's 2018 Horror Write-off:

A Peaceful Eternity

Submitted by Samsinater (email)

Did you know that time is a person? Not a human person, I don't think, like you or me, but still the thinking, very much alive kind. A person in all the ways that matter.

I don't think it has a body, or lives in any particular place, like most people do. They certainly don't exist "at a point in time" -- that would be crazy, existing in yourself. I'm not sure I could ever find all the ways they aren't like most people, because time is pretty unlike everyone.

But I do know time is a person, and it listens.

It listens, and if you know its language, you can talk to time. Ask it things, tell it stories; whatever you want. Time never cuts you off, or gets angry at you, or bored of hearing you talk; it just listens. If it can reply with words, I've never heard them. But time can respond in other ways. Helpful ways.

One day I woke up late for school, slowly realizing I forgot to set my alarm last night, and I wished I could have woken up an hour earlier. Not with words, just with thoughts, half-formed pictures in my mind, kinda primal and, I guess, at least partly in time's language.

And then I did. I woke up to the sound of my alarm going off, now exactly an hour earlier than it just had been.

My mom didn't believe me when I told her what happened; she said I must have had a dream about waking up, and freaked myself out when I actually did. But I know that's not true. Time's helped me out other times, when I asked.

When I saw a squirrel try to run across the road, right as a car was coming, and then get flattened for its efforts, I asked time if the squirrel could live instead. Then, the car was a couple dozen feet back down the road again, the squirrel running by once more, and it looked like the car was going to hit it again, but this time it just barely missed.

I don't really know what time does to change things. The closest I ever came to learning was when I held a piece of paper and a marker together, and would ask time some questions, after which I'd jump to just after I'd written the answer. Never remembering writing it, but always right at the point where my marker had just touched the last part of the last letter.

Time's native language doesn't really have a written version, and it doesn't speak the best English, so the answers were usually one word, and didn't make much sense at first. When I asked, "How do you change things?" it responded, "big." If I asked, "Is it hard to change things?" I would get, "different." To, "Does it hurt to change things?" "tired."

I tried to only ask time about important things after that. I didn't want to abuse our relationship by making time wear itself out just to talk to me, maybe leaving it too exhausted to do what it normally has to. For all I knew, every time they changed something, the universe's lifespan got shorter. Or maybe when I saved one squirrel, it meant another one died somewhere else.

Whatever the case, in thanks for their help, I just let time know every now and then that I was really grateful for everything it had done for me, and really, for everyone. You know, keeping everything moving, making sure stuff happened that was supposed to happen. Keeping things from being in two places at once. That sort of thing.

Sometimes time does things for me without me asking it to. Or at least without me meaning to ask. And sometimes that isn't so helpful, but I know time's doing their best.

Like once when I was so bored of my homework that I wished I didn't have to do it, and then suddenly it wasn't in front of me anymore. I was just sitting on my bed with my pencil, no homework sheets to be found. When I asked time if I could have it back, I was suddenly facing the wall, where I had drawn, "oops." At least it taught me some responsibility, kind of. My teacher, who still remembered handing it out, didn't accept "time ate my homework" as an excuse.

Other times, time will get creative, maybe as a result of knowing everything that ever happened, or could happen. I don't know if that's actually true, but if anyone would know, I think it would be time.

Once, I wished a bully would stop pulling on my hair. The next day, he didn't come to school, and then a week later, I learned he was taken to the hospital after using his dad's powersaw to cut off both of his hands. I never heard from him again after that, in part because he had to go to therapy, I think.

Still, I asked time if it could be gentler in the future. Not having hands is kind of a harsh punishment, even if he was a jerk. It responded in my notebook, "soft."

On my eighteenth birthday, I got a gift with a blank nametag on it, and I instantly knew who it was from. Time doesn't really have a name, even in its own language, which I always thought was kind of sad. But I don't think time ever gets sad about it, because when I asked if it gets sad, I just wrote on the tag, "heavy," but under that, "complete."

There was nothing inside the gift; just an empty box. Maybe time didn't know that was how gifts usually worked. But I thanked it for the gift anyway, and still have that box proudly displayed on my desk. It's probably the most meaningful one I've ever gotten. Probably because it was from my best friend.

One time just after a shower, I asked time what it knew about love, and in the mirror I'd wrote, "hard." Then I asked time if it loved me. I realized I hadn't drawn a word; just a perfectly symmetrical heart.

Maybe I read too much into that, and how well time understands me, but it meant a lot to me. I let time know that I loved them regardless of how they felt about me. I didn't write anything for that one, but I knew time always listens, and it didn't always need to respond. Knowing it was there was enough for me.

And I would know they're always there, because things would always keep moving. It was comforting, and I could never stop loving someone who was always there for me.

As I got older, time wasn't always able to make things happen perfectly, but I never minded. When I was in a car accident, walking away with some cuts on my cheek and a broken rib, I knew time had done their best to save me. I knew it could have been so much worse, and sometimes, these things just have to happen. I'm not sure if time is supposed to play favorites, but I think it does have a job to do, and shouldn't interfere too much. When I asked if it had a boss, I'd typed on my phone, "ladder."

Still, time was always so supportive of me, and as best I could tell, so hardworking. So one day, I asked time what would happen if it took a break for a day. I didn't write anything down this time; time just showed me firsthand.

Everything instantly stopped around me. I couldn't get up from the bus stop I was waiting at, or even move my eyes. Cars didn't move anymore either. People who were walking froze, perfectly still no matter how off-balance they were. Even the sun didn't go down, in the corner of my eyes, no matter how long I waited.

I wonder if anyone else knows what time did. If they're stuck in their own minds, too? I almost hope they aren't. I asked for this, but they didn't.

I think it's been at least a day so far. I think it's been a day for at least a year, maybe two. It's hard to keep track with just your thoughts, never needing to eat, sleep, or breathe. I can't even shut my eyes. But that's fine. It's a beautiful day out. Lovely weather. Plenty of things to look at, too, and even more to think about.

Sometimes I wonder if, maybe, even though you'd think it would know units of time better than anyone, a day for time is very different than a day for us. Maybe that's why time hasn't come back yet. They're still enjoying their break.

I hope so. I can be patient, until they come back. Time's always been so patient with me, after all.

And when time comes back, even if it takes a century, I'll be waiting right here for them, just the way they left me: a smile on my face, and love in my heart.