Twenty Seven

A flash fiction story by Brian Robinson.


I noticed that the clock on my bathroom wall had stopped precisely at one minute to three. The second hand had managed the downward descent fine, but when it reached the number nine on the upward ascent, it began to falter in a pulsating time loop. I had only just replaced the battery so I assumed my angel of a wife must have knocked it during one of her cleaning frenzies.

Naturally, I tackled her about it. But predictably, she denied ever going near it. I said, “But it’s stopped, and I’ve not long put in a new battery.”

She said, “It’s not stopped. Look, the second hand is still moving. You need to get your eyes tested.” This is another thing about my wife. I say black: she says white: I say let’s do this: she says let’s do that. I think she’s got some form of contradiction syndrome?

That’s when it hit me. Something really strange must be happening. She wasn’t seeing what I was seeing, but I couldn’t leave it at that. I had to prove it. “Can you do me a favour? Can you get your phone and take a picture of the clock. Please, do it just to humour me.” She passed me her phone and the clock in the picture read precisely three minutes past three. Time seemed to be stuck, but just for me?

Now I’m not a physicist, but I know that for time to stand still you either have to be travelling at seven times the speed of light, or you have to be standing really close to a super massive Black Hole. Standing in a bathroom looking at a clock wouldn’t cut it.

As I began reflecting on this everything began to go blurry. I lost the ability to focus and the edges of things became distorted and frayed. And as my wife walked past me, she left a trail of ghost like images in her wake. My puzzled look was lost on her.

I began to feel violently sick, so I tried to follow her, to let her know something seriously bad was happening. I tried to call out to this wave vibrating away from me, but I couldn’t.

I managed to make it to my bed, but I’m not sure if I fell asleep or simply passed out. All I remember is that moving away from the nausea felt like the first flush of a blessing. But before I could get lost in the feeling, I felt a jolt of acceleration. I was being propelled forward as if in a rocket being launched into outer space.

Several seconds later, the acceleration stopped as suddenly as it started. Darkness settled around me, and I felt relaxed again. Then I woke up. That’s it! I fell asleep, then I woke up. There was nothing in between. But that wasn’t it. Something was different. Something was drastically different so there must have been something in between.

I now understand what it feels like when you hear people talk about being abducted by aliens, but I had no recollection of that, other than the absolute feeling that everything was different, that I was different.

I was still a bit unsteady as I got out of bed. I went to look for my wife who by that time had immersed herself in the kitchen. Her back was turned to me and I immediately noticed a long set of numbers hovering above her head.

She turned and automatically followed my gaze upwards. “What? She said. “What’s the matter? What are you looking at?”

I didn’t say anything. I just continued to stare at the numbers. “Are you feeling all right? You’re muttering. You look a bit pale?”

That was when it started, and that was when the speculations began. Does everyone have a number? Why was I seeing them now? And what purpose could they possibly serve? More questions than answers.

Well, it really did turn out that everyone has a number, twenty five of them to be exact. And over the next few months I made some headway with making sense of these. The first in the sequence recorded the date of birth of the person. That became obvious. And I assumed the last in the sequence referred to a scheduled date of death. I further reasoned that some of the middle numbers must represent a personal identifier. And I speculated that other numbers must identify our planet and galaxy we live in.

Some time after that, I happened to be watching a news item covering the war in Syria. There were lots of dead people shown in the video. I noticed immediately that the number 27 had been added to each of the dead person’s numbers.

Then, the news item switched to a shot of a person not dead but dying. I saw the number 27 being added in real time, and within ten seconds that person was also dead. When you add 27 to an individual’s identification number: he dies shortly after. And perhaps more to the point, this seemed to override any scheduled time of death.

After seeing this things began to slot into place. I believed knew how to bring someone’s life to an end. You simply had to write their number down, and then add the number 27. But was I the only one who had that power? Or were there others? And what was to become of this? Was I about to change the world?

Without giving it too much thought, I could think of at least a handful of men whose death would benefit the planet. And I don’t think I would agonise too much over their demise. I’ll be honest though, I’ve always wanted to go back in time and straighten out some of the horrific events that have happened in the past. But I guess that’s not what this is about.

Have you ever heard the expression ‘l’appel du vide’. Roughly translated, it means ‘The Call of the Void’. This is where you stand near the edge of a cliff and you feel the urge to jump into the void below. That’s how I began to feel. I wrote my number down. I couldn’t stop myself: 2541999 427259 186710102072. Then I added the number 27…

Not the sort of number you want to mess with.

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