Observed by Time (Short Story)

The man called Time stood in the corner of the room at the largest party in Buffalo, New York. The room was bustling with energy, people counting down the minutes until midnight. They all assumed that they would be ringing in the new year, but they thought wrong. Conversation was loud as people competed with the music that was playing. Everywhere in the room there were people, mostly adults but some children too. They almost all had a plate in their hands with finger foods, laughing and smiling at each other. It seemed as if every one of them had a gleam in their eyes of bright dreams for the new year. They took their lives for granted. None of them cared to consider that they might not see the new year.

Time ran his hand through his dark side-swept hair, then took a sip of his drink. He had dressed to blend in with the mortals while they enjoyed their festivity. A lightly worn jacket over a red shirt with black dress slacks, his clothing was nothing fancy, but certainly not rags. He wanted to be a mere shadow against the wall, observing all before he destroyed them.

A glass was tapped by a man wearing glasses whose rims were designed to read the number of the upcoming year. His speech was slurred as he spoke about a year dying and a new one beginning. Time couldn’t help but smirk, thinking of how the souvenir glasses had been a waste of this man’s money. Not only this man’s but the thousands of others who had bought the same glasses to wear tonight. He also could not help but scoff at the speech as well. This man took too much for granted.

In less than ten minutes midnight was supposed to strike, but rather than gift all of these ungrateful people another year, the second before midnight struck Time was going to give them what they truly deserved.

He knew that this was not what his father had intended when passing their family legacy down to him. His father would be rolling in his grave if he knew what his son was doing right now. Since the age of thirteen Bartimaeus had been an apprentice under his father. For generations sons had learned from their fathers the trade in which to become Time, learning the magic that ran through their veins and how to use it to hold the Universe and everything in it together. A high responsibility it was. After all, without time how could the people and animals live? How could the world spin, or the wind blow? How could the seasons change?

For four years he had learned the craft from his father and as each year passed him by he had grown enraged. For years he had felt the insult of ungratefulness from the human race over his father’s carefully handled work. His father had been too patient. Old, that’s what it had really been. Too old to look at the world for what it was. Full of murderers and thieves, liars with their resolutions that were never followed through with. False promises to eat healthier, lose weight, and spend more time with their children. The world was full of people who wasted the time he had given to them, neglecting how precious the magic was that created it and kept it working, taking it completely for granted. They glided through day by day with nothing to show for it, treating life as if they deserved time. No one deserved time. How could he grant their wish for another year after the abuse he had watched his father put up with for so long?

This was now Bartimaeus’ first year as Time, his father now gone on to the afterlife. He was meant to guide the world on until a son of his own took the responsibility one day, but no. His patience had run out long ago and he wanted this to end now. Tonight he took vengeance. Tonight, he destroyed the time the world had always known, even if it meant destroying himself with it.

Time watched the clock on the wall closely, the minutes of his life ticking down along with everyone else’s.

*****

Michael sat at the bar, his gaze steady on the drink in front of him.

“Rotten luck, being here on New Year’s,” the older man next to him said, a slur in his speech from one too many drinks.

Michael looked over at him and nodded some, not loosened up enough from the alcohol yet to make small talk with a stranger. He had never been a bar goer, but this seemed like the place to be tonight given his present circumstances.

“Funny, isn’t it? Life can be going your way and then out of nowhere, it all changes!”

Funny was the last word Michael would call life’s sudden changes. There was no humor in coming home to find your stuff littering the front hallway of your apartment, with the locks changed and your wife refusing to let you inside.  He knew he and Emma had been growing distant for some time now. Ever since his best friend had died in a car wreck last year, he had been working longer hours, his mind and energy focussed there in his grief rather than with his family. Emma didn’t realize she and their daughter were the most important things in the world to him. Now on this bitter last day of the year, everything was different.

Finishing his beer, Michael stood up and grabbed his coat. Unsure what to say to the stranger, he said, “Nice chatting with you.” He didn’t even have a home to go to tonight, so he was left only with the option of crashing at a friend’s house. It was tempting not to stay for another drink, but it was nearing midnight and he didn’t want to be around anyone when cheers erupted for the new year. He wasn’t in that kind of mood.

Hailing a cab, he gave the address to where his buddy, Ryan, lived. His eyes glazed over while city lights passed them. Traffic wasn’t heavy, everyone inside around their televisions, or at parties celebrating. He remembered last year at this exact time, sitting on his couch with his five-year-old asleep in his lap. She had wanted desperately to stay awake until midnight but had been so worn out from the day that she hadn’t been able to. He had woken her up in enough time to watch the ball drop, then she had fallen back to sleep and he had carried her to her bed.

He wondered what Emma would tell her about him. If she would say he had left, or if she would say he was gone for only a little while.

Michael looked away from the street lights and out the windshield in just enough time to see a dog running right in front of them. “Stop!” he shouted at the driver.

To which the driver, seeing why Michael had shouted, swerved out of the way to avoid the dog. His panicked swerve came with a price as the car jerked farther to the left than he had intended. They cut through oncoming traffic, missing cars by a fraction of a second, then collided with a building.

*****

Many car horns sounded seconds before a great quake shook the building, causing the lights to flicker. Everyone stopped what they were doing, hands instinctively all touching something to steady themselves from the shake. It had brought the entire party to a halt.

A young man who had been by the window spoke loudly to the group, “A taxi just hit the building!”

There was a unanimous gasp across the room, and then people began pushing and shoving to get to the window to look out, bickering when they couldn’t see through the crowd. Time stood, watching it all. He set his glass down on the counter and lifted his hand up in the direction of the clock, ready to strike his magic that would cause the universe to stop.

With a large number of people gathering by the window, the building shifted again and before he could use his magic, the floor began tilting. The lights flickered out into complete darkness, and in the midst of screams, cell phones were pulled out of pockets to light the room.

“What’s going on?” A woman cried.

“The car took out part of the foundation,” someone else explained.

Someone was in the process of talking to 911 when sirens could be heard approaching. Lights from emergency vehicles outside cast red and blue along the walls through the windows.

Time still had his gaze on the clock, ready to end this bitter world.

The building shifted again, a deep rumble shaking the floor and walls.  A young man, possibly young thirties, stood up on a table and said with a voice of authority, “We need to be exiting this building.” Everyone began to scramble at once jutting this direction and that. “HEY!” the man shouted loudly. “No one will make it out if we panic. You there,” he pointed to a man on his left. Pointing to another he said,  “And you. I need your help. Go to the exits on the left and right of the room. Women and children are leaving first. There’s a fire escape down the hall. I want everyone to file out in an orderly manner. After they leave, the rest of us will follow.” The floor shook again and he shouted, “Let’s move it!”

Time was intrigued by this sudden and valiant effort on the man’s part to help, calming everyone from panicking and taking necessary steps to save them. The ground shifted, tilting more and more like it could collapse at any moment.

“Move out of the way!” A man who had been hired as a waiter for the party was pushing through the crowd of women making their exit. “I don’t get paid enough for this! Let me through! I’m getting out of here!”

“Not so fast.” The man who had been giving directions reached out for the guy’s collar and held him back. “You’re not leaving until the rest of us leave.”

Midnight struck on the clock. Welcome to a new year. Time pursed his lips and snapped his fingers to vanish into thin air, reappearing down on the street below at a distance. Child after child, woman after woman, and finally the men exited as well. He watched every single face as they left and fled. The ambulance took the driver and passenger of the vehicle away, but the siren didn’t sound and the emergency vehicle didn’t speed ahead. Time knew both men had lost their lives in the impact of the accident.

Bricks crumbled from the walls of the building and the entire thing collapsed in a rumble. Everyone had made it out save for two faces. The man who had tried to leave before the women, and the man who had instructed and kept everyone calm.

Time stared for a long moment at the debris littering the street, a once sturdy building taken out by a speeding car not five minutes before a new year. He stared at the wreckage that would have killed everyone if it weren’t for the brave efforts of one man, a man who had sacrificed himself to save the strangers around him. He thought of the lives that would now live because of him, children who would grow up, families who were still together. He stared at the rubble and thought, maybe he would give humanity a second chance after all.


(This is a little something I wrote back at the beginning of the year. I hope you liked it 🙂 ! If you’re interested in reading more that I’ve written,  check out my Author’s page on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Addison-Sherrell/e/B06WW9VZW4/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1 )

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