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The Twenty Fifth Hour
"The Twenty Fifth Hour" is a commentary on mental disorders and the hardship people go through. Sara and Cane have a hard life where no one will believe them and have taken two very different paths in life. But which is truelly the wrong one.
The cold autumn breeze whistled through the rundown city, making the swings squeak back and forth. On the center seat of the three swings, sat a teenage girl with messy copper hair who went by the name of Sara. Her light green eyes looked up at the grocery store just across the street before glancing back down at the watch on her wrist, ticking away at the time.
Five more seconds.
Dark clouds shifted in the overcast sky, a distant rumble of thunder sounded.
Three more seconds.
The corner of Sara’s lip twitched upwards as the time neared.
One second remaining.
As the second hand of her watch reached the sixty second mark and the minute hand was about to make its move, the world around her stopped. The clouds in the sky stilled and the swings beside her ceased to creak. Both swings stood still mid-swing, defying gravity. There was nothing, no sound, no movement, no life. The whole world had seemingly forgotten it’s duties and fallen to sleep in an instant. Only a few select people, like Sara remained awake. Everyday this situation occurred at the exact same time. Sara had timed this period on her watch and it always seemed to land just as the time was about to change from 3:59 to 4:00. Just like everything else no clocks worked during this time frame so she couldn’t be entirely positive exactly how long it was but she had come to assume it was approximately an hour, causing her to give it the nickname “the twenty fifth hour”. She had to assume that it was a rather rare occurrence to be able to experience it, over the past sixteen years of her life she could only recall one other person who also remained awake.
She had heard stories of other people who experienced strange abnormalities similar to this one. Many families lived in the cramped slums just outside the city of Balsa, and from these people many rumors had been spread around. They were eerily similar to Sara’s feelings towards the twenty fifth hour, but she couldn’t be positive if they were the same. The individual stories were vastly different. Some people claimed to have spoken to spirits, other’s watched the little people, a few had seen into an inanimate object’s past, there was even a rumor about a man who said he could walk down the street and end up in a whole other country. Beyond their singular belief of what was occuring to them they had all seemed mentally sound. Sara knew she could only take the rumors with a grain of salt however they all seemed strangely similar to each other. There was another similarity between them. When the rumors of a person got a little too loud one of two things always ended up happening. Either they end up being taken to a mental hospital with “paranoid schizophrenia” or they end up going mad and killing themselves. Sara found herself to be slightly different in that light however. With no one to tell about her ability no rumors ever spread and thus no one ever came to take her away. Then on the other side of the spectrum she quite enjoyed her ability to live in a time void of all life. She had no desire to end herself over something so pitiful. With no one watching your actions, one could do anything they please. It was freedom, not a curse.
Sara stood up from the swing. Much like the others, the object stilled the moment she lost contact with it. She slowly made her way across the road to grocery store. The doors to the shop were wide open with a man frozen midway between them. She slid the backpack off her left shoulder as she began wandering through the store, gathering an assortment of food. She grabbed mostly non-perishable items that were easy to make or could be eaten right out of the packaging. She didn’t like having to work too hard for her meal. She checked over the food she had taken. A few bottles of water, soups, canned vegetables, bread, crackers, peanut butter, and packaged snacks. It was about as fancy of food as she could manage to actually make with only a pot over fire and a few cooking utensils. She hoped it would be enough to last for a while. It was one of the only stores that was close enough to walk to without it wasting the whole hour thus she had to be very careful not to make anyone panic. If the store owners started realizing their stock was vanishing between frames on camera then they might end up investigating. Although Sara highly doubted they’d discover her secret, she worried that they might jump to some paranormal conclusion and move buildings. To further avoid suspicion Sara stole from carts whenever she could to keep things less noticeable, however people don’t always want the same things she does.
The copper-haired female decided she had taken enough and made her exit. She walked down the still street, looking down the several street she came across. They were completely still like always, however something still didn’t quite feel right.
Sara shrugged off the uncomfortable feeling and walked down the road. She needed to safely store everything at her home before the hour ended and people saw her. She didn’t want anyone to be suspicious of her activities.
Sara had barely walked three blocks when she noticed a large box in one of the back alleys had something small poking out of it. Sara felt heartbroken when she realized she was looking at a pair of sisters, about ten and six years of age. Even though they were frozen Sara could tell they were hungry and cold. Their clothing and skin weren’t nearly as dirty as her own, but she could tell that they had been out on the streets for at least a couple days. She looked around wondering where their mother was, or if you even had a mother. It wasn’t completely abnormal for parents to abandon their children for a short while to go to work. However there was still the chance they simply didn’t have any parents with them. After all Sara was about their age when she lost her family.
She slipped her bag off her shoulder and placed her loaf of bread and the jar of peanut butter in their laps. She then leaned forward and their hair back and kissed the two little girl’s on the foreheads.
“Please stay safe and take care of eachother.” She whispered.
She knew their deafened ears could not hear her request but she still had to say it. She closed her bag and stood up again. Her footsteps echoed through the silent alley as she stepped back out into the main street.
“Sara! There you are!” A loud voice called out.
Sara’s tensed for a moment before her shoulders dropped slightly. She now remembered what it was that she had forgotten. The only other person who lived in the twenty fifth hour that she has met in the general area of the slums she stayed in.
“Cane… How wonderful. You were so late I was beginning to wonder why today felt like such a good day,” Sara said in a sarcastic tone.
The sandy blond-haired boy huffed as he approached.
“Well sorry, unlike someone I don't watch the time down to the second,” Cane said, gesturing towards the watch that rested on Sara's left wrist.
The older girl shrugged as she turned to walk away. Cane trotted forward trying to keep pace with her long strides.
“Well that's because your version of productivity during the this hour is wandering around yelling at me like some mother hen,” Sara complained.
“I wouldn't have to if you’d stop using this hour for criminal activity and did what any normal person would do. You know like getting a job,” Cane argued.
Sara turned to look into the shorter boy's hazel eyes.
“I'm a sixteen-year-old street rat. What person in their right mind would would hire someone like me?” Sara asked.
“Well I'm sure someone would.” Cane replied confidently.
“Look, Cane, I admire how innocent you are, but get this through your head. This world isn't a good place so the people aren't good. That means when the world is unfair, then there is no reason for people like me to play fair,” Sara hissed.
“The world would be more fair if you trusted in it a bit more.” Cane insisted.
Sara tsked under her breath. “I didn't choose to be homeless Cane, I'm here because I got lost and no one ever came to look for me. Don't you see, Cane, the world isn't fair to you either. Your father might have chosen to leave you but you didn't choose to be fatherless.” Sara replied.
“But it doesn't have to be that way, come back with me. I'm sure my mom would take you in,” Cane pleaded.
Sara turned away and continued walking again, her hands flying out in exasperation.
“Oh, sure. I can see it now. 'Hey mom this is some random girl I met on the streets. I talk to her during this weird hour where everyone else in the world is frozen. Can we take her in so she stops robbing the grocery store every Wednesday?’ Yeah, that will totally work,” Sara grumbled pessimistically.
“Sara… I’m worried about you. I want to take care of you. That’s what friends do, right?” Cane said, his voice taking a more gentle tone.
Sara’s steps faltered.
“Friends? What makes you thinks we are friends? I can barely tolerate you,” she said, her voice shook slightly with emotion as if she didn’t even believe what she was saying.
The copper-haired girl drew further away from the boy.
“Sara, don’t walk away from me!” Cane yelled after her.
The girl continued to pay him no mind. She walked in a steady pace. Her trembling hands were clenched into fists at her sides.
“Sara, if you don’t stop I’ll call the police on you. I’ll tell them about all of the things you have stolen,” Cane threatened.
Sara turned to look at him. He looked so desperate. His tear filled hazel eyes met her light green ones. A small smirk crossed her lips just before a soft laughter began to fill the silent street.
“Go ahead and tell them. Be sure to tell them all about this magical hour were I steal everything and don’t get caught on camera. Like anyone would ever believe you. You’d be just like every other paranoid man on the street who complains a little too late and gets dragged away to a mental institution. Sorry to burst your bubble Mr. Sunshine but if I go down, you’ll inevitably go down with me,” Sara replied with a small hum of amusement.
A look of defeat and horror crossed Cane’s face as Sara’s words sunk in. He stopped calling for Sara. He didn’t utter a single word.
Sara waited a moment to see if he’d spring back up with another optimistic idea, but he didn’t. He just stood there, with his head hanging low.
She decided it was time to take her leave and returned to her home in the abandoned house, a street away from the that one she had been walking on. Guilt tugged in her chest for leaving Cane so obviously upset and hurt, but she knew she’d see him the following day. He’d be fine in a day; he always was.
She crawled through the boarded up door into the condemned home and placed her new food beside what was left of previous week’s bounty. She didn’t feel like eating at the moment. Her stomach was too knotted with guilt to even think of food. She really did care about Cane, but she couldn’t let him care about her. She didn’t want him to end up like herself.
Sara curled up on the hard dusty floor and pulled the thin fleece blanket further over her shoulder.
The next day, Sara stepped out of the small building into the cold mist of rain. As she looked up at the sky she thought of how awful the weather had been the past few days. She hoped that the children she had found the previous day were doing alright in weather like that. Rain, like that, could chill a person straight to the bone and cause them to become sick. They were probably also rather miserable because they had so little shelter. Perhaps she could get something at the store to cheer them up.
Sara did hate the rain, however she did appreciate the fact that it helped to clean her a little when she didn’t have the chance to find a place to wash herself.
Sara glanced down at her watch again, noticing that it read: 3:58. She’d end up arriving at the store a little later than when the hour started but she didn’t truly care that much just then. With it raining like it was she didn’t tend to go out of her house. Like everything else the rain froze in mid air. When she walked in the rain, it tended to feel more like she was swimming.
As she had previously decided, she made her way to the once again frozen store and grabbed two items, an umbrella and a small box of cookies. She had hoped it would keep those children happy.
She walked to the back alley where she had seen them before. However this time she only found the box. It was waterlogged and destroyed. She looked around but there was no sign of the two of them. Her heart sank slightly. she wondered where they were, and hoped that they were somewhere safe, with someone who could take care of them. She had seen too many children put into juvenile hall simply for being on the streets.
Sara begrudgingly made her way back to the store, using the umbrella as a battering ram to get the rain out of her way so she didn’t have to become more soaked than she already was.
When the copper-haired girl came back into the view of the store she heard the squeal of a swing. She looked over to find Cane sitting on the left of the three swings. His head was facing downwards with is his wet hair dangling limply in his face.
Sara slipped a nail through the packaging of the cookie box to break the seal as she walked over to the seemingly depressed boy.
“Cookie?” she asked, offering him the opened box.
The boy looked at the food for a moment and then looked away.
“Those were stolen.” he muttered.
“So?” she asked plopping down in the swing beside him.
She let the umbrella hover beside her, frozen in time. She then took one of the cookied and began eating it, the box now residing in her lap.
“What’s up with you? You look all gloomy.” Sara said with a slight concern.
Sara was slightly taken aback by the question. She couldn’t understand what was going through that boy’s head.
“Why do you ask? Are you having some sort of existential crisis at the age of fifteen?” She asked, raising an eyebrow.
“I don’t know what’s real anymore Sara,” he whispered, his voice trembling.
“I don’t know what you mean, Cane. What are you talking about?”
“This! Is any of this real? Am I really insane? Maybe I do belong in a mental institution. I don’t even know at this point. Does the twenty fifth hour even really exist? Why do I never see you outside of the twenty fifth hour. Why does no one else know you? Are you even a real person or a figment of my imagination? Maybe I really have gone insane. I’m so confused. Sara, please, help me,” the blond-haired male pleaded.
Sara let out a sigh and looked out at the cold, dreary world around them.
“Even if I told you it was real, you wouldn’t believe me. This is something you have to convince yourself of the answer to,” Sara replied leaning back.
She knew the twenty fifth hour was real. It was the time of day she got the most done. If it weren’t real everything she did or stole would vanish when the world woke up. It was because that time was real that she had survived all these year.
The slightly younger boy stood up and began to walk away.
“Cane?” Sara asked worriedly.
“I need to be alone,” he replied in a dull, lifeless voice.
Sara watched Cane slowly slip away like a leaf on the wind. She didn’t even try to reach out to grab him while he was in need. The box of cookies in her lap tumbled to the ground and her hand found the umbrella’s handle and moved it over her head. She proceeded to sit there waiting in the park until long after the rain had started pouring again.
It had been four days since she had seen Cane. She didn’t know why he wouldn’t visit her. Perhaps he was still upset? Maybe he had caught a cold from being out in the rain? She couldn’t tell. She had looked for Cane every day since their conversation in the park four days prior.
Her current sweep of the area had brought her to outskirts of their rundown neighborhood. She just happened to be passing the graveyard when she heard something that shattered her reality.
“Today we are gathered here to commemorate the life of Cane Watson, who lost his life far too early.”
Sara approached the nearby group in black, praying that the boy’s name name was coincidentally the same as her friend’s. Her prayers were not answered. Sitting there in a wreath beside a closed coffin was a picture of the only person in her life who had actually cared about her.
“Why did my baby take his life? I don’t understand. he was so happy one day, the next he’s gloomy, then on the third, there was a suicide note and he was gone. I don’t understand why he was so confused or what the twenty fifth hour he kept mentioning was,” a woman, who appeared to be his mother, wept.
Much to her luck, time froze just as she fell to her knees, tears streaming down her face. She crawled her way over to the coffin side and pressed herself to the cool, smooth surface.
“T-this isn’t you, right Cane? You just have a twin brother or something that you used the name of because you were afraid of me, right? Come on, you wouldn’t do this. There is no way you’d kill yourself. You couldn’t have. you’re not that much of a coward, are you?” Sara’s jaw trembled and her eyes burned with tears. “You said you were going to bug me until I stopped stealing, didn’t you? How could you be so cruel and just leave me like this? You didn’t even give me a warning or try to talk to me. Why? Why is the world so unfair? I don’t understand this. I hate this. Fate hates me! Please come back to me, say this was all a hoax. I’d do anything to get you back. Please Cane, please, don’t leave me. I need you Cane. You… You were my only friend.”
A series of changing emotions shifted through her in confusing patterns. She couldn’t tell if she was more angry about Cane for dying or herself for not being there for him. She felt like her heart was shattering but she also felt empty and cold.
Tears fell down Sara’s face and made gentle plotting sounds as they hit the top of the casket. It started as a silent trickle of tears down her cheeks, but with time she began to let out loud wails. She didn’t want to hold back, after all, there was no one left in the twenty fifth hour who could see her now. She continued to cry until she felt as though she couldn’t shed a single more tear. Then she shakily stood up, holding her arms tightly as she looked back down at the casket.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t save you Cane. This is all my fault. I hope you can rest in peace now.”
The copper-haired girl turned away and began walking back into town, not wanting Cane’s family to see her when the hour was over. Sara’s head hung low as she walked down the street. That is when she heard it. She heard a distinct sound of someone crying.
Her feet drummed against the concrete pavement as she ran towards the sound. When she arrived she found a small boy, approximately four years of age, standing in the middle of the street crying.
The child seemed so weak and so alone. Looking upon the boy the only thing she could see was Cane, sitting on the swing, that desperate look plastered on his face. Sara didn’t even take a second to think before immediately moving to comfort the small child.
“What’s wrong?” She asked, kneeling down to his level.
“I-I woke up f-from my nap. But I.. I-I can’t wake up mommy and d-daddy,” he replied through hiccuping sobs.
She reached out and ruffled the boy’s hair a bit before pulling him in to a hug.
“Shhh, it’s okay honey. Everything is going to be fine. You are just a very special kid with a very special and secret ability. You get a little bit of extra time in the day, but everyone else is too tired and needs to take a nap. They will wake up very soon and they’ll be perfectly fine. It’s completely normal so please don’t be afraid. You have a very rare but beautiful gift that others don’t get the chance to experience,” she reassured him.
When she spoke she said all of the words she wished she had said to Cane. If she had just told him everything was real and that he wasn’t crazy, perhaps she wouldn’t have lost him.
She looked down at the child, who seemed to be calming down a little, and gave a small smile. Comforting this child set something off within her. She realized there was something she could do to better people’s lives.
“Where do you live, Honey? I’ll take you home,” Sara said holding out her hand to the small child.
The boy slowly began to lead her down the road towards his house.
“I will sit with you until right before your parents wake up,” she told him. “If you want I can come back everyday to check up on you. I don’t want you to have to feel alone or afraid ever again.”
She pulled the boy closer to her side as she spoke giving him a slight hug. She couldn’t believe how long it had taken her to realize how alone and afraid she was. How alone and afraid Cane had been. She hated that realization. If she could help it, she’d make sure that no one ever had to feel alone and afraid again.