THE MAN WHO WAS STUCK • by Frank Roger

“Help! Is there anybody out there? Somebody please help me!”

“Hold on,” I shouted in reply. “I’ll be right there. Where are you? I can’t see a thing. It’s pitch dark here.” It had gone dark all of a sudden indeed. What the hell was going on here?

“Thank God you happened to be around, friend. I could really use some help right now. I have to get out of here before it’s too late.”

“Where exactly are you?” I repeated. The blackness was so impenetrable I couldn’t even determine which direction the panic-ridden voice was coming from.

“I’m stuck here, a few seconds away from you.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“You mean you haven’t heard about the accident yet? Something went terribly wrong and time suffered considerable damage. Parts of time seem to have curdled, and–”

“Curdled?” I asked incredulously. “What does that mean?”

“How could I know? I’m not a chronologist! Anyway, I’m entangled here in fragments of curdled time and I’d like to get out.”

Was this man serious? But if he wasn’t, then how could I explain the complete darkness that covered everything now? “All right. Tell me what to do.”

“You simply reach out across time and pull me out of here.”

“Reach out across time?”

“Look, man, I’m only a few seconds away from you. Not years, or centuries. A mere few seconds. So if you please…”

I reached out, but felt nothing. Of course, I hadn’t reached out across time, but then again my experience with transtemporal transactions was pretty limited. How was I supposed to do that anyway? Why had I bothered at all? Was this guy a raving lunatic?

After a silence, I heard his voice again: “Hello? Are you still there? Hurry up, man. Something weird is happening. The curdled bits of time seem to be coagulating, thickening, developing into something pretty ominous. I wanna get out of here really fast now, so please…”

Unable to come up with anything sensible, I shrugged, a gesture bound to go unnoticed in this complete darkness.

“My God.” The voice had suddenly risen in pitch, hitting peaks of sheer hysteria. “I think I can see what’s happening now. The curdled bits of time are growing into loops. If I’m correct, this means we’re all doomed. It’s too late, pal. Don’t even bother to–” The voice was cut off in mid-sentence.

Silence returned. Darkness remained unbroken. Then I heard  a voice.

“Help! Is there anybody out there? Somebody please help me!”

“Hold on,” I shouted in reply. “I’ll be right there…”

Frank Roger was born in 1957 in Ghent, Belgium. His first story appeared in 1975. Since then his stories have appeared in an increasing number of languages in all sorts of magazines, anthologies and other venues, and since 2000, story collections have been published, also in various languages. Apart from fiction, he also produces collages and graphic work in a surrealist and satirical tradition. By now he has more than 600 short story publications (including a few short novels) to his credit in 26 languages. Critics describe his work as a blend of genres and styles: fantasy, satire, surrealism, science fiction and black humour.

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