Ewan Guarnieri – ‘A Grand Reveal’

“Remarkable technically, in its control of pace and paragraph, and in the author’s manipulation of readerly expectation.” – Will Harris, Forward Prize-winning poet and Orwell Youth Prize judge 2023

The lights are off, the blinds are closed. Old food has fumigated the room. Dr Courre is stooped in his black leather chair with his face in his hands. A hundred sheets of paper are sprawled across a wide, deep desk.

He has never wanted to stop thinking like he does now.

Yesterday afternoon, there was a results reveal ceremony dedicated to experiments Courre and Dr Senmoore had co-fostered the theory for. Thirty-two personnel were present; nobody wanted to be absent if a celebration was called for. Success there would be monumental, implicating technology that would defy prediction, and guaranteeing some Nobel Prize winners. Courre did not seek recognition like some of his colleagues, but contributing to his field in such permanent fashion had always held an unavoidable allure, the potential of a transcendent legacy.

And it had gone so well. Every test had proved what it set out to prove. They had secured their coveted five-sigma certainty, assuring this was no fluke nor mistake, but to Courre, the revelations had been the antithesis of all he’d hoped for, and so against everybody’s expectations he fled the room as soon as the reveal was complete.

He was crying. Barrelling through the near-empty halls, careening around the cleaners, his thoughts were frenzied but his steps were purposeful, soon dropping him in his office where he pulled out the papers. He wasn’t revisiting anything published or revised – some uninformed acquaintances would later theorise that he had done just that, looking for just one single flaw – but he instead had sought his notes.

Courre’s notation had developed quiet notoriety among his colleagues. Few had seen it and none had been substantially exposed to it, meaning nobody in the department could vouch for it in any capacity. But, according to the few, they would be able to recognise it anywhere. Rumours claimed the script to be many outlandish things. This always amused Courre. One such rumour was that Courre had pursued a covert alliance with a Dutch hobbyist logician after Courre realised, during online correspondence regarding the hobbyist’s publications, that this person understood esoteric notation better than Dutch. They were supposedly developing it together. This rumour was true.

Yesterday and today proved the script to be far removed, still, from all of their expectations. Courre himself could not have foreseen its potential.

In ten minutes, he knows Senmoore will come and confront him about his behaviour. At first, he was not sure he was ready for this, but the inevitability of the events demands composure from him: he has seen he will be capable and so it will be.

Senmoore will expect satisfying answers because anything less would be a waste of her time. That is how she would describe her attitude if questioned, which she won’t be, and is how Courre sees her attitude, too. His respect for her is immense yet he feels his stomach wilt at the thought of having to explain what is happening to him. The truth was never Courre’s to keep – this is how he rationalises what he must do. It is weak. He is trying not to admit that he must imminently alter her perception of reality and in doing so he will likely initiate a chain of events that will culminate in the end of modern scientific progress. There will be a “tremendous loss of life.” He does not yet know if he will divulge this.

Leon Courre is seeing the future as clearly as the past, enabled by his language.

This admission will be crucial in the conversation with Senmoore. There can be no room for misinterpretation. In other circumstances, to suggest that simple fluency in a language would be the key to seeing across gaps of time would be entirely unreasonable. The silver lining is that it is Senmoore who will see him first, as Courre doesn’t know if anybody else would listen for long enough to believe him.

If he hadn’t foreseen the events of the reveal ceremony, up to and including the results themselves, he would’ve dismissed his foreboding and deja vu as nervous symptoms, borne both of the day and his Dutch correspondent’s unexplained communication blackout. If not for every anomaly of experience that peppered his morning then he could call this premonition a coincidence or one-off. If he could begin to decipher the events of yesterday without accepting his surreal condition, he would do so. He saw everything, everything in his day, right before it happened or earlier, with sickening visual clarity.

Principles of time and history and fate elude Courre right now. The cosmic implications of what is going on in his head must be swatted away like flies. He sees himself, currently, as an untapped well of crucial knowledge concerning one of man’s greatest achievements, too disoriented and overwhelmed to analyse his current condition. Sitting alone instead, slaving to commit his premonitions to memory, like a spy who has seen crucial intel. When did he stop crying?

It is this clarity of their terrible contents that nauseates Courre. In the absence of his understanding, he has decided he does not want to share the specifics with Senmoore yet. He avoids the spiral of questioning if this was ever his choice to make.

Courre is then sat in a boardroom.

A meeting has begun, with twelve bodyguards standing at the room’s perimeter, and five men in varying suits sitting at a long table. The table reflects the white lights overhead. The airy scent of the clean carpets. Courre doesn’t recognise anyone.

What is he here for? He can still hear voices outside of his office; premonitions only affect his vision. The cold-faced men are addressing him and he is responding while past-him spectates. This is bound to overlap with his meeting with Senmoore.

He watches himself moving next to a whiteboard, sketching diagrams and equations. One diagram forms a bullseye, with a centre labelled 100m across that gets filled in red. Some equations here relate to the reveal yesterday, but they’re being expounded upon. He memorises each glimpse of the board and tries to read the lips of people asking questions, tantalised by these snippets of revelation.

At some point, the 100m circle had been marked with an X. It all clicks for Courre very quickly, and he is hurled back into his body for a brief moment as his body chills. To see his hands point at that board, the words ‘casualties’ and ‘population centres’ alongside ‘maximisation,’ the unchanged expressions of the bureaucrats, stokes a flaming reaction. Courre tenses, his hands now shaking with adrenaline. Haggard reason returns to him as he seeks to formulate a plan. There is no reason he can see to grant these men the power they have consulted him for.

But part of him knows. If he could change any of what he has seen, he would know by now – the truth collecting on the edge of his mind like wisps of smoke. This was the most difficult truth to accept, more so even than his parahuman ability: what he is seeing is the future. Not deja vu, not visualised suspicion. And no matter how visceral his desire he cannot change the truth.

Until now, he had at least known he could control who knew it and prevent the wrong people from knowing the right things. The world he sees coming is not something he wants but it appears to be inevitable.

He sits back, brow unfurling. Inevitable. He plays with the word in his mouth, feeling its five steps over his tongue.


Courre opens his eyes and returns to reality, finally exhausted beyond thought but beyond relief, too. The coffee tastes bitter but he’s still cradling it in his hands, sitting near the biscuits. Some hindbrain section relaxes at the sight of voices syncing with lips. It’s funny to him, now, that he could’ve ever thought that so much chatter could originate from just outside his office door, unmuffled and spritely.

He clears a space at the table and pulls a notebook and pen from his breast pocket. Under other circumstances he would have to worry about somebody seeing the things he is about to write.

To his knowledge, that was his first vision within another vision. The disorientation of realising that his hearing, too, had fooled him, is actually negligible. Turning his head to the great projected countdown, his gaze passing a dozen excited faces on its way, he felt a momentary disappointment at having the surprise ruined for him.


Ewan Guarnieri is a senior runner up in The Orwell Youth Prize 2023