Time Stops (bridge series #23/ loophole 1)

“Illyria” the tall woman says in a hushed voice, they all spoke in hushed voices around her since her return.   

“Illyria? Helen? Aleese?” she hears again as the woman shakes her shoulder to rouse her.  “Illyr-Coral! CORAL! Wake up, you did it,  you did it!”

Coral slowly opens her green eyes, her sight was restored to her when her Time was done but her pupils could not be fixed, they remained slit like a reptile’s eyes, few could make eye contact with her now.

“Done what, Yvonne?’ Coral rasps as she looks up, she has little use for voice as she rarely speaks. She returned from her mission broken, she no longer records Time for any that came After, or for any that ever would Become.

The Golden Ones leave her be for the most part, she believes they cannot look upon her ash and ember form, it is a stark reminder that even a Golden One can be damaged beyond repair.

“You touched one, dear sister, they have made us Legend” Yvonne replies as she rests her hand on Illyria-Coral’s head, as if the mere act of touch could erase the pain she sees.

“They?” They are extinct my friend, and I watched it all, I recorded Their Time to the very End, and even Beyond” Illyria whispers as her mind wanders.

“No, see? Illyria,  just look. Look, here is a picture” Yvonne puts the paper in the haunted one’s hand, “and it has writing!”

 

For the first time in days or eons the woman who is both Illyria and Coral focuses her green cat’s eyes on Hope, and reads the words.

Words on paper from a Time she Never Knew, a picture of Here as it looks now that it is Gone, written by a Coraline J. Thompson.  The name triggers a memory of them, she gasps as she remembers when Coraline crossed the bridge so very long ago, she is mentally transported to her Time before the Ending began.

Her breathing becomes rapid, the pain is returning and she all but screams “There was a child? They survived? Why was I not told?!” the anger in her rises in the last exclaimation.

Yvonne hesitates a moment, her hand looses contact with her sister’s head, the connection broken, she stammers for a reply.

“You were not told, my friend, because we knew the pain of it would destroy you utterly, and”

“Pain!” Coral rages, “what do you know of Pain dear sister?” she spits like venom.  “You remained in our Kingdom looking down on my Time and did NOTHING!”

“OUR WORK IS TO DO NOTHING, YOUR WORK. WAS. TO. DO. NOTHING.”  Yvonne bellows, “We record Time, we do not change it and we do not interfere with it. You knew that when you chose to be a Time Keeper when the Great Ones decreed they were needed.  You wanted to feel, to interact, You wanted humanity and you knew there would be pain, otherwise you could have chosen the form of a reptile and”  she stops herself as she realizes her mistake, it was the alligator that was Coral’s undoing. She watches as her cherished one cries tears of blood as she crumples to the floor.

The mention of the reptile sends Coral back in Time when the alligator tried to tell her that all of it was ending, back to 2030 when he took his last breath, her beloved reptilian Timekeeper dying in the blackness that would become the last breath of everything, everyone she knew and loved. He told her, and she did nothing.

“I DID NOTHING!” Illyria screams as she renders her eyes yet again, as if blinding herself  would erase the memory, the memories of all her thousands of years with them, the thousands after.

“Oh Illyria, this is Coral talking,” Yvonne soothes as she heals her sister’s eyes with a wave of her golden hand.

 “We have been over this again and again since your return. You cannot continue to carry this guilt and this sadness for events you could not control.  You cannot go back and change Time, you could but stop it for brief moments to record, or to advise, but you cannot change it. It is done, let it go.”

She is holding Illyria-Coral in her arms, rocking her all the while, “will this never end, dear sister?” 

Illyria stops crying, she knows it is useless, she can never convey pain to those that had never experienced it. To the Great Ones and her sister, “pain” was just a new word in a new beginning, an experiment to observe and record, nothing more.

“I know Yvonne, but if I could stop Time why can’t I stop the pain?”

Both women look into each others eyes, they still have no answers and so they smile and shake their heads, they both stand up and hug once more, Illyria goes and sits in the window as Yvonne walks away.

Yvonne looks back over her shoulder as she leaves, she sees that her friend is lost in thought, or time, she never knows for sure, when she feels a tear on her cheek. Her golden hand wipes off the diamond tear and she stops. Her kind only cry when there is a termination, an extinction. Why is she crying? She decides it is probably the extinction of all that was left of Illyria, lost and broken in Time, and she quietly leaves the room.

Illyria looks out the window, she is serene for a moment.  She looks again at the paper in her hand and the Coral-Aleese in her swells with love.

Love for the woman she knew named Coraline for a heartbeat in Time, love for the children this woman gave birth to, love for the children of the children, children that would live and grow and tell stories of Time Dwellers. A small liquid diamond falls from her green eyes as she laughs golden for a moment at the thought of how utterly ridiculous love and life are.

The woman named Illyria-Coral wonders, for the first time or the thousandth, (Time has no meaning for her,if the truth be told) if her life would have been full if she had not chosen to be a Time Keeper, if she didn’t have to stand witness, if she would have lived and loved and died. 

For the thousandth time or the first time she wonders why she could stop Time but couldn’t change It,

and for a time immeasurable to even the Great Ones, her pupils, for just a second, dilate while she wonders.

The Time Keeper first called Illyria looks at the picture her friend Yvonne-Quin gave her yesterday, or maybe it was a year ago, today, for the thousandth time or the millionth.

Time has no measure in it’s own Kingdom, Time that slips through fingers like air but is so thick it chokes when pressed brings her anger and a wet diamond drops onto the paper and blurs the lines. She wipes it off and is bothered that her picture is now damaged. 

It’s a picture the ruins of her old place where weary travelers and the lost could sit and rest a spell. This picture is all she has left of Aleese, of Coral, of the people she was Here in this picture, and she knows she must let it go, let them go, Yvonne’s words triumphing. She cannot change Time, she could only stop it for a snapshot to store in her album of memories.

For one more time immeasurable to the even the Great Ones, the broken Time Keeper’s eyes dilate to round as she holds the photo over the open window. The wind teases it in her hand,  and she lets go.

 The picture dances briefly in the air and then sales away on the winds of Time, and she laughs and cries as she waves goodbye.

 It will be a moment before she sees that her eyes are no longer reptilian in form, but Time has already seen them, and it stops. 

For the first time immeasurable to even the Great Ones, Time knows fear, and begins to tremble.

(to be continued)

Special thanx to Coraline J Thompson, this is the mirror piece to her wildly famous “From a Time We Never Knew”

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