Time to Whine

Julio glanced at the driver sitting in the high cab; the trucker’s eyes were on his phone. Even if he looked right now he wouldn’t have time to stop. Time seemed to slow to a crawl and Julio became aware of everything around him. He was the only one crossing at the moment; it eased his mind that no one else would get hurt. It was a bright, sunny Saturday afternoon. He was headed home after spending the morning with his wife and children.  They had a great family breakfast before his wife took the children to a playdate. All things considered, he felt like the important people knew he loved them. Julio was ready. The red semi was three feet from him when he closed his eyes and relaxed his body to wait for the end.

I hope it doesn’t hurt too long,” he had just enough time to think. After another two seconds, he was still standing in the middle of the street with his eyes closed. “This adrenaline rush is weird, time is taking forever.” Then Julio became aware of footsteps hitting the blacktop behind him.

“He’s not that bad,” a woman said. Her voice traveled from left to right as she walked by behind him. “We’re here, aren’t we? Aury has to be kind of a jerk because of his position but he’s not mean-spirited about it.  Did it ever occur to you that he’s making you do easy jobs before we can hang out?” The voice continued to travel past Julio, even though a semi should have been rolling through him. He peeked open one eye and saw the truck stopped in place. The driver also seemed stuck in place staring at his phone. “He doesn’t need you to do a server reset for him.” Julio heard the woman say. Her voice grew distant as she reached the other sidewalk.  “HEY!” she yelled suddenly. Julio couldn’t help but turn around. He saw a dark-haired young woman standing next to a pale, lean teenager in black clothes. He had a sharp widow’s peak in the center of his forehead and looked sullen as if he were being reprimanded.

“Yeah?” Julio asked. As he took in the view he noticed everyone else was frozen in time.

“I’m going to start time again. Are you really where you want to be?” she pointed at the semi. Julio shook his head and immediately bolted across the street to the pair of strangers.

“Thank you! Thank you so much!” Julio immediately began showing his appreciation. “You saved my life!”

“Yeah,” the pale teen nodded. “So return the favor and leave us alone.”

“Oren!” The woman hit his shoulder. “Don’t be mean, he’s just being appreciative.” She turned to Julio and extended a hand. “I’m Sonia, and this is Oren. Don’t mind us, we’re just passing through.”

“But.. but you stopped time. How’d you do that?” Oren grumbled and wiggled his fingers at the air; he opened a black portal in the air beside them and walked through it without another word. 

“Don’t take it personally,” Sonia said. She smiled at Julio but moved toward the hole in the air. “He’s grumpy about someone else. Bye now,” she said as the portal closed with her on the other side. The hole disappeared completely then time roared back to life.

First Gear

“Huh.” Greg stared at the watch parts scattered on the concrete sidewalk. He looked at the stopped cars in the street; they were driving by at full-speed moments ago. Greg wanted to cross, but did not want to wait for the light. He reached into his pocket for the watch. He squeezed the button too hard and the small pocket watch flew out of his hand. After time stopped.

“Well, at least I have time to think,” he said aloud. The ominous silence of stopped time left always him uneasy. Greg shrugged to himself and crossed the street as he originally planned. He was on his lunch break and decided to eat while he figured out what to do next. As he approached the entrance of his favorite burger spot a tall black hold appeared in the air in front of the door. Greg stopped walking. A pale, tall young man wearing black jeans stepped out of the hole followed by a young woman.

“They can move?” Greg stayed still. “They don’t know I can move,” he planned to stay still and see what happened. The pair seemed to notice time was not moving. They looked at the stopped cars, and peeked inside the restaurant, then they talked to each other. The woman seemed excited, then the pale man turned and looked at Greg. “Don’t move, don’t move, don’t move,” he reminded himself. “It’s just coincidence.” The couple began walking towards Greg. He fought to keep still. Once they were close enough the woman locked eyes with Greg.

“You’re right! I can see the difference!” She said with a large smile, then she waved at Greg. “Hi. Did you stop time?” Greg stared at an imaginary dot behind the red-headed woman. He did not so much as blink. The woman turned her attention to the pale young man.

“Well he doesn’t want to fix it,” she shrugged. “It doesn’t look like there’s anything else to do here, let’s move on.”

“You can fix it!?” Greg grabbed the woman’s hand.

“Maybe. It depends on a few things. First I have to know, did you do it?” She slid her hand out of Greg’s grip. He nodded.

“Yes. It was an accident!” She gave Greg an appraising look, then she looked back to her pale friend.

“He’s a Zero.. right?”  He nodded and she turned back to Greg.

“How did you stop time?”

“Uh, I had a watch,” Greg turned to point at the sidewalk across the street. “It stops time when I press the button, but I dropped it.”

“A watch?” She asked her friend. He nodded and started crossing the street. The woman followed him, and Greg followed her.

“Some Uniques can imbue items with their magic,” the man explained to his partner, and Greg also heard. Though he did not understand the explanation beyond “magic”. The trio reached the clockwork mess and the strange man knelt to poke at the bits and pieces. “Ha!” He grabbed a piece off the concrete then stood and smiled at the woman. He held out his palm to show her a small golden gear that glowed with faint golden light. “Definitely a Muerte. Take it, it’ll make your magic stronger.”

The woman touched the gear then she immediately began to glow with golden light. The gear dimmed until its light disappeared completely. After several seconds the glow around the woman dimmed and she smiled.

“That was awesome! There was tons of magic in there,” she rubbed her hands together. “I feel great!”

“Cool,” the pale man nodded. “Ready then?” He waved a hand at the air and another black portal opened up.

“Wait!” Greg spoke up. “You said you were gonna fix it.”  He asked the woman. The tall man stepped into the black portal and disappeared, but the woman nodded and smiled.

“Oh yeah, I almost forgot,” she snapped her fingers as she stepped into the hole in the air. Time roared to life before she disappeared.

Lunch Time

Sonia hummed to herself as she stepped out of the bathroom. She noticed a young, pale man in black jeans, maybe 16 or 17, walk into the diner and head toward a booth. She did not think much of it as she headed back to the kitchen, until the young woman realized she wasn’t breathing.

She exhaled when the fact registered, and immediately the din of dozens of conversations roared to life in the small restaurant. She glanced at the new patron, but the sudden increase in noise did not seem to concern him. He focused on the menu flipping back and forth between two pages as if trying to pick one.

“Hey, Sonia.” She heard the head cook’s voice and turned toward the kitchen. A short, muscled man in a hairnet pointed past her to the young man sitting alone. “Everything okay, or do you want to hand the table off to someone else?”

“What? OH!” She shook her head. “Sorry, I’ll get it.” The stranger distracted her so much, Sonia did not realize he sat in her section. “Okay, let’s test this out,” she thought to herself. Sonia took a deep breath and held it for her walk to the table. Everyone around her froze and silence took over the restaurant. As she approached the man she noticed he tapped his fingers on the table, waiting patiently. He turned suddenly and met her eyes. He took a quick glance around the restaurant, then he met her eyes again and smiled. Sonia let her breath escape when she reached the table and the restaurant came to life again.

“Hi!” Sonia smiled at him. Now that she stood closer she admired the light grey color of his eyes. He nodded in return.

“Hi. I’ll take the burger basket and a chocolate shake,” he said.

“Oh.” The food order caught Sonia by surprise, she expected him to say something else. She quickly wrote it down. “Anything else I can help you with? Any other questions? About anything?” She asked, hoping he would bring up the stopped time. She clearly saw him move when everyone else was froze, but somehow she felt embarrassed to bring it up first. He shook his head.

“No, thanks.”

“Okay, be back in a flash,” she walked to the back to input the order. She stood in a way that she could see him, and held her breath several times in a row. Each time he continued to move, even though everyone else froze. Sonia spent 20 minutes scheming up ideas to get him to acknowledge her time-stop antics. Finally, when his order was ready, she saw an opportunity.

Sonia carried the order to the young man’s table. After she placed the burger in front of him, she was less careful with the milkshake. After some intentional fumbling, the chocolate shake ended up on the floor.

“Oh no, I’m sorry!” Sonia apologized. “I’ll fix it,” she winked at the man and held her breath to rewind time. The glass jumped off the floor back up to the table, then back on to Sonia’s serving tray, then she exhaled. She placed the shake in front of him, again, and smiled.

“Thanks,” he nodded and reached for the burger.

“That’s it?” Sonia asked. “Thanks?” The man’s hands stopped before he touched the food and he looked up at her in confusion. “I just rewound time!” she whispered harshly.

“I said thank you,” the man shrugged. Sonia sighed and sat down in the booth across from him.

“But I rewound time!” Sonia felt frustration building in her. She decided to ask her questions instead of waiting for him to answer. “Who are you? How can you move when I stop time? Why aren’t you surprised?” The pale man reached for the burger again.

“Is that a big deal here?” he asked, then took a large bite.

“Yeah,” Sonia giggled. “Can you do it?” he shook his head. After chewing for several seconds he swallowed.

“I can’t, but it’s a pretty common ability,” he said. “Stopping time, anyway,” he shrugged. “Rewinding time is pretty impressive I guess.”

“So you’re not from around here?” Sonia asked.

“Just passing through,” he replied. “But you’re welcome to tag along when I leave if you like.”

“Where are you going next?” She asked. He shrugged.

“Nowhere in particular. It just depends what universe we end up in.” The pale man smiled and extended a hand across the table. “My name is Oren.”