Charge, The

The Education of Danny


By Chip Masterson

Danny saved my life. By which I mean, he didn't kill me, though he could've. He proved he is a killer though, but what can I do about it?

It all started when I discovered he was sneaking out at night. All night. We never noticed because he was the smartest kid in each of his classes, at Cal Tech, remember. He was even smarter than some of the profs. I mean, they had more knowledge, but he could put it together faster and solve problems that stumped them. He never appeared sleepy, and he never got sick.

They didn't suspect he was strong. He played this whole Clark Kent routine. They thought he ought to do some gym, since he's only thirteen, but he made his father talk them out of it. He wore big sweatshirts and stuff. Hardly anyone knew what he was capable of.

I take that back. Hardly anyone knew how strong he was. None of us knew what he was capable of.

You've heard maybe about some infrastructure problems we've been having in California? Seems all over the state we're suddenly falling apart. Farmers finding tractors with wheels ripped off. Earthquake retrofitters have been hauled into court, the utilities are facing huge losses, a lot of people have been hurt with bridges collapsing. Well, by now I think you know what the problem is. It isn't faulty concrete. It's something concrete was never designed to withstand. Danny.

Danny isn't just strong, remember. Those legs can really pick up speed. I clocked him doing 100 yard dash in 6.4 seconds, carrying 95 lb free weights in his hands (and not down at his side, he churned his hands like anyone does). There isn't a world record he couldn't break. I think his standing jump exceeds the highest pole vault. But he isn't a sprinter: it's with long distances where he really packs on speed.

Under cover of night he runs up parallel to I-5. Crossing the Grapevine over the Tehachapi mountains doesn't seem to slow him down either. You know those big powerlines that march down the state, the big power grid? On calm nights he would go up to them and where the steel meets the concrete posts, he would simply squeeze. The L-shaped steel would warp under his fingers. He'd knead and massage the squeaking metal until it was compressed and fractured but still able to support the tower's weight, for awhile. He'd do this to a few here and there. Then, some days later in the next big wind storm, the weakened towers would sink, collapse, snapping powerlines, blacking out Fresno or parts of Los Angeles, setting fire to fields....

When one highway overpass collapsed and nearly killed an RV driver, he just giggled in a way that made me ask questions. We were hanging out one Saturday (at his place, watching dorky cartoons). He had a bunch of big plastic Pepsi bottles, empty, and was crushing the openings. Maybe that doesn't sound difficult, but you try it. Try squeezing that hard threaded plastic. You'll probably need pliers and both hands. He put them between his fingers and thumbs and did eight at a time, the hard plastic narrowing into ovals then cracking as he brought his pinkie against his ring finger, his ring finger against his fuck-you finger, etc. I read him the account paper and he just laughed.

"I got all this nervous energy, you know? I can't get it out playing football."

"You'd kill people."

"I know, MOTHER. So I went out one night to test myself against one of those retrofitted bridges. You know, where they put that thick iron sheath around the bridge support?

"First I find where the seam is. Usually riveted and welded. Starting at the bottom, I pry a corner up. The iron wants to stay hard and in shape but my fingers tell it different. And it listens to my fingers pretty quick. I hear it creak and groan like a big baby while my fingers claw and pull at it and finally little cracks appear in the weld. Then it's pretty easy to bend it backward, screeching in pain, to pop the first rivet. I have to put a little more muscle into it but that baby finally can't hold against me, it pops with a zing. I really have to work my forearms to roll and wrench that thick iron up but the more iron I crush the more leverage I have to rip the welds wide open and burst those fuckin' rivets."

Danny stopped for a minute, engrossed with his hand, turning and flexing it while the obedient muscles in his forearm dance like a python swallowing a pig, and that boy's bicep begins to swell and crest beyond any boy's fantasy.

"How do you do this without being seen by cars and truckers?"

"I paint myself black. I used to use spandex but it just can't expand over my muscles, it always rips. You know how I pump up, Scotty boy." He flexed both biceps, his arms suddenly bouncing from 13-year-old weight trainer to 17-year-old quarterback, and we both know it doesn't stop there.

"Anyway, once it's split enough, I have to tear it off to make it look like it weakened, and I have to put my back into it, tugging and pulling the thick iron at an angle until my kid strength overstresses the metal and it rips apart along the little cracks that now run all through it. It rings like a fuckin' bell."

"Language, Danny."

"You know, Scott, you really oughta be my mother. Wanna breast feed me now, mommy?"

I sighed and sat back, wondering what to do.

"Then I can get my hands on the cool concrete," Danny continues. "Depends then on my mood. I can batter it, push at it, or press it together, but my favorite is a combination: I strike the concrete until fissures open and reaching in, I pull the crack open wider and force it deeper inside. If I'm lucky I can pull chunks away from some rebar and squeeze the metal flat with my fingers. Then I wedge the concrete back in and press the iron back in place, shoving it and pressing the jagged edges together so it'll hold until the support buckles. Then go onto the next."

"But Danny, people are getting hurt!"

"Weak people. Wouldn't hurt me."

"You're putting people in the hospital. What did they ever do to you?"

"Ah, let's talk about something else." You did what Danny told you to. So I convinced him a couple weeks later to let me come along.

"Okay, but you gotta keep up with me. I ain't waiting around for that old muffle car of yours."

We set out one night about 9 p.m. He let me have a head start even though my GTO, my pride and joy, has quarter-miled in 13.9 seconds at 102.8 mph at the local track. He said to rendezvous at a certain bridge up I-5 near Hanford at 11:30 p.m. That was nearly half the way to San Francisco.

"I was about to start without you," he said, rattling some chains in his hands as I parked off the road and scrambled down the embankment. "I took this off some farm equipment. They won't miss it. You remember that Hercules movie that was on TV awhile back, where he tore down a temple? I wanna try that."

There was a series of thin concrete columns supporting the double highway over a wash. I just sat back in the shadows and watched.

Danny took the chains and wrapped them around the columns in a series of figure eights. There were two rows set in groups of four, eight columns per side of the highway, sixteen in all. He stood in the gap between the two sides of the interstate gathered the clinking links into his hands. Rattling them to test their strength, he looked at me and grinned beneath his curly mop. "I'd like to see that big oaf do this."

He pulled on the chains, his arms straight out and his chest and shoulders spread high. He breathed in and out and gathered the chains link by link up into his fingers until they twisted in the air, resisting his pull. All the slack tightened and his extended forearms bunched like grapes under the skin. All along the base of the columns, each two feet in diameter, the chain clinked and turned until it was completely taut.

Danny's shoulders grew in sharp distinction from his stretched arm. His biceps opened like pipes, swelling up above the plane of his arm, while his triceps hung below in perfect arcs that trembled slightly. His chest deepened in broad striations of twisting muscle, and the chain links emitted a tight clinking grind as they twisted a little more than natural movement would allow. A dry clunking sound broke out of the posts, as reinforced concrete started to crack and shift to find resistance against this insanity. Still Danny's lats thickened into writhing cables of kid muscle power, and little chinks of cement began to spatter down onto the ground. Two outside columns jerked inward and Danny began pumping his legs, quads bursting into diamonds of strength any adult powerlifter would envy. I saw one column split up its length to the bridge above, crumbs of concrete tumbling down, and still he poured more muscle into the straining links. On the far side I saw a column crunch inward beneath the chain, the cement crumbling away until the links caught on the rebar beneath--and the rebar bent inward with an audible screech.

He had four chains going against four columns each, links flattening against the composite stone. Three columns burst inward at once and he pulled the rusty iron links up into his hands. He didn't want to stop until each column had cracked but he didn't want to pull the bridge down entirely. He wanted the collapse to happen after he was gone. This time he miscalculated.

A fully-loaded big rig thundered over the bridge and columns that split all the way up bowed outward in two directions, cracking the roadway above. The rig sailed on by but it was clear even a Hyundai would finish the job. Danny dropped the links and wrapped his arms around the column, forcing the concrete together as rebar screamed its way back into place. Pushing upward he held the roadway intact as cars and trucks roared over it. But he couldn't hold it forever. Well, he could....

I climbed up the embankment and watched for a break in the traffic while he continued to brace the column against tons of rolling steel. Finally the traffic let up and he let go. The entire two-lane bridge thundered inward, shattered concrete and torn asphalt bouncing off his chest, leaving shallow scratches in the skin. I climbed into my car and maneuvered it into position at the approach end of the bridge and activiated my four-way flashers as a warning to oncoming traffic. Before he left, Danny make a signature of sorts: in one large chunk of concrete, he grabbed two broken bars of rebar and twisted them, squeaking, into a bow. He called out to me, "That should keep `em guessing." Then taking the chains, he flung them far across the fields like a giant's bola, where they vanished in the darkness. Danny warned me. "You better keep your mouth shut about this, punk." The warning was superfluous. I knew better than to cross him.

I have no idea what other damage he did along the route of his return home, but I heard afterwards there was a thresher that looked like it had gone through a tornado. Finally, a state trooper had happened along and I was able to leave the wrecked bridge. When I pulled into his driveway he had a cement-crusted length of rebar that he was curling into a tight ball with the palm of one hand. I was terrified at what he might do to something like the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, the challenge that thick steel and gigantic cables would represent to him. I really lit into him.

"People could've died when they hit that hole in the road. How can you justify this just to burn off energy?"

"You pussy. You were there to warn off your fellow weaklings, little miss concerned." He just kept curling and crunching that half-inch bar of groaning steel into his palm, his forearm writhing like a nest of snakes.

"I'm not gonna just sit on this, Danny. I won't stand idly by while you place innocent people's lives in jeopardy just so you can brun off energy. You better find something else to take out your hormones out on."

"Or what, you'll send me to my room?" Danny looked up at me, and rose to his full height, just a couple inches below mine. His angelic face beamed, at odds with the rippling column of muscle supporting it. "I'd like to see you try." He grunted and looked up at the sky. "I'd like to see the room." He fixed me eyes to make sure I knew what who I was dealing with, and walked away. I leaned against my car, mind spinning.

I called up Lance and Kevin. We were known (okay, we called ourselves) the Three Goats on account of we each had a rad GTO we'd restored. My Marina Blue `70 with a full race cam and 428 engine was the fastest. I've gotten it up to 118 mph in 15.5 seconds. Kevin's `67 Black hardtop had a 348 horsepower tri- powered 389 and Lance's `69 Carousel Red Judge convertible with its Ram Air III kept neck and neck just behind, quarter-miling 17 seconds and 16 seconds each at 100 mph.

Think about those speeds for a minute, and go back to my racing Danny up 1-5 in the dead of night. He wasn't even winded anymore by the time I got to that bridge and I floored it, using over half a tank of gas to get there. He'd had time to wrench apart some heavy equipment to snag those big-linked chains, forcing metal apart with his bare, thirteen-year-old hands. My engine had ticked and rattled and he had the power in his back and arms to cripple sixteen steel- reinforced concrete columns that had held up tons of traffic and withstood flash- floods with ease.

I told the Goats it would be tough, but three cars with combined weight of five and half tons, nearly 1000 horsepower and over 1300 lbs of torque, we might just overpower him, if we worked together. We got some cables, and three deep sea fishing nets, the kind made out of steel mesh. We tied the cables off to the chassis and the nets were secured to the cables, and stowed it in the trunks. And waited outside Gorman for Danny to come through the next night.

There was an old garage/body shop where I thought he might pass through; he had a fondness for these places. We spread our nets across the gap between two buildings and hoped for the best. About 11 p.m. he raced through and hit the nets so hard he dragged all three cars sideways and backwards many feet. We heard a savage snarling and the sound of metal mesh starting to tear. We gunned our motors and headed in different directions, stretching the cables and bringing Danny to his knees. My plan was get out and give him a stern talk while he was pinned down. I really didn't expect him to get up.

Those fingers poked through the wire nets and quivered. Metal held, then stretched, then tore apart until his hands shot up. Forming fists, he rammed his arms through the taut net and started stretching the hole anew, bringing his rippling arms apart and downward as tight steel mesh ripped against his triceps. His head popped through, frightening in its mask of fury. He held a double-biceps pose for minute, hard boy muscles peaking like no child's ever could. When he was sure we'd witnessed his promise of strength, he reached in and further shredded the net. His hands worked quickly to start gathering in the net, dragging our idling cars back. We all hit the gas but twelve big wheels ground, jerked and soon began to spin with high squeals. He kept pulling all three muscle cars backward in quick, deft jerks, his hands working the three directions like he was playing some demonic harp.

We gaped in awe as he held three skidding GTOs and drew them towards himself. This thirteen- year-old-kid was outmuscling three muscle cars at once! I tried to picture a thousand horses stomping and screaming, their powerful legs kicking and thrusting and buckling as this boy-man equaled their combined strength, then exceeded it, doubled it, tripled it with sheer brawn. I could hardly imagine it, all those horses mastered by that striated chest, those bulging arms, those swollen quads, all joined at a 26" waist.

Kevin started to fishtail. The squealing tires, roaring engines and thick smoke made my eyes water but I could see Lance shifting around, trying to find some traction but Danny just kept jerking his car backwards before his treads could find a grip. Lance lost all his ground first and Danny, holding Kevin and me with one bristling arm, stepped on the cable and held Lance there. First he ripped the spoiler off, then his fingers pressed down onto the trunk lid. The solid steel dimpled under his hand. He kept squeezing the steel until it crumpled down, the lid warping up against its hinges. His fingers dug in and pierced the metal like a can opener and gripped the body itself and he started shaking it, just shaking it. The wheels kept spinning as he shook them sideways and they skidded over the concrete.

Then Lance did something stupid. He jumped the car into reverse.

He didn't have enough room and his bumper just folded against Danny's legs. I heard Danny's shattering voice over the smoking engines and whining tires "I'll kill you for that!" and I knew what I had to do.

I was farthest away, about ten feet or so, and I jumped my car into reverse. With Danny already pulling the car practically flew and knocked him down. My trunk crunched and the lid flew open, creased inward across the middle. Kevin backed at full speed into Danny. Danny was still down and I watched his torn wheels drive right over Danny's chest, like a big speed bump. Kevin flew out of his seat and hit his head on the roof. The impact stalled his motor and left him with Danny under the car. He thought he must have killed him, but Danny's chest could easily support that weight. He stopped the car rose straight up.

Danny was benching Kevin's car, lifting all four wheels off the ground. He pumped it up and down, actually throwing and catching it like he was getting ready to heave it when stupid Lance rammed back into Kevin's bumper, knocking the car out of Danny's hands. The rear wheel bounced again on Danny's chest and knocked Kevin against the steering wheel. I could see blood dripping off his face as Danny stood up, five feet eight inches of enraged muscle boy. Veins snaked above writhing cables as he lifted the rear end of each car beside him. He stood there, panting, getting angrier, his little face red and his hair blazing like a corona, two shifting, stalled muscle cars held in each hand. With a roar, he flipped them.

I saw it as if in slow motion. Veins burst out down his forearms and around biceps that swelled and forced the veins to snake. His long neck spoked with veins and his chest split into huge ripped relief. His shoulders exploded as he screamed and jerked his hands up. The cars rose backward, not just up but off the ground, their grills missing the concrete by inches as they spun over. Kevin and Lance tumbled around inside but Danny didn't give them a minute to sort out the confusion, the horror. He wanted to show them what muscle was all about.

My jaw dropped as I saw Danny reach down into the chassis of each car as it rocked on its roof, the force and weight crunching and shattering the glass. Something squeaked beneath his hands and then he twisted his wrists. His arms expanded into vein-popping madness as the cars groaned up and scraped onto their sides and turned back over: his arms continued to support their weight and he lowered them onto their wheels. Lance and Kevin, terrified and rattled, instantly started their cars and tried to race away but Danny held them firm, chassis groaning anew with the tension. Smoke enclosed Danny in a fog and the roaring of pistons and over-torqued transaxles made me wince but somehow above the ear-splitting noise of helpless muscle cars straining to break free of their superhuman captor Danny's lungs powered his voice in a heart-stopping crescendo: "I'm the fucking God here!"

Lance and Kevin, terrified and frantic, each stopped and shifted in reverse, trying to crush Danny between them. His arms sank a little toward his sides but that solid mass of muscle wouldn't dent. He held and pushed them away to arms length. Grinning maniacally Danny began shoving Kevin's car toward the brick wall of the abandoned garage, dragging Lance's rocking car behind him. With that one hideous arm Danny rammed Kevin's grill into the wall, wheels still smoking in reverse and shrieking over the pavement. Gravel broke loose and rained across the yard. Lance now tried to break free, desperately hoping Danny's attention would lapse; but Danny's fist tightened and metal creaked and crunched under his fingers. He shoved Kevin's car into the wall again and the front fenders bent outward, the hood creased. Pulling it back, he rammed again, and the wall shook. More metal buckled and popped off the folding frame and the hood popped open, exposing the snarling, smoking engine. Lance's tires began peeling off strips of tortured steel-belted rubber the same time Kevin's did, and their rims began sparking and gouging the concrete. Danny's rippling arm crammed Kevin again into the wall and lightning-bolt cracks zig-zagged up the mortar. Danny pulled back and shoved again, ignoring the chunks of cement flying and smashing against his body from the wheels. The car wrinkled against the wall as he slammed it again and again, steel puckering into corrugated folds that seemed to flow like liquid.

Kevin's engine made a laboring, off-kilter noise and Kevin began screaming hysterically as Danny shoved him through the wall and broken brick rained through the shattered windshield. The hood tore off its hinges and the roof dented and smashed under the debris. Turned his attention one last time to Lance, Danny kicked and sent him fishtailing into another wall so hard the wall caved in but didn't collapse. Lance crawled out through the passenger window and ran from his mangled muscle car into the night. I didn't see him again for over a week.

I ran over to the hole in the garage and screamed for Danny to stop but he kicked Kevin's car and it skittered sideways. Danny approached an hydraulic lift set into the floor and reached his fingers underneath one thick prong. His back widened, his thighs raged and his whole body seemed to inflate as a deep groaning and creaking rumbled up through the oil-stained concrete. The lift came up under his force a couple inches and he took no time wrenching it further. It shook and screeched into the air, protesting the strength that manhandled it despite its rust and hydraulic-powered weight. Dry pistons pulled apart and internal machinery bent and broke and finally the lift was overhead. Twisting at the waist, Danny grabbed the passenger door of Kevin's battered car and twisted it around until Kevin's door was flush with the lift's big post.

He braced his hands on the door seams and pressed. The car instantly crackled and screeched its mechanical agony. It thumped inward around the post, the roof sinking deeper inward, Kevin's unconscious body trapped between the folding door and the sinking roof. Danny reared back and slammed his hands into the denting body and it thumped again. Small shoves flattened the car through the middle. I wept and screamed and started throwing bricks at Danny but they simply bounced off his back with a small puff of red powder. Danny stopped and turned to me, flexing into a crab pose so thick and cut I wet myself and my knees gave out. With a sneer he turned back and shoved hard into the V-shaped auto. The time for hysterics was over. I dashed to the side of Kevin's car and pulled my unconscious friend free of the wreckage. He was badly mauled and all of his limbs had been broken. He was a bloody mess.

Danny continued to vent his rage on Kevin's wrecked GTO. The wheels bent and splayed outward as the angle grew steeper. The post now was where the center of the car used to be and Kevin's pulped body was crushed and pulped and Danny kept pressing. The body buckled and screeched and shivered and Danny squeezed it around the post. Then he stopped, stepped back and took a breath.

I wept for my friend Kevin who I knew very well may be dying. And I wept for this murderous boy monster who seemed to have no trace of humanity in his soul. Danny approached the out-muscled car again. He stretched his arms out along its bowed length and applied pressure. His pecs sank into the denting metal and even the muscles of his arms pinged into the panels that bent upward around them as he ground the car around the post. The thick post bent backward a few inches with a deep groan and the car convulsed beneath Danny's arms, jumping and bucking as the iron chassis horseshoed in clashing agony. Each time his feet pumped into the concrete it starred and broke, his great thighs churning the floor into a mass of fragmented cement.

Finally the two left fenders met and Danny, wheezing a little from the strain, crushed them together, grinding the metal into a twisted lock. He released his tension and the car was so fully defeated the steel didn't even try to straighten out. He stepped back and wiped his brow, his engorged bicep obscene, peaking half way up his forearm. He turned and walked over to me, crushing broken bits of brick to powder beneath his naked feet.

"He is my best friend," I sobbed, heedless of my danger. "You're nothing murderer. You tried to KILL by best friend!"

He picked me up by my shirtfront and held me off the ground with one arm. The fabric ripped and cut into my skin so I braced myself against the living marble of that bulging arm. Despite everything I'd witnessed and every straight impulse I'd ever had, my stupid cock grew hard at the feel of that pulsing solid rock. Danny looked me over and saw the hard-on in my baggy jeans.

"I'm hurt. I thought I was your best friend. From the looks of it, I think I am." He smiled up at me, teeth gleaming in the moonlight. "I'd say, in fact, your life is in my hands. And you've seen what my hands can do."

Choking, I nodded. "But you said you'd never hurt me. This hurt me!"

"Aww, does baby want his bwanket?" He bobbed me up and down.

Somehow I spit in his face. His eyes and lips tightened and he threw me into the air. Agony flared across my back as I hit the hard door of Kevin's car and fell to the ground. Danny walked over to me, his teen strength towering over me. He looked down over massive, veined pecs and wiped the spit off, flinging it onto me.

"Of course," he said, "my life is in your hands, should you ever go to the so-called authorities. But I'd hate to see what it would take, and what it would cost, to bring me in. So you'd better think about that. I don't want to see you hanging around with Lance or Kevin anymore."

"What are you going to do to them?"

"Them?" he scoffed. "Nothing. The fear will eat Lance up bad enough. And Kevin'll be lucky if he even lives. From now on, I'm not only your best friend, I'm your only friend. You'd better get used to it." And with that he walked away into the night.

I had to get Kevin to a hospital. My car was pretty battered. I tried to start it but the engine wouldn't turn over, it just cranked and ground horribly. The tires were ready to rip apart and wouldn't make it down the hill, much less home. I flagged down a passing trucker who called an ambulance on his cell phone. The police had questions, of course. I explained that we acting stupid with our cars and this mayhem had been the result. At first, they didn't seem inclined to doubt my story since my story made me and my friends look really stupid. Little did the cops know, it was THEM I was protecting.

Still, I didn't like the look in Detective Salas' dark eyes. He was big, had done duty as a street cop and maybe more. Somehow, he connected all this to Danny which terrified me. I had every reason to be afraid, not only for the cops, but for myself. I hoped desparately that Danny wouldn't think I'd been the one who'd put the cops on his tail for this. I was there when he looked up Danny at his parents' house. "Just some routine questions," he'd explained to the boy's parents. Detective Salas' gaze at Danny seemed to pierce the goofy nerd act Danny put on. I began to wonder--hope? that he might be my salvation. But I can't dwell on that, it'll drive me crazy. •

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