I was in trouble. I had planned this out – obviously not well – but I had planned this out all the same. David Kessler always cuts through the park on his way home from school. It's like clockwork. So, my plan had the beauty of simplicity on its side; the less moving parts the less that could go wrong. I would wait for him in the park on his way home and teach him why it's a bad idea to start making up stories about my older sister.
The plan seemed fool-proof; although he's 2 years older than I am, 16 to my 14, I've got close to 2 inches in height on him. He does outweigh me by 20 to 30 pounds but his weight is all blubber while mine is lean muscle. Advantage: me.
I must be a bigger fool than I thought.
I didn't expect him to have company. He never had company on his way home. I'd watched him for the past week, ever since he'd left my sister walking home alone in the dark from a date where he'd tried to 'do stuff' that she was uncomfortable with, and he'd never had company before.
He had company today. Bart Cauldwell and Mark Nemmins. One on one I should still be okay. It wasn't going to be one on one.
I was too stupid to back off. He'd hurt my sister and made her the laughingstock of the school; not only lied about bedding her but had the gall to tell everyone how bad she was at it. Now granted my sister was a bit of a prat to me but hurting her was my job and I didn't delegate it. Besides, if I absolutely had to tell the truth I would be forced to admit that I loved the stupid cow. No matter what, she certainly didn't deserve David's shit; I'd told her so from the moment she'd agreed to the date but she didn't listen to me.
I was able to get a few shots in early. I think I might have even broken David's nose; it was certainly bleeding enough for it. Of course, that was before Bart and Mark joined the fray.
Mark clubbed me with something. I'm not sure what it was but it took me to the ground momentarily and my ear burned something horrible. I got up to face the two of them when Bart stepped behind me and snaked his arms under mine and then over and around behind my neck. He clasped his hands together before I really knew what he was doing and then arched his back. He wasn't strong enough to take me off my feet but I was certainly off-balance.
It turned out that Mark had found a branch that had to be two foot long and at least 3 inches thick. That was what he hit me with. I know this because as I was squirming, trying to get away, I saw him preparing to bat my head to the fences. Among other things, Mark is a power-hitter for our baseball team; he could do it. I was about to have a really bad day.
I was pretty sure I didn't want to see this coming. I closed my eyes and turned my head waiting for the branch to connect. I tensed and felt the blood roaring through my ears, my body taut and waiting.
Suddenly, I felt a strange sensation in my head, like someone had struck a funny-bone in the inside of my brain. It felt like a small twitch; a strange sensation that flowed through me like gooseflesh. For a moment, I wondered if I'd just had an aneurysm – it was what my grandfather had died of two years ago and I'd often wondered if they were hereditary and how I'd know if I was about to have one. Of course, at this particular time it didn't matter; the timing would be ironic, if nothing else. All I could do was stand there, eyes clenched, and wait. And wait. And wait.
I peeked my eyes open, trying to figure out what Mark and David were waiting for; I figured they were probably arguing about who got to hit me first, though I didn't hear them. I was surprised to see Mark still holding the branch back, his face still tucked into that snarl that scared children and small animals. He hadn't moved a muscle.
As a matter of fact, none of them had moved a muscle. They were all standing exactly as before. David was to my left, hands closed into fists, lower face drenched in blood from his nose. He still looked like he wanted to kill me but he ... he wasn't moving. And the blood ... it wasn't dry but it wasn't flowing either. It just ... wasn't moving. And, wait, there ... halfway down his torso ... there was a drop of blood just ... just sitting there. In mid-air. Unmoving.
What ... the ... fuck ... was ... going ... on?
It was about that time that I realized there was no sound. Not the chirp of birds or the sound of cars in the distance. There was ... nothing. I'd lived my whole life in the city; I'd never heard it this quiet before. Even when we went camping, it had never been this complete absence of sound.
I looked up and had to swallow the bile rising in my throat. There was a bird flying by. At least, it was in flight ... but it wasn't moving. It was just ... hanging there. In midair. Like the drop of blood. As if gravity had suddenly turned itself off.
I'm not certain how long I stood there. I'm not certain because nothing changed. I was just standing there, on my tip toes, Bart's arms still locked around me. I think I lost it a little bit. I know I was shaking for a while and I might have blacked out for a moment or so. I just ... stayed there. Unmoving.
Finally, I guess I pulled myself together. I tried bending forward and I was able to pull Bart upright and then bent over the top of me. I didn't even want to think about what that looked like. I'm not homophobic or anything but I bat for my team, if you know what I mean. Still, Bart wasn't letting go of me.
I tried reaching up and pulling his arms apart but there was nothing doing there. They were locked together hard. Finally, I squirmed around and managed to loosen his hold and slipped my arms free. I turned around and ... he still wasn't moving. He looked decidedly odd sitting there, bent slightly, arms crooked and hands clasped outwards.
At the moment, though, I had bigger things to worry about. I kept looking at them as I walked backwards ... but they never moved. Finally, I gave it up and continued on my way.
Whatever was going on, it wasn't localized. Cars were stopped in the street, their drivers unmoving. There was a wreck that had just occurred on the middle of Clark and Maple and I mean just happened. I actually SAW the crumple zone of the metal as the two cars collided and the plastic and glass were still in the midst of showering off the two vehicles. The near car was a late model Ford and the woman driving it was just barely bent forward, the airbag in front of her somewhere between closed and inflated. She had her seat belt on so I figured she'd be okay. The driver of the Dodge truck was a young adult – maybe even a kid. No seatbelt. I opened the door and managed to slide it on him; the crumple of the impact hadn't yet pushed the quarter panel over the door hinge but it would, I was pretty sure. I closed the door and moved on.
Honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. It was like I was outside of my body looking in; as if I didn't really have control over my body though I knew the actions were all mine. There must have been a small part of my brain still actively working; most of it, though, was shut down for maintenance. I moved onto the sidewalk and tried to figure out what to do. I could turn left and head home ... but I wasn't sure I was up to seeing any of my family just ... stopped ... like this.
There was a bank office on the corner and I just happened to look up at their sign; it was showing the time and temp – 86 degrees at 4:36. Still only 4:36; school let out at 4:25. It had been far longer than 10 minutes – how could it only be 4:36? I looked at my watch, trying to get some handle on what was happening to me ... and my watch said 4:57.
The bank clock was occasionally off by a few minutes but it was generally correct – until now. How could the bank clock and my watch be different by 19 minutes? I walked over to one of the people stuck in mid-stride as they walked down the street and took a quick look at the watch on his arm ... and it read 4:33. What was even more chilling, though, was that it was an analog watch – and the second hand was not moving.
I closed my eyes; I didn't want to look but I had no choice. I had to know. I had to figure this out. I opened my eyes and looked down at my watch; it was an old analog watch that had originally belonged to my grandfather – I had to wind it every day and everything.
The second hand on my watch was moving. Time was ticking away. My personal time. The world around me hadn't just stopped. It seemed that time had just stopped ... for everyone except me.