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Something odd was happening. The air had been tingling for days; fizzing when he wafted his hand across his face, and just lately leaving a faint after-glow in its trail. He’d taken to drawing out equations in the air to see how long the effect persisted, and if he could get a whole one up there before the first terms disappeared.

‘What’s with all the semaphore, Jeff?’ his pal Don asked from under a cocked eyebrow. He leaned in the doorway and watched as Jeff flailed his arms, like he was landing a jumbo jet in his kitchen.

‘Nothing,’ Jeff said, eyeing the last vestiges of a square root as they drifted off the visible spectrum. Were they gone gone or just shifted along to the next level? Did the faint oranges go to red and then infra-red? Did blue eventually graduate to ultra violet? But if so, why didn’t yellow …?

‘Jeff!’ Don was holding two beers, a can in each hand. ‘You available to earthlings, by any chance?’

‘Oh, yes. Cheers, Don.’ He took one of the cans and an orange glow travelled with him to Don’s hand and back. But what was that? Jeff peered at Don’s wrist – a tiny tendril of light was winding itself around Don’s thumb and sliding up his sleeve.

‘Jeff, for crap’s sake, where are you, man?’

‘Did you see that?’ Jeff said, pointing. ‘Did you feel it? It’s gone right up your sleeve!’

‘What did?’

‘The light, it followed my hand to yours. Take your shirt off!’ Jeff made a dive for Don’s shirt buttons and Don stepped smartly sideways. Or at least one of him did. The other several, popping along behind like colourful after-images, trailed right to left across the kitchen and Jeff lunged straight through the crimson one.

‘You must have seen that!’ Jeff was hopping up and down, staring at the space where the crimson Don had been, and stabbing his fingers at the nothingness that remained.

‘I don’t know what you saw, but I had a whole parade of Jeffs from monochrome to glorious technicolour over there.’ Don was pointing and gaping, neither of which seemed likely to be constructive.

‘How many? I saw about seven of you and just in rainbow colours – like a spectral split.’

‘Dozens, like those cardboard cut-outs they put in front of shops.’

Jeff let his arm make a slow sweep in front of them both. ‘What do you see?’

‘Movie frames – faded to monochrome to colour.’

‘Me too. Now you do it.’ Don mimicked the sweep. ‘Spectral – why the difference?’

‘Maybe mine was spectral until just now, I wasn’t really looking. Actually, what I saw was just one colour at a time.’ He advanced a finger in illustration, and this time a small regiment of them marched behind.

‘It’s like being in a photocopier,’ Don said, his eyebrows diverging in a look that said this-is-bonkers-what-a-laugh. But the rest of Don didn’t seem convinced. Jeff made another lunge across the room and swivelled, like the dancer he wasn’t, to catch his iterations shuttering along in sequence – faded/monochrome/sepia/tint/full-colour, cher-chunk cher-chunk cher-chunk – then muting out. He started on a comment, but it stalled like an old car on a hill because the last of his clones was still there, and it was looking at him. Then it pulled out of its pocket a gadget that wasn’t a copy of anything Jeff ever owned, and blew a light show into it. Jeff vanished.

Don dropped his beer, rounded up his wits, and made a dash for the door; another trail of copies flicking after him. He got as far as the hall.

Here, Jeff’s neighbour was sitting on the stairs, drifting her hand in front of pupils deep as starlit wells and marvelling at the awesomeness, Man, of the spliff she’d just smoked.

In the street, a child was gazing wide-eyed at her gran, ‘You’re turning into an angel!’ she said, splashing her own colours into the air with her teddy bear.

In Jeff’s kitchen, the copy of Jeff said, in a sunburst of photons, ‘Full integrity achieved, deleting indigenous population job.’

(c) Suzanne Conboy-Hill 2014

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