Out of time

It was a drearily calm Sunday morning when Jason set out for his usual routine of food napping for the family’s fish supply. It was so calm in fact that as soon as he’d pushed his boat out, past the gentle lap lapping of an abominably lazy ocean smacking the shore like a sloppy tongue, the only sound he could hear was his oars digging into the water, a little motor chug chugging like a growling puppy behind the boat.

Dark sting ray silhouettes darted over little forests of seaweed and the shadows of rippling surface water as they moved into deeper water. Jason usually loved his weekly routine, the open space, the fresh air, the time to think alone. But today he just felt deeply alone and desperately bored. The sheer blandness of sky and sea sunk into his chest in a heaviness he had not known before.

With a deep sigh he dropped anchor near some seaweed that was sure to be sheltering some fish, though not so close his lines would get caught in their dark green fronds. In his quiet melancholy he started to whistle along to an old tune his grandfather used to hum as a digger in the war. He found himself relaxing into the melody as deft fingers baited his hooks with writhing earth worms. A few well practised flicks of his arm sent his lines into the sea awaiting a tasty morsel or two.

The silence around him was becoming palpable. It sent unease through his bones as if the air itself had been cushioned with invisible cotton wool. His whistle broke through the heavy quiet, staying his nerves for a while at least.

And then in the monotone hues and misshapen tunes a blinking light caught his attention. Iridescent like the inside of an abalone shell, it was only a few metres below his little boat. It grew and grew, and the boat began to rock as the ocean surged above the colourful mass. Curious and pensive Jason grabbed the fishing line and tried to reel it in. But it was stuck. The light below was moving closer to the surface and he was well aware of his belly rumbling as it gave way to fear. Drawing in deep breaths to calm his panic he tugged again on the line with more force. It suddenly gave way as the shimmering light shot to the surface, breaking water with a great splash.

He bolted upright with a start, and grabbing a shaky hold of the boats rim peered over the edge.

“I think this belongths to you“ came a lispy voice from below

“Uh… huh? “ was all Jason could muster

“I thaid, thissssss…..“ a shimmering emerald turtle head with glistening golden eyes thrust further out from the water to meet his face, its’ tongue sticking out comically with a fish hook stuck in it “…belongthsss to you“ For a turtle he sure had a ‘talk to the hand’ kind of attitude.

“Ah… um… sorry“ Jason said abruptly fumbling to get some pliers, before carefully extracting to hook from the turtles tongue.

“Ah that’thh thoe mut-th better thankthh vewy mut-th“

Jason double took turtle’s lisp, and then turned away not wanting to seem rude. Wait… what? Rude to a talking turtle? His vocabulary reassembled awkwardly in his mouth.

“So… who are you and how are you able to speak? “

“Aah, you are assuming I am an animal of your planet I take it?“ Turtles’ voice suddenly went all smooth and deep like a film narrator, his eyes narrowing in a knowing smile.

“Well what else would you be? “ Jason hoped no one on shore could see him conversing with a lowly sea creature.

“Well what else could I be? Isn’t that a more interesting question with infinitely more answers? No wonder you’re so bored… you ask such bo-orring questions! “Turtle turned over to float on his back, the shell of his belly shifting oddly in a display of light. His flippers folded up behind his head and a smirk played on his turtle mouth.

“You are certainly a sack of riddles” Jasons’ pride pushed in front of his curiosity like a pesky child as he tried to look away from the mesmerising display swimming around on turtles’ belly.

“Argh but you can’t fight it can yeh? Just got to have a peak at mah wee belleh! “ The image of a man with a huge beard, wiry eyebrows like caterpillars, barrels for shoulders, had leapt on the boat boring down at Jason with wild eyes. “And what yeh hope to find then me little puppet? “ came the roar from his half toothless mouth, surrounded by deep lines of anger and greed, and a glint of mischief. A filthy grey shirt flapped around revealing a bizarre map of lines and symbols tattooed on his front.

Jason peeled himself and his pride from the boat floor as soon as he regained his composure. As he up righted himself turtle took the old mans’ place on the other end of the boat, a universe of lights, lines and geometric patterns all swirling around again on his belly.

“W-w-hat was that? “ stammered the fisherman.

“W-w-hat was what? “ came the terse reply from ruby lips painted on a pearly white face.

“What the!?! “ Jason fell back again at the golden teal image of a mermaid as she slapped her tail in his face. He quickly grabbed an oar from the side of the boat in self-defence.

Mermaid chuckled as her tail fell away and her body shrunk into a jellyfish.

“Oh that won’t save you“’ the chipmunk voice giggled as Jason clumsily armed himself. He watched the oar rot and disintegrate into the ether in seconds, leaving a small pile of dust in his palm. “But this might“  and jellyfish jiggled its’ jelly body sending a cloud of pearly dust into the air, creating a canopy over the boat before dispersing into the sky.

“Or perhaps this!“ A giant clam nearly tipped the boat sideways, and as it opened its’ giant mouth thousands of tiny bubbles burst out into the air around them and fell to the water’s surface, transforming it into a giant bubble bath for a few moments.

Jason was too perplexed to find a smile. “Are you going to kill me? “ his blue lips trembled.

“Me? No… well not right away, I mean. Well actually no not me at all, but, well you are dying, we all are.” His voice had returned to the liquid silk of a film narrators’. “Time is making sure of that.”

“So, who are you and why are you here?”

“Well, I’m like a turtle, you know, and I was like minding my own business and like your hook got all up in my face and wedged in my mouth dude… that’s all you gotta know.”’ His Californian drawl was not becoming at all.

“No that’s not all at all… at all… You’re no ordinary turtle.“

“And you’re no ordinary man.“

“Well, how did you do that, just change into all those things just now?“

“Oh but I didn’t change – you did. Don’t you wonder why the air was so thick and still this morning?“

“Well yes it was strange, but not abnormal like… like you.“

“Ah but it is you that is the anomaly, for you have fallen from time. When you took off in your boat, did you not begin to row, only to find yourself in a motor boat? “

“I… er yes… how did you know? “

Turtles’ flippers opened out as if to present the current situation, in true showman style. They were in an old row boat, no motor to be seen. “You, my dear fellow, have fallen out of time. “

“No… that’s ridiculous, impossible! “ It was just like the boat Jason had fished in as a little kid.

“Is it? “

Jason looked around. The scenery had indeed remained the same all the time since he had left the shore. It was still dead still as if in a photograph. “But how? “

“Oh that’s easy. You are timeless. We all are, we just don’t know it yet. But the stillness you felt was time slowing down which it naturally does every so often and that tune you heard was a gateway to a different time zone. Whistling it was your way through the door. The world is now almost still while you are moving around. I have not changed bodies, you have just seen different lifetimes of mine, and you are seeing the infinite in all of them.” Turtle patted his belly as the symbols shifted and shimmered, “but in your earth time, I’m just a plain old turtle. See? “

And with a flop turtle was suddenly flat on its back, brown like mud, flippers hopelessly flapping around as if trying to swim.

“Oh, I do see. So um how do I get back into my own time zone then?” He waited for multidimensional space turtle to come back, and he waited, and waited… and waited. After a time he realised the cosmic interplay was done, so picked up the little creature and up righted it upon his boat. He still expected it to turn and laugh at him but it didn’t, it stayed as turtle like as ever. Hmm he thought perhaps it had all been a weird dream. But that thought diminished as he saw a faint insignia like a tattoo on turtles’ back. It looked like a snake eating its’ own tail, and curled into an infinity sign. The never ending cycles of life, and the never ending cycles of time, he thought curiously.

“Well little fella, I guess your current self needs to go back into the sea.” With somewhat sturdier hands no he picked up turtle and gently pushed it back into the cool ocean water. As is slid down to the depths a spray of iridescent light burst out from the insignia, sending out a majestic light over the ocean floor for a few moments before fading to the blue grey of the reflected sky.

Jason took a deep breath as he sat back in the boat. Looking around he realised he was back on the motor boat he took out on, at least he wouldn’t have to row back to shore. Then he noticed the other fishing line was still in the water. Picking up the rod he reeled the line in, earth worm still in place on the hook. His brow furrowed in a frown as he inspected it closer. The earth worm had curled itself into an infinity symbol, and it seemed to be eating its’ own tail.

Shaking his head he gently pulled the earthworm off the hook and popped it back into the bait box. It immediately uncurled itself flat and suddenly the uneasy calm that had sat heavy on the bay eased. It was still alarmingly motionless though, and as Jason whistled his grandfathers’ old tune a breeze began to set in. Sweet relief it worked smiled the fisherman.

He looked at the small mass of wriggling worms, wondering what or who they had been in other times. No more fishing for me for a while, he thought to himself, who knows what I’ll pull up next time… or who! Vegies and rice for dinner instead he smiled as he started the motor boat and headed for shore, and then wondered how many lives the vegetables had had. Oh I am not going down that rabbit hole, at least not today, he laughed as he made his way back home. Just in time for dinner.


Written by Tjoni Johansen


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Her email is info@eccentrix.com.au. Many thanks.


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