Sam had always considered himself clumsy and uncoordinated, and it had never really bothered him. As far as he’d been concerned, having a sharp mind was much more important than sharp reflexes.
Until now, he hadn’t known what he’d been missing.
His reflexes had been a little sharper before when he was catching the chip bags, but it hadn’t been anything like this. He walked onward in a direction that didn’t make sense to him, monitoring and adjusting his gait without even having to think about it, stabilizing himself as easily and naturally as breathing, even with the dizzy, heart-lurching sensation that should have overwhelmed him.
When he’d been a kid, he hadn’t been able to walk without looking down at his feet. Once, his fourth grade teacher had misinterpreted it as a sign of a ‘bad attitude’ and demanded Sam lift his head. He’d obeyed, and promptly turned his ankle and tumbled to the ground.
Even at his current age, he’d always had to look periodically at the ground as he walked to make sure there were no obstacles and his feet were in the right place.
Now, he walked with his gaze straight ahead, without so much as a glance downward. He’d never felt so confident, so comfortable with his movements, and he was moving in a direction no human should have been able to go.
Somehow, he was walking through time.
He could see his destination as plainly as he saw the houses and shops around him, a point a few minutes before the creature had come up behind them.
He thought about warning everyone, but he’d already tried that and it hadn’t worked.
His reflexes were so sharp now, and his movements so precise. He thought of his conversation with Lachlan earlier, of Lachlan’s very unscientific hypothesis.
“Something very weird is going on with you.”
He thought of Mrs. Sharma, an average-height, slightly malnourished-looking woman, and how she was able to swing fire axes around as easily as if they weighed an ounce.
He didn’t understand it, but Lachlan had been right. This place could change people. It had changed Mrs. Sharma, and now it was changing him.
Not being able to wrap his head around what was happening to him made him feel unsteady in a way that had nothing to do with the violent spinning in his head. But he didn’t need to understand it right now. Now, he had to save his friend.
He’d be able to fight the monster on his own; he knew it. He didn’t feel much stronger, but he was faster, more alert, with total control over his movements.
Mrs. Sharma and the Stanleys or whatever they were called hadn’t been able to save Lachlan. But they hadn’t had the element of surprise on their side.
Sam just needed a weapon.
His stomach heaved as he changed his course, making a right-angle turn in another direction that didn’t make sense to him, moving through space perpendicular to time. He could just make out his companions down the road, standing still, as though frozen in time.
He turned back toward Mrs. Sharma’s house, moving as quickly as he could, though he supposed the word ‘quickly’ didn’t apply here. If his speed was the magnitude of the rate of change of his position with time, and he wasn’t moving through time, how could he really be ‘quick’?
Despite his missing shirt and jacket, he didn’t feel cold anymore. He hadn’t since he’d made that strange turn and frozen time around him. He didn’t feel warm either; he felt a complete absence of temperature.
Since temperature was the kinetic energy of particles, if time had frozen, temperature would have frozen too. But if no energy was being moved from the matter around him as heat, wouldn’t the temperature be absolute zero? Shouldn’t he have frozen to death instantly?
For that matter, how was he breathing? How was he still alive independent of time? If time was frozen around him, how was air moving in and out of his lungs and blood pumping through his veins?
He shook his head. Right now, he had to focus. He could worry about all the laws of physics he was breaking later.
No, he corrected himself. ‘Right now’ and ‘later’ weren’t concepts that applied anymore.
He reached Mrs. Sharma’s white stucco house and entered, heading down the hall to the weapon storage room. He picked up the two discarded swords, effortlessly this time even as heavy as they were, instinctively knowing the precise grip to use with his right hand. Holding them up the way he’d seen a character do on TV once, he left the house and headed back the way he’d come.