Every day, by 4:05, time pinched her.
She had begun to notice it a few weeks ago. At that particular time, something always drew her eyes to a clock, watch, phone……something with a time display. At first she had ignored the strange coincidence, but it had gone beyond that now. Now, she was scared.
She had tried to avoid timepieces during the late afternoon. She would go out for a stroll and at precisely 4:05p.m., she would have reason to glance at the time. A stranger would approach and happen to flash his wrist at her. A bus with a lighted display of the time would drive past her. Once, she had sat beneath a tree in a nearby park and closed her eyes, sinking into the sounds of children at play. Then she heard it.
“The time is four oh five.”
The voice was mechanical. Startled, she opened her eyes and jumped to her feet, only to find an equally startled toddler clutching his mother’s phone in his ice-cream-sticky hands. He had apparently pressed the ‘speaking clock’ option. Grinning at her, he proudly showed the phone screen to her. Her unease deepened. 4:05, in large digits were brightly displayed on the phone.
And so it had gone on. From occurring about thrice a week, it had become a daily thing. And just this morning, she had woken up to pee. At 4:05 a.m. Things were escalating. She didn’t know exactly what, but she could feel it. Her shoulders knotted tight whenever she remembered this new problem. She had told no one, not her husband or her friends. She was alone in this; afraid of being declared crazy, afraid of clocks and watches. Afraid of time itself.
And now the hour approacheth, she thought to herself wryly, as she sat in her favourite spot in the park. Children eddied around her in waves, drawn to her pretty face and sweet smile. Their mothers stopped to smile at her, curious about this neighbour who kept to herself. A blank slate. An untold story. A smiling mystery.
She sighed, eyes drawn to the road. Busy at this time of the day, the road was separated from the park by a flimsy chain fence. She had worried over that briefly, when she noticed it a few weeks ago, but her problems were more pressing. She was going crazy, and it was based on something really weird.
Now she stared at the road and the back of her neck prickled. It was about that time; she just knew it. Her body was attuned to the shadows in the park and how they moved with the sun. It was about that time.
She was a human sundial, and she couldn’t stop staring at the road.
This turned out to be a good thing.
A car was hurtling towards the park.
She froze for a brief second, mind blank. Then she moved. Weeks of incessant strolling had strengthened her legs, so she was swift. Days spent watching that road had sharpened her perspective, so she could see the swath the car would clear if it went through the flimsy fence. Hours spent in the park had increased her familiarity with the mothers watching their children, so her shout of warning was met with genuine concern rather than the confusion a stranger’s cry would have caused. Children were snatched to safety, out of the path of the oncoming car. She had not stopped moving, for she knew what she was supposed to do. Who she was supposed to save. The sticky-fingered child from a few days ago stood stock-still, too scared to react, eyes wide as the car bore down on him.
She reached him a split second before the car did. They both tumbled to the ground as the car hurtled past, the driver sharing one frightened look with her in the split second the vehicle just barely brushed by her.
It crumpled into the tree, just at her favorite spot, where she could have been sitting with her eyes closed, earphones (her next proposed defense against her ‘weird problem’) blasting loud music in her ears. The driver died without a sound. Alone.
It was a Peugeot. A Peugeot 504. Omens were funny like that.
Written by: Emem Alexandra Akpan-Nya.