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Buried in Sand

Andy Rogers likes to write fiction, non-fiction, and emails that are just a bit too long. He has worked in the book industry since 2007 in both publishing and retail. Andy has been writing for about the same amount of time and is a member of a writers group called The Weaklings. He and the other Weaklings host a biannual event for writers in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area called the Jot Writers' Conference. Andy is a husband and dad to the two most awesome people in the world. Follow him at tellbetterstories.wordpress.com, be his friend on Goodreads.com, or follow him on Twitter @ALRStories.

Charlie let the temporal freeze come instantly. The slowing of time was instinctual now. He'd had months in the sanitarium to perfect it. He flipped it on like a light switch as soon as he heard the gunshot.
The gun was pointed at Meaghan. Had he not slowed time, the bullet would've already entered her torso. As it was, he could see the bullet hanging in midair.
Meaghan was more than just a nurse, she was a gift from the outside. She brought light and normalcy into the sanitarium's stale environment. Smiling, lovely, and un-patronizing; Charlie was smitten the first day she'd said hello.
"Hey, Chuck. What a great breakfast this morning, right? I assume you've taken your meds already."
She assumed the best of him. How cool was that? And she called him Chuck. She just had to believe him, even if no one else did.
"You know the Doc will be upset if you skip them again."
The doctor was just like everyone at school. No one had believed him. Not even his advisor. Didn't it matter that he'd earned a full scholarship for temporal physics? Didn't his overwhelming test scores buy some credibility?
"You were brought into this program to make new discoveries about time and space," his advisor snapped. "Not waste your genius on impossible theories. You simply cannot stop time as you've described. You would contradict proven laws of nature."
The mistake Charlie made that day was to assert that he could stop time. Weeks after he'd been moved to the sanitarium he realized that he wasn't stopping time at all, he was only slowing it down. Or at least he was observing it pass infinitesimally slowly. Did that mean he was speeding up? He wasn't sure. All he knew was that he could observe time pass so slowly it was nearly impossible to detect. The bullet fired at Meaghan seemed frozen in place, though Charlie knew it moved ever closer along its trajectory.
He couldn't understand why Meaghan had ever dated Jake.
"Leave me and you'll regret it!" Jake threatened one night. Charlie heard him yelling in the parking lot. Meaghan was crying.
"Thanks, Chuck, but don't worry about it," she said the next day. "It's best for you not to get stressed. Jake won't be back."
Yet there he was. In the sanitarium. Firing a weapon at the only person who believed him.
He'd told her before how everything worked. She listened without skepticism.
"Do you have super speed?" she asked. "Can you grab bullets out of the air like Neo?"
"I know that's how it always happens in the movies, but I'm not like Neo. I can't do stuff in the blink of an eye. All I can do is observe time pass and try to move a little bit faster than that. It's exhausting, actually. Like trying to move your arms when you're buried in sand."
"What good is it then?" Charlie couldn't answer that question. "Sounds lonely, Chuck."
Meaghan didn't know how right she was. Charlie might not be able to stop this bullet from hitting her. But for however long he could, he would let it hang there. Keeping her alive. Straining for movement.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Author Comments

Super speed is frequently portrayed by stopping time--or almost stopping time. Comic book characters like the Flash or Superman typically jump into a super speed mode that allows them to move around mannequin-like people, frozen in the slow speeds of regular life. Neo from the Matrix movies did something similar, stopping bullets in mid-air, and punching the bad guy with a hundred fists before he could respond. One day I wondered: What if moving at super speed isn't like that at all? What if you could stop time, but not move quickly within it? This story was born.

- Andy Rogers
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