Enjoy an exclusive guest post from Jason M. Light, author of “Borrowed Time, Inc.,” featured in our upcoming anthology ON TIME.
There are tunnels below the city, where downtown office workers dwell at noontime, visiting restaurants and salons, the bank or the post office, the tobacconist; muzak plays just beneath the steady drone of voices: Did you see the game last night? How’s the wife? How about this weather we’ve been having? Is that an hour gone already? Time to get back. It’s always the same.
Pictures of the city dating back to its infancy line the corridor walls, but most people never even look at them, just hurry by, casting nervous glances at their wristwatches, and I think that’s a shame. There’s a history here, almost like stepping back in time, but they’re in too big of a hurry to care. Always another meeting to catch, a meter to plug, an appointment to keep.
In one sepia-tinted photo, a boy of about five stands in front of a drug store. He is the only part of the image that isn’t blurry; literally everyone around him is moving too fast for the shutter on the camera which attempted to capture them. Steam arises from a storm drain on the curb in front of him, its clouds obscuring his feet for all time. Automobiles zip past, glinting chrome. I know the building. I’ve walked past it several times recently. It’s empty now, dusty windows decorated with crooked and yellowing FOR LEASE signs. I do the math in my head. Is the boy still alive? The picture is ninety years-old, so while it’s certainly possible, it isn’t likely.
Whenever I’m there I always stop in front of that storm drain, as if I’m recreating the photograph. Once, I remind myself and anyone who will listen, a boy stood here while the world sped around him in a literal blur. People often pass me by without so much as a glance, toting briefcases, the edges of the smart phones their eyes are glued to glinting like the chrome accents on the cars in the photo. Sometimes, they do throw confused looks my way, probably wondering why I would stand in the middle of the sidewalk in the heat by an empty storefront.
I turn around.
The reflection looks older than he really is. Perhaps it’s the dust obscuring my face, adding years. Perhaps it’s a sign, reminding me that time can get away from us if we’re not careful.
Jason M. Light is the author of the acclaimed short story “The Bear Who Swallowed the Sky” in the anthology MIDNIGHT WALK, edited by Lisa Morton. He also writes novels. He currently has short stories in print in several anthologies. He lives in Oklahoma City.
ON TIME is coming in late September 2020. Be sure to follow us on Amazon.