Art by Melissa Mead
Love at the Corner of Time and Space
by Annie Bellet
When she left him at the Crossroads of Time for the second time, Darrin didn't start to worry until he'd counted to four million eight hundred and ninety-seven. Then he lost count, again, and started to wonder if Ashley was coming back for him. They'd had another big fight, about the dirty dishes or the cluttered front hall or that curvy blonde he'd kissed on Friday night at the Reel'm Inn or any number of little annoyances that seem to pile up the longer any relationship goes on.
But he knew that in a long-term relationship with a Time Traveler, things got sticky on occasion. Last time she'd dumped him here, she'd come back after a count of about a thousand with a smile on her face. Ashley hadn't shared the joke, but she'd taken him home at least.
The crossroads was more of a movie theatre than a roadway. Opaque edges lined the four-way road, with images flickering like an old movie reel across the surface of the thick mists that formed barriers to each side of the crossroads. The roads themselves were soft and gave a little, like walking on dark blue cotton balls.
Darrin sat in the middle, twisting his head around, and picked at the fluffy road. It came away in his hand in pieces, only to dissipate like cool smoke between his fingers. Four million nine hundred even, though he guessed he'd skipped a few tens somewhere in the three millions. It didn't matter. Not if she was really going to leave him here.
Rising to his feet, Darrin fought off vertigo as the soft roadway gave under his Converse All-Stars and the images in the mists around him blurred and spun. He breathed in deep through his nose and then out his mouth and took stock. He wasn't hungry or thirsty. In fact, he felt fine, more or less. Just bored as hell and real fear had started to nibble at the edges of his mind.
"Ash?" he called out. "Okay, I'm sorry." She couldn't really have just left him here. Right? He shivered though it wasn't cold. "I'll do the damn dishes. Ashley?"
He closed his eyes and tried to remember what she'd said about the Crossroads. The time stream flowed here, each image a moment somewhere in the universe. He could dive in, randomly, and hope he ended up somewhere good. A Time Traveler could pick and choose.
But how long would she leave him here? Ashley had no concept of time, not the way he did. She was always late or early to dates with a funny little smile on her strawberry-glossed lips. Darrin shook his head. He wasn't in time, not here. It could be a million years of nothing and he'd never know. She'd been pretty damn mad but he didn't deserve this shit.
His college Psych professor's voice came to him suddenly, droning about the stages of grief. Denial. Anger. Darrin pinched the bridge of his nose and tried to recall the other stages.
"Bargaining," said a graveled voice, startling him. "Depression. Acceptance."
Darrin opened his eyes. One of the walls had become a whole classroom, the mustard walls familiar. Dr. Graham stood in front of a group of sleepy undergrads, hands shoved into his coat pockets.
"It's a crock of shit," Graham said, looking directly at Darrin. "We just hold on."