Michel concentrated on his practice and reached. He knew that the more he practiced, the better he would get. And yet, the half-full bottle on the desk kept distracting him. The flicker and hum from the dying neon outside the window wasn’t helping either, nor was the abundance of burnt out bulbs in what he jokingly called his “office”. The alternating pink and green lights cast moving shadows across the room, through a pile of empty bottles, and over his desk. The moving light is hypnotic, but not in a calm and pleasant way.
If he had more clients— no, let’s be honest, any clients at all —it would be easier to call it an office, and perhaps he could afford to have a cleaning lady come by once in a week to sweep, dust, and haul out the abundant numbers of empty bottles that seemed to breed in the dark corners, turning up full before contributing to his drunken state and becoming yet another empty bone on the heap of fallen foes.
Michel, as the cliché says, drinks to forget. Because he knows things. He has seen many of the futures, and is not sure he has the strength of will to continue in the face of what he sees. He knows he doesn’t have the power to change enough to improve the future of the world around him, so he seeks oblivion in the bottles. So many bottles.
Michel is discovering that the same strange inexplicable process that has kept him alive through so many years, so many disasters, so many plagues, and so much suffering is also unwilling to let him drink himself to death. In this future, once he is sure of that he tries switching from gin to bourbon to rum, then switches to absinthe in hopes of a visit from the green fairy and oblivion in the toxins of the wormwood. All he learns from the fairy is that he is expected to play out his role, and oblivion is not in his script. That future is a dead-end, and he retreats from it in another bottle of scotch.
He wakes from his latest bender to find the usual heap of dead soldiers, and wan sunlight coming in his window, causing interesting glare and refractions from the pile of multi-colored glass.
As he shakes off the dregs of a hangover that would have slain a mere mortal, the rat that has inexplicably keeping him company waddles over.
“You can’t keep doing this, you know,” it grumbles. “She already is in a snit. If she walked in and found you like this, she’d find some way to make you pay. Probably by using me. And I don’t want to get caught up in that sort of battle.”
Michel just snorts, and tries to pretend to go back to sleep.
“We’ve been chatting. We know your visions are more frequent and getting worse. You keep practicing your reach, and succeeding, but sooner or later that speakeasy down the block is going to start wondering where the leak is in its warehouse, and your trash heap here is going to give them ideas. Ideas that all of us would rather they not have.”
Michel continues to ignore the rat.
“You can keep this up forever. So can we. And we’re just crazy enough to do it. The world needs you. We need you. And we need you substantially more sober than you are.”
Michel picks his head off the desk. “What do you want from me?”
“We want you to face whatever it is, and deal. If you can’t handle it, talk to us. Talk to George. Get the Owl involved, or the Raven.”
“I can’t find a way to warn them. The world doesn’t believe in prophecy any more. My original predictions are trotted out as a standing joke every time something happens. I can’t face that again.”
“So find another way. We can work on that. But you have to stop trying to die in a bottle.”
“When did rats get so wise?”
“As long ago as there have been rats, we suspect.”
Well, perhaps this future does contain a glimmer of a path that leads somewhere other than oblivion. And perhaps he can find a way to see it.
“Fine,” he grumbles. “I’ll think about it.”
“We can’t ask for more than that.”