Fifteen Minutes

Vincent always wished he had more time. He needed more time to finish his homework, he needed more time to sleep and he needed more time to play.

Vincent was neither lazy nor stupid. He was a genius, who was interested in so many things, that 24 hours

in a day were just not enough for him. To add to that, he was a perfectionist, who would go to any length to ensure that his work not have even a single error. He was commended for this sometimes, but most of the time, he was reprimanded for not being able to finish on time. If there was one aspect where he had not been able apply his perfectionist tendencies, it was time.

 

Vincent's prayers would be answered, in a twisted sort of way. He would indeed have time.

That fateful weekend, we were going to the forest nearby to spend the morning. It was to be one of those trips where we would observe the plants that we learned about in botany class, and see the birds we saw in the encyclopedias that we rescued from gathering dust in the library. It would be a trip when we would flatter the great Sherlock Holmes, if imitation is the best form of flattery, by trying to draw conclusions from whatever we saw around us in the woods.

Vincent & I always loved going on these walks in the woods, and getting up at 6 am didn't seem to bother us as much as it did on the busier five days of the week. We went out of the hostel by 6:30 am after a light breakfast of bread, butter and eggs. This morning was a little different, the air was still, and the morning light had a shade of orange to it. It remained like that as we covered the two kilometres between the hostel and the entry to the woods. It was nearly 7 am now, and the sunlight was beautiful in its orangeness, as it leaked through slit-like openings between the tall trees.

Vincent, having finished reading his last book of short stories with the famous detective as the protagonist, was more interested in observing things and drawing incredible conclusions than in occupying his mind with the poet's fantasy when he saw the beauty of the forest. His attention was immediately drawn towards the dirt path where we were walking, as he pointed out the marks of bicycle tyres, and different kinds of footprints. I had read Sherlock Holmes before, but Vincent was the genius, who actually possessed the intellect capable of becoming like him in real life, if he had more time, that is. As we proceeded deeper into the woods along our regular route, Vincent suddenly stopped near a boulder. He asked me if I had seen the stone there earlier, and I replied that I did not remember. Vincent was positive that it had not been there before. As I protested that he was going too far with his pretense of Mr. Holmes, he actually showed me proof that he was correct. There was a trail of trampled grass behind the boulder, about as wide as the boulder itself.

We were excited at the chance to solve a puzzle, however unimportant it may be, and we set off on the trail of trampled grass. Ten minutes later, we reached a small clearing in the woods, where the trail ended. This was a very strange clearing, because the grass itself was no longer present. In the clearing, we saw a small circle of dusty ground with the grass ending just at its periphery. There was a shiny metallic object at the centre of this circle.

Vincent, forever the intrepid explorer, ordered me to stay where I was, as he walked towards the centre of the circle. The moment he entered the circle, Vincent vanished!!! I couldn't believe my eyes. I looked again, and found that both Vincent and the shiny object were gone. I ran into the circle of dust, waving my arms and calling out to my dear friend, but there was no reply. He had simply disappeared. I panicked, and quickly started running back to the hostel.

In about fifteen minutes, I reached the hostel, and was running up to the warden's office when I was stopped on the staircase by an elderly gentleman who seemed to have appeared out of thin air. I was about to step past him, when he handed me something that left me staring in wonder, it was a tattered copy of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, with yellowing pages, and on the cover I saw written in the handwriting of Vincent's father, "To Vincent, with love. Happy Birthday" and the date was last Thursday's!!! The gentleman asked me to calm down, and said he would explain everything.

As we sat down on the staircase, he introduced himself as my friend Vincent. I simply stared at him in disbelief. He told me that he was the same person whom I had seen vanish before my eyes just fifteen minutes ago. Hearing this I did not have any doubt that he indeed was Vincent, in fact the tone of his voice, and even his face, both bore some resemblance to those of my friend's. Through my utter confusion, I managed to somehow ask him what was going on. He began his explanation with the words, "My prayers have been answered."

He continued to explain. The metallic object that we saw just a few minutes ago was some sort of time bending device. Its effect was restricted to about a metre from itself in all directions, where it sped time up to many times faster than the surroundings. He went on to explain that when we saw the circle of dust, it was more like a sphere of dust, where time was moving at a rate several times faster than ours. Grass was growing inside it, dying and growing again at such a pace, that we could not see anything at all. When Vincent had picked it up, he had not realized anything, but then when he looked more closely, he saw grass under his feet, and that I just stood there, motionless, in front of him. Birds in the sky seemed to just hang there with invisible threads. Being the genius that he was, he immediately understood what was going on I did not believe him in the beginning, but then he showed me the metallic object, shiny as ever, which he had preserved with him.

He said that I too was now within the sphere of influence of the object, and we walked downstairs to see a world that was as still as a painting is.

Birds were stationary in mid-air; people in the yard seemed to be very realistic statues.

Then it dawned on me, and I asked Vincent how much time he had spent within the circle. He replied that time had no more meaning for him, but for my sake, he pinned the duration to nearly forty years. He had actually lived forty years of his life in fifteen minutes!! He said that he had not been "inside" all this time, he had come out once every few months, which would be intervals of a second or less in our time, in a variety of places all around the world.

Vincent had also written volumes of scientific and philosophical literature, which he had stored in my room. I saw the stacks of old yellowish pages filled with formulae in Vincent's beautiful handwriting. As he was no longer a part of this world, he had given all this to me.

I could not fathom the reason why someone would spend an entire life in solitude within the circle of his own time, and live in a world of statues.

Vincent explained, "My prayer was answered." Then he stepped back from me, and disappeared, just like he did fifteen minutes ago.

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