Out of Time, flash fiction by David O'Mahony at Spillwords.com

Out of Time

Out of Time

written by: David O’Mahony



Somewhere, a piano was playing out of tune. Well, not quite out of tune, but sort of a warbling, out-of-phase sound. Maybe out of tune too, though Beggar had never been one for classical music. He didn’t have ears, either, which was a bit of a problem.
Normally that wouldn’t bother him so much because there was nothing to hear here. And anything he did need to hear here came straight into his brain, or what most people who weren’t here would consider a brain. But the normal rules didn’t apply in this nook in time-space, though “normal” was a bit of a misnomer. Say, instead, what was fairly conventional in more than half of the universes he had peered into. He could still hear things after a fashion, though he wasn’t sure how.
His time-space shrank and contracted depending on his mood and what he was thinking about. Once, hilariously, it had been bigger than a typical galaxy, and he had managed to get lost for something like twenty thousand years, just putzing about looking for the edge of his own wildlife preserve. Oh, how he laughed! And he still laughed about it! What a fine joke he had played on himself. He had been a bit more disciplined since, though he quite liked that if he wanted to he could go on his own private adventure right here at home, rather than having to spill part of himself into some universe which may, or may not, be happy to find him poking through a hole.
But right now the piano was a problem. It wasn’t that the sound was unpleasant, even distorted the way that it was. It was actually quite enjoyable. But the problem was that nothing should be creeping from another universe into his. That meant there was a leak somewhere. He was very diligent about sealing up the gaps he made to go from place to place, so that meant either A) he was developing dementia, a terrifying prospect for an entity accustomed to pan-dimensional knowledge and exploration, or B) that somebody or something had been eavesdropping on him, which was even more terrifying. So now he had to find the leak and plug it.
He wondered, not for the first time, if he should just grow some ears and if that would help him find the source of the music. It was sort of coming from everywhere at once, though whether that was some sort of cosmic echo in his little bubble he wasn’t sure. And the fact that he wasn’t sure about it disturbed him. And the fact that he was disturbed at all was twice as disturbing. Gods were not supposed to be at a loss, or at the very least not admit it, and he had been yelled at by plenty of gods across time and space to be certain about this.
But growing body parts when you were this… old… wasn’t as easy as you’d think, so instead he did what a whole mess of people in a whole mess of universes liked to do, and went still. No thoughts, no feelings at all, just a bubble of silence in the centre of his own universe, letting it all wash over him. He flicked through different ways of seeing – infrared, metaphysical, metametaphysical, antemetaphysical, literal, anagogical – until he eventually happened on one that was just waves. The warbling piano was, in fact, coming at him from all corners of time-space at once, and the fact that time-space was a sort of wonky sphere meant it was all reflecting back on itself.
Aha! There it was! About ten million light years from what he called his house – although there were no stars, so it felt like an arbitrary measurement – the sound waves were at their strongest. His whole consciousness was there instantly. The music was punching through from there. And it definitely wasn’t from something he did, because he knew where every patched hole was, and started from scratch a lot by remaking his timespace, so that meant he was being watched by something.
The music was quite beautiful, though. Chaotic, in the way it punched through his universe, but harmonic once it got there, even distorted by what he now realised was the filter through which it was passing. Whoever, or whatever, had opened the hole was not very experienced at it, it seemed, and so the two realms had not quite lined up correctly. But then, to even get this far was an exquisite achievement, and the sense of terror that he had felt just now (or was it a thousand years ago?) was, to his absolute bliss, giving way to something akin to joy.
It wasn’t quite there just yet, though. No, no, not quite. But if he were to twist the gravitational waves this way, ever so slightly, and the harmonic endurances that way, so gently it was if by a breath from his nostrils… and there!
With an audible click that echoed throughout universes, it was there and done. It wasn’t a leftover from somebody spying, he realised, no that was quite clear now. They had punched through alright, but not to be hostile. They were asking for help.
The music was the death song of a universe that had really deserved better, which had, let’s face it, annihilated itself to the point where it almost deserved it, and yet, it was asking for once more chance. And, Beggar realised, he had the power, the wherewithal, and the will to do it. The music had moved him in a way he had never conceived as possible.
And so, gently, ever so gently, he extended his will through the hole to the other side, to the flaming, screaming chaos, and he whispered “Let there be light,” and the universe was remade anew.

Latest posts by David O'Mahony (see all)