Each one was a constant moment, a frozen instant in time. They were laid out like an exhibition in a gallery even though it was technically a room in Ms. Blunt’s laboratory. And what no-one told you was that if you tried to touch one of these moments, or you accidentally brushed against it, or someone jokingly pushed into it, then you fell into the moment itself, and were held there, an invisible observer of what was happening until someone on the outside pulled you out. Usually it was Ms. Blunt herself who pulled you out, and gave you a little lecture, admonishing you for your insensitivity to what was on display. Then afterwards you were intercepted by a quiet little man who seemed innocuous until you tried to push past him, when he took your elbow in a grip like steel and escorted you off to another room whether you wanted to help him or not. This room contained someone else, and it varied from day to day, week to week. It also contained a comfortable leather chair with strong leather straps, and you weren’t allowed out of that chair until whoever was in the room with you was satisfied that you’d told them all about the constant moment.
“So you were in moment 930-C this time?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t see what it was called. Someone just pushed me into the room, and when I tried to get out I was thrown–“
“There was no-one with you. We have the security camera footage, it clearly shows you walking into the room, looking around the exhibits and then stepping into 930-C.”
“You don’t! You can’t have, because it didn’t happen!”
“We have. You’ll be shown it before you leave.”
“…damn you, why are you doing this to me? It’s persecution, you keep pushing me into these moments, these other times. Why can’t you pick–“
“Describe moment 930-C to me.”
“Why can’t you pick on someone else for a change?”
“Describe moment 930-C to me. Please.”
“We’ve been here before, haven’t we?”
“So will you describe moment 930-C to me? Or do I need to persuade you? Again.”
“There’s the ringing of a bell when you enter, it’s quite loud and… harsh, I suppose. It’s a get-out-of-the-way bell, not a church bell or anything like that. It’s a definite move-move sound. There’s a smell like, I don’t know, an animal, something big maybe, sweaty. What? Yes, it could be a horse, I’ve never sniffed one of those. There’s that, there’s the bell, and then there’s the heartrate. Your heartrate just shoots up and you start panting for breath and sweat springs out on your head. It was like I’d been running in a race or something. I felt kind of terrified, but I didn’t know what I was terrified of. There was screaming, off to my left I think. Maybe in front of me too. High-pitched, more like women than men I think. Men tend to bellow when they scream don’t they? Well I don’t know, I don’t scream.
That’s when I started looking around, and I realised that there’s this big tram-like vehicle and its bearing down on me. It’s too close, I can’t get around it from where I am, and it’s not slowing down. I remember looking down at the ground, wondering if there was enough room for me to lie down and have it just go over me and there wasn’t, there was this big decorative panel all the way around that would catch me up like a cow-catcher and push me along.
The bell keeps ringing the whole time you’re in there though, it’s incessant and it gave me a headache after a bit. Then the headache pounds in time with the bells rings– What? Oh ok, the pealing of the bells, but it doesn’t sound anything like a church bell you know? It sounds more electric than that. Bells can’t really buzz, can they? Oh fine, you write whatever you want. It’ll be just like your camera footage of me volunteering for your little experiment.
The bus thing, the vehicle, it gets closer while you’re in there. Everytime I looked at it it had inched closer. Not by much, but every time a little further. It’s really scary, because you can’t move. The people around are moving too, equally slowly. They’re getting out of the way, it’s like they know what’s going to happen too. I don’t know, there’s an air of… is sacrifice too weird a word? It’s like it’s deliberate but no-one asked me if I wanted to take part.”
“I would recommend that we close 930-C down for the moment. We can reopen it later when the constant moments are better understood. He definitely saw movement within the moment this time, and that can’t be called constant, can it?”
“We’ll think about it. Write your recommendation up and submit it to Sheila, she’s back from holiday now. Next, when do you think he’ll be ready for moment 940-A?”