1N 5 M1NUTE5

“If I had but five minutes to change the world I would start by altering every heartbeat”

5 minutes past 5 on the 5th of May.
That's when each of the plane crashes were. 1943. 1975. 2014. 2067. 2150.
Each crash has one survivor.
Each survivor must change the world.

This is my entry to the 'The Seventh Miss Hatfield' competition. I'm doing option 1.
~~~
Eternally grateful to MahoganyPumpkin™ for the cover (:

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6. Words

If the world was made of people – people building, people destroying, people having consequences – then the room was made of words.


Which, therefore, could not really let it qualify as a room.


Nevertheless, it appeared to have a floor and walls and a ceiling. It was oddly substantial, it must have been because the five children were all sprawled on its floor, but how could it be when it was really just letters and punctuation? It did not even seem to be a physical time or place, it simply was, but how could something ‘simply be’ when there was nothing palpable to it?


Perhaps words were like threads of invisible wire and if you lined enough of them up, across and across each other, then a mat could be formed. When the mat was pulled tight, the mesh locked and became a stiffened safety net.


The youngest was the first to stand and that made sense really because she was the only one who appeared be sleeping rather than dead. She’d thrown her arms across herself but otherwise she might have been simply laid flat to dream. When she stood she was not hindered by broken parts, only a scissored mind that ran in clockwork circles and jumped as though between stepping stones from thought to thought. She had a twitching elbow that jerked back from her body and she held her wrists together although there was nothing binding them.


Her thoughts wound backwards in a thrust of failed mechanics and she remembered being taught, at an age probably closer to nothing than something and then for the years that followed, that “you’s different to us. We’s made of soul and body; we’s created by God. You’s made only of body – of this; DNA – you’s created by Man.”


“DNA” she said. “We’re in DNA. Where did all the DNA go?”


She cast frantically about her, perhaps searching for the hay-stack of decomposing bodies that she’d been released from. The room was hung in the centre of a double helix – in DNA – and if you looked closely then you could see that these interlocking spirals were not simply made of colours but of seconds. Time had coiled itself about them in a python of beautiful and mesmerising danger; each millimetre of it was another moment of life, aligning beneath other moments several decades apart. She watched it like an infant watching the stars and trying to pluck them from their pedestals.


“DNA, double helix, DNA, we’re made of it, just DNA, double helix, not person DNA.”


Her self-cuffed hands cried for the seconds she’d never been permitted like they understood what they were missing. They couldn’t have because she’d never known anything more than this. “DNA,” she said and she ran towards it as far as the words would let her.


Then the boy in a man’s attire sat and then stood and then rubbed down his arms until he found the place that his bone had shattered. He did not seem to care where he was only that he removed his RAF jacket and then stamped on it while his arm strung across him with agonising weightiness. He stamped with the desperation of his dying breaths and with the destructive hatred of a bomb and while he stamped he ate his bottom lip to stop it from wailing.


When he was too splintered by rage and exhaustion to continue destroying he sat and crossed his legs. “Mother?” he asked. “Are you proud of your little soldier boy?” But no answer could be drawn from the plumes of time that swaddled him except perhaps the head-shake of a tick-tocking pendulum. “Do I look like a man in my uniform now?” He threw his voice at the words like a ball volleyed beyond control. “Do I look like a bloody man?” He could only answer himself with the tremble of his jaw and the arm that hung like a water drop – not quite heavy enough to detach itself.


“I asked you a question,” he shouted although he couldn’t really say why he was so angry with the place that seemed to be suspended at the centre of a smoke column – like the aftermath of a blitzed city. He supposed that the real anger was not in the fact that this place had claimed him but in the fact that there’d been another child in another cockpit and the two little boys had shot each other from machines that were too big for them, and that no one had cared because no one had been young enough to see that countries hurled their children away with such ease.


“Answer me!”


Almost in response, the other boy woke. He reached his hand out to the side and then sat up when his hand collided only with emptiness. His palm skated around on what seemed to be the floor and then – without locating whatever he was searching for – he used his elbow to drag himself to a sitting position. His neck remained broken but he didn’t seem so troubled by it; his attention was concentrated instead on the alarming lack of the glasses he was searching for.


“Where’s my iView, Dad?” he asked and then tried to right his reeling head.


The contest, the sleep, the crash. He remembered it with the cliché of every unexpected locked door. It was so typical that it was almost beautiful, albeit in a twisted kind of way.


“No iView,” he said and he stared at the ceiling of words and asked, tongue lolling back with his head, “Test of the Tides?” so many times over that his voice drowned in its own waves.


He remembered what was forgotten in patches, each dribble of memory touched a far greater area of blotting paper, and he gathered himself to his feet, choosing to hold his neck together with one of his hands.


The rolls of time bloomed around him, effervescent and whirling. “Is this a roller-coaster?”


“No,” answered the second girl. Her face was still laughing at a waste-away punchline but she spoke without expression. “It’s like a reel of film,” she decided as she stood; “You know, one of those retro ones from the old-fashioned cameras.”


Then she started to cry and there was nothing pretty or remarkable about it, only the hideous irony of her bared teeth. “I had one last day and I spent it on losing myself.”


The girl with no ear and little face then opened her eyes and her cupped fingers scratched for anatomy which had ceased to exist. They then traced the shrivelled, imploded cheek and explored, with a sense of wonder, the blurred rivers of skin that leaked into her chin.


“I know, I know, I know,” she whispered to herself. “I know that you are lying there and your seatbelt buckled you to your chair and the fire digested you before you even collected the magazines that flew like frightened birds to the floor from your lap and I know that your pilot lost all sense of the map in the mist that cloaked you like ash and you blew yourself up in Boston which will forever be a graveyard of trash metal and twisted frames and all the heavy dead “gone, all gone” the newspapers said and I know that you are underground with maggots threading your eyes and your organs with your decaying face still reaching for skies that are blacked out by earth and a stone that will remember to stand guard over until the last memory of you is your little patch of land and I know this and I know that I should be too but I also know that I am not as dead as you and I must therefore have some sort of right to change the world.”


“Change the world?” The angry soldier boy snorted. “I bought into that lie once before; I even fantasised about it. Ha. And this is what ‘changing the world’ means.”


She pressed her hand to her mouth as though finally realising that she had been speaking.


“Who are you?” She asked as he watched her try to stand; torched legs collapsing like those of a new-born foal.
“Alfie Haines,” he muttered; “What about you?”


There was no answer for she had let herself sink back to the ground in a trembling foetus position, finger-tips pressing so tightly to lips that they whitened in her blanched and trembling face.


“If I had but five minutes to change the world I would start by altering every heartbeat,” She sobbed to herself. As she cried either her voice or her tears stained the words that she lay upon and they laced themselves together from the colour blue and became distinguishable from one another. They all read the same thing: If I had but five minutes to the change the world I would start by altering every heartbeat.


“What’s that?” he asked sharply; his voice spliced the place open and all four of its other inhabitants turned to stare.
“It’s you,” she told him. “That’s what you said.”


The girl who’d been trying to grasp hold of what she thought was DNA stopped and turned; her head slipped to one side and her elbow ricocheted off hipbone.


“You’re why I’m here,” She said.


“Wait; I know about you!” The boy with the sling-back neck and the naked eyes said, momentarily distracted from the roller-coaster he was seeing where there should have been walls.


“You do?”


 “Yeah, you died in 1943 – 05/05, I think – some older guy called Jack got upset about it. He died seven weeks later and got buried next to you in Oxleigh,” he said carelessly. Of course, what was one more dead man to him?


“What?”


The girl that was self-proclaimed DNA began to talk to herself. When she spoke it was more like singing, a lilting crooked lullaby that had little in the way of a tune. “Fifth of May.” She sung, “Fifth of May. Special day. in Oxleigh. Fifth of May. Last day. Over day. Finished day. Death day. We all die on the fifth of May.”


“Jack can’t die,” Alfie’s anger dampened itself into a misery which tried pointlessly to burn itself dry. He closed his eyes and swayed on the spot, reeling like a spinning-top knocked off balance.


“He’s dead; I met his nephew visiting the grave.”


 Alfie fell on the floor and couldn’t bring himself to swear or cry because there didn’t seem to be a single piece of him that was left to take the pain. Each and every inch of his personality had either come loose or been torn away; he had let the war draw a tally chart of the dead all over his body and there was no part left naïve and undamaged. He didn’t bother to ask how she knew what the future was because he didn’t care.


 “Fifth of May. Special day. in Oxleigh. Fifth of May. Last day. Over day. Finished day. Death day. We all die on the fifth of May.”


“That’s it!” The smiling girl realised, her mind finally rediscovering its coherence. “That’s got to be it – what day is it for you? What was the date before you came here?”


“May the fifth.”


“Fifth of May.”


“05/05.”


“Fifth of May; Last day. Over day. Finished-” The DNA agreed absentmindedly. For her, absentmindedness was not a temporary result of dreams and exhaustion but a state of permanent self-abstraction that could only have been created by the various experiments that had been sliced out of her.


“That’s it! Don’t you see? We all die on the fifth of May.”


“We – we’re dead?”


“I thought there’d be more clouds. More angels.”


“They told me I’d have company at Worldsend, we’re at Worldsend aren’t we? Where did all the DNA go? DNA, not person, I’m not person, DNA.”


“If we’re dead then where are the others – the other dead people?”


“Dead, dead, dead; we all die on the fi-”


“OK, WE GET IT. PLEASE. I can’t make my thoughts join up when you’re talking like that.” The DNA fell silent on command. Of course to herself, she was mere DNA, simply C364, but in reality she was not something but someone. Perhaps there were many Someones with the same body and mind as her but all the same she was no less real, no less human because of it.


“Heartbeat, heartbeat, why does my heartbeat?” She rocked the cradle of her fingers around her heart and sung her puzzlement like a nursery rhyme. Like being alive was a new-born idea that she was to treasure.

 

 

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