Today’s possibility: 56.7%.
Every month or so there comes a new Moses, babies left bullrushed on the river, sometimes there are notes though more often there aren’t, fourteen so far, What to do with the Moseses? the newspaper asks regularly, and for now the answer is the same as for any other question. With the right scar on your eyebrow you can join the coalition of young men who take to the riverbanks, painted aboriginal, daily knifing through underbrush; with the right recommendation you may secure a job underground, two hours of each of your days spent waiting, you will call yourself a Caser, as in a Just In _____, as in: fans meet feces and you’ll have to become part of The Answer.
1:52pm makes him terribly anxious, for reasons unknown: not 1:50, not even 1:55, just 1:52, and when the boy packs his bag he’s everyday packing for oblivion or two quiet hours, eternity or an afternoon. A book, sheets of paper, pens, a picture of his family, strawberries wrapped in a damp tea towel, a spent plastic film shell of chlorine tablets. He loads his satchel, glancing around his room, and somehow the familiar cry of wolf is still lost on him: look anywhere and say goodbye and pretend that’s not your reedy voice, windy and breezing. Pretend you’re sure this isn’t the wolf.
Goodbye mom. Goodbye Bill the bird. Goodbye green sofa and you too Daphne Waphne. Goodbye picture of dad waving, just next to the door in the kitchen: he leaves from his job downtown. Children under twelve are allowed to travel with their parents, over twelve have to go alone, and the boy is fifteen. Daphne Waphne, eight, waves, stops waving, waves smaller. Ha ha ha, wait…maybe only two ha’s, maybe just one. He kisses his mom’s cheek and walks out the door, following the same route to the edge of the city each day. Once there his chemistry forces him to consider cardinal points, but it’s always simple: south. Down the only direction left. The city is built around where a big river crescents east for a mile and a smaller river branches off. For $3, anyone can call a number that reports the most unsafe places.
The boy walks south, through four minutes of bells tolling and cars honking, and when he looks at the sun he’s not scared anymore: when he was younger his mom told him that he’d burn out his eyes, go blind, go mad, staring at the sun, and now as he walks south he thinks: maybe it’ll be today, thinks: I don’t know what to see anyway. At 2:05pm silence settles like a dare, no one speaks at 2:05, and along the river the giant clock blinks digitally, different colors depending on factors no one’s sure of despite the clock being tax funded. 2 blink 05, 2 blink 05, sixty blinks and another minute passes during which It hasn’t Happened.
Today’s possibility: 33.3%
She vowed to never go there again, and so every day went to the exact same place. She would turn sixteen there, she knew, and perhaps seventeen, maybe twenty: the government was unhesitant in reminding everyone of the threat’s imminence and, even if whatever unnamable event transpired, that meant little regarding future threats. The two most popular t-shirts being hawked from kiosks were the black one with white words: YOU NEVER KNOW, and the white one with black letters, YOU ARE HERE. The future was a constant threat, if not tomorrow then the day you finally train your dog to quit peeing on the entryway rug, or the day you finally steal a pair of shoes to keep your feet warm while you sleep under bridges.
Sales of all things emergency went through the stiflingly low roof of the public imagination; the latest pair of must-have pumps were camouflage. She lived with her dad, and despite his cheekiness, his blown kisses goodbye as he sauntered off in a bright red wig, or running screaming for the last minutes before Nothing Time screaming It’s coming it’s coming it’s coming it’s coming!!! (freaking tremendous shit out of the neighbors, of course, he’d been held for three days the first time he did it, locked down and warned against levity), every day’s 2pm made her bitter.
She was turning 16 in eight days and knew she was finished with being shy, even before she’d turned 15 she knew her reserved looks and silence were affected, were going extinct as her voice was becoming a red ache. She’d always thought turning sixteen would be a time of bedlam and go, secret machines and something always about to burst, yet the eight calendrical squares to being sixteen was nothing like it: it was a time of charcoals and pension, two disappeared hours each day and her ache of a voice was only aching worse, every day was a tiny murder to say: “Yes, goodbye for now.” Happy sixteenth she’d whisper to herself, grinding her molars as she smashed careless footsteps across the dirt skin toward the southern end of town, her pockets stuffed with charcoal and rock salt wrapped in newspaper, and she couldn’t help but notice the strange offerings, notes left daily, scrawls and screeds, vows and whispers: the sky’s imminent fall reminded everyone that the only thing that remains is what is said before collision.
Julia: I love you. Yes. Yes. Yes. read a chalked rock.
“So little between you and the sky; so little between you and the ground.” a sign strangled onto a fencepost warned.
If you see her, say hello, she might be in Tangiers. The end of the world and Dylan still had some of the last words.
She took a dirt path that followed a creek that paralleled the river for nearly two miles before giving up the ghost of direction and untributaried, dumped itself. As the city faded in a quiet shrug, she read signs that marked the boundary of the old and new worlds: if signs at the city’s edge had apocryphal resonance, those just beyond had the curious verve of what’s left after hope’s body rots but the wind still finds leaves.
What if we just keep going hung a sign from one of the biggest trees on the path.
Today’s possibility: 33.3%
Consecutive days with the same possibility percentages fucked people the hell up. Four months into the age of Nowhere Time, there’d been a six day stretch of 63%, and that sixth day was the day that there were three Moseses found on the river, and that was when the urban legend began about a woman who’d let her baby drift, only for It not to Happen that day, only to come back to retrieve her child, only to find out she was under arrest, not for leaving her child behind forever, but for leaving a child under 12 within city limits during Nowhere Time.
The boy walked south. The girl walked south.
“The last time this happened, voice told us to leave didn’t tell us when to come back,” says the man, taking his stand at noon every day. “Last time this happened, wasn’t fear that led to safety, hm-mm.”
Paranoia as razor: children practice screaming as desperately as their tiny pink machines are capable, and unless you’re gunning someone’s temple, you’re left alone. Paranoia as razor held close: your child staring out the window right after dinner, when she’d usually be watching TV or doing homework, is a sign, means danger has tired of the verb “to lurk”; the wrong color polo shirt implicates every bad thing you’ve ever thought your neighbor has done, and the phone’s in your hand before you realize you have the same shirt. Paranoia as switchblade, paranoia as strop for the straightedge, paranoia as balloon: pop it or offer it to the sky.
The newspapers carry no account of what happens within city limits during Nothing Time. Advertising rates on television and radio plummet for the hour preceding the daily exodus, spike for the hour and a half immediately thereafter. Planes can only fly away from cities during Nowhere Time, and the midwest initiates a new lobbying group, the catch-phrase: Welcome to Nowhere. South Dakota becomes the first state to sell stock, which triples the day the IPO hits. People with horrible memory suddenly find themselves very popular: with no recall, everything becomes new. For $1, buttons sporting nothing but a red slashing X can be procured, fastened to lapels.
“Are you sure?” the man asks, the ocean of the city dripping, citizen by citizen, past him. He watches until someone looks back, raises a paw to cup his mouth, calls out to them: “You sure?”
Today’s possibility: 40%
When he was younger he’d misheard and never disabused himself of calling them morning cells. The name didn’t become (more…)
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