“If a clock could count down to the moment you meet your soul mate, would you want to know?”
One minute, 37 seconds.
My legs are shaking. Holy cow, there is no way I can do this. None.
One minute, 29 secods.
I glance around at the faces surrounding the room. Of course my Meeting would take place in the gross, overcrowded cafeteria.
One minute, six seconds.
Somewhere within these four walls, someone has the exact same countdown on their wrist. They’re going through the exact same pressure as me.
Mom said I should be excited, not nervous. Yet I still find myself wiping my sweaty palms on my dress. I can’t believe she talked me into wearing a dress. I mean, shouldn’t my Soul Mate meet me as I normally am? All plain jeans, blah shirts, and wild brown curls?
Something deep within me tells me to stand up. I do, drawing the attention of my tablemates. They all know too. They smile encouragingly up at me. I chew my lip nervously.
That same feeling pulls me towards the center of the room. My stomach drops away from me as I take a step in that direction.
I continue in that direction. With each step the tempo of my heart picks up.
17. More rapid.
16. It’s racing.
Oh my god this is it. The moment my life changes forever.
My eyes search frantically around the cafeteria, searching for someone who looks as nervous as me. For someone who’s heading towards their future with no sense of direction like me.
The feeling directs me slightly to the left. I turn to accomodate.
5. My heart has given up entirely.
4. I stop walking.
3. Just waiting left.
2. Everything is about to change.
1. Deep breath.
0000 d 00 h 00 m 00 s
Someone bumps my shoulder. I twirl around and my gray eyes meet blue, blue ones.
“Hello there, love. It appears as though we’re Soul Mates then, eh?”
As my words fail me, the only thing I can think is “I’m so glad I shaved this morning.”
I’m sitting outside a cafe when it happens, sipping some cheap drink, pretending to enjoy the sunshine. The counter runs to zero, and there is an audible click, the tab deactivates, falls off. The clink of polyurethane to cobblestone floor is echoed a few feet ahead of me. I shake a proffed hand, look up at a disdainful face.
“This is all I get?”
It’s just a couple more weeks, now. I’ve been watching closely as the numbers tick steadily down. Just a couple more weeks, I keep telling myself. Out of my group of friends, I’m on what they like to call the “fast track,” people whose numbers start much lower than others.
Two weeks, six days, fifteen hours. The clock keeps ticking. Two weeks, one day, four hours.
The days are getting so close now I’m pretty sure my uncontrollable excitement is starting to seriously annoy everyone around me. My friends tease me incessantly about who they imagine my soul mate will be. Tall, short, fat, dimples, nail biter, foot tapper.
At one week, three days, and seven hours, the clock stops.
Instead of a soul mate I get condolences, a therapist, and a broken clock.
he had always tried to cover up his clock, it made him feel uneasy and he preferred not to know. He want the moment to be right because it feel right, not because the numbers on his wrist (however accurate they might be) said so.
Even so, He knew it is soon, the exact time slipped his mind but he knew that there were only hours left when he showered that morning. He had casually wondered what happens to the clock when it reaches zero…
And so, on this day, the most important day of his life, Sean made no unusual effort, the red scarf around his wrist stopped the nerves. And the board under his feet distracted his mind. Where was he going? Sean wasn’t sure. Fate knew.
Grinding to a stop at a busy road, his eyes were drawn to a boy in a bright blue sweatshirt, carefully unwrapping a bright red scarf from his right wrist. He had his eyes closed, and appeared to be holding his breath.
Suddenly he opened his eyes, but before he looked at his wrist he glance upwards. Sean felt the thump of his heart stopping as their eyes met.
The boy in blue began to run to Sean, his face full of happiness and uncertainty, forgetting to watch traffic. Sean was too late. All he could do was shout.
Blue was becoming stained with red as Sean ran to the fallen boy, He lifted his right wrist to find the clock stopped at 0d 0h 0m 1s and with a haunting feeling he began to unwrap his own wrist, he didn’t know what to hope for.
Sean’s clock had stopped at 0d 0h 0m 1s.
There’s a minute or so left.
I am still in my room, doodling on my laptop.
The numbers blink to zero and I gasp.
I’ve drawn the most anatomically correct and dynamic figure I’ve ever been able to draw.
“You excited?” he asked.
“I can hardly stay still,” she replied. She could hear him chuckling on the other side of the phone. His voice was deep when he spoke and she wondered if that’s what he sounded like in real life. She looked back down at her watch. One minute, forty seconds. She bounced in her place.
She could hear the honking of cars on the other end. “Where are you?“ she asked.
"Taking a walk,” he said. Then he gasped.
“What?” she asked, worried. Even though they had never officially met and had never seen a photo of the other, she had come to care for this voice on the other end of the phone. They had began e-mailing and soon they had grown very attached to each other.
“I see her,” he said, in hushed tones. “Oh, my God, I see her.“
She knew who he was referring to. His clock counted down only a few seconds before hers. She felt her hopes falter, though she should have known from the beginning that they could never have been together.
"Oh, good!” she said, feigning happiness.
She stepped off the curb and made to cross the road. A loud honk made her head snap around to see a truck racing towards her at full speed. A hand grabbed her frozen body and pulled her back. She clutched the stranger tightly, shivering. The clock on her wrist beeped as she looked up into green eyes.
The boy put his phone to his ear. “Hello,“ he said, and his voice echoed from the speaker of her phone.
I look at the thing on my wrist, and pick at it. I imagine this is what a cast must feel like, making it impossible to scratch an itch until it comes off. Except casts come off in a few weeks or months. This one isn’t due to come off for another four years, seven months, two weeks, three days and ten hours.
I frown. I remember having this implanted and set, how the nurse told me this would set my mind completely at ease. I would never have to worry about getting hurt in love, because it let me know when love would happen. I didn’t really get it at first - in my five year old mind, I already had love. I loved my parents, I loved my friends, I loved my dog, I loved my crayon set. I didn’t see why this particular love required a timer to find, but I figured it would make sense as I got older.
It didn’t. In fact it just made things worse. It made having a relationship fucking impossible, for a start. No one bothered trying to connect with people any more, because what’s the point? Why even try to have romantic relationships with others when you know for the fact they’re not THE ONE? And then I saw what happened to the people whose clocks stopped. It was as if their lives stopped too. They just drifted along, not knowing what to do now that the person they were destined for is gone.
These were supposed to give us happiness in certainty. Instead it just left us waiting for a happiness that may or may not come
Is this really all that matters? One fucking person on a planet of over ten billion?
I pick at my wrist some more. Why is this the only thing to have a timer in the world? Why not a timer counting down to the days when I achieve my dream of becoming an artist? Why not a timer counting down to the days when I discover my purpose in life? Why not a timer counting down to the days when I become happy with myself? Is knowing when I’m going to meet my soul mate (whatever the fuck that means) more valuable than knowing all that?
And why does their love matter over everything else? I know I’m surrounded by love. I love my friends. I love my family. I love my art. I love this city, I love the summer, I love this beautiful universe we live in. Doesn’t all that love matter more than some random person?
I look at my wrist one more time. Fuck waiting for some stupid piece of shit plastic to tell me when I’m supposed to meet the person I love. Fuck living my life waiting for one person to bring me happiness.
The doctor looks at me and shakes his head. “There’s going to be a nasty scar-”
“I don’t care,” I look down at that ugly piece of plastic and smile. “I want it out.“ I’ve known my soul mate’s face for a long time. I know that person, the only person truly capable of creating the permanent happiness I seek.
I’ve known their face ever since I could look into a mirror and recognize my reflection.
she’d tried to peel it off when she was younger — the timer in her wrist, ticking down her fate. But it had hurt. The edges had torn at her skin, leaving it red and raw whenever she’d tried. She’d managed to pick one corner off, and it had bled for days. It was still cracked there.
She couldn’t escape it after all.
50 years, 2 months, 4 days, 11 hours, 16 minutes, 21 seconds
That was what her timer read when she was nine and they explained what it meant. When all her friends were giggling excitedly, wondering what their Soul Mate would be like.
She’d quickly covered hers with her hand when her friends tried to peek, feigning a desire to not worry about the timer. A fairly common desire, no one questioned it. She grew up. She covered it with wristbands, bracelets, scarves, sleeves, anything.
She had relationships. She dated, all short term things, with men, with women. People who knew she wasn’t their Soul Mate, but liked her enough to stay with her for a few months, for a year. But the older she became, the harder it was for her to find people who were unattached like she was. By thirty, most people had a Soul Mate. But she was alone, and she was lonely.
So she sat at a window in a nursing home. She wasn’t invalid, but she was sick of living alone. The apartment with her lovebird neighbors and their adorable children was too much for her. She fiddled with the wide bracelets on her wrist as she considered the timer.
Here she was. Nearly sixty, and her timer was only now running out. She looked at the reflection of the room in the window, wondering who among these people was her Soul Mate, wondering if hers was defunct, if it was counting down the seconds until she died.
Unable to stand not knowing the countdown, she slipped the bracelets off her wrist. “Oh—!” she mumbled as she dropped them on the ground.
“Let me get those for you, ma’am.” The voice was young and male and unfamiliar, but she liked it immediately. It was comforting to hear him speak, she thought. “…I’m the new intern—getting experience for nursing school, you see. There you go, ma’am.”
He offered the bracelets back to her, and she noticed the clock in his wrist—all zeroes. “Your timer’s stopped,“ she said.
He glanced at it curiously, then smiled and pointed to hers. “Your’s just did, too.” She looked, and he was right.
She guessed, that now at sixty, her Soul Mate would of course be a friend and a caretaker, rather than a lover.
Ah, well, what was so great about all that other stuff, anyway?
She was happy now to not be alone.
She was born with the usual neat bit of plastic around her wrist, and it looked like she was on the fast track too, a childhood friend to grow up and be a soulmate with. Sure enough, one day at primary school she met another girl, and the timer chimed happily, and they smiled and walked off together to draw. It was later, while thy were drawing, that she saw the other girl’s timer was still ticking down, and when she asked it had always said that she would meet her soulmate later.
She looked down at her own wrist, confused, only to see the timer counting again, a new set of numbers for several years in the future clicking away, and a green light, gently glowing above the timer.
The next two meetings are the same, a happy chime, her new friend’s puzzled face when their own timekeeper doesn’t match up, the countdown starts again and a new light blinks on.
Over the years she sees her lights meet their soulmates, and be happy. She doesn’t mind. She is glad for them. She meets new people, and stays in contact with the old. She doesn’t need to be part of a pair. The people that her clock counts down for are best friends, soulmates in a different sense, and just like the little glowing spots that appear when she meets them, they make her life brighter.
She always wore bracelets to cover it. First, her parents insisted, and then, when she realized what her readout meant, she covered it voluntarily.
She excused herself from giggling conversations about each girls’ Countdown Day. What outfit they planned to wear. How they’d do their hair. Their makeup. What shoes. Which purse.
She avoided the boys’ conversations, too. They inevitably turned to how much sex, versus any preparation for meeting their life-friend. Soulmate.
She knew the truth.
Some people had errors. Just like she did.
Instead of neat, friendly numbers ticking steadily down to a goal, she had a row of X’s. The error message. Dev/null error in line zero.
She thought she was going to be forever alone, and hated it.
Somewhere, the advertising continued to blare, there is someone with the exact same readout. There is someone for everyone.
She got sick of it at age twenty, when all her friends were finding their S-mates and having weddings or babies. She went on to the most popular social site and wrote,
I am an error message. There is no time for me. There is no time for love. I have no countdown. I need to find someone, anyone, who is the same.
There was lots of hate. So much hate that it went viral. Someone came up to her on the street and wrenched that day’s bracelet off and took a photo as she blushed and the crowd pointed.
She was a freak. X'ed out of society.
The photo went viral, too. So did the video of the man who forcibly took it. She hid in her house with her cats, got everything delivered. Lived by correspondence. Wrote a book about her empty life. Used the viral photo as her cover.
Then she got an anonymous message.
Mine are all L’s.
She started a support group. Global errata. The L and the X soon met the rest of the alphabet. And the character set. And the weird symbols.
One day, her device chirped. She looked, expecting X’s and found, instead, normal numbers. Seven days, five hours, thirteen minutes and the steadily counting seconds.
She logged on to her support group, and found a new member. She, too, had had X’s on her readout.
She sent her a message. We should meet.
And in one week, five hours, ten minutes and the exact seconds…