by Chris Tissell
"Why don't they move?"
"Oh, that's awful."
"No, I mean they're afraid. Paralyzed with fear. And besides they move. Just not all that often. When the consequences are easy to foresee."
She reached out to touch the glass. Just before her nail clicked against it the three bald figures beyond turned their piercing stares to meet her own. She shied away. Had they heard the sound before she made it?
"Why would they be afraid?" she said. "I'm the one that's afraid!" He cleared his throat in such a way that said me, too.
She heard him slipping a hand into the pocket of his jacket. He had done it several times that night and her pulse had quickened at each one.
"For them it's like... well, have you ever heard of a sound of thunder."
When she stared at him he laughed.
"I mean the famous story, 'A Sound of Thunder,' about the man who goes back in time, steps on a butterfly and it changes the world. It sounds stupid when I say it that way but it's really good."
"I've never read it."
"Well then I'll have to think of another analogy. Come see the prediction lab."
The three unblinking figures watched them go. One had stood and come near the glass. His face, like all their faces, was expressionless, unreadable.
He led her from the observation deck and down a narrow flight of stairs to a room with computers lining the walls. The center was full of desks and screens. He took her to the nearest one and thumped a key with a practiced gesture.
"When they do talk this is where we record it. Sometimes they draw pictures too, when something's too difficult or painful to explain, and we scan those in. We can sort by topic or time or place or a dozen other things."
"Are they always right?"