Found Footage: Chronicle

Henry keeps secrets. He has a soldier’s build with military shoulders, a precise gait and hair just long enough to be rebellious. He’s the quiet man in the corner of the room who keeps checking the exit. When you ask him, he’ll say he works for the Highway Department and you’ve seen him hold forth on the vagaries of dual carriageways and how important it is to get parity of testing standards for driving tests across the country so many times you’ve lost count. You can see the person he’s talking to’s eyes crossing, see them start to find the excuse to leave and see Henry sag, just a little, with relief, when they do.

 

Then one night, Henry’s the last one there. He’s drunk and maudlin and desperately English and his opening line, hand to God, is ‘I keep secrets for a living’ and you almost laugh and he does and with something that sits halfway between flirtation and curiosity you say ‘You’d best tell me some, then. I’ll put the kettle on.’

 

You hand him some tea, he starts talking and as he digs in, as he tells you what he has to watch for a living you can feel yourself tensing up, hunching a little further forward. It’s not what he’s saying, although God knows the videotapes of a family tormented by something as invisible as it was impossible will stay with you for a while. No, what bothers you is how matter of fact he is.

 

‘On Monday I had to watch footage of what really destroyed that Tagruato oil rig. On Tuesday I had to watch three generations of a family record the gradual destruction of their sanity. On Thursday I watched three young men fly.’

 

That one brings you up short. You ask him to tell you more and he smiles. The tone in the room has shifted, he’s centre stage instead of invisible and he’s drunk on that as much as anything else. He drains his tea, picks up a wine glass and starts talking about Matthew, Andrew and Stephen and the thing they found in the caves. He tells you about the rocks and the way they shine, the way the three young men seem…absent, even before they find it.

 

‘The problem’ he says ‘is that you only ever see what they recorded. Early on there’s a moment where Steve mentions how lots of people used to be obsessed with the caves and if they were triggered, or enhanced or…whatever IT did then…’ His voice trails off. ‘We don’t have all the answers, but we do have what Andrew recorded.’

‘What did he record?’

Henry smiles tightly, unpleasantly. ‘Very nearly everything.’

 

He doesn’t tell you everything, of course he doesn’t, a good magician never reveals their tricks. Instead he tells you about what stayed, stays, with him from the tape. Steve looking utterly peaceful as something organic unfurls down a glowing crystal towards his head, the static, the things Henry thinks he heard in it, and what he thinks the techs may find when they’ve done treating the film. The fact that the amount of time missing from the film is so precise, almost as though it was erased or Andrew was…compelled…not to record.

 

He changes the subject then, deliberately lightening the tone. He tells you about the boys acting out, using their incredible abilities to prank people, move cars and play football in the clouds. There’s a cheerful banality to their antics and you find yourself wondering what exactly you’d do in their position. You’re still wondering that when Henry tells you about the man they nearly kill, and the rules, and Andrew’s tragic home life. The tone changes again and you can see Henry keeping something contained. He knows how this ends, but that’s not what’s bothering him. What bothers him, what horrifies him, is the fact that given astonishing, superhuman capabilities, these three young men could only relate to them through the lives they already had. They could fly, pull things apart with their minds, protect themselves from any damage and they spent their days pranking grown ups, rigging talent contests and making themselves popular. Boys with motorbikes, boys with booze, boys with guns, boys with superpowers. Children in a grown up world, he says, almost to himself and you know what’s coming.

 

It ends badly. Not as badly as it could, but when he tells you about the Seattle earthquake and what really caused it, you feel another scale slide from your eyes. Two teenagers, two hormone explosions tore a city apart, one trying to kill, the other trying to save. He tells you about the bus being hurled thousands of feet into the air, the chase where an entire parking lot is used as a melee weapon. His voice breaks, not through sadness but through fear and somehow that’s what tells you this is real. This happened. He saw it. Henry starts to tell you what happened, how it ended, something about a statue and his voice breaks. The mood, the spell, goes with it. You pat him on the shoulder and he stands, says something desperately English about how it’s late and sorry to trouble but would you mind if he called a taxi and you hug him. He hugs back and shivers and something a lot like a sob escapes him. Then he stands, collects himself and smiles and it’s wide and broad and utterly genuine.

 

‘Flying boys.’ He kisses your forehead and whispers ‘Thank you’ and leaves. At the door you turn and ask what happened. He turns and looks at you and he’s weeping. ‘Tibet.’ he says and leaves. The next time you see him, weeks later, he’s doing the Highways department spiel and looks over at you. To your utter surprise, he winks and makes a flying gesture with one hand. You smile, make it back and turn away. Henry keeps secrets, and now, you help him.

d his voice breaks. The mood, the spell, goes with it. You pat him on the shoulder and he stands, says something desperately English about how it’s late and sorry to trouble but would you mind if he called a taxi and you hug him. He hugs back and shivers and something a lot like a sob escapes him. Then he stands, collects himself and smiles and it’s wide and broad and utterly genuine.

 

‘Flying boys.’ He kisses your forehead and whispers ‘Thank you’ and leaves. At the door you turn and ask what happened. He turns and looks at you and he’s weeping. ‘Tibet.’ he says and leaves. The next time you see him, weeks later, he’s doing the Highways department spiel and looks over at you. To your utter surprise, he winks and makes a flying gesture with one hand. You smile, make it back and turn away. Henry keeps secrets, and now, you help him.