This particular short was inspired by this word prompt. It introduces the origins of the Blurred Man. Look out for him in Memories of Steel. For even if you don’t see him. He sees you.
My siblings all have their story. The Lifetaker watched his mother burn at the stake for being a witch. The Wanderer witnessed the death of his beloved at the hands of our brother, Laech. Laech himself witnessed his first wife become dust. A dust that contained a gem of immortality. It turns out she was more than just your ordinary human. I’m not exactly sure about the other three and how they came to be. We’ve never been a close family. Can you even call us that? You see, this isn’t how I died but rather how I was reborn.
In the shadow of the First Trade War, my squad and I were aiming for the heart of the I/Sect. Its existence and connections had allowed Europe to bypass Russia altogether in the world of commodity. Such an alliance would turn the Soviet Unity into a cornered rat if the Chinese ever decided to work with them. A preemptive show of force was decided upon if only to seize the oil fields and give new life to the Unity’s war machine.
This story however, is not about the war. But it helps to understand my current predicament. The war itself was an insignificance compared to what happened to me. Foresight isn’t something that just happens. I developed it as a child. I remember my father coming home one day with a strange bronze coloured ball. That’s where it began. I could experience premonitions everytime I interacted with that strange device. I would be see events yet to happen. My father being a man of science used my experiences to study the nature of the sphere. When I asked if he had experienced this gift of foresight. He denied it. From that point forward we ran tests ranging from coin flips to gambling. He stopped before it became suspicious. The predictions were always right. There was no doubt about it. The technology he later told me was not of this earth but recovered from a race of beings long since passed.
You might ask how I ended up in the military. When my father passed, his will made mention of the Future Sphere (the name he gave it). It was to be my sole inheritance. The rest of the family inheritance went to my many brothers and sisters. While you can do a lot with money and wealth. I possessed a means to shape the future. To set the Unity on course to great things. At least that was the idea.
The sphere is not only how I ended up with a gun to the back of my head. It led to my eternal torment in the Expanse. You see the Future Sphere’s ability to see forward in time was just one of its many tricks. I now understand the device was a communicator used by the fallen Arbor over long distances. My adoptive mother explained everything. To be honest looking back on it. It all sounds so absurd.
As the main divisions of the Unitys army swept through the I/Sect I was tasked with keeping the newly founded civilian insurgents from shooting us in the back. This led to my patrol in one of the many forgettable towns we had to occupy. We were a squad of five, and I was its Captain. We were tasked with scouting ahead from any signs of insurgent activity. When a loud knock came from the nearby building. I had instinctively touched the Future Sphere as it hung from my belt. It only showed me flashes of the future.
An open door. An empty hallway covered in sand. A living room with a television showing static and finally a garden. A dead tree. Foot steps. Gun shots. They shook me back to my senses.
At the time the vision was confusing. I had to assume the damned thing had just shown me my future. That was also when I saw her for the first time. No one else in my squad did. I can be sure of that. A woman covered in white from head to toe. Untouched by the world around her just watching me. All I could make out was her eyes. Empty of anything close to emotion. As if the reaper itself had come to collect my soul. I had no way of knowing if they killed me. The vision showed everything from my perspective. But it ended with gunfire. Would they really betray me?
“Captain, maybe we should check the building. There could be insurgents inside.”
I agreed but still had my doubts. “If there were wouldn’t they have attacked by now?”
My squad looked visibly nervous as if the question alone put fear in their minds. It can’t be them. Why? I’ve served with them for most of my life. Why betray me here?
“True, are you saying we should leave it.”
“No,” I answer approaching the door made of wood. It opens with little resistance. “Privates Yerohkin and Zherdev I want you lead this one. Scout the downstairs. The two privates entered with little complaint. That just left me with Sergeants Balakin and Garin. “You two check upstairs.”
“And what about you, Captain?”
“I will guard the front.”
The two men look at each other before following the order. I can avoid my fate if I stay here. Should I check? Am I to live in fear from this point forward. Is my fate unavoidable or is the Future Sphere a constant. My heart thundered against my chest as sweat rolled down my cheeks.
I should just kill them… I heard a noise and cry from inside and natural instinct took over. I had already set my future in motion. I moved to the living room and found nothing but a static television. “Someone report!”
Nothing. I return to the hall way and look to what appeared to be a cluttered kitchen. The back door was open. I touch the Sphere. Nothing. Bastard.
With one hand on my rifle I approach the back door and enter the back garden. In the centre is the dead tree from my vision. Gun fire, I close my eyes. I’m still alive. I turn around to see Garin standing over an insurgent.
“You okay, Captain. Has the heat got to you.”
I see the bastard out of the corner of my eye. The cheeky private had hidden behind the tree. The insurgent had been used to distract. To focus my attention on Garin. I heard the gunshot. The world tilted and I hit the ground with a thud, the life crept away from me.
To this day I have no clue why they did it. I can only think they intended to desert and couldn’t trust me. Maybe they had a deal with the insurgents? I didn’t know and would never find out. When they left. I was now alone with her.
“Abusing such power led you to me. The Sphere calls to me. To the Expanse. An existence beyond what you consider to be mortality.”
At this point she was talking to a corpse.
“Though the body dies. A mind like yours is ripe for the picking. How many does that make now? Seven. Seven humans to influence the future of all humankind. You will be my champion. We will not know you. But first you must wait my dear child.”
She kneels down in front of me and strokes my cheek. Her hand rests on the Sphere. And from there I don’t know what happened. One minute I was dead. The next I stood on a plain of existence that was entirely surreal. It stretched for an eternity. She was at my side. Only she wore grey and not white. I was confused.
The grey figure sighs, “That’s just what we need. Another pawn. But who do you belong to? Which version of me manifested this time. Fine. You can stay here but I am not obligated to acknowledge a lower specie.”
The grey figure turned and marched purposefully into the fog. I was alone. I was alive in spirit. But my body. I had a second chance now. But the one that gave me it. I still don’t understand what they want from me. But when the time comes. I think I’ll know. For now I watch the world through mirrors shaping it as the unseen one.
I think they call me the Blurred Man now? Whatever that means.