The gauge wove itself up his neck and around his ears, humming contently. He could hear the frequencies, their vibrations creating a cloud that remained around his head from day to day, never letting him miss any shifts in patterns.
Counseling and practice sessions had begun to consume most of Mark’s time. He plotted where he’d be the very moment it happened, and now the trick was feeding into Scheat’s energy in that beautifully violent two seconds as much as he could.
This would be the defining moment in his life. It would carry him forward.
“Remember to breathe. Never hold your breath or second guess yourself. You will have two seconds of insurmountable elation, and then it will dilute into a steady pace of higher frequencies, but nothing will ever top that one moment,” Jenna reminded the class over and over.
Jenna had been leading supernova conditioning for over seven years. Mark remembered his class’s first day, when Jenna stood at the podium and told the story of her supernova.
“I was on the train on my way to work and it came over me and was gone. I did nothing.” Jenna’s face was chiseled like most of the other red giants. Her mouth always looked stern. She made a good coach both because of her regrets and her demeanor.
“After tearing myself apart for not syncing well enough to have any idea my supernova was so near, I decided all I could do was make sure that I never let anyone miss their moment again.” She looked down at the podium and she seemed to fight off a wave of self-pity before looking back up to the class.
“None of you will miss your moment,” she whispered just audibly enough for the students to hear.
Some leaned nervously back into their chairs, but Mark leaned forward – his head spinning with potential scenarios. Where would he be? Just reaching the top of Mount Everest? Opening the accounting firm he’d always dreamed of? He smiled a little at his last thought: robbing a bank?
Two years later and any jokes Mark had considered were long dead. How do you prepare for two seconds over a five year course? Does it take that long to train yourself to savor such small increments of time?
Lucia stood five feet away with her eyes shut in deep concentration, trying to conjure an emotion similar to that of the moment of supernova in her head. She was in such a deep state that her eyelids were fluttering as though she was asleep.
Mark adored that face and its huge eyes that saw the world through infinite curiosity.
“I want to be as near to her as possible. I want to be surrounded by nothing but her aura,” she whispered to him one day on the train.
He looked down at her as a smile crept across her face. She was a little mad.
The privileged disposition of the red giants left them with nothing to hide. Lucia’s gauge shone brightly even in the train’s fluorescent lighting. Other passengers stared at her hesitantly, not wanting to seem invasive, but captivated by the light emitting from the couple nearby.
They usually wore red or orange, but Mark refused. “I want people to look at my face and know what kind of person I am,” he told Jenna during their fifth session.
She smiled knowingly. “I don’t worry about you, Mark. You are one of my strongest students.”
As he stood in the conditioning room amongst all of his classmates, he wondered who would make the most of their moments, or what it even meant to make the most of them. Anyone’s experience and level of euphoria was subjective. Darius wanted to be swimming laps when his supernova hit. Mark could only think of a few other things he’d rather not do besides such an awful physical activity.
What did it mean to bask in the energy of a supernova, anyway? Was it just the act of knowing, or the translation of the star’s energy as it washed over his body?
Mark wasn’t sure, but he was going to find out, and there was no way that his human tendencies to overlook and fail were going to get in his way.