One Time at a Moment is my first completed novel.
This is how it begins...
This story is written in the first person.
The above sentence is a lie, offered for the sake of clarity.
That the twice-above sentence is a lie is true. It’s just not the lie you think it is.
Such is the way of the world.
1. Gravity And Other Mysteries
The world isn’t moving.
The pain in his shoulder is explosive. A bolt of pain, entering through the shoulder blade and rifling forward, out through the soft divot of flesh at the heart of the triangle between clavicle, cuff and pit.
He tries to see the man again. The traveler. The strange, tall, weathered man on the far corner, standing there, watching him. He wills his attention outward to search the morning. That man – bald, skin worn smooth by the sun and years of walking into the wind. Desert boots. Canvas trousers. Linen shirt. A stillness which feels like motion in this motionless world.
This motionless world of weightless waiting for whatever will happen next.
The pain, the man, and everything else.
He is aware of all three at once, but is confounded by his attention bouncing off each individually like a drunken bullet in ricochet.
His head swims in a circle under water, disoriented, searching for the way up.
Why is he the only one I see?
The pain came out of the blue, stopping his breath, stopping the world. In the space between heartbeats, in the space between the heart receiving blood and pushing it back out again, everything stopped for the pain. It is radiant, paralyzing his left arm, crippling his stride, turning his stomach, dizzying his head.
He only caught a glimpse of the man. He’s not looking at that far corner anymore – he’s not even looking that way – and he has no power to turn his head, locked in stillness as everything is. He knows he is there, the Traveler, he feels him still, but to see him he must search his imagination.
There is only to see what there is, however, frozen around him. The rust-colored Malibu headed west down Market street. The grit of the pavement, those tiny specks of pebble and cement, loose and waiting. The SEPTA bus with the Les Miserables poster on its side, filthy with dried splash and exhaust, pointed south, turning west. The voices in a language he doesn’t know. The debris – all of it – the glass and plaster and shards of blasted windowpane, scattered on the tile.
He’s not ready for the world to move again. He’s busy looking around him. He’s busy distracted, disoriented, turning his attention to every corner of its reach. He’s not ready to be falling. Motionless, he doesn’t know that he’s falling. Weightless, he doesn’t know that he weighs anything.
And so instead of him falling, the world, hinged as it is at his stumbling and worthless feet, swings up mercilessly as if suddenly sprung free, and the sidewalk crashes into his face.
He hears the bone of his brow thud the cement.
The Traveler is gone. The world is moving. Only his shoulder continues heavy, though not with pain anymore. Anymore, he is anchored by the weight of after-pain.
And he wonders what the hell is happening to him.
He begins to suffocate. His lungs do not know whether to inhale or exhale and are paralyzed by indecision.
The shortness of breath asphyxiates his mind and the world which comes rushing in – “Hey man! Look at me! Look at me!” – is quickly overcome by a raging hush of running water in a pipe. He no longer knows what he sees, his eyes outwardly blind, turning inward to panic.
This must be death.
The idea presents itself not as a sentence, but wholly formed. A certainty, as opposed to a realization.
He is on his back now. He knows this only because distantly he sees the sky and because presently he feels the cold of the Earth welcoming him, absorbing his weight, making it its own. He doesn’t know how he got to his back. He doesn’t know who is there or where they are, so far away, so distant from him as he sinks backwards, slipping backwards through the muddy cold tunnel of a grave, pressed downward, pulled downward, as if sewn to the bottom of this bottomless pit by the line through his shoulder. He falls, weightless, and falls until he no longer knows if he is falling or if he has fallen so far that to fall is to ascend.
He only knows that all of it, everything, up there, on Earth, is gone.
The sun does not rise.
Which is to say, this story is told entirely in the present tense.
And also to remind you, the only time a dream makes sense is when you are asleep.
Such is the way of the world...