Journal - Preface

Everyone remembers where they were on that day.

I was then still a sophomore at Oxford. At the time, there was no such thing as “Paranormal Studies,” and my academic pursuits were in psychology and biology. It was a Monday – after a particularly grueling weekend of studying, as I recall – and I was walking to class with my roommate, Allison Carter. I can even remember what we were talking about: Allison was regaling me with the story of her most recent date with… what was his name? Mr. Atkins? Yes, William Atkins. Allison often spoke to me of her dates, perhaps in part to shame me into getting out on weekends. That, and we were practically inseparable.

We were about three-quarters of the way to class when it happened. There was suddenly a growing rumbling beneath our feet, which intensified and was accompanied by bright light and a force of some sort. It felt like an uncommonly strong wind was pushing right through us.

It was over in all of one minute.

When it had passed, and my vision returned to normal, I looked around frantically and called out to Allison. Then I looked down and saw her lying on the ground. The sight of her, limbs sprawled out in all directions, blood seeping from her nose, her ears. Her eyes… there are still nights when this image violently shakes me from my sleep. I went to her, but there was nothing I could do. My best friend was gone. I began to call out for help, but as I looked around me, I could see the busy courtyard now filled with panicked students – some also kneeling over friends, some on the ground convulsing or motionless, still others stood frozen by fear and the sudden chaos.

Resignedly, I left Allison’s side and went to a group of students forming around something – in fact, it was a someone. When I had crossed the green, I could hear the young man screaming. I pushed my way through and found him lying on the sidewalk. He was still conscious, but seemingly in tremendous pain. Suddenly, several women began to scream as the man’s arms ignited in flame. He called out – I will never forget how he called to his mother to help him in that moment – and stumbled to his feet. The fire engulfing his arms began to spread to the rest of him, and the crowd quickly moved back and dispersed as it finally covered him from head to toe. By this point, though the man was still terrified, he no longer seemed in pain. When he took a step towards the crowd there were more screams as the man vanished into thin air with a flash of light! A few seconds later he reappeared at the opposite edge of the courtyard, and now he was screaming as he lunged out, falling to the ground and setting it aflame before flashing out again. Many of the students ran for the safety of nearby buildings as this poor man continued to warp from space to space, setting fire to grass, trees, benches, even an unfortunate young woman at one point. In the panic, I noticed the approach of campus public safety officers. Though they too seemed panicked and confused by what had happened, they were not so distracted that they could not operate their weapons. I remember calling out to the man, and when he turned to look at me – a look of terror and pain in his eyes – the shots rang out, and he hit the ground hard. I screamed then, for the first time since the incident. I ran to him, watching his fire dissipate as he lay face-down in the charred dirt. I rolled him over the best I could – the heat still singed my fingers as I took hold of him – but the bullet had hit him in the base of the neck, and he was already dead. Moments later, pairs of hands grabbed at my shoulders, and I was taken inside one of the academic buildings while the officers checked for other survivors… and other perceived threats.

After that initial incident, the rest of the day is less clear, but I know I spent much of the evening trying to get information from outside Oxford about what had happened. I finally got in contact with my father, and he came for me shortly thereafter. Back home in my childhood room, I cried for Allison, and for the young man whose name I never knew. It wasn’t until weeks later that they started calling the event the “Havock,” and when reports started coming in about its potentially global reach, and the extent of the paranormal effects it had caused, I knew that every surviving person would remember the thirtieth day of April 1945 in their hearts as I now do.

It’s been twenty-five years since that day. The end of this month brings the official anniversary of the Havock. Much has happened in those intervening years. Prejudice, violence, and aggression against meta-humans – still called paranormals by most – continues to intensify. I had thought and hoped beyond hope that Arcadia might turn out differently. That it might have set an example for other cities and other nations to follow. That here, meta-humans might find a home, instead of a mere temporary respite. Thus far, I have been so very wrong.

Yet I will not allow my aspirations to become a fool’s hope. The majority of my life has been spent in war and in strife with a world wholly changed by that war and by the Havock. I can no longer accept the status quo. There is another way – there must be. My colleagues are with me, and I’ve identified three more potentials – if they can be convinced, then it’s a start…

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. We must all of us, human and meta-human, be ready and willing to pay that price.

The time is now.

Mw sig1

Journal - Preface

Vigil stardustbard