The crescendo screams as energy and matter are torn asunder. Events burn around me, drilling into the unfortunate figure that twists under the assault of battles, coronations, supernova deaths and a billion murders: history made incarnate, a thousand tornadoes of events scorching, pummelling him with their ever shifting eyes...
I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to witness this.
But then, I don’t have to be.
I crawl, dazed and breathless up my own timeline, can feel my life shifting under the pressure of my knuckles as I pull myself, hand over hand into the safety of the past. I see myself asleep, mostly, a great deal, drooling, snoring: a legacy of heavy breathing. Not attractive.
I delve deeper, into my childhood, into memories warm and fuzzy. A dozen holidays, a thousand lazy summer’s days filled with lemonade and ice cream, soaked in golden sunlight and supple blades of grass. But these aren’t memories: childhood is sacrosanct for all save history and here I can see the dark undercurrents that ebb and flow around me, for with an adult’s eyes I am able to discern the shadowed glances and evil gazes that constantly flit about my form, some not ready for me to mature, others longing for the chance. Predators and thieves in familiar forms, I know their fate and their deeds
I flinch away, revulsion a reflex, skidding across the surface, finding myself sitting upon my stool back at work, the cold stone surface of the tabletop uncomfortable against my sharp elbows. I remember this day, one year into the job, the day after I came to work after my mother died: there before me lies its helpless form, staring…
I don’t want to be here.
It’s time for a party. I’ve never been a party person… at least not one that ever got invited to any, but now I’ve got a free, all-access pass to every party everywhere, ever. Yet, even as I race off though, curling and diving through history that is collapsing around me, his screams follow me…
Royal parties, food and drink, parties with drunken lords and knights and campfires and ritual, and castles and palaces and beastial popes and orgies before eras of personal grooming, Studio 54, twisting and writhing through clouds of incense in golden temples, the floor slick with blood and skin, frosty forest glades and Beijing under firestorm: the world is a rush of colours and sounds and substances and the music, oh, the music… and…
I’ve tripped? There is music here, this room with rain that batters impatiently at the window panes and lava lamps that glow and swirl, though even by the hairstyles the men in the room wear, I can tell that these lights are out of date, kitsch, yet the man on the bed, the one we’re all standing around, seems not to care at this the height of the party, his skin marked with sores and scars and he smiles, he smiles as we, his friends, as one, pluck up a pillow and press it against his face… a mercy party, a suffocation party. A kindness, to be surrounded by your friends, to have the authorities look the other way, in this era of plague, as the corpse is carried out and through the San Francisco streets.
My soul is stilled. The rush of music has faded.
I’m so tired.
His screams still tickle my ear. Mercy. I should bring him mercy.
I fly back, skimming across my history, towards the glowing light at the end, where this once-a-hero lies twisting in pain. I try to stop, try to skid, try to anchor myself, but I’ve gone too far, and not far enough.
I’m back on my laboratory bench, on that same day.
The rabbit is warm in my grasp, its eyes wide, glossy with fear, a pounding pulse pressing against my latexed fingers. The dropper, filled with chemicals, hovers mere centimetres above its eye. History has taken my cover, stripped bare my lies: yes, I am an animal tester. But it doesn’t matter you see, all the dreams are gone, all the gods are left… nothing matters. Not even this.
Even as a droplet of the chemical, a new nail varnish, Lusty Love, falls through the air and scatters across the rabbit’s cornea and it flinches with pain, I saw something that I never noticed before, something I stopped looking for long ago.
It was there, faint, throbbing gently with each heart beat, but definitely there. Underneath the warm, white fur, was a slightly lighter glow: a wish. A hope. In this simple, terrified creature, that now screams a silent scream as I burn its eye out in the name of longer, thicker, glossier nails.
My phantom arms reach into my own arms, a decade old, and I grab the bunny, clutching it to my chest, splashing the solvent onto its twitching socket. I can feel the time streams alter around me as I run, lab coat flapping behind me as I bolt through the hall, dodging around bewildered colleagues, through the emergency fire exit and out onto the lawn. At one point I trip again, finding myself upon my knees that thud one by one onto the grass. The rabbit squirms from my arms and bolts across the grass, towards the fields that lie outside the sprawling complex. Running free.
Leaving me, ten years older and younger at the same time, blinking in the sun as an entire new history cascades around me. I tear off my lab coat and cast it to the ground; time for a change, time to follow a dream of my own.
I’m not sure whose wish it was: mine, the rabbits, or someone else’s… I’m not sure how much time there is left in the world, or if history has been utterly destroyed, a grandfather clock winding slowly down, or if everything has restarted by this small moment. All I know is that all around me I can see wishes again, hope and dreams sparking and stuttering into life, in the people, in the plants, in the fields. Had I forgotten where to look or had I just given up wanting to see? Or had I just needed a reminder that everything I touch matters?
I know only one thing: the screaming has stopped, gone with a terrific sigh that blends into the winds that gust around me.
I want to rest now, want to stretch out upon the grass and sleep, but there’s so much to do…
But isn’t that always the way?