“I don’t know why they aren’t moving”, Michael said angrily. “Why can’t you just listen to me?”
He looked around again at the frozen figures, defying any of them to move. But they wouldn’t, no matter how many times he pushed or hit them or screamed at the top of his lungs.
“Let’s just calm down a bit, Michael”, she said. “If we can just stay calm, we’ll figure it out.” He seemed to be heading for a meltdown, and all she could do was try to bring him down, to try and get him back to whatever reality this is now.
“Michael, talk through it again. We were running from those cops. We ran into this store, and you yelled, ‘Dammit!’. Then everything froze.” She looked up at him as she spoke, walking slowly to him.
“Yeah,” he said, looking down grimly. “I just thought that if everyone was still I could run through faster. And then they were.” He was catching his breath, slowing himself down from running and the shock of what happened.
Michael and Denise stood in the middle of the candy store, slowly looking around. They hadn’t really stopped and just looked at everything, and as the shock wore off the awe set in. Time stood still for everything but them.
Fogs of powdered sugar hung in the air behind the counter, a clerk frozen in the mid-clap of her hands. Water from the tap behind the clerk stood under the faucet like an icicle, taunting gravity to put an end to it. The man at the door was still on one foot from being bumped by Michael, a frozen half-startled, half-angry look on his face. Out the windows, out on the sidewalk, they could see the officers forever trying to catch them, as a little girl and her doll looked on.
“You’ve stopped time. Crazy or not, you’ve stopped time,” she said. She hated admitting it out loud, but there was no other explanation.
“What if I can’t get it back?” he asked, “what if it’s stuck forever?” He looked at her with wide eyes, terrified that he may have broken the world. His mind raced, thinking of any other possible reason for what was happening and coming up empty.
“Well,” she said quietly. She took a few steps around him, slowly surveying, searching for some punch line confirming they are the joke. But nothing happened, and a small smile escaped her.
She looked out into the street, towards the cops that had been chasing them. “So what if it’s stuck forever. That means no one can ever get us again. We’d be free,” she said, her smile broadening.
“Free to do what?” he asked. “Everything’s frozen. Everything’s locked away from us.”
She smiled again at him. With a quick step she went to the counter, grabbed a piece of chocolate and stuffed it in her mouth without a second thought. She turned and walked over to him, and as she reached him she leaned her face in close to his. Her mix of chocolate and perfume was overwhelming, a goddess approaching with gifts from on high.
“Not everything is frozen,” she said. She moved in even closer, and let her top lip touch his bottom lip gently. “Some things are just getting warmed up.”
He let his uneasy feeling go as he moved his hand up her back. Uneasy about this situation or not, he wasn’t about to let her pass him by. She leaned in and nuzzled his neck, and as he reached up her back even farther he looked around slightly, making sure none of the frozen people were really watching.
He pulled back from her. She quietly put her fingers to his cheek, looking him in the eye. “What’s wrong?” she asked, “too many people around?” She still had a slight smile, but it slowly retreated as she looked at him.
“Something’s not right,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but something’s not right.”
“Everyone is frozen you know. That’s not weird enough for you?” she said.
“No,” he said, “it’s almost like something moved. I don’t know what it is. Something’s different now. ”
Michael stormed around again, pushing and hitting the frozen people again. They didn’t budge. He ran his hand through the cloud of powdered sugar behind the counter. He could see the path that his hand made through the cloud, splitting the cloud in two. But the remainder still hung in the air, unchanged.
He quickly turned and went outside, slamming the glass doors open. He went up to the cops, frozen in mid-stride as they had when they chased him. He walked quickly around them, scanning for the slightest movement. The second cop had his gun out, the first one a baton ready in his hand. Michael quickly grabbed the baton, and with a quick swing knocked the first cop’s hat off.
“Pick it up you son of a bitch!” he screamed into the first cop’s face. But the cop made no movement, no indication that anything changed. The cop could have been carved there, and, try as he might, Michael couldn’t provoke him to move.
Just as Denise came up behind him, Michael threw the baton down. As it skittered across the pavement he reached for the gun in the second cop’s hand. “I’ll make you move,” Michael said angrily.
Suddenly, the frozen air boomed with the sound of gunfire. “Fuck you!” Michael yelled, pulling the trigger again and again, punching holes in both officers as Denise fell to the side and covered her head. Shot after shot rang out, the stench of gunpowder and the flash of the gun alive in this unreal world. The booms continued until the only thing left was Michael standing in front of the cops, still clicking the pistol over and over again.
“Michael!” Denise screamed. “Michael stop!” He still pulled the trigger again and again, tears rolling down his face. “Stop!” she screamed as she jumped up and pushed him from the side, finally awakening him from his trance.
She put her hand up to her mouth, stifling a cry. He dropped the gun to the ground, the fear in his face giving way to more tears. She reached up to hug him, and he put her arms around her, his head down. “I know something moved,” he said. “Anyone else on the street would’ve seen it. Even the little gir–”
He raised up from Denise. “There was a little girl here before,” he said.
He moved back from Denise, and looked all around. “There was a little girl.”
She looked around, and started to think about it herself. She asked herself, ‘was there a little girl?’ As she thought about it more and more, she remembered. There had been.
Both of them looked around, searching for any sign of a girl. There was the candy store. There were the cops, with new holes in them that weren’t bleeding. There was the empty street, save for cars down the block. But there was no little girl.
“I know she was here,” he said. He looked up to the highrises, over across the street, and even behind him. There were large people and small.
But no little girl.
Michael stepped away from Denise. “I’m going back to that bank. Maybe we can fix this.”
“We’re free, Michael,” she said. “We don’t have to go back, we can do whatever we want. No one will ever know what we’ve done.”
He looked at her again, his mind raging on what could and couldn’t be. “It all started there,” he said, “if we go back, maybe we can fix it. We walk out of there rich this time, and not on the run. Maybe this will all be fixed.”
She’d had enough of this. “We don’t need the bank anymore and we don’t need the money! We can kill or steal or dammit just sit in one place and stare at the sky,” she yelled. “Why go through it again,” she asked, “bumping people out of the way, jumping over crap and damn near killing yourself? We can walk calmly up to anyone and just take what we want.”
“No,” he said quietly. “I can’t live like this. Something’s wrong, like we’re in hell just waiting for our punishment. If I’m in hell, then I’m damn sure going to try and get out.”
He bolted the other direction, leaving her behind. He was heading back towards the bank, and there wasn’t anything she could do to stop him.
She started forward and then stopped. “Maybe I should just let him go,” she muttered, “and catch up later.” She looked around again, frustrated.
As she turned, she saw the little girl, in the intersection a block away. The girl just stood there, slowly caressing a broken doll in her hand. The girl was looking right at her, and as Denise watched the little girl started to smile. The odd feeling Denise felt gave way to horror as the little girl smiled broadly, revealing black, moldy teeth stained with rusty red.
Denise turned and ran back towards the bank. She didn’t know what the girl was, or what girl meant with that smile, but Denise knew she wanted out of there. There was malevolence there, and darkness.
Denise slid around the corner, and kept running. The only sound she could hear was the clip-clap of her shoes on the sidewalk, the rest of the world offered no sounds of life to comfort her. Her path was clear, people still frozen from the earlier chase away from the bank. She threw her head around to see behind her, but there was no little girl.
She charged hard around the next corner, and up ahead in mid-block she could see Michael standing in front of the bank. She screamed his name, but he wouldn’t turn around. She ran closer and closer, screaming louder and louder. But he stood his ground in the middle of the street, as if frozen himself.
She came skidding to a stop right next to him, out of breath. She looked around for the girl, but she wasn’t anywhere to be found. She saw the frozen crowd, still starting to get up from being knocked down by Michael earlier, and others frozen as they helped them up.
“Michael,” she said, still trying to catch her breath. She looked up at him. “Michael, that little girl is–”
She stopped when she saw the horror on his face, half covered by his hands. She stood up quickly, following his eyes down to the ground. In front of them, a few dozen yards away, was a large garbage truck, frozen like everything else. It was parked in the street, it’s burly driver floating in mid-air near the driver’s door as he jumped down from the truck’s cab.
She noticed other faces too, surrounding the truck. There were horrified women behind the truck, near the bank, and others in the street running towards the truck from passenger side. All were frozen in place, a horror being held for eternity.
Denise followed Michael’s gaze down to the ground. She let out a small scream as she saw what was under the truck.
Beneath the passenger side front tire of the truck, she could see a small arm, and a bloody, crumpled mess under and behind the tire. A woman was on the ground next to the truck, as if trying to get up. It seemed as if a group of people had been knocked over like dominoes, and they were just starting to get up again.
The deafening silence seemed to make everything so much worse. Just in front of the little girl, a thin line of blood having just reached it, lay the doll’s head, looking up at them. Then they heard a tiny laugh.
Michael started to scream, and Denise jumped back from him. She turned to run again, but stopped cold. There in the street, half a block away, stood the little girl. Michael turned when Denise cried out, and as he looked back the little girl smiled again. Tears of dark blood began to fall down her cheeks, her smile getting ever wider. As they looked on, the little girl slowly raised the headless doll up in front of her, turning the doll to face them.
Michael and Denise started to step back when they heard a great rushing sound. They looked down the street, past the girl, to the next intersection. Everything around them seemed to blur, as if there were two or more of everything. The world started to move again, but it seemed wrong.
Everything seemed to move backwards.
They looked around as people seemed to back up instead of finishing whatever path they had been on. People weren’t standing up as much as they were put back in place, caught by some unseen force. Birds in the sky backed up on their routes, and the sounds of the city were being played again. The group of people near the bank all seemed to lean back, the dominoes being put back in place.
They stood in the street, now the little girl was just twenty feet away near the trail of blood. The girl was reaching down to the lost doll’s head, grabbing it up quickly in her hand. With a twist she screwed the head back on the doll, and turned to face them.
She still smiled, slowly holding the fixed doll up in front of her face. As Michael and Denise looked on, she lowered her head, eyes as dark as an empty skull. She moved her thumbs under the doll’s head as she started to pucker her lips, staring at them with hatred.
With a quick pop of her thumbs the doll’s head went flying away again. Suddenly there was a huge roar, a flash of metal and the sickly sounds of crushing bone and flesh.
The street was filled with life again. People moved about their way, cars drove down the street and birds chirped in the sky. Everything seemed normal, except in front of the bank. Everything there seemed to be stopped.
“You come on with me now,” her mom said. “You don’t need to see what happened to those people.” They walked down the street, away from the bank. Her mom gripped her hand tightly, gently but firmly pulling her down the sidewalk.
As they passed a man who wanted to see what happened, he asked, “was there an accident? Did someone get hurt?” He didn’t really stop to hear the answer, more or less only pausing for any information he could get.
“Two bank robbers were hit by a truck,” her mom said back to him. The man walked on, hardly listening. Her mom looked down at her, holding her hand a little tighter. “I shouldn’t say this to you, but at least they won’t be harming anyone else,” her mom said. She looked down and gave the little girl a warm smile. “Sorry about your doll’s head, it’s probably stuck back there too.”
The little girl smiled, looking down as she walked. She held her headless doll tightly, and whispered quietly to it.
“I don’t think anything is really stuck anymore.”
Copyright 2013 Russell Dickerson, All rights reserved.