The 747 was moments from impacting the runway at Cairo International Airport when time ceased to function.

An old man wearing grey coveralls and a peaked cap appeared on the runway just ahead of the plane’s tilting nose. Approaching the towering form (balanced point-down, suspended like a bug in amber), he held out his hands. The plane levelled out, descending softly. Its sixteen enormous wheels formed brief ovals as they hit the tarmac, but there was no sound. Causality was in flux. The old man smiled, hands planted now on his hips. Motionless photons of sunlight slipped past the brim of his cap and into a pair of tired, but contemplative grey eyes.

Then he disappeared.

When next he winked into non-existence, it was in front of an inverted Ford Chrysler on the Winterburn Freeway in St Louis. Gazing through the cracked windscreen the old man could see the petrified faces of the family within. He took a step back, raised his arms, the car flipped over. It settled upon the freeway in utter silence, shimmied a short distance clockwise and stopped. For a moment without duration the old man consulted the angle, one eye closed. Then he smiled, content.

Next was a motorcycle that had steered through the safety-barrier of a suspension bridge in Stockholm. The rider had been thrown high into the air, and was poised in mid-air with arms and legs outstretched. Reuniting the rider with his cycle, the old man proceded to set the cycle safely back on the bridge (albeit, into the path of an oncoming truck). Then he travelled to Vichy to liberate a young woman whose long hair had become entangled in a waste-disposal unit.

In a million bars and pubs and nightclubs around the world, the old man appeared and altered the trajectories of fists, bottles and knives that had hitherto been heading toward human targets. Travelling from land to land he averted the muzzles of guns in the frozen millisecond before they fired and he extinguished birthday candles before their flames could trap the hair of unsuspecting children who leaned in too close with bulging cheeks full of motionless air. He swept aside the multitude of hammers about to fall on the thumbs of clumsy workmen, he moved entire villages from the path of lava . . .

After a break (also consisting of no duration, but during which he smoked a full Montecristo cigar), the old man pressed on.

 

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