Things Are Not What They Seem

Submitted into Contest #124 in response to: End your story with someone finding themselves.... view prompt


Science Fiction

How long had it been? Taylor glanced at her watch.  It read 11:43 a.m. just as it had the three times she’d checked it before. Had it stopped? She didn’t know, because all around her it seemed as if everything had stopped. Except her. She was the only thing moving in the office. Stopped, in mid-sip of the latte he drank every day, was her boss Pete Elliott. Eyebrows raised, lips pursed to blow on the hot liquid, and tendrils of steam suspended in the air above the cup. He didn’t move. He hadn’t moved. Not long? Everyone else in the office was stopped as well, and Taylor felt herself swaying on her feet.

Disoriented, and a little nauseous, Taylor sat down at her desk. She moved the mouse to awaken her computer. It did, and that was a relief. She pulled up a blank page in her browser and typed “can time stop” in the search engine. Her eyes roamed over the page, ‘What would happen if time stopped?’, ‘How does time stop?’ were there as if to try and get her to clarify what she was asking. Truth was she didn’t know. She just knew that not only had time seemed to stop, the world had too.

She sighed, and clicked on the first answer to her query and read, “yes, it’s possible to stop time…all you have to do is travel at the speed of light.”

Great, she thought, that is so not helpful. She wasn’t in a spaceship. She was in her office. At her desk.

She scrolled down farther, looking for answers, but nothing she found made the slightest bit of sense. Most entries were hypothetical, some were philosophical, and at least one stated that every human could stop time – at least metaphorically – by meditating.

Frustrated, she puffed up her cheeks and blew out a long breath.  Just as she always did when faced with a big problem, Taylor began to work backwards to unravel this mystery.

The morning had begun as normally as every other morning. She’d hit the snooze on her alarm exactly three times, then cursed herself for doing so because now she had to rush to get ready. The shower had taken exactly six minutes for the water to get good and hot steaming up the bathroom. She’d languished in the hot stream as long as she dared, trying to store up the heat for the cold walk she faced as she headed to the office a little after 7:00 a.m. She’d fed the cat, toasted a bagel, filled her thermal coffee mug, and bundled up to face the cold of a northeastern winter morning. She saw snow starting to fall when she opened the front door of her condo, the big fat flakes swirling in a brisk wind before settling on the ground.

She’d walked the many blocks to her office, just as she did every morning, and had been thoroughly cold and wet when she arrived a little after 9:00 a.m. Greeted at the reception desk by the efficient, and always perfectly put together Ami, she’d shaken the snow off her coat, removed her beanie and let her unruly curls fall around her shoulders. Her gloves weren’t as wet as she’d feared they’d be, so she took them off and stuffed them in her pocket and hung her coat on the rack located just inside the big glass doors that took her into the cubicle farm that was her daily domain.

She remembered sitting down at her desk, only to have Pete come out of his office and ask her for the files on the Happy Go Lucky puppy food campaign they were currently working on. Much of the files were readily accessible from every computer, as they were stored on a shared file server, but Pete was old school and he liked to rifle through actual papers, red marker in hand, making notes here and strikethroughs there. He also wanted to hold the graphics at arm’s length, in differing lights, and get a “real feel for what an ad looks like to the masses” as he put it.  So, he had files of all the current projects kept in a lateral file cabinet in the storage area some three floors above their office.  

Taylor got up from her desk and got on the elevator going up to the fifth floor. As she got out – and this was something she just now remembered – the building had, almost imperceptibly, shaken. Or more like…vibrated. It lasted so briefly that she wasn’t entirely sure she’d felt what she’d felt, so she shrugged it off and headed into the file storage room.

The Happy Go Lucky files were easy enough to find. After all, Taylor had filed them away herself and if there was one thing she excelled at it was her organizational skills. She demanded order – not so much in her personal life – but in her job everything was where it should be at all times.

Scooping up the hefty, legal-size, file folder she had left the room and punched the elevator to go back down to her office when the building vibrated again. This time she remembered thinking it must be a mini-earthquake, or maybe an aftershock. Since it stopped as quickly as it started she’d thought nothing of it.

Until now. Did the vibrations mean somethingWas there a correlation? There had to be. Taylor turned to look out the window, only to find everything outside was dark. No, that wasn’t right. It was black…black with tiny dots of white. Stars? Was she seeing stars? At, she looked at her watch again, 11:43 a.m.What is going on?

She remembered getting back to her desk, and turning in her chair to tell Pete she had the files. She remembered she’d knocked her pen cup over with her elbow when she turned back around as Pete came out holding the latte. She remembered bending down to pick up the pens and cup, and when she got up the world had stopped.

Suddenly unable to properly breathe, Taylor abruptly stood up from her desk and ran to the reception area. Ami was still sitting in her place, not moving, her hand reaching to pick up the telephone handset as if to answer a call, a smile on her lips.

Taylor turned around to look back inside the office, the world swimming in and out of focus as she tried to control her breathing,  Pete’s latte was still mid-steam, all her coworkers were stopped – frozen in place and time – in the middle of whatever they’d been doing when this madness begun.

This. Can’t. Be. Happening. Her mind insisted her eyes were liars. But it was happening, and she had to find out why.

Looking past the office, and out the window, the sky was still inky black, the dots of light still there. Were they moving? That couldn’t be, she thought shaking her head, but right now it was not high on her list of freaky things to decipher.

Turning back she reached to press the elevator button when she heard it ding. She jumped and let out a little shriek. This was the first sound she’d heard since this all began.

Standing back a little, Taylor wondered who was coming up in the elevator, but she was not prepared at all for when the doors opened.

Standing in the doorway to the elevator Taylor saw a perfect reflection. It was her from 9:00 a.m. that morning, the dusting of snow on her coat, her face red with the cold.

December 14, 2021 18:38

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