On the Shoulders of Stars by Michael Grant Smith

If David gripped the handheld remote too tightly, it might squirt out and escape as a banana does from its own peel. Too loosely and he’d drop the banana. His lips compressed into a half-smile/half-call-for-help. Salt and acid burned the cracked corners of his mouth. Forgotten on a side-table, his beverage and snacks dispersed their atoms in a steady exodus.

He’d acquired the ability to control the news. Any topic, any outcome. He didn’t ask for the gift — wouldn’t have known who to petition, believed reflexively he couldn’t cope with responsibilities.

When David was younger and immortal, and hadn’t yet imagined his body would someday betray him, lights in the evening sky dangled within reach. Using fine wire he could’ve strung a radiant necklace to bestow upon his beloved; maybe tomorrow, or next week, why hurry? One by one the stars disappeared and Saturn snubbed the southern horizon. Mars abandoned its role as lunar sidekick. David stopped looking upward, but remorse lingered. Oh how he’d miss the moon’s crooked grin. As for the most important person in David’s life, their name soon escaped his recollection.

A chance to refurbish his past — an added bonus of David’s new, inexplicable power. Fortified by a reawakened sense of his own potential, David forgave everyone who’d done him dirty. His long-mildewed grievances faded in sunlight. The familiar noises outside his window were music rather than an aggravation.

A frown crimped David’s face. In the space of a dozen heartbeats he came to distrust his singularity. Was he the conduit through which his abilities flowed, or was the remote? His cognition and opposable thumbs versus plastic and science. Jealousy struck him the way a clump of ice smashed his teeth whenever he drank the last sip of cola.

Shirtless in his favorite chair, David stoked the grease fire inside his brain. Sentience frazzled him, its payoff always uncertain. What if he balanced the remote on his stomach? He wasn’t particularly hairy and the remote affixed itself to this sticky dome of flesh.

David narrowed his eyes and sighed. Status indicators on the remote blinked. The TV’s all-caps chyron shouted about the cessation of drought and famine in the sub-Saharan desert. Human beings he hadn’t met, would never meet, benefited from his influence. His jaw popped and his nostrils flared and oversaturated graphics set ablaze the screen: ALERT! OCEAN WATER LEVELS RISE THREE METERS WORLDWIDE. Sorry, New Orleans…tough luck, Venice. Buh-bye, Bangkok. Lacking first-hand experience of those cities, he thought them abstractions populated by ghosts.

A trawler on sinusoidal seas, the remote rose and fell on David’s naked belly. He grasped the device; with the sound of a key turning a lock-bolt, it let go and he popped open the access cover. The battery compartment? Empty. More news broke, of jewels falling like rain, of particolored gutters choked and overflowing. Gem prices had collapsed due to oversupply, droned an analyst, but perhaps the glittering trifles could be admired for their own sake.

Michael Grant Smith wears sleeveless T-shirts, weather permitting. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Airgonaut, Ghost Parachute, The Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Spelk, Bending Genres, MoonPark Review, and elsewhere. Michael resides in Ohio. He has traveled to Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Cincinnati.

Image: unsplash.com