Lost in Time
Lost in Time
By Emily Peng
If Jing is the nebulous future and Anjeel the immortal past, then they meet in the hopeful present.
She is too human to be fully divine. The endless time flowing in her sloshes out of her mortal vessel like a leaky cup. She dreams of the future. She dreams of the past. She lives in every time except her own. In the present, but not this one.
“Anjeel!” Jing exclaims, all but leaping onto the cloaked figure.
Anjeel stiffly leans away from the hug. “Do I know you?”
Jing stumbles back, shrinking into the folds of her cloak. They haven’t met yet. They’re meeting. They’ve never met. “Oh,” she says. “I guess not.”
Realization dawns on Anjeel’s face. “Will we know each other?”
A beat passes, then two.
“Alright. Where’s my room?”
Her knee jitters. Her blood rushes like the swell of an anxious tide, shh-shh-shh in the blue veins beneath her skin. The bitter taste of coffee lingers in her throat.
Anjeel announces herself with two quick knocks and peeks into the room. The dim glow of the moon illuminates the scar on her upper lip. The rest of her face is unscarred from wars and battles yet to occur. Jing looks down at her lap. Her white-knuckled fingers clasp on the sides of her journal, where her scrawled writing mocks her.
“Where’s Vesper? Tell him not to leave,” Jing blurts out.
Anjeel’s footsteps falter. Her eyebrows scrunch up ever-so-slightly, and her mouth opens as if in question, but what comes out is instead a soft “oh” of understanding.
Anjeel sidles over to her and gently clasps her hands. “We haven’t met Vesper yet,” she responds softly. Anjeel pries the journal from her death grip.
“Hanna? Or Fin?”
“It’s just us, right now. We’ve been in Injir for three weeks now. This morning we went to the library and you read that book on bird anatomy.”
They’re sitting on the floor. Jing closes her eyes and lets Anjeel’s narration of the day wash over her and ground her into this present. The quivering abates slightly.
Jing lifts her head up. “I don’t want to sleep,” she whispers.
“Because…” Because if she sleeps, then she isn’t sure what’s going to be there when she wakes up. If it’ll be past or present or future that greets her, because the difference is getting harder to tell with every passing moment. Possibilities yawn open before her. Jing might wake up with only one arm, standing in a desert or watching over a bloody battlefield.
Anjeel doesn’t need the explanation. “It’s getting worse, isn’t it?”
She wants to check her notebook again, just to anchor herself between what has happened and what will happen. The world spins on an axis unknown to her, and she knows all the ways this ends if only she could know what this is. Anjeel catches her hands as they reach for the notebook and clasps them together.
“Hey, come on. Let’s go to bed. I’m always here tomorrow, aren’t I? And the notebook will be right there,” Anjeel says. The words are echoed in her head by the infinite Anjeels across the multiverse who have had this exact exchange with her.
Jing yawns and lets Anjeel tuck her in. Her eyes are closed before her head hits the bed.
“I loved them like my own family,” Anjeel sobs. Tears spill from the fathomless pools of her dark eyes. Grief hangs in the air, so potent that even Jing bows under its weight. She cradles Anjeel, normally so strong and proud, and stays silent.
It’s not words or reassurances that Anjeel needs. She needs a reminder that she’s here in the present, wherever that is, not adrift along the ocean of space-time.
Jing closes her eyes and ignores the infinities where she sits in this same spot, holding Anjeel as she cries, and focuses on the now. On this Anjeel, who is real and grief-struck in her arms. She holds her close and lets herself be the rock for once.
Anjeel hands her a leather-bound notebook. Lovingly penciled into the first page is her name.
For all of our eternities,
It’s cold against her palms. The heavy weight is reassuring.
“I know that you have trouble with Time,” Anjeel is saying, “So I thought I would give you this. You can write in it, whatever you want. I mean, you don’t have to, but I thought it would help–”
Jing flings herself at Anjeel, interrupting her mid-sentence with a hug.
“Thank you,” she breathes. She’s already received this gift. She hasn’t received it yet. She’s receiving it now, by her own universal constant, and this moment is real.
Anjeel leans into the hug, stiffly at first, before melting into her embrace. “It’s no problem,” she murmurs in response.
They stand together for a while. Time passes over them, and Jing embeds this memory into her heart, where she will write it in the journal later. She will hold this memory when she has to remind herself that she is real.
And because she’s Jing, and she’s not linear, and neither is time, she will start from the beginning.
Emily Peng is a class of 2023 mentee alum. During her time at Girls Write Now, she was a freshman in high school. She is an older sister to one brother. She loves reading, especially fantasy and sci fi, and one of her favorite series is "The Three Body Problem" by Cixin Liu. Other than reading, she loves math, and is on her school's math team! She wants to commit to writing and work on it consistently. Her other interests include knitting, crochet, and occasionally playing the piano.