Take me to a...
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
For more options, try our:
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
If you've already submitted a story, you may check its:
Not just rockets & robots...
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.

When the World Stopped

Siri Paulson loves nothing more than mixing up genres to see what will happen. She also wears the hats of non-fiction editor by day and chief editor of Turtleduck Press by night. Her other passion is contra (folk) dancing. Thankfully, her long-suffering husband is good at keeping himself occupied. After growing up in Alberta, Canada, she moved to Toronto and achieved her lifelong dream of buying an old house, dubbed the TARDIS because it's bigger on the inside. Other lifelong dreams include publishing novels (one and counting), traveling the world (so far, so good), and becoming an astronaut (still waiting on that one).

Siri's debut fantasy novel City of Hope and Ruin, co-written with Kit Campbell, is available here. Her short SF&F fiction has been published in Queer Sci Fi's flash fiction anthology Renewal and is in the 2017: A Holiday to Remember collection from Mischief Corner Books. More short fiction and the anthologies she has edited can be found on her Turtleduck Press bio/

She also dabbles in photography, and occasionally blogs at siripaulson.wordpress.com and tweets @Siri_Paulson.

When the world stopped, I had just walked out of Drew's life.
I closed the front door and took a breath, and everything froze.
The first thing I noticed was that I couldn't let out my breath, although that didn't seem to be a big problem--my lungs were on pause. In fact, no part of my body could make so much as a twitch. The "move!" signals from my brain were running down my nerves and just... disappearing into the ether. Was I having a heart attack? I tried to make a noise, to attract Drew's attention, but that too was impossible.
Then I saw the bird.
It hung in midair, wings raised, looking like a work of taxidermy or... or part of a child's mobile. My mind couldn't make sense of it otherwise.
I began to notice other things within my field of vision, then. A cat paused on the sidewalk, front paw lifted. Drew's neighbor, cycling down her driveway across the street, bike upright but unmoving, left leg at the beginning of the down stroke. Her expression hadn't had time to register shock, but her eyes bored into mine. I was absurdly glad that neither of us was alone in this... whatever the hell this was.
She knew about the breakup, probably. My car was parked between us, at the edge of the lawn. A small suitcase was in my frozen hand. Tears stood in my eyes, unfallen. She'd been kind, always offering cuttings from her garden or snowplowing Drew's sidewalk when his joints got too bad and I wasn't there. I'd been anticipating missing her... before whatever this was.
And then, finally, I let my thoughts turn to Drew.
He had wanted commitment and I couldn't give it. He had wanted forever. I'd been content with casual, on-and-off, "for now." I hadn't minded being mostly alone--he was always there when I needed him--but apparently he did mind and I just hadn't noticed. It was too bad. He had fit my lifestyle: ambitious at work, traveling for the job, only hours here and there to devote to relationships. He had fit into what little extra time I had.
And now time was all I had.
Had the world ended? Was I dead? Maybe I was actually crumpled on the front steps--that heart attack after all--and this was all in my head, the last of my synapses firing. Didn't they say the moment before death stretched long? But there were the frantic eyes of the neighbor across the street. Surely there was a soul behind them.
My world had fallen away, and all I wanted was to hold Drew, to look into his eyes for all eternity or until everything went dark. I wanted to tell him that I was sorry. That he mattered more than anything. That, left with nothing but my thoughts, I couldn't bear being alone after all.
My breath whooshed out of me. I stumbled a step or two, and caught myself. The neighbor moved, the bird moved, the cat moved.
And I whirled to see the door opening behind me, and Drew.
I rushed towards him, but his expression halted me like a brick wall.
"When the world stopped," he said, "all I could think of was how much time I wasted, waiting for you. I'm sorry. I see that wasn't what you were thinking of, but... I can't."
The door closed. I stood motionless, holding my suitcase, alone. Around me, the world moved on.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Author Comments

Flash fiction is a new format for me as a writer. I didn't have a particular length in mind for this story, just wanted to see how tightly I could write a piece that still had a beginning, middle, and satisfying (I hope) ending. Or, how tightly focused could the story concept be? A moment of frozen time... what could be tighter than that? But it wasn't enough. I still needed to nail the human element, the disconnect between people that both starts and ends the story. The last bit to fall into place, oddly enough, was the thread of being alone, or not, that ties everything together.

- Siri Paulson
Become a Member!

We hope you're enjoying When the World Stopped by Siri Paulson.

Please support Daily Science Fiction by becoming a member.

Daily Science Fiction is not accepting memberships or donations at this time.

Rate This Story
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.4 Rocket Dragons Average
Share This Story
Join Mailing list
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):