Bella McVennon + Morgan Halvorsen

Time Did Not Move

She was beautiful and she was dying. Her reddish-brown curls framed a face that might have been carved from ivory, or marble, or painted on porcelain. Her eyes were closed, the lashes long and dark, her lips parted slightly. The breath fled her lungs with a faint wheeze. The rise and fall of her chest beneath the blanket was the only movement she ever made.

Aurora had been in stasis for three hundred years.

Time did not move for her. Time had stopped for good the day her weeping mother kissed her forehead, smoothed the hair from her face, and disappeared as the doors to the ship abruptly closed with an ominous hiss. Time had stopped when an orderly jabbed her in the arm, and the world also disappeared.

Below on Earth, time moved on too quickly. And then it, too, stopped. The plague that wiped out civilization lent a strange primordial peace to the place, its grand monuments and skyscrapers left empty, the roads choked with cars that never reached their destinations. One wonders what an alien race would make of it, the deserted vaults of subway stations, the boats drifting aimlessly out to sea. With Sleeping Beauty, above their heads, trapped for eternity in a world long gone.

In the way that once upon a time the human race had sent music and language and sounds and images out into the wild black yonder on the Voyager spacecraft, so they had sent her into space. Frozen in time, a figure so lovely that no one could bear to watch her die with the rest down in the gutter. Awaiting her prince for eternity.

The tragedy, the real tragedy, came the day they found her. Those humans that survived, that formed new civilizations from the ruins of the old, flung themselves out in the stars. They saw her ship, a speck of dust in the cosmic ether. They investigated. Then they woke her up.

The frontiersmen watched with held breath as there was a flutter from those perfect translucent eyelids, as she drew a fresh, full breath. Her eyes opened, revealing a shade of blue most of them had never known or seen: the blue of the ocean on a Puerto Rican beach in the summer. She sat up in the bed. She looked around her. And died.

Brooklyn at Christmas

 

The darkness settles over the city streets as Lara steps out onto the snow-lined sidewalk from the heady warmth of the subway station. In the less dense places of the world, the snow gets to stay where it is, wiping the universe clean and covering it in a white blanket. Here, though, it’s off the streets by sunrise, or turned to slush, or stained with grime.

She walks carefully down the slick and uneven sidewalk in her suede boots, watching for where the melted snow gathers in small clumps in the corners and dips of the large concrete blocks. The package balanced on her arm almost tumbles to the ground but she catches it at the last moment, heart pounding. She bought it right after work, especially for Jim; she’s carried it all the way from Macy’s in Herald Square. She privately prays it will make up for all her time away from home lately, working her ass off to earn a little extra overtime.

Brooklyn’s darker tonight than usual, Court Street, with its many shops and restaurants strangely deserted. Turning down First Place is like walking into a world of light, the large front gardens of the brownstone apartment buildings beaming with Christmas lights, tinsel, and lit-up Santas. A statue of the Virgin Mary rises from a snow-logged yard as if she clawed her way out of it.

The few, heavily-bundled souls who ventured out on Christmas Eve like roly-poly Eskimos wave at each other, shouting “Merry Christmas! God bless!” as their breath escapes into the brisk night air as puffs of steam.

She crosses the street firmly but carefully, watching for the few unlikely taxicabs and waiting cars, and walks past the snow-cloaked side garden with its severe, iron-wrought fence. She walks up the steps of her large brownstone apartment building and through a plate-glass door into a lobby of green carpet and white stucco walls, she presses UP, watching as each floor number is illuminated, waiting, clutching the package in her arms. A small ding, the door opens and she enters, propelled up to the fifth floor with the press of a button, where she emerges into another barren, green-floored hallway, slides her key into one door of five, pushing it open to find—

An empty apartment. Evidence of their shared life together has disappeared in the ten hours she’s been gone, DVDs and books, even artwork and dinnerware. A note written hastily on an old Christmas card is resting under a magnet for Red Apple Chinese takeout on the fridge door:

I’m sorry, I can’t do this anymore.

At the very bottom of the card is a cheerful snowman, with a speech bubble:

Happy Holidays.