“The Last Minute” (a too general prompt for a piece for Sun Magazine)

You are given a task, it needn’t be of particular importance. You are given a period within which this duty is to be completed, maybe an hour, maybe days. No sooner do you possess this responsibility, than does the domineering weight of the minute lay heavy upon you. With all the ease and subtlety of a shattering pane of glass, the first cracking second breaks the tranquility in which you had previously steeped.

Each fleeting instant–every anxious, fractured breath–becomes a glaring protestation of the moment wasted. But still, you hesitate.

Not for lack of drive do you linger; the errand is not the object of your avoidance. Nothing more do you desire than to have discharged the function at hand. Its feat does not elude your ability. You’ve all the necessities at your disposal to dispatch the undertaking with perhaps but a modicum of effort. Yet you loiter. You place a hand within the hourglass and revel in the friction of time as it spills over your idle fingers, grating your languid skin with the sublime pleasure of forcibly raking an irrepressible itch.

The challenge mounts in proportion with the turning earth, straining the coils with each rotation as the passion builds to execute. Yet you thirst for pause.

Time becomes the liquid of your intoxication. An entire sea spans the void between yourself, and the end for which your efforts have been chartered. Across the placid waters you gaze, knowing well the coast to which your vessel must set sail. But from the helm you see no distant shore. Upon the currents of the passing hour you recline, speculating the depth of a vacillating swell.

Soon the brink must come to mind. Soon the chugging heft at the distant termination of the tunnel must bear down upon you, and deafen you with its dire alarm.

As the seconds peel away, and expose the finite stage on which you gaily waltz, the metronome excites. A fevered sweat begins to bead, to boil below your skin, to force from an abyss of complacency the agitated geyser which taunts your composure as you agonize to repress its fury. The hour has arrived which, in a state of muddled ignorance, you’ve sauntered to acquaint. But the final hour, the last and lonely stretch of road between you and your forestalled burden, marks only the time remaining in which you still may languish.

All is calm exterior until the earliest reverberation of the terminating cry. The siren’s song is but a flash amid the expansive day which you’ve consumed in gluttonous abstinence. Yet the first note of that final, dreaded tune devours your inertia and hurls you to state of zealous manufacture. You labor now, fiercely, to the chorus of the closing bells. Only has the looming sight of the extreme frontier impelled you to exert.

But you struggle in vain. Your hands began their project only as the moment finished its own.

 

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