20. Considered Silence

Sometimes what you want and what you need are the same thing. What so many people wanted, in a world gone slightly crazy, was time to think…

Angus had lost track of how long he had been roaming the streets of London. He had expected that the first night of magic would be quiet and strange, but not quite this strange. At first, running from the diner, he had roamed the street, trying to contact the authorities, only to find every public phonebox dead. Then he’d tried to find anyone who could help him contact the authorities. Nobody had noticed him or responded. The further he ran from his starting point, the people became fewer and fewer, until he stood on a train platform, looking across at a 24-hour store, door unlocked, in which there were no people. Somewhere in the running, so to had colour drained from his surrounds, and he had been roaming through the monochrome world with a sense of unease that couldn’t be easily shaken.

It wasn’t like finding oneself suddenly in a black-and-white, empty London would be anything but disquieting. Angus knew that – he’d seen 28 Days Later, and those opening minutes had scared the living hell out of him.

Yet despite that he’d been put into a sort of rhythm already. He’d taken to finding doors that were unlocked, then making his way inside, and trying to find something he could consider useful, or a hint, or information. News broadcasts showed no people, but the cameras still changed position, cutting from place to place. The chiron beneath the footage? Blank, no hands to write on it. Then he’d check for written information, and head back out again.

What had happened to him? Why was he here, alone? What was more strange to him was, why wasn’t he afraid? He’d been thrown into… what, an alternate earth? Everyone in the world had disappeared? But here he was, feeling safe, and fine, and oddly disconnected. There didn’t seem to be any magic here, right now. There weren’t any teenagers blinking towns out of existence, or fireballs being thrown. After a fashion, Angus imagined, it was quite safe.

Still, he’d gotten up and left the diner because he’d wanted to help. He’d wanted to change things. Unlike almost everyone else in the world, Angus had a working knowledge of the Chellini Hypothesis. In a way, he reflected, he might well be an expert on the matter. An expert in a hypothesis that needed years to accrue data before it was worth considering, or even testing.

Angus sat on a front porch, looking up and down the street, and reached into his coat, fishing for the notes on the hypothesis. Maybe there was some…

Ugh.

Angus’ notes weren’t in his pockets. Of course. He’d drained his coffee, stood up sharply, and ran out of the diner. The diner – hell! Now he just had to find that place again. A moment to reorient himself, and Angus started back, trying to retrace a long and meandering path.

*

“Enk,”

“Hank.”

“Enk,” his mother went on, “are you okay?”

No, mum. I’m not okay. I’m really not okay. I woke up with a normal day and a normal life and now it’s completely crazy and I had to help carry Innogen home from the store, and when I got back home I found you roaming the house as a particularly fat pig wearing a witch’s hat. I am not okay. “I… think so.” Enk said.

“Do you want to talk about it?” She asked, sitting on the edge of the bed, resting her hand on his foot, through the blankets. This wasn’t normal. He hadn’t had an experience like this since he was very young – and that, somehow, made it all the more unsettling.

“I don’t know what I’d say,” Enk murmured, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Enk,” his mother said, rubbing his foot again with her hand – when he came home, it’d been a few short moments before she’d unravelled and become a human again, saying something about ‘anchors’ and ‘perspective ‘ – but there was still that odd, slightly unnatural awkwardness about a woman you’d seen trotting around on all fours. “Enk, things are going to get very, very odd.” As if they hadn’t been already. At least Innogen had stopped feeling the pain and the sound when they came home – though she’d wanted to go straight to sleep.

And Enk nodded, biting his upper lip. “I just… I want to try and keep things as normal as they can be. I don’t… I mean, mum, has it ever… ever worked like this before?”

“No.”

“So why did you believe in it…?”

“Because… because I guess you have to believe in something…” she said, shaking her head, giving a little sigh. “It was a bit of a shock, I won’t lie. I mean…” she shook her head again.

Standing up slowly, she turned back to Enk. “Innogen is sleeping downstairs, Enk. If you hear something, come wake me, okay?” she asked, shaking her head, and adjusting her witch’s hat.

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