It was a strange day when time stopped on the island.
Nobody truly noticed what had occurred until it was too late; that was, when the Time Train ground to a halt at the northernmost position of Osario. The eternal vehicle that had always marked the passage of time lost the energy that powered it, and the ever present plume of smoke that had risen from its front faded from the sky.
It was like a veil had been drawn back from the exterior of the world. The people of Osario looked up, some in confusion, others in fear, all wondering where exactly the time had gone.
Kou noticed the change as well, but thought nothing of it. He didn’t think much of anything. Still, he called Sol outside to observe the strange emptiness of the sky, and the two of them marveled at it together, though one was admittedly more impressed than the other.
This was not to say that all of Osario became frozen in time from that very moment; the sun continued to rise and fall, though it now did so vertically, rather than sailing across the sky. The moon rose and the night came. The leaves fell from the trees.
Rather, the moment the Time Train ceased to run, things stopped changing.
The oceans leveled out and became uniform, shallowing out until the water barely came up to one’s knee. The tides disappeared, and soon the sea was an infinite expanse of shallow water, like the sky had dropped a massive mirror from above in order to admire it own reflection.
Kou had never really liked the sea, and so thought nothing of it.
The days began to repeat themselves. The sun continued to rise and fall, but it never changed its duration in the sky, always breaking free of the horizon at the exact same time before being swallowed again with equal precision. The daily path of the moon was no different, and soon it became difficult for one to distinguish today from yesterday, and yesterday from tomorrow.
But Kou’s life had always been rather boring, so this hardly effected him.
The people found that they could not change themselves either; they found themselves repeating the same routine every day, the same actions and the same events. It took genuine, conscious effort to perform an act that deviated from the preset schedule, the one that was set the day the great train lost its will to move.
There was a great panic in the days following the loss of the Time Train. The town leaders convened and held a very serious discussion about the issue, for as long as the Time Train had dictated the course of time for the island, almost nothing was known about it. It had always run on its own, circling around Osario seemingly with a mind of its own, and the people had simply built their lives around it, assuming it a constant. When the train was directly to the north it was either noon or midnight. Directly to the south, dinner time. That great plume of smoke had been everyone’s clock.
Some suggested attempting to fix it, but the idea was soon quashed; the train had turned to pure stone after ceasing to move, petrified in its own personal moment. Separate from their world. It seemed there was nothing to be done.
At last the meeting was disbanded, with no clear solution decided upon. The people of Osario went to their beds greatly disturbed, with the sense that they had lost something incredibly essential. They didn’t know for sure just how important the train was, but they felt it was important nonetheless.
Kou, however, was a realist. He saw little real consequence in the loss of the train. What did it matter if the sea was now flat, or if each day was the same? How was it any different from the way life had been before? No longer seeing the plume of smoke in the sky was different, certainly, but different was not necessarily synonymous with bad. Most people tended to forget that.
Or perhaps the problem was that most were too stupid to even realize it.
Given time, however, the rest of the island seemed to slowly gravitate towards standing in agreement with him. Or perhaps not given time; but given some sort of allowance, the sense of panic that had gripped Osario began to lessen. People returned to their normal lives and learned to live around their newfound circumstances. Soon they were all used to having a clear sky, and adjusted to using regular clocks rather than relying on the Time Train, which had never been precisely accurate anyway.
Before they all knew it, they had learned to live without change.
That had all been some time ago. Exactly how much time was difficult to determine; it was halfway through December when the train stopped, but did every sunrise afterwards count as a new day? Could the day even be considered “new” if it was exactly the same as the last one? Hard to say. Hard to say, and therefore likely not worth worrying about.
That was how Kou chose to look at things, anyway.
He was standing at the very edge of a soaring cliff near the northernmost point of the island, watching the waves crash against the rocks below him. Or at least he imagined it; there were no more waves, as the tides were gone, and all that lay waiting at the end of a very long drop was ten inches of cold, transparent water, so clear he could almost make out the little pebbles littering the sea floor.
The wind tittered around him, tugging at his feet and making his footing precarious at the edge of the cliff, but Kou hardly cared. He had done this once or twice before already, and he was armored with the kind of assurance that came from experience.
Still, he felt like it had been a while since the last time he had the need to do this. If he could help it he wouldn’t go through with is, since it made Sol worry. And as self serving as he was, he couldn’t stand to make that woman upset.
The wind nudged him again, almost impatient behind him, forcing Kou to focus on the situation at hand. If he was really going to do this, he had to get it done quickly. He was supposed to be back at the studio by sunset.
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he jumped.
This time the wind roared in his ears as he fell, laughing manically at the spectacle, as if to say Look! He actually did it! Kou’s eyes watered as the air blasted them back, his heart was going ballistic in his chest as his brain processed the fact that the ocean floor was rushing up at him much too quickly, he could feel the adrenaline tearing through his veins and for the first time in much too long he felt alive, that this was new, this was different, that his mind had been lifted from the dense fog of monotony it had been rotting in until now.
The sea floor was terrifyingly close now, and as Kou closed his eyes he realized that this was going to hurt a lot. Well, that was one good thing about the Time Train.
Ever since it stopped, people stopped dying.
Kou’s face was swamped by a wave of cold as he broke through the shallow surface water, and then it was all over.
His skull smashed open against the pebbles, and all was black.