Yoshi knocked on the door. “Sharon, it’s Yoshi! I came as soon as…”
The door swung inward. Yoshi stumbled through the doorway as a petite blonde in a pink t-shirt and pajama bottoms grabbed him by the arm and yanked him into the apartment.
“Thanks for coming,” she said, “I need your help.”
Yoshi straightened his glasses. “What’s wrong? You sounded very upset on the phone.”
“It’s hard to explain. I have to show you.”
Sharon led him into the apartment’s tiny kitchen. It was a mess, but that wasn’t what caught his attention. Things were floating in the air — a spoon, a fork, a butter knife, a salt shaker, a toaster, two plates, and a large cooking pot.
He passed his hands over, under, and around the objects, looking for the fine wires or thread that must be supporting them. He found none.
“I don’t understand. How can this be happening?”
Sharon tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “That’s why I called you. You’re the smartest guy I know.”
Yoshi and Sharon had been friends for nearly a year. He appreciated the compliment, but he’d hoped her emergency call indicated a more personal interest. Despite his disappointment, he was fascinated. “When did things begin floating about in your kitchen?”
“Last week. I was eating breakfast — a bowl of cereal. I’d been partying the night before, so my brain was a little muggy. I was staring at my reflection in the spoon, and it just lifted out of my hand and hung in the air. I thought I was hallucinating.”
“This is the spoon?”
“Yes. That’s what started the whole thing.”
Yoshi reached out and gingerly grasped the spoon’s handle between thumb and forefinger. It felt solid and cool, like any normal spoon. He let go, and it stayed in place, rotating slowly where he’d released it. He took hold of it again and moved it a foot closer to the ceiling. Again it stayed where he left it, as if it were an object released by an astronaut in a space capsule. He moved it downward, near the floor. Same result.
“This is very strange,” he said.
Yoshi was too enraptured by the phenomenon to be offended. “What about the other things?”
“Well, after the spoon, I tried it again with different objects — not all of them at once. That first day, I couldn’t manage anything heavier than silverware. The next day, I could lift the salt shaker. The day after that, I put the toaster up there, and so on.”
“How heavy an object can you float now?”
“About ten pounds. I’ll show you. I did one of these in the bedroom this morning.”
Sharon picked up a small dumbbell lying on the floor beside a yellow bean-bag chair. She set it on the kitchen table, pointed at it, her eyes squinting, and Yoshi gasped as it slowly rose to join the other objects hovering in midair.
“Amazing. Can you reverse the effect?”
“No. I’m hoping I’ll figure that out before it gets too crowded in here.”
Yoshi rubbed his chin. “Has anything changed recently in your daily life? Different food? Exposure to harsh chemicals? Extraordinary stress?”
“Well, I took a job with the power company, at that new facility south of town.”
“The nuclear plant? The one under government investigation?”
“Yeah. That’s why I got the job. They needed someone to handle media relations with western journalists. It’s an office job, Yoshi. I hardly ever go into the reactor building. Just for tours, a couple of times a week.” She looked away, scuffing a bunny-slippered toe on the carpet. “I needed the money. Teaching English to grade schoolers barely covers rent and groceries. Do you know how long it’s been since I bought a decent pair of shoes?”
“I understand. It’s just too much of a coincidence. What you’re doing here should be impossible — and I have no idea what effect it’s having on you. You could get sick. Very sick.”
“I thought of that. I had a physical exam a couple of days ago. Clean bill of health.”
“You need somebody with more knowledge of physics to explain this. Maybe one of my professors could help.”
Sharon took Yoshi’s hands in hers. “Please, Yoshi, I don’t want anyone finding out about this, especially not the government. They’ll treat me like a lab rat. They might try to use this for military purposes, to hurt people.”
He was still trying to process the fact that she was holding hands with him. All he could manage was, “What do you want to do?”
“I don’t know. It’s a great parlor trick, but I want to do something useful with it. Maybe I could fight crime, like a superhero in the comic books.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“Just little stuff. I could float a few purse-snatchers until the police came to collect them.”
It was an amusing image, but Yoshi couldn’t shake a sense of foreboding. It was wrong. Tampering with the balance of nature made bad things happen.
He didn’t want anything bad to happen to Sharon. He looked directly into her eyes. “You have to get expert help with this. There’s no telling what side effects there might be… and there’s something else.”
“A basic principle of physics — Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
“But… nothing has happened. Nothing has changed outside this room.”
“As far as you know.”
“Yes, as far as I know,” sighed Sharon. “Come on, Yoshi, I’m floating a few kitchen gadgets. How bad could it be?”
Jim Hulslander stepped on the bathroom scale and groaned. “Phyllis, this thing’s broken! It says I gained twenty more pounds since yesterday.”
“Oh, buck up, Jim!” his wife hollered back. “You just need to stick to your diet. Good gosh, take responsibility for yourself!”
Fred Warren lives in the merry old land of Kansas with his lovely wife, three above-average kids, and two eccentric dogs. He recently retired from the Air Force and now has a fun but somewhat less-exciting job flying computer-simulated airplanes for the Army. Fred’s stories have appeared in online and print publications including A Fly in Amber, Mindflights, Beyond Centauri, Residential Aliens, and Brain Harvest.