Summer of Year 2023
[ Living Room of Chronos's House ]
The darkness within the decrepit apartment was almost oppressive. The windows were covered with worn-out dusty curtains, blocking out the little light that filtered through.
The walls were stained with years of neglect, and the musty smell of dampness hung heavy in the air. The furniture was old and worn, the paint chipped and peeling.
Soon the sleeping prince of rags, opened up his eyes, as he groaned,
"I should just never wake up…" he mumbled under the almost suffocating silence of his room.
Amidst the darkness, he stretched his arm out almost as if trying to grasp something.
[ 3: 38: 24 ]
Since he had woken up this morning, a countdown appeared within his line of sight. It was a flickering image that seemed to hover just at the edge of his vision. He tried to focus on it, but it danced and eluded him, just out of reach.
Chronos was not really sure what it was at first but as he concentrated harder, the image resolved itself into a countdown, a series of glowing numbers that appeared to be ticking down towards zero.
The numbers became bright and vivid, and seemed to pulse with an almost hypnotic energy.
Sat staring up at the ceiling, Chronos's heart began to race as he realized what was happening. The countdown was counting down to something, something important, something that he could not ignore.
But what was it?
And why was he the only one who could see it?
As the countdown continued, he felt a sense of urgency building within him. He knew that he had to act, to do something to stop whatever was coming.
But what could he do?
And how could he do it in time?
The numbers continued to tick down, unfazed by his myriad of questions. He closed his eyes, trying to shut out the countdown, but it was still there, burning itself into his consciousness.
'What is this countdown for?'
'Will there be danger?'
'Is this finally... the end?'
Chronos thought to himself with an unusual calmness.
Suddenly, the peace was shattered by the sound of the front door crashing open. Chronos looked up to see a disheveled man with a head of matted and greasy hair which curtained over a set of sunken bloodshot eyes. He was mumbling unintelligibly under his breath as he paced forward.
His stained and torn clothes hung off his tall emaciated frame but he still had a threatening presence. He moved with a certain lethargic menace that threatened the violence of someone who had been pushed to the edge.
"TIME TT…TO PAY YOUR RENT… BOY!" a rough gravelly roar echoed within the tiny decrepit apartment.
"And… what if I refuse?" Chronos replied as he calmly stood up, unfazed by the shadowy figure making his way toward him.
"Then as… as… your dad, I… I'll BEAT SOME DISCIPLINE INTO YOU!"
Without warning, the menacing zombie of a man lunged at Chronos, his movements frenzied and uncoordinated.
Chronos met the attack head-on, his movements fluid and precise as he dodged, weaved and parried with concise and calculated movements.
In a blur of motion, Chronos twisted the disheveled man's arm and pinned him on the rotting floor board. He writhed and thrashed, his face contorted with pain and anger, but Chronos held him firmly in place.
"You fucking lost the right to call yourself my dad THE. DAY. YOU. KILLED. MOM!!"
Chronos roared, burying the man's face deeper into the creaking floor. The blood boiling within his veins begging to snap the man's arm off.
Chronos seethed with anger as every horrific detail of every bruise, scar or tear that painted the desolation that was his mother's marriage flooded his mind.
"NOOOOOO… Whyyy… WHYYYY… WhyyYYYY…!!!" A young boy let out a gut-wrenching scream of agony as his body collapsed in the pool of blood, his mothers lifeless gaze staring emptily back at him.
Chronos's mind raced with painful vivid memories of the night he screamed himself out of consciousness.
Each blood drenched strand of hair, every crimson droplet, the anguish that followed each breath as every fiber of his body convulsed in grief.
" LESST MEE GGO YOU LITTLE FASTARD!!! " a muffled enraged bellow snapped Chronos back to reality.
" What I would give to be one…" Chronos retorted coldly as he pushed off from the maniacal man who called himself dad.
Chronos brushed the dirt off the Tai Chi robe he was wearing and nonchalantly started to walk away when a sharp distinct clicking sound echoed from behind him.
"HAND OVER THE CASH NOW YOU SON OF A BITCH! OR ELSE…" a crazed howl reverberated from behind him.
Without even looking back, Chronos grabbed his worn-out backpack, waved his arm in dismissal and interjected,
"Don't make me laugh, you're robbing your own son for drug money, don't pretend you can afford bullets…"
"There's 10 bucks under the floor mat, I hope you OD… "
[ 03 : 25 : 38 ]
The young Chronos trudged along the sidewalk after finally escaping that cemetery of all that was good in his world. He had an under-sized Tai Chi robe on. The fabric was soft and well-worn, with small patches of fraying at the edges.
The uniform had been lovingly cared for, albeit now gazed with the filth from his earlier scuffle, yet it still bore the marks of countless hours of practice and training.
Chronos found solace in the ancient martial art of Tai Chi his grandfather taught him when he was much younger.
Before passing, he left Chronos with an old Tai Chi manual which unbeknownst to him, not only helped his grandson stay sane and safe but eventually became his bread and butter.
Walking on with burdened steps, Chronos' mind wandered to the days where he would starve alone at home as a kid and was grateful for his Tai Chi instructor gig - the one at the neighborhood park where he was currently walking toward.
The buildings around him were crumbling and faded, the paint peeling from the walls and the windows boarded up or broken.
The streets were littered with trash, and the few people who were outside looked thin and worn-out, their faces etched with hardship.
It didn't matter that he had a countdown which could very possibly indicate that these were the last moments of his life, he never cherished his time in this world anyways.
But there was a sanctity to the regular Tai Chi classes he gave to the neighborhood aunties and grandmothers. Besides the solace he felt when practicing the ancient art, these people were the only ray of light in his dark cruel world.
He cherished the regular evening dosages of warm smiles and caring voices. Though no one ever brought it up, Chronos knew that they had hired him as an instructor just to put some money in his pocket.
After all, his father's reputation as a known drug addict and abuser was no secret in the neighborhood.
[ In a Neighborhood Park ]
[ 3: 09 : 48 ]
The park was bathed in sunlight, fluttering leaves danced along the rhythm of the occasional summer wind.
A group of elderly ladies had gathered in an open field, their brightly colored clothing a stark contrast to the greenery around them.
Ahead of the group was the 15 year-old Chronos who wore an undersized Tai Chi robe. He paused for a moment, taking a deep breath, and then slowly began his routine.
His movements were graceful and fluid, each motion flowing seamlessly into the next. He shifted his weight from one leg to the other, pivoting his heel, his arms and hands moving in intricate patterns.
The pace was unhurried, deliberate, each movement precise and considered.
The gentle rustling of leaves in the trees above and the distant chirping of birds created a peaceful atmosphere. The air was filled with calmness as the women mimicked their instructor through their Tai Chi routine. Their faces were serene, their movements fluid and gentle.
Chronos would usually lose himself in the solace of this ancient practice, but today, he had a ticking countdown unrelenting its demand for his attention.
[ 2 : 40 : 12 ]
As he neared the end of his routine, he slowed his movements, each motion drawing out, however, for the first time in years, they were less deliberate and focused than usual. He paused and bowed at the group of ladies in front of him.
Their faces were lined with age and experience, but their expressions were nevertheless content.
The ladies slowly made their way to their bags and each dropped a few one dollar bills into Chronos's backpack.
"Are you ok my dear little instructor? You seem … distracted today"
Grandma Smith asked.
"And I thought I was the only one who noticed it, little Chronos's closing forms weren't as beautiful as they usually are,"
Aunty Cecelia said.
"Sorry, I'm a little out of it today… Here, why don't I give you all a refund for today's lesson?"
"Nonsense, I doubt anyone else even noticed it! Get something to eat before your damned father…hais… "
Aunty Cecelia said as she slipped an extra five dollar bill into Chronos's hands before swiftly leaving with Grandma Smith.
[ 2 : 30 : 41 ]
Chronos let out a smile, slowly closed his eyes and crunched up the 5 dollar bill in his hand. After a single deep inhale, Chronos stood there holding his breath, embellishing the chaos of emotions writhing under his trembling skin.
All through the day he had been asking himself one question,
'What do I want to do most if this damned clock was counting down to my death?'
After a heavy exhale, his eyes shot open, he gazed up toward the beautiful sunset with a fiery determination, he had made his decision.
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