NPR logo Darius Kroger

Darius Kroger

For Round 7 of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction that have a character come to town and someone leave town.
Man lifting rock.

Darius Kroger had a talent for moving impossibly-heavy objects. When he was a child, he could haul a cast iron stove uphill, on one shoulder as if it were a knapsack, or stack cows on top of one another half a dozen deep. As a young man, he once lifted a three-story house off its foundations without upsetting the teacups on the kitchen table or the water in the upstairs bathtub.

Darius Kroger did not look like a person who could do such things. Over six-feet tall, he had never weighed more than 120 pounds. Most people, you included, could wrap the fingers of one hand all the way around his arm at the thickest part. He had begun losing his hair at the age of 12, and at 20 only a few long, tangly fibers clung to the back of his skull. His eyes, so pale they were almost clear, seemed to slip away from whatever they looked at.

He had never learned to speak, or perhaps he had simply never felt the obligation. As a result, demonstrations of his ability almost always came without warning, and usually caused the utmost consternation among anyone who happened to be present for them. He refused to press his gift, or any other part of himself, into service in the name of making a living; instead, he untethered himself from the people and places he knew, and set to wandering the world, alone.

One day Darius Kroger was walking down a street in a city — he did not know which one — when he saw a beautiful young woman with red hair standing on the sidewalk in front of a great, glittering building made of steel and glass. She was looking up at the building as if it were the most wonderful thing she had ever seen. Darius Kroger stepped up to the building and put his ropy arms against it. With seemingly no effort, tore it right out of the ground, lifted it over the young woman's head, and dropped it on her.

From that day on Darius Kroger was kept locked in a small room by men in uniforms, where he could no longer wander, and certainly couldn't move any heavy objects. He was still alone most of the time, but once the men put chains on his arms and legs and took him out of his small room and into another one. In the new room, a beautiful woman with a little bit of grey in her red hair was sitting at a metal table. Darius sat down across from her. Why, she asked. Why. Just please tell me why.

Darius Kroger fixed his unblinking clear-pale eyes on her and lifted his chained arms and smoothed out the tangly fibers on the back of his skull. Then he spoke the only words he would ever speak.

"It was a present," he said. "I thought she could lift it too."