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Fiction Science Fiction Thriller

The first rule was to never stop time.

   You weren't selected to join unless you had impeccable morals. The power we held was...incredible.

   There's seventeen of us, at least so I'm told, scattered around the world. I've only met Rashim, the one who recruited me. That was seven years ago...or was it eight?

   “Dr. Melrois, room seven has the pneumonia case. Young child.”

   “Thank you, Evi,” I said as I picked up the clipboard.

   I had established this clinic in Suriname as part of Doctors Without Borders.

   “Hallo, ik ben docter Melrois. Laten we eens naar de patiënt kijken.” I said when I entered the room.

   It took me a few minutes to understand their broken Dutch to learn what had happened. I ran through the proper exam steps and ordered x-rays. I took them to the front desk to sign forms when a man staggered in, blood dripping from his head.

   “Nurse, take over please,” I said grabbing a handful of gauze from behind the desk.

   This wasn't the first time something like this had happened at our small clinic.

   “Sir, take a seat, let me stop the bleeding,” I said as I pressed gauze against the wounds. “Evi, could you get me the triage kit?”

   The bleeding stopped after a few moments so I prepared for sutures.

   “You wanna to tell me what happened?” I asked.

   The man reached up and gently grabbed my wrist.

   “Sean...” he whispered.

   Rashim? I hadn't recognized him.

   “What are you doing here?” I hissed.

   He said nothing. I recognized the signs of blunt force trauma on his body.

   He pointed down the hall.

   “Evi, I'm taking him to room six, please bring me a suture kit and some ice,”

   I hefted him up and tried not to run down the hall with him over my shoulder, Evi close behind.

   Once inside I asked my nurse to leave and closed the door.

   Working quickly, I cleaned the wound, numbed it, and began sewing it together. I normally didn't work that fast but I instinctively knew something was wrong.

   “Don't tell me you got scratched by a howler monkey,” I began.

   “It was actually a white faced saki—a big one.” He smirked.

   “What happened?” I asked as I finished my knot and applied iodine to the wound area.

   “You know the first rule? Well, I never told you what happens when you stop time. It's addicting, more than anything you'd ever know.” Rashim began,

   “What are you telling me? You got hurt from..from an addiction?”

   “No, it's what's inside the time freeze.”

   “Inside? You never told me—”

   “The wolves—beasts that hunt you! But only when you freeze time.”

   Realization hit me as I glanced at the door. Was something waiting for us?

   “Are we in danger now?”

   “No, they can only hunt when you use the amulet.”

   “So they aren't hunting you now?”

   I watched him shake his head. I could only assume he was telling the truth. I paused time once during training.

   Well, and that other time to save that patient from bleeding to death.

   “Can we stop them?” I asked.

   Rashish stared at the wall, a distant look in his eyes.

   “The others...there's only three of us left.” Rashish whispered.

   He rose and started to leave. I followed him

   “What do you mean? The other time stoppers?” I begged.

   “I tried to warn them. But Jerome, he was doing it too much. They're all...doing it.”

   Rashish winced his eyes shut as tears rolled down his cheeks. He pushed through the door and walked outside, walking towards the street where scooters zipped by.

   I could see what would happen. If pausing time was addicting, I had no idea how to treat it.

   “Let me hide your amulet for now.” I offered, stepping close.

   “What? Now?”

   I saw his eyes go wide and my stomach knotted. He was not able to control his addiction.

   “Or else you'll die?” I decided to make it as urgent as possible.

   “No no no, you can't. I need it to protect myself.”

   I tried to snatch the necklace but he was faster, my hand closing over his, as he activated it.

   It felt like falling into deep snow as time stopped.

   I looked around and saw Rashish's expression.

   “It's all I have. You can't take it.” He whined as he flinched way.

   I was reaching for my amulet when I heard them.

   Wolves.

   They rushed out of the surrounding alleys and bushes, a deep snarl coupled with a chuffing laugh. Their forms were incomplete, they were wolves, but they seemed out of focus. Their bodies were lithe, gray forms, with fragmented after images breaking away from them, like reflections between two mirrors.

   “Run!” Rashim commanded as he rose to fight.

   I tried to pick up a rock to throw but my hand passed through it.

   Panic hit me hard as I faced seven rushing forms. I backed up and ran into Rashish, and we toppled down in a pile. I closed my hand over my amulet in a desperate attempt and let the power activate.

   Time resumed.

   The scooters on the street resumed their motion, along with the wind blowing and the leaves moving. Underneath me, Rashish started laughing.

   I rolled off him as the rush hit me.

   Clarity of thought washed over my mind and I saw things come into focus I had never thought of. Why my girlfriend liked me. Why the government never had enough money. I could comprehend the weather patterns and sense each person who drove by.

   A gentle hand rested on my shoulder.

   “Now do you understand?” Rahish smiled.

   He struggled to pull something out of his pocket before he grabbed my hand and dropped a collection of amulets into it. Slowly, he pulled his off his neck and gave it to me.

   “I have the clarity now, but it'll wear off.”

   “What do I—”

   “Take them to Sam, he'll know what to do. That's your mission now.”

June 07, 2024 21:46

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2 comments

Sarah W
06:32 Jun 13, 2024

This story was absolutely gripping. I love how there was something out stalking them whenever they used this forbidden power. I think the opening line is fantastic too. I did wonder about what they’re selected for if they're not allowed to stop time. I also wondered about the hands passing through the rock - why did this happen? A great story. I love how it unfolded and the pace gained momentum. Were all the other amulets from the time-stoppers who had perished? Bravo.

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James Crofts
20:18 Jun 16, 2024

Hi Sarah, Thank you so much for your kind comments! I had a ton of fun writing this one. I had so many ideas that it was challenging to keep it tight and quick. This one is definitely on my list to make it bigger.

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