FUTURE: HERO • by Dustin Adams

Becoming a hero is easy. It’s a magical process that takes place with — or more likely without — your consent and you go from a regular guy with a regular insurance job to someone who will save the world — eventually.

The day I became a hero started like any other sun-shiny Monday in early spring.

The Future Paper delivery boy rode by and transmitted the coming week’s news into my tablet. I made a show of catching it, and he waved, swerved, and nearly crashed into my hedge.

I tapped the screen and spewed my coffee in a fountain of mist that would surely stain my white bathrobe in a thousand little brown dots.

Mort Edwin Anderson’s grinning face — my face — one eyebrow up, one down, grinned back at me from next Monday’s lead column.

“Hey Mort, nice going!” My neighbor Phil held his tablet aloft with his two-fingered hand and repeatedly pointed at it with his opposing stump. “Way to save the world!” Phil hobbled toward me. “You know, I tried to save the world once. Never did recover, though. Battle scars. Always remember!”

I powered down my tablet and stalked inside. I couldn’t possibly answer the inevitable questions about how I did what I hadn’t yet done.

I pondered: The Future Paper was never about an insurance salesman with secret crush on a pretty girl. I lived alone, paid my mortgage, ate eggs and bacon in my breakfast nook while wishing Cindy Peterson was my wife. No big deal.

I sighed. How could I marry a girl I hadn’t yet worked up the courage to ask out?

The paper beckoned, filled with an article about future me. Front page news. What will I do? Cautiously, I swiped the screen, tapped my code 0000, and read. “Super Mort, as he requested he be called, on Friday thus saved the world while you could use a haircut sir, stop by—” Furious at the placement of the ad, I shook the tablet. The ad tumbled off the page but the weather rose to replace the banished words. “Damn it, what did I do?”

Mondays were supposed to be relaxing! I’d sit in my nook, read the sports scores from the days ahead, and drink two cups of coffee. One for me and one for — I relaxed and exhaled her name — “Cindy.”

I’d had a crush on Cindy ever since the day I first saw her riding down the mono-escalator toward the insurance floor in the Edison Conglomeration building.

With sunlight streaming through the glass tower, Cindy reached the end of the rail. Her stiletto heel became lodged in the machinery. The entire snake-like, one-person-wide escalator ground to a halt. Everyone behind her pitched forward. Documents, folders, and yellow sticky notes fell over the sides and cascaded down, down, thirty flights into the lobby. Paper rain, I’d thought.

I turned to page two and scanned for my article. If I’d saved the world like Phil had said, Cindy would most certainly take our relationship to the next level — or the first level — and I would at last be a somebody and a somebody always gets the girl, right?

I found the article and continued. “…in Sedona, Arizona on Friday, April 17th. The number of newborns bearing the name Mort has quadrupled. Having gone from one to four. Stay tuned to next week’s paper for more statistics on baby names and a possible after school special based on his life.”

I collapsed onto my wire-mesh, straight-backed kitchen chair and sighed a deep sigh of contentment. Well, at least I knew the location. What now? I’d have to buy a ticket to Arizona. That seemed so absurd. What the heck was I doing out there on a workday?

A knock at the door shattered my contemplation. I peered out the nook’s window and found a crowd of CouchNet reporters had invaded my lawn like a horde of poorly dressed, dark locusts. They all tried to out slum each other with their torn-up black jeans and zippers that zigzagged up and down pant legs and, oddly, some shirts.

At the head of the pack was Phil, fending off the pushiest of the Couchers, offering his stump in lieu of a proper handshake, then laughing at the inevitable stunned faces.

And then, parting the sea of zippers and denim, was Cindy. The sun sent forth a circular beam of light that shined and glowed and accompanied her to my doorstep. She poised to knock, but I threw open my door to reveal me in my bathrobe and wide eyes.

Digital cameras snapped digital photos accompanied by antique shutter sounds.

“I understand you’re about to save the world,” Cindy said, her words like music.

“I am,” I said, but sagged a little. “But average guys like me don’t save the world.” I shrugged. “The paper doesn’t even say how, or what I do.”

“Then I guess we’ll find out together,” Cindy said.

My knees buckled and I leaned against the doorframe to steady myself. “You’re… coming with me?”

“I’d better, considering our wedding photo is on page fifteen. I mean, I’d been hoping you’d ask me out, but I guess marriage is okay, too.”

She slinked forward into my personal space and I smelled her sweet huckleberry scented perfume. I couldn’t imagine proposing, but apparently I would. But where? I had to research romantic settings in Flagstaff, or maybe nearby Sedona.

Sedona! That’s where I was going to save the world.

I’m in for one hell of a week, I thought, and sure enough I started to feel like Super Mort. Future me had it right, and I was on my way to becoming him.

“I’ve just made breakfast.” I said, octaves plummeting. “Care to join me?”

She nodded and stepped inside.

When I reached past her to shut the door, a Coucher sidestepped Phil and aimed his camera. I grinned, and raised an eyebrow.

The flashbulb popped.

Dustin Adams writes short fiction and sci-fi. His alter ego, Thomas J. Adams writes crime fiction with a paranormal twist. Watch for his first two novels in 2017.

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