a short story
Gary Baker, June 2013
Today’s been a bad day for me, which, I can guarantee none of you could ever imagine -- trust me.
I’ve had the sort of day where you’re home alone, music playing softly, and your greatest crush bursts through your door practically begging to get laid... and you refuse on account of having too much self respect. The kind where a millionare pulls over in a billion-dollar car, tosses you the keys and says “take it, it’s all yours, no strings attached”... and you pass due to being unwilling to pay the insurance.
Yeah, I’ve had that kind of day -- the day that never seems to end, except, get this, mine never did. Ever.
See, the problem is that I never -- not once -- saw it coming, because, lets be honest, had I known, things would’ve been a hell of a lot better from the get go. Perhaps I might even have had some company -- and I mean real company, not that run-of-the-mill wax statue type that coats the world thrice over these days.
I don’t even know when exactly it happened. Simmer on that for a while. Imagine me being at the office clacking away on emails, then darting down the back alley behind the building to the rarely-used back door of the 4th and Mission public library. I was there for six hours, no less, which might sound sort of hard to prove until you see that through this all my watch never stopped -- not until the battery ran out, but by then I had already figured out what happened by about a factor of two-hundred twelve’rs.
It only dawned on me that it had happened when I broke free from a full tome of business logic and office psychology to find that, despite my watch having moved from around five in the afternoon to almost midnight, the light of day had barely changed at all. Curious, I went to look outside, assuming, of course, that some Hollywood event had taken point guard on the main street out front. I’m ashamed to say that I literally thought the dusty light of dusk had been from spotlights three stories below.
Instead I came to lay my eyes upon the single most monumental moment in all my existence in this life, which says more than you can believe since I have now seen every monument known to man, every creature that still lives, and plenty of rare and horrid events in places like South America, Singapore and Africa; the whole of Mission, bursting to the seams with commuters heading home from days of work and shopping, had set itself at a standstill.
I remember laughing, thinking it a massive prank, that sooner or later some guide would come out with a megaphone screaming “Congratulations! We just made someone out there think time had stopped!”
But when I got down there, cheery with the thrill of such a city-wide event that had even the smallest children playing along as well as some well-behaved pets, I eagerly clawed my way through the crowd until, by chance, I laid eyes upon a rock dove paused mid-flight while jettisoning from a curbside.
It’s wings were pushed out and down, slightly off-center, with a look in it’s eye of a wild animal so used to humans that it only moved out of crowds to avoid being trampled, that if a child had come over to pet it the beast would have barely picked up it’s pace while following a trail of crumbs.
Suddenly the crowd of pranksters became a torrential downpour of truth and reality that hit me as hard as some celestial god smacking me alone into next week, right across the jaw to send me whirlwinding through mountains of cold hard truth: I was never again going to hear another human voice, never again know another living companion, never again be able to feel the tender grace of a lover’s touch.
Even now I cannot distinguish when exactly I had passed into this event horizon, or, rather, when it had come over me. I want to assume it was in the alleyway somewhere, but I’ve walked literally every square inch of that place fifty times over. I even walked every street and road I had ever seen since birth, and still nothing came to me.
Soon my watch became my sole connection to my old life, each hour became a mere blur and each blur became nonexistent in time, my time. Soon each time both hands hit the twelve I started calling it a ‘twelver’, two twelvers to a day, and three-hundred and sixty-five double-twelvers to a year. Since my chosen batteries only ever lasted a year in my watch, keeping the number of years became an easy priority for me. With each new battery I made another sewn-in pocket to my shirt where they began to gather like buttons on a Red Coat’s jacket.
I’ll admit that shortly after acknowledging-realization had passed through me, I began my new life a bit unfaithful to my ideals. I turned into a carnal beast of everything human, peeking into places ranging from military bases like Area 51 so I could view the alien specimens to Fort Knox so I could count the gold bars to crossing the broad line of day and night so I could see sunset upon sunrise each and every time I journeyed passed, and even into women’s locker rooms for reasons I’d rather not go into.
Let’s just say Genghis Khan would have nothing on me had he taken equally less women and exponentially more of himself and leave it at that.
So after having explored my every human whim and desire for curiosity sated, I turned to heroism -- think The Flash on a road trip through epidural drugs like speed and meth.
It happened after I’d walked to Singapore -- because lets face it, in a land without time water becomes gelatin capable of being walked on like mud. Drinking it was something else entirely, but I won’t go into that. Anyway, when I got to the capital I came across a pretty gruesome scene. I wouldn’t have even noticed it if I hadn’t suddenly had to run to use a restroom where I could actually sit down.
When I got to the bathroom of a rundown apartment complex that had clearly seen better days even at the worst of times, I sat down to settle some cramping through my intestines and lit my eyes upon a trapdoor in the tile.
Curious, I finished my business and did what I could to wash up before reaching down to open it. Inside I found a dark stairway into the depths of Singapore and brought out my handheld spotlight, made my way down, and entered a world I had never imagined before: a true-to-life kidnap and attack hostage scene. Or what I assumed was a hostage scene.
She wasn’t that bad looking, either, if you disregard the taut and terrorized look in her eyes and the three wolfish grins surrounding her, an american lost abroad and taken hostage for things clearly unimaginable to the everyday tourist. It was that look that held me there for a long time, just staring at a viscious sign of the ass-end of what humanity called being a part of the higher species.
All I could think at the time was at least she still had her clothes.
I realized then that with great civilizations and wealth and technology and peace in most parts of the modern world, there will always be a sweaty, gritty-greasy, grime on the side that we humans try to ignore. ‘Out of sight, out mind’ at it’s best and worst, depending on how you looked at it but the epitome of hellish wrongness no matter what.
So I acted. Raw anger took over and instead of exploring the world while time had stopped, right then I chose to be an actor in events that would forever remain unanswerable for eons to come. I took each of the men into cellars where other women had been left to rot, presumably by the same group of filthy beastial men, and pinned them to the floor with nails laying around, then closed the cell doors and brought the tourist back out to the streets where others would be sure to find her if time ever began again.
I had done it all without thinking. Something unreal had taken me over, choosing to inflict pain and wreak havoc on their lives as criminals instead of placing them behind bars in jail where they could claim to be victims of some unearthly event, that some god had transported them there without leaving proof of crime nor reason for their being behind bars.
I admit here and now that four men in the suburbs of Chicago and Seattle, probably drunken abusive stepfathers, have razorblades nestled into the shafts of certain bodily appendages which I discovered being forced upon their children. Do not try to save them, as they should be dead by the time this message gets fully understood.
Back to point, from there I spent three whole batteries roaming Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Swedish isles doing my part in stopping crimes in progress. I lost count of the number of murders I stopped by taking the weapons and leaving the attackers with limbs bound in twine and wire. Anytime I found someone being attacked by large numbers, such as a sequence of gang raids in Los Angeles, New York and Beijing, I hefted the defenders one by one over my shoulder and into nearby police stations. By then my jacket had gotten a total of four lines of batteries roaming down my chest, placed at equal intervals so that it took six batteries to reach the shirt end.
You can see now that it had taken me twenty-four years to become a self-dubbed Superman, twenty-four whole years, and no one would ever know it was me that had done it in all of existence.
This isn’t to say that I was the model of the perfect human being. I did things that anyone sane might think wrong and pointless, such as using public fountains to bathe, drinking fountains to gut and clean fish without hinting at the others similar to the dissection of various beings to watch as the gelatin-blood ebbed out like barely-warmed molasses.
I also wiped out more mosquitoes in the Rockies and Sierras than I’d like to admit, having spent whole months seeking them out with revenge-like abandon from childhood nightmares and close to a full decade of therapy after being bitten on the eyelid at age five.
Eventually I wound my way here, to an unexplored cave in the middle of Canada and lit my eyes upon a natural slate wall as flat as a chalkboard and ideas struck blow after blow. You might have seen the paths of cobble that I built to bring the rest of humanity here as one last way to show, globally, who it was that was forced to live through the pains of a calamity of loneliness and recriminating self-hate.
I did this while taking years to fully chose what to write, taking details upon details to a mental paper shredder so I might fit the highest word-count versus content upon this wall. As such, I lugged out paint cans that claimed to last for centuries, then more filled with laminant.
Humanity deserves this, I’d say over and over. I had to keep telling myself that while tending to the many other obligations I had been forced upon, like further crime fighting, more reading, species identification, astronomy and more.
Which, by the way, after nightly review of the surrounding stars and galaxies, this phenomenon appears universal. Not a single star has moved since the start of all this.
Over time I learned to engineer, to craft near-infinite mathematical problems and get passed them through various means -- it was all I had to stay sane, by giving myself a purpose, by choosing to attempt to find cures and mechanical asphyxiations to better lives when, if ever, time came back.
Especially since I assume I will no longer be around when time does come back. I was twenty-one when all of this began... and I lost track of my age when I lost all my hair and skin color. Turns out even when time has stopped, age is relative. I thought I would live forever, but now believe that I must be nearing the end of my first century.
Anyway, if you follow the cave inward, you’ll find a room carved from solid stone where I have placed sealed documents showing how to genetically engineer various tools and organisms that humanity should find some use for. Perhaps this can be my final contribution, where nothing but wonder may be left behind after so many long years of indescribable pain and anguish.
Remember me as a pioneer -- as a hero, even -- but for absolute certainty, if only for me, in memory, strive to find out what caused this. So very strongly do I feel that it may happen again.