I’m stuck on this idea about being able to freeze time for a few seconds whenever I want. I’m stuck thinking that this could go somewhere other than the standard super(anti)hero vigilante badassery. I’m stuck with my mind half in the gutter thinking of ways a person could use this in the (new)age old trope of time freeze fuckery. It all seems fairly cliché, but in a bad way. In an easy way. In a I’d write it to make money, not to satisfy my writerly soul sort of way.
I remember thinking about this for a few hours when it first occurred to me years ago. I remember juxtaposing it with an idea gleaned from Terrence McKenna, the idea that he took some psychedelic something, and he ended up meeting these beings, like balls of color and light except I picture them looking more like those super bouncy rubber balls from the gumball machines – bright sparkly rubber that’d make it all the way to the moon if you hit the concrete just right. These bouncy ball beings with no mouths or eyes, but somehow singing a song that pulls on the soul, tugs it straight out of the body and manifests it into the air before my eyes, letting me watch myself – my inner self – dance in their light.
A man’s trying to quit smoking. He tries vaping, but ends up with a cigarette in his hand over and over, and the added nicotine in his diet is causing irritability and insomnia. It’s untenable. On a frustrated whim, his neck stiff and eyes bleary from lack of sleep, he throws away his electronic and his actual cigarettes, deciding to go cold turkey through this motherfuck of a journey to freedom. All is well for the first few hours, but then the feeling sets in. At first, it’s just antsiness. If you’re not a smoker, you won’t understand, but… People who are addicted to cigarettes, we time our days by our smoke breaks. Every hour on the hour, or two, sometimes three or four if our places of business are assholes about it. It’s the way a day is structured. If we’re driving or in a place wherein smoking is sanctioned openly, then a cigarette is a source of instant gratification. An instant anxiety killer – or softener, at least. Take that away, and the first thing that happens is a sort of itchiness. A feeling like something is missing. The occasional realization that if you make it through this moment, you don’t have anything to look forward to. You can’t reward yourself the way you’re used to. A sort of panic sets in, and usually this is followed by a bout of chainsmoking and a promise to try harder next time, but if you push through that…
For me, and therefore for this character, the feeling is sort of like my entire head is slowly being stuffed full of cotton. But it isn’t a sinus-y sick rhinovirus sort of cottony feel. It starts at the temples and spreads out. My hands tingle. I’m unfocused. The world is hazy. And every once in a while, the feeling subsides in a wave of relief only to come crashing back in, like it cycled power just long enough to tease at what normalcy might feel like. I start sweating. I’m angry at everything. It’s constant craving, and nothing can satisfy it.
They say there are things to help with this. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy or something – anything to sate that oral fixation – but it isn’t… It doesn’t work. In the end, your resolve is the only thing that matters. Your reason for quitting. Unshackling yourself from this smelly, expensive burden. This constant suckling at the teat of the grim reaper. This teeth staining, bronchitis inducing, can’t walk up a flight of stairs without wanting pass out, monster of an addiction. Resolve. Be resolute.
The one thing I’ve found that does help is breathing exercises. Inhale, hold, exhale, hold. Start with a four count and work your way up to ten if you can. It’s a good tip for reducing anxiety in general, and it works with nicotine withdrawal too, up to a point. This character (let’s call him Jon until I think of a more meaningful name), he’s doing these breathing exercises to help get him through a particularly difficult series of moments. Maybe he’s at work or in some social setting. Maybe he’s taking a train or a bus, and the person sitting next to him is watching something stupid on their phone with the sound turned all the way up
—Side note — Who the hell are these people that don’t use headphones in public? If you’re one of these people, know that I hate you. Me and everyone else around you. It’s rude. It’s egomaniacal. Stop it. ——
So maybe this is happening and Jon has to try these breathing exercises. And as he’s getting into it, focusing on his breath, taking the piss out of the angry voice in his head, he notices something strange. He feels something strange. It’s like a flexing of his scalp, but it’s deeper than that. A flexing of the gossamer tissue holding his brain in place inside his skull. It isn’t a good or a bad feeling. It’s just interesting. It’s new. It’s a muscle he didn’t know he had, and he’d never have found it if he didn’t have to do these breathing exercises to help him get through this moment without nicotine in his system.
Do you remember being a kid and realizing you could move your tongue in a weird way? Or, like me, did you find out that you could wiggle your ears? Or raise just one eyebrow? Or make your hair move? Or wiggle your nose like that Bewitched lady? (Does anyone remember Bewitched?)
It’s like that. It’s a, “Hey, that’s new!”
So he flexes his newly discovered muscle over and over for no reason other than he can. He doesn’t notice any effect at first. His ears aren’t moving. His face isn’t contorting in any noticeable way that he can tell. It’s just something to do. Until it isn’t. Until he begins to notice the sound around him shifting. The noise from that asshole’s phone, for example. As he flexes the muscle, the sound slows down like the person keeps tapping the half speed button at just the right time.
Yadda yadda yadda
Right, so he discovers this new power that he has. It isn’t strong at first. The muscle is weak. But he works on it, and suddenly this everyday dude has the ability to slow time down or to stop it completely for about as long as you’d be able to lift and hold a heavy weight. He’s gotta work out to get it right. And as he does, he realizes that he can freeze time for longer and longer stretches. 20 seconds becomes 30 becomes 40, etc.
I know, this sounds like an origin story for some Marvel character. It’s annoying that it feels like such a fucking trope. But then we sprinkle in these bouncy balls made of light… What to do with those fuckers? Huh?
What Is Time?
I’m not a scientist. I can’t give you a definition of the fabric of the universe as it relates to the ticking of a clock. I also haven’t gotten stoned in a few years, so I can’t quite get into the headspace of “time is just, like, a construct, man”. But I do listen to a lot of podcasts about quantum mechanics, and while I probably only pretend to understand about 13.27% (give or take), it does leave me with a funny sense that there may in fact be dimensions that we humans can’t see or experience. Lo and behold, time it does stop, and Jon finds that he can and does have access to one of these hidden dimensions!
What the hell happens in said dimension? A long time ago, when my brain started gnashing and gnawing at this, I was thinking about these little creatures as the things that created time itself. I thought about seeing a bunch of them constructing the future, while a whole ‘nother set is deconstructing the past.
And now that I’m thinking about it again, that’s kind of a cool idea. I’m probably injecting a lot more meaning into it this time around, which is helpful. Something personal, like the past threatening to destroy the future or something along those lines. Of course, to make this fairytale perfect, like a sort of Dorothy and Oz sort of situation, Jon’s gotta be coming up on something big in his life and maybe something from his past is threatening to throw a wrench into the whole thing. A promotion and they’re asking for recommendations, except he can’t offer any because he summarily burned all of those bridges. A woman he wants to marry, and another is coming back into his life all of a sudden. Conflict. Something like one of those. Or maybe something else. I’ll have to drum up any weirdness in my life I can think of to extrapolate.
I’ll have to work on it. Feel free to drop some thoughts in the comments!