The New Normal [Entry Log #5 – Objective]

        It was a cool night. The sky was clear of clouds, but a layer of orange smog coated the night sky. The stars barely peeked through the smog, creating dithered specks of light.
        Bruce sat on a stack of cinder blocks he had set up right outside the lab’s entrance. He puffed on a hand rolled cigarette and blew small clouds of smoke into the air.
        I stepped out of the lab’s airlock and looked up at the night sky.
        “Are you sure it’s ok for you to be out here?” Bruce asked.
        “Yeah,” I said, “I did an analysis of the air, and the radiation levels are harmless at this point. The only thing that will kill me out here is your second-hand smoke.”
        Bruce chuckled, and scooted to one side of his makeshift seat.
        I sat down next to him, and let out a deep breathe.
        “Where’s Mitsy?” Bruce asked.
        “She’s still stuffing her face,” I replied, “she’ll probably be in a food coma soon. For a hundred pound girl, she can really eat.”
        Bruce laughed and took another puff. We stared up at the orange sky for a while.
        “What do you think is happening out there?” Bruce asked.
        “I don’t know,” I said, “but it’s probably not good.”
        “What makes you think that?”
        “If everyone got abilities then there’s a lot of bad people out there with a lot of power.”
        “Yeah,” Bruce said, “but there is also a lot of good people out there who are hopefully keeping the bad people in check.”
        “That means it’s a war out there,” I said, “and I still consider that not good.”
        Bruce sighed. “Good point.” He flicked his cigarette to the ground and stamped it with his foot.
        “Am I the only normal person left?” I pondered.
        “You were never normal,” Bruce said, with a smirk on his face.
        “Officially, I’m still not,” I said, “if everyone has powers than that is the new normal, and I’m still an outlier.”
        “You’ve always been way smarter than everyone around you,” Bruce said, “so you’ve always had a superpower.”
        “I guess that’s how I contribute to this new status quo, studying the phenomenon and documenting the new normal.”
        Bruce put his hand on my shoulder. “And I’ll back you up.”
        Mitsy poked her head out of the lab door. She was chewing on a mouthful of food, but managed to say, “You guys are out of ketchup.”

The New Normal [Entry Log #2 – Case Study: Bruce]

        “Dude, you’re The Hulk.”
        Bruce raised an eyebrow and asked, “What does that mean?”
        I was looking at a sample of Bruce’s blood through a microscope. “Your cells are packed full of gamma radiation, your name is Bruce, and you can probably smash a tank. You’re The Hulk.”
        “Nerd,” Bruce said.
        “Hey, you read the same comics as me when we were kids.”
        Bruce and I have been friends since we were in elementary school. It’s the cliche story of me being the nerdy kid getting bullied, and Bruce stepping in to be my protector. Even as a small boy he was built like a truck. We became good friends and spent most of our school years together.
        After highschool Bruce joined the military to become an engineer, and I went to an expensive college to become a physicist. There was an eight year period when we didn’t really talk. We were not mad at eachother or anything, we left on good terms, but we were both so busy with life we didn’t have time for our friendship.
        It was an act of fate when we ran into each other in our hometown years later. He was looking for a job, and I needed an engineer and a bodyguard. Bruce fit both those roles very nicely, and we make a great team. I think of the ideas, he builds them and makes sure nobody breaks it.
        Bruce was staring at the television displaying only a static Emergency Broadcast System image and playing a sustained tone. “What do you think is happening out there?”
        I looked up from the microscope to the television. “I don’t know…but it’s probably not good.”
        “The soldier in me wants to take action, but I don’t know if there’s even anything to fight. It’s driving me crazy not knowing anything.”
        “Well, I got some good news,” I said. “Aside from being chocked full of radiation, you’re otherwise perfectly healthy.”
        “That’s good,” Bruce said. “So what’s next?”
        “I think we move on to the fun part. Let’s see what you can do.”
        “Like what? Lift stuff?” Bruce asked. “Do you have a bench press in here?”
        “No, and I don’t think there’s enough weighted plates in the world to serve our purposes. I do have lots of heavy ass equipment though. Just—”
        “I’ll be careful,” Bruce said.
        I stood up from my chair and walked to one side of the lab. “Here, this MRI machine weighs a couple tons. See how far you can push it.”
        Bruce sighed and walked over to the machine. He straddled the machine like he was giving it a big bear hug. With minimal effort he lifted the machine off the ground and held it in the air. His face showed no strain, like he was lifting an empty cardboard box.
        “The Hulk,” I said.

The New Normal [Entry Log #1 – The Event]

        My name is Dr. Reed Faustus, and something happened today.
        I was working in my lab when it occurred. The lab is underground and built like a nuclear bunker. The exterior radiation shielding protected the inside, even though it was actually installed to keep extraneous radiation from getting out during my experiments. It is funny how things get flipped on their head sometimes.
        The entire lab shook for more than a minute. We do not get many earthquakes here in Connecticut, and if this was an attack, surely there are more important targets.
        I fell from my chair to the ground and hid under the desk. My equipment rattled and fell from the shelves, smashing on the floor.
        Then it fell silent.
        That’s when I realized Bruce was nowhere to be seen. There was only one reason he would not be in the lab: he snuck out to have a smoke.
        I frantically ran up the stairs to the lab’s entrance and reached the blast doors. There was a small round window on the door, and I peered out to try and grasp what was happening. The sky was a bright pink, and thick grey clouds swirled in the air.
        Right below the window at the base of the door was Bruce lying unconscious on the ground. I could see his chest moving up and down, so I knew he was still breathing and not dead…yet.
        I banged on the door and yelled profusely, trying to wake Bruce up, but there was no response. Now I had to make the choice of whether to go out and help him, possibly exposing myself to radiation or whatever harmful things might be out there, or letting my best friend die.
        I contemplated for a moment, but the choice was easy. I would have rather died than live in a world without him, and have to bear the guilt of letting him die.
        I pressed some numbers on the keypad located next to the door, and it played tones for each press, culminating in a trill that signified I’d entered a correct code. There was a sound of air pressure evening out as the door began sliding open.
        As soon as the crack in the doorway was large enough for me to fit through, I rushed outside and knelt down next to Bruce.
        “Bruce! Wake up,” I said, as I lightly slapped his face.
        There was still no response. I knew I had to get him inside, but he was 250 pounds of muscle, approximately double my size. I could not carry him alone, or even lift him onto a stretcher, which I currently did not have anyways.
        I grabbed his left arm and pulled as hard as I could. His body slid a few inches across the dirt. I continued pulling slowly but surely, knowing it would take a while but having no other options.
        Finally, with one last big tug, his entire body was inside the door. I slapped some buttons on the keypad and the door slid close and re-pressurized. I fell to the floor and sat with my back against the wall, breathing heavily and completely exhausted.
        “What the hell happened?” Bruce asked in a groggy voice like he’d just been woken up from a deep slumber.
        I scoffed and said, “Oh, now you wake up.”
        “My head is pounding,” Bruce said, “and why am I covered in dirt?”
        I chuckled and leaned my head back against the wall, still completely out of breath.
        Bruce grunted as he sat up, then asked, “Honestly though, what happened?”
        “I wish I knew,” I answered, “It shook the whole lab. What do you remember?”
        Bruce stared into the distance for a moment, collecting his thoughts. “I snuck out for a few puffs, then there was a bright white flash, and the next thing I know I’m waking up next to you covered in dirt with my whole body aching.”
        “Well, I’m glad your ok, but I should probably run some tests. We should get back to the lab, and we can check the news to see if anybody knows what that was.”
        “Right,” Bruce said, “let’s go.” He grabbed a handrail attached to the wall to hoist himself up, but the metal rail buckled and crumpled like paper in his grip. Bruce was always strong, but never that strong.
        “Whoa,” I remarked, flabbergasted.
        “Uhh, I barely squeezed.”
        “We need to get to the lab right now,” I said, “but please don’t touch any of the glassware or equipment.”
        We made our way down to the lab very carefully.
        The rest of the night was spent running tests on Bruce. They will take some time to process, but I will report my findings in the next entry.
        All connections to the outside world were down. The internet was completely down, and the T.V. was nothing but a solid tone on every station. It appears the effects of whatever happened was more widespread than I initially thought, and may be worldwide. I began to wonder how many people were exposed and will be affected similarly to Bruce.
        I will continue to document the situation as it develops.