New Year

by John McDonnell


Harry moved through the knot of people milling around the TV, waiting for the ball to drop at Times Square, the ball that would usher in the New Year, the new millennium, the year 2000.

He had to talk to her. Just minutes ago he’d seen her from across the room. She had dark, fathomless eyes, coffee-and-cream skin, black hair that cascaded down her shoulders, a silver dress with thousands of sparkling sequins. Their eyes had locked, and he caught his breath.

Time slowed down as he walked across the room. “It’s crowded in here. Would you like to go outside and get some fresh air?”

She said yes.

They went out on the second floor deck of the house, where the skyline of Manhattan glittered across the Hudson, and he smelled the water and felt the cold tang of the wind against his face.

He asked her where she was from.

“Many places,” she said. “Many times.”

The lights of the Twin Towers shone behind her like beacons.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“I am a time traveler,” she said. “I come from a different time, another millennium.”

He thought she was just being mysterious. “And I’m the king of Egypt.”

She laughed, and it sounded like far-off music, flutes playing in a golden dome. “You want to kiss me,” she said.

“Yes.”

“I have kissed many men. When I kiss a man, I feel for a moment like time has stopped, and I see eternity, hold it in my hand. It is an endless moment, a moment that stretches on forever and a day. And then...

“Then...

“I open my eyes and I am in a different time.” She smiled, as if she knew what he was thinking.

“I have to admit, I’ve never heard that story before.”

“I know you don’t understand, but it’s true. I am a stone skipping along the surface of eternity.”

“You must be some kisser.”

She laughed, that musical sound again.

“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.”

“I bet you say that to every woman you meet.”

“I have never said that before.”

From inside, the partygoers were counting down the seconds. “Ten, nine, eight... “

He put his arm around her. She leaned her head back and laughed, showing her beautiful white teeth.

“Seven, six, five...”

His body was on fire. He ran his fingers through her hair, leaning in to her.

“Four, three, two...”

Those eyes were bottomless.

“ONE.”

He kissed her, and it was like opening the door to heaven. There was a rush of air, and then a velvet quiet. It was the mystery of eternity, the promise fulfilled, the joy that knew no bounds. It was endless, pure, complete.

And then he was standing with his arms gripping a railing, looking at the lights of a city, feeling empty.

“What is the matter?” a voice behind him said. “Are you confused?”

Harry shook himself, as though waking up from a dream. “Wh... what time is it?” he said. “Is it 2000 yet?”

“2000? That is amusing.” Harry turned to see a woman looking at him. At least, he thought it was a woman. She had short hair, and very smooth skin. She was wearing some kind of tight jumpsuit that looked almost painted on. It was fluorescent blue. Her breasts were very small, almost nonexistent. Her eyes were examining him.

“But didn’t the ball drop?” Harry said. “I could have sworn... Where is that woman I was talking to?”

“Ball? Woman? Are you feeling quite all right?”

Harry looked out at the lights of Manhattan. Something was missing. There was a gap. It was the Twin Towers. How could the Twin Towers be gone? And, the other skyscrapers were just hulking shadows in the night. There were fires flickering among them, and the wind brought an acrid, burning smell.

And what was that sound, that rumbling like far-off thunder? Then something whooshed over the water, a sleek silver... what? It looked like some kind of science fiction version of hovercraft. Some kind of futuristic...

“Could I ask you a question?” Harry said. “This is New Year’s Eve, right?”

“Yes. On the old calendar.”

He took a deep breath. “Um, the end of the millennium, right?”

“Of course.”

He swallowed hard. “What millennium?”

The creature in front of him laughed, a harsh, metallic sound. “You are joking? You must know it is the end of the fourth millennium? Correct?”

Harry felt woozy. His legs got weak, and he fell back against the railing. He closed his eyes, trying to focus his mind.

“You are human,” the android said. “May I see your identity chip?”

Harry opened his eyes. The look in his eyes was unfathomable. “I have never kissed an android,” he said. “May I kiss you?”


Copyright © 2010 by John McDonnell

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