"I figured something out. The future is unpredictable."
- John Green, An Abundance of Katherines.
This man. Mike knows this man.
This man with the short blond hair, bright blue eyes and grim expression. This man with the walking stick.
Mike watches him limp slowly across the park. He looks like man who has all the time in the world, but still isn't enough.
For the life of him, Mike can’t remember how he knows him. He supposes that the chap could be from Bart’s- but he can’t very well walk up to him and say, “Hello, I think I know you from medical school, but I can’t seem to remember your first name… or your last name… or even whether you were my classmate... or, er, the biochemistry TA.”
How bloody embarassing. So Mike does what he does best.
He doesn't say a word.
He contents himself with lounging in the rare sunshine whilst languidly keeping an eye on the blond man.
Mike exhales slowly. The weather is surprisingly pleasant: sunny; with blue skies, and a breeze that isn’t strong enough to be annoying and isn’t light enough to be a tease.
He can’t stay long, though. He’s going to have to leave in about an hour if he wants to finish correcting his students’ term papers by today evening. He wishes he could quit his mind-numbing desk job and work at the emergency trauma clinic again- but teaching pays rather well nowadays, and Allison likes him better when the mortgage isn’t overdue.
The blond man with the good posture is oblivious to Mike’s marital woes, and Mike resents him slightly for it. Mike wonders if the man has a significant other of his own. Perhaps that’s how he got the limp.
Mike resists the urge to let out a grim laugh. He’s already scared enough children away with his idiosyncratic muttering about the goddamned pigeons.
He watches as the man’s pace slows and finally stops. Somewhere, someone has set up a stereo system that is very loudly playing a peppy dance number about Mick Jagger and his infamous dance moves. There’s a lot of hooting and laughter from the boisterous crowd near the music, and it’s a strange contrast to the quiet blond man with his serious eyes and clenched jaw.
For some reason, Mike is transfixed. He takes note of the most inconsequential details- the sharp creases in his jeans, his slightly upturned nose, and his trembling left hand. The stranger’s jumper-clad shoulders straighten in a way that makes Mike’s own back hurt, and he watches the man stare at the busy road in front of him.
There are buses and cars whizzing back and forth; and every so often there’s a shout, or an angry honk. Mike’s gaze follows the blond stranger as he walks steadily towards the road. His pace is determined, and Mike thinks that he may even be gaining speed.
In the corner of Mike's mind, a trivial observation registers: the stranger’s left hand isn’t shaking anymore.
The blond man walks over the small barrier that separates this secluded part of the park from the road, and he turns back to face away from the bustling street. Towards Mike.
Mike instinctively flinches. Has he been caught staring? Is the man going to make a mocking comment about his transgression?
But nothing like that happens at all. Instead, the man looks directly up at the sky. It looks like he's praying, but his eyes are wide open as he stares into the fierce glare of the sun.
Then he starts walking backwards.
Straight into the high-speed oncoming traffic.
Without looking at either side, his head turned away from the approaching vehicles.
And for a second-
Mike stops breathing-
And everything freezes.
The zooming cars, the busy pedestrians, the pigeons in flight, and the large transport truck that is no more than an inch away from the unflinching blond stranger… they are all frozen in place. The sound of the grating pop music dwindles down slowly and mechanically into absolute silence.
He can see the people on the road. Twisted expressions of anger and shock are frozen on their faces. The exhaust smoke from the transport truck is unmoving, and it glitters prettily in the bright sunlight.
The blond man looks peaceful as he faces his impending death.
Mike is about to open his mouth to shout Don’t!
When for a second-
The blond man’s emotionless blue eyes are upon him-
And then they’re not, not anymore-
And then everything melts into motion again and we just continue:
The earth rotates on its axis again.
A flower blooms.
A baby cries for the first time.
And a man that Mike Stamford does not know dies on a busy London road at precisely seven minutes after 3 pm.
It is a gloriously sunny day. Mike can see the sun reflect against the blood on the pavement.
In a cold and bleak laboratory miles away, a tall man with silky, dark curls stands in front of a table with a pipette in his hand. The petri dish on the table holds his attention more than any person ever can (and ever will).
At exactly 3:07 pm, he feels something.
The man is startled, as this is something that does not happen often.
It is sudden and intense and it feels like falling and it hurts and the pain it's everywhere oh and it's in his chest and in his head and it throttles him for an entirely cold minute and he clenches the edge of the lab desk and shuts his eyes for a moment and all he's asking is for the pain to just go away-
And then all of a sudden, the pain subsides.
At exactly 3:08 pm he surmises that he has gone back to normal because as usual, he feels nothing.