a stolen future

Nigh Midnight

December 31st, 1999, 11:59:59 PM. It's been nigh midnight for 50 years. The ball never dropped. All clocks just stopped. The whole world is trapped in endless night.

The perma-darkness spawned first in the proverbial East, Asiatic nations awaiting a New Year that never came. As each time zone approached midnight, its time too froze. The whole world shuffled toward the precipice of a new millennium, never quite succumbing to the future.

How was this possible? Science struggled to explain. The Earth still rotated, still revolved around the sun. And yet here we were, frozen. Here was our world, plunged into dusk. The sun's rays unable to penetrate whatever spell held us thus.

We sat before our televisions, waiting, never aging. Champagne in our glasses, never gone flat. Tender hearts untouched, soft lips un-kissed. We gazed at each other with longing, hoping at first that the next second would finally come and we could embrace, then at the last hoping merely for a reprieve, for any end to this suffering. We stared at our watches, waiting for the next second to pass, forever and an instant becoming one. And in this moment, we were immortal.

So here we sit. December 31st, 1999, at the eve of midnight. The New Year nigh, but never approaching. The whole world and all its creatures frozen in the act of birth, of living, of death, trapped on the edge of becoming. The ball never drops. All clocks remain stopped. The whole world trapped in endless night.

 

Sands of a Lost Life

‘I’ file into the conference room, one by one. Each me takes a seat. ‘We’ line up, beginning at the age I am now, progressing up in age toward oblivion. From face to face, I see myself increasingly creased and careworn, faces aged in a way that now mine will never be, faces who experienced joy and loss that I robbed from myself. I see what would have been, what I became in futures forgotten, and I must know.

Stammering, I begin.

“You know why ‘I’ am here. Tell me. What do I miss? What do ‘we’ do?”

I feel the wind rush by. I see, in a flash, my choices come to bear.

The man next to me, still like a perfect reflection, speaks. Tears stain his face, contempt mars his expression.

“You get promoted last year. You get the chance you’ve always wanted to prove yourself worth. Just the beginning of a long and satisfying career.”

They go on down the line, aging, faces becoming haggard and sallow, but also wise, as they speak. The whistling echoes louder, but still distant, as if my fate hasn’t already been sealed, as if this conversation isn’t nothing more than an exercise in futility.

“You get married…”

“You adopt…”

“You finally finish that book. It’s a hit!”

I close my eyes, and the ground races closer.

On and on to the last, an elderly, weakened me, standing in the frame of death’s door. My face is lined with age, my eyes hardened by dismay at the path ‘we’ have chosen. His words hit hardest. They conjure another end. One I desire with all my heart.

“You die in his arms, happy. At least… you would have been.”

They pause now to grieve us, and all the possibilities we lost in my foolish youth. My guilt flows like sand. I feel that I must explain.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. But-”

A loud thud. All the ‘me’s disappear. The light fades; the room disappears in a shroud of darkness and silence.

Suddenly, I no longer hear the wind.