Hydrogen +

An hour elapsed. My solitude was nearly complete, save for one mysterious ball and chain still securely fastened to my leg. Discerning their origin seemed as unlikely as their removal, but the latter proved more engaging. So, futile though it may have been, work for the sake of work was better than the alternative.

Unfortunately, I had limited resources at my disposal. Moon rocks were neither durable nor sharp enough to cut iron, and any other tool I might’ve used had drifted off across the astral veil. In a matter of minutes, want of other options left me idle, and that idleness chipped away at the thin cables tethering my rational mind. Then, untethered, I turned my eyes to the sky.

I propelled myself into the infinity above. Over and over I jumped, but for every ascent I made, the chain held fast and cast me back down. My first couple jumps were tentative—in all honesty, I didn’t want to go too far for fear of escaping gravity’s weakened hold and getting lost in space, but soon they became powerful bounds, gaining in strength to match my growing frustration. Although, despite my desperation and wrathful leaping, I more often than not landed headfirst amidst a cloud of moon dust.   

Where had the ball come from? Sure, while its existence made about as much sense as my own spontaneous appearance on the Moon, I was far more intrigued by the ball than my new environment. There was something antagonistic about it. It seemed oddly human–owing, perhaps, to this villainous nature. It implied that I wasn’t alone… I mean, somebody must have put it on my ankle? If so, then where did they go? Obsessing over this question kept my mind busy and, acknowledging that, I set to work searching for this fellow cosmic Crusoe.

Learning that I could drag the ball slowly along if I threw the chain over my shoulder and leveraged it with my reduced body weight, I began to explore the surrounding area at a space snail’s pace. In truth, it all looked about the same to me—Crater. Another Crater. Moon hill. Crater. I crawled into a few lunar craters; that was exciting for a couple hours. Once, while scaling the crest of one such moon dimple, the ball escaped me, rolling down the side and dragging me with it. Pulled helplessly behind as it bounced down the crater’s maw, I eventually came to an abrupt stop at the bottom, splayed hopelessly in a heap while exhaling petit puffs of powdery moon rubble and the remnants of my dignity.

I carried on. The chain bore into my shoulder as I trudged along the surface of the Moon. My mind began to wander. I pressed on and my surroundings began to change. The sound of feet clipping along pavement reached my ears—I was walking through the memory of any other given day. I kept my head down and slogged on.

Time doesn’t always work properly. That is, it doesn’t always tick at its usual leisurely pace. There are some times that run, or jump, or do all manner of funky things other than tick. When time ticks, I like to think of it like the Earth’s rotation: it changes, of course, but only slightly and imperceptibly to the earthlings walking along the surface. However, if, for some reason, the Earth were to very suddenly stop rotating, we would all become acutely aware of the change. So it is as with the Earth’s rotation, you only really notice time when something has gone horribly, horribly awry.

I had lost track of time when it stopped. The walking had been going on indefinitely; my mind had drifted so far away that my body was just a blip on my consciousness’ radar. Then time stopped and I careened back into my cockpit.

The experience of that Infinite Moment defied, defies, and will forever defy words. Suffice it to say, there will always be a part of me living out that instant indefinitely.

Still, there was another part of me that persevered past the Infinite Moment. I pushed time forward, entirely by accident, like the first tentative movements of a baby. When this event, or whatever it was, had stolen control of my body from me, it had simultaneously forked over the reigns of time.

For the second I’d budged time forward, a sickness washed over me. I had nudged time and now I was inching it forward at an uncomfortably slow pace. Thoughts were occurring to me unbidden, uncontrollable; they were actions linked to moments linked to external events, all of which I was unfurling at a stupidly slow pace.  My throat swallowed hard, fighting back the sickness as I tried to situate myself on a comfortable derivative of time…

Zero seemed easy enough to maintain.

I maintained time at a derivative of zero, so time ticked along at a constant, slow rate. My thoughts blossomed and bloomed lethargically in my head. My discomfort was developing and reacting to the time change, spreading like molasses through my cortex. I felt really sick. This was time sickness, which felt identical to motion sickness, except I wasn’t going anywhere in space. My body was affected by a sickness that originated in another dimension, one that it wasn’t accustomed to conversing with.

I tried to move again, and I did, but only through time. I was pushing the seconds along faster and faster. The sidewalk moved beneath me like a treadmill. Technically my feet were moving, but I couldn’t control where they went, so it appeared as though I were dictating the movement of the sidewalk instead.

I traveled backwards in time. The time sickness returned, but in reverse order; now matter was re-entering my body. Next I tried crawling forward in slow motion, reliving the horrible sickness as a byproduct. It had already happened, and would continue to happen if I didn’t move past this section of the past. I couldn’t choose where I looked in space, but I was beginning to see further and further in time in either direction; I was a dreamer thrust abruptly into the light and my “eyes” were adjusting slowly to the brightness.

I felt a new discomfort. Not from time sickness, but because I realized something horrifying to a creature who is accustomed to navigating space rather than time:

I had no control over any of the events that had occurred, or that would occur, or that were occurring. I always walked along the same sidewalk. I could sprint through time, but it was a loop, and the sidewalk an infinity treadmill. I was stuck on the timeline of a loop bearer—I could race through the days, but I did the same thing every day.  Thoughts passed through my mind, but I was only a master of time and these thoughts were reactions to my surroundings; I just felt them flower and float on by. They were looping too. It had been hard to see that when time was ticking along normally, but when I sped my timeline up, there were patterns.  I could see loops everywhere. If I could’ve screamed, I would’ve, but my emotions and actions were tied to space, and I was only a passenger in that respect. So I did the only thing I could do: I floored time. The pedal was on the ground, and the hours hurtled by. I felt sick, but I also felt one of the loops bending. It strained, and it stretched, and about 20 hours of walking later, it broke. I slowed time to a crawl as the hour of its break neared, the moment shining on the future’s horizon like a beacon of hope. That was the hour linked to the moment I realized I could control the speed at which the events unfurled, but whatever was going to happen was going to happen and I could only choose to view them or fast-forward over them. Yet somehow, knowing all of that, on that hour I chose to break one of my loops. I chose to step off the sidewalk.

I threw up. I threw up, but I did so on the surface of the Moon, and the best part about all this throwing up was that I didn’t know why I was doing it. I had forgotten the sidewalk. Time was ticking again. I was of master of space and my timeline was hidden once more from me.

I found an American flag planted in the ground near a small moon dimple. Resting my back against the flag, I reclined as best I could and looked at the little ball.

“This isn’t even possible,” I looked around at all the moon rocks and the other moony things, “How can I breathe? That’s not even…”

I sighed. What did it matter anyway? I discarded all the math, physics and everything else I thought I knew about the universe because, in spite of it all, I was here. I was trapped here. On the Moon.

“And then there’s you.”

The ball just sat there, innocently poised, as if it didn’t know what a pain in the ass it was.

“How are you this heavy?”

Silence.

“How could something this small be so heavy… Everything else is light! I’m light! Why are you not light?”

The ball didn’t reply, but someone else did.

“Rarely are the big things in life the ones to break us. I find more often, it’s the little ones that bring us down.”

Dissociation

The clutter from my desk had disappeared. The room itself had disappeared as well—replaced entirely by darkness. An abyss. When my vision returned, I saw my pens and paper drifting away into the void.

They floated on and on, across an unfamiliar black sky.

It had taken the smallest increment of time—immeasurable by any one of my senses. When the books, papers, and pencils had left the table, the whole room had dissipated instantaneously. It had shifted from solid to gas—the walls carried off like cattail seeds on a breeze, and where there should’ve been grass and trees, there was now rock and dust.

Before, a neighborhood had sprawled out in all directions.

Now, craters populated the surrounding view. In place of the usual comforting weight of gravity on my shoulders, I felt next to nothing. So it followed that when the books left the table—a table, mind you, that no longer existed—they soared ever onward.

I did try to retrieve them. It was the first thought I had in this strange new world, and it became imperative that I save those assorted office supplies, despite the futility of my pursuit. As I leapt after them—an idea that doesn’t seem all that bright in retrospect—I was gripped tight by the ankle, stopped cold in my flight like I was the ill-begotten child of Icarus and Achilles. I achieved minimal lift off, making it maybe three or four feet off the ground, before I was accosted by a sharp pain and yanked to the Moon’s surface. After clearing my mouth of debris, spitting rock and dust in white, powdery globs, further investigation revealed the source of the pain to be an iron ball chained to my left ankle.

I was at a loss for emotions. Imagine pulling the tablecloth out from under a stack of plates: the plates themselves are virtually unaffected both physically and geographically, but you can bet those plates are damn confused. It was all floral patterns and soft cloth one moment, then cold, hard wood the next. I was that stack of plates. It wasn’t so much that I wondered where I was, but rather I felt the loss of that knowledge in a way that, up until now, I’d no way of experiencing. To go from the comfort of your home to an alien landscape in the blink of an eye was, and I’m understating here, fucking jarring.

Had I asked myself where I was, which I didn’t, I would’ve been able to answer that question easily; all I’d have had to do is look up. Inevitably I did eventually look up to find my former home hanging a quarter of a million miles above my head. It had a magnificent, radiant beauty to it that stole my breath away. I swear to you, whoever you may be, that I never did an injustice in my life so great as not fully appreciating, not simply bathing in that glorious sight and realizing all its worth the first time I saw it. Had I the ability, I’d travel back in time and bask in the reflected light of that moment for a second longer. Alas, in that single instant I couldn’t be asked, and I now live with the terrible truth that I felt only abject horror as I stared back at Earth.

After that, there was only one mode of recourse: I lay down in the glowing white dust, tucked myself up in fetal position, and breathed. I became aware of a singular truth: I was alone. Very, very alone.

I was a single proton unburdened by the comfort of another particle, positive or negative.

I was Hydrogen +.

Next Chapter

Strain the Bond

It began with the big bang that never came. Before that

only anger and frustration. Together, like flint against steel, they ignited many smaller explosions:

The smashing of a door against its frame,

a frightening sound that harmonized with knuckles cracking against a wall. There were many tiny collisions between particles as sound waves passed through them. Those particles carried

questions and accusations, addressed to a girl who was too far away to hear their message. All the same, they carried cursed words, from pursed lips; words which shook the atoms that held the roof up, those atoms passing along the vibrations, playing a subatomic game of telephone.

Perhaps the vibrations even reached those atoms nearest the accused, but by then, these atoms had long ago forgotten their message. By then, it was nothing but a pitiful wave, lost in a sea of particles.

I knew this. My tirade endured.

I grabbed my phone—I had to reach out to someone, anyone, had to let them know what had happened. I needed help—but from who? I looked back to the door. My friends were downstairs, or would be soon—couldn’t I talk to them? No. I was alone. Time had taught me that lesson well enough, so the phone found a new home, briefly attending a showing against the wall before settling down in pieces upon my bed.

The room spun. My balance tipped like the scales of the dead, my heart so heavy that the scale toppled over and sent feathers flying across my vision. Through this haze, I saw my room in disarray. This compounded my anger: how could my room have the audacity to be dirty in the presence of such a wrathful spirit?

My feet pounded against the floor and, emerging from my fugue state, I confronted my cluttered desk. It was time for a clean slate, both figuratively and literally, so I slammed my hand upon the table and swept it violently across. My eyes were shut and my ears rang with the sound of my own vengeful, punitive voice, so much so that it was almost deafening. Then it happened.

As the objects left my desk, there was a sudden shift. For an instant, my screams actually deafened me. Or so it seemed, although in retrospect it felt more like silence had replaced everything, even the air in my lungs.

That was the beginning. That was the big bang that never came.

Next Chapter

Human Chemistry

*Scratch, scratch, scratch*

went the impossible pen.

This story ends improbably. The life lead prior was a series of paradoxes and everything in between made about as much sense as the bookends. I was 240,000 miles from home on a great white rock hurtling through space, writing a letter to a woman who was famous for being a man and who’d just finished building me a rocket ship out of life lessons and moon rocks.

“We can’t choose the ones we love,” I wrote, “but we often make the wrong choice.”

and yeah, those words weren’t worth their weight in sappy, gooey, b-list literature, character origin-story, custom made for the big-screen but in medias res-olution, cop-out cliché bullshit, but

a couple minutes later I held the finished letter in my hands. I hadn’t addressed it or even sealed it in an envelope; its journey wasn’t far. Signing my name at the bottom, I looked up to my friend, a half-grin playing out along the corner of my mouth.

“I think that’s about… it. Yeah, I think I’m ready.”

She returned a comforting smile and held out her hand. “Let’s see it.”

Hesitantly, I handed over the paper and waited. It was the first time that I’d written something so personal. My armor—this callous emotional shell, fortified by years of snake- tongued, snowflake friends and loves like the flames from a beat-ass lighter—was starting to yield to a woman I’d met only yesterday. Even granting that it may have taken a cosmic theater of the impossible to crack the shell, this letter was still a huge step.

A minute later, she folded over the paper. Her eyes met mine.

“How is it?” I pried.

*tap, tap, tap* My foot on moon rubble.

The dim light reflected a spark in her eyes.

“You’re ready.”

My spirits lifted as a weight fell from my shoulders. I took one last improbable look up at the ground I thought I’d known so well. It was time to head home.

It was time to return to Earth.

Next Chapter