Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Interesting Steve

Once upon a time I sat with several friends on a sunny Sunday afternoon on the BYU-Hawaii Campus. Somewhere in our conversations we came up with a game show idea (which I will not share because I still believe it is a brilliant idea and needs to be done). From this game show idea a rather sad obsession of mine developed. And from that obsession sprouted this little short story. Hopefully it's an interesting (ha ha ha...) read!

Interesting Steve

Steve Smith liked to believe he was interesting. Being born with a combination of entirely generic names, to parents who were, admittedly, quite average and unremarkable, had only fueled his desire to assert, if to nobody but himself, that he was indeed interesting.

If Steve were a comic book hero, he decided his name would be The Interesting Steve. If he were a villain, he’d be the Interesting and Nefarious Steve. Needless to say, his creativity with pseudonyms for his alter-egos did little to bolster the validity of his desired self-image. Of course, he reasoned, creativity was hardly a prerequisite for interestingness. Surely, simply by virtue of his obsession with being interesting, he must have become so.

What Steve did not know and did not understand was what actually made a person interesting, or that being interesting was entirely subjective. Still, he might’ve been quite pleasantly surprised to discover that three of his acquaintances found him interesting, in one fashion or another.

Suzy Jackman, a girl from his math class, found Steve cute because his eyes narrowed and his lips pursed whenever he was trying to solve a particularly difficult problem.

Jared Cobb, being something of a scientist and casual observer of everyone in his general vicinity, was thoroughly curious as to what led Steve to lay upside-down, staring at the blank white ceiling in a service stairwell while eating lunch at work.

And Cami Johnson, a long-lost childhood friend, knew without a shadow of a doubt that Steve was an entirely unique person simply for the fact that he listened to her when nobody else did. If he were to ask her, he would find out how greatly in awe she held him for the way he remembered seemingly trivial details about her stories, appearance, or even scent from their childhood explorations.

But Steve was entirely unaware of these feelings and opinions. He was, it might be said, non-blissfully ignorant.

If you were to ask Steve’s best friend, Martin Franesinico—whom Steve adored simply for having a quite interesting and unique last name—what made Steve interesting, he’d shrug, go back to playing whatever video game was popular at the moment and then casually say something along the lines of, “Just is, ya know?”

Since Martin lacked the social awareness required to reassure Steve when he needed reassurance, he’d never once let Steve know that he found him interesting. After all, that’s not exactly the type of thing you just let your friend know at random.

This left Steve in a rather depressing predicament. He was, as far as he was aware, entirely without any social justification for feeling interesting, which, naturally, made him feel quiet bland. And so if was that he decided to take the most extreme measure he could think of, on the off chance it might work.

After a long, rather uninteresting day of school and work, Steve, using a level of stealth and secrecy the CIA would have taken note of, snuck into his neighborhood friendly nuclear power plant. This required MacGyver-like skills. First, he disabled their security camera network (and everything else for that matter) with a home-made EMP device he’d looked up on Google and had assembled after several months of scrimping and having to buy the expensive components. Next, he scaled their barbed-wire fencing, using a thick rug as protection. He slinked and slunk around the plant grounds, making use of the EMP created confusion and shadows to hide him.

The nuclear compound had several buildings. The one with the nuclear reactor he stayed clear of. Getting inside that to steal anything would’ve been even more impossible than everything else he was doing. He instead rooted through the other buildings until he located a storage facility, which, with the help of a paperclip, some duct tape, and an extremely small amount of home-made explosives, he was able to enter.

After rooting around miraculously undetected for forty-five minutes, he exited the plant with seven pounds and thirteen ounces of actively radiating substances of an undisclosed nature (apparently the workers knew exactly what was stored inside because it lacked any form of labeling aside from the hazard symbol).

The part of his mind in control of planning had struck a metaphorical chord with the thought of genetic mutation as a result to high levels of radiation. And so that is exactly what Steve planned to do. But simply exposing himself to radiation would not suffice. No, he deigned to expose a spider, which he intended to let bite him, a frog, which he intended to lick, and a random assortment of several other creatures which he’d been able to get his hands upon in quick fashion.

After five rather uneventful hours of basking in high doses of radiation with his captured experiment creatures, Steve decided to go forward with his plan, and he did so.

He woke the next day with no noticeable result to his experiment. And indeed, two weeks passed without a single sign that anything had happened, except, perhaps, for an aching he felt, which might’ve been attributed to his experiment, or possibly to a tumble he’d taken down the stairs when he’d gotten up in the middle of the night to pee.

But after two weeks, give or take a few hours, and despite all meaningful scientific research suggesting such a thing was not possible, Steve’s body changed as a result of his admittedly dangerous activities. In short measure he grew extra eyes, scattered about his person, six extra, to be precise. His body developed glands which produced high quantities of a mucus-like substance which quickly covered his body. His fingers and toes elongated and his sense of smell somehow granted him a smell-based radar-like affect. Though he didn’t immediately notice, the entire back half of his body emitted a soft yellow glow. And lastly, he developed chitin scales all over his neck which inexplicably worked to filter oxygen from water, making him virtually un-drown-able.

Now, an uninteresting person, or perhaps simply an ordinary person, would be terrified by these changes. Steve was thrilled. Sure, going out in to public dressed in ordinary clothes was out of the question, and living an ordinary life was all but impossible. But Steve wasn’t looking for ordinary and bland. He wanted interesting.

What Steve had not anticipated as a side-result of his ill-advised experiments with radiation was that the few people close to him would shun him because of his new changes. Even his best friend, Martin, who maintained a vigilant nonchalance about everything, could not handle the “new and improved” Steve.

And so after a matter of only a few days Steve found himself most definitely interesting, but entirely alone and rejected by society, friends, and family.

Like many people who’ve been hurt or rejected too many times, Steve’s heart began to harden, his will twisted into something dark and terrible, and his actions were not long in following.

It began as petty crimes, stealing stray cats and dogs from shelters so that he’d have something to eat (since part of his transformation involved giving him strange gastronomical desires). But his crime spree quickly grew. In no time he was stealing claimed pets, breaking and entering (to get aforementioned pets), and several cases of vandalism and indecent exposure.

The thrill and excitement of his new lifestyle motivated him to bigger and bigger heights. He sought greater adrenaline highs, and activities that would surely make him more interesting.

In April 2012, WeeklyNews, a world-wide publication, featured a picture of Steve growling at a crowd after having robbed a bank upon the cover of their magazine. The headline read: Villain or Misguided Freak?

The Interesting and Nefarious Steve crouched down in the shadows behind the news stand he’d stolen the magazine from and smiled.

Only interesting people made it on the cover of WeeklyNews.

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