The following story is inspired by this post as well as my comment on it.
New Year’s Eve, 11:48 pm. I had plenty of time to finish reading the last three pages of my god-daughter’s PhD dissertation. She had finished writing the first draft of it on Christmas Day and asked me to read it before she gave it to her advisers. I have some expertise in an area of her paper and was quite honored to don the scholar hat once again and provide critique where needed.
I got through one page and was starting to decipher a couple of charts and graphs when I noticed the time was 11:57 pm. One more page, I’ll come back to these infographics. A paragraph later, it was one minute before midnight. I shot up from the couch, rushed into the bedroom to get my keys, then went back into the living room to put on a jacket and shoved my phone into my pocket. I sped up to the top of the parking garage, saw two sets of fireworks and heard even more in the distance.
One group of people huddled against one side of the railing while another group emerged from a side door. I checked my phone, it was 12:05 am. Amidst the high spirited shouts of “happy new year!” coming from the other low-key revelers on the roof, I realized that I must have rung in the new year as I was putting on my jacket. At least I wasn’t incapacitated from the flu like I had been four years ago or stuck having to clean up a bowl of just-mixed marzipan that had fallen onto the kitchen floor like I had been ten years ago.
I headed back to the stairwell and at the exact moment I was about to pass the door to the fourth floor, it creaked open. I flinched and gasped but my body’s downward momentum kept me from stopping. The stranger on the other side gave out a raspy cry and said I had scared him too. He wished me a happy new year. I looked up and opened my mouth with the intention of repeating the words back to him. No sound came out, though.
After I returned to the couch, I put Wyatt Earp into the DVD player. The main menu loaded when I thought it peculiar that the man I’d frightened had emerged through that door since I saw him leaving the top of the parking deck through another door. Unless he ran and I walked actually slower than I remembered, he couldn’t have opened that door. It wasn’t architecturally possible in that small window of time.