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37 years later

 

***

 

The Clairvoyant

July 6th, 1963.”

Matt Callaghan snored.

Flat on his back, mouth open, his limbs kneaded through a tangle of sheets and blankets, Matt slept soundly as the first glimpse of daylight snuck in underneath the gap in his blinds. From the other side of the room, a small square television blared, perched almost forgotten atop a chest of draws. Oblivious to the room’s tranquillity, its old-timey announcer’s voice and black and white images streamed on.

To the people of Earth, a day like any other. But this is no ordinary day. For today, the destiny of mankind changes… forever.”

The narrator paused and the images of 1960s men and women going about their daily business gave way to dramatic footage of a sky engulfed in undulating ripples, the intensity of their golden colour diminished somewhat by the graininess of the recordings. Matt mumbled something indistinct and rolled over onto his side, eyes still closed.

The Aurora Nirvanas. From the deepest reaches of space it comes, a wall of golden light blanketing the Earth, causing amazement, wonder, and panic. Scientists have no explanation. The United Nations convenes an emergency session. Some call it a solar flare. Others, a sign of Armageddon. A stranger phenomenon the world has never known… yet stranger still is yet to come.”

Suddenly, images of streets, homes and offices filled with motionless bodies.

Mass lethargy. An urge to sleep so powerful, it overtakes everyone. Mere hours after the Aurora’s arrival, the human race succumbs to unconsciousness.”

The small screen flashed with shots of people with their eyes closed in parks and cars – dramatic re-enactments intercut with off-centre footage from antiquated security cameras. Men in suits curled up on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Kennedy and his aides asleep against a desk.

The Great Slumber. Six days, mysteriously lost from human history. Five billion people, miraculously unhurt and unharmed. And when humanity awakes, it finds more miracles await.”

Matt’s eyes twitched underneath his eyelids.

Superpowers.”

A man, staring in black and white wonder as flames flutter around his upturned palm. A housewife outside a white picket fence, hesitating only briefly before rocketing up into the sky, the strings of her apron fluttering behind her. A tiny hunchbacked old woman wobbling unsteadily, one hand trembling on a cane, the other lifting a car above her head.

Everyone, men and women, young and old, gifted with abilities beyond science and nature. No pattern. No explanation. From African royalty to Soviet peasants, a power for everyone… and chaos for the world.”

The screen darkened, and images arose of burning vehicles, broken buildings, injured bystanders and superhuman fighting. Guns tearing themselves from soldiers’ hands. A mother, her skin turned to rock, fiercely clutching her child.

Crime. Uprisings. Madness. Society teeters on the brink of collapse, powers running loose, unchecked. Nations descend into civil war. For a time, it seems the superhuman age might be over before it has even begun.”

A bank robber dressed in a stereotypical ski-mask and stripes levitates a helpless teller into the air – but then in an instant a blur speeds around them, and the re-enactment criminal finds himself hog-tied underneath the foot of a bright-lit, airbrushed policeman as a dozen super-powered men and women storm in behind him.

But after almost a year of unrest, there is hope. City by city, state by state, the good people of America take their nation back. Law and order return, as mankind learns that his greatest power lies not in these newfound gifts, but in uniting for peace with his fellow man.”

Matt grunted and rolled over to face the TV, clutching a pillow to his chest.

And so, the world rises anew. Different, but not destroyed. Wary, but hopeful of what could lay ahead. Untapped potential. Advanced technology. A newfound drive for social justice. The uncharted waters of a society of the superhuman, united by the promise of the new world, and a single shared belief-

Matt’s eyes opened.

All powers to the people. And to all people, a power.”

This… is the Impossible Era.”

The documentary’s title flashed on the screen. Matt groaned, halfway between a yawn and a moan, and fumbled clumsily for the remote sitting on the bedside table. His sleep-heavy hand finally found the ‘Off’ button, and the old television set atop his dresser faded to black.

For a moment, Matt just lay there with his eyes closed, one hand still lolling out from underneath the covers, revelling in the newfound silence.

It was Tuesday. Even smothered by the tentacles of sleep, he knew it was Tuesday. His eyes opened a fraction and wandered reluctantly onto the red LED of his bedside clock. 6:13. Matt rolled back over and re-closed his eyes, allowing himself the precious indulgence of the last few minutes of sleep.

That he’d fallen asleep with the TV on didn’t surprise him; that he’d fallen asleep at all did. Times like these, troubles like his – he’d expected sleep to elude him. But, he supposed, in the end he was only human.

That was the problem.

6:15 arrived and the alarm went off, blaring electric tones into Matt’s ears like the wailing cries of Satan taking a soccer ball to the groin. More than anything in the world, he wanted to hit Snooze, roll over into his nest of bedsheets and go back to sleep – to lay here forever, safe and warm and far away from the real world and its unpleasant truths. Maybe if he stayed in bed, maybe if he hid beneath the blankets, time would go on without him and everything would just go away.

But denial had never been Matt’s strong suit.

He reached out and turned off his alarm, then with little more than a grunt rolled out of bed and stumbled blearily across his room, past the Bloodhound Gang and Big Lebowski posters, out the door and across the hall into the bathroom and the shower. He stood there for four minutes, letting the hot water rush over his shoulders, hair and face until his brain was starting to approach something resembling consciousness. Matt moved through the motions. Water off. Dry off. Towel on. Step out. Face the mirror. Breathe.

Breathe.

“My name is Matt Callaghan and I am a clairvoyant.”

He said it as little more than a whisper. Matt closed his eyes.

“My name is Matt Callaghan and I am a clairvoyant.”

A little louder this time, a little firmer. He opened his eyes, wiped steam from the mirror and stared into his reflection. An unremarkable-looking young man stared back, of middling height and slightly stocky build with light skin, short milk chocolate-coloured hair and only the occasional freckle. Matt was not a distinctive person; he could have sat in any Starbucks in America and used the wi-fi without ever being asked to buy something. But right now, he stood alone in the bathroom, watching his reflection and focusing on his words.

“My name is Matt Callaghan and I am a clairvoyant.”

He felt it as he said it. He believed it, felt it hard and fast and firm inside his mind, a coating of iron. Knew what it meant, the facets of it, knew it as unshakable truth.

“My name is Matt Callaghan and I am a clairvoyant.”

He moved onto his other mental exercises. Thinking of everything he could think of. Thinking of nothing at all. Breathing deep and searching for stillness and silence within himself. Focusing on a single point of feeling in his little finger. Reciting songs. Moving and holding his thoughts in order, then rearranging and holding them again.

From 6:20am to 7 o’clock, Matt Callaghan honed his mind in front of the mirror, just like he had done yesterday and the day before and would do every day for the rest of his life. 40 minutes in the morning, 40 minutes before bed and a set or two throughout the day whenever he could find time. Was he tired? Yes. Was his mind sluggish and sleep deprived? Definitely. But that was almost the point – his thoughts needed to be unassailable, no matter what. Any time, every time, he needed to be ready and able to believe a single fact.

“My name is Matt Callaghan and I am a clairvoyant.”

Because today was the last day he had.

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About the author

Benjamin Keyworth

  • Australia

Bio: Born and raised in Newcastle, Australia, Ben is a lifelong writer currently studying his Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Technology Sydney. An avid fan of the weird and wonderful, he has wanted to be a writer since he was five years old (before which he wanted to be a dinosaur).

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