Time stopped, but no one noticed. 11:59 hung like a clothesline on a breezeless day. People celebrated and drank, continued to celebrate and drink, but they didn’t get drunker and didn’t know they celebrated or care that they remainder sober. They celebrated about what had happened, but they didn’t celebrate about what was going to happen because nothing more would happen, nothing more could happen. It could only stay the same.
Mike Duchamp, in the bar’s dank corner, knew that time had stopped, because Mike had always been attuned to time. He could recognize the exact time from the moment he was born. He cried to be fed at the same minute, the same second every day. He grew up knowing where he was at every instant of life.
He never wore a watch. He didn’t foretell what would happen next, because that is impossible to know, but he could tell you when anything had already happened. He corrected history textbooks in school, with bold notes in the margin, to prevent false information from intruding into the future. So tonight, if that word could still serve, he felt the stuckness, the lack of forward unfolding.
He lifted his drink and drank it, lowered it, lifted and drank, lowered. He could keep doing this without end, would always keep doing this. Not a good thing, not a bad thing, not really a thing at all, because things can exist only in time. If there is no time, there are no things, only the shadows of things. It would always be today, but it had always been only today, even when time continued. Today is the broad moment in which you exist.
An interesting philosophical distinction, he thought. But how could he be thinking if there was no time in which to think? That was something to think about.
Did time still exist elsewhere? Could time leave and wander, be running on outside this local no-time? Mike wished he could get drunk so he wouldn’t think about it, but without time in which chemical processes change, he could not get drunk. A paradox. Lots of paradoxes. Paradoxen?
Would 11:59 extend forever? No, because without time there would be no forever. There wasn’t even now. He lifted his drink and drank, lowered it, lifted and drank, lowered it. What was he drinking? Without time, it had no flavor, and the level in the glass did not diminish. It was the same drink he had begun drinking, the same drink he would be drinking, always be drinking. Always? There was no longer always.
Before time had stopped, someone had begun a toast. “Hap…,” the syllable static in the air, unfinished. Yet the celebration went on. Celebration is somehow possible outside time? What else is possible? Since he was thinking, thought must be independent of time. Memory? He could remember the birthday parties, the anniversary of his birth flowing in annually at midnight and lasting through the day.
Space and time are one. Someone said that. Einstein said that, so the past existed without the need of continuing time. Yet Mike knew space still existed, though time had vanished. He could see space, move his hand through it, drink his unchanging way through it. The other celebrants could move their hands, their silent mouths. Unless that was illusion.
The clock behind the bar chimed.
“py New Year!” Time had returned.
For everyone but Mike Duchamp.
Mike lifted his drink and drank, lowered it, lifted and drank, lowered it, lifted and drank, lifted and drank, lifted….