Today I imagined myself as a man who could lick time. Every nanosecond throbbing gently against my tongue in the manner of a fine, grainy liquid, not unlike a cheap protein shake. I sat there, licking, noticing only as the past and future swirled together and collided on the tip.
They say, apocryphally, that the tongue is divided into five major segments, each with its own unique taste receptor: sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and the recently uncovered umami, from a Japanese word meaning savoury. When I licked time, what I tasted was death. I think that falls under salty.
Slurping away at individual hours, I felt them wash over the inside of my mouth and lips. Noon on the fourteenth of June, nineteen ninety-seven was particularly tangy. My tongue became overwhelmed with moments, like the sensation you get from a fizzy sherbet only more intense and less artificial.
Moments, devouring my tongue. Every globule of saliva encrusted with every minute of my childhood spent figuring out cheese (I did). Or the evening I rode a bicycle backwards to see if my thighs would hurt less (they didn’t). Or the weekend I did a jigsaw where every piece was identical. All of them like infinitesimal maggots crawling in the flesh of my tongue.
I imagined booths where the public could sit and lick a scientifically concentrated form of time by appointment. At first, entire calendars and diaries would be pulped and transformed into a lickable formula which would be pumped into the booths. Shortly after that, log books would be kept saying how long people licked for, and then that information would be fed back into the booths for the next person to lick, and so on. It would be the first ever self-sustaining time-based commodity.
Soon vending machines and vans would dispense time on a stick and replace ice-cream as the primary item designed for licking. The beauty of mass-produced time products, unlike ice-cream, would be that each person would take as long to lick them as the next, in accordance with the principles of relativity. Children, who have experienced almost no time at all due to not being alive for very long, would take more time to lick each fragment, while the elderly, who have experienced more time than they can handle, would spend hardly any time on their respective individual pieces of the frozen temporal substance.
Once time had been converted into a lickable state, it would be only a matter of itself that it would be used as fuel. The past is accelerating away from us at precisely the same speed as the future accelerates towards us, and so it made sense to put that in cars. As I licked and licked I imagined people driving their vehicles as the time they’d put in them would be gradually running out.
And of course, where there is fuel, there is war. At some point, The United States of America would try to invade the estate of Albert Einstein in order to gain a stranglehold on the source of our contemporary conception of time, but they would be too late.
It was all drawing me ever nearer to the realisation that change was irrevocable and inevitable and everything moves slowly forward and you can't go back and it doesn’t matter when our lives end because there will always be things you'll never do. The more I licked, the harder this epiphany flooded my mouth.
I kept it up for a while until, eventually, I looked down at my watch and saw that I had wasted yet another afternoon aimlessly pondering and also remembered my watch wasn't waterproof and so it shouldn't have been in my mouth that long. I guess that means it's time to get a new watch.
I only hope the new one tastes less salty.