Written by: Mark Figueroa
Frank N. Cadence was stressed. His meter was running low. The liquid in the glass vial flickered. His heart skipped with each belch in the phial. He could hear the rhythm of his soul catching up to his age. Long ago, Frank Cadence was born a twin. He was teased, but loved. The kind of love that prevents a child from straying too far from Mom, and blindly complying with Dad. His twin, Bill Cadence, was the opposite. The world was his oyster and Bill was its pearl. So much so, that Bill caught the eye of a particular entity. A small little man who spoke in threes.
“Yes, yes, yes, Bill. This is indeed true. I’m a friend. I’m a friend. I’m a friend, to them,” the little man said, pointing at nothing. “And, you,” he declared, extending his palm. Bill’s curiosity tingled, his breaths shallowed and his heart thumped. He took a knee.
“Me?” Bill asked, welcoming the Little Man into his life with a handshake. He looked down at their clasped hands and grinned. The Little Man nodded.
“Yes, Bill. This. This. This is my friend Theodore, or shall I say, Ted. We are celebrating,” The Little Man said, grinning and chuckling. His odd movements were jerky, contorted and hideous. The Little Man himself simply was. As though he had always been. “Manners. Manners. Manners. I am,” the Little Man turned to his friend Ted. Ted smirked. His eyes were like marbles that light couldn’t touch. He moved like skin wrapped around air. Bill loved every moment of it. “Caleb,” the Little Man said, introducing himself.
“What are we celebrating, Caleb?” Bill asked, his curiosity blinding him to Ted’s foraging. Caleb giggled, clapping his little hands, then adjusting his little top hat. Caleb’s mouth stretched across his face. His smile made Bill hesitate. Bill glanced at Ted, who inhaled a light blue mist from a fresh corpse. That was the day Bill lost his innocence. That story is for another time. This story is about Frank.
The day Bill lost his innocence, Frank found his courage. Bill returned from wherever he went even more fearless than usual. “You want to play a game, Frank?” Bill asked, his eyes missing something. It was like he was out of focus, but perfectly clear. Frank waved his brother on. He pulled something out of his pocket. A little red vial. Frank cringed, holding back his urine. He tried not to cry. Frank had no idea why this vial made him feel so scared, but he knew he had to have it.
“What is it?” Frank asked his twin.
“Time,” Bill said, chuckling. His laughs were low and empty. Bill swung the glass container in the air. “Did you know you can take it? – Time, I mean. You can take it from people. We all can… But, my friend-“
Something in the way Bill said “my friend” turned Frank’s stomach. He definitely had to have the vial now. Even a chicken like him knew how valuable something so unholy could be. He just didn’t understand what it’s value was until much later. “What do you mean?” Frank asked, his knees shaking.
“—–! Ted! Mr. —–!” Bill shouted. Fran felt the name he couldn’t hear was evil. Primal. Ancient. He could feel the absence of sound when Bill uttered the entity’s name. Frank saw a tall, lanky man with wild hair. He avoided Ted’s face and tried not to look around the room. He could feel the sinister presence of the nameless one. Frank leapt into the air when he heard stomping and clapping in threes. “Show him how, Ted!” Bill wailed.
Ted pulled a long knife from his pocket.
“Boys! What’s going on in there?” Their father shouted, while Ted tiptoed into the living room. “Don’t make me–Jesus Chri–No!-Wa–Wa– Ah! — Ah! — Ple– Ba–!” There was a loud thud. Their mother scrambled into the living room and let out a blood curdling scream. A slap shook the house. Bill bit his lips, anxious and excited. His fists quivered. His glossy wide eyes gazed at Frank.
“Let’s go outside. Ted likes to play with women before he eats them,” Bill whispered, devoid of emotion.
Thank was the last thing Frank remembered. When he came to, red ants were gnawing at his back while his house burned down. The red vial was on a string wrapped around his neck. He could feel it. Time. Flowing into him. He was supposed to die in that fire. Bill’s time whispered from the phial. Bill had crossed a line he knew was wrong, or so Bill’s time explained. Memories flickered in Frank’s mind. He lived, felt and learned everything his brother and parents had experienced. He couldn’t see the nameless darkness, but he could hear its voice in the whispers.
No bodies were uncovered when the police arrived. Frank went on to live with his aunt. Testing the laws of the vial and taking time from small creatures. At first, he took time from crickets by feeding them to his cousin’s pet frog. Frogs’ times held little emotion and experience. Frank graduated to squirrels, birds, cats, dogs and eventually people. He would volunteer at nursing homes and hospitals. Taking time at his convenience. The times of “Supernovas” were the best. Their time was filled with sharp emotions, heavy passion and diverse experiences.
It’s been 40 years since his great, great grandchild died. There was nothing left for Frank, except time.
Now, Frank stands there. Clutching his fading time. Absently chasing new life like a moth drawn to the light.