The Center of Gravity

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Episode 4: Heartbeat

» Day 56 «

My eyes fluttered open in the afternoon. Earlier that day, I made sure Seth was doing okay on his own, and we planned to have dinner together later.

Stomach growling at the thought, I pushed myself up off the couch and looked out the window. Across the lawn, I could see him in the window, smiling to himself. I grinned.

A light went off inside my head. I remembered the compass I found yesterday in the room, which I suppose was his. I had to admit, I was curious. It was a simple object, why hide it? They were rich, could’ve had it all, and they’re hiding a compass?

I ran back to the office and snatched the artifact from the desk. Plopping down on the floor, I inspected it. I cleaned the glass with my sleeve to see the spinning needle and letters more clearly.

Ordinary, of course. How could it be though? In my desperation, I tried to open it. The discovery in of itself gave off a strange vibe.

A perfect ring around its center showed it opened somehow. I tried prying it with my fingers.

“C’mon,” I grumbled, my nails scratching against the surface.

Out of my impatience to investigate it further, my hands slipped and twisted it.

Suddenly, the air squeezed from my lungs, leaving me breathless. Instantly, I dropped the object and panicked. I gulped, trying to get oxygen back in me. I glanced at the twisted object, feeling a disbelief come over me that it was about to end my life.

Just as fast as it started, it ended.

I collapsed to the floor, laying there sucking in air, relief filling me. Closing my eyes, I tried to grasp what happened, only to find I couldn’t believe it was real. I almost died? By compass?

My head rolled to the side and I saw the compass beside me. I grabbed it and scrambled off the floor, noticing that it was completely silent. Not the usual silence I was used to. There was no hum of the refrigerator or electricity. No noise from the TV.

Even the air felt thin and empty.

Spooked, I dropped the compass around my neck, noticing that it rotated one hundred and eighty degrees. North was now where South would’ve been. When I moved the entire compass, the needle stayed stuck on East. I scrunched my eyebrows together in confusion.

What had I done?

I walked cautiously through my house, to the side door. Had Seth experienced the same thing?

Glancing over at the clock, I noted that it was 1:37.

I torn the door open and stepped out into the cold air. Except, it didn’t feel cold. I stood, stunned. I put one foot in the doorway and one on the porch. It alarmed me the temperature wasn’t any different.

Slowly, I moved down the steps in my bare feet, unnerved by the lukewarm air. My footfalls were light and airy. If I jumped, I could’ve soared. As my feet landed on the stiff, dying grass between our houses, I looked up at the sky.

My eyes widened at the sight. The snow flakes that were falling to earth were frozen in mid air, hovering above my face a couple feet. Reaching up with a trembling hand, my hand touched one, pulling it from the sky. I let it go and it floated down to the ground.

“What have you done?” I whispered to the compass as I fingered it.

Quickly, I ran to Seth’s front door, scared more than anything. The still air hardly felt normal; almost like I was on the moon.

I stumbled up the steps, nearly on the verge of tears. If Seth wasn’t okay, it was my fault. I made him leave, I got mad at him.

“Seth!”

My voice came out in a strangled cry. I ran up to the door feeling myself float a bit and flung it open, not caring if it was rude.

He was standing in the living room in front of the TV, remote in his hands, joyous look on his face. I breathed a sigh of relief.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

He didn’t respond.

My heart beat faster in my chest, the door swinging shut behind me. A lukewarm temperature settled in the room like fog.

I glanced at the clock on the wall. 1:37.

A chill ran down my spine that no time had passed whatsoever. I focused on him instead.

“Seth?”

I walked over to him, trying to calm my shaking hands. If he was dead because of this stupid compass, I would never forgive myself.

Standing in front of him, I looking at his face frozen in a smile. His dimples were deep into his cheeks, hair actually fixed, and he had different clothes on. I grinned at him, my cheeks heating up even if he wasn’t looking at me.

Was he even alive?

I carefully reached out and touched his hand which grasped the remote, then immediately pulled back. What was I doing? I couldn’t look at him like this. I just couldn’t.

“Rowin, it’s okay,” a calming voice said.

I took a deep breath. It’s okay. If I’m still alive, he must be too. I had to at least make sure, then try to fix this.

“Seth,” I said firmly.

He didn’t move.

Without thinking, I reached out and placed my hand on his chest, feeling his heartbeat. It was steady and still alive in him. Warmth radiated into my suddenly cold fingers. I realized this was the first time I had human contact since my family left.

He was the first person I’ve seen since they’ve left. Tears pooled in my eyes, unsure of why it was so significant. He was a random stranger and yet--

Quickly, I pulled back.

He was alive, I knew that.

Unsteadily, I backed away to the wall adjacent from him. My throat felt tight and my eyes burned. I froze the last person on earth.

Without thinking, I grabbed the compass in my hands and stared. I had to turn things back, I didn’t want to be alone again. I twisted it the other way, my lips wobbling.

In a rush, warm air hit me. I gasped, pressing myself to the wall behind me. Closing my eyes, I caught my breath.

Only a few feet away, Seth cried out.

Not of joy or of pain.

Of fear.

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