We were out doing our usual bits of nothing in the fields. Corn stretched as far as the eye could see. I had my new car, for racing. Shannon had his new truck, for working on the farm. He was always practical and forward-thinking like that. That’s why it was strange that he wanted to go out here, randomly, to this spot in the corn fields. It was this sort of impulsiveness that was so unlike him.
It’s weird. The UFO actually made a sort of sense. Shannon had to be here, so naturally there was going to be something here. And I say UFO, but it was more like a brilliant shaft of light from the sky. There was some humming, and other lights. I sort of figured it was a UFO, though. Where the light touched the corn, it had started growing strangely. Crop circles, I figured.
Shannon disappeared. I think I screamed, and panicked, and started running around crazily. A few minutes later the light came back, and he was standing there. I was crying by then. The first thing he did was punch me lightly on the shoulder and grin, like it was okay to cry that you thought you just lost your best friend, like everything was cool. He wouldn’t tell.
I noticed he had something on his hand. I looked more closely. It was some kind of metal glove, but it moved like leather. He flexed it when he saw me staring. “It’s fine,” he said with a smile. “Let’s head back.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of this business, until the week after that. One of the reasons I admired Shannon was how tough he was. He was going to grow up into one of those farmers you see in westerns. The ones who won’t sell their land. The ones who love their wives and their kids. The ones who work the field from sunup to sundown. The ones who get shot by the local cattle baron, and avenged by the gunslinger. Shannon got teased a lot by the other boys at school. He wasn’t big on football - in this town, everyone is big on football - and he had what people thought of as a girl’s name. In this town, those are what you’d call cardinal sins. When the bullies came for him this time, Shannon didn’t run. He didn’t discreetly stay out of the way, like usual. He walked toward them. And now I noticed that he was wearing that metal glove.
Now, people in this part of the country aren’t stupid or simple. The textbooks have to have a sticker warning us about evolution, sure. But that’s religious nonsense from Texas. Any farmer worth his salt is using evolution when he replants his crops or breeds his livestock. We know other things too, like what to plant in what kind of soil. There’s only so much land, and we have to make the most of it all. “Plant what’ll grow, reap what’ll keep,” is how Shannon put it, a phrase he learned from his father.
I wasn’t particularly smart, but I knew what I knew. So I had sort of developed a scientific notion in my mind. Aliens had come down, answered Shannon’s call for help, given him some kind of amazing technology or weapon or something, and were even now waiting for intergalactic shenanigans to kick off in our sleepy little town. I was 17, give me a break. But at the time it made sense. So I tell at Shannon, "wait a minute! Those guys are bad, yeah. But you can’t just kill them with some kind of alien weapon. Please!" He just turns and smiles, the kindest smile I ever saw from that man. “It’s not a weapon,” he tells me, and turns around and keeps walking.
The bullies surround him, start pushing him around. Shannon starts laughing at them. It’s not like he’s mocking them, though they certainly took it for that. It’s like there was a joke nobody knew but him. So one of them - Bryan Whittaker, I think - throws a punch. It’s a good one. Bryan can really fight, thanks to his dad teaching him both when he’s sober and not. And it connects. I feel it from where I’m standing. But Shannon just keeps laughing. The other boys start laying into him too. Fists, feet, elbows. Shannon’s still at it. It’s like they’re tickling him.
This goes on for a good half minute. The bullies are getting scared. Whatever’s going on isn’t natural. So they scatter. Shannon’s still standing there, grinning. The glove on his hand is glowing slightly. “What was that?” I asked him, so he explained.
“This thing’s called a Helping Hand. Given to me by people who aren’t from Earth, called Life Force. The Hand is a tool for channeling life energy. That’s the power that makes things alive and helps everything grow. I can use the Hand for a lot of different things. I used it to make myself strong, to heal myself, to not feel any pain.”
“Could you…” I ransacked my memory of comic book superheroes and the sci-fi flicks at the local theater, trying to find a suitable solution. “I dunno, couldn’t you have grown to 50 feet or something, or made yourself super strong and beat those guys up?”
Shannon nodded soberly. Yeah - he had actually been thinking about this. “I could,” he admitted. “But I like this way better. Didn’t give those guys a reason to hate me more. I just messed with their assumptions. Now they’re gonna have to actually think about something.”
I was confused. I did occasional car races with a gang from the next county, so competition was my default assumption. Maybe I was being forced to think about something too. “Well… so you didn’t want them to hate you. I get that. But don’t you want to get them back for all the wrong they’ve done you?”
Shannon laughed again. "Well, I can plant seeds of violence, or I can plant seeds of forgiveness. Which would you rather see more of? I figured I had a chance to change their minds, get them to stop bullying people all together, maybe find a way to forgive them that didn’t convince them I was weak. You know how it is." My best friend grinned at me. “Plant what’ll grow, reap what’ll keep.”