“Strength, endurance, flight, heightened senses,” said Walter Carton. “It’s a package deal. Sun goes down, I say the magic word, and suddenly you’re a god among ants, but for one night only. Couldn’t give you a second go-round if I wanted to. That’s just how it works.” Walter stubbed out his cigarette in the ash tray perched on the edge of the grimy kitchen table and shielded his eyes from the early morning sun, which had just started to peek through a crack in the blinds. He turned to look at his latest “client.”
This wasn’t one of the joyriders. Walter saw plenty of those idiots, blowing their trust funds or their retirement savings on a once-in-a-lifetime thrill. Those were the easy customers.
No, this was the other kind, the kind with a plan. This was a Man Who Would Be King.
He was of middle height and thin, with a long face and slick, dark hair. The cheap suit he was wearing, the battered briefcase in his hand, and the slight up-turn of his chin combined to give off the impression that he wanted better than his current life, that he felt like he deserved an upgrade. He was surveying the pile of dirty dishes in Walter’s sink with evident distaste.
Walter rapped on the table with his knuckles. “Hey, buddy, eyes up front. If you want what I can give you, you’d better pay attention.”
The man said nothing, just straightened his glasses and fiddled with the clasp on his briefcase. He was just like the rest of them, all of the Men Who Would Be Kings, the air-headed macho men, the scheming punks, the deluded cowards. They all thought the same way: One night with these powers and I’ll be on top of the world. One night only? No problem. That’s all I need to pull this heist, more than enough time to whack my boss, the perfect opportunity to get the girl.
Walter had seen it all before, including the morning crash when they felt their One Big Chance melt away like fog in the sunrise. He’d seen the depression, the disappointment, the desperation: “One more night, just one more!” The powers were an addiction, worse than anything merely chemical. One night of godhood could haunt you for the rest of your life.
These people were always worse off when morning rolled around. Of course, that didn’t mean Walter had to give their money back.
Still, Walter felt some responsibility to be up-front about the deal he was offering. He said, “Remember, the moment the sun comes up, you’re back to normal. One second you’re flying, the next you’re falling, and don’t come whining to me with your broken neck afterwards if you’re too stupid to see it coming.”
“And if the sun never comes up?”
Walter sneered and lit a new cigarette. “Sun always comes up, man. Take my word for it.”
The Man Who Would Be King smiled darkly.