Carolyn L Burke
In the same way no two people agree on everything, no two clocks march to the same beat.
Once, the stars could be seen to be moving farther apart, where the scale of mountain erosion was comparatively slow. Such time had ceased to be meaningful as the world created by watching observers relativistically sped up. Geometric growth had its advantages--as an antidote to the static feeling of progress and change for those jaded by a linear approach to curiosity. But as this velocity became an acceleration, becoming geometric, earning a potential logarithmic future, galactic time slowed. The heavens, once a bright, vibrant and alluring clockwork, were no longer a series of temporal gateposts for the aware. And with contralto echoes of amusement, spideric voices could be heard, if listeners could still have listened, greeting each other out of time.
What did bugs circle around before they had porchlights?
I brushed the bug away as it aimed for the glowing luminescence of the light. My sudden noticing of the digital watch brought to mind a time without such progressive timepieces.
My parents would talk about the days when television was a radio perched high upon the bureau, with all the neighbors gathering each evening to listen. The new mantleclock, state of the art, chattered noisily through all the comedic monologues, hushing only for news.
That clock announced for all to notice that time was present. Its ticking complemented the internal rhythms of the staticy voices, a necessary ingredient for the enthrallment. With the sign off, leaving only the wooden planks of the porch railing and each other, the group would disperse mumbling about what time took away. The clock stoically endured the responsibility for their dimly encroaching awareness of tomorrow's routines, where the radio was a forgotten pleasure dream.
Time is constructed, it seems, of those unaware moments of relaxation and escape, where each moment is strung on an infinite cord in one linear row or column of life, and where each person strives to wrap that cord tightly around their fragile neck as a safety line for when they jump. And for a few, those with the nerve to stare directly into the eyes of their own self-worth, time stands still.
I glimpsed the bug hovering near the crystal again. I shewed it away with a Wittgensteinian flourish.
My mind wandered back to my sister. It had been a hot day and the two of us had hidden in the basement, cooling our imaginations. A spider was crawling up the wall. It was one of those compact tiger spiders that always stuck to the screen door in the summer. They would jump whole inches at a time if you bothered them. And this one had a fascination for the cheap gold-chromed wall clock.
It was climbing right up to the clock's rim, its bumpy edge a remnant of the chromed coronal spiking my mother had disallowed as too tacky. In it went. We giggled as little girls often do, as we created a wonderous magical temple of a spider city occupied once again by its goddess.
Time ticked. And yet, it seemed to us that in no time at all the clock started convulsing, every third tick louder, more staccato. The second hand moved counter to clockwise, sucking back the future, returning the day to its source. The spider never emerged, but the clock's burdens were gone from its twelve humped shoulders. How often will the ghost in the machine be a spider? How often is the future merely yesterday's regurgitation of last year?
Most of my memories in time are of my childhood, my family. In the present, I let the bugs wear my watch, where they beat the milliseconds out with wings, where the nano-ants continue the count with no end. I let the bugs remember.
I remember that back then, amongst the minute men, I used time to look the other way. Always in a hurry to be on time, in time for a scheduled and measured period of interaction, counting the minutes as hours in the glow of impassioned and well-orderd mindlessness--the endless variety of timed wastes continued on, as if suggested to all of us subliminally by a forgotten spirit, tired, subconscious and hungry to consume meaning. Yes, my family knew the value of a second.
In the glow of my watch, I can still hear the radio-static wing-beats of my life.
There was a time when all events happened eternally. They occurred sequentially, I'm sure, and yet no record was kept, no attempt to glean ordering, to create history. I glance at my watch. I glance away again. Maybe next year I will be able to remember the bugs again.
Carolyn L Burke (firstname.lastname@example.org) was featured in A Day in the Life Of Cyberspace thanks to the diary she posts to the Web. Her first Internet publication was in InterText.
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 1 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 Carolyn L Burke.