Just like that, the entire world froze, every single person on Earth, all except for Matthew Harris, a brilliant, young software engineer student in enemy occupied Colorado. At first, it's all fun and games as he takes advantage of what appears to be an incredible opportunity to act without consequence, but as the weeks wear on, he begins to wonder if this is going to be his new reality. There's something off about all of this, though...He just has to figure out what it is.
I came to the barracks on the east side of town with one set of intentions in mind, but halfway there I discovered I didn’t have the stomach, or the heart, to go through with it all. The Europeans are ruthless, and I’d like nothing more than to wipe them all out of existence. But to take advantage of whatever is happening, to do anything to harm them while they’re disabled like this? That would make me no different than them, or so says every clichéd movie ever filmed, I suppose. I abandoned the cop’s pistol a while back, but while wandering around, I found a few other items that helped me formulate an alternate set of plans.
I toss a baseball up with one hand, then grip my bat tightly and whack it into one of the windows of the barracks. The glass shatters, raining down on the pavement with a symphony of high-pitched tinkling. I laugh and pick up another baseball from the bucket beside me. With a swift strike, I send it flying over the fence from where I’m standing atop an adjacent building and watch it arc towards one of the E.A. soldiers. It strikes him in the head, or helmet rather, and he falls over just as rigid as before.
There’s a main battle tank by the entrance to the compound, its engine still running—a fierce-looking piece of machinery with sleek, angled sides and matted-gray armor. It would be pretty intimidating if it weren’t for a crude, bright pink, spray-painted drawing of someone peeing on the E.A. falcon. Not sure how that got there…
After taking a swig from the bottle of whiskey—liberated from the officer downtown, of course—I grab another baseball and hit it straight at the tank, laughing as it bounces off its armor with a clang and rolls down the hill, pinballing off the legs of a company of soldiers. I wonder if this is all some sort of large practical joke on me. Maybe the E.A. is waiting for just the right moment to pop out and say “Gotcha!” and then kill me. Or maybe it’s like one of those shows where a superhero can go super fast and everything else moves in slow motion. That would be pretty sweet.
But no, that can’t be it. The lights on the cop car were flashing in time; everything else seems perfectly normal. It’s just….people. Only people are frozen. And animals I suppose? I’ll be honest, I’m struggling to put any coherent thoughts together right now. This is my first whisky. In any case, I just hope whatever’s happening doesn’t last too long. I can’t imagine living my whole life like this.
I sit down on the edge of the roof and pick up another ball from the bucket. With one last half-hearted toss I send it flying towards the windows of the building across from me. It smashes through and strikes a lamp, which tumbles to the ground with a brief display of sparks.
I stroll down Broadway with about four different types of candy in my hand and my headphones on, moving to the beat of my favorite songs. Besides my headphones, I’m wearing nothing but my boxers—I’ve entirely foregone modesty by now. I figure if all these people can still see, despite being frozen, it’ll give them something interesting to look at to brighten up their pathetically dull day. Besides, it’s been almost a week now and there hasn’t been any change.
I slide to the left and enter a steakhouse. Thankfully, everyone seemed to freeze around dinner time, keeping my options for food wide open. I’ve discovered that I don’t really feel much hunger, but if I start eating, I can keep eating without it being satiated, like, ever. It’s every college kid’s dream. And most teenagers’ reality.
“Sir, I’m afraid we’ve mixed up your order,” I say, placing my hand on the back of a patron who has just received his meal. Well, not just, but you get what I mean. I take away the plate in front of him and grab the New York Strip steak with my bare hands. After the first bite, I simply pause. It’s absolutely heavenly. I don’t know if I’ve ever tasted anything like it. It’s got a perfect, buttery crust that’s crispier than a potato chip, and it falls apart like it’s not even there. I’m not sure what the rules of this thing are, but it always seems to work in my favor. Sentient life is frozen, but machinery isn’t. Trees still rustle in the wind, yet food seems to be preserved in the state it was in before everything paused.
I continue my buffet and try the potatoes on the plate, then move over to another person’s rib-eye, and someone else’s filet, surf and turf from another; I tried a salad, which was actually more worth it than I thought it would be. Eventually, I start running out of options, and I decide to move on, out the restaurant and back up the street until I end up along the fenced perimeter of a construction site. After entering the service elevator attached to the structure’s scaffolding, I press a lever and the carriage begins to carry me upwards. My boxers flap in the wind as the open car picks up speed—quite a liberating feeling, to tell the truth. More and more of the city comes into view the higher I get, and before long, I can see the stadium and the zoo, and even as far as the airport on the far side of town.
The elevator finally comes to a halt, and I step out onto the topmost completed level of the skyscraper. It’s colder up here, and windier, but it’s worth it. The view is unlike anything else I’ve ever seen in my life, save maybe this one time I went to the Grand Canyon in Hualapai Territory. Even so, there’s something powerful about the fact that what I’m standing on is the product of human ingenuity. I look down and feel my stomach drop out beneath me. It’s a very, very long ways down, even to the top of the next tallest skyscraper, which is a few blocks away.
After considering the view for a moment, I drop the bags of candy on the metal framework beside me, close my eyes, then take a step off the edge.
I’m in free fall, and it’s only a few seconds later that I reach terminal velocity. The ground is racing up to meet me, and my heart feels like it’s about to explode. The air is howling in my ears, screaming at me for being so stupid. My stomach instantly regrets my decision, but my mind remains firm as hundreds of floors zip by me, their occupants frozen and powerless to care about my passing. Just as I reach the point where I’m sure I’ll make contact with the ground, I feel the wind disappear and the howling stops.
I wrinkle my forehead and open my eyes.
I’m not dead. I’m still alive.
I’m staring at an old lady sitting in her walker on the side of the road by a rideshare. I come to my feet and excuse myself, then continue walking down the road.
I’m not surprised. I think it was about the third day that things got pretty bleak. It was a dark moment for me and something I’m definitely not proud of, but I took one of the soldiers' sidearms and, well, you know. I mean, what would you do? Honestly, you wouldn’t know if it never happened to you. Well, clearly it didn’t work, neither did the bleach, or the rope, or the knives. You get the idea. It’s like your classic Groundhog’s Day phenomenon, except instead of things going back to the way they were the day before, the world carries on as it was, just frozen.
I kick a bottle on the sidewalk and watch as it skids out of sight underneath a parked car.
I’m definitely not in that dark place anymore, but I guess I keep trying to see what I can get away with. It makes for some pretty unique experiences. I used to keep track of all the rules, but now I just enjoy the moment. What else can I do?
My headphones are still intact. They seem to have survived the fall. I resume my music and keep dancing on my way. Maybe I’ll head down to the stadium and punt a few—
I jump back and freeze. Something moved. I swear it. I replay the mental footage in my head over and over, trying to determine if what I saw was real or just my mind playing tricks on me. Just ahead of me, behind one of the parked cars…
I take a few cautious steps forward. Maybe it was just a piece of trash being blown around. Or a cat? No, those are frozen too. So trash, yeah. That’s got to be it.
I fly backwards in a frantic panic and collapse against the brick wall of the building behind me. Once my vision has stopped spinning, I look up and see a girl staring back at me, not frozen like the others, but fully cognizant of my presence. She looks just as surprised as I do.