Creative writing assignment… 1500 word short story.
The Power of a Moment
Amy held her new-born daughter and looked as the glimmering lines formed into numbers. Fifteen years, six weeks, four days from then. The tears silently rolled down her cheeks as she tried to remind herself that it might be ok. It might not be the end.
In the years since they had discovered there was scientific evidence for auras, research into discovering what their purpose was had been intense. As with most great discoveries, their becoming clearly visible was an accident. An experimental cancer treatment allowed people to See them.
Amy was personally selected for the project; Dr. Sebastian Thompson had been through university with her and knew that she would be ideal. The team made up of Amy, Seb, Daniel, Jo, and Phil, became close through the long evenings studying the rats, trying to find more answers for The Sight. It was the fifth generation of rats who showed the changes. She knew that Mike, her husband was missing her, but that he understood that since the latest mutations had occurred, showing glimmering, ever shifting numbers in the auras, that her need to solve the puzzle was going to consume her until she did.
Tony joked about trying it on themselves, just an offhand comment, but as time passed, they were no closer to getting permission for human testing, nor talking rats. The joke began to niggle, each of them returning to the idea more and more. Amy couldn’t talk to Mike about it, he understood the time dedication, but using herself? No, he wouldn’t agree with that. But still… it wouldn’t only give answers, but it would mark her career. She could change the world. No-one was really sure how they ended up agreeing, but one winter’s night, the experiment proceeded. After waiting hours to see changes, they slept, seeing if the morning would produce results.
Amy woke first. Looking in the mirror, she saw nothing, but personal auras had never been visible. She sat with her coffee and waited for the others. One by one they descended, and she looked at them. There were numbers now, but instead of the constantly changing flicker, they were set. Each aura containing 10022028, that morning’s date.
The realisation that the numbers just showed the date when The Enhanced Sight became active was bittersweet. They had answers, but no new meaning. Resigned to starting afresh, they gathered their things and headed in their separate directions.
She walked home through the cold streets, the first few commuters beginning their trek to work. She glanced at them, no numbers, since it was only rats and the five of them who had TES. She felt her phone vibrate, and looked at the message, Mike asking when she would be home. She slid the phone back into her pocket, running through conversations in her head. He wouldn’t have agreed with the idea of the experiment, but maybe if she spun it right, he could understand why she’d done it. She glanced up at the man in front of her and stumbled as she noticed the numbers glimmering over his head, 10022028. It made no sense. She called out, and rushed towards him, they needed to talk with him. Amy gasped as time slowed. The man turned at her voice, the car horn blared, tyres screeching as they tried to swerve. Within moments the man was on the road, his aura, and the numbers, gone.
After waiting for the ambulance, and directing them to her hospital’s mortuary, she called the others to meet her at the lab, she would talk with Mike later. They had to find out how this man had TES, how he’d gotten it on the same day, if there were others. The four of them arrived about the same time, and rather than waiting for Seb, she explained everything she’d seen. They had seen no numbers going home. Hours passed, and still Seb did not appear. Then the call came from his wife, a massive heart attack. He was gone instantly.
The lab spun as Amy’s heart raced and she struggled to process the information. The panic was immediate. The numbers were today, but what if they weren’t the date they got TES, but the dates of death? Everybody has a set day to die? How could she tell Mike now? She felt herself pulled in two as she fought with her urge to go home, and her need to know more. The others were single, they’d given their hearts to the jobs, they didn’t see her pain. Accepting, she sent the least painful text:
‘Close to something at work, staying on. Love you xx.’
Trying to think rationally, they decided that finding someone close to death was best, give them the TES, and see the numbers. But who would give permission for experimenting with the dying? They could only wait, anxiously looking at each other, waiting for the next death.
Amy couldn’t take it anymore. She made excuses and left the lab, dodging into the sample room as she went. Syringe in her pocket, she made her way into the main hospital and up to ICU. Alone, it was just her on the line. If she was dying today anyway, did it matter? She slipped in, walking past the silent figures and pumping machines. Checking the charts, Amy knew who was most likely. The patient in bed C was pale, thin, and importantly, alone. She stopped as she approached to apply the TES. His aura was visible, pale, as is common in the very ill, but so was the silver flicker, the same numbers. She slid the syringe back into her pocket and took a blood sample instead. Walking away, she heard the long steady beep of his life support machines.
‘I’m going to die next week?!?!’ Sarah’s face flooded with panic and horror.
‘No! Yes… I don’t know. Let me explain…’ Amy realised that it was too late now, that she would have to explain everything to Sarah. All of the last two years. She remembered that first night after telling Mike, the pain, tears, and accusations. Taking a deep breath, she began.
‘We don’t know anything. You remember the rough patch with Mike?’
Sarah nods uncertainly. ‘It wasn’t about the hours that I was doing in the lab, but it was about work. I, we, the team used ourselves. We gave ourselves The Enhanced Sight. It was the only way to get answers, we’re still fighting for human testing now!’ Taking another gulp of her wine, and a shuddering exhale of breath, Amy continued. ‘The numbers stopped moving. We’ve been through so many theories about what they mean. Not everyone has numbers visible, it might be linked with emotional closeness. The one thing that we do know is, often those numbers are the date they die. Not always though!!! We just don’t know!’
‘You experimented on yourself? You have been able to see what you think is my death date for years? You said nothing? What things have I missed because I thought there was time?’ Anger and fear growing, Sarah continued to process the information. She asked Amy to leave her to think.
Amy walked home silently, instantly sober. After surviving the first night, they knew they had so much more to learn. For the first couple of years they couldn’t publish any results. They were never meant to have experimented on themselves to begin with, so whilst they petitioned for human testing of TES, they were the only subjects, trying to understand the numbers.
In the lab, results were frustratingly varied. Whilst Amy could see someone with one date, the others would see similar dates, or totally different ones. Passing people in hallways, some would see dates, others nothing. They needed a larger subject pool. The five of them were not enough to begin to understand what was happening.
It was a week later when Amy got the call, Sarah told her that she just couldn’t face her
anymore, and to not call her again. The end of a friendship. Amy began to wonder… was it ends that were being dated and not deaths? It was the end of her longest friendship. It had been the end of their times with the dead.
Gradually the research expanded, with more subjects, numbers, experiences. It became clear that it wasn’t so much endings, but importance being shown. Important events leading to changes. The numbers were showing life, actions, events. The points in which a soul cannot help but be changed in some way. Knowing this meant planning, predicting, and dreading. It meant glancing at a stranger and knowing if they were just a passing being, or a significant influence. It meant holding a partner and wondering if their number was an end, or a beginning.
Amy sat and held her new-born daughter. Silent tears falling to the blanket wrapped bundle. No way to know, but the calendar always ticking down.
Fifteen years, six weeks, four days…