I’m Donny Dashing. You listen and you listen good. Since I’m fast, my time’s worth more than yours. I don’t stop, and I don’t listen. Smelling flowers, waiting in line, taking turns – all of that is for the birds.
It started when I was twelve and I missed the bus to school. I didn’t want to get a piece of the old man’s mind that morning, so I ran to catch it. Ordinary-fast didn’t cut it. I ran faster. By the time I caught up, I was going too fast to stop. I ran past the bus, and kept going. Past the school, down the main drag out of town. On the road I raced other busses and trucks, then cars, then bikes, then faster cars, then faster bikes! Ran on highways, did a dine-and-dash whenever I got hungry. Thought I’d run all the way around the world, keep running until I was dead or old. Didn’t remember the oceans.
The farther I ran, the harder it was to find trucks and cars and bikes to race. Alone with the road is great, it’s the best way to go, but when you run out of restaurants it’s a problem, cause running makes you hungry.
Well, the old man caught up to me right around then, giving me an earful. He’s got a way to get into my head. It’s telekenesis. “Listen up you little fuck,” I heard him say. “Cops came by here asking why you’re not in school. You better pray they find your sorry ass before I do. You’ll never be shit and you know it, come home.”
No can do, Pop, is what I thought, but he can’t hear what other people think. He can just put his voice in your head. Anyway the interference slowed me down, like cell phones do to airplanes. I don’t know about cell phones and airplanes, and I don’t care if you do. I got off the highway and ran on sad little hokey roads without any restaurants. I shoved a deer against a tree and it died, but I didn’t want to skin it and cook it and I didn’t know how. Found a cabin in the woods, knocked on the door and traded the buck for three squares and a sleep in the bed. Also learned to skin by watching the guy who’s cabin it was. Took a lighter and knife when I left the next day. I kept running till I was faster than fast bikes again and got back on the freeway.
There are two kinds of running: running away from, and running after. The kind I like to do is after, so every day I make myself go a little faster. And every time I beat a record I find a new thing I can do that other people can’t. I learned that I could fly first. Learned it at a skate park that some adrenaline junkies threw up in the middle of the night in a parking lot. Running up and down ramps in a baggy sweatshirt. Flying isn’t fun, because then you aren’t running. Next I learned to make a gust of wind, and a little after I could make full-on tornadoes by running around in a circle. Then I was going so fast I turned myself invisible. At that point you’re going too fast to see, but so what? You go a little faster than that and anything you touch disintegrates. Then particles can’t get out of your way fast enough, and you’re running on pockets of percussion. You don’t ever have to touch the ground. I could run all the way around the world now ignoring the oceans if I wanted. By then the whole world was small potatoes. When I went any faster, I was going backwards – time unwound around me. Diana the Dime Machine thinks she’s so great for that one power of hers. I can do it, too, easy-peasy!
At first when I went back in time, I didn’t know how to go forward again. Didn’t care, either. I had my records to beat. Go fast enough, every rule stands on its head. The faster I ran, the faster time unwound. I ran backward through the centuries, eating mutton, drinking ale. Stealing was a breeze, when you found the folks who had the stuff to steal. The farther back I ran, the harder it was to find those folks, and it’s a problem, cause running back in time is hungry work. I had to stop more and more to find animals that I could catch and skin and cook. Catching them was easy. Standing still long enough to find them was hard.
“You know what your problem is, Donny-boy?” I heard my father say. I’d been waiting half-an-hour by this tree with a petrichor smell one time I was hungry. “Your problem is, that you’re a piece of shit.”
There were leaves moving above me. I was thinking I should climb.
“Your sister’s gone. She ran the fuck away.”
There was a gleam of iridescence, a flapping, paper-tearing sound.
“You hearing me, boy? Your sister’s gone. She’ll be living in the street, now, probably selling ass, because you’re too good for what’s yours, and now she thinks she is, too.”
A beetle jumped out, the size of my torso, and tried to fly. I dashed my way up the tree and knocked the thing into the trunk. It fell, with pieces of wings crunching off – I caught it and bit through the shell, eating its squishy guts raw. There wasn’t a reason to stop anymore.
I ran back and back and back in time, trying to go faster, past the glaciers and the dinosaurs and the times when there wasn’t any air to breathe and the times when the whole world was like a hot puddle. I don’t need to breathe when I run. I like to, but I don’t need to. It’s how the power works. Going as fast I go, nothing can hurt you – not heat and not cold, long as you never stand still.
I ran till the earth became nothing, drifting away from its gravity first. Nothing can stop me. It’s the only thing that can. I heard my father’s voice in my head, just in time before I started to slow down. I don’t know what his power’s made of but it always tries to slow me down, same as gravity. Anyway, that was the thing I had to push against in empty space – his voice before every step, polluting pure zero as it came pouring out. Maybe it does work two ways, because every time I thought I was going to die, my father’s words were already there for me to use. I ran on past stars that I couldn’t see, going faster and faster, getting to know all the rivers of gravity going like water down a drain.
I ran back all the way to the genesis, the big bang, event horizon – and at that point I ran straight through the screen between worlds and came shooting out the other side, where the universe began brand-new, and I was moving faster than what moves you backwards, and forward again.
“Donny-boy, it’s been years. When are you going to talk to me?”
There was a gravity in me reaching for home, along a path of psychic friction. I couldn’t help but run straight toward the time and space I thought I’d never see again. I was at the planet and the town and the second where my father expected to find me, when the voice in my head shut suddenly all the way off.
Darkness splashed away and time came pumping in. There was no big explosion, no giant crater where I stood. All the impact shriveled into me, blocking pores and clogging minor veins. I stood there as quiet as if I’d been walking.
Old Pop stood in silhouette against the empty road. The sun was behind him, setting red. “Welcome home.”
I knew, I always knew, that a power like mine wouldn’t be just an accident. Got it from the old man, same as my sister got hers. She can always tell when people tell the truth. I can’t, but when Pop started telling me how he can give people powers, it didn’t seem like a lie. I didn’t care. I hated his voice.
“You know what?” I said. “I don’t really like you!”
I got to work re-arranging the old man’s teeth. He was calling me names in my head, but I didn’t listen, until he said, stop, he had a job he wanted to tell me about. Usually when people say, ‘stop’, I say ‘shut up,’ and still don’t listen. But the company he worked for needed me to do a job, and I liked the sound of it. Guess they wanted a real go-getter to go-get some real good stuff. I took the card from my Pop and that’s how I got my first job.
I guess I’m a villain, if you want to use the classical definition. Buildings and people and cars will blow up if they get in my way. Sometimes people don’t listen to reason. I use violence then. But you have to understand that I’m fast. I’m different and better than everyone else. So instead of saying ‘villain’ all the time, why don’t we choose a word that rejects society’s binaries and isn’t loaded with judgment? Let’s just go with, ‘winner’.