By Philip Wardlow
I saw her and time stopped. Literally it stopped. Except me. I was the only thing still moving, still breathing, still conscience, still in the real now as I called it. At least I think I was anyways. That part has never been truly clear to me. Being real that is, because I felt apart, always apart, never a part of.
She was just crossing the street at 5th Avenue and Broad Street. You know the place. She was right on the corner where that wonderful bakery presided.
The smell at that corner was just heaven. Hmm…I noticed I could actually still smell the sweet aroma of cinnamon in the air even as time was stopped there on that corner. Must be the molecules suspended in the air entering my ol’factory of a nose that I had walked right into. I breathed in deeply the nostril massaging pleasant sweet smell of cinnamon again. Remember, it’s the little things. Always.
The smell made me wonder if time had stopped everywhere and not just on this street, or this city , or state, or country, or Earth, or solar system, but perhaps everywhere in the entire universe. Just for me.
Was I this special to be given this power – this gift – had it been given? But I digress. Back to the lovely smell of the bakery…no, no, no. I meant her, the women, just beginning to cross the street at 5th and Broad.
Her name was Angelica. And she was angelic, gloriously so, with long dark hair, full lips, bright green magical eyes. She walked with the grace of a ballet dancer on long legs in black high heels. And I was here to save her life.
How’s that you say?
I had just seen her end in a bloody mess with legs splayed at very acute and obtuse angles on this very street she was standing. In not more than five seconds (if time were to resume) an old grizzled taxi driver would be turning the corner down the street to end any future days she might have left. So I had taken upon myself and backed time up ten seconds because that was not about to happen on my watch. Not to such a lovely creature as her.
I have completely forgotten where my real life began relative to where other people’s lives are at, like this Angelica, as it relates to my own life.
I mean, is she older than me or I am older than her? I mean in the sense of the chronological order of events as they have unfolded thus far in this universe. You follow? Oh I’m sorry, I forgot to mention something vitally important.
You see, every time I stop time or go backwards in time and do something just a smidge different, then resume, I find things have shifted ever so slightly around me. Like a nudge or a ripple flowing out from the place of change. That ripple is a fickle thing, for you see it may get smaller and smaller until the last thing in the time line just weakens and dies out with no one the wiser but me.
But at times if the change is big enough, then a big ripple or nudge is produced.
To my dismay, that if it is truly a major nudge, a divergence happens out in time at a certain point. Meaning a new timeline occurs. A new possibility comes into being down many avenues that had never existed. Then I’m screwed. For you see I find I am unceremoniously pulled like a piece of taffy into that new existence and the other is gone forever.
To count, I have screwed myself over one-thousand three hundred fifty five times…sorry, make that one-thousand three hundred fifty six counting saving Angelica at this very moment. If I am truly being honest she is the reason for over eleven-hundred of those times. The rest happened because I was young and stupid. Now it’s just because I’m young and in love which is its own kind of stupid.
I have saved her life so many times in so many different ways it has created a major divergence each time. So I’m stuck in the new timeline with her and the rest of the universe I guess. Which is fine I like being stuck in that way. I couldn’t bear to be stuck in any time without her.
But damn it all to hell, either she’s the most un-luckiest girl in the world, or she’s just one of those people simply destined to die.
Do I believe in destiny? Fuck no.
I do believe something in the Universe is gunning for my sweet Angelica and I am going to find out who or what, even it kills me first, else my name is not –
The din and cacophony of the city came crashing into me like a thousand locusts knocking against my ears. I was always amazed at how quiet the world was when I forgot about it in that instance when it was stopped.
Time hates to be stopped… forward, backward, not a problem, but it’s very reluctant to stand still. Yes, it obliges me, but I can feel it fuming to start up as again as soon as I stop it. It’s a like a tea kettle on the stove coming to a slow boil. If I don’t start it up in time it always strains and strains and builds and builds and then boom. Time starting back up that way always gives me a headache. But I digress. I have something to do and I only have seven seconds do it in now.
“Excuse me Miss Ward.” She ignored me of course like she always does in these circumstances and kept on walking to cross the street.
I then did the only thing I could think of in that moment. I pulled hard on the lapel of her rain coat and dragged her bodily back to the doorway of the bakery shop out of harm’s way.
“What the hell are you doing!?” she asked, looking at me frightfully, eyes like big green saucers, but at the same time balling up her fist ready to slug me. She was a good slugger. I think I have been hit at least a hundred or more times by her. I have gotten pretty good at avoiding her punches. Most of them anyways.
“I am attempting…” I was about to finish with “to save you”. But was interrupted by the taxi driver plowing through the intersection flinging the unluckys into the air with his one ton yellow deathmobile.
I caught a glimpse of the old man behind the wheel as he plowed through them all, slowing nary a bit. He looked right at me at me in that slice of a second. I swear he did. And he looked pissed, with his face all scrunched up like he had bitten into a lemon and I had taken his puppy away from him. Something tickled inside of me when our eyes connected. I swear I saw him mouth the words “you” before he sped on by and around the next corner leaving carnage in his wake.
Angelica collapsed in my arms after that. I pulled her into the bakery and had her lay back in one of the booths as the rest of people in the place streamed out to ogle or help with the accident.
Now was my best chance, I had to find that old man behind the wheel before time shifted and I was pulled again like taffy into the next divergence. He was part of this in some way. I could feel it. She was safe. Again. Time to go.
“You knew didn’t you?” She looked up at me as she laid there in the booth.
“Yes.” I said. I leaned in and kissed her on the forehead and she didn’t pull back from it. I turned from her to leave. Time was a wasting even for me.
“Wait. Where are you going? Who are you?” Angelica looked to me for answers. Always she asked the same questions. Long ago I had stayed and had answered them and many others. But not anymore. Besides, she would forget me with the next shift as always. And that was too painful to bear again.
“Why your guardian angel of course.” I said, as I gave her a sly grin I knew she loved so well. I exited the bakery in a flourish and a wink as I stepped out of time.
The End (or to be continued)