The line to speak with Second Forty-two seemed an eternity, but Moment waited patiently until it was finally his turn. Forty-two spared him only the briefest glance.
“What can I help you with?” she asked, noticeably taking in the lengthy line behind Moment.
“Well, as you know, our time is coming,” said Moment. Forty-two nodded, not dignifying the obvious with a response. Moment needed to get to the point. “I’m not ready,” he admitted. There. He’d said it.
Forty-two nodded, and her answer seemed well practiced. “It’s a natural response,” she said. “You’ll be fine.”
She was already signalling for the next in line. Moment stayed put.
“I won’t show up,” he said.
All whispers, coughs and shuffles went mute. Forty-two gaped at him, nonplussed. “Of course you’ll show up,” she said at last. “What you’re feeling is natural. We all feel it. Our time is coming soon and that’ll be it. Moments feel like this all the time.”
“Do moments not show up?” asked Moment.
“Never,” said Forty-two, but she didn’t look sure.
“Well, I’ll be the first,” said Moment. “I’m not ready, and I’m requesting a transfer.”
“I – I suppose I could talk with Forty-three about swapping,” said Forty-two.
“No, even farther away,” said Moment. “A different day.”
Second Forty-two balked. “What kind of authority do you think I have?” she scoffed. “I might be able to take this to Minute Nineteen, but I’ve never even seen an Hour, let alone a Day. How do you even have a concept of such movement?”
“I’ll see what I can do,” said Forty-two.
Minute Nineteen’s office was far less hectic than Forty-two’s, and she was ushered in without much of a wait.
“How are your preparations, Second?” asked Minute Nineteen.
“They were fine,” said Forty-two, “until one of my Moments informed me that he isn’t ready and won’t show up. He’s requested a transfer to another day.”
“Why, that’s unheard of,” exclaimed Nineteen. “We can’t go missing a Moment.”
“I know,” agreed Forty-two. “I wasn’t sure what to do.”
“I’ll talk to Hour Eleven,” said Nineteen.
And he did, straight away. Eleven went marching to Day Three Hundred and Twenty-two’s office, and barged in without knocking. Nineteen was in tow, gazing around in wonder at the opulence of the wide office with its incredible view and comfortable seating. The only ones who had it easier than Days, with their teams of twenty-four, were weeks. There were even rumors that in the Week Branch, the duties had been further split, rather unfairly, with some having only two Days to manage while others took five and others seven.
Day Three Hundred and Twenty-two laughed when he heard their tale. “What a gutsy little Moment,” he said. “I’ll check with my managers.”
Minute Nineteen so wanted to ask about Three Hundred and Twenty-two’s multiple managers, but Eleven agreed quickly and rushed out, forcing Nineteen to follow.
Moment was summoned from the buzzing lobby of the ground floor. It had been quite the wait, but he didn’t mind. The elevator up to the Week suites was long and slow, and Moment felt out of sorts being separated for the first time from the bustle of Moment City. The cool, lofty Week suites were quiet and roomy, and lacked the sense of urgency that reigned below. Week Forty-six greeted Moment personally and escorted him to her office.
“I understand you are a Moment in my Day Three Hundred and Twenty-two’s Hour Eleven,” she said.
“I suppose so,” said Moment.
“And you have threatened not to show up,” continued Forty-six.
“I’m not ready,” said Moment.
“Well, all I’ve ever known is my potential,” said Moment.
“That is true for all of us,” agreed Forty-six. “Even Weeks.”
“Once our time comes,” said Moment, “that’s it. It’s over. No more potential. No more fluctuating possibilities. When my time has come and gone, I’ll be… fixed in place. The same. Forever.”
“That’s our nature,” agreed Forty-six.
“Is it?” challenged Moment. “I admit I don’t know much about how this all fits together,” he added, realizing the rude manner in which he’d just addressed a Week. “How can it be that I’m the first Moment to request a transfer?” he asked in a more respectful tone. “I don’t want it to be my time yet. I don’t want to become fixed.”
“Your fear is natural,” said Forty-six. “I share it, too. But we can’t have a Moment just not showing up. We also can’t have a moment out of sequence. As a Moment, you only see the possibilities of how your single Moment will take form. Your poor Second is coordinating a million such Moments to take place within her time. She needs you each to become, in sequence, or she will be stuck forever as the Second with a Moment missing. You don’t want that, do you?”
Moment wasn’t sure.
“The same consideration needs to be extended to your Minute,” continued Forty-six. “And your Hour and Day. And to me. Were I to move you to a different Day’s team, as you’ve requested, I would be the Week with a Moment out of place. That is how I would be, forever.”
Moment hadn’t considered that.
“The repercussions would be felt by all of us. Think of our Month, who is already begun, believing that all is well. And our Year, whose work is nearly finished. Think of our Century. Our Era. Our Millenia.”
Moment had no concept of these things, and shrugged. “I’m not ready to be stuck for all time,” he said.
Week Forty-six considered him for a while, and made a call.
The elevator ride was unimaginably long, and Moment gasped in awe at the view when the doors slid open.
“Welcome, Moment, I’m an Eon.”
“Are you going to make me stay in place?” asked Moment.
“I’ve already begun,” said Eon. “I’m going to help you understand becoming.”
Moment stepped up to the view. “Does it hurt?” he asked. “You know, being set. No longer having possibilities.”
“You report to Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks…” said Eon. “These structures have been placed upon us, but truly, we are all made up of you. Moments. I am not so restricted as your immediate superiors. For me, these structures no longer exist. They may have, once, but now… if you’re going to mourn one Moment’s passing, then mourn them all. For each Moment is unique to its neighbor and should be cherished, not hoarded. Once I thought of Seconds, and counted Minutes. Then it was Years and Millenia that interested me. Then, as I aged, as I grew into being, as you will soon, I learned about perception. To answer your question, yes. There will be pain. And joy. And every other thing you can imagine. There always is in transformation. That’s no reason to fear it, or hide from it.”
“What if I don’t like how the possibilities are taking shape?” asked Moment.
Eon chuckled. “Which possibilities would those be, little Moment? You span across all creation.”
“There is a tree frog whose fate concerns me,” said Moment. “A love that is about to be spoken aloud between two people who don’t yet understand how well they compliment each other, but I’m afraid it will not be in my time. There is a leaf whose hue is nearly perfect, and…”
Eon’s chuckle grew to laughter, and Moment fell silent. With a nod, Moment entered again into the elevator and pressed the button for the bottom floor.
“Thank you,” he said.
“Have I helped?” asked Eon.
Moment smiled sheepishly. “I’ve seen quite a view,” he said, “and I found myself explaining the worries of a moment to an Eon.” He smiled. “If nothing else, I have that.”
“I look forward to adding you soon,” said Eon. “I will look for that tree frog. I do hope your lovers choose you to find their voices.”
“Thank you,” said Moment, and the doors slid shut.
When Moment’s time came, a tree frog was leaping. The thrill of the leap was far more than Moment had prepared for and he gasped as it resonated through him in unending excitation. A woman was saying the word, “love.” Her lover’s heart was mid-swell and Moment felt he could burst from happiness. A leaf exulted in its use of the sun’s light, its brilliant color exquisite. Moment was everywhere, everyone, everything. It was tremendous. It was so much more than he could have guessed. And though he was one, just a tiny moment among millions, he felt the others pressed against him. Interwoven. Together. Perfect. Now.
Written by W. C. McClure http://www.wcmcclure.com. This short story may be shared (and please do); just please be sure to share it in its entirety, unaltered (and including this fine print), with credit given to W. C. McClure. Comments are welcome at http://www.farsideofdreams.com. Oh, and if you want to show your support, tell your friends about this short story blog – and pick up a book by W. C. McClure. Thanks!