It’s About Time

“Hey, Vanilla?” Billy asked the white-haired woman walking next to him. The pair navigated their way through a bustling outdoor market on a cool, sunny morning. They walked and talked while avoiding the other patrons walking and talking in reverse. Vanilla walked around a mother forcefully shoving a serrated hunting knife into her child’s hand.

“Yes, Billy?”

“How does time work?” The world stopped moving backward; it stopped entirely. The market-goers all stood still.

“What do you mean?” she asked him.

“Stopping and restarting time I kind of get. It should just pick up where it left off. But we can rewind and even fast-forward time. We can make time loops,” he shrugged. “I don’t really get it.” Vanilla nodded.

“That’s a good question. You should know how it works so you can make the most of your abilities.” She raised her hand and wiggled her fingers at the air. A black portal opened before her. “This Earth,” she gestured at the open-air market around them. “Is probably somewhere in its mid 20th century. Come,” she walked through the portal. Billy followed. He emerged on another Earth into a vast green plain of swaying grass. The first thing Billy realized was that he was covered in shadow. He looked up and saw a time-stopped T-rex mid-step.

“This Earth is obviously much earlier in its cycle,” Vanilla said. “Each Earth has its own independent flow of time; but, it is a cycle. Rewinding or speeding up time moves it along its set course. Creating a time loop is as simple as choosing two points and replaying the section between them,” Vanilla faced Billy and grinned. “And that’s just the beginning.”

“But I thought time-loops was an S-rank skill?” Billy asked with a tilted head and confusion in his eyes. “Is there more?” Vanilla shook her head.

“It’s not about what you can do; it’s about how creative you are doing it,” she said.

“Huh?” Vanilla crouched to grab a large baseball-sized stone from the ground. She tossed the grey, jagged sphere into the air and it got caught in stopped time.

“Time-stop, right?” She asked. Billy nodded. She started time again and the stone fell into her hand. She whirled around and launched the stone upward toward the frozen T-rex. Billy watched the stone fly toward the giant beast as if traveling through a vat of molasses. It traveled no more than an inch a second, but it was on a direct path to hit the dinosaur’s knee.

“You can slow down time too?” Billy asked in awe. Vanilla shook her head.

“No, but I can stop it and start it again. Really fast.” She pointed at the stone. “Watch.” Billy looked and saw the stone stuck in the air again. “If you’re clever, you can control the local time of an object.” She held her hand out and the stone flew back to her hand. “And if you’re really inventive you can put it all together.” She threw the stone back at the dinosaur’s knee with all her might.

Billy stared wide-eyed as the stone flew through the air almost too fast to see. It stopped within an inch of the animal’s skin then reappeared in front of Vanilla and flew toward the giant lizard again. Each time it seemed to be getting faster and faster. He noticed it began to glow bright orange. After half a dozen high-speed loops he looked at Vanilla.

“What are you doing?”

“I trapped the stone in a time loop between my hand and the dinosaur. I’m speeding up the stone, but not the air around it. The friction heats up the stone and it remembers everything from the previous loops.”

“It remembers?”

“If it was a person, they would remember everything. They would realize they’re in a time loop and be conscious of the passing time. This can only remember its speed. Every time it flies through the loop it picks up more speed.” The glowing hot rock appeared in front of Vanilla again, but this time she stopped it from flying off. She looked down at the ground and crouched to retrieve a second rock. She tossed it to Billy then pointed at the floating orange stone.

“If you can make it glow like mine I’ll show something even better.”

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