The Eater Of Time is coming. He is a bastard with a wide-gaping maw that doesn’t miss a thing. He comes for all things eventually. A very few of us are more sensitive to him than others. We have cracked his code, done the math and found him wanting, easily checked. Most, the lucky bastards among us, never notice, never see him. Theirs is a linear existence, point A to point B, a chronology of events and emotional states that possess a stream-like fluidity.
The religious try to sell us an afterlife, all gussied up and filled with splendors unimaginable. Some place “better” after the Eater Of Time has had his way. But that’s all marketing, a way to tone down reality and continue the story. Lipstick on a pig, I say.
So, I skip. It is difficult, this skipping through spacetime to avoid the return to star dust. I spent a decade on Andares Prime around 14.7B universal time, living a quiet life, pondering the meaning of it all. It was a good life, too. Simple. Clean. I took a job curating a small museum in the town of Fyre. The work was interesting, always changing with new exhibits and lots of research, my specialty. The years stretched out before me. I settled in, made friends.
But then he came hunting me down like the inevitable force of nature that he is. First the stars dimmed for me. Then the world lost its color, faded to black and white. There was time, but it was tainted. Years later I began to smell the rot.
I had to leave then, no choice. I skipped across spacetime and found a beautiful moon that was mostly water, Split-12 it was called. The largest city on Split was maybe a couple of hundred thousand people. They were technologically advanced, part of a group of settled worlds within their quadrant of space. This was about .5B years U.T. earlier.
Split was a quiet world. By this I mean they didn’t allow open air or virtual advertising. You could walk down the busiest of streets on Split, a cafe to your right, then a coffee shop (druga they called it on Split), and retail stores across the street. But no advertising other than shop signs that were all similar in appearance. If you were hooked into the network, either through an implant or your personal comm, there weren’t any ads poking out at you. As I said, it was a quiet world. I loved it.
Five years after I had arrived on Split I opened a tavern. It was small but always busy, successful. I developed a group of regulars who also became friends.
He showed up a couple of decades later, eating away at Gehazi, the gas giant that Split circled. One day I was happy, successful and amongst friends. The next I was advertising the tavern for sale. Best laid plans and all, I kept telling myself. Things change. Shit happens.
So, I skipped, again.
It’s not easy uprooting your life, let me tell you. It’s painful. Spend a decade or two anywhere and you develop friendships, people you care for and who care for you. I skipped to some backwater planet on the edge of a spiral galaxy. I began drinking heavily of the local alcohol, dabbled in their drugs, spiraled down like water in a drain, depressed, lonely. I missed the life I had built on Split.
Then one day I got ill. It’s amazing the things you take of granted, like advanced medicines. I came down with a fever that was difficult to diagnose or treat. I nearly died, which was nature’s way of pointing out to me that I had been heading in that direction on my own, anyway, abusing alcohol and drugs as I was. Eventually, I recovered.
And then my perspective got a kick in the ass. I fell in love. She was beautiful, vibrant and a world unto herself. I cleaned up, just like that, paid my karmic debt and sank so deep into her essence that it made me wonder about the meaning of it all in new, unexpected ways.
I was taken by surprise when the Eater Of Time found me again. I hadn’t even considered the possibility. I was so lost in our lives together I had barely thought of him in the intervening years. Years of contentment had dulled that edge, worn it smooth.
But there he was nonetheless, bringing panic and doom. The world greyed out, lost its color again. There was a rain falling outside the diner we were in when it happened. Traffic was light. It was a holiday weekend in town. The city high rises and walls were a wet and grey concrete maze. The clouds overhead were heavy, oppressive. The street reflected the little bit of light that seeped through. The Eater Of Time was insistent.
Skipping is as much an art as it is science. It can’t be bought or sold. It can’t be given or explained in a way that can be learned. It is a state of being, a way of viewing or living in spacetime that obfuscates barriers and lowers walls. It is singular. For someone like me, it is a choice. And, I realized, a prison.
We were standing in the doorway of the diner, shielding ourselves from the downpour. She smiled, raised an eyebrow. “Ready?” And then she was gone, running like a watercolor in the rain. Translucent blues and greens and reds reflected off of the wet pavement and swam between the drops of rain. Her colors spread across the canvas of city-grey, illuminated and animated the otherwise dulled world. Even he couldn’t contain her. I grinned, breathed in deeply. Just like me, I thought, falling for the one with such a voracious appetite. Then I braced for the wet and stepped after her into the street.
The Eater Of Time is coming, no doubt. He comes for all things eventually. Not today nor tomorrow nor the next day. But as long as she is in my world it is a bright and beautiful place filled with color. And time - or the slow march of it, anyway - is meaningless.———
in category Fiction