Sci-Fi Bites: The Boy Who Finds

Short Science Fiction Stories for Kids

Sci-Fi Bites Cover Illustration

Timur has always been good at finding things. Need to find that screw that rolled under the desk? Ask Timur. Need to locate the missing reading glasses? Timur is on it. Lost some change in a couch? Timur knows just where it is. The boy had a gift.

One day, he and his mother were driving to school and a large dog ran across the street. Timur’s mom veered and swirled and the car didn’t hit the foolish animal. But the mother was freaked out. Her body shook, her heart beat faster, her hands got sweaty. But most significantly, Timur’s mother lost something in that almost accident — she lost a day of her life. And Timur found it. At the time only six years old, the boy didn’t know what he found, but he carefully picked it up and put it away for safe keeping. Over time, he found more and more chunks of time, sometimes whole days, mostly an hour there, a few minutes in another place. But time adds up.

As the world gently span on its axis, the people living on it marched steadily through time, spending the lives a moment at a time. Timur didn’t. He kept accumulating more and more life, because he understood that time was precious and shouldn’t just be left behind, lost. Unfortunately, even when he knew who misplaced their precious minutes and hours, Timur didn’t know how to give that time back to their rightful owners.

Accident_with_Dog

Timur stopped growing older. It wasn’t something anyone noticed at first. Timur was a bit small for his age, everyone assumed. When he started to place at the bottom of his pediatric growth chart, the doctor told Timur’s parents not to worry — all kids grow at their own pace. But year after year, Timur wasn’t growing. By the time he was ready to go to middle school, he was clearly different from everyone else.

Doctors came and went. The list of Timur’s possible diagnoses grew longer with each passing year. But the boy didn’t. And while Timur didn’t seem to age physically, cognitively he was very mature. He was always the smartest kid in his class, but he never won the popularity contest. Teachers saw a cute smart kid among a hoard of smart-alecky preteens. Timur saw his teachers slough off minutes every time a student rolled her eyes and talk back or refused to try and learn important, useful stuff. Students discarded their lives as well — it is stressful to grow up — but they usually did it in much smaller chunks — milliseconds or seconds, at most. Timur diligently saved all of their discards.

Next time Timur’s parents took him the pediatrician, he was measured and found to be even lower of the growth scale than on his previous visit’s record. His mother cried. There was despair in Timur’s dad’s eyes as well. The doctor just didn’t know what to do. Timur was an exciting case professionally, but on a personal level she felt bad for the family.

“Perhaps it is a unique instance of reverse progeria?” she supposed. Progeria was a rare and deadly genetic disease that caused children to age at a super fast rate, making them old when they were just kids.

Timur listened as the doctor and his parents discussed how children with progeria died of old age when they were just teenagers. “What a horrible fate,” he said.

“Don’t worry, honey,” his mom reassured him. “The doctor is not saying you have progeria. In fact, she thinks you are just–”

“I know what she said, Mom,” Timur interrupted her. One of the unfortunate side effects of gathering extra life was that people treated you based on the age you looked not on the age you were. He was fourteen now and about to start high school. And compared to his “peers” Timur was much more intellectually precocious than most kids his true age. It was the first time Timur was truly afraid. What if he never grew old? Never looked an adult? Never was able to have a family? Or hold a job? What if he was forever treated as the baby he looked? It was a terrifying notion. It made tears spurt out of Timur’s eyes, for tears come easier to little kids’ eyes — Timur’s eyes.

“Oh baby!” his mom cried out and tried to hug her little son. Timur pushed her away and ran outside of the doctor’s office. He ran past the nurses’ station, and the receptionists — they didn’t even see him as he passed almost a whole foot below the level of the counter — and out of the door of the medical building. He kept running and running, ducking between people walking on the sidewalk, putting distance between himself and that dreadful place that treated him as a ignorant little boy.

Timur didn’t go home that night — he felt in the right acting childish if everyone insisted on treating him as one. He was sure everyone was looking for him — his parents, the doctor and her staff, police…friends, if he had any.

He ended up hiding at the school. He knew the building well and felt safe in there — a kid with his condition discovered all of the hiding places early (he was the kid who found things, after all). And because the school security focused on kids of a different size, Timur’s best hideaways were unknown to the administration. The school offered other advantages too — toilets, a cafeteria stacked with food, and personal safety. It also had the internet, and there were computers in the library. Timur learned how to set up proxy servers years ago, bypassing all of the network security lockouts. So food, safety, information, and facilities — the school had it all. Kids who ran away and slept in the alleyways were crazy or simply not very imaginative, in Timur’s opinion.

What the school didn’t have was a comfortable place to sleep — no one was particularly interested in creating places for students to nap. The teacher’s lounge had an old couch, but that room was locked. After purchasing chips and a candy bar from a vending machine, Timur headed for the library — a place he knew very well. The internet made book research obsolete and most students only went into the dark recesses of the bookcases if they were made to or if they wanted a quiet place to make out. Timur, on the other hand, went there to getaway from everyone, to get lost from the unsympathetic world of the normal and average.

On one of the bookcases, against the far wall, there was a wide top shelf — an artifact of some forgotten building remodel. Timur unearthed this extra space by accident — he always found things even when he wasn’t particularly looking for anything. One day he climbed up the bookcase, pulled a few books aside, and there it was! As small as he was, Timur had enough space to almost completely stretch out up there, and he could almost sit-up, with his head just barely brushing the ceiling. Early on, he wiped the shelf clean of all mouse droppings and spiders and left an old sweatshirt up there to use as a blanket. The secret space became a second home to him. No one, but no one could find him there, if he didn’t want them to. Right now, he didn’t want anyone to find him. Timur planned to spend the night there. But before bedtime, he had a few solid hours of uninterrupted computer time.

Timur decided that it was about time he did a bit of research himself — he just couldn’t be the only human from a world of over seven billion to find time. There must be others like him out there. And perhaps some of them figured out a way to give time away, for what Timur wanted most was to give time back. And if there was one thing the internet was good at it was at helping freaks find each other. And he was good at finding things.

He figured that not everyone who found time understood what they did. Some might spend their time at a fast rate, so that the life they found matched the one they’ve lost — lucky adrenaline junkies. The world seemed full of those…

Timur decided to switch focus on people who really needed time because theirs was being spent too fast. He sat at the library computer terminal and typed: “Progeria.”

The wikipedia had a nice summary and a photo of a little kid with the disease. Even as young as this “example” child was, Timur could already see the relentless signs of aggressive aging. The life expectancy for this truculent condition was perhaps a few years more than what Timur lived so far. But Timur felt like he hardly even started living! To die now, or even a few years from now, was inconceivable. If he could give his time findings to these children…this child, it could make an enormous difference. For a kid with progeria, every extra week or month was a significant extension of their lifespan, just considering the mathematics alone.

Timur started searching through blogs and Facebook for the personal stories of the progeria kids. Some were combative, some inspirational, and all heart-breaking. One girl with progeria, Sonia, lived about 200 miles away. She was only eleven and yet she already had advanced heart disease. She was suffering from atherosclerosis and had difficult moving around without a cane. She wore glasses and was completely bald. And while her face had the typical distinctive stamp of progeria — a small jaw, a pinched pointy nose, and a giant forehead — there was something about Sonia that called to Timur. Of all of the progeria kids he located, Sonia felt special to him.

He looked up bus routes to the town where Sonia lived. For thirty dollars he could go and meet this girl in person. He didn’t know why, but Timur felt that if he just met someone who really, really needed time, he would be able to give it to them somehow. He had so much extra now, and Sonia needed every second of his found life. Just like that, Timur made the decision to go.

He only had sixteen dollars and twenty five cents — his mother made him carry an emergency twenty dollar bill in his backpack, but he already used some of that money to buy chips and candy for tonight’s dinner. It might be that a child’s bus ticket would cost less, but it was a risk that Timur wasn’t comfortable with. He looked around the library. Money was even easier to find than time. He started crawling on the floor, looking under all of the desks and bookshelves for some loose change. Being the boy who finds earned him an extra two dollars and thirteen cents. Not enough.

Timur stood up and looked around. The librarian’s desk was right in front of him. He knew there was some change in there. Timur worked in the library on and off for years — there was always change in the library’s desk draw. He never stole before, he never needed to. But Sonia… Timur walked around the desk and tried to pull the draw open. It was locked, of course. He walked over to the window. There were several plants growing in colorful pots on the windowsill. Timur lifted them one at a time. The third plant hand a key taped to the bottom. He found it a bit rusty.

Unfortunately, aside from paperclips and an open pack of gum, the desk didn’t have much of value. Timur grabbed a few paperclips and all of the leftover sticks of gum — one never knew what became useful. Finding useful items first required the recognition of their value — junk or tool? Timur and his parents often disagreed on the identification of some of the items their son found. Under his bed, Timur had a carefully boxed and organized a large collection of junk.

The bus didn’t leave until nine in the morning, and the school didn’t open until six, when the janitors arrived prior to the start of the school day. Timur planned to sleep up in his safe place and sneak out when the first kids started to arrive. His idea was to bled in with the crowd of sleepy students shuffling into the building, just in case someone was watching the school, looking for him.

There were several police cruisers outside of the school, but no one saw a little kid walking away with a group of nannies with strollers on the way to a playground. Timur trailed his chosen camouflage group for a few blocks just to be sure and then caught a bus downtown. There were many young kids riding the city busses alone to and from schools — the school bus concept was a thing from quaint past. Timur didn’t attract attention. He sat and watched people and buildings go by. He saw a kid in crib lose a shoe — his babysitter would be sorry later. He spied a dime under his sit and grabbed it — every penny helped. He noticed a man drop his car keys and walk away without realizing his loss. A woman pretended to “lose” a candy wrapper — litterer! A homeless man was sleeping in a doorway, his life was streaming out of him. Timur just glanced in his direction, and the man’s hours attached themselves to his own life, extending it even more, trapping him in the endless childhood. Timur tried to stop it, but the time wouldn’t let go of him — he found it already, he couldn’t un-find it.

Timur got off at the interstate city bus terminal. The schedule board showed thirty minutes to departure to his destination — Sonia’s home town. He needed to get a bus ticket ASAP. He walked up to the cashier and asked for one child’s ticket — he didn’t have much money.

“Traveling alone?” asked the man sipping a cup of steaming coffee.

“Yes. I just need one child ticket, please,” Timur said. His voice sounded too high and kid-like even to himself.

“Where’s your parents, kid?” The man was eyeing Timur suspiciously. Timur felt himself fidget under the scrutiny of adult authority. His intellect might have been exceptional and equal to any teenager, but his body and brain chemistry disagreed. “You are not running away, are you?” the Ticketmaster asked.

Damn. This was not turning out how Timur hoped at all. Not at all. “Of course not!” he said to the Ticketmaster. “I travel to see my dad all the time…”

“Mom and Dad are split up, uh?” The man nodded with understanding, but without any sympathy. “Well, we can’t have minors traveling alone. Sorry, kid. Your mama might not approve. We can call–”

“No, you are exactly right, sir. I will get my mom to buy the ticket for me next time. Sorry for taking your time. See ‘ya!” Timur practically sprinted away from the ticket window. So that way wouldn’t work. He looked around. There were people living in a little tent city just by the bus terminal’s wall. He walked over there. All he needed was an adult to buy him a ticket and he was set.

He stood and watched the people living in the small homeless community. Most were still asleep, at least the ones he could see outside. Timur wasn’t sure he could knock on the tent tarp and ask for help. It felt dangerous. As he looked, lost time was streaming out of the make-shift structures and sleeping bags all around him, grabbing hold of him, wrapping tightly into his time stream. Timur practically felt himself getting younger. He rushed away from the homeless encampment.

Outside of the bus terminal, Timur spied a woman. She wasn’t moving with that purposeful walk of someone trying to get to work on time. She was strolling — who would take a leisurely amble in this neighborhood? Something about her was off, but Timur decided to approach her. The bus was about to leave and he was determined to be on it. For Sonia…

“Miss?” he called to the woman. She kept walking. “Miss!” he called to her again. She stopped and eyed him.

“What do you want?” she asked. He voice sounded like scratch paper. Timur felt rather than saw something big trying squirm out of her overcoat. He stepped back a little.

“I was hoping you could buy me a bus ticket. The Ticketmaster over there won’t sell me one. Told me I was too young. But I just want to go see my granny.” Timur made a quick calculation that this woman might relate to him wanting to see a female relative better than a father. And a grandmother seemed a safer bet — there would be no need to explain why he was separated from his mother. Timur was proud of the solution he found to his social problem.

“Granny,” the woman repeated.

“Yes, my grandmother. I really want to go and see my granny. She lives not too far from here. But I need a bus ticket. The man won’t sell it to me. Said I was too young. Could you buy it?” he talked fast. “I have the money,” he reassured the woman.

The woman looked him over slowly. The thing inside her was frantic to get out. “Okay,” she said simply. Timur handed her all the money he had and told her the name of the town where Sonia lived.

The woman walked over to the Ticketmaster and bought the long-distance bus ticket. No problems, no questions asked. “Here you are, kid,” the woman said. But then, instead of just walking away, she asked: “Who are you really going to see, kid? Are you running?”

Timur considered what she asked. He didn’t feel like he was running away, although a lot of people would certainly interpret his actions this way. “There is this girl, Sonia–”

“There is always a girl,” the woman smiled sadly.

“She is just eleven and she is dying. And it’s unfair. And I just wanted to go and, you know, talk to her.” Saying it out-loud made it sound lame even to Timur, but he wanted to tell this woman the truth, regardless of how crazy it sounded. It felt wrong to lie to people about to die.

The woman didn’t judge. She nodded and said: “Hope you get there in time, kid.” And then she simply walked away. No more questions. It was like she understood why Timur was going.

Timur took the ticket and a few coins of change and ran for the bus…or away from the woman. For he was certain that she was about to lose a whole lot of time. More than Timur have ever seen in his entire life. He was scared to be anywhere next to her. Her time was so desperate to leave her… Timur almost felt the threads of it attaching to his own life, unravelling and unwinding from her own…

He got on the bus. It was mostly empty, but Timur sat next to a big woman by the window. If he acted right, the conductor might be confused into thinking he was with her. There was the revving of the engine noise, the doors closed, and they were off.

Timur was hit with the years of time just as bus pulled out. In a distance, there was a squealing noise and a crush. Someone screamed. The bus kept rolling away. They were out on the street. They were on the entrance to the highway. The were picking up speed. The nice woman lost her life and Timur found it. Or it found him…

He sat in silence for a long time, stunned. The bus conductor almost surprised him.

“Here you are, sir,” he handed his ticket.

“Holding your own ticket, son?” The man approved and smiled knowingly at the woman sitting next to Timur. She smiled back and presented her own ticket. The conductor smiled at Timur again and moved on. Timur exhaled and allowed the smile to relax off his face. That was close.

Bus_Ticket

The jacket felt loose, and so did his pants and shoes. Timur felt like the extra time squeezed him, pushing his body back into its younger self. It was a very unpleasant feeling. Timur hoped to not come across any more lost time before getting to Sonia. He just couldn’t afford to gain additional life. He had too much already.

The city scape quickly disappeared from view, replaced first by the suburbs, and then by the farms and rural scenery. The monotonous motion lulled Timur into a dream-like state and time flew by. Before he knew it, the bus rolled into a bus stop, very similar to the one he left just six hours ago. The large woman, his riding companion, gathered her bags, getting ready to go. Timur slipped off the bus without so much as a glance from anyone in authority. Most people preferred not to notice problems. A little kid alone on the bus was a big hassle — better not to find him.

Sonia’s home was across town from the bus terminal. But this was a very small town, so Timur simply walked. He didn’t have money for another bus ride anyway. It was surprising how similar most small towns were. There was the city center, with all of the high-end shops and office buildings on the side; and the big box store district, usually a bit out of the way and surrounded by large parking spaces; the hospital and medical buildings; and the parks with kids’ playgrounds and perhaps a ballpark for the local teams; a few little bohemian streets with old bookshops and coffee houses; and then endless rows of almost identical family houses. Timur’s home town wasn’t much different, except for the size — he lived in a large city where the small town patterns repeated themselves via neighborhoods.

On the way to Sonia’s house, Timur found a ten dollar bill and a few coins — enough to buy some food from a corner market. He wasn’t worried about trying to get home. He would find the way, when the time came. And unfortunately, Timur also picked up a few more months of life. He was careful to avoid walking anywhere near the hospital, but time was scattered all over this old-fashioned small town. It was difficult to avoid finding it, and Timur couldn’t leave it lost. It was wrong to squander time, even when it turned into burden of abundance. He felt himself wasting away with each time treasure he came across — for life was a treasure, when you didn’t have enough of it.

Sonia lived in a very ordinary house. It was painted white and had two stories. There were flowers planted along the path to the front door and more in the little planter boxes on every first story windowsill. Timur walked to the entrance and rang the bell.

Timur saw a woman spy him through the peephole in the door before opening it — people tended not to be scared of little boys. “How can I help you?” she asked in that sickly sweet tone of voice reserved only for little children and cute animals.

“Hello ma’am. I am looking for Sonia. Is she home?”

There was a look of momentary suspicion that flitted across the woman’s face and then she opened the door wider and waved him in. Timur really didn’t look threatening. “She is resting. Would you like a glass of juice? Cookie, perhaps? Sonia should be down in a bit,” the woman said, a touch of dark worry mixed in with all that sweetness.

Timur stomach rumbled loudly at the mention of cookies. He hadn’t eaten since the night before and even then it was just chips and a candy. “Yes, please,” he said and followed Sonia’s mom into the kitchen.

It was a nice middle class home. There were photographs of kids on the refrigerator along with some drawings of trucks and superheroes. Timur guessed that Sonya had a younger brother. Perhaps that’s why the woman let him in — subconscious empathy.

“What’s you name?” the woman asked as she poured Timur some orange juice and started making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Timur hoped it was for him. “Here you go.” She placed two P & J servings on a plate.

“Can I wash my hands?” Timur asked. She nodded to the sink. He washed up and sat back at the kitchen table in front of his food.

It was gone before he knew it. Sonia’s mother made him two more and then two more after that. Timur was very grateful.

“Still hungry?” she asked.

“No. I’m fine. Thank you very much.”

“So do you want to tell me how you know my Sonia?”

“Honestly, I found her on the Internet.” The woman’s face darkened again. “But it’s not what you think!” Timur was quick to reassure her. He guessed that if he didn’t look like such a young cute kid, the woman would have had him out on the street by now.

“So what do you want with Sonia?” she asked again.

“I know it will sound crazy, but I have…I can…” Timur didn’t know how to explain. “I think I can help her. If you just let me talk to her for just a few minutes. Really, just really fast. I would know right away if I could help. And if I could, I would really like to. I think I can make her better. Please just let me try. I won’t hurt her. I really really won’t.” The words just tumbled out, jumbled and emotional and not making too much sense. But the woman understood that he wasn’t here to do bad.

“Sonia doesn’t like when people stare at her for how she looks like–”

“I hate when people stare at me,” Timur said. “And they do all the time. I know I don’t look it. But I’m older. I’m about to start high school. And my pediatrician said something about a reverse progeria. And that got me thinking. And I found Sonia when I researched progeria on the Internet. I think I can help her. Or at least I want to try. Please?” He looked at Sonia’s mother in desperation. He plainly hadn’t thought through this part. He was so focused on finding Sonia, that he hadn’t really considered what would happen when he did. “And maybe, just maybe, by helping Sonia, I would start growing older again.”

There were tears in Sonia’s mother’s eyes. She understood desperation. It was the emotion she was intimately familiar with. She didn’t believe this little boy could help her daughter, but she wasn’t going to throw him out. Not yet.

“Where did you come from?” she asked.

“I walked here from the bus terminal.”

“All this way? That’s like five miles from our house.”

“Well, the bus ride was longer.”

“How much longer?”

“About six hours or so.” Timur didn’t feel the need to lie. He was here. He was sure he would see Sonia now. What happened next wasn’t important…yet.

“Do your parents know where you are?” the woman asked.

“No. They wouldn’t have understood,” Timur said. “Please, I just need a few moments with Sonia.”

“Okay. Come with me. But after that, we will call your parents and tell them where you are. That’s the deal,” she said and looked and Timur for confirmation. He nodded, agreeing. “Sonia is upstairs in bed. She had a rough week,” the woman explained.

They walked quietly to Sonia’s bedroom on the second floor of the house. It was a nice large room. Very girly — flower-curtains in the windows, stuffed toys everywhere. It was like the room was trying to hold on to the childhood that Sonia left behind.

Meeting_Sonia

The girl was bundled up in fluffy blankets, lying on the bed, playing with her cell phone.

“Not sleeping, I see,” her mother chided her. The girl just gave her a shy guilty smile, showing hundreds of wrinkles big and small. “I have a boy here who wants to meet you. His name…what is your name?”

“Timur. My name is Timur. And I find time,” he introduced himself. “I find time that people lose and it makes me young. I’m scared that I would never grow old. I came here to meet you, Sonia, so I could try to give you some of the extra time I found. You can use time. And I have too much.”

The mother and the girl looked at Timur for a long time. What he said was strange, wrong. But they could tell he meant it. He wasn’t trying to fool them. He was here on a mission of time.

“Nice to meet you Timur, the time finder,” said Sonia. Her voice was weak and raspy. Old-sounding, and yet the voice of a little girl. “How old are you?”

“I’m fourteen.”

“You look eight,” she said.

“I know. Yesterday, I think I looked more like ten, but this woman died… I found all of her mislaid time.”

“Do you feel younger now?” Sonia asked.

“I feel like my clothes don’t fit as well, but it could be just in my head. I’ve never seen anyone die before. But inside, in my mind and in my soul, I feel like me. Like me of all the fourteen years that I’ve lived. Like a teenager that I am,” Timur said.

“In my soul I feel like eleven, but in my body I feel like I am eighty,” Sonia said. She smiled weakly at him. “Come sit on bed. Tell me how you find time.”

Sonia’s mother leaned on the doorframe for support. She didn’t talk, just watched her daughter and the strange little boy. And someplace very deep in her soul, she hoped that he could find time for her little girl.

Timur walked over to Sonia’s bed and sat down gently, trying not to disturb her fragile body. She took his small, kid hand in her small old one, inviting him to talk.

“I can feel time,” Timur started to explain. “Sometimes, it just slops off people when they are ill. Or they drop it in excitement. It’s usually just a few seconds or minutes. But this morning, it felt like I got years all at once. It was scary. I hate going to the doctors’ or hospitals.”

“I do too,” Sonia said.

“People lose a lot of time there. And time just grabs onto me. Like velcro.”

“Can you give it back?”

“I’ve tried. But people who lose time tend not to feel the loss. It’s not immediate to them.”

“Can you feel me losing time?” Sonia asked. Behind them, Sonia’s mother suppressed a quiet sob.

“No. You are not losing time. It feels like you are using up your life too fast. It’s just spinning away.”

“That makes sense,” Sonia said. “For every year people age, I age ten. It’s like dog years, only worse. Can you give me some of the time you found?”

“I would like to,” Timur said. “I don’t know how, but I would like to.”

“Can I try to take it?” Sonia asked.

“Please! I have so much of it. It’s a huge burden. I want to be able to grow older. I want to become an adult some day.” Timur felt tears rolling down his cheeks. He hated it when he acted like a baby. Sonia patted his hand in sympathy.

“And I just want to be a kid for a little while longer. Funny how we always want the opposite of what we’ve got?” She smiled sadly.

Timur concentrated on time more than he ever did in his entire life. “Here,” he said. “Can you feel it?”

Sonia closed her eyes. She thought of her life just sliding through her at a break-neck speed. She was always acutely aware of her time running out on her. She thought of the little boy with too much time sitting next to her, holding her hand. And then she felt it — a little quiver, a slight quick-silver movement, like a trapped butterfly… “I think I feel it,” she said.

“That’s great! Now take it,” Timur said. He was trying to push the time from himself onto this girl who really, really needed it. She needed time more than anyone Timur had ever known. “Please take it,” he begged.

Slowly, he felt slight wisps of time tentatively move away from his giant rope of life and reach out to Sonia’s little strand. And little by little, these time snippets unwound from him and attached themselves to Sonia.

They sat exchanging time snippets for a long time, long into the evening, and then into the night. Timur was vaguely aware of Sonia’s brother and dad coming home and watching them. He didn’t know what they would see — does anyone ever see time slip by?

By morning, Timur was able to give most of his extra life to Sonia. She would have years now. Many, many years of life left. He was so happy.

He woke up on the floor, curled on the little fluffy pink rug by Sonia’s bed. She was sleeping above, gently snoring. Sonia’s mother was asleep in the chair in the corner of the room. The sun was just starting to come up, bathing the room in reddish-yellow glow. Timur stood up and looked over the girl who got his time. She still looked like she did the night before. The progeria imprint didn’t go away! Perhaps it just takes time?

Timur stretched and moved his body. He didn’t feel any different either, but the weight of extra years have lifted. He could go home now. He left the room and walked outside, heading back to the bus stop. On the way, he found enough money to buy breakfast at a small coffee shop as well as a bus ticket back.

clocks-divider

Next year, the pediatrician marked Timur’s growth chart with “significant” progress. He was growing again. He still found time, but he gave so much of it to Sonia, that it was now possible to make progress into adolescence.

One day, Timur’s cell phone rung and he recognized the distant voice. She still sounded so old, but she was alive, right?

“Hello, Timur!” Sonia said. “I’ve searched a whole year for you. I’m just not as good at finding things.” Timur could hear the smile in her voice.

“How are you?” Timur was so thrilled to hear from Sonia. He didn’t want to be a burden to the girl and her family. He didn’t want to have to feel their gratitude. For how could he explain it? And he got so much out of being able to give time to Sonia. He found his own life in the process.

“I’m the same,” she said in a strange inflection. Timur’s body tightened. “I’m still old. I still feel like I am eighty.”

“But you are alive.”

“But I’m old. You were young. You gave me the old time. The time at the end of life. I wanted to be a kid. I never got to be a kid. And now I will be old for many years. I will be a burden to my family. We will be old together, my parents and me. It wasn’t what I wanted.” Timur heard Sonia cry. It was bitter cry.

“But you are alive,” Timur repeated. “Isn’t that better than death?”

“No. Not always.”

Timur didn’t know what to say.

“I want you to take it back. Find it back into yourself. I don’t want the old years. It hurts too much. I can’t do anything other than stay in my bed. I’ve spent all the energy I had each day looking for you so you can take your found time back. Give it to someone else. I don’t want it.”

“But…but I don’t know how,” Timur said honestly.

“Come visit me,” Sonia ordered him.

He severed the connection and clicked his cell phone off. He then threw it in the darkest corner of his closet. He never wanted to talk to Sonia again. He never wanted to find her. He hoped she would never find him.

Across the street, a man fell, and strands of life floated up to Timur’s bedroom and latched themselves on his life. Were those old years’ time?