Part of Flash Fiction February 2023, prompt was “Happenings in interval between preliminary sound and striking of clock”.
Tick. Tick. Tick. And time stood still.
The thief slipped in through the gaps left between time and explored the scene.
The dancers were not frozen but moving so slowly that almost anything that happened to them or around them was imperceptible. A shadow in the corner of the eye. A light brush that sends a chill down the spine. A breath on the nape of your neck. Such fleeting moments with no explanation that are set aside as deja vu or an illusion.
But the thief had plenty of time and was in no hurry. A dip into a pocket to see what they found here and a dip there. A big fat wallet stuffed with cash and dripping with valuable identities. The latest smartphone, ripe for resale. A shiny watch ironically paused in the execution of the only duty it has. A few jewels, some silverware, and some keys for later entry.
With their work done, the thief enjoys the party. They are feeling a little peckish. Swipe! That Hors d’oeuvre will do nicely. Fish? Excellent, the thief likes fish. My, what a fine brandy! No one will miss a few warming swigs. The music isn’t so exciting when it’s playing at a fraction of the speed, so the thief tries to guess what’s playing by the paused dance moves. Hmm, it looks like something quite lively. People’s limbs are flailing in various directions, and their faces are frozen with abandon. Well, that will mean they won’t notice what’s missing for a little while. Not that time matters much to the thief.
As a final flourish, the thief enacts a little chaos on the scene. Swapping the partners of dancers, taking off people’s shoes, and turning their drinks upside down. That kind of thing. All quite purile, but it makes the thief giggle to think of the scene after they leave. That is always the worst part of their work. They never get to see the result. Just enjoy the process.
Satisfied with a job well exploited and done, the thief decides it is home time. With flourishes of the hand, they open a tear in time and pull it back. The blackness beyond beckons, and the thief places a foot inside.
As they enter the fold, they look back on the scene with the air of a skilled craftsperson admiring a job they are proud of. A job built on years of experience and an eye developed for the finer details of execution. It’s not just about doing what’s necessary or the bare minimum but adding a certain flair to be proud of.
No one will know what exactly happened. No one will know who to blame. But the thief knows, and they are proud.
Tick. Tick. Tick. Bong. And the party resumes.