Great hexagonal sections of Lilly’s wall faded out of existence. They went individually at first but lengthened and spiraled as section after section disappeared, revealing perfect blue skies, the green pastures of distant farms, and the long, twinkly sweep of the river off to the right.
Her furniture faded as well. First the top drawer of her dresser, followed by the footstool she stood on to reach the sink when she was little. Oblivion consumed each piece of her life. She pulled the covers up close to ward it off, but these too dissolved into nothing.
As her bed began to fade she jumped off of it, landing on one small piece of the floor that hovered in midair above the kitchen, where her mother made pancakes and whistled. As she stood up, trying to find her voice, to call to her mother, to tell someone what was happening to her, the section she stood on faded from beneath her feet, along with the rest of the world.
And then there was silence.
A few days before her disappearance, Lilly climbed into the passenger’s seat of her father’s station wagon. She’d been crying, but tried to hide it from her father, James, who looked over at her. His heart dropped into his shoes.
“How’s it going, Sweetie?”
“Listen, sometimes two people just-”
“Fall out of love,” she said without looking at him. Without it being a question.
“No,” he said, pulling back as if to fend off a blow.
“That’s what you were going to say,” she said.
“You’re right,” he said. “I’m predictable. It was what I was going to say, but it was wrong. I fell in love with something… something other than your mother…”
His tachyon research had seemed so important, so revolutionary. But a dozen years of ‘I’ll be home late,’ and ‘I swear I’ll be there for your birthday this year’ and ‘I’m so close, just give me a few more months’ will wear on a person… On a marriage.
James continued to look at the stained seat between himself and his daughter. He gave a weak chuckle. “All these years spent perfecting time travel. Now all I want to do is go back and work on something else.” He turned his head and looked out the window. “I’m sorry, Lilly.”
She sat there, not knowing what to say. Finally, she said in a bad Groucho Marx voice, “What did the neutrino say to the police after the tachyon crashed into him?”
James smiled, and together they recited the punch-line: “Sir, I didn’t see the tachyon coming, just going… both ways.” James turned the ignition and drove her home.