To say that John hadn’t been very close to his father would be to make one of the largest understatements known to man. He rarely saw the man when he was growing up, despite a number of his irregular visits. There were many, but John barely remembered him spending anytime with him. Nevertheless, he provided well for him and his mother, despite the fact that the two never married. As John grew into his early teens he learned by accident that his father was a very powerful and wealth businessman in the state, and he and his mother weren’t his only family, not in the legal sense, anyway. No, he was married and had another family; all three daughters were around the same age as John, give or take a few years. John was crushed. He’d always looked forward to his father’s visits, almost as much as his mother, despite not being able to remember them. It was as if he knew they happened, but couldn’t add any detail. His father’s visits grew less frequent as he grew older, but he knew his mother stayed in touch. When he was able to summon enough courage to ask his mother about what he had learned, she simply explained that they had an arrangement and she was satisfied to see him whenever he could make the time. And so it went, John was raised by his single mother; she seemed to be able to provide for him everything he needed. She never seemed interested in other men and since she received a large monthly stipend from his father, she didn’t have to work, and spent her spare time volunteer for many different charities. They were comfortable and there always seemed to be enough money so that they never wanted for anything.
It was the beginning of summer, just a few months since his eighteenth birthday when John learned of his father’s passing. They didn’t go to the funeral, although he doubted that they would welcome his father’s mistress and her bastard son. He wondered if his father’s official family even knew of their existence. Suddenly, he was concerned about his mother’s financial security. With his father’s passing it was likely she be without financial support. He wondered if she had planned for this and if she would now have to go to work. He surprised her by dropping by the next day. John had moved in with some friends shortly after his 18th birthday, it was unusual for an eighteen year old to be on his own, but he wanted his mother to have the opportunity to be single and resume dating, without having to explain her eighteen year son. Nevertheless his visits were frequent and at regular intervals, Tuesdays, and Sundays, with occasional visits on Saturday afternoons. He spoke with her daily, but this wasn’t something he felt he they should discuss over the phone.
Arriving he found her in a great mood. The kitchen table was littered with travel brochures and her day planner opened, she was in the final stages of a phone call with his aunt and her sister, who booked all her traveling dates. He strolled in catching her eye, she smiled and the room seemed to brighten. She was still a very attractive woman, only in her late thirties. She didn’t seem to have aged much since meeting his father, he thought as he remembered some of the photos she kept out of her and his father when he was young. She maintained her hour glass figure and always looked good in anything she wore. If anything she may have gained a little an inch or cup size but it was hard to tell. He took a minute to appraise her, something he didn’t do very often, she was his mother after all, but she was very attractive. Maybe he should try to fix her up? He approached her and gave her a peck on the cheek. She held up her index finger and quickly began dialing again. “I’ll be just one minute.” She said, as she watched him seat himself across from her.
“Hello again Jim,” She said. Yes, I’ve booked my flight and I am looking forward to seeing you too, gotta go now, bye-bye!”
“Gee mom”, John said. “I don’t think I’ve seen you this excited about anything in a long time! What’s going on?”
“Johnny, she said,” I guess you should know, that I’m dating!.” She was absolutely giddy. “One of the doctors at the hospital where I been volunteering at asked me to meet him in Cabo San Lucas for the weekend. Isn’t it grand?”
“Yeah, sure mom, how long have you know this guy?”
“Jim? I’ve known him for years. He’s been after me since I first began working at the hospital. Why do you ask?”
“No reason, I am happy that you’re dating, it just seems so sudden to me. How come you haven’t considered dating him sooner?”
She frowned briefly, as she pondered what she thought was a very good question, then smiled dismissing it and said, “You’re right…but who cares! I’m free. I can date anyone I choose.” She laughed and handed him a page torn out of a fashion magazine. It was a picture of a model wearing a skimpy bikini.
“What do you think? Don’t you think that would look great on me?
John swallowed hard. He tried hard not to picture his mother in that brief swim suite, not that she couldn’t make that work. She worked out regularly and looked ten years younger than her age, but she was his mother. He knew he’d have to answer; she was waiting with a look on her face that he imagined all husband’s dread when asked the dreaded “does this make me look fat” question. He’d have to be careful, he thought to himself.
“Gee, mom…isn’t it a little skimpy? What’s wrong with your regular suite?”
She smiled again and thought to herself, “clever boy”, as she took the page back from him. “Oh, no, that old thing will never do. In fact, I think I may go out and buy a whole new wardrobe.”
“Ahh….,” he stammered. “Won’t that be expensive? I mean dad just died, won’t that mean your finances will take a hit or did he leave you something?”
She paused and looked at him seriously for a moment.
“Oh, you heard about his death, I was hoping to break the news to you gently. You know in a way I am sad, because we shared so much. There are many things I have never told you about your father. What do you remember?”
“Mom, it’s strange. I can’t even remember what he looks like let alone that we spent any time together.”
“Oh that’s right. I forgot.” She paused as if she was going to tell him something, but changed her mind.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“Oh it’s that you were so young, but, I am so happy because I am finally free!” She said that as she threw the page in the air; leap up from her chair, twirled around on tiptoes around the table while dancing through the kitchen. She even leaped in the air gracefully landing on her feet. She secretly hoped that she hadn’t raised his suspicions. She couldn’t tell him that she had just been released from the mental prison shed been in for the last twenty years, unable to make any real decisions about her future without his father’s approval. But now that was all over, with his death, his mental hold was broken.
John could remember seeing his mother this happy since he was a small boy. But, why is she talking about being free? To his knowledge his dad hadn’t been around in years, wasn’t she free to live her life? There was something a little strange about this, he thought.
When she stopped dancing long enough, he asked again about her finances. She told him that his father had been very generous over the years, depositing money directly into her bank account and she’s been able to save a good deal of the money, in the event that the money would one day stop coming.
She suddenly remembered, and walked over the mail pile, and pulled an envelope out of the pile, this letter was delivered yesterday, she handed to him. It was a letter from his father’s estate. It basically stated that she would continue to receive her usually support, adjusted for inflation until she died or ceased to want the money.
He smiled, maybe it wasn’t so mysterious after all, he thought. She was financially free and entitled to celebrate. He looked up and she was dancing again. She retrieved a box from the table and handed it to him.
“And this came for you,” she said.
He accepted the small square box, it was approximately 4x4x4 and wrapped in plain brown wrapping paper with his name on it. There were no postal markings on it, or overnight carrier tags. Turning it over and over he asked, “Whose it from?”
She shrugged; it was delivered along with the letter. It came from the estate, too. Aren’t you going to open it?
He thought about it. If it was from the estate, then maybe it was from his father. A man he barely knew and can’t remember ever interacting with as a child or as a young man. He didn’t care enough to see him when he was alive, and now that he’d dead he had a gift for him? John didn’t know how he should react. He felt nothing. He strained to bring forth any memory, even the slightest, but nothing. He knew something was there, but they were just out of his reach. Maybe he’d need to see a psychiatrist to get his answers, maybe hypnosis was needed. “No, I think I’ll wait to get home to see what the old man left me,” he said as he tossed the box from one hand to the other.
“Well…he said. I was worried about you, but I can’t seem to remember seeing you in a better mood. I am going to head out, I’ve got some stuff do, and you’ll be okay?” He asked as he leaned in to deliver a kiss on the cheek and a hug.
As she accepted the kiss and hugged him back and then said as the hug was released. “Of course I will. You know you can come back home, your room is still there and I plan on doing a bit of traveling, so the place will need some looking after.”
“Mom, you hate traveling! What’s gotten into you?”
She paused to think about that, she really loved traveling, but Johnny’s dad didn’t allow her to do much of that and that is what he had told him, she suddenly remembered. As she thought about it, there were a number of things that she liked to do, but had stopped abruptly after meeting Johnny’s father. She almost got angry, and then shrugged it off as that was then, this is now. She was free to do all those things she had loved doing but for reasons she didn’t even realize that she had stopped, including dating.
She smiled one of those smiles and said, “People can change; besides there are many places that I have been thinking I’d like to see.”
You know mom, you have a point, and I may take you up on your offer to move back in. The only reason he moved out was to give her space. Besides he didn’t really like sharing an apartment with his roommates, they were pigs and could be very immature.
He was tossing the package back and forth between his two hands, when he began to wonder what it contained. Kissing his mother again he left and within ten minutes found himself locked in his room carefully peeling the brown paper from the box.
He pulled out the contents of the small box. He wasn’t sure what he expected but he didn’t expect to find another box, or was it a cube. It appeared solid, he thought as he turned it in his hands, it looked and felt like expensive wood, the rich grain was a medium brown and seemed to be highly polished without feeling that way. It looked as though it would be perfect on the mantle in someone’s den. The cube seemed solid, he didn’t see any seams. But he sensed there was something inside. He said out loud, “How am I supposed to open this thing?”
“Identify yourself.” It sounded more like a command than an answer to his question and came from the cube. It startled him and he almost dropped it. Its weight seemed to have changed; it now felt slightly heavier and warmer to his touch. He decided to put it down before continuing.
“Identify yourself” he heard again, and then he realized that he heard it in his mind, and not aloud. He replied in his mind, “is this some sort of trick?”
“You now have 30 seconds to reply.”
“Why?” John was beginning to become annoyed.
“25 seconds…24 seconds…”
“Is this a joke?” He thought back. “Who are you?” he demanded.
“20 seconds…19 seconds…” and continued to count down.
“10 seconds…9 seconds…”
“All right, I’m John Smith, my mom calls me Johnny.” He was getting nervous and didn’t mean to mention his mom.
“Voice recognition confirmed, John Smith. Use your DNA, to open the cube.”
John stared at the cube, he thought. “Use my DNA, which means by blood or saliva.” He didn’t want to cut himself and didn’t want to lick the thing, so quickly stuck his finger in his mouth and smeared his saliva across the top of the cube.
It is hard to describe what happened next but the solid wood cube opened by peeling back layers of itself and stacking them on either side of the original cube as if the wood had become a liquid. Peering closer inside, John could see what appeared to be a much smaller box rising from the center. As the smaller box or cube continued to rise a voice in his mind began speaking.
“Johnny or should I call you Jonathan, I am or was your father. Although I am dead, there is a little of me that remains. I know that you hardly remember me; your memories have been suppressed. I actually have spent quite a lot of time with you, although, not in in a very long time, but the conditions that I have lived under demanded that I keep you at arm’s length. I have bequeathed to you my greatest treasure and the source my power and wealth. Be careful how you use it. It is very powerful. Early mistakes and errors in judgment will be tolerated as you learn to control your thoughts, but if you continue to make the same errors in judgment, which is what I have done and was part of the reason that I couldn’t see you as often as I wished, there will be consequences. I deeply regret that I haven’t been able to confide in you earlier, but I was the victim of my poor reasoning. You will understand all once you take possession of my gift. Know, too, John that this is a gift I could only give to a son, which is why you were born, to carry on the legacy. This is my gift to you, a gift from your father.”
At this the voice in his head went silent; the box finished melting away and displayed to his eyes the most magnificent ring he’d ever seen. It was gold and had many stones of all colors encrusted upon it. It could be compared to a “Super Bowl” ring, but was grander, if that was possible. There was no inscription, at least none that he could see at the moment.
He tried to remain calm, but it was as if it was calling out to him, so he reached his right hand out for it, and it disappeared and reappeared on his ring finger. He was startled. He hadn’t intended to put it on, only wanted to get a better look at it. Immediately, he felt a surge of adrenaline, he fought a panic reflex, it was suffocating, he like he couldn’t breathe, just as he was about to reach his limit, it past. He felt good. Better than good, he felt stronger, stronger than he had ever felt. His mind seemed more open, as if he was using parts of his brain he’d never used before. It all was beginning to make sense. Memories of his father came flooding back, all at once. He remembered. He remembered it all, who his father was and what he looked like and all times they spent together. He also knew why his father stopped visiting; it was a punishment by the ring. He felt himself smiling. His father loved him and he loved and cherished the time that they spent together. He began to weep at his father’s passing. The ring seemed to allow him a few short minutes to grieve before it opened his mind more.
This was the ancient ring the Ring of Power, its origins were thought to have been from a time when mankind worshiped gods like Zeus and Odin, but even the ring itself didn’t know for certain. It believed that it may be extra-terrestrial in origin. It has been passed from father to son for centuries.
John felt a new surge of brain activity and blinked rapidly several times unable to move as hundreds of terabytes of data seemed to be downloading into his brain. And then as suddenly as it began it stopped. He took a deep breathe.
He was still for a brief moment and then it dawned on him, “I can control things, people, and my physical body, and in some cases others, too.” He had read enough science fiction and seen enough television and movies to have some ideas of what that all meant and what he should try to do first.
He wasn’t a bad looking young man, a little skinny, not at all muscular, wiry was the word to describe his physique. His acne was finally beginning to clear up and his facial hair was sporadic at best. He was average height under six feet, about 5’9″. He gave up on being taller long ago, realizing that it simply wasn’t in the cards. But now he could change all of that. He could change his body, face, anything and everything.
Where should he to begin, he thought. He got up and walked into his bathroom, looking into the mirror he decided to start with his face. His face became warm and glowed pink and settle back to his natural shade, he had cleared his acne with a simple thought. He liked how clean his face looked. He stared at his face again, he always thought his nose was too big so he began to shape it, he could feel it burn and he realized quickly that he had to be careful, or he could hurt himself. Before long he settled on a smaller nose one that was straighter and narrower. With a thought he willed his facial hair to be thick and rich, instantly he had a full beard, it made him look much older. He then tried for the unshaven look that many actors were sporting these days. He kind of liked the look and decided to keep it, while he considered his hair, which needed trimming. He retrieved a sports magazine from his room and saw a cut that he liked and it was then on his head. Then he changed the color from brown to blonde and then to red and then black. Finally he settled on blonde. Looking into the mirror he barely recognized himself. He decided to change his hair back to its original color and that he would go with the clean shaven look for now. Glancing at the magazine again, he thought about adding some muscles. He turned the pages to see the pictures of a body builder and thought it would be great. He heard it before he felt it, his clothing shredding and falling away from his body. He was a pale version of “The Incredible Hulk”; he laughed as he stared into the mirror.
He finally backed off the muscles until he had added a few pounds and definition to his body. He could always add more, but he wanted to be able to just show a little and lock them in. He looked up and down his body and liked what he saw. Then he looked at his sexual equipment and made a few adjustments there. He’d only been with a few girls and knew that bigger was better. He could make more adjustments as the needed. He felt himself and realized how much bigger he had gotten. He liked what he’d done and laughed loudly. He wished he had gotten this ring when he had been in high school and had to endure the showering after gym class.
He decided that he would cure himself of any and all aliments and he felt really good, strong and better than he had ever felt in his entire life. The final change of the day was to gradually add a little more color to his complexion, the kind of coloring that his friends would have paid good money in the tanning salons to achieve.
He was almost ready to meet the world, he need to some clothes. Just as he was about to walk to his closet, he decide to have his jeans appear in his hands and they did. It was his last clean pair, and they weren’t his favorite, he willed them on along with the appropriate undergarment and changed them into what he had in mind. He did the same with his shirt and shoes.
He was getting the hang of these new powers. He looked down the strong muscular arms and that the ring on his finger. As much as he loved the ring, it was a little too much bling and would attract unintended attention, not that it would be a problem, he felt he could take on a battalion marines. No, the smart thing was to not get into that type of situation in the first place. Blending in was important and he could make any changes necessary. As he looked again the ring began to change, finally looking like an average high school ring. Perfect, he thought.