I’ve never exactly been an accomplished fiction writer, but occasionally weird little storylings spill out of my brain. Sometimes I feel like sharing them. Do me a solid and don’t reproduce them without permission, though, mmmkay?
[Like what you read? Consider supporting The Ghost In My Machine on Patreon!]
This one is an old one that I once published under a different title on FictionPress waaaaaay back when (don’t judge). It’s kind of a different sort of scary… or at least, it is to me. Here. Have at thee.
She didn’t know why or how, but time, it seemed, had stopped.
It was a day like any other, so she wasn’t entirely sure why today was the day that the flow of time had decided to suddenly cease; at first, she had thought that it was simply another hot, muggy, silent day. But as her gaze wandered off into the distance, she noticed that the ocean was completely still, and it was then that she knew time had stopped.
It was an odd image, a still ocean: no waves, no white caps, no colors. No layers of infinite shades of green, blue, and grey. No sound carrying over the water. No breeze. No movement. Motionless. It was as if all of the things that gave the ocean life had been sucked up out of the air and spirited away somewhere, perhaps into a box or a tightly-sealed jar. She thought of all those elements—the waves, the breeze, the colors—swirling around in a chaotic mess, unsure of where they were or what they were supposed to be doing, and felt a pang deep in her stomach for them. What if they were trapped? Left behind? What if they forgot what made them what they were?
She felt the heat of the sun beating down on her shoulders, and she turned her face upward. She stared into the sun without blinking until spots began to dance across her vision. Shutting her eyes, she waited until the show of light flickering before her faded before taking a deep breath. When she opened her eyes, her everyday common sense told her that the sun should have moved by now, but since she had already deduced that time had stopped, she wasn’t surprised to see that the blinding patch of brightness was exactly where it had been a moment ago.
But of course, moments had no meaning, now that there was no time.
Beneath a cloudless sky, she wondered if all of time had compressed, or if had simply frozen. She suspected that it had frozen; if it had compressed, she doubted she would be able to keep track of her own timeline. She cast her mind into the past:
One year old: first real steps.
Five years old: first real day of kindergarten.
Eight years old: learn to ride real bicycle.
Fourteen: first real kiss.
Twenty-two: enter real world.
What had happened during all those years?
What had happened to them?
Even in the dense, heavy heat, she shivered. Reality was now, and now was forever, and now would never change. Maybe time wasn’t frozen; maybe it wasn’t compressed either; but maybe it was somehow both extremes, and yet at the same time, neither. She pretended to wonder how that could be, but she already knew the answer. There were no rules here. All bets were off. Nothing mattered except the here and the now, and the here and the now didn’t exist anymore.
Panic rose in her throat, and she began to repeat information to herself. Her name. Her birth date. The two-times multiplication table. Old nursery rhymes. Quotations. Trivia. Definitions. Phone numbers. Anything to keep her mind busy. She started to flag and wondered how long she would be able to keep it up, this senseless recitation of syllables; then almost automatically she reminded herself that “how long” wasn’t a question she need concern herself with anymore. That knowledge prompted her to renew her recitation, and she rattled off song lyrics, film titles, famous authors, lines of poetry, historical facts… as many digits of π as she could remember… the alphabet… A B C D… E… H… N…
She couldn’t say that she fell silent, for she didn’t know if she had been orating aloud or not, but the steady influx of information began to slow a second time, then cease entirely, and was replaced by the low buzz of nothingness.
What had she been doing?
And why had she been doing it?
She couldn’t remember.
She knit her brow and gazed out over the wide, glassy expanse before her—the ocean, that was it—then cast her eyes up to the brightness of the—the sun, that was it—and she thought that there was somewhere she was supposed to be, though for the life of her, she didn’t know where that was. Staring at the uncommonly smooth ocean, she dug deep into her mind and suddenly remembered something.
She repeated her name to herself. Her birth date. The two-times multiplication table. The alphabet.
A B C D.
And it was then that she recognized the futility of the situation.
The stagnant ocean. The static sun.
There was nothing to be done.
And so she leaned back, relaxed, and waited for the inevitable.
[Photo via Free-Photos/Pixabay]