The Psychic


Samuel glanced up nervously at the noon sun shining through the dim room’s thick, dusty windows. He had been feeling worried all morning, but couldn’t put his finger on it. No doubt the man who had visited earlier hadn’t helped. He had simply poked his head into the apothecary and, upon sighting Samuel, left again. Very suspicious. Perhaps it was innocent enough. Perhaps he had come into the wrong shop by accident. Or perhaps it was more sinister. Perhaps they were scouting him out.

The shop had been quiet all day. Books were piled high around him, and what few customers had been in had barely given him enough money for the day’s bread. Samuel sighed deeply, but stopped himself short as a mouse looked out from behind a bookshelf. He watched it silently, as it sniffed at the thick air and eyed the mottled floor. Timidly, it scurried a couple of feet along the edge of the wall, before gaining confidence and darting to the table at which Samuel was sitting, in order to better investigate the scraps he had spilled during breakfast.

Suddenly, the mouse stopped shock still, pricking up its ears. Samuel was still holding his breath, frozen like a gargoyle. It wasn’t him who had startled the mouse. It stood up on its hind legs and sniffed the air and then, with a panicked leap, it ran back to its home behind the books.

Still Samuel was silent, intent, listening. Then he heard it too. Distant shouts, and the confused murmurs of a large gathering. The noises were getting louder, closer. His stomach sank slightly. Was this what he had been waiting for? Had the time come?

With a deep breath to calm himself, and with nervous resignation, he crept to the door. The shouting was almost audible now, and he could see the mob coming down the road. He knew what they wanted, but he was rooted to the spot, no matter how hard he tried to run.

“Heretic!” shouted one. “Alchemy is the Devil’s work” another. There were many more voices, but what they were saying was lost in the hubbub. Samuel turned to run, but it was as though he were running through sinking sand. The harder he struggled, the slower he moved, and the more he panicked, the more ineffectual these movements were.

The crowd were upon him in a second, surrounding him and preventing his escape. Some had flaming torches, others rudimentary weapons – farming implements, stout sticks a noose.

Sam the Spectacular screamed and sat bolt upright. He was safe. Covered in sweat, panting heavily, but safe in bed. It had been a dream, a horrible dream, but he was safe now. Safe at home. He went to the bathroom and washed his face, before returning to bed. He’d best try and get some sleep. He had to stay fresh while writing his book.

———————————————————————————————–

Despite the garish adverts for his new book, “The Man Who Listens To Coma Victims”, that had been plastered in the shop window for an entire week, Sam had barely sold any books, signed fewer, and had covered an entire sheet of notepaper with his signature out of sheer boredom. He hadn’t been feeling quite right all day, either. A creeping unease hung heavily on his shoulders, and he had eyed everyone entering the shop with the same paranoid suspicion. It was almost time to go home, and it wouldn’t have been unusual, given the slow day, if he had left early, but Sam was desperate to sell just a couple more books.

There they were again. That person had been in and out of the shop almost an hour earlier. They had barely stayed for five minutes, and didn’t pick up a single book in their brief perusal of the shelves. Now they were back, looking around again. Sam swore they caught his eye.

Suddenly, his mind flashed back to the dream he had had six months ago. Books piled up around him, that endless waiting. The mob coming to get him.

A shudder ran through Sam. It was time to give up on the books. He had to leave.

They walked up the stairs to the large bookshop’s second floor. This was his moment.

Sam stood up quickly, and announced his departure with a hurried apology. He picked up his few belongings – his notebook, pen, and bag that contained nothing more than a wallet and set of keys – and hurried out of the door, phoning his wife as he did.

She had been shopping with their child only a short distance from where he had been signing, so it was with great relief that Sam saw them walking towards him, his wife still talking to him on the phone. He hugged her and for a brief second his panic faded away. At that moment though, his head resting on her shoulder, he saw them coming towards him. Two young men, looking dead at him, walking straight for him. Now the entire dream flooded back to him, in vivid detail, from the dust motes in the still air inside the alchemist’s shop, to the mouse, to the mob, to the noose.

He couldn’t get away now. He felt the beads of sweat form on his palms and on his brow. Panic gripped him again, and he was sure that his wife, still hugging him, must be able to feel his beating heart.

As he finished hugging his wife, they strode up to him. There was no escape. They had found him. He had been caught.

“Mr Spectacular?” They asked. “We are from the Musty Slide Sceptics’ Society – would you be interested in taking part in Jim Brandy’s Billion Pound Challenge?”

The dream returned again, this time in the briefest of flashes. Each image felt like a cannonball landing on his chest. The flaming torches. The pitchforks. The noose.

“Dickarse!” He shouted.

The sceptics looked puzzled. One of them arched an eyebrow. “Sorry?” They asked.

“Gaytheist!” What was he saying? In his panic, words were snaking through his brain, leaping out of his mouth of their own accord. Whatever word first came into his head was the first to leave his mouth. As the dream flashed into his mind, image after image, his terror left him powerless.

“Paedophile! Festerhole!”

The two skeptics looked at him for a while. He felt their piercing eyes, their inquisitorial stares. Inquisitors… Suddenly the shouting in the dream filled his ears; “Heretic!”, “The Devil’s work!”. He felt as though a balloon were expanding inside him, squeezing his insides together and constricting his lungs. He had to take quick, shallow gasps. His breathing hastened and he started to feel dizzy.

The two sceptics looked at each other, and shrugged. They handed him the Billion Pound Challenge form, shook his hand and left, scratching their heads.

His heart rate was still pounding, but the balloon inside him was slowly deflating, and the vortex in his mind settling down.

That dream

That dream proved it, he told himself…

He was right.

He knew it for certain now.

The books. The man looking for him. Being challenged. Being surrounded by the mob.

The dream had all come true.

He was psychic, after all.

Colonel Molerat (But you predicted that, didn’t you?)

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