Time travels in divers paces with divers persons. – William Shakespeare, As You Like It (III,ii)
The two of them lay as still as a statue in bed, their white limbs entwined so extensively that they seemed to have been carved by a master from a single block of marble. Nearby lay one of their cats, equally still, another statue placed as an accent beside the larger subject. Even had their position not advertised their last activity before sleep, the various objects on the nightstand and the cast-aside clothes on the floor would have; not that they would’ve been ashamed of that, even if they had been aware of my presence. The only motion in the room beside my own was that of the ceiling fan above them, and that was only barely perceptible.
I had to stand for what seemed a long while to me, staring at it in order to be sure it was moving at all. Observing it was no more the point of my trespass into the room than voyeuristically spying on my housemates was; it’s just that I have not yet had this power long enough to have become jaded with it. Things like the sight of two beautiful women frozen in embrace, or a fan’s blades moving so slowly that to a casual glance they seem motionless, are still so strange and fascinating to me that I can’t help but stop and take them in. I also find myself tiptoeing in such situations, despite the fact that it’s completely unnecessary; any sound I made would be so momentary and so highly-pitched it would be a wonder if they heard it at all.
Crossing the room took a few seconds to my perception, but how much time was it really? I can’t be exactly sure, except that I can fit several minutes of activity between two ticks of a clock. Where the power came from, or where it will lead me, I have no idea; all I know is that a short course of meditation allows me to access this accelerated state, and that I have no trouble maintaining it for as long as I like. There do seem to be some limits on the power; for example, it’s very difficult to move large objects while I exist between tick and tock. And that’s why I was passing through the lovers’ room this morning: I knew their window would be open against the late springtime heat, and their door would be ajar from one or the other of them visiting the bathroom during the night.
Kitty #2 was on the windowsill, glassy eyes fixed on an equally-motionless bird suspended in midair nearby. She presented no obstacle; I simply slipped past her onto the fire escape and then made my way spider-like down the wall. There was no other way to get to the ground; I had discovered the hard way that gravity worked no more quickly on me than it did on the bird or any other object, so if I tried to jump down I would simply hang there in space until I decided to move back into normal time. But the roughness of the brick wall was enough for me to pull myself down with, and I could go up as easily as down for the same reason.
The street below was already busy even at this hour, but that made little difference to me; the cars were as motionless as everything else, so I could move in any direction I liked, right down the middle of the street if I wanted to, without regard for traffic. My destination was miles away, but I had no choice other than walking it; pedaling a bicycle, as I had discovered earlier, is utterly exhausting when accelerated. No matter; I’m a strong walker, and to achieve today’s goal I would’ve been willing to walk clear across the city if need be. Furthermore, I’ve done this every day for several weeks now, except for the days when the rain created a curtain of suspended droplets that’s almost as hard to move through as if I were walking underwater. I know the route well, and have already discovered several shortcuts unavailable to those who can be seen by others.
Over a high brick wall lay my final destination; it was no harder to climb than the wall outside my own place, despite the spikes on top. And then down into the courtyard, and into my hiding place in the shed. I took the time to make myself comfortable, knowing I might have a relatively long wait in real time; my quarry did not visit here every morning, but when he did he always left around the same time. And less than an hour ago, the remote camera I concealed here earlier this week had already alerted me to his presence. There’s no way I could have possibly made it here in time moving at normal speed, and no way I could’ve entered the walled garden without attracting attention even if I did; but for one with my talents, both were child’s play.
Coming back into normal time, I set up the digital camera to record the Great Man’s departure from his mistress’ home; it seemed like forever before he left, though it was probably no more than twenty minutes at the outside. I started recording as soon as I heard the door open, and the champion of Family Values and sworn enemy of whores obligingly made my mission a success by giving his lady friend a passionate kiss on the threshold. My excitement made it difficult to achieve the meditative state necessary to going back into accelerated time, but I managed it soon enough; I then returned the way I had come, over the wall and across the miles and into the alley behind my own home, scaling the wall in blatant disregard for the feeble efforts of gravity to pull me back down to the pavement. The cat must have lost interest in the goings-on outside at some point in the last half-hour, because she was no longer on the sill; the lovers, however, were still exactly where I had left them, though one had thrown a proprietary hand over the other’s nipple as if to conceal it from the unconsciously-sensed intruder in the room.
Kissing their still, silent faces was the one deviation I allowed myself from strict propriety before slipping out, unseen and unheard; I then returned to my room, returned to normal time and connected the cable so my computer could download the footage while I returned to bed. It was still absurdly early for us, and I was tired from both the exertion and the excitement; but more importantly, I wanted my brain to be well-rested when I sat down to draft the blackmail letter.