2022 Barrett Winner
5th Place Georgia Beatty
Time stretched to an eternity. A minute felt like an hour and vice versa. God knew how long I had been sitting there, staring. Or maybe he didn't. There are things that even gods can’t tell.
My eyes must've been open for days, weeks. Staring.
But, no, that can't be right, it's only been a few seconds.
Time is fickle, it can stretch further than we can comprehend or become smaller than we know. To say that you can tell the time is white lie, made only for comfort.
My eyes burned, dry and unseeing, but blinking seemed exhausting. Everything seemed exhausting these days.
I could hear voices, incomprehensible sounds of people I might have known before, now little more than white noise in my head. I felt like I should know them, should recognise the inflections and pitches. I strained to hear them, but the sound was covered up but the ugly beige of the wall in front of me.
The color was deafening.
It was ugly, so ugly it was a wonder it had been chosen from the store. Anyone choosing it must've been half mad.
Wait. Wasn't I in my room? The room I painted with the color I carefully chose? That couldn't be right. I couldn't have been in my right mind to choose this ugly beige paint…
I was somewhere new. It had been eons since I was somewhere new. I have been here forever.
Time is fickle.
My eyes were unfocused, seeing only the dirty white wall.
There were sounds, voices? I couldn't be sure. I heard a name a couple of times, not my name, surely not my name, because who would be talking about me somewhere with dirty white walls where time is fickle.
People came and went. Dirty white clothes. Eyes without a face. Plastic coated hands. They changed my clothes, but I couldn't move. Who cares. They're just people. People matching the walls. People matching the bedding. People matching each other.
Everything is the same here. Time isn't real. It's the same, in and out, everything changes to different but identical versions. Billions of times I have changed but stayed the same.
I've lived today a billion times and never gone to sleep.
Time is fickle.
This time was different. When the faceless plastic people came in, they changed my clothes, my bedding, checked my unseeing eyes and unhearing ears.
Something was announced to the room. They seemed sad, particularly the group in the corner, the only ones not dressed in white. I was laid down and rolled out of the dirty white room, down a dirty white hall, eyes blinded by the fluorescent tube lights.
I was rolled into a metal room and laid on a metal bed. My eyes looked without seeing. My ears listened without hearing. I was prodded and poked then rolled into a different room.
I wanted to scream, my mouth forced shut.
I wanted to blink, my eyes stuck open.
Then the fire started. White hot, painful. Heat rushed through my body, feeling but unresponsive.
Time was real here, real and eternal.
I was engulfed in flames for eons. I don't know when it ended, or even if it did. All I know is that I'm in a new place. It had been eons since I was somewhere new. I have been here forever.
Time is fickle.