Of Donkeys & Time Travel—A Flash Fiction
I stayed up later than usual the night of Daylight Savings. I wanted to see if what the man had told me was true.
“When the clocks turn back, for an instant, you are simultaneously in today and yesterday. Or today and tomorrow. I’m not entirely sure which it is. I always get confused, that's why I steer clear of time travel all together.”
So eager was I to experience this phenomena, which for my whole life had passed whilst I slept soundly in my bed, that I kept all the lights on, my shoes tightly laced, my back stiff from the uncomfortable posture I had adopted to keep myself awake. It had been years since I’d stayed up past nine o’clock. The magic of late nights had diminished with age, replaced by the sweet siren call of unconsciousness.
“Just a little…longer,” I murmured to myself through bleary eyes. Another sip of coffee passed my lips, strong and bitter, the caffeine seeming to evaporate before it hit my tongue.
It did not make a difference. The clock read 11:36.
“What are you doing?” demanded a disgruntled voice from the top of the stairs. I had not heard anyone stirring, and the voice sent a rush of adrenaline racing through me, my drooping eyelids snapping open.
“Thank you!” I called gratefully into the night.
“I’ll thank you to turn off some of those lights and go to sleep! Some of us have to work in the morning!”
There was a shuffling of stockinged feet across the carpeted hallway, a few quiet moments, and then the flush of the toilet and the running of the sink.
“Almost,” I repeated to myself, comfortingly.
I stood to walk around, the movement forcing blood back into my limbs as I pondered life’s mysteries. How old was I? How could it be that the dizzying talons of sleep deprivation could so affect me with such speed and precision? Surely I had more stamina than this!
Images swam at the forefront of my mind, crashing into one another, convalescing into strange, tantalizing creations that eluded my more lucid self. I saw a swarm of insects reciting haikus as they hovered above a giant glass of peach nectar. I imagined a pink donkey, much more believable than haiku-reciting insects. It seemed almost reasonable. Why shouldn’t there be pink donkeys out there in the wild somewhere, as yet undiscovered? I imagined a whole herd of them, galloping gleefully in the last rays of sunlight after a long day in the…did donkeys gallop?
And if they did, where were they galloping? Where did donkeys live in the wild? It occurred to me that I had no idea. I considered this for a long moment before taking out my phone. My fingers were clumsy as I tried to punch my query into the search engine. Frustrated at my failed attempt, which read “wear do dark nees live?” I held down the home button and practically shouted at my phone. “Where do donkeys live in the wild?” I asked angrily, my voice echoing through the bright, empty living room.
“I don’t know, but there’s an ass in the living room!” came the cry of the disembodied upstairs voice.
“Here are some results from the web,” replied my phone, and I struggled to read the tiny words. The Horn of Africa. I wondered how many pink donkeys were prancing around the Horn of Africa, right now, right this very moment…at 11:52. The Horn of Africa. Horns. Donkeys don’t have horns. Cars do, though, I reasoned. Some are loud. Even with the lightest of taps to signal the driver in front of me that the light had turned green a full minute ago, my horn always sounded angry. Yet more than once I had heard the horns of others which had a much more polite, almost apologetic tone. As if to say, “I’m so sorry to disturb you, but would you mind terribly not cutting me off? Thanks ever so much.”
I wonder what type of cars donkeys would be attracted to. If I were trying to capture a pink donkey, to be the first to reveal this beautiful enigma to the world, what vehicle would most likely act as bait?
This was it. Mere seconds from now, it was going to happen. It had to. I had invested hours of my life that I could never get back, all culminating in the bittersweet moment that was about to arrive.
The clock now read 12:00. For fifty-nine seconds I held my breath, every muscle tensed in anticipation. And then it happened.
It was 12:01 for one fleeting, nearly imperceptible instant, and then, suddenly, it was 11:01.
“I’ve done it!” I cried with a victorious whoop. “I went to the future, and I came back!”
“What about a Cadillac?”
“Yes,” I agreed, feeling sobered by this life-altering experience. “I think they would prefer Cadillacs.”
Feeling much wiser than I had before, I headed up the stairs, already planning my trip for next year as I closed my eyes.