(untitled #4)

"Are you seriously writing a story about a person with writer's block?” Isaac tossed the draft disdainfully onto his desk.

“Come on, s'all I could think of! Y'know, it's like what they say about writing what you know. I always have writer's block, so I figured writing about someone with writer's block was the way to go.” Ulrich picked up his draft from the table, aligning the paper clip-held sheets that had been shaken into disarray.

“You DO realize how dreadfully overdone that is, right? If you're looking to get your stories published, you're going to need a more interesting premise.”

“But that's...” Ulrich sighed and hung his head in defeat. “OK, I guess you have a point.”

“Anyway, I don't mind reading over your drafts, but come up with something more substantial before bringing anything else to me, alright? I'd be wasting both of our time if I put effort into proofreading something that I knew wasn't going to get anywhere.”

“Alright, alright. I didn't think it was THAT boring...” He trudged out, mumbling to himself.

As the door to his office closed, Isaac spun his chair back to facing his computer, muttering to himself. “He really needs to stick to writing code instead of fiction... Huh?” The headline jumped out of the news feed at him: 'MIRACLE HEALER' OLD MAN SAVES CHILD. He almost ignored it until he saw that it had been shared and commented upon millions of times, despite having only been posted earlier that day. Skepticism and curiosity skirmished in his mind as he opened the link; a video began playing automatically, warning him of graphic content.

It started with what looked like the immediate aftermath of a particularly gruesome car accident. A young boy was lying on the ground, blood running down his face, his limbs twisted in angles that made Isaac's own ache. A crowd of onlookers had encircled him, uselessly staring or even taking pictures. A grayed old man pushed his way through the crowd, looked the mangled boy over for a moment, then squatted down next to him. He made the sign of the cross, then began murmuring something intently while hovering his hand over the boy's head. Abruptly, he stopped, then quickly swept his hand over the length of the child's body, which promptly began writhing and emitting loud cracking noises. To the amazement of Isaac and the crowd, the boy's limbs returned to a more natural position, and all of the gashes that had been oozing blood closed up. His eyelids fluttered, then he sat up and stretched, as if he had been taking a nap. The cameraman was then jostled by the crowd as paramedics pierced through the observers, and the video ended.

Isaac stared blankly at the news article, his mind desperately grasping for some explanation of what he had just witnessed second-hand. Shaking the numb disbelief from his mind, he began reading the body of the article. Incredibly, it was real: There was indeed a boy – Nate River, age 8 – who had been grievously injured by a negligent driver and yet was entirely uninjured when the emergency response team arrived to take him to the hospital. Other witnesses had taken videos of the incident, as had a nearby street camera, and the footage from all of them was professionally examined; they matched up perfectly and showed no evidence of tampering. Statements had been given by dozens of eyewitnesses as well as the driver himself, and the group as a whole swore that it had happened.

Apparently, the old man ran off during the confusion when the first responders arrived; the agency had been unable to reach him for comment, nor had anyone – or anything, for that matter – been able to identify him. The comment section was total chaos, fraught with claims of conspiracy, the second coming of Christ, witchcraft, and other such exotic explanations. A knock on his office door shook him from his stupor. Ulrich's muffled voice followed shortly.

“Yo, Isaac, did you forget about that code review meeting? We need you there, you know!”

“Oh, uh, right. I'll be right there.” He wandered off after Ulrich as though in a daze.

* * *

“It's gotta be a fake. Maybe someone hacked the news website and put up that fake video and phony article.”

“Trust me, I'm having a hard time believing this too, Ulrich, but I think it might actually be real. Other news websites posted the story, and they had links to the investigation report for those multiple videos.”

“Think Occam's Razor. Which seems more likely to you: A coordinated hacking effort on a bunch of different news websites plus a fabricated report and videos, or literal magic?” He waggled his fingers in the air for effect.

“Well, yeah, that's true....” Isaac shifted slightly and folded his arms.

They were at Ulrich's apartment, a compact affair made all the more crowded by the computer equipment strewn throughout. A siren rang out in the distance, faint thanks to the dizzying height of the apartment building.

“Or, here, let's pretend for a sec that this magic is real. Why is it only now coming to light? Wouldn't the military have looked into it?"