If you could see into the future, what would you look for? Would you want to see lottery numbers, or build a business based on accurate predictions? Would you look for safety for your loved ones, and bring it about any way you could? Would it become a superpower, to be used in service of a higher power? No doubt you'd use the power for something, right? I've never really never found it to work like that, unfortunately. It's tempting to think that you could have anything you wanted. I wish that was the case.
What if it only worked sometimes?
I don't usually sit at the front of the classroom during maths; honestly, I can't think of anywhere I'd rather spend less time. But when buses run late there isn't often anywhere else to sit. So, imagine. I sit at the front of my class, copying questions down from the board for homework, when the alarm goes. Not the fire alarm, that's the standard red flashing light. No, this is the emergency alarm that means something awful is about to happen. We're supposed to go downstairs to the emergency bunker to await instructions from our headteacher. This sort of thing hasn’t happened in a long time, at least not by surprise. Something’s wrong.
Only I don't go with the others. Instead, I duck past Mr Cawfell and slip into the girls toilets. It's amazing how easy it is to disappear when there's no one to notice you. I can still hear the panicked yells of some of the girls, as well as the faux-bravado of the guys trying to outdo each other. I'm scared. I don't know what's coming, which is frightening. I usually know what's coming; I see it happening. Most of the time. It’s more unpredictable than the powers of the others here, at The Academy. I don’t always know what I’m going to see, so I make mistakes, which means I have a lot of enemies. But that’s not important right now. What could be more powerful than the people at my school. The magic that runs within us makes us stronger than armies. What’s so dangerous that it sends our teachers running?
Typical. I've actually done my homework, and this whole escapade will mean I'll get detention anyway. The noises of the hallway have faded into a background hum, and I feel much safer so I go outside. There are no lights in the hallway, just the faintest glow from the windows of the classrooms that even the heavy oak doors seem unable to block completely. I remember the way to the bunker, and head in the opposite direction; if this is a drill I'd be in so much trouble. If it isn't, I don't want to lead any sort of danger to them. Only the sound of my breath echoes now, the rest of my class having long since passed through and downstairs. The silence deafens me.
Blood. On the floor, a bloody footprint. Slightly smudged in someone's hurry, and there's a trail leading towards the gymnasium. No shoes, it was a human’s footprint, why aren’t they wearing shoes? I follow the trail as silently as I can manage. A couple of the lockers have been flung open, doors ripped from the hinges. I haven't seen strength like this. Not even someone here has that raw power. Hanging lights above my head dance on chains; something big had come through here. Either that, or it had moved very quickly. I swallow, and pad onwards. The doors of the gym match the lockers, flung forwards. They now lay on the gym floor in splinters of wood and glass. I resist the urge to call out. The last thing I want to do is attract attention. Slowly, sticking to the wall, and keeping as low as possible, I enter the Gym.
A swing and a hiss, and there's a person stood in front of me. neither male nor female, black hair, spiky and cut short, and a face that reminded me of the elves in stories; high cheek bones, wide eyes. They stare at me, unblinking, and I can't look away. Their eyes changed colour as I watched. Blue, red, green, silver. Fading into each other like a mood lamp some of the kids have at home. I'm transfixed. They're ghostly pale, skin like tracing paper, and I really can see lines all over their body. Deep blue and purple trails crossing their body like a road map, underneath defined muscle. They haven't spoken. I can't say anything either, words failing me as they so often do. A flash of silver catches my eye, I turn my head down to see the knife slotted almost casually underneath my ribs. It's a delayed kind of pain, and I hold their eye contact until they disappear, and I fall forward onto my knees. The knife is pushed further inside me.
I'm woken by a piercing scream. The vision fades, and it only takes me a few seconds to realise that the whole thing was a dream. I close my mouth, and straighten my stiffened back. Fighting a wince, I promptly throw up all over the blue carpet on my bedroom floor. It's going to be one of those days. The smell churns my stomach again, my head pounds, but I push myself upright and, skirting around the vomit pool, I leave the room and enter the bathroom where I throw up again. This time, into the toilet. The death visions have always been the worst, and I can still feel the twisting of the blade in amongst my stomach, feel the blood slowly dripping down my body. I shudder. There’s no way I’m going to school today, just to be killed.
I’m murdered in a lot of my recent visions. I don’t know if it’s the fear of being attacked, which started when my parents….when they left. It’s a complicated story, and not one that’s particularly interesting and so I won’t bore you with the details. I’ve been trying to find out where the visions come from. I’ve thrown myself into psychology and sociology, but nothing. Biology too, studying the brain, although thats more of a hobby than something I do in school.
Speaking of school, I still need to phone about my not coming in. I stumble my way downstairs, and ring the number. It’s not until they don’t pick up that I realise it’s still only four am. No one would be there. After such a vision, there’s no way I’d be able to get back to sleep, my stomach churning still, so instead I pull on a hoodie left laying around from last night, and my trainers. I’ll go for a walk instead. It’s not unusual for me to do so at this time-as I’ve said, I have a lot of visions in which I’m dying.
The winter air is cold, and my hoodie only thin, but I force myself to slow my pace. I have literally hours to kill, there’s not much point is rushing. The streetlamps illuminate everything with a warm orange glow, but I’m not in the mood for comforting. I head for the alleyways and backstreets leading to the woods. The darkness envelops me, surrounding me with its embrace. With the days being difficult enough to survive, what with school, and then coming home to an empty house, I’ve felt an affinity with darkness for years. The noises of the night don’t bother me either. The odd car speeding down empty roads, foxes snuffling through rubbish bags, cats fighting in the streets. So when I jump at a cracking twig, I laugh at myself for being so silly.
“Good job there, Alexis. Smooth.” I continue down the alley that’ll take me out to the wood. A twig cracks again, and I spin, analysing the dark path. I see a slight tremble of movement at the edge, where concrete reaches trees. A sudden pull on my hair drags me backwards, a damp rag over my mouth.
I can't see anymore, beyond my mobile phone screen. It’s dark and cold, colder than the streets, and although I don’t know where I am, I’m obviously underground somewhere. I sit cross legged on a stone floor, with walls and ceilings of the same type of rock. I can hear a storm; there’s no way I’m in the city anymore. The room looks like it’s been carved out of a solid lump, like a cave. It makes no sense - I still have my mobile. Why would they give me my mobile? I have no service, or wifi of course, but still. I can record everything that happens. If I’m not just left to rot.
I haven’t eaten in who knows how long. It’s hard to tell with no light, and no visitors, but I think it’s been at least twenty four hours. The water (God, I hope its water) running down the rocks and pooling in dents on the ground quenches my thirst when I need it to, but no food. I’m fine for now, but soon…
I sleep when I can. It’s not often, every four or so hours I can take a twenty minute nap. My eyes adjusted to the dark quickly, and now I can see almost as well as with a weak torch light. The door-there is a door-is metal, I think aluminium or steel or something, and there’s no handle. I can’t figure out how it’s locked, perhaps bolted from the outside. I wonder if any one from school noticed I was missing. I doubt it. Sometimes, I yell out.
“You watch it!” I’ll exclaim suddenly. “My family are coming to get me. And the police.” I gave that up pretty quickly though. The lies just brought tears to my eyes. I’d then attack myself-pulling at my long hair until it matted, hammering on the metal door, attacking the stone walls until my knuckles bled. I’m quiet now. There’s nothing I can do until they come and get me. Nothing except write. It wouldn't be so bad if something was happening, but as it is I’m going to go insane.
I heard a voice today. I’m sure of it, although it’s been, what, three days of silence. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman, but they definitely spoke.
“Help me.” They said. It sounded as though it came from outside of my cave, from within the rocks itself. It almost didn't seem real, like it was whispered from the edges of my imagination. Maybe it wasn't real at all.
My visions have started up again. For a couple of days they were disjointed and confusing, but now they’re crystal clear, dizzyingly so. I almost preferred the broken ones. I’m not dying anymore. At least, not right away. They are coming though. The men and women in white. I can’t tell what they want. I just watch the world burn, dark and distant, from someplace in the sky. I feel like a dream in the visions, or no. Like I’m watching the storm through a lens, or a glass of water. I feel separate from the pain, the suffering. I feel...like a God.
The people in white coats are watching me. I know, because I saw one of them. It was a different vision, where he came in and laid a tray down. I woke up from the swirling colours and counted the seconds. He came at five hundred and twelve later. I didn’t speak to him, merely looked from the back of my cave, blinking weakly at the bright, blinding light from beyond the door. I think he wore a labcoat, though that could have been the fluorescent beams. He laid down a tray of soup. I think it was soup. It was thick, and strong, and probably vegetable. I get the impression that I’m going to be fed just enough to keep me alive, but not enough to fight. At the moment, I couldn’t even if I wanted to.
They’ve installed a small latch on the outside of my door, that I can’t open from in here. They must have done it when I was asleep or something, I do that a lot more recently. Every so often, a bowl is passed through, along with a bottle. I didn’t know what the bottle was for, so I left it. The man who brings it to me asked for it back. I can never see his face, but I think he’s young. He seemed young when we spoke.
“What do you want me for?” I asked him. My voice was raspy and quiet; it was the first time I’ve spoken since getting here. He shrugged. His eyes were blank, but there was something about the set of his face...I think he’s sorry for me. He handed me the bottle and asked for a sample.
“Of what?” I asked.
“Urine.” His expression remained serious as I gagged.
“What the hell do you want that for?” Again he shrugged, and turned away. Swallowing my pride, I turned to the corner and did my business. I screwed the lid back on and handed it to him. He nodded and left silently. I’ve started analysing my food as best I can, though it doesn’t smell or taste funny. Why else would they want it? They must be drugging me somehow, and I’m going to find out why.
I’m growing darker, more faded. Like a dream after you’ve awoken; it begins to fade from memory until there’s nothing left. The cave’s grown darker too, phasing me out. The man, Eric, his name is, told me all he knows. He hates working here; he wants to quit however he can. He said they need a psychic. That’s what they call me. Not all magic is the same, and mine is the only type that will work.
“We planned to attack your school.” I asked why. “Because of your power.”
“You understand it?” He nodded. “Tell me everything.”
“You don’t know how it works?”
“No. No one at the Academy has seen it before.” His eyebrows pulled together. “My school.” I clarified.
“Oh. Well you don’t get them often, do you?” I shook my head. “That’s because you only have one when they make a decision. So, until we planned the attack on your school, and in doing so, directly hurting you, you wouldn't have seen it.”
“How do you know more about my power than I do?”
“It’s my job. I need to provide the vessel, they do the rest.”
“Who?” He glanced behind him, eyes wide and fearful.
“I-I can’t…” he shook his head, and closed the hatch. I was so close. But I understand the visions. That’s, arguably, more important. Though I don’t know yet what they want me for, or how I’m being drugged. I just want to go home, to somewhere warm, and watch crappy late night tv.
Something touched me. I felt it brush against my shin. It’s not there now, but it was cold and quick, like a lizard. I thought it was a rat, so went on my hands and knees around the whole cave looking for its hole. There wasn’t one. So either it’s still in here...or it’s a spirit of some kind. I suppose that would make sense. If I am a ‘psychic’, then I’d have an affinity with the dead, right? Like those ladies wearing ridiculous costumes who tell fortunes?
The facility is all white and clean. There are people milling around wearing lab coats like Eric, but they aren’t friendly. They prodded me and poked me with all sorts of instruments. It was warmer there, but I’d rather be in the cave. They took blood by slicing my arm open, and recorded my pain, and put me to sleep. Well, I assumed that last bit at the time. The burning blackness is coming closer, I told them.
“Its always coming closer.” One of them nodded, watching me curiously. Another, writing furiously on a clipboard, asked,
“What does the blackness want?”
“To consume everything.” They said somethings to each other in whispers, though I made out a couple of words about success.
“Aren’t there laws about experimenting on people?” A brown haired man looked at me in disgust.
“Laws against experimenting on humans, yes. You’re something else.” If I was anywhere else, that would be the nicest thing I’d ever heard. Coming from these mad scientists who want to kill me, probably...not so much. Another gap in my memory here; I woke up in my cell with an awful headache, blood oozing from the wound. That second gap set off my mental alarm bells. Why would I be put to sleep getting back, when I was awake during everything else?
The voice in my cave, the voice that belongs to a shadow, it calls itself Charlie. It speaks to me when I sleep. It tells me about the reckoning, the days when man will fall and we, the chosen ones, will reign in a haze of blood and fire. I laugh at the shadow. The chosen ones it means are us, the magical and powerful. We do not wish to rule. Many of us have never wanted powers. It insists that I can be more than all of them. Then I wake up, laugh at myself for the foolish dreams, and wait for Eric. He comes regularly now, and brings with him a needle. He draws blood, brings me soup, and leaves. He doesn't speak to me anymore. I tried talking to him the last time he came, but he looked at me with his cold, empty eyes, and left. It feels colder here now. I talk to myself sometimes, just to hear a voice. Sometimes, I scream.
Charlie doesn't want me to be here. It doesn't want me to be controlled by these people, to be their guinea pig. It's right. I don't want to be here either, although the fear of these people, and the drug they insist on studying the effects of, has subsided. I'm just bored all the time. I try to induce visions, because watching the world burn is more exciting than watching water drip from the ceiling. The people in white tell me sometimes that I could be so much more powerful, but I spit in the faces of the scientists who don't understand that this is all I'll ever be. I know people who can turn buildings to dust, who can move boulders with their minds, who can heat their surface temperature to 5250 degrees without harm, and I can occasionally see the future. What a lame magical ability. It's no wonder no one wanted me before, no one wants me now.
I hear Charlie all the time now. It floats through the cave, twirling and dancing above me. It's inside the walls, and along the floor. Desire courses through my body when it speaks. I want to agree with him. I want to break free of my prison, I want to be powerful enough to return home. I want to be better. I tease it, allowing the shadow to run down my spine, across my body to the tips of my fingers, before fighting it off. I've angered it. I can see it now, huge and black, like a ghost. It's more than a ghost though. I see it coming towards me, filling me with fire and fury.
Filling me with power.
Experimental Report: Operation CHARLIE
Test Subject: Alexis Winterfall
Classification: Psychic, Level Three. No Formal Training
Date Started: 12/06/2045
Date Ended: 26/09/2045
Project Status: FAILED
Although you were right in your predictions, we have ultimately learned nothing from our tests. The Warlocks of The Academy do not have different blood chemistry, nor different cellular structure. They respond in the same way to isolation and starvation. It seems that whatever makes them more powerful cannot be explained biologically. Perhaps it is mental? Unfortunately, we can no longer continue tests, as the second half of Operation CHARLIE began far quicker than anticipated, and we lost control of the resulting demon. We have sealed her inside the rock face, and there is nothing to do but pray that she is incapacitated permanently.
This almost stopped our investigations completely; if you ever fund a project like this again, maybe a more thorough risk assessment and project outline would not go amiss? CHARLIE has been lost to us, bonded permanently with the girl. You need a new goal. We live in fear now.
Thatcher Rock HQ