Some time ago, the army built a tower in the middle of a spread of wild hills. The tower looked out to the sea, and when the army had finished with it, they filled its hollow innards with a gun.
Thirteen men were sent to look after the gun. They examined its parts and counted its pieces in case any went missing during the night. They signed their names on its dance card with chalk, and once they even fired it, with much pomp and gleaming ceremony, though it was only a test and the ammunition sunk into the sea.
Mostly, they waited. They imagined what it might look like to see a ship lumber over the horizon, how it would feel launch something through the air and be unable to stop it from crashing through metal and glass and the crisp bones of men. They listened to the radio and heard reports of a war so far away that they sounded like stories that someone had made up about a place that didn't exist. They polished. They cleaned. They counted the pieces of the gun.
If it weren't for the men, the gun would have been invaded by dust. Its innards would have clogged and rodents would have taken it for a home. It would have sunken to obscurity, been fractured and abandoned. Instead, it was riddled with time. Slow time, bored time, the kind of minutes that stretch out so long and so thin that they manage to hold nothing in them. It flaked off the men while they drooped in the sunlight, made drifts and piles that collected in corners and shored up walls. It accumulated like dirt while the men waited for something that would never happen and that gave them nightmares of guilt when they dreamed that it had.
Eventually, the men left and the army took away the gun.
The tower stayed and the hole where the gun used to be was flooded by rain. Water weeds and algae took up residence. A family of newts lived and died and left behind enough eggs for several generations. Time sank to the bottom of the newly made pond where newts swallowed it absentmindedly and grew into exotic specimens with plumed tails and delicate fingers instead of feet.
The newts are so still that they might be dead or sleeping. It's the time that makes them sluggish. They only remember to move when an unfamiliar shadow mars the reflections above them. Then they jerk their absurdly long and complicated tails and propel themselves until they forget where they were going.
If you watch them long enough, you may see them eating time. It's an uncomfortable sensation, to witness their flat mouths and triangular tongues closing around another person's minutes and hours. They seem to be unaware that they are even doing it, and the lack of expression on their amphibious faces seems to indicate that the flavor is unremarkable.
Every once in a long while, a newt will look up from its meal. Its entire body spasms and it streaks around the pond like something possessed, unable to stop itself until it runs into exhaustion and sinks to the bottom, too tired to lift itself to the surface to breathe. Sometimes it drowns.
It's difficult to say whether the newts understand the things they feel when they consume these more dangerous flavors of time. Do they savor the taste of memory (which is easily mistaken for time, but much harder to discard)? Is it, perhaps, a matter of honor, a dare? Maybe they select carefully, down beneath the stagnant water. They pick up pieces and discard them, searching for something that is different and beautiful and terribly, horribly fine.