Flash 2000: Hold Me Against the Dark – Part 1: I want you beside me…

Image from the Internet Hive Mind

I tuck my graying hair behind my ear as I watch the holiday party. Come on, dive in, I tell myself. It’s why you are here. Mingle, mingle, mingle, during the jingle, jingle, jingle. Everyone looks like they are having a grand time – so much noise and people. There’s no need to wallow in the lonely looking on from the outside like a kid pressing their nose against the candy shop window. Dive in girl, you got this.

Instead, I press my back more firmly against the wall, willing my fingers to peel back from the red plastic cup to keep it from cracking. My forcibly relaxed fingers start rubbing the ridges on the cup in a widening circular pattern, then spiraling back in before starting the pattern again. Sometimes I hate being an introvert.

I close my eyes against the colors and sounds invading my senses. Behind my lids red throbs with the music. I reach out feeling all the people, a mass of happy and sad, excitement and exhaustion. Some are here for duty and some to avoid it. I know everyone but I’ve been careful to keep them from knowing me. None of these people are really my people. I am just an imposter, an extra hand when needed.

The part of me that wants people, well, not people, but a person, a someone, my someone, reaches out, out, yearning. As far as it can stretch it’s leash secured within an empty hole within, an emptiness hungering to be filled with someone else’s laughter and affection while I provide them the same comforts.

Holiday season is rough when you’re single. You think after forty-five years on this planet I would be used to it.

I almost cry from the ache.

Among the white energies out there past my closed lids could be my someone. I smile at the thought, then frown at the false hope. At my age, it is a dream. But… maybe… there could be someone beyond the party, in the city lights twinkling above the snow-topped buildings on the other side of the parking lot visible through the windows.

Stop lying to yourself. I chastise myself in annoyance. You are old, single, and alone. Not everyone gets a happily ever after and that is fine. Be happy for the rest of your family. You got cousins and nieces and nephews and friends. Well, no friends local, but friends. Get it together. Today isn’t going to be any different than the other hundred thousand times you wanted … to be wanted. I try to pull my yearning to heel so I can get on with why I dragged myself to this corporate function.

My fingers tap the mostly full punch cup once, twice, thrice. I feel the liquid moves back and forth in the cup, the vibrations of the music impacting the fluid’s movement

The want slips its leash, rushing out seeking, calling. Demanding.



Oh no. My eyes blink open. I didn’t mean…

And the universe snaps into place. My drink sloshes as I rebalance. “Oh, f–.” I cut off the curse, a small amount of liquid spilling on the floor just in front of his heavy leather boots. He had been circling the room. “I’m sorry.”

He looks down my way in surprise. At five nine and nearly two hundred pounds, I’m not used to men overlooking me. I’m a big girl. But he had been concentrating on the crowd, clearly searching for someone. “My fault entirely.” A confused crinkle between his eyebrows makes my heart flip.

Don’t do this, I order the wayward muscle. It isn’t fair. “Not exactly.” I smile, as I scramble to come up with an excuse to offer of why something is my fault. “I’ve been hiding.”

“Someone as beautiful as you shouldn’t be hiding.” He turns sideways to the wall so he can look at me and continue to glance on and off at the crowd. He raises a hand over my head, to lean against the taupe-colored surface but doesn’t crowd.

I laugh at the flirt. I just climbed passed the five-oh birthday before Thanksgiving, but he was maybe a decade younger by my guess and I look on the young side, the gray hair only a recent addition. “Thanks. I just wasn’t….” I sigh, “I’m just feeling lonely.”

“In this crowd?” His shadow, cast by all the lights of the party beyond him, seems to take up more space, making our little corner of the room darker. Private.

“I’m just in the lonely in a crowd mood.” I shake my head, “No, that is wrong. I’m in a lonely for one person mood, I just don’t know who that person is.”

“Maybe it’s me? Jonathan. Jonathan.” He paused to lick his lips. “Bently. Jonathan Bently.”

“Pam. Pam Black.” I tap my name tag proclaiming me from FirstResources. “So which company are you with?” I ask since I didn’t recognize Jonathan and he was missing his badge, like about half the people here. The research triangle center held fifteen companies, a mix of startups, entrepreneur investments, and recently stock-oped steadies, which pool resources for their annual winter holiday and four-of-July parties. They do so much stealing of employees and trading of resources back and forth, on some levels the group is a big incestuous corporate family.

“Oh, um, BlasterBriefs.”

Taking a sip of my punch, I watch his ice blue eyes parse the crowd, though they kept stealing back to me. “The AI firm to create lawyer forms. A good group. Picked up a lot of new people in the last month after Doc Peterson purchased his options.”

“Yeah, I just got onboarded.” He smiled down at me.

No you didn’t. I thought rather loudly, but fortunately he wasn’t a telepath, not many supers were and of course normals not at all. I wasn’t a telepath either, but I could fake it in a pinch. Now he had me curious.

I closed my eyes a second, still close enough to the half-mediative state I had been in to do a quick check. Damn was he a bright one, at least a five on the hero scale, and also very dark. Possible villain and hero at the same time? I didn’t have time to do a full scan and it would be noticeable, and noticeable by people of his power level equal not good things to us lesser beings.

I open my eyes, then drink my fill of him and my punch. The super stood north of six foot enough he would need to bend down just a little to put his head on top of my head. His broad shoulders and muscular arms balanced a middle-age belly tucked behind his buttoned business jacket.

Super powers had only existed since COVID. Some people blamed the disease and others the vaccine, but best guess from the scientific community, including research by DNA and RNA Systems Development and Management within our own little triangle, is the super powers and the COVID impacts are unrelated by everything except emerging at the same time in an uneasy co-existence. Like Martin Luther King Jr and Anne Franks overlapping in time, if not space.

Most of those impacted still had bodies which had lived a lifetime. Hence my gray hair and his belly. The super gene or whatever it was, did slowly adjust the body toward idealization, the more power you are, the quicker it happens. The two strongest on the planet, Hero-man and Ing-shui, had instantly changed on December 11, 2020. I had dropped nearly fifty pounds in the last four years, finally able to successfully lose weight through diet and exercise after years of trying.

The man in front of me likely had put on some height and picked up those wonderful arms. Black hair swished on top with just the beginnings of hair loss either side of his temple, barely tamed curls hiding the fact from most observers. Or was it the hair growing back? I threw out my previous estimate of his age. With supers you never knew, other than they were never children. Whatever we were didn’t kick in until after age twenty-five. A close-cut beard and trimmed mustache accent his checkbones, but it’s his voice that makes my legs tremble. I do love a low baritone and his is like hot fudge melting ice cream.

Should I? And I answer myself, Why not? It’s already too late. Stupid powers. I corrected myself and sent an internal thank you to whatever it was in my center. Most supers powers were under control after Emergence; mine seemed to have its own agenda and agency. Best not to anger it or abuse it.

I tuck my empty red plastic cup into some fake plant leaves beside me, I place my hand on his arm. “Would you like to dance?”

I feel his arm tense under my hand. He wasn’t used to people touching him. I step closer, away from the wall, causing him to stand up straight. His shadow moved differently from mine in a way inexplicable, even taking into account the disco-ball made from a plastic dinosaur covered in mirrored tiles shooting sparkles around the room.

Gotcha. I identified the super. He was one of the hero team assigned to our region. Cage had shadow powers along with enhanced strength, speed, and minor flight. Single according to publicity, openly trans – well, that could be awkward – I’ll need to figure out how I felt about that, about middle-tier in strength, like I already observed. I couldn’t remember his age, but a quick google search will fix that. Older, but not a huge age reversal I think.

And me an unknown and unregistered and wanting to stay that way.

He wasn’t here for me, based on that head swivel. In fact, he tried to bow out now. “I really, don’t know how to…”

I interrupted his excuse as the DJ announced a new song from Grasp Starlight. “They are starting a slow dance, it should be fine.”

His shadow grabbed his shoulder and merged into him, causing him to take a stutter-step. No one normal would notice, but I had used my powers to fix my eyes freeing myself from a lifetime of glasses so they picked up things others couldn’t. He stopped struggling once they were one. In fact, once we hit the dance floor, he put his arms around me without prompting as the lead singer for Grasp crooned over the speakers. “I want you beside me, but only when you aren’t there.”

I leaned into Jonathan, if that was his name, humming along with Be Mine For Never.

I closed my eyes as I rested against his chest. Surprise, his aura was non-existent, like Cage Hero Light and the shadow Villain Dark, canceled each other. Well, that would get him past a lot of sensor meant to pick up supers. Speaking of which, Doc Peterson’s Villain Dark aura had double in glow last week and was about forty feet toward the food tables. “By the way congratulations on being a new hire.” I whisper against his arm.

“What? Oh, thank you. I’ve been job hunting for a while.” His shoulder moved under my head as he shrugged. “The market has been crazy.”

“I understand. I mean look at me working for the temp agency for Better Ideas Corporate Triangle.” I smile into his chest, opening my eyes as the song wound down. “I just float from company to company here helping out as they have need. They all know me but no one will hire me.”

“Oh, that sounds like that sucks.” He frowned down as we walked off the stage.

“It does and it doesn’t.” I keep a hand on him guiding him toward the food. “I get to work everywhere, like for the past month I worked for the company that handles the security around here, helping with the background checks for everyone getting hired.” I squeezed his arm when he tensed. “Over my shoulder, in the red blazer with green Christmas tie.”

Jonathan stared at me, then his blue eyes turned black as they glanced over my shoulder. His nose flared before he refocused on my eyes. “I want your number.”

I turned left arm toward me and pushed up his sleeve a little. Against his skin, I drew a symbol with my finger slowly, dark shadow followed my finger a moment behind. I looked up sideways and winked once I finished the shape. “Hold your cell with this hand, and say ‘call Vector’.”

“Is Pam your name?” he whispered just loud enough over the crowd for me to hear.

“Is Jonathan yours, Cage?” I replied. His wrist jerked in my hand when I gave his hero name.


“Then forget mine please, just to be fair, okay?”


“I got a large extended family and don’t need people like,” I pause, tilting my head as I release his wrist, his eyes flick over my shoulder at my pause indicating he understood, “well, you know how people are. Call me tonight after? I want to know you are safe.”

(words 2,197; first published 1/9/2024)

Hold Me Against the Dark series

  1. I want you beside me… (12/31/2023)
  2. Someone who cares if you come home (3/31/2024)
  3. F is for First and Foremost (4/7/2024)


  1. Bridesmaid (6/30/2024)

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