The Slow Slipping (2011)

She sighed and threw her bag on the floor without much care while she closed the door behind her.

Finally, she was home. Three hours of break, and then she would go back again. Barely enough time to eat something and spend some time with her husband and children, considering that the place where she worked was a forty-five minutes’ drive from home…

And yet, it wasn’t that she didn’t like it, mind you. Especially at that time, when the darkness was slowly falling on the city, its soft coldness attenuating the cruel warmth of the day, it was almost agreeable to go to work.

But still. She wished that she had some more time for… For what? She did not even know. She only had this strange… strange impression… that something was missing in this life.

…No, that was stupid. Everything went perfectly well. She had a wonderful husband, adorable children, an interesting job; it could go on forever this way. She slightly shook these weird ideas off her head.

« Honey, is night-lunch ready? »

She heard her husband answer from the kitchen, but couldn’t figure what he said. It was good that he, as a free science-fiction author, could work from home. At least someone could take care of the children when they came back from school. She felt a little guilty – leaving him with all the housework while he also had to do his job – but there really was no way all of this could have fit in her timetable.

As she approached the kitchen, a nice smell began to fill her nostrils. It seemed that if the meal was not ready yet, then it was close to be. When she entered, she saw him putting the dishes on the table and rushed to give him a quick kiss.

« Good night, love. »
« Good night, sugar. Where are the kids? »
« Not here, they decided they preferred to eat at school. Seems like they weren’t too interested in trying my ratatouille… »

She let out a small laugh.

« They don’t know what they’re missing. It smells really great. »

And it tasted the same. They ate, chatting casually, then sat in front of the TV, enjoying as much as they could each and every minute of this moment they had for themselves.
And then her phone rang. She winced.

« I have to go back, dear. Good luck with your weird people. »

She knew he had been struggling with this new people he was trying to make up for his next book. He always kept on saying how annoying they were, because they had a very important part of the story, but they had to be so imperfect, and he was never good at putting a spoke in the wheels of his own characters.
He just laughed lightly at the remark, then kissed her and let her go.

On her way back to work, she couldn’t help but remember this intuition she had sometimes. Something was missing
That was such a strange feeling. No, really, everything seemed to be perfect. Days and nights went by without any problems -well, she did deplore how little time she could spend with her family but, eh, being a nurse was quite a restless job.


She felt strange at this idea. Where had this come from? Nurse was a job like any other one, maybe she had a few more hours of work, but still, she thought it was fair. Three hours in the morning, a three-hour’ break, then three hours in the afternoon, another three-hours break, and the same it went during the night, and she had decent holidays. Plus she was well-paid. No, really, it was even more than fair. It was good.

Her mind still a little confused, she parked and got out of the car. She had arrived to the hospital, ten minutes before starting work again. After a brief nod to the nurse in charge of welcoming the patients in the main hall, she climbed up the stairs, crossed through long, white corridors and entered the changing room. Once her outfit put on, she remained, sitting on a chair in a side of the room, still pondering about these strange thoughts. To help her mind focus, she closed her eyes and felt them tingle a little as small sparkles of reminiscent lights shone in the darkness created by her lids. She felt herself slowly, slowly slipping into a kind of trance and wondered…

« Are you free? We need a nurse now! Mrs Fielding from the AMV room is once more having a delirium crisis! Someone has to take care of that. »

She quickly recovered from her strange state and went directly to the AMV room to help Mrs Fielding calm down. Once it was done, she sighed. This was getting tiring; it was always the same thing. The patients suffered too much, or simply got bored, so they put them into this strange state of…void. But they couldn’t prevent their too-productive brains to go on working, and then they went slowly insane, following the stories their brains told them and suddenly getting out of the void in a crisis. It was always the same thing.

And still

As her thoughts once more went to her strange intuition and to the strange trance-like experience she had just had, her eyes wandered through the AMV room (standing for Artificial Mind-Void, as they called it, though it was not so true, as one could realize when listening to the stories of the people who got out of the room) and fell upon all these people laying, eyes closed. She wondered if they had also experimented this, before entering that state, this strange feeling, if they also had slowly slipped into the dark…

Suddenly, she felt like she had finally put the finger on the thing that had bothered her for so long. She had to call her husband.

She got out of the AMV room and quickly found an empty place, not to be disturbed for a small moment.

« Honey? You’re still looking for specificities about these new people you’re creating? Well, I might have an idea… Imagine a people who would be a lot like us, except that they… »

She explained the best she could all the things that had run through her mind lately.

« …no, you can’t say it’s slipping really. You stay where you are, there is no motion, except in your mind maybe, and it goes very slowly… »

Yes, very slowly, and yet they would have to do that every night, instead of working, instead of being productive. And still these would be the moments when their mind would not stop being productive, with images like these little flashes of reminiscent lights behind her eyelids, only a lot clearer. And they would spend most of their time in this state because they had to; they had no choice, and every time it would begin by this slow slipping in the darkness. This slow, slow…

« What did you say? Oh… Yes, I think it’s the perfect word. So the idea appeals you? I’m glad. Nah, you’re welcome, honey, you know we see lots of things in there, it’s quite easy to… okay, okay. Well, I have to go back to work now. Don’t forget the children! Oh, alright. Yes, sure. Love you too, dear. See you in a little more than two hours. »

She hung up, proud of finally having got things settled with this strange idea that had been a little too persistent lately, but she had no time to congratulate herself; another doctor was already coming to her.

« Ah, good, I finally find you! Where were you? We need you back in the AMV room right now! Now it’s Mr Mosten who’s lost it. Do the same as you did with Mrs Fielding, this worked perfectly, she’s back to laying with a big smile on her face now. But quick! We don’t want to have them all getting out of their AMV state just because of the noise he made, that would be too much trouble! Oh God, I wish we had not allowed this system in our hospital, this is ridiculous… »

He went on until he disappeared in another room, and she rushed back to the place.

As she calmed down Mr Mosten, her eyes fell upon Mrs Fielding’s peacefully smiling face and her thoughts went back to these strange people she had helped her husband create.

What a nice thing this could be, these ideas of letting the brains enter darkness. But still, how much time they’d lose! No, really, this could seem nice on the paper, but this was just impossible to have a decent life with that. Really. She wondered how she could even have come to that thought in the first place. This meant so much time lost, so much energy given up, and in the end, that was pretty useless.

Mrs Fielding slowly began moving again.

No, really, it seemed obvious that their mind wasn’t made for that… That…

…How had he said again?

Ah yes. The slow slipping.
Her husband had always been very sensitive to words, and once more, he had found the perfect one.


No, come on. That really was science-fiction.