17: One And A Million (part 1)

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17.1 The Day The Earth Stood Stupid

Invergloy, Scotland: 29 May 2107

Morton Fisk's head was being emptied. He closed his eyes and clasped his hands against his temples and it was as if five pairs of hands were trying to grip a skull that refused to hold still. With consciousness escaping him, he exerted one last effort, and willed himself back together.

There was a popping sound and his vision cleared. He dared to breathe again. Whatever he had done had stopped the distortions – the sensation of being torn apart had passed. He looked around the cabin but Ross, Jennifer and Dick were gone. He was alone.

Then he became aware of something else. Although he could see things clearly again, there was the hint of fading shadows overlying everything. He stretched his mind out to investigate and found the effort required to do so was minimal. Moments before he had been almost helpless; now, he felt a surge of power that was both invigorating and terrifying. He swallowed and overcame the terror. He needed to concentrate, needed to discover exactly what had happened. Had they moved the Earth? Had the asteroid hit?

His mind ranged around the planet to the southern Pacific, seeking out evidence of the asteroid. The relief he felt when found no trace of it was countered when he found something that struck him as worse. All around the world, he encountered a dehumanised humanity. Almost mindless, the people meandered about or lay moribund.

Morton entered a mind and it felt almost vacant, more like that of a lesser animal. He tried another and a third to find the same and realisation struck. That feeling of emptiness he had experienced just after the 'event' – this is what he would have become had he not pulled himself back together.

Then he peered at the shadows that were becoming perceptively weaker, and was shocked. Four copies of the Earth receded away from him. He could easily view the nearest – and in the Scottish cabin of that one lay his own body, apparently dead. He searched the next Earth, detecting again another copy of his own dead body. But, in that world, there was something else, a rushing sensation of something coming closer. He extended his consciousness to its source and immediately retreated, running in fear as a wall of fire spread across that world. That was where the asteroid hit.

Morton snapped his consciousness back into his world and then broadcast, seeking others who had also managed to defy the five-way split and pull themselves back into one body. But there were none.

He was not only alone in the cabin, he was alone in the world.

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