• Charlie Benton

Short Story: Pause

We just ignore them, for the most part.

A Paused person is as much a part of the general backdrop of life as a building or a tree. You can't move them, you can't hurt them. They don't age. They're just there.

Some have become inadvertent traffic cones. Those that were crossing the street when it happened. Occasionally people will dress them up in colourful scarves or paint them to make them more visible. It doesn't really matter, though, because a car could plow into them at 150mph and come off worse.

They're fixed, according to scientists. Impossible to move or affect in any way. The only movement they exhibit is with the orbit and rotation of the Earth. That's lucky, I suppose, since most people would rather see their loved ones frozen in time than left behind in the darkness of space.

Wherever they were when the Pause happened, is where they stay. Those that were walking in the park have become shrines for their grieving families. Others have become oddities, like the ones who were aboard flights 37,000 feet above the Earth's surface and ripped holes in the fuselage of planes when their bodies stopped acknowledging the laws of physics. Bodies still suspended in the sky, reading cheap airport paperbacks or Skymall, wreaking havoc for Air Traffic Controllers.

I heard of one guy in New York state who Paused in the middle of his own suicide. Jumped from the top of his own apartment building and froze seven feet from the ground. Police found that he'd been a struggling actor and hadn't had a role in months, desperate for people to love him. He's a Natural Wonder now. People come and take selfies with him. I wonder if he'd like that?

As for my sister, Leah, well, she's in a similar predicament. And we can't really ignore her, since she's right outside our front door; stuck three feet in the air, a look of sheer terror on her face. She'd been helping my father hang up the Christmas lights just after Thanksgiving, and slipped backwards on the ice that had formed on our porch roof. My dad still blames himself. And yet, the Pause might have saved her life. If this ever ends, she's got a mattress to cushion her fall.

Can't sell the place, not that my mother would ever consider it. Her daughter isn't dead, see, or missing. She can see her every day, even if she doesn't talk back, and it is a little bit disturbing when I leave for work in the morning. She'll be back, one day, my mother says.

I can't help but wonder what happens when this all ends. That's the thing with a Pause, right? It's not a stop. Pause implies that at some point in the future, even if we don't know when exactly, someone will hit the Play button. Things will start moving again.

It'll probably be a day for celebration. When the millions of souls frozen in time are returned to us. My sister might be a bit surprised when she hits the mattress, but at least she'll be alive. The Falling Actor has a net all of his own, but I heard some people have been petitioning to have it removed. It's an eyesore, they say, and blocks the entrance to the building. It's not like he's ever coming down. Right? And he did want to die.

Who knows if things will ever un-Pause. My sister was three years older than me on that Thanksgiving. Now I'm a year older than her. That'll be weird when she comes back.

Anyway, I've got to go and do my chores. The leaves are falling, and we have to brush Leah down or mom gets mad. I hope she doesn't mind the leafblower.


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© 2018 by Charlie Benton

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