Head count: 8 people in the convenience store. 3 teenage male Caucasians by the soft drink fountain, 2 Latina twenty-somethings at the counter getting ready to buy cigarettes, an older Asian male browsing the snack options, an Arab male assigned to cash register duty, and 1 adult white male by the ice machine. The man guarding the ice box surveys the store one last time, just to be sure before he starts. The Latinas are giggling and making fun of the convenience store clerk in Spanish, believing that he cannot understand them. The clerk looks at them with a deadness in his eyes, because he in fact speaks 6 different languages, Spanish among them, and the ladies are being horribly offensive. The 3 teenagers are oblivious to their surroundings, and are yucking it up talking about trivial adolescent pap. The Asian man finds himself stuck in an eternal snack conundrum: Doritos or Sour Creme and Onion Pringles? There is no easy decision for the snack enthusiast to make so he just stares at the chips endlessly. The clerk asks the Latinas for $8.47, and as one of the ladies grabs a 10 dollar bill from their purse, he hits the keystroke that opens the cash till. The man propping up the ice box, closes his eyes tight and focuses his mind on a single moment, and as he opens his eyes a smile creeps across his lips: time is frozen, just as he hoped it would.
Clad in the most non-descript outfit of jeans, t-shirt and a solid color ball cap, Michael Fodo – the man by the ice machine, clicks a button on his wristwatch and makes a break for the cash till. He isn’t sure how much time he has, so he must be fast and precise. For the last couple days Mr. Fodo has been inexplicably able to freeze time at will. The results vary each time, with some frozen events lasting up to the 2 minute range and others as short as a few seconds. Also of interest, he does not seem to be able to trigger these time freezing events one after the other, there appears to be a cool down period between each even though. Michael is using this event to challenge a hypothesis that he posited earlier in the day: that intense situations heighten his ability to freeze time, and that engaging in a high risk scenario will allow him to maintain the event for a longer period of time. His positioning at the ice machine put him in a blind spot from the closed circuit video monitors, which will be helpful if he can grab the cash from the register without disrupting anything viewable by the cameras and make it back to his spot by the ice box before time starts again. He is not wholly proud of this plan, but he is broke and is determined to test the boundaries of his newly acquired power.
12 seconds in and Michael is around the cold beer refrigerated section and running down the available odds and ends aisle. With no one to trip him up, he makes it to the counter at the 36 second mark. Mr. Fodo grabs the big bills, twenties, tens and fives and jams them into his pockets. Turning to make his escape, he knocks over a couple cartons of cigarettes at the 48 second mark. Having returned the cartons to their original location at the 59 second mark, Michael makes haste to get back to the ice machine. Time is going to start any second now and he knows it. His head starts to hurt, like a dull pain at first, but then like being hit by a sledgehammer. It’s when the pain is at its sharpest that he can no longer hold time still. The pain is starting to creep in, but he isn’t at the ice box yet. “Just a few more seconds,” he thought to himself as he struggles to get to his starting position. Slamming his body back up against the ice machine, time starts to flow normally and his head starts reeling in pain.
The 3 teenagers remained oblivious as they continue to utter sentences that end (or begin) in “dude” or “bro”. The Asian man almost picks the Doritos, then switches to the Pringles, and then decides to buy both. The clerk most certainly notices a huge problem as he begins a verbal assault against his Latina customers. Not willing to just accept his accusations, the ladies yell obscenities and other such nonsense right back at him. Michael couldn’t help but laugh. He isn’t getting the result he was hoping for, but he is now a couple hundred dollars richer and that’s better than nothing. Making sure that all of the bills were stuffed discreetly in his pockets, Mr. Fodo walks out the door of the convenience store like nothing happened.
Michael pulls the brim of his cap down to guard from the sun as he meanders a bit down the street. “It’s hot out,” he thought to himself, “hotter than most days.” The temperature is currently 101 degrees with 100% humidity, and no cloud cover at all. Essentially, it feels like a sweltering 114 degrees. He wants to count his money, but the city streets are not safe. It would be wiser to wait, and he knows this. Michael stops at a street corner and waits for the street crossing signal to give him permission to cross the street. A thirty-something lady with a baby in a stroller is there at the corner, having a rather heated discussion with a young man about money she supposedly owes him. The man is very aggressive, puffing his chest out and walking well within her personal bubble at all times to intimidate her. The young man spoke with the elegance of a modern day rap artist and he’s just as misogynistic – kind of like a modern day senator. To her credit, the lady gave no quarter, getting right back into his face while yelling at him. Mr. Fodo did his best to tune out their squabble, yet an unfortunate development did catch his attention: the baby stroller is on the move!
This section of street has a very sharp decline and once the stroller slid off the corner it hit an expeditious velocity. Michael closes his eyes and focuses on this point in time, but time does not freeze. Desperate to save an innocent life, Mr. Fodo breaks into a sprint towards the infant. Bobbing and weaving through traffic, he closes his eyes again and focuses once more. Opening his eyes too late, he runs into the back of a car that is now frozen in time. Rolling off of the vehicle, he reacquires the location of the child and makes grand strides towards it’s rescue. His head starts pounding and he knows he can’t maintain the event for much longer, so he pushes himself even harder. Time resumes and the stroller picks up even more steam. Michael hears the scream from the mother in the distance behind him as he presses further on.
Time will not freeze for Michael anymore, and the stroller keeps gaining speed on him. Worse than that, the stroller is on a collision course with a rather large delivery vehicle. Running so hard that his heart feels as if it will burst, Mr. Fodo closes his eyes and focuses on this moment in time with laser like clarity. Time still marches ever forward. “Why won’t it stop?” he desperately wonders as his lungs burn with each breath and each foot step. A realization hit Michael: without stopping time, he will not save that child, and time is seemingly not on his side. The stroller veers left, upon a shift in the decline, directly into the delivery vehicle. Impact occurs, sending the stroller rapidly into the ground, which hurls the baby on a violent trajectory with the pavement. “NO!” Michael yells at the top his fire filled lungs as he lunges towards the carnage. In the middle of the leap, Michael feels a calm come about him, a oneness with the fabric of time itself. Time freezes once more as he lands. Mr. Fodo walks serenely towards the child, time still feels at peace, and he had no pain in his noggin. Time was fully in his control, as if his body and the very notion of time are in perfect unison. Then something even more incredible starts to transpire, time slowly starts reversing. The baby goes back into the stroller, which then begins a snail like descent from the delivery truck. Michael reaches the stroller and time slows to a stop again. He takes control of the stroller and walks it back to the sidewalk. Having caught his breath finally, he parks the child by it’s mother and looks down on the little human, who is perfectly content with no sign of harm at all.
“Is this guy bothering you?” Michael asks the infant whilst pointing to the young man. “I’ve got just the thing for a piece of work like this one.”
Michael tips the young man back and drags him into the convenience store, behind the counter. Placing the money he stole from the earlier heist in the rude man’s pockets, he makes sure to do so in such a way that it is obvious that there is a lot of money on the young man’s person. Michael then found a cop just a corner away and then brings them to the front of the convenience store, just outside the double doors of the entrance. Mr. Fodo walks inside the store, places the clerk’s finger on the silent alarm button, and leaves the shop.
Taking his position back at the corner, Michael smiles again, and then allows time to move forward. The mother, still screaming in panic, frantically searches for the stroller with her eyes.
“Looking for this?” Michael inquires.
She looks down to see the stroller right next to her, with her child in it. “But how? It was halfway down the block!” She squeals as she grabs her baby and hugs it like there’s no tomorrow.
“I’ve got no idea what just happened,” Michael answers. “It was there, then it was down the road, and now it’s back here again. Only in this city, huh?”
“And Todd, what happened to Todd?” She asks.
“I don’t think Todd is your problem anymore, darling,” Michael retorts as he turns her attention towards the convenience store. Todd is exiting the store, in handcuffs, with the police officer following closely behind.
“This is not possible! How did you do this? Are you an angel?” She asks in earnest.
“I ain’t no angel… ain’t no demon either. I’m just a guy who’s starting to figure some things out.” Mr. Fodo replies. “Keep an eye on that little one, will ya’? We’ve been through a lot together.”
“I don’t… I can’t even… Thank you!” She says as she begins to weep uncontrollably.
Michael winks at the child and walks away. He was starting to understand this newfound gift of his. It isn’t about freezing time through focusing on a single point in time, it is more likely about controlling time through becoming one with the fabric of time itself. If he could learn to harness this power, he could do a great many things. Good things. Things that will make this city a better place to live in. He adds a little pep to his step as he continues on down the sidewalk. “I can do it,” he thinks to himself. ” I can make this city safe again. I can save people who have the odds hopelessly stacked against them. I can prevent tragedies. I can do whatever it takes to make things right. I can do all of these things and more… possibly after a nap.” Michael bellows an obnoxiously loud yawn, on his way home. He would reach his apartment soon, and this day really did take it all out of him. Perhaps he will freeze time and then take a nap for a few hour. Then again he’ll likely just go home and sleep until his aching body forces him to wake up. Regardless, he has a lot think about, and a whole lot of ideas for how to spend tomorrow.