Time Slits – A Short Story
There was an assortment of watches on both her wrists. Digital, analog, leather straps, gold straps, and some made of pure silver. Each watch told a different time in a different place, and she admired them, treasured them like one would treasure their own life.
She lived in a hall of her own making. A long corridor that stretched as far as the eye could see and then some, reaching into darkness. Stone pillars of great size held up a ceiling painted with the history of the world, from its humble beginnings to its present form, and the painting kept growing. It never finished.
The flooring was cut from pure glass, and through it she saw the stars mingle and glow.
Her dark hair flowed down her backside like a black curtain. Her eyes, reflected in the watch faces she so often stared into, were that of blue and green, and sometimes the red of rubies or golden amber.
At this moment, she sits cross-legged upon her floor through which she can see all. The sparkling blue dress she wears twinkles like the stars, and she smiles, twisting her fingers in varying patterns, speeding the earth’s rotation or slowing it down, watching all those young grow old then young again. She laughs, and the mirthful echoes drown out the silence of her home.
The voice startles her. She leaps to her feet. In the shadows at the edge of the hall, a slight shimmer appears. The shimmer morphs into a man, dark-skinned and dressed in black formal attire. He smokes a pipe casually, an eyebrow raised. His pale blue eyes hold an ocean’s worth of bemusement, and he cracks a small grin.
“Did I frighten you, m’dear?”
“Chronos, you bastard.” Her voice is light and sings like the notes of a bird’s call.
“Quite unfair. My parents were happily married when I came screaming out of the womb.”
Time rolls her eyes and gives him a look. One that says she is not in the mood for his games, and his smile fades.
“Why are you here?” she says. “We agreed to a separation.”
“I wouldn’t call it an agreement so much as you twisted my arm and got me to capitulate.” He continues to puff his pipe. Rings of grey smoke drift from the bowl.
“Out with it.”
“Death is on his way.”
Her eyes widen. “Today? Why?”
Chronos shrugs, makes a disappointed face and dumps his pipe. He sighs. “Not certain. He wouldn’t tell me. He’s still a bit ticked about that poker game last Wednesday.”
“That was two hundred years ago!”
“Like I said, last Wednesday.”
Just then, all the lights wink and sleep. A palpable dark settles into the hall. Time swallows audibly. Chronos fiddles with his pipe, flashes of orange and yellow as he attempts to spark a flame.
A grating voice penetrates the dreadful quiet. “I like what you’ve done with the place.”
Time slowly turns around. There, leaning nonchalantly on a pillar, is Death, clad in his tattered white robes. His face is not a face but a glistening skull. Sockets for eyes. Teeth unbound by lips. No muscle or tendon can be found. He is utterly bone.
He snaps his bony fingers, and the lights return.
“Sorry about that. Seems everywhere I go things just seem to die. Not proud of it, really.”
“What… What are you doing here?” asks Time.
A scythe appears in Death’s left hand, as though he pulled it out of thin air. The handle is made of clean, white oak, and the blade, like a long, silver tooth, is soaked with dried blood, smudging its sheen with the color of rust.
“I’m here to kill you,” he says, then gestures to Chronos. “He’s taking your place.”
“You son of a bitch. You knew!” she yells, balling her hands into fists. But Chronos is gone. A sudden cold drapes over her skin. The end is nigh.
“You can’t… you can’t kill me.”
Death shows no expression, but his voice carries an amused tone. “I mean, it is quite literally my job, m’dear.” His tone then deepens, more serious now. “You’ve been reckless, using your Gift with wild abandon. And He will not have it.”
“I am the beginning and the end! And I will be your end!” Time’s eyes alight with a harsh fire, burning with anger and hatred and all the feelings that push one toward the urge to kill, and without a second thought. She brings both arms to chest height, extended outward. Her watches jangle as her fingers dance.
Nothing happens. Death leans on his scythe and feigns stifling a yawn. “Are you done with your silly tricks, or can I get on with it already?”
“As I said, you’ve been replaced.”
A red line draws across Time’s neck. Blood wells and spills and paints her skin crimson. She chokes, gurgles. Her eyes bleed. And then, as suddenly as it began, she explodes in a furious show, viscera flying in all directions. Entrails not much more than puddles upon the glass floor.
“It’s done, Father,” mutters Death.
An old man steps out from behind one of the pillars. His stark silver eyes appraise the scene. His voice sounds less ancient, seemingly belonging to a man younger than himself.
“Did you have to be so brutal about it, son?”
He combs a hand through his snowy beard. For a moment, beneath the wrinkles and the steady gleam in his stare, there was a sad glimmer, a shred of regret, but the moment runs away, pretending never to have been there in the first place.
“She was a petulant child, Father. A brat.”
Father sighs. “Yes, but she was my petulant child, nonetheless. You’re sure Chronos is ready?”
Death scratches his pearly skull. “If not, we could be rid of the concept altogether.”
Father turns but pauses mid-step. His foot remains suspended between rising and falling. Death as well freezes in the instant, as if the present could not move beyond itself. Chronos steps between their paralyzed bodies.
“Did you honestly believe I would let you confounded fools kill my wife?” he asks, knowing that they cannot answer. His pipe is nowhere to be found, and his face contorts into one of absolute rage: eyes narrow, lips baring teeth, and nostrils flaring. With a shaky hand, he snaps his fingers.
From the gory mess that is Time arises Time herself, made anew by the past, brought into the current.
“A new era has arrived, Father,” says Time, smirking. “The universe is ours to behold.”
Chronos speaks, barely above a whisper. “An end to Death.”
And as if on cue, Death slowly disintegrates into dust, blown away by some conjured wind.
Time chimes in. “An end to the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last.”
Similar to Death’s exit, a huge gust breezes through, pulling like sharp claws against Father as he’s torn to shreds.
Together, Time and Chronos say, “Now all shall be reborn.”
The Earth rotated on its axis in reverse, gradually gaining momentum. It spun itself into nothing, the nothing from whence it came. The stars, they joined hands and hugged one another and soon burst into the pitch black, never to be seen again. All that was left was the night eternal. And standing there, upon the precipice of a new creation, Time and Chronos crowned the makers of everything.
Their turn was slow. Crafting the universe was no easy task and one they did not take lightly. Ultimately, they decided the whole affair was far too daunting and settled on birthing a single sun, with a single moon, and the stars as her children, and orbiting these a large planet inhabited by many creatures.
Time became old. Chronos faded to grey. And before their final breaths, a young man wielding a scythe sat by their deathbeds, awaiting to take them home.