About Time

by Shaun Madison

About Time

The man stands in the middle of the street. Seconds before the man had been walking, as any other pedestrian, southbound along the street. Now he found himself perplexed; he glanced momentarily down at his watch. He ignored the cracked crystal face and read the hands as he had a million times before.

It read 12:09. He mumbled and looked up at the darkened sky.

"Isn't there somewhere I'm supposed to be?" He paused for a moment; the sense of urgency didn't fade. In doubt, he continued his walk up the street. His next revelation brought him up dead in his tracks. He opened his mouth, trying to speak his mind, but only choked. He had forgotten his name. His name. He paused, thinking that maybe he had just panicked. The pause only continued, and he began to feel dizzy; he looked around, his stomach beginning to cramp. The man tried to think, tried to reach for that part of his mind. Only a void greeted him. He fell to his knees and emptied the contents of his stomach on the pavement.

Only then, with his eyes closed and forehead resting on the curb, did something come to him.

"Jacob, Jacob Vanderbac, 13 Westing Circle." He mumbled the words like a machine, his teeth coated in bile, grinding fiercely as he finished the sentence. To any passerby, the monotony of these words would have caused them to pull their coat tighter as they scurried past, taking care to look as though they're not looking.

Jacob rose slowly from his knees. Brushing his pants, he brought his hands to his temples, hoping to remember more. His concentration broke as a car passed in front of him; the light left the purple spots that he's called floaters ever since he was a child. The car lights illuminated the previously dark street, drawing his attention to the briefly florescent green street sign. All of Jacob's concerns about his dilemma were forgotten as he saw the white words Westing Circle brightly illuminated. He began running up the street, its blanket of darkness restored as the car's headlights faded away. He ran. He ran to the intersection. He ran to salvation that would lead him out of this madness.

The ideal suburban cul' de sac greeted him. The outsides of the houses were immaculate, all of which bore one of four designs, carefully spaced apart so as to not detract from the owner's important sense of individuality. The houses flew past, Jacob only pausing long enough to read the numbers on the on the carefully measured mailboxes, 1...3.....5... He dropped his hand down to a stitch in his side; he felt something gummy and matted against his blue cardigan sweater. There would be time enough to worry about dry clothes when he got home and sorted this mess out. Jacob could only hope that something or someone would explain his memory lapse to him then.

He came to an abrupt halt, standing before what he hoped was his salvation. Plain white siding looked almost blue under the night sky; the gold 13 had a slight sparkle to it, as the random evening lights played off its polished brass. Jacob started up the empty drive; something about its vacancy made him pause before continuing up the side path to the front door. He clanged the brass knocker twice before his discipline broke and he began pounding on the frame.

"Hello? Is anyone home? Hello?" Suddenly he was conscious of the volume of his voice. Jacob looked around the deserted Cul' de sac. Rising from the north, barely visible against the already darkened sky, he saw what seemed to be a thick grey plume of smoke stemmed upward. He stared for several moments, wondering how he possibly could have missed seeing the smoke.

It's nothing

The voice in his head could not be his own. It was foreign. He looked both ways, thinking someone had somehow snuck up to him. Shaking his head, he returned his gaze to the north. It was where he had been walking from. How could he have missed it? Hoping his answer would lie there; he left the cul de sac and returned up the street the way he came.

Jacob passed the houses backward 13, 11, 9, 7..... He passed the green Westing Circle marker without as much as a glance. Rounding the corner, he passed his lunch on the side walk.

Go back

He ignored the voice in his head, as furious as one could be at one's own mind for its denial of information. Jacob quickened his pace as he headed to the source of smoke. What he hoped was the source of answers.

The man and his wife are the center of attention. They glide through the room, arm in arm. Drinking, laughing, they radiate not only to the room but to each other. This glow only amplified when the man looks upon her; she returns the smile in full, one hand unconsciously dropping to her womb. She returns to the conversation; h e returns to the bar for another quick drink.

Jacob saw the source of the smoke ahead, there an SUV had ran headlong into a telephone poll. The large black hood crumpled parallel to the windshield, obscuring it from view. The smoke came from a small oil fire off to the side of the wreck. A misshapen form laid, crushed, in the middle of the road. As Jacob moved toward the creature, he saw that it was sill breathing, gasping in short little pants. The animal's breath was unnaturally warm, steaming in the cool night. Looking down at the dog, ignoring the faint, almost inaudible whines, Jacob's eyes met the opal orbs of the dog.

The eyes glow red yellow when the lights of the SUV strike them. The animal freezes, everything forgotten as its death races toward it.

The man, with the woman's head nestled against his shoulder, looks up from her a moment too late. The man's reaction sends the half- ton vehicle sharply to the side, the deep resonating thud of the dog's lingering death is drowned out as the front wheels collide with the curb. The bounce sends the woman's head up from his lap to greet the shards of glass and dashboard. The man's body twists to the side, his hand impacting the window with enough force to shatter it and the face of his watch. Something cuts his ribs as he is flung about. The last thing he sees before his head jars into the steering wheel is the glowing green- white clock flicker 12:09 before it fades.

The dog exhales and dies.

The man is an automaton as he approaches the car. The driver's door is open, inviting him in. Answering the invitation, he ducks his head and enters the wrecked heap. The woman is lifeless in the passenger seat, the blonde hair, matted with blood, is tangled and strewn about on her face. One of the woman's half-open, lackluster green eyes stare at nothing.

The man's own eyes burn as he looks down at the driver's seat, to the half-open wallet he finds there. His mouth is already mumbling what he sees there; the smiling face, his smiling face, next to the thick black text; Jacob Vanderbac 13 Westing Circle. He turns away before he can read any further. Already he can feel his mind working its magic yet again. The man turns and stumbles away from the car. The man half-runs half-crawls down the street, only fully coming to his feet two blocks away. The man stops. The man stands in the middle of the street. There is a look of confusion on his face as he glances at his watch, it reads 12:09. The man cocks his head to the left.

"Isn't there somewhere I'm supposed to be?" The man mumbles then continues south down the street.

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