It began sometime after Beata put on her coat—the long winter one that came down to her thighs and clung to her form in a way she liked—and left her office. She had just left the building and was on her way, walking with purpose, her boot heels clicking in that pleasant rhythm she enjoyed. The day was cool but pleasant, with no breeze bringing an extra chill. A skiff of snow had fallen during the night and the way it caught the light made the day seem vibrant and alive.
Beata adjusted her purse on her shoulder and halted mid-stride. She nearly fell over so abrupt was her stop. Someone brushed by her, muttering and shooting her a quick glare. Her hands were tingling as though she had absorbed some electricity. Even her hair felt as though it were rising off her head from a static charge. She reached out to touch her curls, but everything felt in place.
When she was certain that everything was in its right place and the effects of the charge—or whatever it had been—had passed, Beata started forward again. Only to stop a moment later. She could no longer recall what she had been doing, or where she had been going. That she had left the office to go somewhere was clear. A glance at her watch showed that it was two in the afternoon, too early for her to be leaving work. So it was an errand.
She looked around and saw that she was heading down the street away from where she normally parked her car and assumed that she was on her way to the nearby strip mall. What she had to do there she still didn’t know, but she started forward anyway, certain that it would come to her eventually. Instead, as she came to the end of the block, she saw her car parked across the street. She stopped again and stared at it, utterly mystified.
Beata pulled out her keys to press the unlock button just to be sure it was her vehicle. The lights flashed and she could hear the locks click open. She had no memory of parking it here, no sense of why she would have when she had her own parking stall on the other side of her office building. It was strange. Disturbing even. What else had she forgotten?
She cast her mind back over her day and there were suspicious gaps throughout. She could remember her breakfast, but not the drive into work. There had been coffee with Anna Lisse, followed by some emails. Other than that, the details of her morning were beyond her grasp. She had been in her office she felt certain, but could not recall any of the documents she had worked on. There had been an appointment over lunch, but she could no longer remember what it had been. Had she had to drive? And been forced to park here? Was that what she was doing now, going to collect her car?
Her thoughts seemed to be coming all at once, question after question emerging from the depths. All with no answers. She walked unsteadily over to the car and got in, holding the keys in her hand, not yet willing to start it. When she finally did she drove back to her parking spot and returned upstairs to the office.
“Wow. That was quick,” Anna Lisse said, as Beata walked past her desk.
“I couldn’t remember why I left in the first place,” Beata said, giving a shake of her head. “Oldzheimers I guess.”
Anna Lisse laughed. “You didn’t tell me actually. Just said you needed to go home. I thought you’d forgotten a file.”
“I don’t think so,” Beata said.
“It’ll come back to you eventually.”
Beata nodded, but she felt none of Anna Lisse’s confidence. She returned to her office and sat down to look at her computer screen. It was black, but she made no move to turn it back on or log in, lost in its blank void. The tingling returned to her fingers, rising up her arms to her shoulders. She let out a cry, almost a moan. Not in pleasure and not in pain.
“Are you okay?” Anna Lisse called from the other room.
Beata did not respond. The words would not come to her. Her consciousness seemed to have slipped into the background, where her thoughts still spun feverishly, to no effect. The rest of her being was filled with the ever-expanding void of her computer screen. Only it wasn’t a void: the universe in its entirety was there, blossoming before her very eyes. Her whole body was suffused with tremors, which she gradually came to realize matched the rhythm of particles vibrating around her.
The pitch of the universe was c-sharp. The thought came forth and vanished as she saw more and more. Galaxies beyond number. Stars, black holes, planets. Things beyond her imagining. It was all there, all in a moment.
Anna Lisse had entered the room. She was calling Beata’s name, her voice frantic. Beata did not respond. The moment was too powerful. She was under its sway.
“It’s some kind of seizure. I don’t know. Send an ambulance.”
Time had expanded, so that she could see all of it, from the beginning to end. Both were dark and without form. And then there was a light.
Beata turned to Anna Lisse and smiled.
In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…
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