"Jules?" he heard a voice ask in the darkness. "Jules?"
But who was Jules? He knew that name...recognized it from somewhere...but where? Where had he heard it before?
"Jules?" The voice cried out again, pleading, begging, almost a whimper. Whose voice was it? "Juliet, please... Please!" There came a wail, a screech of intense pain. Who was screaming? What was that noise?
Shawn, he thought. He was hearing Shawn. Who's Shawn? Who is Jules? Where am I? Who am I? Then a wave of intense pain crashed into him, flooding over him, accompanied by more screams. All of a sudden, the screeching and begging made much more sense.
"Help me!" he screamed. His wings unfolded from his back as he writhed in agony, glimmering against the darkness of the night sky.
"I should have known there was going to be a catch," Shawn fumed as he dumped the last handful of comic books and Thundercats into the box sitting on his bed. Sure, his stuff was just collecting dust here in his old room anyway, and sure, he never actually enjoyed having to face his dad whenever he came by to get something, but still. This was his room. It had been his room since he was born, and he liked it that way. He knew exactly where everything was, and he knew that his treasures would be safe in the floorboards, in the walls, behind the bookcase, under the nightstand, inside the lamp, and in all of his other secret hiding places. He didn't want to change things up by actually moving---no, uprooting---all of his things and taking them back to his own home. Why should he be forced to change all this?
"This is what happens when you ask Dad for help on a case," he muttered to himself. He carefully folded the top of the cardboard box so it would stay closed and hefted the box down the stairs, out the door, and into the waiting backseat of the Blueberry. What Gus didn't know wouldn't hurt him; Shawn would drop off his box of comics and stuff and have the Blueberry back in the Central Coast Pharmaceuticals parking lot before Gus could say "jerk chicken."
Or so Shawn thought before his cell phone rang. Groaning internally, he answered it right as he slid behind the wheel of Gus' tiny blue Echo.
"Shawn, where is my car?!" his best friend demanded.
"Relax, buddy," Shawn said. "I'm just using it to get some stuff from my dad's house. I'm going to swing by my place and bring it right back to you."
"I need my car now, Shawn! And you didn't even ask!"
"C'mon, Gus! I said I'll be right there!"
But Gus had already hung up. With a sigh, Shawn tossed his phone into the empty passenger's seat and began to drive to the apartment he would be occupying at least until the end of the month. Hey, I'm already in trouble with Gus' car. I might as well go ahead and use it. If I don't, then I made him mad for nothing.
As Shawn drove, he let his mind wander, thinking about Thundercats, Lynda Carter, jerk chicken, and where exactly he was going to live when the lease on his current place ran out. Wouldn't it be cool if I could rent that old bookstore next to the old dry-cleaning place where I used to live? I've never lived in a bookstore before. ... Nah. Why would I want to live in a bookstore?
Before he knew it, he was back at his apartment and unloading his box of junk. And as he'd promised, he went straight back to Gus and delivered the car keys to his best friend. Gus, unsurprisingly, was not happy, but after a couple of pineapple smoothies and a heaping plate of nachos, he'd forgotten all about Shawn's antics with the Blueberry. He'd even taken Shawn back to the pharmaceuticals place so Shawn could pick up his motorcycle.
In fact, everything had gone so pleasant and it had been such a good day that Shawn didn't realize until he got home that it was only five o'clock and he had nothing at all to do. As he stood there in the doorway, helmet under his left arm and his right hand twirling his keys, he wondered what he could do to occupy himself for the rest of the evening, since Gus was already going home and he didn't have any plans and it was really too late to go back out but too early to go to bed.
With a sinking feeling, he realized that he was coming up with a blank. Soon, he was going to get bored. For Shawn Spencer, boredom is not a good thing. In fact, for Shawn Spencer, boredom is A Very Bad Thing.
Which is why, when Shawn's gaze alighted---alit?---on the recently relocated box of toys and junk just sitting there on the coffee table, he immediately realized that maybe bringing some of his old stuff to his place wasn't such a bad idea after all.
"Time to play!" he cried, tossing aside his helmet, keys, and jacket, and kicking off his shoes. With a level of childlike glee that was excessive even for him, he dove into the box, extracting all his favorite items. "Lion-O, Panthr-O, ballet Barbie, Captain Kirk, Millennium Falcon... My Tamagotchi pet! Awww, it needs new batteries... Ah! Ah! The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers! Whaaaat! No no! Rainbow Brite! No, forget that---Where's my Etch-A-Sketch?" He gasped. "My Lifesaver comb! I forgot I had that!"
Finally, he got to the bottom of the box, still grinning in delight and trying to decide which toys to play with first. His fingers brushed the glossy covers and worn pages of a stack of comic books as his hand tightened around the last plastic figure he'd packed. Unconsciously, Shawn echoed the very words he'd spoken when he'd first discovered the action figure years ago on the store shelf: "Black Vulcan! No way! Best superhero ever!"
Elated by his discovery of an old toy that only hours ago he'd mindlessly scooped into a box with all his other paraphernalia, Shawn hugged the tiny action figure, clad in yellow and black and with his paint only barely scuffed from years of playtime, and said, "You are totally doing everything with me from now until the end of time!"
Shawn may have walked to the kitchen to grab a PopTart, but Black Vulcan used his powers to turn himself into pure energy and flew there at the speed of light. Making silly electric sound effects to accompany his favorite hero's flight, Shawn poked through his cabinets in search of his snack. "Did I run out of chocolate ones already? Aw, man."
In Black Vulcan's voice, he replied to himself, "Don't worry, Shawn. You've still got plenty of strawberry ones!"
He nodded to his action figure as he popped two of the fruity pastries into the toaster. "Thanks, Vulcan. You're the best!"
As he leaned against the counter, waiting for his snack, Shawn frowned. "You know, you can do a lot of amazing things. You can shoot electricity out of your fingers, you can fly at the speed of light, you can open up holes in space-time to escape black holes, and you can totally do that awesome trick where you use lightning bolts like a lasso..."
"I learned that from Wonder Woman," Shawn interrupted himself, using Black Vulcan's voice again.
"Man, she's super hot. Amazons are the best. But anyway. You can do all that cool stuff. What's my superpower?"
Shawn's fingers tilted his action figure's head up and down, simulating a nod from the tiny Super Friend. "Your amazing memory and powers of observation, Shawn."
"Yeah, but c'mon. That's not a cool---well, okay, it is pretty awesome, but it's not a real superpower. Not like yours. You can save the whole world from Lex Luthor and Sinestro and Toyman and Cheetah---"
"Also super hot."
"You know that's right. Anyway. You save the whole planet, and what do I do? Save Santa Barbara? Not really. Most of the time, I don't save anybody. I just help out the dead dudes. The people I save are gone before I get there, when you think about it." He sighed. "I guess I'm not a real superhero after all. What would I be? Psych Man? That's really the best I can come up with. But even that's lame." He shook his head. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be wearing you down with this. You deal with so much!"
His PopTarts burst from the toaster, startling him out of his thoughts and filling his kitchen with the strong scent of strawberry. Shaking his head, he grabbed his snack and together, he and Black Vulcan settled onto the couch for a Super Friends marathon, and Shawn lost himself to a haze of toaster pastry and the Justice League of America.
After exhausting his supply of Super Friends, Wonder Twins, and Krypto the Superdog, Shawn began flipping channels, using Black Vulcan's tiny yellow-booted foot to press the buttons on the remote. After skipping past ESPN, a Disney movie, the Channel 8 news, six infomercials, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, Shawn and his comic book companion finally landed on the Sci-Fi channel. Squinting, Shawn read the title scrolling across the bottom of the screen, captioning what appeared to be some kind of horror movie. "Mothman? What the heck is this? Wasn't Mothman a villain on the original Batman show, with Adam West?"
He half-watched the movie as he reached for the fluffy pillow on the other side of the couch and saw a big black furry-looking winged creature fly across the screen and swoop down over the shrieking protagonists. "That is definitely not from Batman." He yawned and continued watching as the group of typical slasher-flick characters fled in terror. "And here I thought that this channel couldn't get any dumber. I was wrong."
Leaning his head against the warm, downy pillow, Shawn drifted off to sleep. The last thing he saw before he closed his eyes was the gleam of twin red eyes turning to face the television audience.
Shawn would have slept right through the storm if the wind hadn't sent a tree branch crashing through his window. Gasping in shock, he woke up in a cold sweat and sat bolt upright, looking around for the source of the crashing, shattering noise. He felt the cold, wet gusts of air and stinging raindrops pelting him at high speed before his mind had even registered that there was a big, thick, splintered oak branch poking through the glass of the window beside his front door.
"How did that even happen?" he cried, flinching a little as the roaring boom of thunder shook the room. "One Missi---" Lightning flashed overhead before he could even begin counting Mississippis, the bright white light blinding him for a second. "I need to get that window closed!" As he looked around for something, anything, to use as a barrier to keep the wind and rain out of his house, he found himself kind of wishing he could call his dad. I bet Dad would know exactly what to do about this.
But he quickly shook his head free of that madness and decided that he only had very limited options. He could try pushing his dresser over there and getting it in front of the window to cover up the hole. It was that, or patch the window with duct tape. Neither choice sounded great, but there wasn't much he could do with such short notice. "Maybe if I were a real psychic, I could figure this out easier," he said to himself, laughing a little at the thought. He rolled up his sleeves and headed to the bedroom, ready to rearrange the furniture.
...After only two and a half minutes of shoving as hard as he could and only moving the dresser two and a half feet, he decided that maybe the duct tape solution wasn't such a bad idea after all. He put on some really old work gloves that he found in a drawer under the sink to protect his hands from the broken glass, slipped his shoes back on so he didn't step on any loose shards, and snagged the roll of fluorescent orange duct tape from the plastic crate of office supplies that he'd meant to take to the Psych office three months ago and kept forgetting. He figured that the first step in fixing the window was to move the big ugly branch out of the way. Since he was at ground level, there was no danger of him hitting someone below by knocking the branch out of the way.
Leaning close to the window, he peered out of the hole in the glass that the branch had left when it smashed through. The sky was a deep dark blue color, not quite a navy blue and not quite a black and not quite a stormy gray, but something that was a mixture of all three. Paper, wet leaves, and bugs were flying all around outside, tossed by the tempestuous, roaring wind. Not that he could see more than a foot away from the window; the scary blue night-deepened dark and the wind-whipped torrents of rainwater obscured the outside world. Shawn had only been looking outside for ten seconds or so, and already his face was soaked by the raging, blustery downpour. Scrubbing the frigid droplets away from his skin with one short gray t-shirt sleeve, he set to work on getting that stupid branch out of his stupid broken window.
Only it wouldn't budge. It was a lot heavier than he'd expected, and unwieldy, and slick from all the rainwater despite the friction from his gloves. He sighed. "Why can't anything ever just be easy?" He grabbed the branch with both arms, like he was giving it an awkward sort of lopsided hug, and shoved his hip against it, planning to use his body weight to give himself some extra force. "Time to manhandle this thing! Superhero style! HI-YA!!!" Right as he let loose his dorky karate sound effect, Shawn shoved the stubborn branch with all his might.
Finally, the dead chunk of tree slid out of the hole in his window.
And it slid right into the downed power line that Shawn hadn't been able to see.
Being electrocuted didn't feel like Shawn thought it would feel.
It felt a whole lot worse.
It felt like he was being blinded by that lightning from earlier again, only this time, that bright white flash HURT. It HURT in all caps, and italics, too. HURT. Like Shawn had never experienced and could never have imagined before.
It hurt so bad that when he woke up staring at a wall of white, he figured that he'd passed out from the pain and now he'd been trucked off to a hospital. Maybe in an ambulance with a cute nurse and a Dalmatian. No, wait, scratch that. It was the fire trucks with the Dalmatians. Never mind. In that case, maybe he was dead. But he didn't see a cute nurse; he only saw Gus. So, not dead? Because surely Heaven would be full of cute girls wearing Red Cross hats and stethoscopes.
"Am I dead?" Maybe it was better just to ask up front, to be sure.
"No, Shawn, you're not," Gus said, sighing in relief.
"But you came close, kiddo," came another voice from out of Shawn's visual range.
Shawn squeezed his eyes shut and groaned. "Dad."
"Hey, Shawn," his dad said. "How do you feel?"
"Like I just got electrocuted. It HURT."
Shawn could practically hear his father shaking his head. "And just what were you thinking, running out into the storm like that?" his dad asked.
Shawn opened his eyes and blinked. "What?"
"It was completely irresponsible and insane. You could've ended up dead! You almost did!"
"Dad, I didn't run into the storm! I didn't even go outside!" He looked around and finally managed to lock onto his dad's face. "All I did was try to fix my window! This fallen branch broke it!"
A funny look came over his father's face, a look that Shawn couldn't quite identify. "Shawn, the paramedics found you lying in the middle of the street. They said you had been struck by lightning."
Dad," Shawn insisted, "the last thing I remember is being shocked to death in my living room. It was a power line."
"Well, I'm telling you, they found you in the street, so somehow you must have ended up out there. And you're lucky that it was lightning instead of something worse."
"You probably blacked out," Gus said. "You probably went into shock."
"Went into shock? Really, Gus? Seriously? You think this is funny?!" Shawn didn't realize he was yelling until he saw the hurt on his best friend's face. "Gus... I'm sorry, buddy. I didn't mean it."
Gus nodded. "It's okay. I understand."
Shawn blinked. "So when do I get out of here?"
"Not for a couple of days, I think," Gus said. "The doctor said you'd be fine, though."
"Get some rest, Shawn," he heard his dad say. His eyes felt unfocused. He couldn't stop staring at the blank ceiling.
"Okay," he said finally, drifting off to sleep.
By the time Shawn got out of the hospital, he had almost convinced himself that his dad and Gus were right, and that he'd stupidly wandered off outside into the storm and had gotten struck by lightning instead of stupidly electrocuting himself with a tree branch and a downed power line. That theory seemed even more likely when, as he walked down the sidewalk to his front door, he noticed that the old oak tree and the power line both seemed perfectly intact.
But when he walked inside, he realized---with an intense spine chill that he'd heard described but had never actually felt---that there was a semicircle of broken glass, street-trampled paper scraps, mangled leaves, and dead moths in front of his window. The window that, though it was no longer shattered, had a long angry crack going right down the middle.
"Holy---" He started to speak, but somehow, he couldn't find a word strong enough to finish the exclamation. "What happened to me? What's even going on?" He wandered over to his couch and scooped up the superhero action figure that had been abandoned on his couch on the night of the storm, the little plastic legs stuck half-in and half-out of the crack between the cushions. "Black Vulcan. Am I going crazy? Am I finally losing it?"
He was almost afraid that he'd get an answer from the action figure, but the tiny superhero remained inanimate and Shawn felt that he could still cling to some delusion of sanity. "Something happened," he mused. "But what?"
Just after he'd finished his sentence, his phone rang, and he jumped almost a foot in the air. "Man, everything just seems so freaky now," he muttered before he answered. "Hello?"
"Hey, Shawn," came Juliet's voice over the telephone, breaking sweetly through a crackle of dense static. "I just thought I'd check on you, since I hadn't gotten the chance to talk to you since you left the hospital."
"Oh, hey, Jules," he said. "Thanks. And thank you for the flowers. Gus brought them in last night."
"You're welcome. I'm sorry I wasn't able to visit you more. Lassiter and I have been run ragged by this stupid case."
"A case? You have a new case? You didn't tell me about the case!"
"I didn't want to bother you. We only got it a couple days ago---the night of the storm."
"Oh." There was a quiet pause as Shawn tried to push all thoughts of that night out of his mind. "What--what kind of case? What happened?"
"No," Juliet said firmly. "The Chief said you're not working this one. You need to recover."
"No, Jules, I'm fine! Besides, you need help. You said so yourself."
"We'll be fine. Now, I'm coming over tonight. Do you want me to bring some food?"
"Jules, you know that I'm always up for snacks."
Her laugh sounded beautiful despite the ever-increasing rustle of that annoying phone static. "Do you want sweet potato pie or plum cake for dessert?"
She laughed again. "Okay. I'll be there at eight."
"Can't you come earlier?"
"I'll try. I've got to let you go now. Lassiter's coming back. See you then?"
"Yeah," Shawn said, nodding for no reason, feeling like affirming what he was saying even though she couldn't see the motion. "See you then."
The front door opened right as he hung up, and once again he jumped straight into the air, whirling around to glare at the intruder. Gus looked over at him, startled to see his best friend giving him such an angry, terrified stare.
Shawn immediately relaxed and ran a calming hand through his hair. "Sorry, man. I guess I'm a little jumpy. You almost gave me a heart attack!"
"Sorry. I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
"Gus, buddy, I'm fine. Seriously. The hospital cleared me. I'm good to go."
"I'm fine," Shawn repeated.
Gus frowned and lowered his voice, even though they were the only ones in the apartment. "But Shawn...what about... I mean, you have a different story than what the paramedics say."
"I'm sure that's nothing," Shawn said, hoping he didn't sound as anxious as he felt. "Like you said, I probably just blacked out and my brain filled in the gaps. I mean, that happens, right?"
"I guess so," Gus said. He nodded, but Shawn had to wonder which of them Gus was trying to reassure more: Shawn, or himself.
"Look, it'll all be---"
"Shawn!" Gus interrupted. "Look at your window!"
"Huh? Oh, yeah, that's probably just---"
"What's all this stuff on the floor? It couldn't have blown in through that narrow crack. Did you have the window open?"
"No, it wasn't open. Not exactly..."
Suddenly, Gus' eyes went wide. "Shawn..."
"Gus, don't panic."
"You were telling the truth! You had to be! But the paramedics said---and it doesn't make sense that---"
"Gus." Shawn rolled his eyes when he realized that Gus was already doing Lamaze breathing. "Seriously?"
"I can't help it, Shawn," Gus said. "This is seriously freaky. What happened?"
Shawn gave Gus the short version of what had happened that night, leaving out most of his Super Friends geek-fest, the dumb Sci-Fi movie, and how badly it had HURT when he got electrocuted. When he had finished, Gus just stared in horror and concern. "Come on, Gus. Say something!" Shawn said.
Gus nodded, mind and face completely blank. "Something."
"Really, Gus? C'mon, son!"
"How is it that everything is fixed now?"
"Well, it isn't really fixed, is it? I mean, my window's still broken and my floor's a mess," Shawn replied.
"What are we going to do about this?"
"Do? What is there to do?" Shawn thought for a moment. "I guess I still need to fix my window." He grabbed the roll of bright orange duct tape from the place on the floor where it had landed the night he was electrocuted. "Oh, man... I think it's melted." He tossed the roll of ruined tape to Gus, who fumbled it and only barely managed to hang onto it.
"This is so freaky," Gus managed to say, tossing the melted neon-colored mass onto Shawn's couch. "Hey, is that a Black Vulcan action figure?! I've never seen---"
"He's mine and you can't have him!"
After three hours of friendly bickering and Justice League episodes, Shawn's window and accident were completely forgotten.
Bright white flashes and round, piercing red circles haunted Shawn's mind, dancing in front of his face in the darkness. He felt paralyzed, terrified. Any moment, he feared The HURT. He feared the storm and the scary blue darkness... He heard a rustling noise and a black shadow passed in front of his face.
Jerking awake, he gasped and fell headfirst off the couch and onto the floor, his elbow slamming into the corner of the wooden coffee table and his head missing the plush rug to bump into the hardwood floor instead. After the initial shock and jolt of pain---pain that paled in comparison to The HURT---the first thing that Shawn noticed was that his shirt was soaked all the way through with cold, sticky sweat.
"Eeeeewww," he moaned, pushing himself up off the floor and into a sitting position.
The second thing he noticed was Gus scrambling into wakefulness and looking around, terrified, still holding onto the bowl of popcorn he'd been munching and knocking Shawn's throw pillow onto the rug.
"It's okay, Gus," Shawn said. "Just rolled off the couch." He gestured to the spot where he'd apparently dozed off during their cartoon marathon.
Gus immediately calmed down and resumed munching his overly-buttered popcorn, as if neither of them had been caught napping and nothing had ever happened.
Shawn dragged himself to his feet and slunk off to his bedroom to grab a fresh shirt. He noticed a little pain in his back as he tugged the sweat-soaked t-shirt off and jerked a clean one over his head. I must be sore from falling asleep sitting up, he thought, but somehow a little niggling feeling in the back of his mind told him that that wasn't quite it. Shrugging, he went back into the living room to find Gus still snacking and changing the channels. He glanced at the digital clock on the coffee table. 7:37.
He started to flop back into his spot on the couch before he abruptly jumped back up again, hitting Gus' arm with his now-bruised elbow and sending the entire bowl of popcorn flying across the living room floor. "Aaaaah! Gus! It's almost eight o'clock!"
"So?" Gus' nose wrinkled in annoyance as he looked down at his lost snack.
I've gotta date with Jules tonight! She's coming over in, like, twenty minutes!"
"Why didn't you tell me?" Gus said, standing and brushing the salt and popcorn kernels off his pants legs.
"You didn't ask!"
"You mean you forgot."
"It's the same thing!"
"No, it isn't."
"Gus, don't be Jeff Goldblum's long hair from the '80s remake of The Fly!"
Gus rolled his eyes and held up his hands in a gesture of peace. "Fine, I'm going. Tell Juliet I said hi."
"Okay," Shawn replied. "Bye!"
"Bye," Gus called over his shoulder as he walked out the door. He didn't need to look back to know that Shawn was frantically cleaning up the popcorn and scrambling to find a candle or something, anything to decorate and try to trick Juliet into thinking that Shawn hadn't forgotten their date.
Shawn had spent so much time in his life preparing for dates at the last minute that he knew exactly what to do. 23 minutes was an eternity for Shawn Spencer.
He didn't have a vacuum cleaner, but spending a couple of minutes crawling on the floor with sticky tape wrapped around his hands and knees did just as well when it came to cleaning up popcorn kernels. His comic books, DVDs, and toys were all packed into the box of junk and sent to hide in the closet to de-clutter the living room and make it look like Gus was never there. Seven yummy-smelling candles in the colors of the rainbow lit up the coffee table and gave the room the perfect dim, warm ambience. Pouring Coke into wine glasses and cracking open a box of chocolates at least gave the illusion of being creative, if not prepared. And the finishing touch: Shawn used his last three minutes to hurriedly sweep away the debris from the storm that had infected his floor and tacked a Top Gun poster over the window to cover the crack.
Scanning the room with his hands on his hips like Superman, Shawn grinned in triumph. "Nailed it!"
Just as he heard a knock on the door, he realized that he'd left the roll of melted orange duct tape on the couch. Grabbing it and deftly tossing it into the trash can on his way to the front door, he sauntered over and let Juliet in, sweeping her into the living room---relieving her of the bags of food she'd brought along the way---and quickly offering her a wine glass of cold fizzing Coke.
"A drink for the lovely lady," he said, grinning and waggling his eyebrows.
Juliet's giggle was beyond compare. "Thank you, kind gentleman," she replied, playing along and taking a sip. "I have to say, Shawn, I'm impressed. Not many people could pull off something this nice after just coming home from the hospital."
"Well, Jules, I am not many people."
She nodded with a smile. "No, you aren't." She set her glass down on the table and asked, "Shawn, are you okay?"
Sighing, Shawn nodded. "Yes, I'm fine. I've already told you, and Gus, and Dad, and everybody at the hospital that I'm fine. It's okay. Seriously. I'm good. Nothing wrong with me. Do you want me to turn so you can inspect me?"
"No, Shawn, I just---"
Shawn slowly turned in a circle, mimicking a supermodel showing off a swanky low-cut dress. "Do you like what you see?" he asked in a ridiculous high-pitched feminine voice.
"Shawn, just...no. Just stop!" But Juliet couldn't stop herself from laughing.
Shawn grinned. "Your lips say no, but your eyes say yes." He grabbed her in a hug.
"This moment would be a lot better if you hadn't been pretending to be a woman just now," Juliet said as she wrapped her arms around him.
Shawn laughed. "I don't always act like a woman, but when I do, I---"
"Shawn," Juliet interrupted. "I know you're getting tired of talking about it, but I just---"
"Yes, Jules," Shawn said, growing irritated now. "Yes, I am completely tired of talking about it." He let his arms slide away from her as he took a step back. "I already said I'm fine. We covered this. I'm perfectly healthy and I really would rather just move on."
"Being physically healthy isn't the same as---"
"What do you want me to say, Jules? That I'm traumatized? Is that what you want? Look, people survive lightning strikes every day, and they're---"
"But you don't think it was a lightning strike," she said quietly. "Do you?"
Shawn deflated then, and all of his upset feelings were gone. "No. I don't."
"Your dad called me earlier today, after I made plans to check on you. He told me that you told him and Gus a different story than what the paramedics had told them, and he wanted me to ask you about it. Shawn, I need you to tell me the truth. I need to know... I need to be sure that you're okay."
Shawn sighed. "I...I remember it, Jules, and I think that's what's making all of this hard. I told Gus and my dad exactly what I remember. I was asleep, and a branch came through the window and woke me up, and when I tried to get the branch out of the way, I got---I got---" He swallowed hard. "I got electrocuted. But I don't know what happened after that. The next thing I remember is waking up in the hospital. I don't know what happened."
Juliet nodded, chewing thoughtfully at her bottom lip. "This apartment... Does this building have security cameras?"
Shawn shook his head. "Nah. But the gas station... Maybe the gas station next door caught something!"
"It's worth a look," Juliet said. "Maybe that can clear some of this up. Anything we can find would help. I'll ask to check them out tomorrow."
"That sounds absolutely great," said Shawn. "But for tonight, can we just forget about it?"
Juliet nodded. "This night is all about you."
Shawn smiled. "I like the sound of that."
"No, try some of the later footage. He said he thought it happened around midnight," Juliet said, looking over Lassiter's shoulder as he scrolled through the grainy security footage from the cameras at the gas station next to Shawn's apartment.
Lassiter scowled. "Sure, because we can trust the memory of a man whose brains have been addled by volts upon volts of electricity."
"This isn't the time for sarcasm, Carlton."
Grumbling under his breath, Lassiter fast-forwarded the video until the time stamp read 11:52. Then he pressed play and squinted, looking for anything suspicious. "I don't see anything weird, O'Hara."
"This is a complete and total waste of my time."
"Look! The power line just got knocked over. You can see the outline in the lights from the gas station. Look, right there. Do you see it?"
"No," Lassiter replied. "And exactly how is it that the gas station lights stayed on with the power line down?"
"I asked about that already," Juliet said. "Apparently, that power line supplies electricity to one half of the street, and the other half gets its power from a different substation. The gas station and Shawn's building are right on the border of those two areas, so the gas station gets power from a different line than Shawn's---"
"Whatever," Lassiter cut her off, waving and pointing to something in the corner of the screen as he quickly froze the video. "Look at that."
Juliet's eyes went wide. "What...what is that? How is that even...? There's no way. That's got to be a trick of the light. This footage is really terrible, after all, and the lighting is just---"
Then that small something, that blurry figure in the darkness, moved out of the corner of the screen and came just a tiny bit closer to the lights. The still-blurry figure lurched forward, seeming to be moving like a stop-motion puppet in the slow frames of the video footage.
"It's still too dark and blurry to get a good look at it," said Lassiter, his eyes fixed on the screen.
"It's the same build as Shawn...but he doesn't remember leaving his---oh my gosh..."
Lassiter froze the screen again. "If that outline you saw earlier was the power lines down, look at it again. It looks like they're back up in this frame."
"Right as the figure goes past..."
Lassiter pressed play again. The shadowy thing continued its stop-motion advance toward the lights. It looked mostly like a person, with arms and legs and a head that became clearer and more visible the closer it got to the source of the light, but it also looked wrong somehow...something about the back was misshapen. Juliet couldn't quite figure out what was off about it.
But Lassiter managed to hit the nail on the head on his first try. "O'Hara. It looks like it has wings."
Lassiter scoffed again. "Of course it is."
Juliet leaned in more to get a better look, but the video was still unclear. The figure kept walking until it was directly in front of the camera, framed in the harsh lights from the building and from the nearby streetlights. Though it was hard to make out a clear face, the eyes and mouth were visible. The eyes, especially, that burned a deep haunting red.
It's probably just the glare and the poor quality of the footage, Juliet thought.
The mouth appeared to be moving. The person staring at the camera must have been trying to say something, but the camera didn't pick up audio. The person crumpled to his knees, mouth gaping wide, and the eyes squinted shut.
"He's in pain," Juliet realized. "Look."
Lassiter nodded absently before pointing at the screen again. "Wings. O'Hara. Right there."
Juliet shook her head. "It really does look like that." The two curvy protrusions on the back of the figure really did look like wings...like big dark butterfly wings. "But that's impossible."
Lassiter shut off the video. "I don't know what happened, but that's got to be the second-weirdest security video I've ever seen, and I still need my coffee."
Lassiter got up and left Juliet alone to wonder if that man could really have been Shawn.
"I bet I can reach that banner if I jump for it," Shawn said, pointing to the Taco Tuesday garland adorning the main entrance of his favorite Mexican restaurant.
"You probably can, but you shouldn't," said Gus, glancing up at the sky, which looked as though the clouds would pour out even more rain at any moment, before once again fixing his gaze on Shawn. "You're probably still weakened from being electrocuted. What if you fall?"
Shawn scoffed. "So what if I do? I gotta live, Gus! I gotta fly free!" With that, he flung himself into the air, hazel eyes squeezed shut, right arm outstretched, fingers straining to scrape the bottom of the bright red banner......
And he missed it. Dejected, he said, "Aw, man! Let me try again." Then he opened his eyes. And his jaw dropped. "What the...?!?!"
He was standing ten feet off the ground. No, not standing; floating.
Gus stared up at him, frozen, eyes huge. "How are you doing that, Shawn?!"
Shawn gasped for breath, head swimming and eyes watering as he felt a hint of vertigo creeping into his shell-shocked system. "I have no idea! But it's really cool! And also---also a little bit terrifying! I don't wanna fall!"
"So come down!" Gus called.
"I don't know how!" Shawn took a deep breath to steady himself and clear his head. "Okay. Okay. I just need to think. I got up here by jumping. Maybe I can---maybe I can will myself back down."
Gus nodded. "Good idea!"
Shawn squeezed his eyes shut and willed himself to float back down and land next to Gus. He tried to visualize it, picturing the slow but steady descent back down, past the banner and the door, feet gently scraping the damp pavement as he touched down right next to Gus... He opened his eyes. No gentle scrape of pavement. He was still ten feet up in the air, and people were starting to gawk. "I gotta get down from here, fast!"
"Maybe you're overthinking it," Gus said. "Or maybe you just need some motivation."
"Motivation? Really, Gus? What could I possibly be motivated with other than the fact that I'm levitating?"
Gus reached into his pocket and held up a Snickers bar. "Hey, Shawn. Look. I brought candy."
"Ooooh, Snickers! Toss that up here, buddy!"
"No," Gus said.
"No? What? But--but you just offered!"
"I didn't offer, Shawn. I just made a statement: I brought candy."
"But--- No fair! You can't just dangle it in front of me like that!"
"It's my candy bar, Shawn. I can do anything I want with it. Including this!" Gus tossed the candy bar into the air.
Faster than a swooping seagull, Shawn flew in the direction of the airborne snack and snatched it up just as his shoes finally kissed the sweet, sweet sidewalk.
Gus smirked. "I told you so. All you needed was motivation."
Shawn grinned. "You were right, buddy! I was wrong, and you were right. And now, I am going to eat this delectable...whatever this is."
Gus frowned. "What?"
Shawn squinted and turned the chocolate bar over in his hands, scrutinizing the wrapper. "Seriously, what is this and where did you even get it?"
Gus stared at Shawn like he'd started showing the signs of alien pregnancy. "Stop pulling my leg, Shawn. I'm not in the mood for your jokes."
Shawn returned Gus' stare. "Dude, I'm not joking. I've seriously never seen one of these before."
Gus grabbed the Snickers out of Shawn's hand. "This? Shawn, you're telling me you've really never seen a Snickers bar?"
"Yeah! Now you can at least give it back to me so I can eat it," Shawn whined. "How else am I supposed to know if I like it?"
Gus shook his head. "Shawn, you love these. You eat them all the time. You have a whole drawerful of them back in the Psych office. You know that."
Shawn frowned. "Gus, what are you talking about?"
"Let me see your phone," Gus said. "I have proof."
"Okay." Shawn reached into his jeans pocket and handed Gus his cell phone.
After a couple seconds of scrolling through Shawn's collection of random snapshots and cute pug photos, Gus held up the phone so his best friend could see the photo on the screen. "Look. You took this picture of yourself with that Snickers bouquet you made for Juliet last week."
Shawn's jaw dropped yet again. "Oh my gosh... That is me! Gus, you weren't kidding after all. But... Gus, I don't remember that. I've never seen that picture before in my life. I-I don't remember the candy bars, the bouquet thing... Although, that is a seriously sweet idea. Literally! But..." Shawn swallowed hard. "Gus, I really do not remember any of that at all."
"You don't remember?" Gus echoed. He tried to think of the last time he'd heard Shawn say those words. He couldn't think of a single instance. "Shawn... This is starting to freak me out. Even more than it already has." Shawn's face grew pale, which only scared Gus more.
"I know, buddy," Shawn said as he accepted his phone back from his friend. "It scares me, too." As Shawn shoved the cell phone back into his pocket, he felt his hand brush something hard and plastic. Eyes widening, he wrapped his fingers around the Black Vulcan action figure he'd brought along for the ride and tugged it free of his blue jeans, holding it aloft to show Gus. "Oh, man. Gus. I think I might know what's happening."
"Really?" Gus replied. "What is it?"
Shawn quickly shook his head. "Not here. Give me a minute." Shoving the action figure back into his pocket, he cleared his throat and spoke to the small but enthusiastic crowd that had gathered around the doorway of the restaurant, apparently enthralled by the floating man. "Hello! Ladies, gentlemen, children, robots in disguise... I am The Mighty Shawn Spencer, and this is my partner, Pyrotechs Malgrade. If you liked what you just saw, you can thank the amazing powers of illusion set up by my amazing special effects man!" He gestured to Gus with a huge, flailing sweep of his arms. "Big round of applause for him, everybody!"
The assorted group of people cheered wildly, offering the duo the clapping Shawn had requested.
"What you just witnessed was the greatest publicity stunt ever performed by a private detective in need of publicity," Shawn continued. "I am a psychic, and Pyrotechs and I are available for all your investigative needs if you'll just swing by our office during business hours Monday through Friday. We're Psych, everybody! Tell your friends!"
After the little crowd had dispersed---probably trying to flee the tiny droplets of cool water that were already beginning to speckle the air---and after he'd waved away the last few witnesses of his unexpected supernatural display, Shawn grabbed Gus by the arm and took him into the Blueberry. "Okay, Gus, here's what I think happened: I think that being electrocuted in the freaky storm that night gave me superpowers," Shawn whispered once they were enclosed in the safe, dry car and free from any potential eavesdroppers.
"Superpowers?" Gus raised his eyebrow. "Really? That's what you're going with?"
"Well, do you have any better explanation?!"
"No," Gus admitted. "And I guess in theory, it's possible. I mean, the Flash did get his superpowers due to a lightning strike and some chemicals, after all..."
"Yes! Now you're thinking!" Shawn nodded. "The only problem is that I think that using my superpowers steals my memory."
Gus shook his head. "I highly doubt that, Shawn. There's no precedent for that in any comic book."
"That you know of," Shawn countered. "Besides, this isn't a comic book. How do we know what actually happens?"
After a short pause, Gus nodded. "I guess you're right. Anything is possible. But what makes you think the memory loss is connected to your powers? If you have them."
"If? If I have them, Gus? Come on, man! I was floating! After a super-jump!"
"Okay, okay. I'll give you that. But you still haven't answered my question. What makes you think it's your powers stealing your memories? What if just getting electrocuted is what caused you to lose them?"
"Because I never had this problem before, Gus!" Shawn shouted. "I'm so used to remembering 99.9 percent of everything I see that I've forgotten what it's like to not remember something. Not something as commonplace as a food that I apparently eat all the time!"
Gus slowly nodded. "I guess you're right. If the electrocution had caused this, you'd probably have much more widespread loss."
"Exactly. The problem with this is that how do I test and use my amazing new superpowers if I lose my original power in the first place?"
Gus shrugged. "I have no idea. Can we talk about it over a taco? I'm still starving."
"Yeah, me, too. And churros?"
"You know that's right."
Shawn's phone rang just as he was finishing up his third plate of nachos (with extra jalapeņos---yum). Without bothering to check the caller ID, he answered, "Shurton Spuster. How can I help you?"
"Hey, Shawn. Or should I say Shurton?" Juliet said, a note of amusement ringing in her warm voice.
Shawn grinned. "Shurton would be fine. I'll answer to Sharlton Spassiter as well. But I draw the line at Shuliet O'Spara and Sharen Spick. I'd like to at least have a guy name."
Juliet laughed. "What was that you said? Shules O'Shara?"
"Shuliet O'Spara, actually, but what you said was close. Sort of. Shules? Come on. What kind of name is that, anyway?" Shawn's grin was wider than the Pacific Ocean.
"Well, anyway...Shurton... Where are you? C---I mean, Sharlton and I just looked over the security footage from that gas station you mentioned. It's pretty interesting. I have a couple of pictures from it to show you. Where are you at?"
"First of all," Shawn replied, "I am Sharlton as well as Shurton. I think you're mistaking me for Cawn Lassencer."
"Riiiiight. Okay. Sorry about that, Shaw--- I mean, Sharlton."
"Apology accepted, Detective Hencer. And to answer your question, I am eating at La Empresa. That's the one on Mariposa, not the one across town."
"Got it. I'll be there in a few. See you later...Shules." Juliet laughed again.
"Bye, Jawn," Shawn said just before hanging up.
Gus stared at Shawn over the mound of nachos sitting between them. "Shurton? Seriously? Are you for real?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, Bawn," Shawn said, and popped another corn chip into his mouth.
It took Juliet a little over twenty minutes to make her way to her rendezvous with Shawn. Stuck in traffic for more than half that time, she was more than ready to slide into the parking lot, find Shawn, and start figuring out what was going on. As she hit her turn signal and glanced over at her destination, she could see two figures emerging from the restaurant and heading for the shiny blue Echo sitting the parking lot. "There you guys are," she murmured as she maneuvered her car out of the turning lane and toward the driveway.
Shawn felt the strange prickle along his spine long before he realized what was happening. Just a sudden, out-of-place, persistent tingling running up and down the skin of his back. Without knowing why he was doing it, he glanced over at the driveway leading to the parking lot and to the traffic beyond.
For a split second, Shawn's heart stopped.
That car speeding toward the red light.
Bright red Mustang. '90s model.
The road is slick. It's been wet and humid all morning.
‘Stangs have sucky brakes, especially the older ones, and especially in wet conditions.
...It's never going to stop in time.
...And that's Juliet's car right there.
"I have to stop it!"
Still holding the door open for the elderly woman exiting the restaurant after them, Gus looked over his shoulder and stared at his best friend, bewildered. "Stop what? Shawn?"
But Shawn was already bolting across the parking lot. "C'mon, powers, don't fail me now!" He squeezed his eyes shut and focused on making it to Juliet in time to save her from what would likely be a horrific wreck.
He felt his feet leaving the ground. He felt the sensation of fat raindrops and cold wind rushing by his face. He felt the surge of adrenaline coursing through his body, speeding up everything, making every event seem to happen in slow-mo as his reaction time and reflexes quickened. He felt his feet once more touching wet pavement, but this time, instead of a gentle touchdown, he landed with a jarring halt. His eyes snapped open just in time to see the candy apple Mustang slam on the brakes, screeching sound cutting the misty air as the car skidded straight through the red light and hurtled toward Shawn's body. Not knowing what else to do, he held out his hands and hoped with all his might that Superman strength came as a package deal with his flying abilities. Frozen in place, he heard a second screeching of brakes that came a split second after the first sound: the awful, earsplitting noise of Juliet trying to force her car to stop and avoid hitting the sports car that, for all she knew, was still on a collision course with her.
Shawn tore his gaze away from the Mustang and looked over his shoulder, frantically searching for a glimpse of Juliet's face, just in case he were to die in that moment when he was trying to be an idiot hero.
He got the view he wanted within a single second and drank in her features: a mixture of horror and shock in her beautiful blue-gray eyes, her fear-paled skin framed by those beautiful locks of blonde---
And then car slammed into him.
And it hurt. The Mustang shoved Shawn with what he thought just be at least a ton of force; maybe two. Hard enough to send him flying backwards, making a Shawn-shaped dent in the rear passenger door of Juliet's car. It hurt bad, but it wasn't as bad as The HURT, thank God. And even though Shawn was feeling almost as terrible and broken as he had been when he was electrocuted, he couldn't help but grin.
The Mustang, after knocking Shawn away, had come to a complete and total stop right at the intersection.
Juliet was safe.
And Shawn was beyond all doubt a superhero.
Since he was feeling kinda hurt and sucky, he really didn't want to move, so he just laid there in his Shawn-shaped metal crater and waited for someone to come to him. Preferably a celestial nurse of some kind, if Juliet wasn't available. After a couple seconds, he realized that perhaps he was going into shock, maybe because of the adrenaline or maybe because of the impact; he didn't really care.
What he did care about was that fact that, by the time he was able to form another coherent thought, he was in the hospital yet again, with Juliet in the bed next to his and with his father and some other guy standing over him.
"Hey, Dad," Shawn said, coughing a little. "Man, my throat hurts."
"Here, have some water," the other guy said, holding a plastic cup to Shawn's lips.
"Thanks, dude," Shawn replied, and took a sip. "So how long am I going to have to stay here? And more importantly, how long will Jules be staying here with me?"
"Not long," she said. "I'm completely fine. I'm only here for the next day or so. The Chief is requiring me to stay and get checked out, just in case." She smiled. "You, on the other hand, are going to be here for a while longer. You're in surprisingly good shape for someone who just got hit by a car, but you're not going anywhere fast."
"Well, I was scared," said the other guy. "Don't ever do something like that to me again, Shawn." The other guy looked nervous. Almost scared. Like maybe he was keeping a secret or something.
"I'm sorry, how do I know you?" asked Shawn. All of a sudden, everyone in the room---Juliet, his dad, the other guy, and even the orderly changing Shawn's IV---became silent and stared at him. "What?" Shawn said. "Was it something I said?"
"You don't know who I am?" The other guy said slowly.
"Uhhh... Bud from the Cosby Show?"
"I'm Gus. Burton Guster. Your best friend. You...you don't remember me?"
"No," Shawn said with a frown. "Not at all."
"What about---" The other guy---Gus---cut himself off and leaned in close to Shawn, finishing his sentence with a whisper. "Your superpowers, your powers stealing your memory. Do you remember that?"
Shawn's eyes narrowed. "Of course I remember that. How do you know that?"
"You told me. At the restaurant. Remember?"
"No. ... No, I don't." He frowned. "This isn't good. Is it?"
"No," Henry said. His voice seemed strained, almost like he was feeling some kind of pain or other human-like emotion. "No, Shawn. It's not good at all."
After a few days of being checked and double-checked by various doctors---all of whom proclaimed Shawn's survival and recovery from the accident to be a miracle---Shawn was finally released from the hospital. And, after several conversations and a round of Snickers bars, Shawn had finally regained a general sense of who "Gus" was, even though he had no real memory of his supposed best friend.
"I think this definitely proves my memory-stealing theory to be correct," Shawn said as he walked down the sidewalk to the parking garage outside the hospital.
"Not necessarily," said the other guy. (For some reason, Shawn felt oddly uncomfortable calling the man "Gus.") "What if you hit your head when you were trying to block that Mustang?"
"Uh, not trying. I succeeded in blocking that Mustang," Shawn said. "And besides, Burton, this is the second time that a usage of my superpowers came right before I forgot something completely important."
The other guy flinched. "I wish you'd call me Gus. It makes me uncomfortable when you use my first name. It's unnatural."
"Why would you be uncomfortable with people using your first name? Other than the fact that your parents named you Burton."
The other guy shook his head. "Not people. Just you. You never use my real name. Ever."
"Huh. That's weird."
The other guy shrugged. "I got used to it." His expression then turned thoughtful. "I wonder if the amount of exertion you use affects the amount of memory you lose. When you just did the super-jump at the restaurant, you lost a relatively trivial memory---about the Snickers."
"Uh, after eating a few of these, I can totally tell you that they're anything but trivial."
The other guy continued as if Shawn hadn't interjected. "And when you used your powers for something bigger, to save Juliet, you lost a lot more memories, and you lost more important memories, too."
"I guess you're right," Shawn said. "I don't have any way to know. What kind of car am I looking for again? I got distracted while Jules was calling me."
"You're looking for Lassiter's car. The blue Crown Victoria. You do remember Lassiter, don't you?"
Shawn nodded. "Of course I remember Lassie. Who could forget somebody like that? Yikes." Then he pointed. "There it is. Over there." He jogged over to the Crown Vic parked on the first level of the parking garage. "Hey, Lassie!"
"Spencer," Lassiter said, crossing his arms.
"I call shotgun!" Shawn said.
"Uh, no. I already have a towel laid out for you in the---"
Ignoring whatever Lassiter was saying, Shawn plopped himself down in the front passenger sit with a grin.
Grumbling, Lassiter got behind the wheel and began to drive as soon as Gus had let himself into the backseat. "Nitwits..."
“So, Lassie, why don’t you tell me all about this case that you and Jules have been working on?” Shawn said, cheerfully ignoring Lassiter’s remark.
“Uh, no. Absolutely not,” Lassiter said. “The Chief strictly ordered us not to disclose any information. Until you’ve recovered and stop jumping out into traffic like the nincompoop you are, the SPBD will not be hiring you for any cases. …And thank the good Lord for that.”
“For your edification, Lassie---and yes, you heard correctly. I can learn pointlessly big words, too---I did not run into traffic.”
Lassiter scoffed. “Oh, really? Just like how you didn’t run out into a lightning storm?”
“Exactly. Now, what are the odds of us stopping for smoothies on the way to the police station?”
“We’re not going to the station. I’m taking you home.”
“Uh, this isn’t the way to my apartment, Lassie.”
“I know that, Spencer. I’m taking you to your father’s house as per his request.”
“What?! Lassie, no! I don’t want to stay at my dad’s!”
“Then you should have thought about that before you idiotically put yourself in danger so many times.”
Shawn frowned. “Lassie, the first time was a complete accident, and the second time, I only ran out there to save Jules!”
Lassiter’s eyebrow threatened to vanish into his strong Irish hairline. “You were trying to save O’Hara? From a moving vehicle? What were you going to do, talk it into stopping?”
Defiantly, Shawn said, “I used my superpowers, all right?”
The sound of Lassiter’s disbelieving laughter almost drowned out Gus’ hushed whisper: “Shawn, should we really be telling him about that? What if he sends you off to a secret government facility where they remove your spleen and conduct experiments trying to unravel the secret of your powers while some quack in a lab coat starts running tests on your pancreas?”
“Bur---I mean, Gus, don’t worry about it. Nobody cares about my pancreas, and Lassie doesn’t believe me anyway. …And c’mon, who experiments on a pancreas, anyway? It’s not like you need one to survive!”
“Yes, you do, Shawn.”
“Oh. Well, that makes a lot more sense, then.”
Their conversation was cut off by the abrupt noise of Lassiter’s phone blaring the Cops theme song. “Lassiter,” he answered. He paused for a long moment, listening to whoever was speaking on the other side. “You’re kidding me.” He shook his head, never taking his eyes off the road. “It’s still impossible, O’Hara.” After another, shorter pause, he glanced sideways at Shawn. “It’s a coincidence, that’s all… Yes, I’m sure. …Don’t you have anything better to do?” He cursed under his breath at whatever Juliet had to say next. “But I already told them I couldn’t bring them in. I won’t do it, O’Hara!” Finally, after one last pause, he growled, “Fine.” Then he hung up.
Shawn grinned. “Are we finally being let in on your case, Lassie?”
“No,” Lassiter said through gritted teeth.
“But Jules said---”
“O’Hara has something she wants you to see. That’s all.” Lassiter changed course and drove the police station, scowling the whole way there.
“Look at this, Shawn,” Juliet said, gesturing for him to come closer and get a better view of the computer screen on her desk. “These are the images from the traffic light cam at the intersection where the accident happened.”
“Okay, cool. So what am I looking at, exactly?”
“This is the Mustang, going under the red light,” she said, pointing to the blurry, slightly pixelated image.
“Okay, got it.”
“Now, this photo was taken about two seconds later. See? There’s you.”
Shawn grinned at seeing his unmistakable hair and the bright blue shirt he’d worn that day. “Awww. I’m adorable when I’m that size! So tiny.”
“Uh-huh. Now, see how close the Mustang is to you?”
“Yes,” Shawn said. “It looks like it’s about one pencil eraser away from my hands.”
Juliet blinked. “Well, the pictures are kind of small, so it was really about a foot away from you, Shawn.”
“Right. I knew that.”
Juliet nodded. “Okay.” She took a deep breath. “This photo was taken next. Take a look.” With a click of the mouse, she brought up the last photo.
Shawn squinted. “What…is that?” A misshapen dark figure, shadowy and even more blurry than the rest of the image, was standing exactly where Shawn’s picture had been just a moment ago.
“I don’t know,” Juliet said, “but I do know that Carlton and I found another figure looking just like it in the gas station footage that we went over earlier.” She reached into a Manila folder on her desk and held up a printed photo for him to see. “This is what I was going to show you the day of the accident. Do you see it?”
Shawn reached out and touched the image of the dark figure with glowing red eyes. “It’s the same person in both photos…”
“Did you see anything like this on either day?” Juliet asked.
Shawn shook his head. “No. Did you?”
“No,” she said quietly.
“So it’s a mystery…” Shawn swallowed hard. “I think I need to talk to…uh…Gus for just a minute. Okay?”
Dazed and disturbed, Shawn stumbled over to the bench next to the door of the records room. “Gus?”
The best friend that he barely knew sat down beside him. “Shawn, are you all right?”
“No,” Shawn said.
“Do you think that that weird picture Juliet found has something to do with your superpowers?”
Shawn nodded. “I can’t think of any other explanation.”
“What if this guy is following you around and helping you do things like stop cars to make you think that you have superpowers? Maybe he’s been staging this entire thing!”
Shawn shook his head. “That doesn’t make any sense. What motive would he have? …Unless I’m forgetting something.” He sighed and dropped his head into his hands. “I’m so confused. None of this is making any sense.”
“You know what you need right now?”
Shawn thought about his sidekick’s question for a second. “Hugs? Preferably from a pug or a Red Cross nurse?”
Without a word, Gus smiled and handed his best friend a Snickers. “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”
Shawn smiled. “Thanks, Gus.” Then his eyes went wide. “Buddy. I think you might be right.”
“Huh? What am I right about this time?”
Tearing off the wrapper and taking a big bite of chocolate goodness, Shawn said, “I’m not me!”
Gus held his camera in shaky hands as he watched his best friend stand, silhouetted against the sunset, in Henry’s front yard, the same spot where they’d played all the childhood games that Shawn would never again be able to reminisce about. “Are you sure about this? I don’t think this is a good idea.”
Shawn sighed. “I don’t think it is either, but what choice do we have? This is the only way to find out if our theory is right.”
Gus nodded slowly. “Okay. The camera’s ready. Shawn…”
Shawn nodded and stretched a little, trying to stall for time so he could build up his nerves. “All right. Superpowers, don’t fail me now!”
Squeezing his hazel eyes shut, hands balled into fists, Shawn concentrated on trying to make himself do something---anything---amazing. Flying through the air; a feat of super-strength; some kind of metamorphosis; anything. Even though he was abjectly terrified of losing more memories, he had to know for sure. He had to know…if this was what he was. If this was what he was capable of. And perhaps more importantly, whether or not he could use it.
Maybe he could use it to solve a few cases. To get to the bad guy before Lassie had to swoop in and save them. Maybe he could use it to save a few lives or do something spectacular before the government experimented on his pancreas and spleen. Or maybe…maybe he could use it to protect Jules. Not just today or tomorrow. But forever. Juliet…
Then he felt it. The prickling, tingling sensation crawling across his skin. It started in his back, along his spine just like before, and then it spread all the way across his entire body. He felt like every inch of himself was writhing.
“Dude, this is so creepy,” he started to say, but somewhere in the middle of the sentence he got distracted by a very different feeling.
A feeling he’d been trying to forget ever since he came in contact with a downed power line one night during a storm.
It was back, it had come to claim him. It was tearing him apart.
Shawn fully expected to die.
“Shawn? Oh, no! Shawn, Gus! What are you doing?!” That voice, so familiar to him, and yet so faraway. He heard running, footsteps. The voice was coming closer. That sweet, beautiful voice.
Everything went black.
"Jules?" he heard a voice ask in the darkness. "Jules?"
But who was Jules? He knew that name...recognized it from somewhere...but where? Where had he heard it before?
"Jules?" The voice cried out again, pleading, begging, almost a whimper. Whose voice was it? "Juliet, please... Please!" There came a wail, a screech of intense pain. Who was screaming? What was that noise?
Shawn, he thought. He was hearing Shawn. Who's Shawn? Who is Jules? Where am I? Who am I? Then another wave of intense pain crashed into him, flooding over him, accompanied by more screams. All of a sudden, the screeching and begging made much more sense.
"Help me!" he screamed. His wings unfolded from his back as he writhed in agony, glimmering against the darkness of the night sky.
“Shawn! Are you all right?”
“Jules! It HURTS!” he screamed. And then, right at that moment, the pain stopped. He fell to the ground, crumpled into a ball. He felt soft, soothing hands touching him, comforting him, looking for injuries. He moaned, breathing hard, drained. “I’m okay,” he said, opening his eyes. He saw Juliet’s face. Her beautiful face.
She gasped. “Shawn… Oh, my--- Your eyes. Your---y-your…” Her hand flew to her mouth. “You have wings.”
“I know,” he said. “I think…I think I got it figured out now.” He reached out to touch her face, only a little surprised to see his hand covered in black, feather-like hairs. “I’m a superhero, Jules.”
“You can’t keep doing this to yourself,” she said, beginning to tear up.
Shawn smiled. “I’m okay. I’m okay.”
“What about your memories?” came a different voice.
Shawn looked around for the source until his effervescent red eyes locked on the speaker. He smiled. “Well, Gus, I guess you’ll just have to remember for the both of us.”