[Aureliano (II)] saw the epigraph of the parchments perfectly paced in the order of man’s time and space: The first of the line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants. . . . Melquíades had not put events in the order of a man’s conventional time, but had concentrated a century of daily episodes in such a way that they coexisted in one instant.

In the final pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude, Aureliano (II) deciphers the parchments and discovers that they collapse time so that the entire history of Macondo occurs in a single instant. Although García Márquez has written the novel in a mostly chronological fashion, there have been hints of this overlapping of time throughout the book: ghosts from the past appear in the present; the future takes its shape based on the actions of the past; amnesia plunges the citizens of Macondo into a perpetual present with neither past nor future. In other words, time in Macondo has always unfolded strangely. Only in this final moment do we find out that in Macondo, there are two kinds of time: linear and cyclical. Both have always existed simultaneously, and, even as the Buendías move forward along the straight line of time, they are also returning to the beginning of time in an ever-shrinking spiral.