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Time Stops

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A descending chromatic scale devoid of harmony, Jaime spiraled down, not unlike the unmistakable taste of euphoria. His entire body lurched, and his organs twisted and sank within him, as if he sat in a plane dropping to its demise. When his eyes opened, he expected a dark world after death, but he stared at the same weirwood tree he had just touched. Yet, it felt like he traveled far away.

Jaime blinked.

He blacked out many times before, but never like this. Jaime inhaled, half expecting no more air in the world to breathe. Am I dreaming? His heart pounded, unsure of what just happened. His eyes told him nothing happened. Jaime clenched his fists full of the grass beneath him before sitting up. Breeze washed over him and blanketed him with an unexpected chill. This fucking place was worse than he thought.

Jaime stood and glanced around him. Hidden photographers tried embarrassing him before, and he expected more of them. He had enough bad press. As much as he tried to pretend he didn’t care what people thought of him, in actuality, he cared a great deal. Upon scanning the desolate tip of the island, he remained alone. Jaime regretted sneaking onto the sacred island in the first place— just to see her. She wasn’t there. She likely wasn’t ever there. How so very like you. Did you stand me up? The mere thought of her left him longing. Often, lyrics floated through his head:

You’d never worry about what I’d do
I’d be coming home back to you

Jaime dusted off his suit trousers and pulled out his mobile phone. He needed to call her. He knew he shouldn’t, but he couldn’t help himself. Jaime scoffed and tapped her number while he ran his other hand through his short blond hair. Eerie silence stole away his hopes— not even a dial tone. No service? Goosebumps waved up his arms, and Jaime bit his lip at the unexpected weather. Summer wasn’t supposed to be this cold. His brother, also his band manager, neglected to prepare Jaime for the unexpected weather in Brynland, where his band toured for a couple weeks.

Frustrated and annoyed, Jaime’s jaw tensed while he stomped over towards the edge of the island, seeking out the young man and motorboat who helped Jaime step onto the Isle of Faces for this secret, foolish mission. Jaime found no man, nor motorboat— just a wooden boat with a useless matching paddle. Jaime let out a single pathetic laugh. Who is pranking me here? That strange woman who tricked me into coming here... or you? He needed to prove whomever wrong.

His home for the night, a hotel and tourist spot for the Gods Eye lake, rested on the river, which lay on the south side of the lake. Unfortunately, for him, Jaime stood on the quiet and rural northern end. Only faces etched into weirwoods observed him. Jaime tapped his foot on the ground, crushing and breaking the delicate grass beneath him. When choosing between waiting for some nut with a camera finding him or rescuing himself, Jaime chose the latter. Nothing scared the man of action, not even death.

Squinting north, Harrenhal’s ruin cluttered the sky— the infamous haunted castle of Westeros, rumored to have ghosts and misfortune. Ghosts didn’t bother him, as they didn’t exist. Instead, he feared visiting his father, losing his lover and giving into relapse. Jaime grumbled while he stepped into the small boat. With awkward hands, he clasped the paddle and pushed himself into the lake. Still as a painting, he drifted away from the faced weirwoods.

Angry, Jaime paddled towards Harrenhal. His skin sweated with exertion. He hated ghost towns and the stupid tourists who fell into their capitalist trap. It reminded Jaime of all the people who manipulated his fame as a musician. Jaime wanted to throw up at the thought of taking a taxi, but he had little choice, since needed to pay for a quick ride down the lake.

Jaime glanced back towards the Isle of Faces. Fuller and more lush than he remembered, it appeared different. Almost as if it grew more trees than when he arrived, not even an hour earlier. Impossible. Jaime scowled as he remembered the mysterious stranger... Earlier that day, she promised him that his lover would be waiting at the north weirwood. She wore an old blue dress, covered in a dark black cloak. She lied to him. Jaime regretted believing the strange woman. Tyrion, his brother, would label him a desperate fool. Tyrion would be right.

As he paddled alone, he dreaded his upcoming interview. Tyrion warned him about the pushy interviewer. Jaime’s love life, reckless behavior and past became typical hot topics, despite being off limits. Those stories gathered countless clicks and buzz on social media. It took Jaime an infinite amount of willpower to smile through unfair questions. “How has recovery been? Did you attend her wedding? Were you ever really dating in the first place? Do you miss her? Do you have any words for the family in the car accident?” Jaime winced, clenching his fists again as an attempt to empower himself. He could never escape his past. He pulled out his phone to glance at the time, noting that time never stopped— still no service. His boat rammed into a floating log, which jolted Jaime. He lost grip on his phone, watching it bounce out of his hand and into the water, sinking as fast as a rock. Shit!

Public relation nightmares flooded through his head: naked pictures, celebrity phone numbers— he couldn’t let anyone else get his phone! Jaime dove in after it, submersing himself into cold, dark depths of the lake. Chill crept through his ears. Frantic bubbles danced to the surface, until his breath ran out, forcing him to rise. I’ll die if I keep trying. Jaime retreated, flopping onto the boat while he heaved for air. His shoes: ruined. His drenched trousers and white dress shirt clung tightly to him, reminding him how unbelievably stupid he was to go to the hidden part of the Isle of Faces… alone. I can buy new phones, new shoes, but if father catches wind of this... Water droplets flew off his face and hair as he shook his head. Just hire a diver. No big deal. His temperature, however, was a big deal. Iciness around him refused to relent, so he paddled harder and faster. They’ll help me at Harrenhal. Warm blankets. Hot coffee. A taxi. A limo, if I’m lucky. A fan will find me.

Time continued, and he paddled up to the shore of Harrenhal. With a clumsy exit, Jaime wobbled out of the boat as his skin tightened into frigid goosebumps. Jaime rubbed his arms, feeling numbness stretch through his fingers. His hands created famous music and they were everything to him. He couldn’t wait to warm his hands, either by stringing his stress away plucking at a guitar or losing himself with a piano. Naturally talented at what he put his mind to, Jaime chose music. As a child, his father paid for private piano lessons, likely to show off his favorite son to his rich friends. Jaime kept learning, preferring to create music rather than read. He learned the piano first, then guitar. Jaime never forgot the look on his father’s face when he joined a group of teenage classmates to play music for a talent show. Almost everyone in the auditorium loved it... except his father. He probably knew Jaime wouldn’t give up music, and Jaime never did. He refused college, business, politics and studies abroad. It didn’t take long for Jaime’s band to get a record label, album, hit or music video. The rest was history. A painful history.

His eyes searched around, seeing no one in sight. Odd. Instinct drove him forward to the closest structure: a small wooden shed located near rundown docks. Jaime observed the old, rusty antique metal hinges and large nails jetting out of porch. How have they not been sued for this? Jaime’s eyebrows furrowed in concern as he dodged the danger, probably saturated with disease. He opened the door with caution.

In front of him rested a workbench and a bed, but no one was inside. Smells of old, wet rotten wood filled his lungs. Jaime stepped towards large wool and fur blankets. Without thinking, he pulled, unraveling a skeleton underneath. Bones rolled and clanked together. Shocked, Jaime leapt backwards. Well, you get an A+ for set design. Jaime chuckled his fear away, curious how they managed to create such a real looking set of bones.

Shivers ran through him, due to his soaked clothing. Harrenhal wouldn’t mind if he borrowed their blankets, in fact, they could even make a great story about it. We saved Jaime Lannister from a freak accident. Karma? Jaime shook his head, hoping they’d leave the skeleton scare out of the tabloids.

Jaime undressed, with the exception of his briefs, socks and shoes. What if they have cameras watching? This could be a prank. He closed the stiff, crusty blanket around himself, wrapping it around his back and shoulders before he tucked remaining fabric against his chest. Out of his wet clothes and in dry blankets, he felt better in an instant. Although, the fake skeleton bothered him. He needed to find someone alive— not dead... or fake.

Jaime looked up at Harrenhal’s walls. Banners hung from stone: crimson red with a golden lion sigil in the middle. Deja vu distracted him.

With no door in sight, Jaime walked west. I’ll find a road before I know it. He walked for what felt like miles. No cars, no roads, no people. Only tall trees, endless forest and cawing birds. Until... he heard a large twig snap to his left.

Jaime turned his head, noticing a black cloaked woman run away from him. Long, curly black hair ran down her back, and a flash of blue dress peeked below the hemline. She looked just like the woman who told him about the meeting place on the Isle of Faces. That’s that woman! Furious in an instant, Jaime judged her responsible, guilty, and corrupt. He stormed after the unnamed woman. He shouted after her, “Stop!”