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imariaprime t1_j5cfbk6 wrote

My phone goes off, the Indiana Jones theme blaring as my alarm. A bird chirps outside my window as a car honks far in the distance. I lay there, staring up at the ceiling, until I could hear the city bus pass by for the fifth time; it had a bad muffler, and I could always tell it apart by the rattling noise.

Robotically, I pulled myself out of bed. Moved into the kitchen to make food that I wasn't particularly hungry for, brewing coffee that I didn't really want. I heard the door open behind me; by virtue of the fact that it didn't always open at this time, I knew exactly who it was. "Get fucked forever. Leave me alone."

He acted as if he hadn't even heard me, strolling in as if he owned the place; he began fishing through my cupboards for his favorite of my mugs. Frowning, he noticed the blue shards in my sink; I had smashed it before he arrived, just in case he chose to visit. Scowling slightly, he settled for a plain white mug before helping himself to my coffee. "You're up late today. Rough night last night?" He grinned at his own joke.

I focused for a moment, and the coffee pot in his hands exploded. He yelped as scalding hot coffee sprayed all over him, but still managed to smile despite the obvious pain. "Now there's my good old friend. It's been... what, a month, since the last time you used your powers?"

I slumped into my kitchen chair, feeling utterly defeated. "Two months. Fuck you, Aaron, seriously." My breakfast caught fire on the stove, but it didn't really matter, so I let it burn.

Aaron moved to the sink, pouring cold water onto his burns. He'd surely need medical attention, if not for the fact that his wounds would be gone tomorrow. Or next today, however you wanted to look at it.

"One day," Aaron mused, over the sound of running water, "you'll thank me for this. After what happened to us, normal human morality doesn't apply anymore. I wish you didn't need this 'training', but it's for the best. For both of us."

I sighed. We'd had this argument a million times, and every time we both spoke our parts from the heart. "Some strange powers don't make us gods, Aaron. We weren't 'chosen', we didn't 'ascend'... it was an accident."

We had stumbled onto a strange glowing rock out in the forest, after a vicious storm. I'd been afraid we were going to get cancer, but turned out to be way off the mark: over time, I began to realize that I could move things with my mind. And what started with pencils and cups grew rapidly, in both power and scale.

Aaron, on the other hand, seemed unaffected... at first. Looking back, he likely wasn't powerful enough to produce effects at first, given the scale of his abilities. Once he started to show signs, I was the only other person to ever notice that he'd played around with time. Sometimes everyone would simply freeze, or things would suddenly skip back an hour or two.

But that childish experimentation was decades ago... or only a few weeks ago, depending on which timescale you used.

"Accident, divine intervention, witch's curse... does it matter?" Aaron slid into the chair beside me, glancing over as my failed breakfast began to light the cupboards on fire. "What matters is what we can do. I learned that a long time ago, but I'm not doing this alone. You and I, we're going to change things. Together."

Except, what Aaron meant by 'change things' was something I wanted no part in. The first today had been years and years ago; the loop had started as I slept, so I hadn't noticed it had begun. Once I woke the next day, and realized it was still the same day, I'd realized it and confronted him. And he made his terms very clear: he would not let time move forward until I made my powers widely and irrevocably known, to keep me from trying to live a mild mannered life. To keep me from 'wasting my potential'.

And so we'd danced this dance, today after today, him pushing me to snap and show the world what I could do, me living the same mundane day over and over to spite him.

This particular today, however, my patience was running unusually low. And so, as Aaron droned on with today's pitch about how we were destined to rule the world as gods, I flicked him with my mind. Mid-sentence, he flew backwards into the growing fire building atop my stove with a surprised yelp. But I had flicked him too hard, apparently, and the impact killed him before the fire had a chance to–

My phone goes off, the Indiana Jones theme blaring as my alarm. A bird chirps outside my window as a car honks far in the distance. Shortly after, my phone begins vibrating; I have a call. Sighing deeply, I reach over and bring the phone to my ear.

"So, as I was saying, if you'd just channel that sort of energy out into the world, you and I could get to work at shaping the destiny of humankind to..."

I grinned a little as Aaron's irritable tone faded out, replaced by some gurgling. Soon, a wet pop sounded on the other end of the phone–

My phone goes off, the Indiana Jones theme blaring as my alarm. A bird chirps outside my window as a car honks far in the distance. Shortly after, my phone begins vibrating; I have a call. This time, I simply turn it on speakerphone.

"Are you done?" Aaron sounds notably annoyed this time. Somehow, his annoyance soothes me.

"Yeah, I'm done. I just needed to get that out of my system." I get out of bed, and start pulling out some clothes.

I hear him sigh on the other end. "Fine. I can't begrudge you that much. Hey, you want to take the day off, maybe drive out of town for a bit?"

There's something unusual about spending a decade in a loop with only one other person experiencing it with you. On one hand, Aaron was essentially my captor. But on the other hand, he really was still my closest friend. I sighed in return. "There's nowhere within a day's travel that we haven't been."

"Yeah, but it's been years since we hit up that taco truck off the highway. No arguments today, just tacos. Deal?"

"Fuck it, deal. But no weird shit this time, okay?" Last time, Aaron shot the truck owner rather than paying for the meal. 'What does it matter?'

Aaron groaned exaggeratedly. "Uhhhhhhh fiiiiine. But that means you're paying."

(Continued below)


imariaprime t1_j5cfc7o wrote

The day passed in an unusually mundane way, for once. Aaron and I sat on the edge of an overpass, watching cars pass beneath us. In the back of my mind, I registered that I had memorized the pattern of every vehicle approaching: red sedan, white minivan, blue pickup. We sat in silence, crinkled taco wrappers discarded beside us, as my brain turned things over for the trillionth time, looking for an answer that worked.

Aaron broke the silence first. "I promised no arguments, and I'm sticking to that, but I want to ask you something." He waited for me to give permission, which he rarely did; it felt nice to be surprised by something. So I nodded, wondering what would come next. "Is there... is there any way I can make all this easier on you?"

I blinked in surprise. "What? Are you fucking... you could just stop this. Just end the fucking loop. Was that a serious question?" I could feel my anger building, and the taco wrappers began to vibrate. "You've kept me locked away in a day, pushing me to become a one-man war crime, and now you're asking how to make that easier on me?"

Aaron didn't seem scared of me, even when I got like this. Either of us dying just reset the loop, so he'd come to terms with the pain associated with that a long time ago. If anything, he just seemed sad, and tired. "I know... I know you don't believe me, when I say that I'm doing this for the right reasons. But I hate this as much as you do. I just also believe it's necessary, for you to leave all this behind." He gestured weakly at everything around us, cars passing in the dark. "I know that you think I'm torturing you, and I fucking hate it. I don't want it to always be like this."

It took a few minutes of me staring violently at him, but my anger began to subside. The wrappers (and the overpass itself) stopped shaking, and I could feel the tension in my shoulders drop. We sat in silence as I turned his words around in my head... and felt something click into place.

"...move the loop forward."

Aaron looked over at me, confused. "What? What do you mean?"

"Move the time loop forward. Twenty four hours, same as it's always been, but start it right now. With you and me, sitting here on this bridge. Not waking up in my normal bed, expecting to walk into my normal life. Let me start it here, with you. I won't... I won't change immediately. You know that, I know that. But it'll be a start. And god knows that we both could use some freshness in our lives."

Aaron quietly considered my request. "I guess it doesn't matter what day we repeat. And... I guess I like the idea of starting the day side by side. Phone calls in the morning don't have the same vibe."

"Plus, if I blow up your head again, I'd have to clean myself off. Definitely a deterrent." I grinned. Somewhere along the line, my humour had become much darker.

But Aaron laughed with me. "I doubt that would stop you, but I respect the sentiment. Okay, done." And without hesitation, I felt the telltale ripple of the 'checkpoint' being reset.

I didn't give him even a moment. A second later, I had flung both of us high into the sky, holding us far above and out of sight. The cars were insects scurrying below as we dangled in midair. Aaron screamed, flailing to grab onto anything and finding nothing.

Floating myself closer, but just out of reach, I spoke calmly. "Now that we're starting side by side, let me tell you what every day will be from now on. Every day, I will pull us up and out of sight. And then, I will harm you in new and inventive ways for every waking minute, but without actually killing you. And then the day will reset, and I will start again. And again. And again."

Fear covered Aaron's face, but I felt nothing. He'd smothered that out of me years ago. "You wanted to teach me to cross the lines of human morality? Congratulations, you did it. So now let's see how long it takes until you turn around and start trying to teach me 'mercy'."

A muffled crack signalled that the pressure I was exerting on him had cracked a rib already; I would have to squeeze slower tomorrow. I grabbed Aaron's face, ignoring his obvious signs of pain.

"And when you've finally decided you've had enough, and you want the suffering to end... I strongly suggest you give up at the start of a loop. Because you're going to be in very, very bad shape by the end of the day."

An end was in sight now, finally. This couldn't last forever, Aaron couldn't last forever. I still had to cut away my own heart to make it happen, but I could live with this if I had to.

And if I'm being honest... knowing I'd never have to hear the Indiana Jones theme again would give me the strength to persevere.