The doctors said it was a miracle that I was not stillborn. My brain resembled nothing the doctors had ever seen before. The muscles of my back had grown behind my spine and were forcing it into my internal organs. During an operation to realign the muscles my spinal chord was severed, paralysing me. My parents were ill equipped to cope with the strain of my condition and stopped visiting me before I can remember. I presume they decided to start with a clean slate, or perhaps I put them off children altogether. The unknown strength that kept me alive never brought them back to me and I’ve never gone looking.
The only company I had as I grew up was of the nurses and doctors that tended to me. With only the ability to move my eyes and blink I only saw them as they looked down at me. At first I heard little but my hearing quickly grew until I could hear the appointed authorities, arguing over the practicality of my life, in their office at the other end of the corridor. Most believed me brain dead, the rest considered it another blessing I lacked.
By the time I was three the first signs of my true power appeared. I already had a reasonable understanding of auditory language but no means of communication other than blinking. Then the nurses began to hear things, voices of staff they knew were elsewhere. One, a former nun, realised I was the source of these voices and arranged for an exorcision, believing me possessed by the devil. It’s hard to convince a priest your not the devil when you speak without moving your lips. Harder still when the nurse assured the priest that my voice box had been crushed by internal pressure during birth. When various biblical citations failed to heal me and I started to read the bible back to him in his own voice the priest lied to the nurse, telling her my voice was god’s compensation for my condition and hurriedly left the hospital.
Many of the original nurses left on grounds of mental health but those who remained came to know that I meant them no harm. Before I could talk aloud and mimic any sound I heard, I spoke to the world not to a single mind. There was some level of acceptance among the staff of the hospital and the feeling I realised that they looked after me because they thought no one else should have to. This angered me at times. Shortly after my fourth birthday my second ability was awoken by this anger. The walls of the hospital began to shake when I heard the nurses talk of the toll my care was taking on them. This power prompted another exorcism attempt with much the same result. Rumours of my abilities attracted the attention of a local reporter for whom I did nothing interesting. He left only with a mysteriously broken camera and a few shots of a drooling cripple.
There was no sympathy left for me after that but I was looked after nonetheless. Not cared for really but maintained with minimal contact. As I learnt to control my power I could levitate objects around the room. Later I developed an instinct for the physical layout of the world around me which spread further and further from my useless, feeble body. I knew what the world outside felt like, what shape it was if not what colour. After that I decided the time had come to see that world myself, I had felt puppets in the children’s ward past locked doors, down endless corridors. Those puppets had flown through windows into my room for me to play with. To practice on. Now my frail body became the puppet of its own power as I left that tiny room for the first time in years. Finally my eyes saw what I had heard and felt so long before. I think I dropped myself a few times in shock, doing my pathetic cadaverous form no good at all. All who saw me fled in terror as I swam through the air above. I was graceless, I was terrifying and for the first time in my life I was happy.
The third of my abilities came soon after that first flight almost mocking it’s worth. Without leaving my bed I knew I could see the world outside without carrying my useless carcass with me. My body didn’t leave that room again until it died. It didn’t have to go anywhere, I was out in the world alone, racing through it and eagerly devouring every new sight and sound. It was a long time before I could feel the things I saw, a long time before that power had the chance to catch up. From then on my power over light far surpassed my telekinetic abilities. As time passed I could alter light as well as following it’s flow. I brought new images to the world. The image of my body walked the streets of cities of many different continents while my hollow shell withered on its bed in the hospital. My inactivity there brought understandable relief to the hospital staff and in some even sympathy blossomed again. The increasing attention my body was given must have doubled it’s lifespan at least.
The seeds of my new life took root many years later when I realised I could touch the world with and give form to my ghostly image. I chose to create a new life in Australia the other side of the world from my hospital room. It also negated the need to learn a new language. By this time my body was fourteen years old and somehow the chemicals of puberty had taken effect. I set myself up as an illegal immigrant and obtained citizenship papers from a sympathetic woman who took me in. I lived with the woman and her at first grudging daughter Alma. Beautiful Alma was only a year my senior but did not act it. I think she came to love caring for me because she enjoyed the responsibility. From then I lived what could pass for an almost normal life, I worked enough to rent a flat which Alma and I moved into together. We were in love. Our relationship was rocky at times but for every low there were so many blissful highs. I married Alma when I was nineteen years old, certain we would be together forever. Three months had passed since the wedding when my life fell apart once more. Alma and I were kissing passionately one moment before I vanished from within her arms the next. I had for the first time in so many years lost my concentration. The cause of this devastating lapse was the injection of adrenaline doctors used to restart my failing heart.
Martin Jacques body was shutting down and if I didn’t do something I, Angus Veles, would go with it. I’d chosen a new name for my new life but that body was buried under a stone that bore the old one. I soon realised I could not save my old shell and so decided instead to build a new one, even a baby might suffice I thought, but no I attempted to put enough of the right molecules together to create a body of comparable age and appearance. A replacement that could lie in that bed long enough that it might outlive my need of it.
Meanwhile I had long since returned to Alma, trying to explain my disappearance. It was impossible, why would she believe my story. She took a lot of convincing. I showed her all of my tricks, levitating objects, changing my voice and teleporting. I showed her from our flat my dying body lying in it’s bed back in America. Somehow I convinced her to travel to the hospital. She was the first visitor to that room since my parents walked away when I less than a year old. You wouldn’t believe the look of shock on the faces of the hospital staff as I walked into reception healthy, well dressed and arm in arm with Alma.
At first sight of my dying shell Alma vomited, several times. For a long time she just stood in the doorway and stared. Eventually I appeared at her side within the room and guided her to the seat my mother had favoured while I was still deemed worth loving. A grubby puppet still sat on the bedside table, no one had dared to remove it. Alma sat for a long time in silence just staring at my body lying on the bed as I sat in the chair next to her.
Then came the anger. Why had I never tried to tell her about this before? Why had I lied about everything? She said that my lies had made our life a lie. That what we had wasn’t real because she didn’t even know who I was or what I was. I couldn’t believe it, she was angry with me for not telling her the truth she would never have believed. I finally had a life and she wanted me to justify leaving behind that pitiful existence. Did she want me to live my life in that bed? Did she want me to die as that body would die? We argued for some time before she progressed to crying. She asked me why I couldn’t just use my powers to fix my old body up. I told her that I would forever be holding back a tide of illness which would get worse and worse. I showed her the body I was building, hidden in the hospital mortuary. You may wonder how I hid the body for any length of time in a busy hospital and my answer is that I made sure that for one reason or another that the cold storage cabinet was always the worst possible option, it seemed forever broken unless the mechanics were there to fix it. Alma could not understand how I could build one body but not save another. The truth was I hadn’t built a body, it wasn’t finished. While the exterior, the easy bit, was finished the rest was incomplete because I had no idea what to do. Alma proposed that if I could survive a transfer then I could survive without a body at all. I would be invulnerable, she would not need to worry that I might die before her.
I didn’t. To pre-empt my own death I triggered a fatal heart attack and watched myself die at last. Finally, said the doctors, my luck had run out. Not quite, I managed to sustain my existence as Alma had guessed and maintained all of my powers. I returned to Australia with Alma and we lived together until the day she died. In all that time I had not aged, I did not know how. Alma Veles died aged sixty four of a heart attack which the coroners concluded had been triggered by stress.
Although she died decades ago I still visit Alma’s grave, sometimes even my own. By my own I mean Angus Veles tombstone which stands beside Alma’s. I chose to leave Angus behind and start a new life, find a new name and eventually a new love.