Fantasy Science Fiction Fiction

‘Watch this!’ you shouted.

You zipped down the halfpipe in the local park. You pushed off with your leg as hard as you could. You moved so fast I thought the wheels would fly straight off. You loved it too much.

I remember when you first got your skateboard. It was your thirteenth birthday. I commented on how boring and generic it was to have a black skateboard with flames. Your smile was so big I thought your cheeks would pop. Your mum called it your cheek-split smile.

‘I know.’ Your eyes were large, you absorbed every detail about your new acquisition. ‘It’s so cool!’

The halfpipe was not your friend that day. I watched as you flew. You defied the natural laws of gravity; arms flailed, and legs pushed against the unseen as they tried to find purchase. You looked like you were swimming. I almost laughed. Your face contorted and panic set in. You hit the ground with an almighty thump, like when a chef slaps a slab of meat onto his chopping board.

Our so-called friends laughed.

You cried.

We spent hours in the accident and emergency room at the local hospital. I held a dressing against your head wound.

‘That’s a nasty gash you got there.’ The doctor said as he applied stitches. ‘It’ll more than likely scar; consequences of extreme sports.’

‘Excellent.’ Your cheek-split smile was all I needed to know that you paid no attention.

A few days later you could hop, jump, slide and grind with the best of them.

‘Your head is pretty much healed.’ I examined your forehead and ran my finger down your fading scar. ‘How did you do that?’ I nodded to the halfpipe, still in awe. ‘And how did you do that?’

You looked at me with those big blue eyes, cheek-split smile on full show.



You stood in front of me in our living room. You had a cloth over your left hand, and as it was removed you produced the most gorgeous bunch of flowers I had ever seen.


In our final year at university, we took a trip to visit a stately home in the Derbyshire Dales. The summer weather was delightful and warm. The floral scents were wonderful, and the flower gardens looked like they’d exploded colour all around. You told me I was more beautiful than any garden you’d ever seen.

That was the first time you told me your secret.

‘Bullshit!’ I laughed. The flowers smelled like they were fresh, as though plucked from the very gardens we had visited earlier that day. ‘How did you hide these from me?’

‘I didn’t hide anything. I’ve literally just been to get them.’

‘As if!’ I laughed again. ‘That’s miles away.’

‘I know.’ You dropped to your knees, like you were pleading. ‘Something must’ve happened when I got this.’ You touched your scar. ‘Did you not think that I’d healed much quicker than I should have? That it was weird how I learned to be an excellent skateboarder, pretty much over night?’

You must have seen the concern in my eyes.

‘Do you remember when we were fifteen, and I wanted to prove that I could snowboard just as good as skateboard?’ Your tone was desperate. I had never seen you so serious. ‘I broke my leg trying to learn, you know.’

‘Bullshit!’ I repeated.

‘I was having lessons at that artificial ski slope in Manchester.’

‘I don’t remember that.’

‘It was when you went to France with your family for that long weekend,’ you explained.

‘That was literally three days.’ I said. You stood and started to pace. ‘I saw you at the airport when we got back, you hadn’t broken your leg.’

‘That’s because it had healed already.’

‘So, you’re a fast healer, big deal.’

‘That’s not it,’ you said. ‘I stopped time.’

We broke up that day. I thought you needed to reflect and understand the consequences. And yet, for a whole year I would wake to find a bunch of flowers on my doorstep.


I saw you on the news.

An eyewitness said a man moved everyone out in time, before the building exploded.’

A blurred, yet familiar image of a man flashed on the screen.

‘If anyone has any information about who this person is, please get in touch with the police on …’

I picked up my mobile phone and dialled. My heart pounded and I could feel the beats as I waited.


My heart fluttered; I didn’t know what to say.

‘Hi,’ I said after an agonising age. ‘It’s me.’

‘Answer your door.’

There was a loud knock and I made my way to answer it, telephone still pressed against my ear.

For a fleeting moment I almost didn’t recognise the gentleman at my door. But there you stood, a battered black skateboard with faded flames tucked under your arm, and a mobile phone in your free hand. Your cheek-split smile greeted me.

‘Hi.’ I heard you say through my telephone speaker, and from where you stood in front of me.

We didn’t need to say any more. It was as though you recognised that I understood. The years passed since we parted were but a brief pause in our existence together.

‘You look weary,’ I said. We laid naked in my bed. I traced your scar and the extra creases in your face.

‘I suppose I do,’ you smiled. ‘I think I’ve accumulated about twenty, maybe twenty-five years’ worth of time-debt since we last saw each other.’

'Time-debt?’ I asked.

‘It’s what I call the time I spend outside of linear time.’ You smiled. ‘You see, when I pause time, everyone is in a state of … suspension. As far as I can tell, I still age at the normal rate.’

‘So, you’ve spent twenty years or so, by yourself? That must have been hard,’ I said. ‘And I ... everyone else, has only lived about … three years?’

‘Consequences…’ You chuckled, sat up, and fluffed the pillows behind you. ‘Has it only been three years?’

I laughed. ‘It feels like it’s been an eternity.’ I said.

We spent the rest of the day together. We made love and shared stories of our time apart. I was curious about your abilities, and you were happy to oblige my naivety. You told me of your heroics. You probably saved thousands of people from burning buildings, car crashes and the like.

‘You’re a real-life superhero,’ I laughed, ‘just like in the comic books.’

You smiled.

We must have fallen asleep around midnight.

I woke the next day to see a bunch of flowers on my bedside table. As grateful as I was to be reminded of how much I loved you, my only thought was about how much time-debt you had accumulated. Those flowers were so fresh.


‘And that brings us to now.’ I take a long breath and squeeze your hand as you lay in your bed. You don’t stir. The machines beep and tick as they monitor you.

‘It won’t be long now,’ the doctor had said before leaving us alone.

‘I don’t know what to do,’ I wipe tears from my eyes. ‘I want to be strong, like you. Knowing that I can save people. Knowing that I have the time to make things right.’ I let go of your hand and rummage in my bag for a tissue.

You say something, a whisper I can barely hear. I jump out of my seat.

‘What is it?’ I almost shout. ‘Do you need some water?’

You nod and you try to sit up. I pour a glass of water and place it on the table beside you. I fluff the pillows and help you into a sitting position. You take the water and drink. You seem so ancient. I want to ask how much time-debt you accumulated in your last heroic stunt but think better of it.

You finish your water, clear your throat and say, ‘Elsie.’

I nod my understanding.

I go outside the room. A moment later I enter with a three-year-old girl. Our three-year-old girl.

‘Grandpa!’ she shouts as she runs towards the hospital bed. Your cheek-split smile brings a glimmer of youth. She flings herself onto the bed and squeezes as hard as she can.

‘Not too hard or you’ll hear a snap.’ You squeeze her back.

‘Snap!’ she shouts.

‘Pop!’ You say, and you both start to laugh. ‘Hello Elsie.’

‘Hello Grandpa,’ Elsie answers.

You turn and look directly at me. ‘Hi.’ Your cheek-split smile summons a well of tears, to both of us.

‘Hi.’ I smile back, wiping my face and holding back the lump in my throat. I would do anything to keep the flood of emotion at bay, teetering on the edge of my being.

You hug and squeeze our daughter. ‘Elsie, would you mind going in my bedside drawer and fetch those books for me?’

Elsie salutes you and jumps off the bed. She opens the drawer and hands you two thick notebooks.

‘Thank you, Elsie.’ You smile at her, stroke her face and say, ‘Now, would you mind giving me and your mother a moment alone please?’

Elsie jumps onto the bed and gives you a big hug. ‘I love you Grandpa.’

Tears roll down your face, ‘I love you too.’

I wipe my face again, take Elsie by the hand and lead her out of the room, giving her over to the care of one of the nurses.

When I return, I pause in the doorway. You look so frail.

‘I wrote down some words,’ you say, laying your hand on top of the books. ‘There’s one for you and one for Elsie, when she’s old enough to understand of course.’

I shake my head as I rush to your side and bury my head in you. ‘It’s too soon.’ Tears start to stream, the effort to keep the flood away becomes too much and I let go.

‘Consequences …’ I hear you whisper as the sound of the machines turn to a continuous tone.

‘No.’ I say as I raise my head, feeling the inevitable stillness.

I see the wires that were supposed to be attached to you unhooked from your body. The blanket, previously covering you, was disturbed. And a single flower lay on your chest with a handwritten note:

It was only a minute,

and tell the lady in the next room

I’m sorry I stole her flower.

I love you.

June 06, 2024 19:02

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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