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The Last Minute · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The Difference
It was time.

The crystal was about the size of my thumbnail. My hands shook when I first picked it up, and they shook when I pulled it out of my pocket now, turned away from my companions. It felt like a cube, but when I looked at it, it appeared to show seven or possibly eight sides depending on the angle. The crystal was an ugly shade of brown, and despite being opaque enough to prevent you from seeing through it, something appeared to flow within. There was no apparent source or cause for the movement. It wasn’t warm, nor did it vibrate. Something just moved within of its own volition, and the brain couldn’t fully comprehend what it was looking at.

I knew what the crystal was, of course. Everyone had heard of the stuff. Most had even seen it before they knew what it was. I remembered seeing it my first time as well, though I didn’t know what it was then. I knew what I was going to do with it now that I had some, though: I was going to kill myself.

Time had crystallized for a reason nobody had bothered to explain to us common folk. I assumed it had to do with the monolithic buildings that had begun to dominate major cities the world over. Their sheer edifices blocked most of what they did from everyone outside, but for some reason time began crystallizing from whatever surface it could attach to, and great armies moved out of those buildings and began collecting it. I can’t say years passed, because time was irrelevant, but every crystal from every surface in every corner of the world eventually disappeared into those buildings.

The effects of lost time were felt by everybody. Somehow the sun kept shining, though it didn’t move, and we were still able to walk and talk, but we didn’t age. Nor did we die. That was the worst part.

It wasn’t that we didn’t age and didn’t starve, no. No matter what was done to a person’s body, they didn’t stop functioning.

A person who was shot wouldn’t ever bleed out, but it wouldn’t heal, either. A severed head could keep talking, because air passing through the vocal cords was no longer necessary. Time seemed to think air was constantly there. It was disturbing as hell, and I can easily say I don’t know how it all worked. The real trouble with not dying, though, is that anything can happen to you, and you still feel the pain. I’ll always remember seeing someone who had been taped back together after getting severed in half. He screamed in pain non-stop until they buried him alive just to shut him up. He’s probably still down there.

I, myself had a knife wound in my back from when it all started and someone had mugged me. It hurt, and it had never stopped hurting, but I had learned to live with the pain. It was always there, but it was a single wound. I don’t want to imagine what fate lay in store for someone who was blown to pieces.

But now — now I held my salvation from such a fate. I held time in my hands, though a small amount of it, but it was enough to free me. I placed it on my tongue, unsure if eating it would be enough, and I swallowed.

As soon as it hit my stomach, I felt pain in my back. My heart beat in my chest, an unfamiliar and uncomfortable feeling, and I felt something wet soak my shirt. I smiled, then grimaced. My heart beat again and pain flared up. I tried to inhale, but the breath I pulled in gurgled as blood came with it. My vision started to narrow as blackness creeped in at the edges, and I could no longer hold myself up. I fell over, and my companions finally turned to look at me.

Despite my obvious distress, none of them reached out to help. Instead, they stared at me with undisguised envy as my blood spilled from my wound. I saw someone’s mouth move, but the slowing thud of my heart filled my ears and I heard nothing else. I choked and coughed up blood, and I could feel my strength fading. I spent the last minute of my life in agony, but I didn’t care.

I was free.
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#1 ·
Time is frozen, but people still suffer. Death requires a theft of time crystal.

Good hook here at the start, but... the body horror doesn't quite play out for me. My brain hitches up on "how" something as described to work. E.g. if tape sticks, then chemistry is happening, which means rot, or something similar. How you have one without the other was too much of a distraction for me to buy into the premise.

So, I'd rate this an "elegant nightmare" or some such. Disturbing visuals, but too cerebral for true horror.
#2 · 1
A great concept.

I really wish we had gotten a longer story, something like this would have been greater if the author had more words to work with.

As it stands, the narrator is good and the writing is both descriptive and effective.

#3 ·
...I guess this is horror...? Yeah, I guess, in the end, I'm not sure whether this is supposed to be bitter or sweet; I don't think it goes far enough in both directions to really land 'bittersweet' for me, but I'm also not sure it goes far enough in any one direction to land either one independently.

I dunno. I think your tropes are clashing. That being said, at least you've picked a classic; the Greeks did it with Tithonus, and it worked well enough to stick around.

I'm glad it wasn't another immortal ennui thing. I clearly understood what was going on, and the character's actions and motivations all made sense. I just didn't feel much about it in the end.

This is good, but I think it just doesn't go deep enough. Maybe that's factor of word-count, though.
#4 · 1
Solid premise, but execution was a bit lacking. As others said, there are inconsistencies with how things are implemented and the descriptions informing the reader of this world's realities are somewhat clumsy. Overall, a good effort, if in need of some refinement.
#5 ·
I cannot really like this. You seem to take us for a ride there. I mean, time stops for a certain number of things, but not for people obviously, since they still can talk or hear each other or move, etc. On the other hand, you don’t give a damn about the physical consequences of your stopping things. Do you know what would happen to Earth if the Sun stood still in the sky (in other words, if the Earth stopped spinning?) They can feel pain, but not hunger? What if no plant grows anymore? How do they eat, etc.

So yeah, this is so difficult for me to fancy that it threw me off. Besides, what you describe here is rather people becoming immortal. So rewrite your story having people become immortal for w/e reason (a fancy virus that infects everyone) and the narrator finally discovering the poison that kills even immortal beings.

That will be better but it’s still a hackneyed trope you used there (Borges, for example, wrote about that long ago, and also the John Boorman’s movie Zardoz.
#6 ·
The main problem I have with this story is the fact that it’s what I call an “explain and explain” story (that, and the fact that the story seems eerily similar to that Torchwood series, “Miracle Day”). We’ve got a unique situation here, but we have to be told every facet of this situation in order for it to make sense. This in turn leads to a large amount of the word count being used to explain the situation instead of develop other aspects (like the characters or the pacing). This makes the story itself rather dull, since we’re simply being told what everything is instead of being shown it. I know this is a restricted word count story, but there probably could’ve been a way to show this world more organically.

An interesting premise dogged by lack of interesting characters and an excess of exposition.