been so hung up on her. She was so… shallow. He didn’t think that she had ever been what he thought she was—and for a smart kid, he’d been so stupid about her.

He sighed. That part was over. Now he was a man with an ability, and he needed to understand it. He looked around the room. A part of him was thinking that if he could get to the top of the room, he could fit through the vents and escape. Then he could figure this all out.

Or he could alert everyone to what he was and what he could do before he understood it himself.

No, he would wait. In the meantime, he would pretend that he was the righter of all bureaucratic wrongs.
He was the one reorganizing the files into a clean, orderly file system. He was… File Man!

He laughed a little at that one. He wondered if he should develop some kind of name for himself. He didn’t know yet all that he could do, but if he did figure that out, then he could start thinking of names. And what he’d do with the abilities he had. He could do something no one else could do, and that made him special.

Of course, he was having a bit of a hard time figuring out a practical use for his ability, but he was certain that if he started figuring out just what he could do, he could make it work. He could find a real use for his abilities, something that no one else could have or do, and he could use it for the better of all mankind.

Yeah. That sounded good. Nice. The greatest thing in the world.

He sneezed again and looked down at the files with disgust. No, if File Man was a real hero, he’d just burn the lot of them. It would be quick, easy, and far less painful than going through all of them. This project would probably take him… years.

And his special ability didn’t make filing easier.

So much for File Man.

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