Remembering the Hyperopiac Man
by Charles C. Cole
When I was a kid, too long ago by my measure, my best friend since kindergarten, Yancy Randall, had a particularly unusual disease which I’ve never seen again and firmly doubt many others have.
I’d known Yancy, an only child, all his life. The “disease” started soon after his parents died in a car crash, while we were in junior high. Maybe a part of him was with them that day or he just needed to see them, even remotely, since he was safely swimming at a pool party at my house when the tragic accident transpired. He never said, but I think he reached out to them that day.
The first twisted episode happened about a month later. Sometimes when he seemed morosely distracted by an intimidating stack of homework or girls or an upcoming track meet, he’d get real quiet and still, like he was shutting down or in a coma. It didn’t last long, more like bouts of emotional narcolepsy, with his eyes wide open yet unbelievably “unseeing.” I thought he was joking but I learned otherwise.
Sure, I could shake him a little or wave my hands at his face, but it had no effect. He’d revive later, once more aware of his surroundings, trembling and sweaty and out of breath as if he’d been running full-tilt, usually demanding pen and paper to capture every noteworthy activity he’d just “witnessed,” venting about strange places far from home, based on his description, where people dressed differently and spoke differently and even, on occasion, drove different cars.
This wasn’t a recurring fanciful dream; there were no crazy misadventures with talking cartoon animals or tales of epic alien invasions, just mundane details like he had been briefly living in someone else’s home movie or had fallen magically into a vacation channel documentary about foreign cultures, whoever they were.
One time, later in the day of a real intense spell of “the silent seizure,” we were sitting around in my room studying for an algebra quiz with some grade-D zombie movie on the TV for white noise.
There was this brief news bulletin, like when the authorities warn of a chance of severe thunderstorms in the area. The unseen and excited male announcer described the big deal breathlessly: the president had gone to visit some obscure tropical island country for an international economic conference, a first visit of its kind for a sitting president in modern times.
“That’s the place!” said Yancy, the shock bursting out of him. He ran up and touched the little screen, pointing at scores of four-foot candy canes jammed into the sand along the festive beach . “That’s the place I saw! Right there!” But why? (We weren’t interested in how.) It wasn’t some dreaded omen - nobody died - just a premonition of a television broadcast.
So, you might think, assuming you believe me, “What a great gift: a superpower! Not many people have that! Predict the winning lottery number and live off the interest.”
But the thing was, it would just happen all of a sudden, unsolicited and uncontrollably, regardless of what he was doing at the time, including once when we were eating in the cafeteria but, thankfully, never during an exam or while he was in the bathroom.
Unimaginative adults generally considered Yancy epileptic and tried to keep him medicated (which killed the visions), but sometimes curiosity won, and we took him off his meds for another adventure with “remote viewing.”
We tried different methods over the years to get more fine-tuned information, so we’d have enough to “validate” his trip at some indefinite future. I grabbed his shoulder once, as if he were Peter Pan taking me to Neverland, but nothing happened to me. I tried interviewing him once, like past life regression therapy, but he was silent as a tomb when he was “otherwise engaged.” I even captured the sleeping traveler on my camcorder, just in case he’d do something or say something, but it was pretty boring footage to be honest.
Even if the disease was a supernatural gift, the nicest way to describe it, it was still an inconvenient power that had the potential of “cutting both ways.” I mean, there are definite times when you must be present and aware of what you’re doing or risk hurting yourself or others.
For his part Yancy, who had long ago moved in with us, was steadfastly afraid of driving a car or swimming - due to the randomness of the spells. But if that cursed illness taught us anything, it was that we were not in control of life’s little surprises.
Jump to the Harvest Night Dance, October 1983. We were dateless computer nerds lighting smoke bombs in my parents’ driveway while they were off at a movie, giving us space, avoiding awkward conversations. “No dates, boys?”
One minute Yancy was laughing his butt off when I almost scorched my hair and the next he was a stone statue, oblivious to the sparkler quickly burning down to his thumb and forefinger. I pulled the thing out of his hand and dropped it on the ground.
Later he wrote, simply: “Yellow Mercedes-Benz truck driving in circles at an airport, charging brute Marines with no bullets in their guns. Explosions. Death. Dracula falls down in the rubble.”
“You’re crazy this time!” I said.
“Turn on the television and see if I am,” he said, exhausted and pale.
We didn’t know that Mercedes even made a truck or that the prevailing rules of engagement in Beirut (where our Marines were stationed) included no magazine inserted into their weapons and no rounds in the chamber (“condition four”). The eight-story “Drakkar” building referred to the French barracks nearby, also destroyed, with 299 American and French servicemen.
Yancy went back on meds after that, for good.
In our senior year, Yancy, an unassuming superhero who worked nights, was leaving McDonald’s when he was struck by a drunken classmate traveling with his headlights off. Poor Yancy never saw it coming.
Copyright © 2017 by Charles C. Cole