Ephemeral



Notes: I toy with present tense in this fic, and the acquisition of super-hearing without addressing it directly. Peja's challenge inspired me and instead of spending my precious free time on a WIP, I did a stand alone. Stone me later... BTW only spent a couple of hours on it, so any and all constructive criticism is very welcome.

Sometimes I think I could hear a pin drop in Metropolis on a quiet day. I'm not even in the city, but I feel like I am. Sitting here with hay all around, scratching my face, and tantalizing my nose with its ripe smell, I can still ignore my other senses and listen to my ears. My ears know that traffic is backed up downtown because of a fender bender, and a girl, Valerie, is having a fight with her fiance, and some kid is just starting the jet boat level on his Jak and Daxter game. On loud days it's different. You wouldn't think Smallville could be loud, but you get a couple of tractors going, throw in a feed mill or two, crank up the turbines at the factory, and it can become challenging to even think.

I'm getting better at dealing with it. I can focus out the background and pick out the important things, like my Mom and Dad in the kitchen discussing me. They're worried, and why not. I haven't left the farm in a week now. Never mind that though, listen. I can hear Chloe tip tapping at her key pad, probably working on her latest exclusive. And the Talon, there's Lana in a sea of voices and cappuccino machines, making change. "...Thank you, come again..."

Speaking of dealing with things, I'm getting used to the dark. I've always had great vision. If the power went out, I was the one who found the candles. I could just see. Then freshman year, my eyes decided to upgrade, and I could actually look through things. Can you believe that, x-ray eyes? Today, it would be nice to go back to just having good eyes.

But I'm getting used to the dark.

Valerie, my fighting lovebird is really mad now. She's throwing things and there's a click. I know that click. I've heard it so many times listening to the city. She's going to kill him. Now that I'm listening for it, I hear similar clicks hundreds of them around the city and farther away and closer. People shooting people...I can't stop them. Getting out of this loft is going to be a challenge. I'll need help. I've broken enough things trying to get around on my own. Blocking out the deafening roar of the weapons actually firing is harder since I was focusing on them, but I just have to concentrate on something else...Pete. He's talking to his dad about his grades and college. Pete wants to go to Kansas State?

Now I'm beginning to feel a little bad about eavesdropping on people I know. It always feels less invasive when I don't know them. I've never seen Valerie or her fiance so I'll listen to them some more. She didn't kill him then. Good for you, Val. He isn't worth your life. Throw him out. Don't forgive him. He'll just do it again. The ones like him never learn.

I'm not alone anymore. I heard his car crank fifteen minutes ago and it has been getting louder and closer. The car died in the back yard with a healthy purr. He doesn't know about the dark or why I'm hiding. Now he's on the stairs. Does he think he's sneaking up? Sneaking up on me...no one will ever manage that again.

"Clark, there you are. Long time no see. You look fine. I heard you've been sick."

I can't see him, but his voice paints a picture, and my memory fills in the blank spots. Lex with his perfectly tailored suits and his slick smiling masks has come to visit. Now that I'm learning to listen, his voice tells so much more than he's ever shown with his face. Lex isn't fine or well right now. After his wedding, after the plane crash...I think something inside Lex is broken, burned and black. I hope it heals. But I can't help him right now. I can't even help myself. "I've been sick, but I'm healing." I hope I'm healing, but who knows? I can't exactly go to the hospital and ask for help. "How about yourself, Lex? I know things have been hard for you since coming back. We all thought you were dead. I don't know how I'd deal with that kind of betrayal."

He's sitting now. The hay crumpled under his expensive pants, and I wish I could look at his expression. I'm missing something.

"Clark, I didn't come here to talk about me. Would you look at me for a second? I heard a rumor from...it doesn't really matter who, I guess."

Why did he pause like that? I turned to look. Did I turn wrong? I misjudged his voice and I'm staring at the wall...why won't he say something?

"You can't see, can you?"

For a second, I'm tempted to tell him everything. I want him to know it was his employee, his lab, his fault. I want to scream at Lex, rage at him. Part of me just wants ask why: Why did he own Cadmus Labs? Why was there refined Kryptonite there? Why couldn't Lex just let it all the Hell go? Did he know what was going on there? "Go away, Lex. I didn't invite you over, and I don't want company right now."

He's at my side now, pulling on my arm. "You're coming with me. You need a doctor. I don't know what's wrong with your parents that they'd leave you up here to rot..."

"Go to Hell." It's weird, but I've never been very convincing at swearing. There's anger behind that one though, and it sounds like I mean it. "Go away."

"Lex, you'd better do what he says."

That's the way Dad. My parents aren't in the Kitchen anymore then. I can hear Lex backing away, making his way back to his car. He's hurt and angry and confused. He doesn't know it's his fault. He doesn't know, and he needs help, someone to trust. The pretty sound of his fancy car's engine is headed away now, forever maybe.

Mom's voice breaks my heart. She's trying to sound strong and confident. "Are you ready to come inside now?"

"I'd rather stay up here for a while, if it's okay." I mimic my mother's fake-strength almost instinctively. She and Dad take it at face value. They can't hear the lie, the fear, the anger. "Check with me after the news, okay."

They leave me without a fight. It isn't like they have a clue what to do. Who are they supposed to turn to? Their hopes that this might be temporary are waning, and I can't help but feel the same. I'm blind, forever. I can't get down out of my loft without shattering a plow or tearing down a door. A hazard to everyone and everything around me...I'd be better off locked away somewhere. They should take me to a hospital and get it over with. They can't deal with me like this.

The sounds around me are getting louder now. I should focus and block some of it back, but instead I just listen until all the cars and the Valerie's and the video games become one indescribable din pulsing inside my brain. Inside the din, the only things that make sense are my memories. I close my eyes and go back one week, to my last sunrise, to my last look at Lana, my last glimpse of my mother and father...


"I'm telling you, Cadmus Labs belongs to your good buddy, Lex. Jose the latest meteor freak was working there," Chloe snapped. "If you don't believe me, you can read all about it in the Torch. I'm going to find out what they're working on there..."...and not just because Lionel asked me to look into it.

Clark threw his hands up and rolled his eyes. "Forgive me Editor Chloe for questioning your word. I just asked if you were sure."

"Well I am sure. Fork over your article, and get out of here. I have work to do," Chloe said. It was so much easier being cold and uncaring with Clark. He couldn't hurt her when she kept him at arms length and hurt him first.

Clark dug the typed pages out of his bag and sighed. "Be careful Chloe." Not that he was going to stand around and wait for her to figure out what was going on. Normally he'd ask Lex before investigating this on his own, but his good buddy as Chloe had put it, hadn't been very accessible since his resurrection.

Instead of talking things out, Clark headed out for Biggersville, and Cadmus Labs on foot.


"Are you ready to come inside?"

Martha's voice pierces the din around me, and I nod. I'd rather stay outside, but Mom and Dad need their sleep. She guides me with a light touch on my arm. "Step down. Step down. Step down. Step down. Step down." I hate hearing her controlled voice and kind directions. She probably has a dozen bruises from trying to get me from one place to another. I can't see the marks, but I hear my parents talking to each other and I know. We're at the porch now. Step up. Step up. Step up. Step up."

Rather than trying to get me up the stairs every night, they started bedding me down in the living room, and that's where we stop. My pajamas will be waiting on the couch arm and I'll get to go through the nice slow process of getting changed into them alone.

Mom kisses me before she heads upstairs, and leaves me to my nightly battle. She knows better than to offer any help. She knows I'll just be embarrassed and insist on doing it myself anyway. I wait until her bedroom door clicks upstairs before fumbling with the buttons on my shirt. It's not efficient and a couple of buttons go flying in the process, but I manage to get changed without any disasters happening. Things hadn't been so smooth my first time changing clothes blind, and my parents still catch little errors like buttoning things up the wrong way.

Settling onto the couch to stare at the ceiling, I try not to fall into the trap of thinking about that day and my mistakes, but I can't sleep, and I can't turn off my brain.


A state-of-the-art laboratory covered in chrome and tempered glass out in the middle of nowhere, Cadmus Labs, fairly screamed secrets-within. Clark made his entrance simply. There was a crew of janitors and he slipped in with them. They seemed to be expecting a temp worker named Larry, and he let them assume that was him.

With a squeaky wheeled yellow mop-bucket and blue coveralls as camouflage, no one suspected that he didn't belong. Peeking into the dark labs didn't exactly offer any great revelations, and Clark was beginning to feel a tiny bit ridiculous when he came to the first locked door.

Another man would have at least required some skills to get into a nice solidly padlocked security door. Clark just poked the locked out with a shove of his index finger and opened the door. No great revelations were waiting for him inside. There weren't any shining green rocks or Machiavellian scientists lurking around. It was just a bunch of plants. Clark pushed the squeaky mop bucket in to have a closer look, just to be sure that there weren't any mutants hiding under the geraniums.

Satisfied that the place wasn't anything out of the ordinary, Clark was ready to make his exit, when a red light started to flash. Looking up for his last glimpse at the world, Clark saw a mist of green rain start to fall.


"So stupid," I whisper. I just want to scream, to be free again. I want to open the door step off the porch and start running. Running has always been my escape. I always knew, in the back of mind, if I wanted, I could go anywhere, be anywhere. Now I can't even get to my loft on my own. If I stared running today, I'd be a blind missile, a danger to anyone who strayed into my path.

Despite my disastrous attempts at getting around up until now, I pull myself up and head for the door. I'm shuffling along an inch at a time, hands out in front of me groping until I find the front door. This is new, as far as the porch and no destruction. I open the door and the night air hits me fresh and cool. It feels better since I got here under my own power.

I don't see my parent's faces, but I feel their eyes on me, and I hear them open their bedroom window. They don't call out, seeming to know that I need to take these steps on my own. With a hand on the wall, I shuffle my way to the swing and manage to get seated. I can hear my parents' sighs of relief as I settle into a gentle rocking. Eventually, their window clicks, and I know I'm alone again. Alone with my thoughts in the dark, I remember what it felt like the first time I opened my eyes to nothingness.


"Hombre, you okay man? We got you out of there before the supervisor caught you in the off-limits lab. You trying to get everybody fired?" A shower was running, rinsing away the green liquid, which had rained on him in the lab. "We got you cleaned up, but we have to get you home man. This is my place. My woman, Liza, gonna be home soon though. Paulo said he'd give you a ride, just say where."

Clark snorted through the water flowing over him, clearing away the burning liquid, but his eyes were still aching. He blinked and blinked, but there wasn't anything. "I can't see. Why can't I see?" Thrashing around in the bathtub, the porcelain crumbled under his rain of fists. "Help me!"

Clark couldn't understand the Spanish curses the retreating janitor spat at him. He was alone in the dark. Groping across the bathroom, Clark tripped over the toilet and tore the door from its hinges trying to catch himself. It was so frightening. Anything could be out there, anyone. He didn't know where he was, or how he was going to get home. He didn't know what was wrong with his eyes. The darkness was suffocating, thick and endless. "Somebody help me...

"I can't see."


I can't help but smile when Alfonzo our old rooster calls the morning. Still rocking back and forth, my eyes are shut, but I can remember what the sunrise looks like from here. In my mind, I can paint the sky pink and yellow and blue. My parents are stirring upstairs, rustling their sheets fiddling in their closet. I focus my ears on the city, searching for some new pets to follow through the day. No one is really jumping out at me and my parents are descending the stairs.

"Good morning." The door squeaks and my mother's soft tread stops in front of me. "What do you feel like for breakfast?"

She didn't come out and say, way to go on the first steps, but it is there in her voice. I appreciate her subtlety. "Pancakes." My response is out before I think about how easy pancakes will be to eat, and I wish I could take it back. She's walking away though, without even offering to walk me to the bathroom or back to the couch. It doesn't matter. I can handle that walk.

I open my eyes, but not to blackness. Instead there is gray, nebulous and formless, but it isn't black. This time I do scream. I trill my response to Alfonzo's wake-up call. My parents are coming, and I can see them like gray formless blobs. Finally healing... "Light," I whisper to them. "I can see the light."