Awful Shadow, ch. 4: Simon Martin

Monitoring: Simon Martin
Vienna, Virginia, USA

4:10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Thursday, May 15th, 2014
20:10 Coordinated Universal Time
Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Fast forward—

The dreams aren’t getting any better, but Simon is coping. It helps that PALATINATE is only running tests on him once a week, that Dr. Denham sees him every Monday and Thursday and is on-call if Simon ever needs him at another time, and that, well, he doesn’t have to go this alone. It’s obviously very terrifying for a lot of reasons to know that he’s been attached to a secret arm of an international superpower, but in at least one way it’s also a comfort: the odds of accomplishing something with his power have never been better.

It’s still a little disheartening, even so, to see people die in his visions, and when he pulls away from the gaping wound in his chest, some indeterminate number of years in the future, and returns to the world, he feels awful on account of more than just that.


“Oh? Oh. Sorry,” Simon says as he readjusts in his chair. “Sorry, Agent Heron.”

“Dan,” as Agent Heron says once again, as if this time Simon will magically feel comfortable with using the man’s first name. “What did you see this time? Anything useful?”

Simon looks to his right, where the patient is lying, asleep. He rarely meets anyone when they’re awake. Few people have been given clearance to know about him, and it’s easier to keep the trail clean if they’re never aware that he came by. Simon doesn’t get their names unless he’s speaking with them, so this one is just Number Five—out of five, so the week’s session is over.

“I found somebody new,” he says. “She…had some sort of force field going on.” They could leave the room now, if Simon wanted, but Number Five is still under anesthesia and won’t be getting up quite yet, so they have time, and the chair is comfortable, and he doesn’t want to go home. It’s still a little awkward with his mom, and compounding that awkwardness is that he knows why it’s awkward, and she knows that he knows, but he won’t say anything, so it’s just this ugly and itchy scab.

How does one deal with that, though? Simon can’t just throw the subject out there for them to talk about it. “So, Mom, I keep forgetting to mention it, but I saw you kill yourself, and I’m not sure if that’s because you thought I had died, or even if I really had died, or if it was for some other reason, and I hadn’t really thought things through until I saw that, so it’s conceivable that I could have messed up somehow, and it was my fault that you shot yourself. Oh, and your lasagna is fantastic tonight. Thanks again for making dinner.”

His therapist is understanding of the situation. Disapproving, too, but Simon can understand that, in turn.

Heron is interested in something other than Simon’s introspection, though. “You said ‘she.’ That means you actually saw her?”

Simon nods. “The field was…big. I could see it above me in the sky. It was a translucent yellow. There was some sort of explosion against it, I think on the outside. She was… Wait,” he says, holding up a hand. Assuming that the field was as big as it could be, which Simon had to admit wasn’t completely certain, and assuming that, just as everyone was limited to touch now, they might have similar ranges in the future, then… “How high do clouds get in the sky?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” Heron admits, so Simon borrows his phone to look it up. Two to six thousand meters, Google informs him. Simon spends a few minutes after that looking up different kinds of clouds and, unfortunately, subjecting himself to more visions of Number Five’s death to make sure that he’s identifying them correctly. He’s ninety-percent sure that the highest clouds that he can see are cirrus clouds. He might be wrong, and the real cirrus clouds might not be around or might be too hard to see on the other side of the force field, but he’s spilled his intestines onto the asphalt enough times at this point to feel certain.

“The force field was shaped like a dome,” Simon says. “If I sat down and worked at it then I might be able to figure out exactly how tall it was, based on where the clouds were intersecting with it, but there were cirrus clouds inside it, so we’re looking at a range of more than six kilometers. Twelve, maybe? Somewhere around there.”

“Did you catch her name?”

“No. She looked Asian, so that’s something, right? She didn’t look like a Kasprzak or a Martinez, so I guess that doesn’t help us there, but…” Simon shrugs, and after a moment so does Agent Heron.

“What kind of explosion?”

“Big. Nuclear, if past experience is any indication.”

“That makes four or five target cities so far, then,” Heron says. “Did you recognize this one?”

Simon shakes his head. “I got a couple of street addresses. They were in English.” They can narrow it down from there, if the CIA gets him pictures of the city from those locations that he can compare to his visions. “We have a relative idea of when this vision is happening, too, even if we don’t know exactly when.” Assuming, of course, that the attacks are going to be simultaneous, but that seems reasonable.

Part of Simon wants to figure out some way to get all of the answers now. It should be possible, right? They should be able to work out some sort of code that’s capable of expressing complex messages in short periods of time: a fragment of information that’s relevant to this whole mess, and another fragment that tells them where to look next, to continue the chain. He doesn’t know where to begin with that code, but he’s not the CIA and he hasn’t spent his adult life breaking codes in a search for terrorist leaders because, well, he hasn’t yet gotten to the point of having an adult life to begin with.

He doesn’t exactly want to raise the idea, though. As much as it tempts him, there is another part of Simon, a rather large one, that is still coming to terms with what he’s doing now. He feels like a vulture, hunched over the dying words of other people like this, and he’s just a sort of bystander, acting as he is now. Setting up a chain letter through time would require giving people specific orders. It would be simple to arrange, and he knows that he’s possibly being inconsistent or short-sighted because they’re not necessarily dying in this way in the timeline where he receives his vision, but he can’t help but feel as though he’d be killing them himself if he did that.

It would be easy but would also damn his soul, if such things exist—or is this failure to act damning it, by his refusal to do something that would probably save lives because he feels queasy about it?

Hannah should have gotten this power, Simon thinks. She’s already shown that she has the guts to use it.

The memory of her future death comes to him at odds times, unbidden and as fresh as if he had touched her only seconds ago. He remembers well the words that she spoke and the way that they felt in his throat, and the turquoise walls of the room that she was in, but best of all he recalls the taste of metal, from the gun barrel that was in her mouth.

He had been getting nightmares before that, but it wasn’t until he saw Hannah’s death that they became as bad as they are now.

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