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Time and Space Died Yesterday

Brandon Echter is a writer based in the great city of Jersey City, New Jersey. He spends his days working for a science public radio show, and his favorite science fiction trope is the bizarro alternate universe.
And the Americans of the Revolution are fighting alongside the British of the Great War and Alan takes a box cutter to one of Helen's paintings and she knows that this, their marriage, their life together is over, the spilled pinot bleeding into the white carpet of their penthouse on the Upper East Side, which is also their first apartment together in the mid-early-late 70s in Georgetown, where they both go to college, which is also the hotel kitchen where Sirhan Sirhan kills Robert Kennedy as he celebrates his 10th birthday, and Alan spots Helen for the first time in the study area on the first floor of Lauinger reading a Vonnegut novel, and Helen sees Alan for the last time at his funeral, years after the divorce, all the bitterness muted by the time apart.
and Alan approaches the table at the Library of Alexandria, Congress, and the elementary school Helen attends in Annapolis, takes the chair opposite her, and whispers, "So it goes," and she looks up from her book to meet his confident, oblivious smile that college kids can pull off, and Kurt first thinks the phrase while in some apartment in upstate New York, and the last member of the Baby Boomer generation dies peacefully in their sleep in a retirement community in submerged ancient West Palm Beach, where Ponce de Leon searches for the fountain of youth, and despite herself Helen smiles back.
and at the corner of 5th Avenue in Prohibition New York and the Appian Way in rural Gaul, Alan and Helen go to a benefit dinner, the last meal they will ever share as a couple, so Alan can receive an award for his work as a muckraking, incredulous investigative reporter while Edward R. Murrow reports above the streets of London during the Great Fire, and it's while Alan is giving his acceptance speech that Helen realizes that she is sick of these high society things, that she hates all the people in the room, and she looks at Alan and realizes that he is among the people she hates most.
and Helen and Alan are sitting over pizza in the small shop below their first apartment in Georgetown, while L'Enfant plans the District of Columbia outside and Alan wonders aloud about trying out for their university's radio club, and Alan makes a pun that he can barely finish because he's laughing at it so hard at himself and Helen admits to herself that she could spend a lot of time with that dork, maybe (but not) the rest of her life.
and Helen and Alan sit silently in the cab on the way back to their penthouse from the benefit, passing the farms and brownstones and future glass of Midtown Manna-hatta, and Helen can feel Alan stewing at the old friend she had spent most of the evening talking to, that she had allowed herself to act a little too friendly towards, and Alan and Helen are in Georgetown and fighting because Alan is jealous of how she acts when she's talking to the register boy at the pizza place.
and Alan and Helen and Diana and Charles and Marc Anthony and Cleopatra and Helen's mother and father get married in a small church in suburban Maryland with all the media of the world and a few of their friends and family present, and Helen can feel the tears threatening when she says I do, when his anger bubbles over while preparing for a dinner party three years later.
and she's listening to the national news in her car during a road trip up the Pacific coast by herself while learning to drive for the first time and the reporter is talking about some experiment at Brookhaven involving quantum fields and time travel when she realizes very suddenly, for the first time in maybe a quarter century, she hasn't thought of Alan in over twenty-four hours, and they announce the reporter's death from old age on air as he gets his first internship at the local station out of college, and Helen silently curses herself for letting Alan control her life while the highway is constructed in front of her.
and while Helen realizes that she loves him in that pizza parlor in Georgetown, she watches Alan slash her painting during the Last Great Fight That Ends Their Marriage and wonders why she only remembers the extremes, none of the stuff in between.
and Helen and Alan lie in bed, reading books on a blustery November Sunday, and he leans over and gives her an unprompted kiss and she feels the heat finally return to her cheeks.
and a grandmother of three writes her suicide note in the same room that Helen is talking to her therapist, who says that the human mind is a primate one, that we are drawn to the exciting and the new and gloss over the day to day lest we go insane in the details, and the first mammals crawl into and from the trees, and at Helen's last session the two of them embrace, and Helen thanks him for suggesting painting as art therapy and tells the therapist that some of her work is hanging in their home now.
and the white carpet in the penthouse is ruined, and Helen can hear herself screaming at Alan that he's a child, that he's a fucking emotional toddler, that he needs to destroy something of hers to retaliate, and she grabs her coat and leaves him there--maybe not the best move, she realizes while telling the story years later, with a box cutter in his hand--but he just stays, shocked, while she grabs her coat and leaves to meet her friend to cry and drink and come to terms with the end of her marriage, and as Helen closes the door she can feel the whole world slow down, like the moments before a car crash,
and she looks back and sees Alan standing there, shirt disheveled, tie hanging loosely around his neck,
and Neil Armstrong makes his one small step for man,
and Alan's eyes are glowering black pits, but right before the door passes over him Helen can see something snap, like a man who had jumped over the edge of a bridge and realizes that he wants to live,
and the heat in her cheeks on that cold Sunday starts to dissipate,
and a nameless proto-human traces buffalo on a cave wall,
and Helen hangs her painting, abstract shapes in shades of blue, in their living room,
and Alan opens his mouth in their penthouse to call her back,
and a scientist at Brookhaven watches as the quantum field convulses and expands,
and Helen takes her first breath and cries from the shock,
and the faux-wood door washes over Alan and he is gone.
and Helen gets the call from her former sister-in-law, who says that Alan had died of a heart attack while carrying groceries into his apartment, and Helen might want to know that the funeral is on Friday.
and he whispers, "So it goes" in the library and she smiles.
and the bomb is dropped as Hiroshima rebuilds and the great Roman armies ally themselves with Napoleon to take Russia before the winter and Hitler do and Hamlin Shakespeare dies while Hamlet is performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Vonnegut is born dies lives and the big bang heat death of the universe
and
The End
This story was first published on Friday, June 17th, 2016


This is what happens when you read too many history books and have too little regard for regular sentence conventions.

The title and initial inspiration came from graffiti carved into the window of a subway car, so thank you to the mysterious street artist. Here's hoping that you're not experiencing all of time and space at once.

- Brandon Echter

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