Allen sat alone at his table in the overcrowded restaurant which had massively grown in popularity over the last year. He had a view of the host podium from where he sat and there were people still waiting from when he first came in over 45 minutes ago.
Around him, cutlery clanged against dishes and the banal chatter surrounding him had slowly grown louder over the last half hour. He glanced at the clock on his phone and braced himself for the crash.
3 – 2 – 1 Dishes slide off the tray of one of the waitresses and clattered and crashed to the ground. Conversations stopped as the entire restaurant turned around to see what had happened. A couple of other waitresses scurried to her aid and it was swept up immediately as the conversations around him started up again and the volume rose to its earlier crescendo.
10 minutes to go.
“Is there anything else I can bring you sir?” the waiter asked, as he set his surf and turf on the table. Allen had ordered the most extravagant item on the menu since he knew he wouldn’t need to pay. Not here. Not today.
Truth be told, he’d grown to hate this restaurant, but he’d learned awhile ago that being here helped with the transition. So now, every year at the exact same time, he reserved this booth. But that didn’t mean the food wasn’t delicious.
5 minutes to go.
He was so close. If only he had just a few more weeks, he was sure they would be able to solve the problem he’d been working on for the last 26 years or 1 year, depending on how you looked at it.
1 minute left
The music got louder. Then a few seconds later so did the voices around him. People began shouting to be heard above the pounding base. He quickly finished his last couple of bites, set his knife and fork on his plate, and wiped his mouth with a napkin. As the din around him started to fade, he closed his eyes to hold off the vertigo.
The voices around him started to blend together as they faded into the distance, growing softer and quieter until everything went silent. Then everything came rushing back with a pop and he was back, but now it was year earlier and the restaurant was nearly empty.
This is where he’d been sitting when the effects of his botched experiment took their tole 26 years ago. It didn’t mater where he was on September 27; he would blink and be transported back to this location at exactly 7:03 pm.
He’d tried everything to get away. One year, he’d even flown halfway across the world, but same as always, when the year reset, he found himself right back here.
The waitress came by with a glass of water. “I’ll be back to take your order in just a few minutes.” she said, smiling, but she gave him a odd look as she walked away.
He grabbed the glass of water and drank it down. He’d learned about 10 years ago that if he simply came back here just before the transition happened it was far less disorienting. And at his age, that was a priority.
Yes, his age was becoming more and more of a factor. Although the rest of the world was repeating the same year, year after year, he was cursed to not only be aware of what was happening, he didn’t reset. In the last 26 years, he had aged about 26 years. That had been a pleasent discovery around year 9. It was still embarrassing how long it took him to figure that out. It was becoming increasingly problematic with friends, family, and co-workers.
“What can I get for you today,” the waitress asked, walking up with her notepad and pencil.
Feeling quite full from the lobster he’d just finished next year, he grabbed his coat and slide out of the booth.
“Actually, I just changed my mind. I’m not that hungry after all.”