Time Has Forgotten My Neighborhood

I wanted to write a story about a creepy fog and time stopping- I mixed them into one and I'm not 100% sure where I was going with this. I feel like there may have to be a part 2 to this in the future.

On a clear day you can see forever- from where you stand, to the end of the world. When the sun is shining, and the sky shines a bright blue, you can stand on your roof and bear witness to the entirety of the city, and even the natural formations that meet the skyline. It’s honestly surprising how beautiful a small, mid-western town can be when the circumstances are perfect.

But that, as stated, is on a clear day, when the sun is shining, and there’s nothing more than a gentle breeze dancing off the road and rustling the leaves of the nearby trees. I miss those days, those warm days that are outlined with a slight overcast, those spring days where you could feel a gentle rain as it blew in your direction, where a delightful petrichor washes up and fills your nostrils. On those days before the fog fell over the friendly town, you could comfortably enjoy the outdoors no matter what season it happened to be.

I miss those days where I could go out and greet the neighbor while I went for a walk with my dog, where I could get home, have a nice cup of coffee and sit in my living room watching daytime television to pass the time. More than all that, I miss the feeling of time passing, that sensation as you watch the seconds tick away on a clock. There was a point in my life where I never even knew that time was something you could feel internally, but now… now I know.

It would say that it’s felt like an eternity, but it hasn’t felt like anything- it hasn’t felt like a day, an hour, or even a damned second. Every single moment is the same moment, no matter how much changes around me, around the town, my mind is unable to comprehend time changing anymore. It’s a concept that I’m struggling with in my head- there is no today, tomorrow, yesterday, there is simply the right now, and nothing beyond that, nor before that for me. I can remember previous events, but my memories are all happening at the exact moment that I remember them, my plans take shape all at the same time I decide to do them.

I’ve tried everything to re-establish a flow of time, but nothing works. I’ve tried to tap my foot to a beat, but it seems that every tap occurs at the same time. I tried watching the clock to see if the second hand moved, but it was in every possible location on the face of the clock at once. I even tried to take my own pulse, to feel my heartbeat, but there was nothing. Attempting to hold my wrist and count with each beat resulted in there being no beats, and no counting. Nothing exists beyond this exact moment, and this moment is every moment at the same time.

Time not existing isn’t the only strange occurrence in my town, there have been a few other things I’ve witnessed. The first time I went outside, I noticed that there were people outside, all performing various activities, but slowly. My neighbor, Douglas, would walk out his door, go to his mailbox, open it, put a letter in, then walk back into his house. I could see him in the front window as he stepped into his living room, sat on the couch, and grabbed the remote pressing a button to, I’m assuming, turn on his television. He then turned off the tv, grabbed an envelope seemingly from nowhere, then started the cycle over again. I watched him do this at least a dozen times, the cycle never stopped, and it never faltered; he always did the same thing. I started noticing the details that may not be important, but they were never different. He always pressed the power button on the remote, then channel up 3 times. He always sat the remote at the same angle on the couch when he placed it down. The TV always showed the same clip of a dog food commercial. The letter that seemingly appears from nowhere always has the same name and address on it. He always takes the same number of steps, the same number of breaths. He blinks the same number of times.

I would say that I watched him for a long time, and it took a while to figure this all out, but as I said before, there is no time. It’s like I watched him once, and a million times all at once, and I then knew all of the details. It was like instantaneous knowledge that I had also spent years learning and understanding. Nothing I could do would stop him from his pattern, I attempted to sabotage him by locking his front door; it opened like it was never locked. I tried to hide his remote from him; when he reached for it, it was there again. I tried to smash his TV, I tried to remove his mailbox; when he went to interact with anything that I had moved, it was always where it was supposed to be, yet it was also where I had left it. Again, everything existed in multiple places simultaneously, yet it was like I had never done anything to the items he interacted with.

I had one more idea to try and break him from his pattern, the only thing I hadn’t tried to interact with was him. I stood outside of the house and watched him as the letter materialized in his hand. I watched him as he got up from the couch, and walked toward the door. He pulled the door open, and I stood there, I expected him to either notice me, or run into me. Unfortunately, it was the latter that occurred; he walked forward and ran straight into me. When he collided with my body, he didn’t stumble back, I didn’t fall or get knocked down.

When the two of us collided, something inexplicable happened. When our corporeal forms touched, I began to feel a seemingly random debilitating pain in my head. The only way I could think to explain it would be to have you place your head in a vacuum chamber- the pressure was immense. I’m not sure if the issues with time passing had anything to do with it- but I would almost say that I felt all of the pain that Douglas had ever felt in his life within a single instant that lasted an eternity. While that alone was terrifying, it ended with me seeing the end of his life, from his birth to his death. I felt the mental strain as his body shut down, I felt the pain of those around him.

When it all finally ceased, I opened my eyes and noticed that Douglas was gone. He was no longer walking along his per-determined path. Where he should have been after walking into, or I guess through me, was simply a pile of ashes. Somehow, touching me caused him to completely disintegrate. I stared in horror; had my actions murdered my neighbor? Was there something about me in this… this existence, that made me a harbinger of death? Or did I release him from this strange place, and he was now able to live his life back in reality?

I decided it wouldn’t be for the best to keep testing that theory; I had no way of knowing what happened to Douglas, and I honestly didn’t want to go through that agony again. With him being gone, I decided to go through his house and see if anything had changed. To my surprise, everything that I had moved still existed- the smashed TV, the broken remote control, the torn pieces of paper from this letter. Despite this, nothing he was interacting with was there anymore, it was as if him ceasing to exist also destroyed everything that he was able to manifest, and the mess I had created was all that existed in his memory.

I’ve also checked out other parts of my neighborhood, only to find the same thing in every house. Every single person had their cyclical routine that they would perform, and nothing I did would stop it. Miss Newton would fill her washing machine with a basket full of clothes, walk up the stairs and light a cigarette all while sitting at her kitchen table. After a single drag, she’d walk the nine steps to the basement door, go down the eleven steps and fill the machine with the same laundry. Down the way, Mr. and Mrs. Pearson seem to be looped in an argument. The entire loop plays out with them in the living room, he’s sitting in his chair and she’s standing in the doorway. The two of them are yelling at each other but the sounds that they create are certainly not human- they sounded mechanical, almost like faulty gears grinding against each other. She walks into the kitchen and smashes a plate, then he walks in and she stabs him with a shard from the plate. He falls to the ground and bleeds out, she steps over him and seems to go to the bathroom and take a shower. Like the others, this loop just keeps playing through, and I’ve watched him die more times than I could possibly count. Honestly, this is the one loop I considered stopping, I considered grabbing her and seeing if she would stop existing like Douglas did, but I can’t bring myself to do it.

I’ve honestly been to every house in the neighborhood, and I know every intricate detail of every loop with every person. What’s bothering me is, as of late, whatever that means to a timeless existence, something has been different with each of the loops. The actions are mostly the same, but there are minor shifts. I witnessed the Pearsons fighting like they had been, but when she broke the plate and attempted to stab him with it, he was too far away from her to make contact. Despite this, the ceramic piece still seemed to float and move like it had made contact, and a pool of blood still appeared on the floor. She then walked away as I expected, and Mr. Pearson continued into the kitchen. His loop played out as it should have with her no longer in the room, he grabbed his neck and fell onto the floor with Mrs. Pearson in the other room.

While these strange glitches aren’t happening every time, I am noticing one change that is seemingly more permanent. Every single one of my neighbors seems to be starting to decay. Each and every one of them seems to have changed to a grey hue, some of them have flesh that is pulling away from the bone. I’ve checked them all, and it’s the one thing that they all have in common- they’re all withering away. Their decay seems to be the only thing that is happening in time, I can’t tell how fast it’s happening, but my brain is able to comprehend that it’s not instantaneous, a stark contrast to everything else. It seems that, as I watch them play out their routines through a thousand more cycles, they seem to appear more and more disheveled, and more decomposed.

With my neighbors almost literally falling apart in front of my eyes, I’ve considered whether or not it would be merciful to touch them and turn them to dust- is it better to decay slowly, or disappear instantly? I don’t want them to suffer, but I also don’t want to do something and kill all of my neighbors if there’s even the slight possibility that this fog will lift and everything will go back to normal. I couldn’t live with myself if my actions hurt innocent people, if I had managed to do something that actually brought harm to other people that had nothing to do with the circumstances.

At this point, I’m not sure what to do. I’ve been watching them decay for what I assume has been a while. Some of the neighbors are hitting further levels of decay; some of them have greying muscle and bone exposed to the air, yet they continue to step through their routines. They continue running through their mundane tasks; doing the laundry, fighting each other, watering their lawn, and yet they are literally falling apart. I think I’m down to one last option in this situation- I have to try to get out of the neighborhood. I’m out of options; nothing else is changing, my neighbors are still fading into nothing more than corpses, and time is still in its strange flux. The only thing I haven’t checked is what’s on the other side of the fog wall that surrounds my street. It seems to surround the area in a perfect dome, almost like it’s sentient and chose to encapsulate our neighborhood. Something about the fog terrifies me, mostly because I believe that it’s what is causing these things to happen, it’s what is decaying my neighbors and causing time to not exist. If that’s true, then I have no idea what’s on the other side and I don’t even know if I’ll be able to escape. I can only hope that it’s not a solid wall, that it’s literally just a fog.

Despite my fears, despite the absolute terror that seems to be gripping on my soul… I think it’s time I find out.