Monitoring: Simon Martin
Vienna, Virginia, USA
4:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
20:15 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
Simon returns to the world, instinctively jolting from an impact that he didn’t feel but which he knows will happen. Or could, anyway, but what is he supposed to do, write this woman a note and tell her to take the bus…forever? He doesn’t even know the date of the death that he just witnessed.”
And what does it matter, anyway? He isn’t allowed to communicate with these people in the first place, or do anything else that might leave more of a trail than there has to be, but even if he could, even if he were allowed to explain everything, prove it so that she will believe him, what would it change? It wasn’t her fault. He can’t prevent that car crash just by telling her to pay more attention.
It isn’t a very big thing either, though. If she will just take a different route that day, whenever that day might be, or if she’s just five minutes behind her schedule, then she’ll live. With enough time for the butterflies of his words to flap and send her down a different trajectory, he could save her life without even knowing the exact advice to give. Just saying a few words could be enough, and their content wouldn’t even matter.
“Simon,” someone says.
But that thought is more discomforting than the last. Being five minutes late in that instance would save her life, but in another instance it could kill her. All of it is so arbitrary, and it makes him wonder about the bigger cataclysms. How much of the future is in flux, and in what ways? Could he make things even worse, just as easily as make them better?
“Simon,” and Heron grips his shoulder tightly. “What happened?”
Heron is about to say his name again when Simon finally responds. “S-Sorry. Car crash,” he says, and Heron breathes a sigh of relief.
“Was the vision extra long?”
Simon shakes his head. “Just…” He shrugs his shoulders, despite knowing that it’s going to earn him an extra trip to Dr. Denham’s office. “It’s interesting, how there are some visions where I never see what kills me. Sometimes, I’m bleeding out and then the world fades away. Or I’m a Giger tree, or something like that. There’s pain, and that lets me know that I’m not just about to die, but that I’m already dying. Other times, though, there’s just a transition, and I never see the threshold, let alone the other side.
“Bullets move too fast. I only feel it if the damage wasn’t severe enough to begin with. It’s the same thing with a car crash. I saw what was going to lead to the impact, I caught it just in the corner of my eye, but I died then and there. The crash happened, my head collided with God-knows-what and probably crunched, faster than the nerves in my brain—that is, her brain, could process what was happening.”
Simon takes a step away and leans his shoulder against the wall. “I’ve read about how humans—how we live on a time delay, always reacting to things that have, sort of, already happened. I mean, it’s not a huge delay, they didn’t happen that long ago, but still, by the order of, I don’t know, a couple of nanoseconds or something, we’re all living in the past.” He chuckles, just a little. “Kind of weird, in that light, how I’m actually able to live in the future, even if it’s only for a few seconds at a time. But I still don’t live in the present, even then.”
He feels Heron’s hand on his shoulder again. “You’re starting to ramble,” Heron says, and then, “I think that we’re done for today.”
“I’m… “ I’m fine, is what he’s about to say, but Simon catches the words before they pass his lips. He isn’t okay. “I’ll be okay,” he says instead. “Just give me five minutes.”
“No. We’re done,” Heron says, and Simon allows himself to be led out of the room, down the hall and the stairs, till finally they reach Heron’s car.
Simon slides into the front passenger seat. The vantage point isn’t exactly the one that he had when he died a few minutes ago (or a few weeks or years from now), but it’s still off-putting. “I can do more. I have to do more.”
Heron pulls away from the wheel, where he was putting in the key, and shifts in his seat so that he can face Simon. “Do you think that you can save the world on your own?” he asks. There’s a pause there, but before Simon can muster up any sort of response or even collect himself enough to give a dismal “no,” he continues on. “Where would you be without support? You can tell a little bit of the future. That’s great. Now try to do something about what you see without security clearance, or without other powers. Maybe you could do it if you were willing to kill someone in another timeline in order to get information in this one, but you’ve drawn your line in the sand—which I have respect for, mind you, even if I don’t necessarily agree with your decision—and you have effectively crippled your ability to brute force the problems that you encounter, which is the only way that you could possibly save the world on your own.”
“But I can still do what I can, and do more, and—”
“No. Absolutely not. Did you hear those words as you said them? Do what you can, and then do more? I know that was just some poor phrasing on your part and not a Freudian slip, but really, Simon, listen to yourself. There is a limit to what people can handle, and all of the therapy in the world is not going to keep you…” Heron’s face scrunches up in what might be anger or frustration or sadness. “…Is not going to keep you together. I will say that it this is about keeping you useful, if that’s what it takes. I will say that you will be no good to the world if you don’t take care of yourself and let us know when too much is being demanded of you, but really, what it honestly comes down to is that you are fourteen years old, and I have done some pretty terrible things, but I am not going to stand by and let you permanently traumatize yourself.”
Simon turns away and sets his head back, nestling the side of it in the space between the seat and the door. He tries to say something, say that the world is more important than him or that he’s more capable than Heron thinks, but the words get stuck in his throat.
The light shifts on the edge of Simon’s vision, like Heron has moved, and he hears the engine rev, and the world outside his window begins to slip past.