Clockstoppers 2020

by Cody Lee | Chicago, Illinois, USA

Thursday, April 23rd, 2020

Illustration by Elli Dalton

Andre liked art school. He’d never been around so many white people before, and they were cool. They introduced him to espresso and Neil Young. It was a fun time, especially when, after class, their group would go out for drinks and smoke cigarettes like Parisians. They never smoked weed together, until one night in Ashley’s high-rise overlooking the lake, she rolled a joint and passed it around. It went to Brad, then Cody, Samantha, and finally Andre. By the third rotation, Andre noticed something strange. He noticed that the others weren’t moving. That they were frozen in time.

Perhaps it was some cruel joke they were playing on him, Andre thought, until he waved a hand in front of Ashley’s face. She didn’t flinch. He checked Brad’s pulse, and his heart was still beating, but nothing else about him looked alive. Andre inspected the joint in his hand, but it didn’t appear to be laced. It seemed like any ol’ skinny joint he and his black friends had smoked in the past. He knew smoking weed didn’t necessarily do anything. It was purely aesthetic. A vessel to let others know, “I’m cool, too.”

“This is some strong shit, bruh,” Andre said to no one in particular. He stood up for a moment and took a lap around the apartment. Why did Ashley have so many Macbooks? She only had two but that was definitely too many. He grabbed a bottle of water from the fridge and decided to leave, sober as a kitten.

Andre thought about that night the entire week. Even smoked weed a few times to see what happened. As usual, nothing. No frozen bodies, just him lookin’ casual. So when Genetics came around, the class they all took, Andre had no idea what to say to the others. He practiced in the bathroom for a couple of minutes beforehand, but like an angel ridding him from this uncomfortable situation, Ashley approached first and said: “Hey! I had so much fun last week! My friend’s having a party tonight if you wanna come. Brad and Samantha and them are going, too.”

“Sure,” Andre said, debating whether or not to mention what had been scratching at his brain. In the end, he chose not to, and after class and drinks, he went to the party and had a blast talking about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and how “awkward” parties were. Ashley met this friend in a Slave Narrative course and he was black, too. His name was Miles and it was said he and Andre kind of looked alike. But that doesn’t matter much. What does matter is that at some point, after the party had died down, Andre found himself alone on the couch, rolling a spliff.

Just then, Ashley and Miles came stumbling in from wherever they were. They recommended smoking in the bedroom, which is where the three of them went, along with a random, sneaky white couple that followed. By the third rotation, Andre noticed it again. But this time he wasn’t alone. Miles could still move, too.

“Yo, what is going on?”

“Whatchu’ mean?” Miles replied.

“What do you mean, ‘Whatchu’ mean?’ These people are fuckin’ frozen!”

(Inhale) “Yeah, bro. What about it?”

Andre started shaking like a frustrated baby, not having the words for his emotions.

“Ah, I get it,” Miles said. “You don’t smoke with many white people, do you?”

“What does that have to do with anything? But to answer your question… No, it’s fairly new to me.”

“Yeah, man. I remember them days.”

“But that doesn’t explain why none of these people are moving, Miles.”

“Ay, calm down, cuz. Shit just affects ‘em differently.”

“You mean, weed freezes white people? That’s what you’re telling me?”

“If you wanna look at it that way. I like to think it gives us superpowers.”

“Well, how long does it last?”

“They usually stuck like that for ten, maybe fifteen minutes.”

“And what do you do in the meantime?” Andre asked.

“Typically, I just chill. Wait it out. But I know some cats that’ll rob ‘em or like, I know this one dude, he takes a needle, like a really thin needle and pokes ‘em all over they bodies. So when they wake back up, they get all weird, and paranoid and shit. Some people are fucked up, bro.” ■

Cody Lee is a writer and bookseller from Chicago. You can listen to his short story collection Phlour Days at