Fandom: Life on Mars
Word Count: 490 words.
Notes: This was supposed to be a story for the “Happy Endings” challenge on 1973flashfic. It very much isn’t that. Gen. Title from Matthew Arnold’s Isolation: To Marguerite.
Summary: This truth --- to prove, and make thine own: "Thou hast been, shalt be, art, alone."
It took four years before Sam noticed he wasn’t growing any older. It took considerably longer to realise he wasn’t growing any wiser either. The days slipped out from under him, in trickles and drips and drabs, or fierce floods, depending on the month, and he continued on. He secured convictions, but the court cases never eventuated, he fought with Gene, but the next day they were friends, he asked Annie out on dates, but something somehow always got in the way. And he didn’t really think about it. It didn’t occur to him to wonder if maybe he should be worried.
It took four years, and within those four years, Sam didn’t notice that nothing progressed. Nothing got better, nothing got worse. The seasons cycled, but from year to year there were no more blooms in the flowerbeds, no fewer leaves on the trees. Sun or no sun, clouds or no clouds, no change at all, really. Just empty endlessness, stretching on in eternity. And though at first he didn’t mind that every little battle he waged would reappear the next day, never won, though he didn’t care that Ray and Chris were an unchanging double-act in an unchanging world, though none of this struck him as particularly odd --- the truth of these remained.
Four years of the same, incessant conversation. Four years of the same, unrelenting concerns. Four years of staring at the same face --- exactly the same face --- in the mirror every morning. And it was all right. Until, of course, Sam saw and realised. And it was all wrong.
No more lines around his eyes, that was the thing. No greying hair. He hadn’t filled out, or thinned out, or developed any visible scars. His teeth were as they ever were, his eyes not haunted with regret. Once this was clear, everything else became obvious too. The fact that Gene had only stock phrases that got recycled, sometimes despite the circumstances, that Annie always kept him at a distance, that no one around them got married, or had children, or died, even. That every time he met someone new they were a suspect or a witness, and never became anything more. That every night he went home alone to a shithole of a flat.
It took another three years before Sam finally wised up. He tested the boundaries of his existence, the existence of his boundaries. He forgot that he was supposed to love this place and the people within it, that this had been his choice. He called it his trap. No one else understood, but no one else could, could they, because the no was most apt in their description.
It took four years before Sam noticed he wasn’t growing any older. It took considerably longer to realise he wasn’t growing any wiser. And by the time he did, he’d lost the will, so he may as well give up.