I’m not sure what woke me up, but once I was awake I could feel that something was wrong. For one I didn’t hear any noise coming from the kitchen, and my mom was always good about hollering at my sister and I if we weren’t up on time. Plus there was usually the sounds of pots and pans being moved around, the smell of breakfast cooking, and the sounds of our father getting ready for work. But that usually started happening before the sun was fully up. On this morning there was none of that.
At first I didn’t realize what was going since I was still tired from the day before. I’d crashed pretty hard upon coming home and didn’t wake up until well into the next day. Upon looking throughout the house I didn’t see any of my family, not even a sign that they’d been around for the past day. It was only after I woke up a little more that I realized the truth: the symbol was still working. I hadn’t pushed it after it had flared at me the night before, and had gone home to rest.
Everything was still paused.
Even knowing this I didn’t find it necessary to panic so I cooked myself some breakfast, ate, and then got dressed. Then I found a nice-sized piece of plywood out in the garage that would work for what I wanted, and off I went. There was no need to go around and do what I wanted any longer, as the novelty of being stuck in time had pretty much worn off. I just wanted to hit the button, return everything to normal, and go on with life. That sounded so simple back then, but now it just sounds naive and a little moronic.
I made my way back to the symbol. It took a while carrying the plywood, but no one was aware of me and so I didn’t get any strange looks from those I passed. I did happen to wonder if they were carrying on with their lives outside of this moment, but I didn’t ponder over it too much. Such things are fun to think about when you seem them in movies and on TV, but in real life I can honestly tell you that it’s a headache to contemplate.
When I reached the symbol I saw that it had gone dark, or at least wasn’t shining with any other colors at the moment. Had it still been flashing I’m not sure if I would have touched it, but then again when I got close it did start to hum, almost like a speaker will do just before it blows. I didn’t think anything of it though until my hand was almost touching the symbol. Something happened then that made me shy back from it in fear as well as the symbol turned that dark, bruised color again. Only this time something else happened along with it.
As I watched the symbol changed from pause to play, then back to pause and then back to play again in rapid succession. It took me a moment to notice, but as the symbol continued to shift back and forth that growing humming noise that could only mean impending doom was accompanied by the sound of people going about their business. Cars, walkers, cyclists, everything was making noise in what sounded like minute bursts of static that came and went with each shift. It was dizzying in a way as I knelt there, half-afraid and half-wanting to just run.
Turning back to the symbol though I saw a it continued to shift, growing faster with each repetition. Licking my lips I debated trying to push the symbol again, as I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life inside a moment such as this. But I also didn’t want to push the wrong symbol and get stuck. After only a moment of indecision I decided to try and push it again. Boy was that mistake. You see the trend here? Anytime I try to do something it tends to come out as a mistake, and a bad one at that.
So I pushed it, or at least I tried to. Ignoring the frantic movements and sounds of the world around me was easy enough, but my timing was just slightly off as I pushed the pause instead of the play when it flashed by. I thought that I could just wait, that the world would just go back to pause, but that’s when I heard it.
There was a low, grating sound almost like rocks being tumbled together in a barrel. I stood to my feet as I saw the stone barrier shake, thinking that something had gone wrong. The symbol was still there and it was still flashing that dark purple color, but even as I kept watching the stone that the symbol was etched into started to shake, the symbol seeming to tremble as the vibrations got a little heavier, rattling my teeth as I tried to back away. The plywood in my other hand dropped to the ground as I watched the symbol suddenly crumble along with the block of stone it had been carved into. My jaw dropped as I saw this, but what was even more shocking was the sudden tone that rang out from the site where the stone had been, a deep ringing sound that seemed to spread, and spread, and spread, rattling my ear drums and drowning out everything else as I clapped both hands to my ears.
As I closed my eyes I didn’t know what to expect. I thought of an earthquake, or the end of the world, something, anything, or nothing at all. I just didn’t expect what I found when I opened my eyes.
(to be concluded)