Time and time (again)

It all started when I was ‘punished’ by Muthu. Leader of one of the most notorious gangs in the Federal Correctional Institute. He didn’t like the way I eyed him for three seconds when he cut in front of me during lunch time. I did my best to give him a ‘don’t fuck with me’ stare because I was there for murder and wasn’t remorseful about it. He didn’t seem fazed, as evident during our toilet break – he and his goons grabbed me and shoved my head into one of the restroom’s toilet bowls.

I did my best to hold my breath underwater, while preventing the piss and shit-filled toilet water from entering my mouth at the same time. Gasping for air in between dunks only made me swallow the dirty water I was trying so hard to avoid in the first place. It seemed easy to do in theory, but when blows are raining down on your back and up your gut at the same time, it’s a different story.

Regardless, Muthu was careful enough to make sure I didn’t die, only that I suffered a lot, so I could learn my lesson everyday – for a whole week. He had the guards in his pocket, so I had nobody to turn to. Complaining only resulted in two practicals a day – I learnt to keep my mouth shut after my fifth lesson in two days.
I did my best to avoid using the toilet when I knew he was around, but somehow he always had somebody to alert him when I finally had no choice. In hindsight, maybe I should have just stained my pants or pissed in the corner of my cell – then again, that would have probably led to the guards taking their batons to my face or solitary confinement instead. I’m not sure which was worse.

On the seventh day, something changed. I noticed that they weren’t hitting me anymore when my head was underwater. They weren’t holding my head down anymore. Only when I raised my head from the toilet bowl to take a breath, the pushing and the punching continued. When my face was submerged again, it stopped. I repeated this a few times, more curious than disgusted that I was willingly putting my face into a toilet bowl (I made sure not to piss first today, so it was relatively clean). I was puzzled.

I decided to continue holding my breath when I surfaced to see what was going on – everyone around me was frozen. Muthu and his burly friends all had smiles on their faces, while their fists were all raised in the air, ready to hit me. I got down on my knees and crawled out of the stall and took in a sip of air – those gleeful faces turned into confused looks as their blows missed and they realized I was gone. I quickly held my breath again.

I guess it’s your lucky day, Muthu. I walked over to the stall and grabbed Muthu by his hair, shoving him into the position where I was a few seconds ago. I got one of the goons to hold Muthu’s head underwater and positioned the other men to beat him all at the same time. I guess being the leader of the gang made Muthu physically weaker than his henchmen since he didn’t need to do any of the dirty work. Muthu didn’t survive his own medicine – as to how the other inmates reacted to killing their leader, I didn’t stick around long enough to find out. I only knew that they were caught by the prison guards and relocated to another part of the facility. I felt no remorse.

I escaped prison that day. It was a simple matter of holding my breath and making my way through open doors. If there was a guard in my way, I simply stopped time to hide or slip through an available exit and resumed breathing after that.


It had been a week since I escaped and there was nobody after me. I’m finally free I thought to myself. As I lay on the cold hard ground with a squashed cardboard box as my pillow looking up at the darkening sky, I wondered what my next move would be. My thoughts were distracted by the sound of water flowing in the drain next to my makeshift bed. I swear it used to flow in the other direction. Then again, I don’t really know what I’m sure of. I mean, I can stop time by holding my breath. This world doesn’t make sense. At least I’m no longer being shoved headfirst into a toilet bowl. I fell asleep with a smile on my face.

A few hours later, I was rudely awakened by a bright light from a torch attached to the barrel of a gun pointing in my face.

“Get up!” yelled a voice hidden from the darkness. “You’re under arrest for a murder you are going to commit.”

“Huh?” I was groggy and barely awake.

“Get up. You’re under arrest for a murder you are going to commit.”

“What the fuck? Are you the time police?” I said sarcastically while rubbing off the crust from my eyelids.

“Yes. We know what you are going to do.”

“Going to do? I don’t understand what you’re talking about!”

“Just get up slowly and turn around, I’m going to cuff you.”

I got up from my makeshift bed and held my breath, expecting time to stop.

“Turn around and give me your hands,” the voice commanded.

Perplexed to why time didn’t stop, I decided to comply. Handcuffs clasped shut around my wrists and with a gun pressed against my head, I was marched towards a police truck.

Accepting that my freedom was coming to an end, I looked up to the sky one last time before I was shoved into the back of the truck. The sky sure looked a lot brighter tonight.

The truck’s engine roared to life and we left the shithole I had called home for a week.

“You’re a special little snowflake, you know that?” he jeered at me through a small hole on the wall which separated me from him.

“Eat shit.” I replied.

“Heh, you’re about to do that where we’re sending you.”

Suddenly it all made sense. The drain. The sun. The loss of my power.

And that’s how I learnt that time was resetting itself. I made a mental note and sat in silence for the rest of the journey. Maybe I’ll do better next time.

When I arrived at the correctional facility, it was one week ago.


Writing Prompt from Reddit: You can stop time as long as you hold your breath. You have trained yourself to hold your breath for a maximum of 3 minutes at a time & today is the day you break out of prison.

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