One cold Wednesday afternoon I met a friend of mine, Joseph, in a local club.
Let me tell you about Joseph: he had the latest technology and mod cons, he liked to listen to deceased musicians on the radio–and he had death in his eyes.
It was written for the entire world to see if in fact, the world could detect that inevitability, but no … I was the only one, perhaps the only one on this planet with the frightening ability to see his fast-approaching demise. My talent was revealed to me for the very first time on that fateful day, though I guess my gift was always there. I probably simply never realised it.
That day, the gift presented itself: with quick flashes of black light that appeared in each iris of Joseph’s blue eyes, and I was so startled when it first happened that I must have stared like a madman.
‘What’s wrong with you?’ Joseph asked.
I blinked, composed myself and looked away. ‘I don’t know … I’m not sure.’
‘How much have you had to drink?’
‘I only just got here.’ I pointed to my glass. ‘This is my first beer.’ I looked around the golf club bar and saw the familiar usual faces. None of those other men and women displayed the same black light in their eyes.
‘Well you must be working too hard,’ Joseph said with a laugh. ‘You looked like you were in a trance just now.’
‘What?’ My mind was still occupied with the flashes I had seen in his eyes–if I concentrated hard I could still see their dark outline.
‘See! You are in a trance.’ Joseph seemed bemused. ‘Are you taking drugs or something?’
‘I must be tired,’ I said with a sigh. ‘It’s been very busy at work this month– winter always is.’
‘Well … take it easy.’ Joseph took a large sip of his beer. ‘I’ve got a meeting this afternoon, so I better get going.’
I spoke quickly without considering how very strange I must have sounded.
‘Have you got something wrong with your eyes at the moment?’
‘What?’ He seemed bewildered by my question. ‘What the hell are you talking about, Rob?’
‘Nothing … I must have been seeing things. I’m sorry.’
Joseph shook his head.
‘I think you should go home now, Rob. You seem a bit out of sorts today.’ He quickly finished his beer. ‘I’ve got to go myself. I’ll catch you later.’
He left the golf club and I never saw him again. He died that night, evidently from a heart attack. He was just thirty-nine, seemingly fit as a proverbial fiddle, but, unbeknown to him, or anyone else, he had heart disease.
I had seen the black flashes. Coincidental? Perhaps. But when a similar event occurred a week later, my ‘talent’ was confirmed.
I was on a train platform in Ashfield when a younger man arrived on the platform beside me. I turned to view him and, instantly, I saw his green eyes flicker with black streaks. I stared in shock, and as he disconcertedly returned my gaze, I felt his sorrow. He shuffled nervously on the platform, a folded piece of paper in his shirt pocket. It was obviously a suicide note.
I felt I had no choice but to intervene.
‘Don’t do it,’ I said. ‘It’s not worth it.’
He breathed nervously and blinked.
‘How would you know?’
I paused briefly and reflected on his words.
‘I don’t … but things will get better for you … things always get better.’
He slowly shook his head.
‘No they won’t.’
His green eyes flashed with shafts of black. I could no longer bear to view them and so turned and walked off the platform to catch a bus home.
The journey by road was usually longer than by train, but when I arrived home and turned on the radio I learned that the trains were very much behind schedule that afternoon due to a ‘fatality’ at Ashfield station.
Death now seemed to surround me. I tried to stay at home as much as I could as I did not want to see the future for those I came into contact with–those whose deaths were quickly approaching. On any given day, I would come across at least one person, usually more, whose natural time on this Earth was almost over. Some days it would be a fellow commuter, on other occasions a person in the street; someone at a theatre, or in a restaurant or cafe. On each of these occasions, I would see the black flashes in their eyes; typically in both eyes, but sometimes only in one.
It was a heavy burden to bear, especially since there was nothing I could do to prevent the deaths. It saddened me that I possessed this gift as it seemed to serve little purpose. Why should I alone be the one who was subjected to this horrible knowledge, this premonition of impending doom? It filled me with despair and led me to question myself:
Was there something, anything I could do to prevent these people from dying?
Perhaps I could tell them to immediately seek medical help at a hospital? Or stay with them in an effort to protect them from death’s approaching veil? But I knew it was useless… they were complete strangers and they would, of course, consider me insane.
I took leave from my work and barricaded myself in my home. Thankfully, none of my fellow workers had shown the flashes in their eyes, but I could take no more. Too many people around me, fellow human beings I did not even know, were slipping away from the world and the black streaks were their parting gift, one which I bore with sorrow for their imminent passing.
After several weeks of being locked away in my bachelor unit in self-imposed exile, I felt completely stir crazy and the ever-increasing urge to venture out became too much; man is a social animal by definition.
I decided that I would attend my favourite cafe in the city; it was my favourite because Sophie worked there.
Let me tell you about Sophie.
She was part Chinese, small in stature, with beautiful smooth skin and bright, light brown eyes. She would have been in her late 20s, some five years younger than me. Whenever I saw her, it was like an angel had come to me from the depths of winter with a sweet smile, a lively voice. After a hard day at the office she was always my very own sanctuary from a hostile world, and that afternoon when I reached the cafe I was delighted she had been rostered on to work.
‘Hi, Rob,’ she said in her soft, friendly tone. ‘Long time no see.’
‘Hi, Sophie,’ I said. ‘Just the usual, thanks.’
I watched her pretty, light brown eyes as she poured my coffee from the machine, and I smiled as she picked out my favourite type of muffin from the display cabinet.
Suddenly, I recoiled in horror. There were flickers of black light in her eyes!
‘What’s wrong, Rob?’ she asked when she noticed my nervous shaking.
‘What time do you finish today?’ I quickly asked.
‘In half an hour… Why?’ She giggled. ‘Are you trying to pick me up, Rob?’
‘No… but I want you to stay with me at my place for the night.’ She looked at me strangely, but I quickly continued. ‘You can have the spare bedroom and I’ll stay in my room. I just want you to be safe.’
‘Are you okay, Rob?’ she asked with concern. ‘This is a little bit weird …’
I was now frantic. The black flashes in her eyes obscured their natural colour.
‘You could be in danger, Sophie… No. You are in danger. Please, stay at my place tonight.’
She continued to look at me disconcertedly, but my concerned expression did seem to affect her.
‘All right then, Rob,’ she said with a shrug. ‘If you like. You seem worried about something, but I would like to stay at your place.’ She smiled. ‘I don’t know why you haven’t asked me before… I’ll have to pop into my unit first to get some clothes.’
I knew from our earlier conversations that she lived alone in a nearby unit.
‘No,’ I said firmly. ‘We’ll go straight to my place. I’ll buy you some new clothes tomorrow–I’ll buy you whatever you want.’
‘Rob…you’re acting very strangely today… is there something wrong with you?’
‘Please’, I implored. ‘Sophie… trust me.’
Thankfully, she did trust me, and when her shift was over I drove her to my unit where we ate a small meal and watched television together. I checked her eyes regularly but could no longer see the black flashes.
She was aware of my attention and laughed.
‘I feel very stupid sitting here in my uniform.’ She frowned and lowered her eyes to look at her white top and black skirt. ‘I hope this isn’t some kind of fetish of yours, Rob?’
‘I’m sorry.’ I leaned towards her and kissed her smooth cheek. ‘I’ll explain all another time.’
The flashes were completely gone and her eyes were now, once again, the beautiful light brown I will always cherish.
She kissed me back and spoke softly, ‘I’ve always liked you, Rob. I always sort of hoped you would like me, too.’
We slept together that night and were awoken very early the next morning by the shrill ring of her cell phone. As she took the call, her face became strained and she appeared terrified. After she terminated the call, she quickly told me that her unit had been completely destroyed by fire during the night. Evidently, the fire had been caused by an electrical fault. It was obvious by her subsequent behaviour that she wanted to know something: why I had been so insistent that she stay with me the night before.
‘Is that offer to buy me some new clothes still open?’ she asked with a sigh. ‘I think I’ll need a whole new wardrobe now …’
She studied me very closely and sighed deeply, but we did not broach the subject of my ‘gift’ that morning. In fact, we did not mention it further and it was never discussed in the future.
From that day forward, I stopped seeing the black flashes. It seems that my gift had returned from whence it came. Sophie moved in with me, and a few years down the track we had a son, Daniel.
People continue to die around me, but I am now never forewarned of their passing, and that suits me just fine–but just yesterday I took my son, who is now five, to the zoo. He looked up at the man selling tickets and laughed with childish confusion:
‘Why does that man have funny black lights in his eyes, Daddy?’
The man gave my son a puzzled look, and I quickly ushered him away.
‘There are things I need to tell you, Daniel,’ I said, ‘but it will have to wait until you are older.’
‘How old will I have to be, Daddy?’ he asked with a smile.
‘Older, Daniel… much older but, I promise you, it will be long before you meet your angel.’