Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
The guide says it starts small: things move when you’re not about. Takes a while to be sure. Walking into your lounge to find one of your books floating in the middle of the room while something unseen turns the pages? Conclusive. Time to make the call.
“Visionaries. What’s the nature of the incursion?”
“Book in midair.”
“Are the pages moving like it’s being read?”
“Sir, you have a Class Six incursion. Vacate the premises and await an operator.”
It’s cold outside. Suzanne from number sixteen brings me tea.
I nod. She clucks sympathetically and returns quickly to her home. I see the sparks of a repulsion field as she opens her front door.
A ship swoops past. Someone in a blue-black bodysuit lands on my lawn, wearing a colossal helm and bulky gauntlets. The vision band across the helm centres on me and goes from green to blue. The voice that emerges is cheerful and feminine.
The lump in my throat won’t let words past. Tears fill my eyes.
I nod again.
“She’ll need you, Paul. Follow me.”
I don’t want to. The helm cants to one side.
“When someone dies, they emit an energy form. Many call it a soul. Science is undecided. Sometimes that energy doesn’t dissipate. It remains anchored to a person or place, maintained by what little energy it can syphon from nearby organics. When a Lasnhiri Hunter makes the transition into our reality, it bonds with the nearest anchored form and starts to subvert it. If it succeeds, it can take control of organic forms. It has to start small, but can go from mouse to man in under a month. After that, it can spread from host to host by touch, overwhelming the resident sentiences. We came closer to losing China and America than most people realise.”
We step into the porch.
“What was her name?”
“Jeanette.” One word, with my world attached.
Entering the lounge, I see a different book is being read.
She raises her gauntlets and ruby light fills the room. A crimson cloud becomes visible behind the book.
“Jeanette. Paul needs you.”
The cloud disgorges a form: Jeanette’s face contorting with effort as her head and shoulders rise into view. Oh, my heart.
A whisper: “Say her name.”
I step forward, raising a hand: “Jeanette.”
Smoky eyelids fade and I’m staring into the eyes I’ve missed so much. The mouth moves, but no sound comes out.
Another whisper: “Say goodbye. Nothing about love. Just goodbye.”
“I want her back.”
“Impossible. She’d be consumed. Your words can save her. Say goodbye.”
My sight is flooded with tears. In that watery view, a pair of malevolent eyes seem to be regarding us from the cloud.
The gauntlets shoot jagged pink lightning into the cloud. I see Jeanette’s mouth open in a scream. I reach to console her, then stop. Jeanette rises from the cloud. Her head disappears. Slowly, she moves from the cloud to pass through whatever it is. Finally, she’s gone. The cloud vanishes in a blinding flash, leaving the faintest whiff of sulphur.
The Visionary places a hand on my shoulder: “She’s moved on. Like you should.”
I wipe away tears and stare. I see tiredness in her stance. She’s right.
“You see a lot from in there, don’t you?”
There’s a little nod. She sounds exhausted: “Too much, too often. Goodbye, Mister Torvil.”
I’m left holding a half-cup of cold tea, staring at a singed book lying on the carpet.