The Quotable

Twenty Minutes

Every twenty minutes I die.

It’s not as bad as it sounds. Every twenty-one minutes, I’m born again.

It was confusing at first. Frustrating. I mean, who wants to live a life in twenty minutes? What are you supposed to accomplish?

I spent the entirety of one life on the toilet once. That one was a fucking waste, all right. Never even figured out why. Bad Mexican? Undercooked fish? Gastrointestinal cancer? Not a God damned clue.

This other time, I was born directly in the path of a bus. One second of fear, one second of panic, then nineteen minutes and fifty-eight seconds laying in a crosswalk in excruciating agony.

I was born in a tiger cage once, too. Ended pretty much the same way. Except for the crosswalk part.

I’m continually reincarnated as myself. I’d much rather come back as someone famous or someone rich. Someone with a harem. Someone who’s got more than twenty fucking minutes to live. Or a butterfly. But it’s always me. Just me.

I spent lives on the beach, in the desert, in hospitals and hotels. I’ve seen the world and never stepped outside of a cafe. I can fall in love fifty times a day. I’m not really afraid of death anymore. Tigers, yes, but not death. I don’t really need to worry about getting addicted to anything, or about Zeppelin being over-played. I’m consistently surprised by how delicious a well-cooked steak is, how majestic the night sky can be, how an adorable kitten can stop a person cold. By how beautiful, how bleak, how breathtaking and broken the world is, over and over and over.

I assume the whole thing’s some kind of punishment. I must have done something terrible to someone at some point. I must still be paying for it. Who or when, though? I just don’t know.

I thought I had it figured out once. Got my bearings, figured out who I was right quick and dove straight into the issue. Twenty fucking minutes of the most serious God damned introspection imaginable. Socrates had nothing on me. Problem was, it took the full twenty to get to the bottom of things. And what I needed, the answer to everything, was underneath all that.

I’ve tried living faster, but all that got me was a bloody nose and some kind of rash. I’ve tried slowing it down, taking it easy. That didn’t get me anywhere, either. I’ve done everything I can think of and absolutely nothing.

I seem to come back older each time. Not a lot older, mind you, just minutes, hours maybe. Over the course of a few hundred lives I’ll notice a wrinkle or a scar, something to remind me that I’ve done all this before.

Something to tell me I’m about to do it all over again.


Eirik Gumeny is the author of Exponential Apocalypse and a folder of origami cranes. His work has been published online a lot, in print occasionally, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize at least once. His online home is

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Issue 4 - Beginnings and Endings