5:42… 5:42… 12 minutes after I wake up. Time stops after 12 minutes and I end up dead… why?
When I die, everything repeats itself… unless it doesn’t.
Fuyu took note of the clock at 5:31pm and then raced down to the main lobby. She stopped dead center in its vast expanse. Something about its ambience gripped her deep within her core. The walls faded and her mind levitated from her body; but she could still feel every touch… every sensation. The world appeared as though she was standing in the middle of an ocean with its waves gently rocking back and forth; as if swaying her body ever so slightly. Bit by bit its motion grew on her like an infection. A tiny little inception that brought her to believe her world was off balanced. Till suddenly, she came crashing down.
She stared up into the ceiling. Admiring a glow just beyond her reach like a child gazing at the stars in the night sky. For a moment, she remembered her few years back in elementary school just before her family left to Korea, when she would spend her time counting how many cherry blossom pedals would fall off the trees that lined the back of the playground. It was an impossible feat but by some means, she managed to keep going. With every gust of wind, the pedals would just come falling and she would have to keep counting again and again and again. Somehow, she never seemed to get tired of it. She could almost feel that cool spring breeze blow across her cheeks as she sat underneath the tree. That same mellow wisp of air that whistled ever so gently as it tickled her ear with each passing. Everything felt so real, so vivid, as if she was actually sitting in that same playground from all those years ago. Everything… except for one thing. There was someone with her. Someone was always with her; but for some reason she couldn’t quite remember who she was…
The memory began to fade and when she came to, she was looking straight up at the ceiling light. She laid with her arms and legs fanned out across the lobby floor. As she eased her way back upright, she faced directly towards the wall that was supposed to be covered in polaroid films. She was not surprised to see it completely empty.
Her guess was correct.
She’s not repeating at all. Things are only happening once. Both at the same time, and not. Either she’s doing that action, or that action that she did or will do, is happening to her.
The fact that she’s already encountered the photos means she won’t encounter them again. Not until she’s the one putting them there.
“Shit!” she suddenly cried out in angst, “how long has it been?”
The only clock she’d come across in the entire school was the one hanging in room 6-2. Certainly not a coincidence. She gunned for the classroom and darted straight through the doorway. As she peered up at the clock it read 5:41pm. Before she could even blink, the minute hand shifted. It was now 5:42pm exact. Death was now creeping to her doorstep.
The clock was frozen in time as not even the second hand made a budge. She counted to sixty but not a single shift was made. Time was stuck in place.
She climbed on top of a desk and yanked the clock off the wall. Turning it over she found a small knob, and upon twisting it, attempted to readjust the clock back to 5:30pm. However, with the clock still unwilling to move everything seemed pointless. She wasn’t anything of an expert in clock making but something about the device tickled her curiosity. The design felt unusual to her. No wires in the wall. No batteries connected to the back. A peculiar sense of lightness to its weight. She climbed down off the desk and continued to smash the clock on the floor. She persisted to rip it apart in both a fit of frustration and inquisitiveness. As she forced it open, she was surprised to find the inside of the clock empty. No wires or circuitry at all.
The anomaly struck her. It was as if time alone didn’t stop, but perhaps to a certain degree… so did reality.
Once again, she stood in front of class 6-2.
She couldn’t leave this location no matter how many times she struggled to walk away because there was nowhere else to go. She would always end up right back here. 12 minutes had passed. Time had ceased to continue. And on the face of it, reality ceased to manifest itself. She was trapped in this classroom. Stuck in this one moment of time.
Jumping out the window again was always an option… but maybe that’s where she went wrong.
A simple message but with the most misunderstood meaning. She contemplated. Perhaps she should heed its message once and for all. Thus, she returned to her seat and sat down. Staying put with one simple objective. To never leave the classroom.
Fuyu sat there endlessly. Never once leaving her seat. Her sense of time lost to ambiguity. Hours, days… it was all one and the same. All of it meant nothing.
Passing in and out of consciousness, she began to grow weak. Her endurance had begun to fail her. Perhaps, so did her sanity.
She woke with an obscure figure hawking over her. Her reflexes subsided as she was too weak to even budge. She couldn’t even fix her lips to utter a single word.
A sudden bright flash felt as though it’d ripped through her pupils. Her head throbbed and she struggled to remain conscious. Did someone just take a picture? She questioned to herself.
With the bit of sight she had left, she watched the figure make its way out of the classroom. Its shape seemed female. Her attire almost resembling a kimono. She attempted to call out to the person but only a faint gasp of air escaped. Unable to hold on, she passed back out.
She woke for what seemed to be the last time. A single tear slipped from her eye before she collapsed out of her chair. From where she laid across the floor, she could see the night sky dazzling just up above. A wave of sorrow struck her as she made a tearful plea. “Okaa-san… help me…
The stars in the sky began to drift off and all that was left was a vast expanse of blackness.