Weird Skills from shadowy people
Hi folks! Welcome back to Storytime, where every 2 weeks I give you a brand new short story, written from a random writing prompt. This one is beginning a new series, which ups the ante because I somehow have to fit both the story being told, and the prompt. Basically, I haven’t got the slightest idea what’s going to happen—even less idea than usual, in fact!
Here’s the first: Blur.
Meet Dylan, her partner Becca, and new friend Janice.
CW: eye stuff, swearing, some ableist words for mental illness (not used as insults), PTSD symptoms
"Yep, she's lucky we managed to fix her back up into one piece! Now don't worry, she's got a bit of a journey ahead, but she'll come through just fine."
Dylan cracked open her eyes as the words filtered through, bringing her awake.
Her sight was covered by a gauze bandage, and she felt gluey gunk slowly tearing apart as she tried to force the lids open.
A hand on her shoulder, "Welcome back, Dyl. Hang on a sec."
The warm voice of Becca, close by and handling things like a pro, as always. Only Dylan could hear the strain, and the relief, in her voice.
"Alright, doctor and nurse incoming to help you with those bandages. The police will want a chat, too, but not until the doc clears it. Do you remember?"
The words brought back the memories. Dylan relived those last few minutes of consciousness.
She was strolling home from work, hands in the pockets of her cosy, shapeless grey hoodie, whistling tunelessly to herself.
Turning down her usual shortcut, a ginnel running between a row of houses that came out just a few steps from the intersection to her and Becca's rental, Dylan stopped in her tracks.
In front of her was a scene from…a horror show. Two figures. One knelt, head hung down, weeping.
The other, stood, leaned forwards, resting a hand on the back of the first man's neck. He spoke a few whispered words, and Dylan saw a flash from his hand.
The kneeling man dropped, prone and unmoving.
Standing there, shock keeping her still for just a moment too long, Dylan was seen the second the murderer raised their head.
Her limbs free again, Dylan attempted to flee, but the figure had reached out a hand, turning it clockwise.
Dylan felt a pressure on her throat, and her limbs, once again, were not her own.
The figure stalked closer, their hand tight closed.
It was hard to tell in the gloom, but they seemed to have luminous purple tattoos on their face. That was all Dylan could see.
"You want to watch?" asked a deep, melodious voice. *Here. Let me help."
The figure let go Dylan's throat, other hand grabbing her by her hoodie at lightning speed, and placing the hand that had held her across her eyes.
A few muttered words, and Dylan saw a flash.
And then she woke up.
But it wasn't all a dream.
The bandages were carefully removed, and Dylan's eyes cleaned of the sticky gunk. With the minimum of light coming from a dimmed lamp across the room, she opened her eyes.
It was still a glare after the darkness, but she blinked until she could make out shapes, and then colours.
"How is it?" Becca stepped forward.
"I-is everything meant to be blurry?"
The doctor upped the light a step and smiled over at Dylan, coming closer.
"There could still be some minor issues while your eyes and the nerves all heal. It was something like a flash grenade that hit you, or that's the best guess we've got. But a dangerously powerful one. I've got you in to the opthalmologist tomorrow. We're going to keep you in another day or two, but there's no reason not to go home once we know you're stable and healing."
The light was upped again, by the nurse who had removed the bandages.
Dylan squinted as she looked at the doctor, "OK. Thanks doc. Do I need to speak to the police now?"
The doctor's blurred shape made a start for the door. A second later, the doctor herself followed.
Dylan watched as the same thing happened to the nurse. Her blur moved, and then she followed.
Becca upped the light to its maximum, the lamp far more pleasant than the overheads would have been, Then she approached—blur first—and frowned worriedly, "Hey, what's up?"
Dylan shook her head, "Probably nothing. Just eye stuff."
"Well I guess that's what the eye doc is for. You ready for the police?"
Dylan sighed, "Yeah. But they're gonna think I'm nuts."
"Well I'll be right here, so if they do, I'll just give them The Glare."
Dylan grinned. The Glare was Becca's incredibly effective tool to cow those who dared misbehave in her classes. And it was a powerful one. She only occasionally used it outside of school, but it was always great to watch.
Two policewomen bustled in, a young, red-headed, freckled woman, and an older, tanned, crow-footed one, their bulky jackets and gear seeming to fill the room, especially with their blurs moving ahead of them. They explained that they were there to take a preliminary statement, which would be passed on to the correct unit. Afterwards, they would be in touch to request anything else or ask more questions, or to report any breakthroughs. Dylan said yes to being recorded, and both police and Becca sat in increasingly stunned silence as Dylan told her tale.
After a few follow up questions, they stood.
"Listen to me off the record for a sec, Dylan," said the older officer. *I know you might think you've lost it, and you're certain everyone else will. But I know you haven't. And I have good reason for that. Whenever you're ready to talk—if you ever are—call me."
Dylan accepted the card passed to her and nodded, fighting back tears at both the gentleness in the woman's voice, and the knowledge that this was something known, somehow.
Watching the blurs race their people to the door, she gripped Becca's hand, afraid to look and see disbelief on her face.
Becca squeezed back, "That sounds terrifying hun. I'm so glad you're alright."
"Except for the blurs," Dylan murmured.
"The blurriness? I'm sure the eye doc will be able to help."
"Maybe." Dylan nodded. "Fuck me I'm tired though."
"Then it's good you're already sitting on your bed!" Becca stood. "I can stay if you'd like me to. But if you just want to sleep then I can come back later or tomorrow.*
"You wouldn't mind staying?"
"Of course not," Becca grabbed two chairs, one to sit on and one for a leg rest, and pushed them over beside Dylan's bed. Adding some blankets under her for comfort, and over her for warmth, she sat.
Dylan couldn't help but stare as she moved. That blur always a second ahead. Or maybe it was more than a second now?
She snapped back to reality when her bed began to whir—Becca adjusting the height so they could at least do a half-snuggle.
Turning out all of the lights, they both attempted to sleep.
The eye doctor hadn't been able to help. Dylan saw people—and animals—as blurs that moved ahead of the body, and the time between those was still getting longer. Everything else was fine. And no amount of eye tests or corrective lens trials could make a whit of difference.
Dylan was released from the hospital the day after the hopeless eye tests, with a sheaf of information on everything from eye care to appointments. Lots of appointments. And scans. For everything. If nothing else, Dylan was about to be, the bee in the bonnets of a lot of very good and very curious medical specialists.
Meanwhile, the blur had stopped extending at around 10 seconds, though in her hospital boredom, Dylan had been consciously trying to shrink and further extend the time. And she was successful. Not wildly so, but her phone timer confirmed small and consistent differences.
Which meant it was happening.
Which meant it could be done better.
Leaving the hospital, though, was a living nightmare. Two corridors out of her room, Dylan had to close her eyes and let Becca lead her carefully through the reception area and out to Becca's car, and then sit staring glumly at the floor all the way home.
Six months later, Dylan had become a shut-in. The outside world remained torture. She couldn't shut off the blurs, only narrow the time between movements, and it just wasn't enough. She had migraines, she had panic attacks, and she simply couldn't bring herself to brave the constant confusion that was the living world around her.
Inside she could be safe, alone except for Becca, and cocoon herself in the comfort and warmth of their house.
She had seen every specialist she had been referred to. She was waiting for yet more. Genius minds from all over the world were discussing the phenomenon.
It took a while to make any of them understand that somehow these blurs showed the immediate future, and she still wasn't sure most of them didn't think her nuts.
Shit, she still wasn't sure she didn't think herself nuts.
Becca at least believed her. She did right away—she knew Dylan wouldn't make it up or even speak of it before being sure—but the testing they did, the reactions to going outside, and even making some games out of it, were enough to remove any hidden doubt.
But it took all the will that Becca possessed to keep Dylan from sliding into the depths of depression. Dylan knew it, and wished every day she could find her way out. She knew this hurt Becca as much as it did herself, but she felt powerless. Overwhelmed.
And she played over and over and over the moment before the flash.
"You want to watch? Here. Let me help."
Whoever that was. That killer. Dylan was sure now that leaving her alive was on purpose, but only after doing something else very intentional that had caused this…this seeing.
She sighed and buried herself deep beneath the blankets, waiting for Becca to return from work.
For possibly the millionth time she considered calling the policewoman whose card she had kept. But not doing so allowed her the tiniest glimmer of hope that somehow it would go away, and she was terrified of breaking that.
But what good was it doing her? There was no reason not to call. Nothing she could do would make Dylan feel worse.
Reaching out of the blankets, Dylan snagged her phone and opened the contact info that she'd saved from the card. She supposed she always knew she'd reach this point.
The phone rang, and was answered quickly, "Hello?"
Dylan's mouth was suddenly bone dry, and she coughed, "Hi. Uh… You gave me your card. It was months ago now, you probably don't remember, but you took my statement about a guy who hurt me—my eyes—and said to call when I was ready. I don't know about ready but I'm tired of living like this…" Dylan trailed off into silence.
"I remember you Dylan," came back that same warm voice Dylan remembered. "I'm assuming your eye problem hasn't gone anywhere?"
Dylan opened her mouth to answer, and instead sobbed down the phone, unable to speak.
"Hey lovie, it's alright. I told you I have some answers, I'd like to offer you what I know. Can I come see you? I bet being outside is too hard for you right now."
Dylan pulled back her tears just long enough to stammer out the address, then hung up.
Staring down at herself, she realised she was a mess. Her hair, at least, was still short, so not much problem there. But everything else…
She forced herself out of bed, to the bathroom. A short glance in the mirror showed everything—she was ghostly white, her blue eyes standing out, feverish looking, beneath thin, blonde eyebrows.
After a quick shower, she changed into clean clothes, and was percolating coffee in the kitchen when the knock at the door came.
The policewoman, Janice, was dressed in loose linen trousers and a long-sleeved t-shirt, her short grey hair slightly spiky, her brown eyes as warm as her speech.
Once both were settled down with coffee and some biscuits, Janice spoke first into the awkward silence
"So those eyes haven't gotten any better, have they. And you worked your way around, probably through all kinds of PTSD and depression. And now here I am, to help however I’m able. Tell me, what exactly is it your eyes do?"
Dylan explained carefully, keeping her voice slow and modulated to ensure she didn't start tripping herself up.
Throughout, Janice simply listened, her eyes never leaving Dylan, who had hunched up into a ball on her armchair, not looking at Janice.
When she was done, Dylan took some big gulps of coffee and ran a hand over her hair and down her face.
"Wow. That's a whole mess," Janice responded once Dylan had settled again. "No wonder you're in such a state. I've never met someone with this exact issue before—everyone seems to get something different—but you're not alone. Those people, whoever they are, don't seem to care much about being seen, or about dropping Skills on the people that see them. I have the fortune of being able to tell who's been affected by them—like an aura. So mine’s easier to deal with than most, and I’m one of those who tends to get the honour of greeting newly affected people like you, especially given my job. There are others who could help you though. There aren’t exactly tons of us, but we’ve got a fair number, and we have everything from kinetics to tech geniuses. A lot of those things are like yours at first—out of control and ruining their life. It sometimes takes a bit of trial and error to work out how to help, but I’d like to introduce you to a couple of people. One is excellent at looking into the physical body to see if there’s anything there to help, the other is very good at tapping into your more mystical energies, to see what’s going on there. Once we have that info, we’ll be able to start working out how to help.”
“And…what does this cost me?”
Janice smiled, “Not a thing. Well, it means a few hours of your time and being poked by a couple of people. After that, more time and more pokes. And you’ll generally be asked if you want to join usin the work we do, but you can say no and we’ll let you be. But nothing monetary, no pounds of flesh, or anything else. All you need to give us is the time and information we need to help. And your trust, of course.”
Dylan smiled, “Well at this point there’s not much I’m unwilling to offer, but I’m glad I don’t have to. Becca would murder me if I decided to remortgage the house or something.”
They both laughed, comfortably.
“But yeah, whatever you need to help me be able to live again. Any improvements on the state I’m currently in would be amazing.”
“Well then,” said Janice, finishing her coffee. “I need to coordinate with my people, but I’ll be in touch with some dates and times. You stay right there until you hear the door go, OK?”
Dylan nodded and smiled, “Thank you.”
She looked up when the door closed, and sat back in her armchair, feeling hope actually blossom for the first time in months.
I hope you enjoyed the first taste of whatever this turns into! Here’s the prompt for this one:
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Til next time!