The Main Street Prophet took in a breath of crisp morning air, planted his feet firmly on the ground, and held up his sign. At the top of his voice, he shouted:
"Things will happen today! Things are already happening!"
Nobody paid him any mind. The corner he'd picked that day was crowded, full of men and women dressed in corporate casual, all concentrating only on their cell phones. The occasional teenager or jogger passed, as well, listening to their headphones.
The Main Street Prophet- ever the optimist- was not deterred.
"Forty-seven people will die in a bus crash at three o-clock today, off the corner of McPherson and Elm! The bus driver's roommate slipped something into his drink and he'll veer off the road when he sees the giant red spiders crawling out of the sewers."
Nobody even glanced his way.
Hmm. Well, maybe he was being too specific. He'd go for broader, then.
"Everybody on this street is going to die!" He jabbed a talon-like finger at a group of chattering women passing by.
"You're going to die!"
Two of them stopped and gave him odd looks. One of them looked almost afraid- which he hadn't been going for, but if it got their attention. . .
"You're going to die!" he said again, with more feeling.
"Ignore him," said the third woman who'd kept on walking. She didn't seem the least bit perturbed. "He's always saying stuff like that."
The Prophet squinted, trying to sift through the torrent in his head for something relevant. "Your cat's going to pee on your jacket!" he said finally, satisfied with himself.
"You missed it, old man," she said, going back to grab her friend's wrists. "This morning, in fact."
The Prophet frowned and squinted at the sidewalk, sorting through the noise only he could hear. "But-"
The three were already several feet away before it occurred to him what she'd meant.
"I meant the black jacket! Not the brown one!"
If they heard him, they didn't act on it.
Ah, well. She'd figure it out eventually. He went back to waving his sign. That was important, the sign waving. The most important.
The sign was cardboard, torn off and cut down from a refrigerator box and then duct-taped to a discarded pipe. Near the top and written in duct-tape were the words:
THE WORLD ENDS:
Beneath it, written in marker, were several dates. A few had already come and gone, a few were dated several years into the future, and one simply read 'tomorrow'. All but the one at the bottom declaring the end in two weeks time had been crossed out.
The Prophet tried to think of things to get people's attention. It was so hard sifting through the mess in his head. Things that would happen, things that could happen, things that should've happened but didn't- all fighting for his attention.
He grasped the first relevant thing he could and screamed at a jogger passing, "Watch where you're going!"
The jogger turned to look at him and ran into a blue post box.
The Prophet sighed. Nobody ever listened to him.
Sometime around noon, he attracted an audience. A single man, wearing a dark gray suit,
He had a face and figure so nondescript that he seemed to radiate a mild, almost lazy lack of interest. It was as though wherever he stood, even the universe itself suddenly found itself bored with that spot. Age-wise, he could have easily passed for anything between late twenties to mid fifties and managed to give off the impression of both extremes at once.
He stood several feet away, scowling at the Prophet's back around the cig in his mouth. His arms crossed and foot tapping impatiently. People found themselves stepping off to the side so as not to bump into him, though none of them noticed what they're doing.
Eventually, apparently tired of being ignored, the man stepped forward and tapped the Prophet's shoulder.
"Yes?" said the Prophet, turning. He saw the man and immediately perked up. "Oh! Hi!" he said, smiling. He was still waving the sign above his head.
"Stop it," said the man.
"Why?" said the Prophet. "It's true, isn't it?" He frowned slightly as he felt the chaos in his head suddenly start spinning in another direction. Pieces and paths dropped off and faded, new ones springing up in their place.
"Well it was," the man snarled. "Then you went around telling people."
The man plowed right over him. "Every time, every single time I get to a good spot, get things just right, you go around blabbing!" He began to pace. "Do you know how long it takes to work out the kinks? Do you know how much time and work I have to put into getting things just right?"
"I do," said the Prophet. "Of course I do. That's why I want them to know." The Prophet felt the familiar mix of confusion, disappointment and guilt he always felt when the man yelled at him. "Why don't you want me telling people?"
"Because then they'll know! It's- it's spoilers."
"But they won't get to see it on their own!"
"That's the point." A deep shade of red started around the man's nose and slowly worked it's way out until he was roughly the same shade as raspberry jelly. "I want you to stop. no more signs, no more shouting, no more peeking over my shoulder all the damn time."
The Prophet's sign clattered to the floor. "But I'm your biggest fan!" He took a step towards, the man, who took a step back to keep the distance between them. "I see everything you do- all the things nobody catches. I see all the little puzzles and big twists and straight lines and the foreshadowing and big web of everything!" He spread out his arms to indicate the 'everything'. "I love your work. I love the detail you put into it, and I want other people to love it as much as I do."
The man stared at him, slack-jawed.
"Nuts," he said eventually. He spat out his cig and crushed it underfoot. "Bonkers. Absolutely batshit. All you seers are the same, and it scares the hell out of me sometimes." He took a deep, shuddering breath. "I want you to stop," he said calmly. "I don't want them to know the ending. I don't want you to know the ending. If it were up to me, you'd be long gone."
"You can't kill me," the Prophet said mildly.
"Not for lack of trying."
"I still don't-"
"Understand. I know. You never understand. Over and over and over again we've done this, and I can never get it through that stupidly thick skull of yours." He ran a hand through hair that might've been brown but was too dull for anyone- even the Prophet- to remember. "Alright," he said. "I'm going to go rewrite- again. You damn well better not give it away this time."
"So help me, I will work you into a fifty bus pileup if I have to."
The Prophet shrugged, unfazed. "I'll just see it coming."
The man's left eye twitched slightly. Without a word, he stepped backwards into a passing crowd and vanished.
The Prophet sighed.
He went to pick up his sign and caught sight of the uncrossed date. It was wrong, now. Without thought, he pulled a black marker out of his pocket. He bent down and crossed out the old date, then put the new one beneath it.
Maybe the reason nobody heard him today was because the street was too busy. They'd all just got swept up in the rush.
Tomorrow, he thought as he picked up the improved sign.
Tomorrow he'd try Elm. Elm was calmer. Less traffic over on Elm.
The Main Street Prophet turned to go, and felt a slight change in his head. With a soft sigh, he took several large paces backwards, just in time to avoid being hit by an out of control taxi. The front of the taxi was totaled, but the driver came out a second later, cursing up a storm, so the Prophet figured things were okay.
"Nice try," he said aloud.
In the middle of all the chaos in his head, he just barely made out the words,
Well, it was worth a shot.
Smiling slightly despite himself, the Main Street Prophet headed for home.