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Time has stopped (so please stay)

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It was a peaceful chilly morning in Arcadia Bay. With autumn just around the corner, the wind was relentlessly rustling the small yellow leaves on a row of trees that surrounded the entire area of Arcadia Bay University. The sun was just rising from below the horizon, bathing the small town in golden light. Arcadia Bay at its most beautiful.

Will was currently sitting on the passenger seat in his sister’s car, switching between looking out of the car window at the never-ending crowds of students arriving to the main entrance of the university building and watching his sister play with the radio, trying to find a nice song. She gave up after a long second and turned to him, smiling.

“So, are you ready for your second year of university, little brother?”

Will felt the need to roll his eyes, yet it was impossible for him to fight off the smile that appeared on his face. His sister was his most favorite person in the entire world. She just understood him so perfectly. That was also the reason why she was so good at annoying him whenever she felt like it. He didn’t mind, though. Her playful personality fit well next to his introverted and quieter one and he liked her jokes most of the time anyway. 

“You’ve asked me this exact question five times now since we left home, are you expecting a different answer every time?” 

She insisted on driving him to his classes this morning, even though she’d been out of university for more than three years now.

“Maybe I am. So far I’ve gotten two different versions of an answer. So, which one is it gonna be this time?”

Will shook his head, a wide smile appearing on his face now. “Next time I’ll rather take the bus or walk.” He replied, backpack already in his hand as he started opening the car door.

“You wound me, little brother. My car is better than a bus. It has way cooler music. You should be grateful.”

Will stood outside the car, backpack on one of his shoulders, ready to close the door. “See you at home?”

His sister smiled and gave him a quick peace sign. “See you there. Have fun, meet some new people!”

Will closed the door, gave his sister a little wave and turned around on his heel, quickly walking the short distance from the parking lot into the school building through the main entrance, trying not to bump into people.

 

Now, Will was actually a bit excited about the beginning of the new semester. Sure, staying in the warmth of his home, watching films and eating snacks with his sister or watching her cook pancakes and waffles for people at the diner and occasionally reading a few pages from a book, sounded way better than sitting on an uncomfortable chair in a small classroom.

But he desperately needed a change. 

He wasn’t exactly getting his hopes up when it came to making new friends or meeting new people. He knew most of his classmates by name and exchanged a word or two with them sometimes and that was enough for him. If someone suddenly decided they wanted to become his friend he wouldn’t mind, though. 

But he was content with his life at the moment. He felt happy.

 

After taking a seat in a small classroom with the longest windows you can imagine, Will took out his books, pen and a small art book he took everywhere with him. 

He was fond of drawing at random moments during the day, especially when the class got too boring or if he had nothing better to do between classes or during lunch. He wasn’t a talented artist or anything like that, but he enjoyed it, usually drawing anything that came to his mind, mostly something city related. Small buildings, flower shops, people walking through the streets, people sitting in quiet coffee shops. Arcadia Bay and the peaceful life here was a great inspiration. Most of the time the pages of his small art book ended up being filled with doodles after a specially uneventful class.

He opened the art book, took a pencil and decided to draw a little before the professor’s arrival. The plan was to draw people at the beach. Enjoying the sun, building sand castles, eating ice cream, someone having their body covered in sand up to their neck. You know, all that fun you have when you go to the beach. The beaches in Arcadia Bay weren’t suitable for those things, unfortunately. 

Will blinked, suddenly snapping back into reality from his thoughts and realized that he’d managed to cover an entire page in doodles. But the doodles weren’t of people at the beach. 

Instead, the entire page of his art book was covered in small flowers. They looked like the flowers that grow on cherry trees in spring.

Delicate and ephemeral. 

Those beautiful flowers you get a chance to stare at in awe for a moment too short, because they die way too soon. 

Will stared at his doodles with a puzzled look on his face and absolutely no idea why he drew them. Before having a chance to think about this mysterious drawing more in depth, the professor, a short man with a mustache and a pile of books about physics, walked into the classroom, closing the door behind him with a loud bang. 

Will ended up putting his art book back into his backpack, as an attempt to get the flowers out of his head for at least the short duration of the class, opening his physics book and trying his best to focus on the class.

 

The weather outside changed drastically by the time Will walked out of the building after his last class of the day.

The wind felt harsher and colder on his face, as if it consisted of tiny knives that just decided to stab his face over and over. The sky was covered in dark clouds and the sun was nonexistent. But it somehow felt peaceful. The kind of weather that makes you think of the end of the world or the apocalypse being just around the corner. It makes you feel relaxed, at peace, as if you wouldn’t mind if the world ended, as if you were expecting it already and welcoming it with open arms.

Will took a deep breath of the cold air, feeling it freezing his lungs from the inside immediately. He wouldn’t mind seeing the world end. It would be poetic, or at least it seemed like that to him. 

Now, he had two options. Either he could wait a few minutes for the bus that would make the way home way shorter or he could walk home.

He opted for walking, since it seemed right. Sure, the walk home was about to take him more than an hour but it seemed worth it. Will loved this type of weather. Calming and somehow threatening at the same time. It could turn into a storm at any second or the clouds could disappear and the sun would become visible and alive again.

He silently prayed for the weather to stay exactly the way it was at the moment.

The dark clouds, the cold air, the feeling of something ending inevitably, something dangerous waiting for him just around the corner, all of that made him feel somehow calm, to his own surprise. Realizing that you wouldn’t mind seeing the world end is a weird thought. Will knew that, but the feeling in his chest felt so strong and so right. This was the perfect weather for climbing up a hill, laying into the soft grass and staring up at the sky, wondering what the future holds, what secrets the universe hides and all these thoughts.

So walking home and just enjoying this type of weather, this type of feeling, seemed like the right choice, the right thing to do. As if there was a reason for Will to arrive home a bit later than usual, as if taking the bus would change some small, but important, detail in his future.

It didn’t make that much sense to him, and all the thoughts started to seem stupid to him, so he just decided to enjoy the walk, look around him and not think too much.

 

After more than an hour, Will finally caught the glimpse of the small houses in the neighborhood where he lived with his older sister. His legs hurt a bit from all the walking, but it felt so worth it. It was a nice walk, a liberating one, he felt calm and happy.

The neighborhood where he shared a tiny house with his sister looked especially pretty with all the trees framing the road, yellow leaves moving slowly in the wind, some of them falling onto the road and onto people’s cars that were parked there.

His sister wasn’t exactly fond of this neighborhood, or their house, or Arcadia Bay in general. Throughout the days she’d randomly mention her plans to move to a big city, get rid of her job at the diner, do something that mattered.

Will always listened but he never really related to her. He was content with his life here, he didn’t need the rush or energy of a big city full of people. Sure, he wouldn’t mind a short visit, but life was so much better where he was. Sometimes Arcadia Bay gave you this feeling as if time didn’t exist at all, as if it had never existed in the first place. No one was rushing anywhere, everything felt calm and peaceful.

And Will knew that it was exactly what he needed.

Especially after the whole situation with their parents that made their life a living hell for all those years, them constantly fighting, like a never ending war. But that was in the past. He never felt the need to escape, to run from something.

But he understood. His sister was older, she suffered more back then, it was more than understandable that she’d want to get as far away from this place as possible.

 

Once again lost in thought, something that had been happening to Will a lot lately, he was suddenly standing in the driveway in front of his house, keys in hand. Will blinked a few times and shook his head. Sometimes his thoughts had this power to completely take power over him, eat him alive almost. He got a bit better at controlling them, though.

As Will was about to take the few remaining steps towards the front door, his warm comfortable bed already on his mind as the perfect place to be at the moment, he heard a voice calling in his direction.

He turned his head towards the sound and spotted a boy walking towards him with a wide smile on his face. He seemed to be around Will’s age, maybe a year or two younger. He was smiling so happily, his smile so bright and almost blinding, hard to look at but also hard to turn away from.

He looked like an angel.

And suddenly Will felt as if all time had stopped. As if they were the only people left alive in the lonely abandoned world. He was almost afraid to look around him, as if there was a possibility that time had indeed stopped, and he’d see the world still, leaves on trees not moving as if they were made from plastic, clouds stuck on the sky, people standing around like mannequins.

“Hey, you must be my neighbor? I’m Tom, just moved here.” The boy announced as he stopped in front of Will, lifting up his hand towards him, offering a handshake.

Will’s eyes were fixed on the boy’s smile for another second and then they moved up to his face and eyes and… oh fuck. He felt as if he could drown in them, die in them, never ever get free from their hypnotic influence. And he realized that he didn’t even want to, because the eyes looked as if they knew all the secrets of the universe, all answers to his questions. Will wanted to drown, he would give up his entire life if it meant seeing those eyes for the rest of eternity.

“Uh, you alright?” The boy asked, still offering the handshake, the happy smile not leaving his face, but his eyes had a confused glint to them.

Will quickly snapped out of his thoughts. What a stupid thing to do! How stupid to think this about a person he’d just met.

“Yeah, sorry I just… I’m Will.” He shook the boy’s, Tom’s, hand and offered a small smile.

Tom seemed happy with the answer as he started talking enthusiastically about the reason why he moved to Arcadia Bay, his hometown and other things.

But Will couldn’t pay attention.

He tried, but he couldn’t shake off this sudden weird feeling. The feeling telling him that meeting this boy, meeting Tom, was the scary thing waiting around the corner the whole time. Something dangerous, uncertain. Something that could cause a big change in his life that he might not like at all.

And Will felt it, the slight fear. As if them meeting was something the universe never intended for to happen.

Will knew he should be scared, but he couldn’t bring himself to feel that way. Not when Tom smiled like that, talked like that, stood in front of him. Not when he felt his heart beat faster in his chest.

If Tom was supposed to be the end of him, then so be it.