“How spooky is this, guys?” Matt asked, leaning over the table.
Matt, Dan and Scotty, known to their friends as ‘the three must get ears’, had been hiking through open bush country, and had chanced on a small range of buildings that gave every sign of being occupied; lights on, cars parked in the street, children’s toys and bikes nonchalantly leaning against posts and walls or casually left around on the ground; but there was no sign of any people. The scene on which the boys had chanced was in keeping with the rest; an outside dining table, fully laid up for a meal for six, even having a pair of kerosene lamps on the table and a freshly made fire in the fire-pit off to the side.
Dan looked on, confused by the scene, while Scotty, in typical fashion, offered a seemingly endless stream of suggestions as to the cause of this scene.
“Perhaps they’ve had reports of a lion or other big cat in the area and everyone has gone out to shoo it away,” he offered.
“Everyone?” Matt asked, “Including the children?”
“Well, maybe there was an emergency and they’ve had to evacuate the village,” Scotty suggested.
“Perhaps they’ve been taken by aliens,” Dan said, “or obliterated by some kind of death-ray, or… ooh, I’ll tell you what; perhaps they were beamed up to a passing starship; or maybe the Vogon constructor fleet has arrived and put them into a stasis bubble to conserve the species.”
“I don’t think sarcasm is very helpful, Dan,” Scotty complained.
“Neither are the futile, far-fetched, grasping-at-straws, inane suggestions you’ve been making, mate!” Dan replied with finality, leaving the other two and walking into the open kitchen behind them.
“Does it matter where they are?” Matt asked, “There’s food here, let’s eat and be thankful.”
“Of course it sodding-well matters,” Scotty said. “The same thing that happened to them could happen to us…”
“And what happened to them, then? Go on, tell us,” Dan said, returning to the table armed with three bottles of wine, “I can’t wait to hear your latest theory.”
That Dan and Scotty were at each other’s throats was neither unusual nor surprising; and that Matt had the job of defusing the situation and brokering some level of uneasy truce was the stuff of which this unlikely group was made. It also gives a hint to the reason for their nickname.
“Guys,” Matt said hesitantly, “look around and answer me one thing.”
“What?” Dan and Scotty asked in unison.
“Can anybody see anything actually moving?”
“What do you mean, Matt?” Scotty asked.
“What do you mean, what do I mean? How hard is it? Can. You. See. Anything. Moving?”
“You mean moving as in… moving?”
“Moving as in not standing still, not static, displaying a change in position, condition or state. MOVING!”
Dan and Scotty looked around and, sure enough, nothing was moving.
“No,” Dan said finally, “but so what?”
“Isn’t fire supposed to flicker? Shouldn’t the smoke coming off it be, I don’t know, not standing still?” Holding his hand over one of the lanterns, he added, “Isn’t hot air supposed to rise?”
Dan and Scotty both repeated Matt’s experiment, and found that there was no heat from below, no rising air from the static flame.
Having made some outlandish suggestions earlier, sci-fi fan Dan said, “Its as though the whole place is frozen in time.”
“And yet we aren’t,” Matt said, before popping out of existence.
Dan and Scotty looked at each other. At least, they did until Scotty disappeared from view.
Alone in the deserted, frozen-in-time village, Dan felt more than heard a deep voice addressing him.
“We have a job for you, Dan,” it said.
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 34, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.