The Puzzle; Time

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Hannah leaned into the wall and pressed her ear against the cold plastered wall as if to hear and feel something long lost. She closed her eyes and daydreamed of a life once lived within the walls of her grandparent's home. The smell of pancakes in the morning, the creaking in the floorboards as they ran down the stairs, and the pungent smell of tobacco from her grandfather's pipe. Hannah went cold with nostalgia. She and her sister Zara had made so many memories in the old house they were about to discard just like that. Hannah sank into the wall as she let her body fall freely. She didn't want to be the one to seal the deal with the realtor. She knew it would have this effect on her. She pulled her knees to her chest and buried her head in them. More memories came flooding her mind in torrents.

Hannah had returned to her hometown to seal the final deal. She had reluctantly agreed with her sister to sell the family house since they had both found different paths in life and moved on after losing their grandparents. There was no use keeping the house. Hannah had always been emotionally attached to the house and seeing it go broke her heart into tiny pieces.

Hannah lifted her head and wiped her tears. Her eyes then fell on a silver clock on the wall. “Eight o'clock. It still works?” she sighed. She looked at the family photo album sitting on the dusty living room shelf below the clock. She quickly reached for it. Flipping through the photos, Hannah was once again catapulted into the realms of memories.

The first photo was from fifteen years ago. It was a picture of herself, Zara, and their grandfather, Mich. They sat holding hands by the lake behind the house. Hannah recalled his fondness for time and life. The way he often described life as fickle and time as an illusion. “Listen, Hannah, time is not a thing. There is no distinction between the past, present, and future. Everything is on the same plane of existence.” Hannah smiled thinking about the old man's Husky tone. “Over there on the other side! Where the waters are clear is where the puzzle gets solved. Only if you are bold enough to get on that boat.” The old man tickled them both. Hannah and Zara never understood half the things he said even though he always appeared full of conviction. They were always satisfied with just having his company.

“Perhaps, if only I could see them again one more time, I'd be able to make peace with letting go,” she thought.

Hannah flipped the next page of the album to reveal a family photo. There was something about that night that Hannah never got out of her mind. The night of the Photo, Nana, her grandmother had just barged into the room looking disheveled as though she had seen a ghost. “You were just outside looking all grown up.” Nana’s eyes were wide open. “You asked me if I was still alive before walking away.” Nana quizzed Hannah. Her eyes held so much confusion.

“Perhaps you were privileged to catch a glimpse of the future. After all, the past and future are right here with us. All we have is now.” Mich and Zara began to chuckle. Hannah was as perplexed as Nana. They all settled on the sofa. Just after the snapshot, Hannah felt a presence behind her. She looked back but all she saw was the window moving in the direction of the wind. The rest of the night felt eerie for Hannah and Nana. There was a series of glances and uncomfortable silence between the both of them. Soon, days turned into weeks and they both forgot about the little incident.

Hannah retrieved the photo from the album and began tracing the faces of her grandparents. She had missed them more than life itself. Then she noticed something she hadn't observed in the past. In the picture, beside the window was the side view of a girl in a red dress. The exact type Hannah had on. She appeared to be leaving the window when the photo was captured. Hannah was stunned. “Who could she be?” she whispered. When Hannah flipped the back of the photo, the words she read shook her.

“Over there on the other side! Where the waters are clear is where the puzzle gets solved. Only if you are bold enough to get on that boat.”

Hannah knew the words and scribblings of her grandfather too well. For a moment, she entertained the idea of Mich's odd words. “What could possibly be out there?” she muttered.

With a strong impulse, Hannah set out to the lake behind the house. The night was brightly illuminated by the full moonlight. Outside felt eerie and alive at the same time. Hannah hopped on her grandfather’s boat and began paddling. As she ventured into the lake, she began to laugh profusely. “Oh, Hannah! What are you doing now?” she echoed.

Mist had begun to form on the surface of the water. When Hannah tried to focus, she saw the outline of a house far ahead. When she paddled some more, it became clearer. In front of Hannah was her grandparent's house. She quickly looked back but the mist had covered the entire place.

“This is impossible.” She swallowed hard. She reached the shore and jumped off the boat. Hannah was now standing in front of the same house she was in moments ago. This time, on the other side of the water.

At that moment, her grandmother walked out of the front door. “Nana! Are you still alive?” Hannah yelled.

The old woman looked shocked to see Hannah. Hannah was perplexed. She didn't understand anything that was happening. Slowly, she backed away from Nana. Then she found herself standing by the window in the backyard. What she saw made her freeze in a way that calmed her spirit. Hannah watched as her Nana recounted the events of minutes ago to her grandpa, little Zara, and her ten-year-old self. She saw the same confusion she had witnessed in Nana’s eyes fifteen years ago. She heard the laughter that Mich and Zara shared as they all settled on the couch for a photo.

Right there she knew she had been privileged to catch a glimpse of the past just like Nana did the future fifteen years ago. She looked at her red dress and smiled. The moment little Hannah tried to look back after the snapshot, Hannah walked away fulfilled in knowing that she was the mystery girl in red all along. She had seen her grandparents one more time and now more than ever, Mich's words became crystal clear. “Listen, Hannah, time is not a thing. There is no distinction between the past, present, and future. Everything is on the same plane of existence.”

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