Author: Mark Renny

When Time stopped it was harsh; a blurred still but dense and difficult to navigate. When it happened to Damien it was fleeting, only for seconds really, a few minutes at most and he simply stood still and closed his eyes and waited it out. They, the men and women in the dark suits and the white lab coats, admonished him for this. They stressed how important it was that he move. They needed him to explore and report back to them.

Damien tried to make them understand that he felt trapped, as if the walls were closing in on him and the sky had fallen down on top of his head and the ground beneath his feet was rising up. He felt stifled and unable to cope with the lack, the absence, but he always stuttered to a halt, unable to find the right words.

They explained that Time stopped only for him and that his movement would indeed be limited. He wouldn’t be able to inhabit someone else’s space and there would be barriers that he wouldn’t be able to cross. But if Damien persevered, he would get used to it and find himself able to move around effectively.

Damien was disappointed in himself, and he did want to help. But he suspected that there were others like him, for whom Time stopped. How else could they know all of this?

As the months progressed, Damien was forced to concede that about one thing they were correct. When Time stopped for him now, it was no longer fleeting. Now, he lost at least an hour, or more accurately, he gained the time. But it didn’t feel like this as he stood in limbo, with his eyes screwed shut, terrified of what might be happening around him, or of what he might feel if he reached out in front of himself. Damien spent most of this time alone in his house. When he did need to venture out into the big wide world, he steered clear of others as much as was feasible.

It was a bright and sunny day and Damien was walking through the park and, when it happened, he didn’t close his eyes but just kept on walking. And gradually his surroundings came back into focus, and it was still a bright and beautiful day. The sky above his head was sapphire blue and the grass at his feet was emerald green.

As Damien began to make his way toward the park’s main gates, he noticed the woman and watched her as she pushed through them and when she spotted him, she drew to a halt at the edge of the scruffy patch of tarmac. There was plenty of space and Damien started to walk around her but when he glanced across at her he realised she was motioning toward him, beckoning.

As he moved closer, he could see that the air in front of her was misty, and drawing closer still he saw that she was standing behind what appeared to be a slightly opaque sheet of glass and with her hands pressed up against it.

Damien stepped in front of the woman. She was shorter than him, and looked up at him, imploring. Damien also pressed his hands against the barrier, and he pushed at it, first with his head and then turning, with his shoulder but it wouldn’t give.

Together they walked toward the gate and the road beyond the park, and they were almost touching, but not quite.