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I met Allyson the way you meet summer rain.
It was unexpected. It might have been annoying, but I can’t deny that it wasn’t refreshing. If my punishment was summer, she was the rain. And when she was about to die, I wished for once in eternity to stop myself and turn myself back, for I was Aeon, the Lord of Time.
My domain was time. I was responsible for the speed of time. Have you ever noticed how time seems to fly when you are enjoying something? Have you ever noticed why seconds seem like hours when you’re waiting for something? I was responsible for that. I have deftly and carefully let myself pass through your moments making them last for seconds or hours; for maintaining the fabric of the universe was not something to be laughed at and certainly you couldn’t expect me to be generous about myself. It required infinite patience and the power of holding back. I was a model employee. All my work was done on time and well done. I may have been a sadist but there were no relaxations in my work.
That was why I never expected to be punished.
It was my overconfidence; Karma said that moved him to punish me. He was the core of the four of us. We obeyed him without question. If we were the four pillars of the universe, he was the supporting beam, the central trunk. He was the cause and effect of himself and he went by many names. We knew him as Karma. I don’t pretend to understand him and we don’t try to. We met him every once a half century and he gives us our—as you mortals fittingly call it—performance reports. Mine were always perfect. Whoever among us got the least scores would be “punished”—namely sent to Earth, suffer a bit and return wiser.
“This time,” he’d said with a funeral voice, “Aeon, the Lord of Time is to be punished,” and he bowed.
“What?” Kar or creation said.
“I don’t believe it!” Amora or love gasped.
“Time’s time,” Thana or destruction chuckled
“Leave,” Karma said shooting them an annoyed look. We referred to Karma as ‘him’ but we didn’t know.
While all of us were undoubtedly beyond the confines of gender, language and religion, we inclined. Kar and I tended to be masculine while Thana and Amora tended to be feminine. But Karma was neither a man nor a woman with a face as glorious as Amora’s, an aura as powerful as Thana’s, a nature as sadistic as mine and a charm as sweet as Kar’s.
“Time’s time,” he murmured.
“You wanted to say that right?”
He gestured for me to sit and handed me a sheet. I remember feeling slightly ashamed at word on it, ‘OVERCONFIDENCE’.
“Me?” I asked half in disbelief and half sardonic.
“Yes,” he nodded, “There is a fine line between confidence and over confidence; between pride and ego. You crossed it,” I stared. I hadn’t realised. I didn’t know that when you begin to believe that you are entitled to ignore others just because you are an all-powerful being, it was overconfidence.
“You’re punishment is by far very lenient compared to the others,” he said shooting me a stern look, “You will be mortal for an unspecified interval of time,” he grinned, “Serve the mortals—orphanages, old age homes…earn your karma and when I’ve deemed you worthy enough, you will return,”
“It’s as simple as that?”
He gave me a strange look, “Aeon it isn’t as easy as it sounds,” I’m not sure I agreed to it then. He sighed, “What you will now experience will be the second most painful thing you will face,” and he grasped my hands, and the world tilted a bit. His multi-coloured eyes shifted, turning into the colours of stars, space and skies and pain, pain unlike anything I had ever felt before shot up my fingertips, through my arms and collided into my being. I remember feeling the ripping of my limbs and the tearing of my skin. I remember torn over and over and being put together again, moulded and shaped. My clock stopped working.
“…you are not being born from a woman’s womb, so for turning into a mortal, you must pay the price by bearing half the pain a mother would bear, because you are cheating birth…” he whispered. I blacked out; numb, cold and with the searing leftovers of pain—exhaustion. Here, began my first journey as a mortal and these were the consequences that eventually led me to Allyson.
I first met her late at night, when she grabbed my hand and requested me to walk her home. “S-Someone’s behind m-me,” she’d whispered. I remember feeling annoyed, irritated. I walking to an uncomfortably small apartment which was a sorry excuse for a house and I was super-exhausted for I had just realised (thanks, Karma) that mortals get fatigued without sleep and I badly wanted sleep. But her hands shivered, though it was clearly a warm night. She must’ve been truly and thoroughly scared so I agreed to walk her, even though we had to cross a busy road signal which was out of my way, though why she found only me to hold onto was something I still immensely debate about.
She was around nineteen and quite average in terms of beauty but she had brilliant chestnut hair. I wouldn’t have cast a second glance if she hadn’t grabbed my hand. She shivered all the way to her home.
Her home was an apartment where she lived with her mother and stepbrother. She asked if I would like to step in for coffee. I politely declined, for I was in dire need of my bed and nothing else. She said, “I work at a café, why don’t you come over there sometime? I’ll get you a free drink,” This I could accept and I did. It was the beginning of many more drinks
“I am so glad you came!” I remember her saying as I walked into the café to the tinkling of the bell. That was, ah, the beginning of many conversations. Summer surrendered to the clasps of autumn and I still went to the café. I walked her home every night, which became a tradition and I admit; I grew fonder of her, perhaps against my will.
The only thing that bothered me about her was myself. Time. We were chatting about nothing in particular, that day. She was easy to talk to, because she was such a good listener. Eventually the subject turned to me; in the metaphysical sense. Time.
“Why are you so obsessed with time?” she asked out of the blue.
I was, I comprehended, subconsciously obsessed with myself. I kept checking the clocks of every room we walked into and look at the watches of every co-customer. I, most importantly, kept looking at my time-watch that would not work.
“Because, time has everything to do with everything,”
She cringed, “I hate the concept of time,”
“I know, I know. Time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present and to the future,” she quoted. “But it seems irrelevant, don’t you think?” I found this bothersome. One, I was not the indefinite whatever. Two, she was talking about me. And three, she was talking about me!
“But, time is the most important thing man has e-ever comprehended,”
“…I suppose,” She murmured, “I used to obsess over time too. What is the time? How long?” she sighed, “I used to get worked up over every second. I was known for being extremely punctual.” She chuckled, “Strange, one day I just bunked my classes and headed there,” she pointed towards the tallest building in the city, “I just sat there and watched, the city traffic, the airplanes, the market area and I gathered that whatever I was doing was meaningless. It all made no sense. What does it matter when you are doing it when you are doing it anyway? I threw out all the clocks figuratively…it was peaceful,”
“But time is one of the pillars of the universe,” I stated.
“That doesn’t mean I have to acknowledge it does it?” she shrugged.
Perhaps, her utter disregard of me and my domain was what caused me to fall truly, utterly and devastatingly in love with her.
The autumn faded into winter and nothing felt warm enough.
“Would you like to visit my mom?” she asked one late evening as we turned into her street. We heard a motorcycle, screech and let out an ugly drone.
“Sure,” I said ignoring the noise.
And we heard it turn into our street. Okay, I thought, there’s enough space to—
Allyson swung herself onto my shoulders, shoving my hat down her head. Her arms went round my neck. I could feel hear her take rapid deep breaths and felt the point of her chin poke my shoulder.
Three motorcycles sped past us and screeched to a halt a bit farther away from us.
“Tch, missed her,”
“…you sure you saw her Flea?”
“Yes, Hatt, pretty sure,”
“…well she’s not here! Let’s get going! The party’s not lasting forever numbjack,” they gave another stern look around before they revved up their noisy machines and rolled down the street.
All the while, I hadn’t noticed her shivering.
She was murmuring something under her breath, her pulse was rocketing and her legs suddenly seemed unstable. She wasn’t listening to me. I let my hands around her shoulders and at that moment, I felt something. I felt, perhaps for the first time, the warmth of the blood running through my arteries.
“They’re gone,” I undid her hands.
“I-I’m,” she paused and sniffed wiping her eyes, “s-sorry,”
“Hey, it’s okay,” I said fighting the urge to pat her head. “Look, it’s snowing,”
It was snowing. It was my first time watching the snow in a mortal’s body and it gave me a different kind of unnecessary enthusiasm I could have very well done without.
“Why don’t you come in?”
“Why not?” she said.
When I didn’t answer, she began walking. I followed her.
Her house was a little place with drab furnishing and almost torn wallpapers. The sofa was a bit tattered and the television was tuned to a talk show. Two people occupied the sofa.
“You’re late,” a voice grunted.
“I’m sorry. Mom, Adrian, this is Aeon Eterne, a-a friend.” she said.
“This is a first,” Adrian stated looking up.
He was a short kid, possibly around fourteen but he looked younger. He strongly resembled his mom, who was beside him.
“Will he be joining us for dinner?” Adrian asked.
“Is it all right?” Allyson asked looking at her mother.
“Why don’t you chat with them? I’ll get dinner served,” she said slipping into the “kitchen”.
“So, Al’s friend eh?” the woman said.
She seemed to take an instant dislike at me. She must have once been an extremely well-looking woman but she had wasted away into a being with stiff grey hair and sunken green eyes. In short a once beautiful woman after facing the harsh world.
“It is really a first,” she murmured.
So, Allyson never had any male friends?
“You see,” Adrian said looking at my confused expression, “she suffers from an unhealthy fear of men, Androphobia,”
That-that explained a lot of things.
The shivering, the motorcycles, the high pulse.
I should’ve realised it sooner.
I’m not sure I slept properly that night.
She was so masterful at hiding it that even I, I, was fooled. It was all a necessary façade. She had to pretend nothing was wrong considering most of her customers at the café were men.
“What do you mean?” she asked the next day as I put my plan before her.
“I’ll help you overcome your fears,” I stated.
“…but don’t you work?”
“It can wait. Starting today, we will make sure you overcome your fear of men,” And we started. I dedicated time to her during her breaks and during her shifts made sure the other colleagues kept an eye on her. It was a combined effort of the whole café. We started small with photographs of men. Slowly we progressed. But for things to become better, I had find out her root cause of the fear and abolish it from her mind and thoughts. That was not a delicate question to ask. And I began getting frustrated around her. She was still scared and I knew it.
“You’re wondering what started this,”
“Well, you see, it was a natural progression of events. My father was very abusive. My childhood memories of him are purely of him hitting my mom, he had a nasty temper. I’ve been slapped many times,” She turned away from me, “He died in an accident. My mom remarried, my stepfather, Adrian’s dad, he was into gambling and an alcoholic, kept breaking stuff, cost us a lot. Mum filed for a divorce and we shifted here, when Ad was ten,” she brushed snow off my shoulder, “And then, school boys, they bullied me and used to regularly hide my stuff, throw rocks at me and generally made my school miserable. Here was no better. Those motorcycle guys,” now she looked at me, “they kept tailing me, and police are of no help. It increased my terror…and two years ago I was diagnosed with Androphobia,” she shoved her hands in her pockets. “If this makes y-you uncomfortable,” she smiled drily teary-eyed, “I don’t mind…if you leave,”
“I would never abandon you,”
She sniffed and wiped her nose with her sleeve. Maybe she was crying. “Mom hates me, because I look so much…like him, she gets nightmares even now, he’s made my life worse even in his death, but how can I blame him?” I saw her tears and had no words, “We tend to see what we want to see and she sees me as a leftover of my father,”
“It’s okay,” I said and grasped her hands. And she didn’t flinch.
“I think it’s working,” I said. She looked at me astounded. I remember thinking, you’re so close. She beamed,
“I c-can’t believe this!”
Soon enough she’ll be kicking your bones, you bastards. Humanity was something I’d watched over indiscriminately. Rich or poor, man or woman, beast or mortal. The time I bestowed them was equally fast and equally slow. Everyone was equal before us and I had believed in it whole heartedly and completely. But now, I hated the people who were responsible for her situation. I wanted to rip their flesh and spill their blood. It was irrational.
“Thank you so much!” she said. “I think I’ll walk home from here,” we were at the signal and it was almost empty owing to the darkness. I saw her walk, almost skip her way across and suddenly, though the signal for the vehicles was still red, a car—
“ALLYSON!” the scream ripped out of my throat and even before I knew it I felt my fingers feel something soft—her hair and they shattered through the car’s window straight into the jaw of the stupid drunkard. But—
“Allyson!” Her hair covered her face and—red stains. I remember people surrounding me. My arm was torn badly but I heard nothing and felt nothing. I remember falling to my knees on the shattered glass and screaming.
“Excuse me,” a gentle hand shook my shoulder. “Are you Aeon Eterne?” Seven hundred and ninety three hours. Thirty three days. Four point seven weeks. Zero point zero nine years.
“…yes. Has she woken up?”
“The patient’s family has decided to call off life support,”
“If you wish to spend some time with the patient—”
“Yes, I want to see her.”
“I am sorry,”
“I should think you did your job deftly enough,” I tried my best to smile at this woman who was sent to be the harbinger of such devastating news. But all I could do was sigh. I had probably lost my hope. But I still had to make sure. So I followed her.
The antechamber had only one occupant.
“So, you came?” she spat. I might have laughed at her, but I didn’t.
“Nice to meet you too, Mrs Arrow.”
The nurse led me to the main room. It gave off a very sombre feeling. Its whitewashed walls and the intimidating machines were sure to make life seem very distasteful.
And there—my clock began working again.
I held her hand. “I wish I could turn back the clock and bring the wheels of time to a stop,” My arm hurt. She was going and I couldn’t do anything for her. I was abandoning her. I wouldn’t. The moment lasted, for how long I could not say, but pain worse than anything filled my chest. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t choke. Something broke. Tears, tears escaped my eyes and I understood the worst pain of all eternity. Losing someone you love. Mist danced across my fingers and just then I knew I could stop time from flowing. I could hold Thana, death, from arriving. I had after all gotten my powers back—
“I wish…” I heard a murmur, “But do you think you can handle it?”
I couldn’t face the consequences. I couldn’t cheat Thana like I had cheated Kar. “I wish, I could remember you forever,” And here, I understood why human cherished the memories of past that cannot be touched even by me. Why they are so bent on remembering when it is best forgotten. And this couldn’t be explained. Through my tears, I saw a hand reach out—
“…welcome back,” Karma said. “Time,”