What do you do when the clock is irrevocably wrong?
My watch continues to tick, the digits keep moving forward, but nothing else does.
Has it been weeks? Years? At a certain point you stop asking, stop counting. If you’re denied basic human contact for so long your mind will start to wander, almost as if your body is no longer a suitable housing for it. It tries to crawl, squirm out of your ears and eyes, desperately searching for a home where it can be properly nourished and fed, but here there is no better place.
I slowly sit up. The once vibrantly decorated room where I lay had long since faded before I found it, and my tenure within only saw it fade further. My watch says it’s around nine in the morning, but that never ending twilight that fills the clouded sky serves as the constant reminder that time has moved on from this place. The minutes may keep passing but nothing else changes unless I attempt to do something, and even then my minor impact is nothing more than the sound of a pin dropping during an artillery strike.
Any hope of life returning have long since vanished. After the first few days, weeks even, I gave up any pretense of pretending that normality could still exist. I haven’t changed my clothes in months, but the usual accumulated dirt and grime from a proper day’s activities is nowhere to be found, as is the hunger and thirst associated with the heartbeat I can still feel within my chest. I’m alive in the traditional sense, but logic and science have long abandoned me in this place.
In the before, I fancied myself an intellectual. Puzzles and codes kept me up at nights and unlocking secrets brought the greatest reward. Try as I might, the foreign shapes and symbols imprinted on my left forearm since the day I was abandoned are still as meaningless to me as when I first saw them. Yet another reminder that my predicament wasn’t the result of a freak accident. Something caused the dissolution of reality as I knew it and that something left me here.
We, as a race of beings, regardless of the scientific or philosophical viewpoint, use time as a device to measure change. So perhaps I’m wrong when I say time has abandoned this place, change has. The leaves may sway in the light breeze that blew every once in awhile, but they hang in a limbo between summer and fall. Whether I am awake or asleep the temperature remains a brisk 69 degrees. It is something out of a movie.
I used to love movies. The electricity still flows, but now they only reminded me of life before. What I wouldn’t give for a tumbleweed or the chirp of grasshoppers and crickets. Even running from a masked killer with a knife would be better than my aimless wanderings through this desolate place. I used to think, to learn, now I try and think as little as possible.
I could try and leave town again, though all roads lead to Rome, so I’ll never get anywhere. No matter the route you take, whether it be road or slogging through the woods, eventually it brings you right back to where you started. I even tried the Hansel and Gretel breadcrumb trick, but all that taught me was my world had become some inescapable dome. Venture out in one direction and you find yourself coming in from the opposite side. It was my own personal Pac-Man board, but devoid of pellets or ghosts to keep me company.
Sometimes I entertain the notion that the rest of the world, every living creature, are all in their own version of this town. All splintered off in their own string. That this was the result of some unseen force and it initiated the unraveling of the tapestry we call reality. I may be alone, but there is someone walking with me, only in their own copy of this place. We may be alone, but we are alone together.
I used to write on the walls. Out of sheer boredom I once painted the town red, literally. The little change this place can manage is to undo what I did. Not all at once, but slowly. When I laid siege to my home, unleashing my inner arsonist, it took a couple months for things to return to normal, but the dead, burnt wood grew back into walls. Merchandise that lay dormant in stores untangled themselves from the blackened wreckage and became guidebooks and keychains once more. I slept and the world restored itself.
I am free of the biological imperative to sleep, but not of the effects of sleep deprivation. I was losing myself a little by the day anyway, after a few failed attempts, I knew there was nothing more to see, and reducing myself to a shambling husk wasn’t going to make anything easier. I thought it might have, but recovering from it was far worse than an eternity of boredom. What do you do when you’ve seen everything in the world?
They say death is the absence of life, so where was I? I was alive, but nothing else was. I would call it hell, but hell denotes suffering and torment for my sins. I’ve spent days on end staring at myself in the mirror just so I knew I was observed by someone. Clearly whatever did this tired of me long ago. The want for prying eyes should have been some twisted fantasy, but it was an everyday occurrence.
Cold steel is a welcome feeling. There were plenty of guns in the town, all I had to do was take one. I didn’t know anything about them, just that if it was loaded and the safety was off it would do the job. I didn’t know the make or model of the pistol I have in my hand, it said Glock on the side, but that doesn’t mean anything to me. It was fully loaded, but I only needed one shot. Temple to temple, that is the way I remember reading about before. Under the chin and the bullet could bounce off the roof of my mouth and then I would have to try again.
The barrel feels good against my skull, like it belonged there. It’s one of the first things you think of when you’re truly alone. The thought never left my brain and now I want it splattered as far as possible. I want to turn what I thought was a gift into a grey and red paste decorating the walls. I wonder if my brethren trapped in their realities were sitting on the bed too, contemplating the end. You never realize just how loud a gun is until you pull the trigger of one next to your ear.
It only takes milliseconds. I could feel the metal burrow into my skin. It pierces the outer layers, driving past my skull into the soft membranes of my mind. The gunpowder burns the skin left on the side of my head as the bullet wobbles through my brain, set off kilter by what I was trying to destroy. My body internally screams. Nerves fire, desperately trying to get an answer to what trauma was being inflicted, their energy dissipating into the empty place where the corresponding synapses once existed. I have no final thought, there was nothing in the world left to think about. I can only assume my body crumpled to the floor, muscles now free of the controlling mechanism that told them to hold me upright.
My eyes open. I am back in the faded motel bed I had spent what could be eons in. The foreign writing on my left arm was the monument to my situation. I look down at my right arm. An eighth line was there now, next to the seven that appeared one by one after nights like this. It looks like it has always been there, taunting me. I could only think that somewhere something out there smiled and said: