Sue Vincent’s #writephoto is this
The Shadow ran a finger round his T shirt (black, naturally). The woman seemed unsure of her footing as she scrambled down the bank. The Shadow rubbed his back. He’d helped far too many people down that bank and he didn’t need another spasm. He stepped forward as the woman regained her footing.
‘Hallo.’ The Shadow was pleased with the voice. It wasn’t natural and if forced to a full sentence it would crack but the deep baritone greeting added a certain gravitas for all new arrivals.
The woman jumped, squealed and turned into man, a small gerbil and, bizarrely, an Ikea kitchen table before reverting to her female form. Back as the twenty something blonde she sucked in air. ‘Geez, did you have to do that?’
‘Oh well done. And you?’ She paused. ‘Invisibility?’
‘Sort of. I merge into shadows.’ He tried to make it sound like he was proud of this skill but the look he received made his heart sink. ‘You here for the Aperture?’
The woman clearly hadn’t recovered her composure. She glared at him, ‘No, I’m trying my hand a fly bloody fishing. Of course I’m here…’
‘Look, Lady, we get all sorts. So don’t get smug or I’ll…’
But she wasn’t listening. She had begun to run her hands over the bricks. ‘This is amazing. It feels… Alive. Yet it’s a bridge right.’
The Shadow smiled. He wanted to say something sarky like ‘no it’s a spaceship’ but of course he didn’t. After all it was. Kind of. Instead he turned on the gracious host charm. ‘Yes, it’s good isn’t it? It’s barely changed since it appeared.’
She glanced round at him. ‘Appeared?’
The grin widened. ‘You don’t know? And I thought you knew it all?’
The glare returned briefly and then faded. She nodded. ‘Sorry. I was a bit short back there. It’s been… well hard. You know?’
‘Yes. Of course.’
‘When can I get in?’
The Shadow glanced at the sun; it was about two hours from its zenith. ‘Soon. You want to tell me how you found us.’
‘It was amazing. Luck really. I’ve been having all these weird sensations, since I, well…’
‘Exactly. Mum told me about periods and stuff but she didn’t even hint at this.’ She waved her free hand which briefly took the form of a rather manky looking flamingo. ‘Talk about embarrassing. I don’t think Jim will ever recover.’
‘It’s often the way. First heightened emotional state as you mature and, wallop, out pops a special power. Was yours that? That bird thingy?’
‘I wish. Jim was nibbling my ear and, well, it nibbled him back. The gerbil, I think.’
‘In a way that’s quick lucky. Some of the stories one hears. Geesh. Anyway, you found you had super powers and…’
‘Super powers? You think? More like a bloody curse. It’s taken me nearly ten years to venture outside, in case someone makes me jump and become something that might eat them.’
‘Which comic. Or was it Disney?’
‘How did I know? It’s been my job to ensure those who make it this far don’t turn back because the Aperture isn’t open when they arrive. So I’ve heard all sorts..’
‘You’re here all the time?’ She glanced at the lowering clouds – rain was coming.
‘I do shifts. Colin… sorry Invisiblo, he does up to the dawn chorus and then the sunset gig. I’m your daylight guy, on account of my thing with shadows. Sort of suits.’
The woman sat on a large rock. Her fingers became small toffee hammers and she drummed an irritating but competent version of Rock Me Amadeus on the adjacent buttress. ‘I saw Superman, actually. It was while watching I got this feeling there was more to it. Really strong. Mum bought me a set of the comics and I read and read. Marvel comics. All of them. They told me so much, even if it wasn’t obvious to my friends. I pieced together I needed to come here. Why?’
Poor thing, thought Shadow. She’d been all alone, trying to make sense of things. Like so many he’d seen down the years.
‘Ok, short version. When you pass through you’ll get all the detail. Wind the clock back to 1932. A scientist called Rutherford – well his students actually – split the atom in a controlled experiment – he’d done it first in 1917 but never controlled it until then. People, clever know-alls actually thought about how that could mean infinite power, massive bombs. What they didn’t know – still don’t – is it’s affected evolution. Two strands of humanity started that day. Us, with these enhanced powers and the rest. Almost immediately it became clear to some that the newly empowered needed a home, understanding…’
The Shadow smiled. ‘I’ll get to that. Part of the impact was these Apertures appeared, across the continents. Because the atom split here – down the road in Cambridge – this was the first. They need to be inconspicuous so, erm, it was incorporated into the structure of this old bridge. Having set that in motion, word needed to go out, some hint that the newly empowered were coming. But not in a way to scare the general populus. That’s why Marvel, DC comics, Disney all started about then. You ever wondered why superheroes first appeared in the 1930s? That’s why.’
‘Bloody hell. Simple comics…’
‘We like to think of them as instruction guides. You need to have the genetic abnormality that gives you your power to read between the lines as it were. They bring you here, if you feel you can’t cope, you question your purpose, why you’re alive, what it all means…’
‘Exactly. Is that because I have this super power?’
‘No, it’s normal teenage angst. But for you there is an answer. Through there.’ The Shadow pointed at the curved wall of the bridge support. It was beginning to become translucent.
‘What is it? Through there?’
‘Somewhere you will feel at home. Amongst those who understand you. They will help you become what you were meant to be.’
‘Look, it’s open. Time to pop in.’
‘I’m not sure…’
‘Oh go on. Where’s the harm?’
The young woman shrugged, stood up and dissolved into the bridge. As she did so a red haired man with eyes that glowed brightly stepped the other way. ‘Tea.’
‘Thanks Dazzle, I’m gasping.’
‘How’s it going?’
‘Couple of local numpties getting nosey. Those twin weather-makers caused a bit of a stir at the pub. You couldn’t warm this could you?’
The Shadow put down the cup while the Dazzle peered at it. Soon enough steam curled from the surface.
‘How is it going down there?’
‘Bit crowded. Rumour has it the next group will be ready to take their places later today. Hope so because the aircon is down and Dynamo has had to go to the dentist to get his molars shaved do we’re short on back up power. Still word has it The Animatrix is close to completion. They always said it would take 100 years for enough of the Enhanced to be ready and in place. That’s only a few years away now.’
The Shadow nodded. ‘I never thought I’d see it in my own lifetime.’
The Dazzle looked away across the rugged countryside. A six foot tall rabbit appeared to lolloping towards them. ‘I quite like the anonymity, you know. I’ll leave you to it. If Alice follows the Mar h Hare let me know.’
‘Sure. Oh and any chance you could get me something to rub in my back? It’s killing me.’
‘I’ll send one of the rubber people out. Apparently their massages are just out of this world.’
Alone The Shadow slid out of sight. If the man-sized bunny was a trick he didn’t want to be seen. After all, if they were going to completely change the way the world was run, they needed to stay vigilant.