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 #3 – GRB]

        A high-pitched whine of feedback assaulted my ear drums, cutting my nap short.
        “Dude, what the hell? I was trying to sleep.”
        “Sorry,” said Bruce, “I almost got this thing working.”
        Bruce was fixing an old short-wave radio he found in a storage closet. The radio had been gutted a long time ago for spare parts like wires and capacitors, but now Bruce was gutting other equipment to put those parts back in. He was hoping to use it to contact the outside world. Since all of the modern forms of communication were down he figured trying an archaic analog form of communication might be our best hope.
        I sat up from the cot I was laying on. “Do you really expect to hear anything on that?”
        “I expect that it’s worth a shot.”
        I shook my head and leaned back into the cot. I stared up at the ceiling while thinking for a moment. “What if there is nobody out there? What if the world ended, and it’s just us left?”
        “I survived,” Bruce retorted, twisting a screwdriver until it wouldn’t twist anymore.
        A burst of static filled the room. A garbled voice poked through the static, but only every few words were audible.
        I shot up from the cot.
        Bruce began twisting the knobs on the radio, and the static started fluctuating as it changed frequencies. Finally, the voice came through the speaker, still hindered by a low hum of static beneath it, but it was understandable.

        This is an emergency broadcast by the United States Government. The Earth has been hit by what is known as a “Gamma Ray Burst” or “GRB”. All satellites have been disabled; possibly destroyed. Communications are down throughout the world, and casualty numbers are uncertain at this point in time. We are urging all citizens to stay calm and remain indoors until order can be restored. Stay tuned for further updates as they come in, and may god have mercy on us all.

        The message was repeating over and over.
        “It’s everywhere,” I said, with a blank expression on my face.
        “I wonder how many people survived,” Bruce said.
        “I wonder how many people were affected like you,” I added, “the whole world could now have superpowers.”
        Bruce gave me a displeased look, and decided to change the subject. “Have you ever heard of these GRBs?”
        “I’m no expert, but I’ve heard colleagues of mine theorize and give lectures on them. In simple terms, they are caused by a dying star releasing a huge burst of energy and radiation as it explodes. The scariest part is that many researchers insisted if one was ever to hit the Earth, it would be the end of the world.”
        “Well, at least this one didn’t end the world.”
        I looked Bruce in the eyes and said, “Yet.”