Slowed. Short Story.

Jack wasn’t paying attention to where he was walking. He didn’t really need to. He was staring at his phone, texting away. Ahead of him the woman walked at a fairly good pace. He recognised her and knew that she was going the same way he was. All he needed to do was keep her in his peripheral vision and he would be fine. Just needed to swerve when she swerved, move to the side she moved to the side and so far it was working splendidly. At least, until he walked into her.

Jack bounced back slightly, his phone flying from his hand, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.” Jack picked up his phone, brushing off the screen and making sure it wasn’t scratched. “I should have been paying attention, it was my faul-” The woman hadn’t said anything yet and Jack had only turned around. She was still standing there, caught midstride, staring ahead.

“Are…are you ok?”

There was no answer.

He stepped closer to her, maybe it was some kind of seizure? He looked around, no one else seemed to have noticed yet and no one had stopped. Jack moved closer to her, her eyes were open, staring straight ahead. He waved his hand in front of her face, nothing. Not even a twitch.
He knew her name, didn’t he? Something beginning with M…Mary, Melissa? Marcy? Yes. Marcy.
“It’s Marcy, right? C’mon, stop it, I know I walked into you and all and I should have been paying attention, but this isn’t funny.”

He reached out slowly and took hold of her arm, intending to give her a little shake, but she didn’t budge. It was like trying to push a tree. How was that possible? Her stance alone would have prevented her from keeping her balance. He pushed at her again gently, then looked around, trying to spot if there was someone filming this. It had to be some kind of weird joke. They put out some kind of statue or heavy wax dummy, a prank of some sort. It couldn’t be anything else. No one was paying any attention to them, people just kept walking. That in itself made Jack feel uneasy. Surely someone had to have noticed this weird little scene playing out. Why hadn’t anyone else stopped, or even looked for a moment in curiosity? But there was nothing. He reached out again, this time for her wrist, grasping it gently, he felt for her pulse. Nothing. It had to be a statue. But her skin still felt warm and soft, he squeezed gently and felt it give way, then when he released his grip her skin moved back with his hand. Was there any kind of man made material that could do that? He didn’t think there was. It would have felt wrong, weird. Jack took his phone from his pocket, he’d call the police or an ambulance, they’d know what to do. He looked at the screen, it was dead. The drop must have jostled out the battery. He quickly stripped the back and made sure it was connected securely, that done he replaced the cover and tried to turn it on, nothing. He glanced at the purse that was slung loosely over her shoulder and decided he didn’t feel comfortable digging through the purse to find the phone it no doubt held. People were still passing by, though there were fewer and fewer now. He turned to a man in a suit. “excuse me?” The man kept walking.

A woman in a bright purple dress walked passed, she too ignored him.
Jack moved in front of the next person, but they just moved around them. “I need help here! Someone call an ambulance!” Everyone just kept walking by. No one reacted to his yelling or his moving in their way. What the hell was going on? He moved back to Marcy, “I’m not sure if you can hear or even understand me, but I’m really sorry. I have to look through your bag for a phone. No one else is gonna help.” He reached out and pulled at the fabric, expecting it to move easily, but instead it was slow and difficult, like trying to bend thick card. When he let go of the sides, it didn’t spring back, it just stayed where it was. Jack pried it open as wide as he could to see inside, then he reached in. The items inside seemed to cling to one another. When he moved the lip gloss, he moved the tissue beside it and a small compact came up with it. Nothing seemed to want to move by itself. He spotted her phone and pried it out of the bag, pulling the bits of detritus that came with it off the cover. He turned it over, it too was off. He pressed a button to turn on and ever so slowly the opening screen started to play. It took what felt like twenty minutes for it to play out and finish, but when it stopped he breathed a sigh of relief, then the phone asked for the password. Shit. He hadn’t thought of that. He looked back at Marcy, then jumped, she had moved, only slightly, but she had definitely moved. Before she was looking straight ahead, now her head was turned towards him, a faint frown on her face. He looked down at her legs to see that one had left the pavement entirely, she was balanced on one leg. He dropped her phone, oblivious as it shattered on the ground. There was no way she could be standing like that, no way anyone could. By all laws of physics she should be falling backwards. Her other arm was moving slowly across her body, making its way towards her bag. Jack took a step backwards, she was moving again, though she was moving impossibly slowly. He watched as her hand grabbed the top of her bag and started to move it closed, her shoulder jerking away like someone was trying to grab at it. Her other hand was reaching outwards, a look of shock slowly growing on her face, what the hell was going on?

Jack took another few steps back, looking around again. The street they were on seemed to be deserted, unless someone was peering out their window, they were alone. He watched, fascinated as she slowly bent to pick up the phone, and stood again, looking at the screen, a look of dismay on her face. Then suddenly, she was moving at normal speed again. “Ugh. I don’t believe it.” Jack jumped at the sudden noise and movement. Then he took another few scurried steps backward, almost scrambling. After a few seconds, she sighed and started walking again, poking and prodding at the broken screen. She pressed something and then held it up to her ear, “Hey Tracy, you won’t believe the day I’m having. First I end up running late and miss the twelve train, then I drop my damn phone. The screen is all broken, at least I can still kind of use it. Yeah, I know, it’s-” She walked passed Jack without a glance. How had she missed the twelve train? He had been on it and he had seen her getting out, hell he had practically followed her through the station to outside. He watched her as she walked down the street, there was nothing off about her gait, nothing strange at all about her. She was just a regular person. His phone beeped, once, twice, three times. Then again a few times in a row. He pulled out his phone, frowning. He had four missed calls and several texts. He opened them as he started to walk again. He was an hour late by now, the next train would be arriving shortly, if it hadn’t all ready. What would he say? He couldn’t say he stopped while some girl was stuck frozen in the middle of the road, could he? No. He started dialling and held the phone up to his ear.
“Jack? Where are you? Is everything ok? You’re late and you weren’t answering your phone.”
“Uh, yeah, I’m fine. Sorry, my phone turned off and I didn’t realise. I uh,” he cast around for an excuse, anything, then it hit him. “I missed the twelve train. Sorry.”
“Once you’re all right. You didn’t miss much in class. I’ll give you my notes when you get here. You still up for lunch or have you eaten? We were all going to head to the café.”
“Uh, no, lunch would be great. I’ll meet you there in ten?”
“Perfect. See you then.”
Jack hung up, still feeling slightly out of it. He put his phone away and started to walk, slowly at first, but soon he was walking at a regular pace. Just as he was about to turn the corner he paused and looked back at the spot they had been standing. There was nothing off about it, it looked like a normal part of the road. He shook his head slightly and continued around the corner. He’d take a different route from the train station from now on.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
This entry was posted in Horror, Sci-Fi, Short Stories, Suspense and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Slowed. Short Story.

  1. This is great psychological horror, the perfect amount of ambiguity to give the reader that emotional uncanny valley.

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