Daniel started time again as he stepped out of the public restroom and back into the crowded mall.
“Hey, you’re right! I did feel it!” He heard someone say. The voice sounded so enthused that it piqued his curiosity. He searched for the voice’s owner and found a young man talking to an older woman. The stranger in a navy-blue pinstripe suit appeared to be around 18 or so; a couple of years younger than Daniel. He was smiling at a white-haired woman wearing a flowing orange dress.
Daniel did not see anything worth getting excited about and guessed he’d never learn what they were discussing. He shrugged and continued on his way. After several steps, he realized no one else was moving. He stopped in his tracks and whirled in place looking at everyone. Time was still frozen. He closed his eyes and concentrated on starting its flow again but nothing happened. He tried stopping it again but there was no change.
‘Uh oh,” he felt panic start to rise in his stomach until he heard footsteps. The hollow click of heels accompanied a set of heavier footsteps. He looked up and noticed the pair walking away while giggles passed between them. “HEY!” he shouted at them and jogged to catch up. The pair stopped and turned to face him wearing broad smiles.
“Yes?” the woman asked. Daniel was surprised to see she had bright, crystal-orange eyes. He shook off the momentary distraction with a visible shake of his head.
“Uh.. how are you guys moving?” Daniel pointed at a nearby toddler floating in mid-air. The red-faced child’s eyes were forced shut and her mouth was wide open. “Everyone’s frozen.”
“Are they?” She asked with a raised white eye-brow. “You don’t seem to be.”
“Yeah,” Daniel shrugged. “I’m the one that did it.” The odd woman reached up and patted Daniel’s shoulder.
“Do you have a tattoo with the number 14 on it?” She asked.
“H-how’d you know?” Only a select few knew about the grim reaper tattooed on his butt-cheek. Daniel chose his favorite number, 14, to put on Death’s scythe. The woman turned to her friend.
“See? Even low-rank Muertes can do it properly once they’re awakened.” She turned her attention back to Daniel, her hand still rested on his shoulder.
“Can you fast-forward or rewind time? ” She asked him. Daniel shook his head.
“No. Can you?”
“Yes,” she replied curtly, then turned her attention back to the man in the suit. “What does that make him?” She asked in a tone that made Daniel feel like he was being used as an example for something.
“D-rank.” The woman nodded.
“And if he could rewind?” she asked.
“C-rank. B-rank if he could fast forward and so on. S-rank means…,” he paused and pointed at the woman. “You,” then he touched his own chest. “…and I can control time loops.”
“Good, you got it.” The woman raised her hand chest-high and wiggled her fingers at the air. A tall black portal opened next to the suited man. “Let’s find a higher ranked one so you can see what that feels like.” They stepped toward the hole that hung in the air and Daniel realized they were about to leave.
“HEY!” he shouted.
“Oh right, sorry,” the woman apologized insincerely. “Let him have it back, Billy.” She continued walking into the black hole and disappeared. Billy nodded at Daniel.
“Sorry,” he said. “She’s showing me how to over-ride other Muertes. You can start time again,” he nodded. “Give it a try.” Daniel concentrated and the world roared back to life as the flow of time started again.
“Hey, ” he turned toward the man. “What’s a Mu-” Daniel blinked. When he opened his eyes the man and the portal were gone.