Words for International Women’s Day 2021
Time Stops in the Metal Tube
“The first section is nine minutes. How are you feeling?”
Janine lay in the white tube, listening. How was she feeling? She had no idea. She gave the stock answer. “Okay.”
There was no human response. Just the sound of the thudding as the machine swung into action. Thump, thump, thump. Then the drilling, an old-fashioned road digger.
Janine’s heart thumped in unison with the machine. She needed to slow it down. She needed to think of other things. Nine minutes. What did that mean? What were minutes anyway? Dr. Stoll, her philosophy lecturer, had had a point; maybe it was just we who were moving and not time. Time was just a moment, after all. And time was a man-made construct. Seconds, minutes, hours. It was all so ordered and yet, so random.
The noise stopped.
“Right, Janine, the next section is twelve minutes. Remember, you can press your buzzer at any time, if you feel anxious. Try to stay as still as you possibly can, though.” Thump. It started again. Forty-five minutes in total, they’d said. Forty-five minutes, at the end of which, they’d know her fate. But, of course, she’d have to wait. Possibly two weeks. Minutes, days, weeks. There they were again. Ruling our lives, controlling us.
She felt a surge of anxiety course up through her body, beginning with her toes. Her legs. She needed to run. Up it went, past her uncharted and possibly unchartered womb. Past the offending, life-giving breasts which were the subject of such scrutiny now. Up into her jawline. She wanted to scream. Knew she shouldn’t and wouldn’t.
The noise stopped.
“We’re just going to give you a few moments rest, Janine, and then we’ll continue.” A few moments. How unspecific. There was even less surety about moments. A moment in time could be an age, an era, a second. Janine wished that they would just get on with it. Prolonging the situation wasn’t making it any easier. Still, it was mind over matter. She’d put up with all of the prodding, all of the sympathetic conversations, all of the miles of hospital corridors and the missed lectures. She’d only got, at most, twenty-four minutes more until this was over.
Thump. There it was again. Janine tried to picture the giant magnets but really she had no idea what they might look like. In her head, she had the red cartoon magnets with silver ends and zig-zag lines of power. Modern technology was truly remarkable. Years ago, and not too many years ago, people would have gone around oblivious to the genetic grenades they carried around. They would have known nothing until it was far too late. Or far too early. Death and his mutant little side-kick had stolen so many lives. The bomb had detonated early too many times in her own family. They had traced the dynamite trail all the way back to her great-great-grandmother.
“Janine? Janine? Can you hear us?” She really must have drifted away.
“Ah, okay. We’re going again, then.”
Thump. There was going to be no caesura in her life. No cutting short. There might be the caesura right across her chest. But she could live with that. Better to live with it than die without it. Janine drifted into sleep.
The silence woke her.
In the changing room, she took her time. There were no clocks in here. She had stopped wearing a watch after her first appointment. She didn’t want to see the time ticking away. She wanted to live in the now. But as soon as it was now, that now was gone. So many nows were gone.
Janine stood in front of the full-length mirror. What joker would put a full-length mirror somewhere like this? What was it for? So that you could examine the component parts of your body. The bits that were conforming, the bits that were rebelling, the bits that might soon be no more.
There was a knock on the door. “Janine?”
“Two minutes!” Janine called back.
“Dr. Scheindlin can see you in a quarter of an hour.”
This could only mean one thing. She took out her phone and set a timer. Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes where she could pretend that everything was all right. Fifteen minutes where the past was not knocking on the door and death was not breathing hard behind her.
“Twenty-nine, twenty-eight, twenty-seven,” she counted the seconds away. She would finish getting dressed when it got to four minutes thirty-four seconds. Arbitrary. But that was time. It was arbitrary.
The timer rang. Janine left the room and headed down the corridor to Dr. Scheindlin’s room. Janine had chosen Lara Scheindlin not just because she was supposed to be the best in the country at this game but because she had first-hand experience of it herself. And that mattered. The only thing she didn’t like about Scheindlin was her office, with the giant clock behind the consultant’s desk. Tick. Tick. You could hear the ticking from outside of the room.
Janine opened the door to her future. She knew from the look on Dr. Scheindlin’s face that she had stolen something from another time and it had caught up with her.
R. J. Kinnarney is trying to make sense of their tiny corner of the world, through tiny pieces of writing and lots and lots of reading. Their work can be found at 100 Words of Solitude, Funny Pearls, 101 Words, Southam Book Fest, Daunt Books; soon to be at The Hungry Ghost and Pure Slush.
Find Out about R.J.Kinnarney HERE