Author: Majoki

“Thirty-four thousand one hundred twenty-six…thirty-four thousand one hundred twenty-seven…thirty-four thousand one hundred twenty-eight…thirty-four thousand one hundred twenty-nine…”

Clarisse counted. And counted.

Her mother watched from across the room. Her nine-year-old daughter was spending another entire twenty-four hour day counting, and Rochelle felt helpless. It was the end of July and usually Clarisse would be outside: in their garden, riding bikes with friends, going to the community pool. But for the seventh time this month, she was sitting in the rocker by the bay window counting.

“…thirty-four thousand one hundred thirty…thirty-four thousand one hundred thirty-one…thirty-four thousand one hundred thirty-two…thirty-four thousand one hundred thirty-three…”

It started on July 4. Rochelle had risen early planning to make red–white-and-blueberry pancakes for breakfast to celebrate Independence Day. Instead, she found Clarisse in the rocker by the bay window counting aloud. And when Rochelle asked what she was doing, Clarisse only held up her fingers, one at a time, to indicate the obvious: she was counting.

Nothing Rochelle had tried that day stopped Clarisse from counting. In the past, her young daughter had done some borderline obsessive-compulsive things, like not talking for almost three days, walking exclusively backwards for close to a week, stacking rocks all around their neighborhood for most of last summer.

Child’s play. Youthful creativity. That’s how Rochelle had thought of it. Clarisse trying out ideas, challenging herself, messing with routine, like all kids do. But what kind of kid woke up at midnight and counted until they reached 86,400. The number of seconds in a day.

What kind of kid did that?

Her daughter. Her only child. Her one anchor in the world after the horrifyingly ironic death of her husband five years ago. A power engineer for the electrical utility struck by lightning. A bolt so powerful he’d been incinerated. In just a second his life vanished and Rochelle’s became fatefully unclear. Only focusing on Clarisse provided clarity. She had to be there for her daughter, let her know that she could always count on her mother.

“…thirty-four thousand one hundred thirty-four…thirty-four thousand one hundred thirty-five…thirty-four thousand one hundred thirty-six…thirty-four thousand one hundred thirty-seven…”

Clarisse counted. And counted. And Rochelle suddenly felt how little her daughter could count on her. For the first time since her husband’s death, she wept. She went to her knees, shook, sobbed and let her collected grief spill.

Time stopped. Or more correctly, it fractalized, and Rochelle came to herself on the floor in her house being held by Clarisse.

“I’m here, Mom. It’s okay.”

But Rochelle could clearly see that things were not okay. Because at the same time, she was being held by Clarisse, her daughter was also in the rocking chair across the room counting, and also outside the bay window stacking rocks in the front yard. When Rochelle looked around, she saw her in the kitchen and coming down the hallway.

“What’s happening?” She asked her daughter.

“You finally made it here.”

“Here?” Rochelle asked, both fearful and fascinated.

“On the edge of time,” Clarisse softly explained, “in a temporal fractal. Time like any other dimension has infinite intricacy. Usually, we experience time as a tension between misaligned temporal contexts. Here we can explore the unobstructed timelessness that defines a moment.” Clarisse shrugged and smiled, her nine-year-old mischievous smile. “At least that’s what’s going on according to Dad.”

“Dad? Your father? What do you mean? He’s here?”

Clarisse, and the many of them along the infinite edge of time, stood and held out a hand. “Come. I’ll show you.”

Rochelle took her daughter’s hand. She felt dizzy. With excitement. “How can this be happening?”

“You let go of the past for just a second and found your way in, to truly be in the moment with us,” Clarisse confided. “I was really hoping you would. In fact, I was counting on it.”