The Man Who Stopped The World

Hi all. Apologies for the long gap between posts. I was working on a project for a website I write for and it took up much more time than I had anticipated. It’s football related, so may not appeal to some, but the following link is to the fruits of my labours. It’s a video, about Manchester United, and it’s 3:07 long. If you’ve got time (after reading this flash, obvs!) please give it a viewing: Thanks!

In terms of flash, I’m back with a full 1,000 worder for you. Enjoy!

The Man Who Stopped The World

The throbbing in his ankles subsided as Martin took a load off. The rocks were hardly soft but more than welcome. He slipped off his borrowed hiking boots, then his sweaty socks, and rubbed his feet as forcefully as his wearied limps would allow. He let out the kind of ecstasy-filled groan you could only make when you knew nobody was listening.

He sucked in a helping of fresh summer air. The smell of wet grass and salt filled his nostrils. While it was mid-afternoon and the sun shone brightly, the open sea laid out before him offered up a chilly breeze for his approval. He approved, and sucked in some more.

The roaring sea smashed and crashed into the stubborn white rocks below. Martin dare not take a second look at the drop under his feet. After all, if he fell, who would there be to help him? Better not to think about it. He instead diverted his gaze straight forward, and out at the possibilities ahead.

He pulled a map from the satchel at his side. Over the shoulder variety, more University student than reluctantly-ardent explorer. He opened the map fully and laid it across his lap, slipping a red pen from the heavily creased edge. It was a map of the UK, crudely edited in red. Many circles around many cities. All filled in with an X.

He glanced to his right and down at the port below. He could make out the outlines of numerous people in and around the many lines of queuing traffic. Except they weren’t queueing, not any more. They were stacked bumper-to-bumper, forcibly so. Some more forcibly than others. Martin trailed the line of cars all the way from the car parks to the dock itself. He wiped his rapidly-perspiring palms on his tired shirt. Even now, he felt a lump begin to form in his throat.

A ship. A derelict ship, on its side, half in the sea, half crashed in the dock. Bodies sprinkled all around it like rogue drops of sugar around a decorated cake. To the left of the derelict ship lay another, gaping hole in its hull, partly submerged, waves crashing all around it. Softly bobbing in the ocean like a plastic toy in a bath tub.

Martin should have known this would be waiting for him. By now, he should have known better.

Ever since day one, when everything stopped, some things carried on just that little bit longer. And a little bit longer was all it took for hundreds and thousands of people to die. Cars travelled further, unmanned, planes fell from the sky, unguided, and ships, it seemed, came to a halt wherever they could. You see, on that first day, in that first, think-about-it-every-second-of-every-day-since moment, all living things stopped dead. If they were unlucky enough to be inside something that wasn’t living, something that didn’t stop, they would most probably be properly dead. The no-coming-back kind of dead. Deceased. Despite knowing all of this, Martin had hoped, he desperately hoped it wouldn’t be the same here. He was wrong.

He slashed a large red X through the circle around Dover. He screwed the map into a tight ball and launched it into the wind. He watched as the ball spiralled down into the gaping mouth of the ocean below. Like everything else, it was soon gone. Once upon a time, there were some things Martin had been desperate to see gone. But there were others, as he was now finding, he was lost without.

On that first day, or last day depending on how you looked at it, Martin was well and truly lost. After his wife’s accident, life may as well had just stopped then. Only it didn’t, of course. Everything kept moving. Clerks kept doing their jobs. Bosses noticed your absence. Family noticed changes in your behaviour. Friends told you to stop being selfish and switch the machine off. Medical bills piled up. Other bills piled on top of them. Your medication ran out. Screaming, shouting, fighting. Crying. Until you reached a point where you just wished, nay pleaded, desperately, hopelessly begged, that for just a single second everything would stop so you could, for the first time in years, breathe.

Since that moment, Martin had been breathing clearly for 412 days.

He gulped down another breath. The sea air slowed his heart and chilled his lungs. After another day’s walking, it was a welcome relief. But the relief wasn’t to last too long; Martin had another big decision to make.

The UK was lost, this much was now clear. Not a single sign of animated life in over a year. It was safe to assume it was the same everywhere else, of course. Martin had figured this after the first week went by and no help came. But it’s a funny little thing, hope. Just the smallest drop can be enough to drive a man through things he never thought himself capable of. When common sense says give up, hope drives you forward. And to drive forward now carried the question: by land – or under land to be precise – or by sea?

Martin hated the water. Always had. While the weather was kind and the sea calm, his lack of even the most basic of sailing skills should have made the decision easy. If anything happened at sea, he truly would be lost. His fear was what he would find below. This was something he had been preparing himself for. Had one of the trains crashed, which was more than likely, the entire Eurotunnel would be nothing more than a 23 mile tomb. A lump returned to his throat. Palms grew sweaty. His heart began its anxiety-beat. Even now, he could do with a second to breathe.

Martin squeezed his eyes shut and wished the world to life. Millionth times the charm, right? Silence. He’d try again later, hope would see to that. He slipped on his socks and boots, took one final deep breath and bounced to his feet.

If he rushed he could make Folkestone by nightfall.


Author: jackkholt

Film graduate. Lover of lots of good films and quite a few bad ones. Reader. Writer. Novel in progress, obviously.

16 thoughts on “The Man Who Stopped The World”

  1. Yikes, that’s eerie! Stopping time, but conditional… eternal lonliness and tombs and *shiver*

    I’m glad I didn’t wait til bedtime to read this.

  2. Everyone stopped, but their machines didn’t. That’s a really fascinating consequence of “stop the world, I wanna get off.” Glad to see you flashing again, this was a good comeback piece!

  3. Wow – great piece. I often wish for some peace, but will double think my actions. I too used to wish as a child about having a watch that stopped time. Great stuff

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