Angus sat, despondent, in the corner booth of the cheerful little red-and-white diner, watching the clock’s hand a second time in one day. The afternoon had been full of strange news. There had been a school bombing. There had been an outburst of individuals claiming magical powers. A christian cult in the middle of Utah had claimed to be the White Horse in many forms. Palestine, oh god, Palestine. For the first time since they had been called into existence, the twenty-four hour news coverage channels actually had a reason to report constantly. This wasn’t 1952, when a single superpower had gained something they’d been striving to gain for months – in one single day, every single nation had suddenly had ‘magic’ appear – and appear out of nowhere.
Watching the news flick from place to place, it varied. From a human interest approach, with families finding old devices in their homes being magical, to the more tragic, where buildings were collapsing, oppressive and old nations were suddenly and sharply aways in blood. What stood out to Angus, more than anything else, were the stories of the scientific, where glowing scientists beamed to the cameras that for whatever reason, the new greatest boundary of discovery had finally been thrown open.
“You see, science has had a lot of the most… the most simple groundwork already done,” said one bearded man, eyes positively alight. “We thought that there were all these things we couldn’t do, because we were sure how the rules worked. We’ve learned, today, that… that the rules are so different, there was this whole mansion of rules we never knew about. Imagine if you were a, a, an explorer, and suddenly overnight, a new continent appeared in the Pacific ocean to be explored.”
Angus had never expected anything like this. The last person to give a damn about the Chellini hypothesis, he’d always considered his life a deliberately fruitless endeavour. There was a certain rote boringness to his life. Education, part time job, better part time job, more education, and eventually, a full time job while pursuing something like education. In all of that time, he’d never once felt like he mattered, like any of the study he was doing was important. In the great clockwork of modern society, Angus was an ornamental wooden bird, unconnected to anything else. When he was twenty, it had bothered him. When he was twenty-five, he had fought against it. When he turned thirty, he had let his shoulders finally slump down into the pathetic slouch they were always destined to be, and embraced the all-encompassing nature of fuck-allness. The only things that had ever animated his soul had been irrelevant things – the angels on the head of a pin, the circular room’s corners, the slightly interesting point where farenheit and celsius overlapped. With that in mind, and lacking art, lacking passion, lacking anger, Angus had simply become the spackle of academia.
Hand nervously turning the coffee cup, the screen showing the remnants of a Tibetan monastery visible in fly-overs. Golden cracks in the mountainside cut burning lights through the snow, while the smoke that spiralled up in the sky scintillated with a million colours, like the skin of oil on the surface of water. People were gathered around, bent in prayer to the invisible flames that transformed the wood from brown to grey, crumbled ash.
Angus’ day job required him to, technically, do something glamorous. He interacted with magicians, stage presenters working on a different continent. Most of the time, he drew diagrams and outlined plans, and sent them on. Jonathan Creek at least had been exceptionally good at his job to justify his boring demeanour. Angus was just exceptionally boring as well as basically competent. People paid him for being reliable, not for being artistically talented. It wasn’t so bad – it dissuaded him from straying too far from his field of secondary study, the supernatural. Ghost hunting and witch-busting and its ilk always reduced in Angus’ mind to the conflict between the two phrases, stuck in his mind like briars, both gleaned during that education.
In any sufficiently random universe, microcosmically small events are guaranteed to happen even if unobserved.
All science is either physics or stamp collecting.
Angus turned his coffee to the other hand. On the screen, a heartwarming story about a young girl who flew into a tree to rescue a kitten, landed, and was now able to talk to flowers. The interviewer desperate that nothing strange was going on, hoping to offer some reassurance to those, ‘back in the studio’ who weren’t out in the world at large where terrifying shit was going on.
The Chellini hypothesis and the words of Ernest Rutherford. The Chellini hypothesis was a desperate, hail-mary pass from the mind of a not-quite academic, trying to justify his own pursuits, and receive all the grants and exceptional nonsense. In some ways, the Chellini hypothesis stood as an example of what you could con a departmental organisation out of when you had sufficient knowledge of beaurocracy. More than once, Angus had imagined that maybe, the whole hypothesis was a way to be granted money which could be spent on gin and cheap bread. Lords knows they’d stunk of it when he’d picked up the original texts.
What would happen if magic was real, and something had kept it from being observed? That magic was not impossible, but instead massively rare? Then the question became observing those rare events, and cataloguing them. It had been four years of study, travelling by public transport, to every single supernatural ‘event’ he could find. Angus had become quite a good sleuth at this – a wonderful little burster of miracles. He learned about paredolia, he learned about confirmation bias, and every time he arrived with his notebook in hand and his scientific attitude, he had left behind him annoyed and irritated people who either thought him an idiot, or were saddened that he’d proven their miracle wrong. Time to time, Angus worried if that was how the people who left the magic shows would feel if they ever knew how it worked. Just wires and plants, most of the time…
Turning his coffee back to the other hand, Angus looked away from the screen, down at the coffee. Syria. Syria was an old country. There was an odd correlation, in his mind. America, Canada, and Australia barely appeared in the news – mostly boring little suburban towns, with tiny, mundane differences in reality. A ten year old who carried a kitten out of a tree. They weren’t showing up in the news – but in Iran, Afghanistan, Palestine, Egypt – there was a clear problem. A wall around the West Bank, created out of shimmering light that. Some soldiers had shot the wall, which had only echoed with a word, a sound. Those soldiers now lay in hospital beds, eyes coloured completely black, repeating the word over, and over again… and the doctors who heard it reported headaches and nausea.
Angus looked at his notebook. At the stack of papers that represented his presentation on the Chellini hypothesis. At the coffee. Just like that, the decision was made. He knew it. He realised what he was dealing with, what he had to do.
Draining his coffee, Angus stood, turned, and bolted out the door. Behind him, a stack of books and paperwork lay, unattended, unexamined. The Chellini hypothesis sat uncontained and was, eventually, picked up by a waitress with better things to do than examine rubbish on tables, and thrown out the back, into the trash, where it served to make a hobo slightly less uncomfortable. Words, words, words, spilling over the man’s form while he slept – their meaning forgotten, their pattern broken. Angus didn’t care – he was on the move. He’d seen it, a pattern, seen something that could finally separate the animating spirit of his body from its unending physical lethargy. Maybe he was seeing something nobody else was – maybe he had the insight necessary into just what was going wrong. Either way, he couldn’t just sit there. Angus stood, and Angus ran – Angus left.
At the same time, Angus did not.
He sat, looking at his coffee, his notebook, and drained the cup. Flipping open his notebook and settling into the bench seat, and sighed. Nothing about him mattered. Nothing about him had ever mattered. He had never changed anything, and all he’d done with his life was destroy people’s miracles, while trying to find just one, legitimate miracle. Raising the cup in his hand, he looked across the dull, grey diner, to the dull waitress, waving the beige cup in his hand. “Excuse me?” Even as he said it, he turned down to look at the paperwork again. It was in here. It had to be in here – four years wasn’t going to vanish down the drain for no purpose.