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a scratch in time
by louise arnold
8.6.02
writing


It would seem, to an outside eye (should one exist), so darkly ironic. That the world’s mortality should be explored not by war, not by plague, not by meteor nor lava nor earthquake nor flood. The biblical wraths lay unleashed and slept, as three wise men in white coats scrawled the world’s obituary. The words were ugly, the language stilted, for men of science don’t care for calligraphy or the poetry of syllables. Maybe, had they known, just maybe attention would have been made to apostrophes and making the writing intelligible, but unaware, the words were scrawled in a hard to read hand, words leaping across the page in contrasting colours of Bic Biro. The pen lids had all been chewed.

“The subject must not be aware. Give him cover story?” ran one sentence. Below, underlined and in red ink, came more. “Criteria: Sterility, lack of pre-existing family, lack of career prospects and ambition. Less chance of impression on events yet to be.”
Mathematical scrawling edged the page, like futuristic hieroglyphics. At the conclusion of these strange etchings was, in the third hand, what stood alone to be an unwitting epitaph;

“Subject will enter temporal experiment at 17.00 hrs, and be displaced to time frame 16.54 hrs, a flux of precisely negative 6 minutes. Subject will then proceed to key in a sequence to terminate his transition back in time, prior to it occurring. Thus creating paradox? Monitor results.”

The three wise men looked at the paper, which of course would be typed formally, and re-typed, and recorded for posterity at some time. Until that time, it remained as seen, with a coffee ring overlapping the top right hand of the page. The clipboard it was attached to looked ever so formal though, and gave no impression of the creased paper or bad handwriting it contained. The three wise men in white coats looked over the clipboard at The Subject, and smiled the humourless smile that only truly analytical people can create, the smile aimed at reassurance but that actually presents only bared teeth.

David Ross, aged 36, of no fixed abode, smiled nervously back at them.

“Shall we begin?” The wise men chimed.



XXXXXXXXXXXX

The door sprung open, and Dave stepped out into the sterile, metallic looking room. For a moment, a sense of vertigo seemed to flood him, but he pushed it aside. It was a simple task he had to do, and in training he’d gone through it a hundred times. Walk across the room to the panel on the far wall, and key in the sequence he’d memorised. His skin tingled, but the scientists had warned him that might happen. His footsteps sounded hollow as he walked, and he noted that the walls were so white they seemed to blind him. His own breathing sounded ragged in his ears, and he wondered why he felt so nervous. It’s just a simple experiment, testing how magnetic fields affect memory, he told himself. The panel was a mesh of colours jutting out from the white walls, and for a fleeting moment he marvelled how pretty it looked in contrast to all the blinding lack of colour that engulfed the rest of the room. He reached out, and saw with shock his hand was shaking. A stilted laugh escaped him, which he caught, worried if anyone could have possibly heard it. Pull yourself together man, think of the money. Just as he had done so many times before, Dave typed in the sequence. 256/A6. He allowed himself a smile that it was over with, that he’d passed the test. It had been so simple. Suddenly, he felt a lurching feeling, a terrifying sensation that he was being dragged apart, atom by atom. He tried to scream, but with horror realised he couldn’t find his mouth, it wasn’t there, a void, whiteness…


The door sprung open, and Dave stepped out into the sterile, metallic looking room. For a moment, a sense of vertigo seemed to flood him, making him feel briefly sick, but he pushed it aside. It was a simple task he had to do, and in training he’d gone through it a hundred times. Walk across the room to the panel on the far wall, and key in the sequence he’d memorised. His skin tingled, but the scientists had warned him that might happen. His footsteps sounded hollow as he walked, the sound vaguely familiar to him, (Déjà vu, it’s just Déjà vu). He noted that the walls were so white they seemed to blind him. His own breathing sounded ragged in his ears, and he wondered why he felt so nervous. It’s just a simple experiment, testing how magnetic fields affect memory, he told himself (memory…memory… something stirred, then was gone). The panel was a mesh of colours jutting out from the white walls, and for a fleeting moment he marvelled how pretty it looked in contrast to all the blinding lack of colour that engulfed the rest of the room. He reached out, and saw with shock his hand was shaking. A stilted laugh escaped him, which he caught, worried if anyone could have possibly heard it. Pull yourself together man, everything is fine, why are you so on edge? Just as he had done so many times before (how many times?), Dave typed in the sequence. 256/A6. He allowed himself a smile that it was over with, that he’d passed the test. It had been so simple. Suddenly, he felt a lurching feeling, a terrifying sensation that he was being dragged apart, atom by atom. (A realisation, a dawning, memories fighting to surface but lost). He tried to scream, but with horror realised he couldn’t find his mouth, it wasn’t there, a void, whiteness…….


The door sprung open, and Dave stepped out into the sterile, metallic looking room. A sense of vertigo flooded him, and for a worrying moment he thought he might scream. (What on earth is wrong with you?). With a determined grimace he pushed it aside. It was a simple task he had to do, and in training he’d gone through it a hundred times. Walk across the room to the panel on the far wall, and key in the sequence he’d memorised. His skin tingled, but the scientists had warned him that might happen. His footsteps sounded………

XXXXXXXXXXXX

The Universe stammered. From a detached point of view it may have seemed that the orbit of the planets was not dissimilar to the archaic audio device of the mid 20th century, vinyl spinning and playing, and some careless individual had scratched the record, leaving it to jump constantly through the same lyrics again and again. Incoming tides jumped out again, then slowly crept their way back through the same routine, food was eaten and would then appear on the plate only to be eaten again and again… Mankind, oblivious, lived through these severed repetitive six minutes, unaware of the trap that snared them, but the unconscious growled and balked, and fought against this jolting reality. Internal screams built to a furious crescendo, and people sometimes found themselves crying or laughing for the most ridiculous reasons. Susan Arandal in Australia was opening her birthday presents for maybe the thousandth time, when she unwrapped the one from her great aunt Jacquie to reveal a baseball cap with a picture of a Koala on the front. Laughter rang from her so raw and wild that she even scared herself, and she ranted to her shocked parents how she knew, she knew, what her present was going to be. They smiled indulgently, if a little nervously, and parental paranoia bubbled beneath the party hats, thoughts of drugs and alcohol and their sweet little child. Before these thoughts could solidify, time jolted back, the cap lay innocently in its smiling teddy bear wrapping paper, and the charade began again. Elsewhere, meteors collided, filling a fraction of the universal void with dust and heat, and then blinked back into a stand off, both racing once again to each other. Black holes greedily drew in all around them, only to spew it all back out and start the whole process over. The fabric of reality screamed and stretched, warping under the abnormal pressure of routine, and repetition. If the universe could be heard, it held its breath and screamed out loud all at once. Something had to break.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

The door sprung open, and Dave stepped out into the sterile, metallic looking room. A sense of vertigo saturated him, and it was all he could do not to fall to the floor and desperately hold on. He tried to push it aside. It was a simple task he had to do, and in training he’d gone through it a hundred times. Walk across the room to the panel on the far wall, and key in the sequence he’d memorised. His skin tingled, but the scientists had warned him that might happen. His footsteps sounded hollow as he walked, and an irrational terror rose in him at that sound, so familiar; it raked at his empty memory like nails down a chalkboard. He noted that the walls were so white they seemed to blind him. His own breathing sounded ragged in his ears, and he wondered wildly why he felt so terrified. It’s just a simple experiment, testing how magnetic fields affect memory. The panel was a mesh of colours jutting out from the white walls. It looked menacing, an angry presence amongst the void of colour it fought against. He reached out, and saw his hand was shaking. Laughter escaped him, and he let it ricochet off the walls, uncaring if anyone could hear it. His thoughts screamed in his head, hurtling at him. Just as he had done so many times before, Dave went to type in the sequence. 256/A6. As his hand hovered over the first key, he recoiled back.
“I can’t do it!”

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX


Time uncoiled and, liberated, ironed out the creases in itself. The Black holes continued to consume, meteors collided, tides came in and out as dictated by physics, and Susan Arandal’s parents made an unspoken yet unanimous decision to search her room for illegal substances the next time she went out. The Scream that had been building dissipated, embarrassed at not knowing why it was. The three wise men looked puzzled at the broken figure of The Subject, who was laughing and retching in the corner of the test room.
“Curious.”
“I did check for a history of mental illness.”
“Maybe not well enough.”
“It is an understandably random variable when selecting candidates solely on their lack of impact in society.” The men murmured in agreement, and scribbled further words onto respective pieces of paper. Words consisting of right angles and many syllables, and no poetry at all. The epitaph that was, unfroze, and became simply ugly words on coffee stained paper once more. The three wise men in white coats looked at the crumpled heap of The Subject, heads shaking in silent unison.

“Perhaps Subject B will prove a more suitable candidate”





ABOUT LOUISE ARNOLD

A work in progress.

more about louise arnold

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COMMENTS

jeffrey williams
8.9.02 @ 2:19p

Excellent! Good repetition of the event. Scientists choosing him b/c of no ties or ambitions is nice, too. Maybe they could be a touch more giddy with their upcoming achievement? Emphasis on over-lapping memories refreshing. Looking forward to more!


trey askew
8.9.02 @ 5:41p

Strange, it seems like you are writing about my life because the same feeling of horror seems to come every day when I punch in the code SNOOZE on my alarm clock! Must be the memory of work from the previous day...

adam kraemer
8.12.02 @ 12:38p

That was really friggin' cool. There was a Twilight Zone story (in a book; I don't know if it was ever an episode) about a Nazi submarine that was destined to keep playing out the same death scene over and over again, and the sense of déjà vu that accompanied it.



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