I heard the chime informing me someone opened the door. I glanced up from my clipboard to the front door and golden light filled my vision. In the center of the man’s chest, I saw a single thin golden ring of light. It radiated out of him, not something on his clothing or even skin. In the back of my mind I knew what it meant; a single ring, only a day wide. The ring grew wider each day for a year, then a new ring appeared. The day old man sat down across the counter from me and smiled.
“Uh, beer,” he said as he made himself comfortable on the red stool. He appeared to be about 25 years old.
“I.D.?” I asked. He looked to his left and right, noticing the empty bar. I thought he might ask me to let it slide, but he reached behind him and his hand returned with a dark leather wallet. He pulled out a driver’s license and handed it over. I expected an obvious fake, but it was a legitimate license issued yesterday, the man’s birthday.
“Hey, happy belated birthday,” I handed his license back, then grabbed a glass. He did not specify which beer he wanted, but I got the impression he did not know there were different kinds.
“Thanks, it was my first one,” he chuckled. He looked around the bar again, as if to double check he was the only patron. I set the glass down in front of him.
“Your first birthday?” I asked. Half joking, but genuinely curious. If he wanted to talk about why he was only a day old, I definitely wanted to hear it. It was a slow day, and I needed a break from doing inventory. I’d seen a lot of weird things, myself included. This man looked and talked old enough, and more importantly had proper I.D. Even if he was a day old, he wanted a beer and I had no reason not to give him one. He took a big swig of beer, then made a sour face. He set it on the counter and pushed it away, then nodded.
“That’s not for me. Yeah, I was born yesterday,” he said. I knew the truth, but somehow it still felt like a joke to hear him admit it. I smiled broadly and shook my head.
“Wow, that gulp hit you hard and fast,” I said. One thing you learn as a bartender; people often say things they shouldn’t. I liked to give them a chance to take it back when possible. “How ’bout some food?” I asked. I planned to give it to him on the house, but another thing I learned is to never tell them it’s free ahead of time. Even if they don’t want it they’ll take it because it’s free.
“Nope. Oh, I’m sorry. I’m still new. I should introduce myself. I’m David Wight. #34, El Soldado. Mundo sent me to see you,” he said.
“Oh.” I sighed. “Okay, it would have been nice if he let me know first. Explain how you’re only one day old though, that’s bugging me.” I walked to the front door and pulled the switch to turn off my OPEN sign, it was a slow day anyway. Then I walked back to him, on his side of the bar, and sat on a stool next to him.
“I don’t know how it all works but I know I was born a Zero, yesterday. They upgraded me to a Unique, then a Muerte aged me. I didn’t get her name though,” he shrugged.
“Whoa.” I put up both hands, palms facing him to get him to slow down. “Wait a second.” It was a lot of information to process.
“That can happen? Who upgraded you? How?” I asked. This was unprecedented as far as I knew, but if it could happen I knew exactly who I wanted to upgrade.
“Dana Sharp, some Zero with a multi-verse corporation. Rumor is she’s testing it out to upgrade herself.”
“Oh. That’s why Mundo didn’t tell me about you,” I said and shook my head. I did my best to stay out of anything involving that woman, she loved to experiment on Uniques. Mundo must have mentioned it to David because I saw the dark-haired man give a slight nod.
“Anyway, they killed a whole bunch of me in the same room, at the same time, with baby me there. And here I am,” he said. He stood from the stool, put his arms out wide and did a twirl to prove his existence.
“Wow.” I’d hoped to upgrade my wife to a Unique, but not like that. For some reason I liked the idea that there were other copies of her out there, making people as happy as she makes me. “Alright, well, uh… It’s going to take me a while to process all that, so let’s move on. You’re here because Mundo wants me to find your ability, right?” I asked. While it was the only reason he could be there, the day had been full of surprises. I needed to be sure. He nodded and remained standing, though he dropped his arms. I hopped off the stool, then moved to stand two feet in front of David.
“Soldado, right? This is gonna hurt.” Soldados were born to fight. Their abilities always manifested as something to help them do that. He nodded. I made a fist and turned my skin to bark. “In case he didn’t mention it, I’m #10 El Árbol. I can see people’s age by their rings, and I can turn my skin to bark.”
“I’m ready,” he said. I attacked.