Q: If you could see the future, would you want to?
Chapter 1 - Visions
Rain. Hurtling against the window pane. Over and over again. Drumming through her brain, overwhelming her thoughts. Relentless. Like the voices on the radio.
I saw my mother passing away…then it came true…I saw myself getting the job…and then I actually got it…I saw Macron stepping down…I saw Elon Musk getting stuck in space…I saw Kamala Harris being sworn in as president…I saw…I saw…
Laura switched the radio off and turned over in bed. Eager callers sharing their visions were doing her head in. Their voices so needy. So desperate to share. It was all anyone could talk about these days. That and Ivanka Trump’s new role in the British government. I mean, really!
The TV wasn’t any better.
Latest strain has led to visions…during coughing…prescient visions…scientists cannot explain quite how…still unconfirmed…the Prime Minister has asked for calm while…blah, blah, blah…
Endless chatter. So much airtime. On what exactly? This whole thing was ridiculous. Of course you couldn’t see the future! Whilst coughing, at that! Had lockdown finally broken people? Or was she missing something? Maybe it was a way for the government to distract from their endless incompetencies or worse still, a teaser campaign for some new reality show. Yes that must be it. Batshit crazy.
Laura found herself getting even more agitated. She took a deep breath. Why exactly was this all irritating her so much? She inhaled again and reflected. It was the self-aggrandisement, she concluded. The self-importance of all these people unified by this fantastical phenomena. It went against her family grain to behave like this. There, self-promotion was never rewarded. Achievement was expected and yet never enough for her mother. Maybe that’s why she had chosen a career in the arts, her therapist had suggested. It’s subjectivity had provided a protective shield around any criticism, or in her family’s case, a lack of praise that may or may not come her way.
She still wasn’t feeling right. The fever had abated but her head still ached. Thank goodness she didn’t have the cough…
Suddenly her chest tightened. She gasped. Her lungs clung against her rib cage. All the air squeezed out. Choking for breath. Knuckles white, gripping her bed sheets. She coughed and in that split second, she saw:
Out of which, a chink of light.
Into a spinning bicycle wheel. Twisting and contorting in slow motion. Like a film. A bad film. Where something truly awful happens. An accident. A life-changing accident. Then…
Laura gasped and lay back down on her bed, preparing herself for the next round of coughing bubbling up. She saw:
A faded outline of a figure.
Standing next to a mangled bicycle wheel, an exhibit in an art gallery. Her name next to it. Her work of art.
Laura reached for a glass of water and doused her enflamed throat. What were those hallucinations? No…it couldn’t be.
She threw the covers over her head. She must be imagining things. Over-thinking. Psychosomatic. All in the head. That was the other angle that they had been exploring in her weekly shrink sessions. The emotional impact of her family finally taking its toll. Laura paused…but what if it wasn’t? What if these were the visions that everyone was getting so excited about. Wait. It couldn’t be real. How could Danish minks cause virus mutations that lead to clairvoyance? You couldn’t make it up. Her mind spiralled out of control. She hadn’t liked what she had seen. An accident. Her own…she could feel it. Followed by blindness…hers.
She had her first group exhibition coming up at The Gallery. The culmination of years of dreaming and hard work. Was it to be her last? She could picture her mother, tight-lipped, frozen smile. They would all look at her with those faux-sympathetic eyes and sigh with disappointment. Careless, they would say. Just like you to have a mishap, just at the point of opportunity. How can you be an artist if you can’t see? She couldn’t bear that. She pushed the thoughts out of her head and closed her eyes.
Days later, she emerged from her quarantine and opened the front door. Her bike lay waiting for her, her urban steed. Words filled her head again. Voices telling her to be careful, that she was hopeless, a loser. Even though she berated herself for it, she walked past her bike, suddenly afraid.
Government posters telling people not to act upon their visions peppered the streets. Don’t change the course of time. Your actions could affect our collective future. Laura shook her head sadly. No one would take any notice. Ever since the infamous Cummings debacle, people had stopped caring about authority and more worryingly, the collective. We were now all islands. Self-seeking, drifting aimlessly. Nothing new for me, Laura thought to herself. She had always felt alone in her family. Never sure where she was heading…until the exhibition had finally given her the direction she needed.
Now the visions were setting her off course. The fire in her had started to wane as she found herself avoiding all two-wheelers like a modern day Sleeping Beauty. Whether the visions were true or not, her survival instincts were forcing her to stay away from what she saw.
However nothing was ever simple. The Gallery kept pressurising her to deliver her central piece for the exhibition and she had no idea what this was to be. Every time she started on something, she ended up destroying it. Nothing worked. Nothing felt right. Apart from the one thing she was trying to avoid. The bicycle. Unconsciously she kept drawing them. Something macabre in her was making her. She told herself that Duchamp had already done it years ago but she couldn’t get them out of her head. Don’t give in. Don’t give the visions validation, she told herself but her subconscious wouldn’t listen. Her potential future was blinding her vision.
The day came when she realised that she had to make a choice. Laura watched Elon Musk halt his space programme under duress from his share holders and President Biden start a course in cryogenics. They believed. Their actions confirmed the legitimacy of the visions. Soon the scientists would too. Laura knew that if she was to proceed with the show, it would have to be with a bicycle. Her artistic success depended on it.
Laura’s heart ached. She now had the biggest choice of her life. Pursue her artistic dreams with her eyes wide open, knowing full well that in doing so she may risk blindness. Or resign from the show, aware that she might just turn out as her family have always expected…a failure.
📷: Lawrson Pinson