Apparently time has
stopped. Or at least slowed to a crawl. Iím not exactly sure when it
happened; I just woke up one day and noticed that the drips from my
bathroom faucet were hovering in mid-air. Outside, the trees were bent in
a heavy wind that I couldnít feel. Their leaves rested in empty space,
folded and curled but motionless. I plucked one like an apple and put it
in my pocket.
Despite this astonishing
temporal phenomenon, my life hasnít changed much. I still go to work every
day. Traffic is about as slow as it ever was. Although the computers at my
office now run like Tandy 386s, thereís still a near-endless supply of
paperwork so my job isnít really affected by the freeze. I assume time
will eventually start up again, and when it does, the company is going to
be floored by my productivity this quarter.
Perhaps I shouldnít
admit this, but my daily routine has actually become more
interesting since everything stopped. There are a lot of sights to see,
even just on the way to work. On the corner of 50th and Roosevelt there is
a fairly serious accident in progress, a head-on collision between a small
sedan and a pickup, and judging by the almost-visible motion of the
vehicles as they squeeze into each other, they must be going fast. I reach
in the window of the sedan flying up off its rear wheels and buckle the
driverís seatbelt for him. In the parking lot of my work thereís a guy
whoís been falling off his bike for almost a week. I put a pillow on the
area where Iím guessing he will land. Iím a pretty nice person.
The physics of things
are a little strange now, but Iím getting used to it. Since time is frozen
nothing moves on its own, at least not at a natural rate, but I can still
forcibly move things however I want. Itís as if the whole world has been
encased in Jell-O. If I throw a ball, it will stick in the air exactly
where I release it. Outside my own personal proximity, there is no
noticeable gravity or inertia. A while ago, for no reason really, I
hoisted several waterfront joggers into the air and left them there,
arranged in an artful mid-air star pattern. They will slowly drift back to
the ground and my composition will dissolve and disappear, like an ice
Iíve been doing this
sort of thing a lot lately. Yesterday I went to a bar and stacked all the
billiard balls into an impossible pyramid. I poured a beer into the air
and kneaded it into a pirate ship. I kissed a woman I could never even
talk to in the normal world, and wrote ďYouíre BeautifulĒ in the air with
her cigarette smoke.
Itís a shame no one can
see my work because some of it, like my jogger sculpture, is rather
inspired. Certainly more inspired than anything else Iíve done with my
time in the last few years. I remember dreaming of being an artist back in
college. I even took some pottery classes. Then I blinked a few times and
something transformed me into a forty-eight-year-old claims adjuster who
lives alone and eats a lot of frozen pizza. Itís tempting to see this
time-stop as a miraculous second chance conjured up for me by Jesus and
some fairies, but letís be realistic; how much can I really change in a
few frozen seconds? My new art career will end in a beer-soaked bar top
and a pile of bruised and confused joggers wondering what the hell just
happened, and if any bystanders happen to notice that half-second of shape
and symmetry, they will probably just rub their eyes and keep walking.
Iím getting silly now.
Art career? I think the playful whimsy of this diorama world is starting
to get to me. Perhaps I should take a vacation. God knows Iíve already
done about a monthís work in what will probably turn out to have been
twenty seconds. And I have to admit, even with my godlike ability to be
everywhere at once and ignore the laws of physics, itís getting a little
boring around here. When the slowdown first happened I had fun with it and
did all the usual stuff youíd think to do in this situation. Slapped my
boss, stole some Hot Pockets, did some things to the receptionist that
sheíll never find out about. But enough is enough. Things get old fast
when theyíre this slow.
Where should I go?
Anywhere requiring flight is impossible; Iíll have to stay in the US, but
that still leaves plenty of options. Iíve thought about going down to DC
and taking a tour of the White House or maybe the Pentagon. It would be
fun to walk past security guards, snatch keys and access cards from
pockets, see how deep I could get, what secrets I could uncover before
hitting something impassable. Maybe make a sculpture out of the Cabinet.
But Iíve never been that interested in politics.
It would be nice to go
to some tropical place. Iíve never seen a palm tree or eaten a pineapple
that didnít spend most of its life in a shipping crate. The weather around
here is always overcast and cold, and I am stuck in a particularly gloomy
day. It may even be raining, since every once in a while I walk into a few
droplets suspended in the air like little diamonds. I suppose if I really
wanted to travel, I could walk onto a flight taxiing onto the runway and
just wait, but it would probably take a month just to get airborne, then a
year or two to get to Hawaii, and since my metabolism still functions at
normal speed, Iíd have to pack a yearís worth of food. When the toilet
tanks filled up I could piss out the window. Maybe have a picnic on the
wing while the wind blows my hair ever so gently. But Iím pretty sure Iíd
be insane by the time we landed.
So what do I do? I avoid
it because it makes me uncomfortable, but sometimes Iím forced to consider
the slowdownís deeper implications. Such as, why me? Why am I the only
ticking clock in a world thatís come unsprung? Is this all just for my own
amusement, or do I have some kind of responsibility? Thereís a young girl
near my apartment who had just started to trip when I first walked out
into the frozen world. I forgot about her for a few weeks, and today I
noticed that she has completed her fall. Her forehead is resting against
the concrete, the skin has begun to split, and her skull has caved into
the curb, indenting inwards about an inch. Is she going to die? Was I
supposed to catch her? Is it my job now to stop bullets and reel in
bridge-jumpers, extinguish house-fires and take keys from drunks, flush
bags of meth and put condoms on cocks? If time never does restart, am I
supposed to spend the rest of my life roaming the country and fixing all
its problems, protecting the powerless and directing the powerful, tying
bulliesí shoelaces together and exposing corrupt officials?
The idea is absurd.
Staggering in its bleakness. I could work tirelessly for the next fifty
years and earn only a few fortunate minutes for the rest of the world. But
then I have to ask myselfÖwhat better do I have do?