Summary: In a designated Shelter, Takizawa and Kou are drinking to pass the time as the world outside is being reset. These are Takizawa's thoughts and his conversations with the doctor.
Note: This was more of a writing exercise in response to a drabble by twopoint when I gave the prompt "time stopped." My promise was to accompany that drabble with one of my own, starting with "On the other side of the world..."
And so here it is.
On the other side of the world, two consequential strangers sat in an empty hotel lobby, sipping bourbon and watching the storm pound against the pavement outside. It drowned out the city noise, blurred all motion into a hazy wash of color and light. Despite it all, the revolving glass doors spun slowly like windmills on a calm day.
But it is a calm day, Takizawa told himself as the chandelier began to flicker, even though he understood these thoughts to be irrelevant. As a journalist he was trained to be critical -pragmatic at best- but for the moment he allowed himself to indulge in a convenient suspension of disbelief.
The first explanations he heard on the subject always began with, "Do you understand the concept of a clockwork universe?"
That was why today all he could do was wait for the world to come back, bit by bit, after it was reset and rewound.
Takizawa toyed with the idea of walking into that fake rain, tasting the air and then retreating back into the hotel. He wanted to know if the absence of time brought with it a certain coldness, the kind which existed before the world began.
He made to stand up, but Kou's hand was already on his shoulder.
"I wouldn't go out there if I were you," the doctor warned gently. "The rain is just a blinder. Better than looking at nothing at all, but one step outside and you may fall through the cracks. The engineers wouldn't dare try to save you... neither will I for that matter. Let them do their work, and they won't interfere with yours."
Takizawa raised his eyebrows but said nothing, and moved not an inch from where he sat. There were just too many things he didn't know, and for once he decided that there were things in the world not worth knowing.
He opted instead to dig for the cigarettes in his jacket pocket. There was no telling how long he would be trapped here, drinking one glass after another without feeling it; exchanging empty words with this Chinatown doctor without sensing the flow of time, because there was no time right now.
But 'now' didn't even exist, thought Takizawa. And this moment wasn't even a real moment but a hotel lobby, two bourbons, a cigarette, a doctor, and a reporter. That's what made it such a bad joke.
Kou was patient with him, more patient than a consequential stranger should ever be, and given their present state of idleness it seemed that this entire affair would end, not with strangeness but a pleasant sort of consequence Takizawa wasn't disposed to predict.
Kou was beautiful enough, and Takizawa figured it was useful in his trade. Information was valuable currency and exchanges went more smoothly if you had a pretty face and experience enough to please an associate.
"If the world were to end in thirty minutes," Kou inquired slyly. "How would you spend it?"
"Counting the seconds," replied Takizawa stubbornly. "I didn't realize how much I liked doing it until now, when I can't."
"Are you unromantic, or simply lazy?"
"Little of both."
Kou laughed. "You like making things difficult for me. Perhaps I should have left you out there instead of taking you to one of our Shelters."
"You're fucking insane. So the only reason you brought me here is for that? You're better off finding yourself a whore, since they don't ask questions."
"I must pass the time somehow, and there is much I would like to speak about regarding certain confidential matters. You ask me questions, I will answer. In return, I will ask my questions, and you will answer. If our questions are not of equal weight, I am of course willing to pay and take as needed. Is this too tall an order?"
Takizawa assured him that it was a manageable one. The bourbon and the prospect of good business were finally beginning to sink into his blood. But as Kou stood up, Takizawa glanced at the curve of his neck and, sensing all the possibility of a graceful little lie, decided instantly that the happiest of men were the idiots who saw only what was in front of their eyes and nothing beyond.
The world wasn't fit for sane people who understood how the universe would end.
Kou dangled the hotel key from his fingers. "I won't say that I'm in a hurry, so I'll wait until you can convince yourself this isn't happening."
"An event requires place and time," Takizawa grit out. "As far as I'm concerned, nothing's happening."
"I will be impressed if you can say that in the morning."
"If morning even comes."
"It will, simply because it is wished for," Kou smiled again, the color of his eyes deepening. "Now tell me, Mr. Reporter, what time would you like the sun to rise?"