55. Fits and Starts
Aggy wandered the blessedly silent streets alone. A plastic bag hung in the air, considering her, as if deciding whether or not it would choose to make way. Whether this woman’s presence warranted the breaking of this stillness. This pause. It, of course, did not. When she finally came upon it, she reached out, nearly touched it, but dared not. Feared, and dared not. Feared knowing what would happen. Whether it would it be stiff and frozen, an immovable rock floating before her, whether her mere touch would release it from its trance and bring it alive, once again wafting toward the ground, or whether it would remain stiff but moveable, neutrally buoyant, responsive to her every move. She dared not even ask the question. She knew better.
In these worlds created by her brother, there was seldom rhyme nor reason to the practical considerations. Seldom did the evidence repeat itself, let alone reconcile itself into a rule. Something that might seem true one moment would often become untrue the next. These worlds had been born of her brother, and even he did not fully understand them. If they were definable, solvable, neither she nor her brother were capable of doing so. Such an attempt would spoil the magic. She must not question how it worked, only trust that it did. She must focus on what really mattered, and what mattered here was that the world had stopped and she had not.
Perhaps her brother’s greatest gift yet.
She stood upon a frozen Earth. A new world to replace the one both she and her brother had come to despise. A world now gone. A world of rush hour of lines of angst of pressure of deadlines of decisions of competition of shoving of hurrying of get out of the way Mac. A world of cars honking because you took a moment too long after the light turned green. Of revolving doors that moved too fast. Of jerks pushing up against you in line because you bothered to check your watch at the same time the guy ahead of you moved forward two steps. Of skipping the bathroom for now because you just didn’t have the time. Because lunch is thirty minutes, Agatha, not thirty-one. Gone. And its absence defined her new world. The only rule. The only thing that mattered.
That and the blessed silence.
By now, she had experience with Ben’s worlds. She knew that in time, and with practice, she would ultimately be able to control this one as well. In time, she would learn to speed up or slow down this world to suit her. She knew that from painful experience. But for now, all she wanted was to enjoy this break. This respite from the noise that besieged her all day, then haunted her dreams. Revel in the silence. Peace and silence.
Unsure of when this paradise might come to an abrupt end, Agatha played it safe. She kept to the sidewalks for fear that she would surprise herself with sudden control, or lack thereof, and find herself in the middle of a busy street with cars suddenly come to life and moving at full speed. Or worse. She wanted to move toward safety. Toward privacy. She considered going home, but her brother was there and she was not yet ready to confront him, even in his likely frozen state. Instead, she walked away from the crowds, patiently moving where this particular flow would take her, past decreasingly crowded sidewalks until she found herself off the streets entirely, and in the quiet loneliness of the park. She continued to walk until she reached the water’s edge, pleasantly surprised by the willingness of the grass to lay down beneath her.
Birds there were none.
Nor waves. Nor fish. Nor pleasant breeze. But the shade was easy to find and she lay down within it, prepared to rest. At long last.
Alone with her thoughts, truly alone for the first time in recent memory, she found herself bombarded by memories. By feelings she had long suppressed. By guilt. She began to pick through the history her brother had built over the last four years. As if it were her turn to tell it. As if the world had truly ended and if she failed to tell the story, it would be forever lost. Lost like her brother, frozen with the rest of them, never to know the future.
She attempted to put her thoughts in some semblance of order. Perhaps she should start with some background. A history of her relationship with Ben. How he became an evil genius bent on world destruction. How his experiments condemned her to those 19 months of living hell. How his quest for revenge had made her the most powerful woman on Earth. How it was all her fault. How she had changed for better and for ill. Mostly for ill.
Somehow she couldn’t bear to tell herself the story chronologically. Didn’t have the patience, even in this world eternally paused. Memories and emotions flooded her at the same time. Her mind was dreaming, confusing real things and actions with the idea of things and actions. She watched memories pass through her mind that could never have happened, and yet she was sure they had. The story washed over her in fits and starts. Images. Visions. Hallucinations. Perhaps, after all, it was story that could only be understood in the fog that created it.
And as she sat by the silent lake, awash in these visions, at peace in a way she had come to believe would never be possible, she allowed herself, for the first time, to face what had really happened.