New Year’s Reset

I stand outside staring at the water lapping against the beach. The lake is quiet tonight. I no longer celebrate New Year’s with other people. I no longer celebrate New Year’s.

Lights are on in roughly every other house circling around the lake. Large groups of people can be seen through massive windows and various beats and bellows of laughter echo across the serene water.

A couple walks along the beach hand in hand, their silhouettes gliding by several meters in front of me. I instinctively shrink further back into the shadows, but they don’t see me.

I’m wearing the same clothes I’ve worn for the past month. They smell and are in tatters. I know the reset is coming.  What’s point?

The year is 2020 and it’s been 2020 for the past 54 years. I should be turning 82 this year, but instead I’ll turn 28. Again.

More people are filtering down to the beach. Dark silhouettes begin to dot the beach like multiplying freckles. The fireworks will be starting soon. It’s almost time.

The sand beneath my fingers begin to quiver and twitch with the vibrations. The air becomes thick and harder to breath. Am I the only one who feels it?

The people on the beach turn towards the sky. They must, but they think it’s the fireworks starting. Maybe it is. Except I know it’s not. It happens even when I’m lost in the woods alone and cold.

My chest vibrates to the bass of unheard music. Light begin to blur and streak, while each individual sound slowly lowers and raises until it’s all one long clear note gaining volume. My breath catches in my chest, the air too thick, too humid, too hot to breathe. Then, pop. I wait in unstimulated darkness hearing only the ringing in my ears that gives voice only in silence. One. Two. Three.

Every year, at precisely 12 pm Pacific Standard Time on December 31, 2020 as though I am racing down a darkened tunnel the world flies back and I’m in my friend’s kitchen with 20 other people. They shout and cheer on the “new” year. It’s January 1, 2020. Over and over and over again.

In past loops I’ve caught glimpses of 2021. I spent one transition in New Zealand and enjoyed almost an entire day of the future before I rebounded. It was glorious.

Over the years I’ve learned German, Spanish, and Cantonese. I’ve gotten in the best shape of my life and I’ve let myself get fat. So fat. I’ve died 5 times and killed once. Is it actually murder if you know they’ll come back to life in 3 months?

The year always starts out the same, but inevitably there are changes from year to year. You can’t predict it. People don’t make the same choices they did the year before. It’s like there’s residual subconscious memories or déjà vu. Regardless, I seem to be the only one aware that we keep repeating the year.

I quickly slip past the people in the kitchen and down the hall to the front door. I know from past years I don’t have much time before someone stops me. It’s not always the same person, but inevitably, if I don’t escape right away I get stuck talking for another hour or two. The problem is that this party, in my life, happened more than fifty years ago. I don’t remember what’s been happening in people’s lives, at least not to the point that I can carry on a decent conversation. And I just don’t care. I’ve grown past this. I’m not who I was fifty years ago.

I step softly down the stairs and into the darkened foyer. Somewhere is this mess of piled up shoes are my pair. Past the pink stilettos and under the men’s sneakers, I pull up the silver strappy sandals I wore to the party.

I slide out the door before putting them on, on the front step. I have just breathed a sigh of relief that I have escaped without conversation when the door opens, and there’s Brad.

Shit. I forgot about him. He stands in the doorway staring at me.

“Claire, wait. I need to talk to you.” He says softly. His eyes dart back up the stairs before stepping outside and closing the door behind him.

My stomach drops. The first year it was 2020 we flirted back and forth at this party and started dating shortly afterward. Only for it to end in a fireball wreckage a few months later. I’d been so careful for years to avoid him when I left this party, but he was never around. It was like he was avoiding me too. I eventually forgot about him. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

“Uh, I’m sorry, Brad. Family emergency. I need to head home.” I stumble over my own feet and almost fall down the stairs.

“Careful,” he says, rushing forward grabbing my arm until I get my balance.

“Thanks,” I say, awkwardly.

“Look, this isn’t what you think. I know we didn’t work out. I just, I,” he hesitates.

Something clicks in my brain. “What do you mean you know we didn’t work out?” I ask, my eyes narrowing. That happened after the party which means that memory should have been erased after the first reset.

He gives me a strange look before leaning forward and whispering, “Claire, I remember.”

Family Feud

“As the pilot makes his announcement to prepare for landing, the old woman next to you suddenly takes your hand. “Don’t let go if you want to live,” she tells you as screams erupt from the back of the plane.”

12-year-old Tommy shoved his game into his backpack and kicked it under the seat in front of him as the pilot made the announcement to prepare for landing. His bag didn’t quite fit so kicked a couple more times causing the man in front of him to turn around and glare at him through the crack between the chairs.

“Do you mind?” he growled.

Tommy shrank back into his chair. “Sorry,” he muttered. When the man turned back around, Tommy shifted in his chair to look out the window. They were approaching the city and more and more cars were appearing on the roads below. They looked the Hot Wheels he used to play with when he was a little kid.

The old woman beside him shifted in her seat and stared down the aisle. “Almost, almost,” she whispered. She was a tiny woman in bright red pant suit. Her nails and her lipstick were also painted red. She let out raspy cackle. “Almost.” She was nearly bouncing in her seat.

“What was that?” Tommy asked.

She looked at him with surprise. “Oh, just talking to myself,” she said.

She leaned around the seat once more, “Haha!” she shouted.

She grabbed Tommy’s hand from the armrest. “Don’t let you go if you want to live,” she said, squeezing her eyes tight.

Tommy recoiled. Crazy old woman. He leaned towards the window in an effort to put some space between them, but his hand was still in her iron grip. How was she so strong?

Suddenly, loud screams came from the back of a plane, followed by an inhuman yowl that froze his heart. He stared wide-eyed at the woman beside him. She was grinning from ear to ear giggling like a little girl. Her eyes still pressed shut

He tried to pry his finger free from her hand. “No,” she pulled their combined hands out of his other hand’s reach, her eyes flying open. “They’ll be here any moment and he must see that we’re friends or he’ll attack you next.” She closed her eyes again. “No quiet, I want to hear what’s happening.”

“W-what?” his voice cracked.

There was another yowl from the back of the plane. People were shouting and screaming over each other. He climbed up on chair so that he was kneeling and peered over the headrest, not an easy task with the woman still clutching his hand.

The scene behind him was chaos. People were out of their chairs and in the aisles bumping into each other. One man was elbowed in the cheek as another man bumped into him with his hands flying about his head. Two flight attendants were desperately trying to calm people down, but no one was paying any attention to them.

Finally, one voice could be heard above the fray. “That. Is Enough.” A screeching yowl, followed by total silence.

The woman beside him frowned, looking disappointed. “I guess all good things must come to an end at some point,” she lamented.

People finally began to sit down again, and the aisle began to clear. Tommy slumped down in his chair feeling a bit disappointed as well.

Suddenly, a shadow fell over them as someone approached their chairs.

Another elderly woman with blue tinted hair and long red scratched down her arms and face appeared beside them with a white Persian cat resting the crock of her arm. As she stood over them, the cat hissed at the woman holding him, baring his teeth, but the woman paid him little mind. She clearly had him in an iron grip and he did not appreciate it.

One of the scratches on her arms was bleeding and a slow trickle of blood dripped down from her elbow. Her hair was disheveled and her glasses were askew.

“I believe this is yours?” she said, in a drab, unimpressed voice. She dropped the cat onto the woman’s lap next to Tommy. The cat hissed loudly again, the hair on his back standing on end. He caught sight of Tommy moved forward.

“Now, Now, Archibald. Don’t be rude. He’s a friend.” She scratched the cat behind the ears, then began to pet him. Her long, red fingernails disappeared into the fur as she rubbed it’s back.

The cat stared menacingly at Tommy. He didn’t dare move.

As a frazzled flight attendant approached the demeanour of the woman next to Tommy transformed. “Thank you so much for finding him,” she said to the woman with the long scratches. She flashed a look of relief and gratitude across her face. “I was quite beside myself. I simply don’t know how he got out.”

The eyes of the woman with the scratches narrowed, but she said nothing.

“Ma’am,” the flight attendant said, her voice breathless. “Is this your cat?”

“I’m so sorry!” she opened her eyes wide “He didn’t cause any problems did he?”

“You might say that,” the woman said, looking down at her scratched arms.

“You must put him in the carrier immediately. We’re landing,” the flight attendant said, sounding frantic. “Back to your seat.” She ushered the woman with the scratches back to the back of the plane.

“This isn’t over,” she said, as she was herded away.

The woman winked at Tommy. “Sibling feuds can be ever so much fun, don’t you think?” she asked, gently guiding the soothed cat back into his carrier.

The Magic Ring – Part 2 of 2

12 years later

Seventeen-year-old Madison sat at her desk, sitting on one foot with her other leg swinging beneath her. She flipped through college brochures trying to decide where she was going to apply. Her dream had always been to study abroad in the UK, but her boyfriend Jack, who was a year older than her, was attending a local college this year. She knew he assumed she was going to do the same thing.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in Europe,” she said to her reflection in the tiny mirror she kept on her desk. She didn’t know why she did it. She’d always taken a weird comfort in talking to herself in the mirror. After Madelyn disappeared she’d felt so alone. As a kid, she would sit next to the big mirror on her closet door. Her reflection made it feel like there was another person in the room.

As she got older, she just kind of got in the habit and didn’t even realize she did it anymore. It just felt so natural. Her mom thought it was because Madison liked to pretend her reflection was Madelyn, but that wasn’t it. Everyone else had trouble telling them apart, but Madison and Madelyn didn’t think they looked that much alike all. Even looking at old photos, she didn’t need to use the faded scar above Madelyn’s eyebrow to tell them apart.

But Madelyn was why she dreamed of going abroad. She could go somewhere where she wasn’t the twin who’d lost her sister. Everywhere she went, people asked her about Madelyn’s disappearance. She just wanted to be normal for a bit.

She looked out the window and saw Mrs. Stone jogging down the street, her long brown hair pulled into a pony tail and swinging behind her. It look looked like her limp had healed.

Madison gave a shudder. There was something about Mrs. Stone that gave her chills.

* * *

A couple of weeks later, she told Jack that she had applied to a school in England. She tried to tell him that there was a slim chance she’d even get in. But he’d been upset anyway. Then he’d found out about all of the other schools she’d applied to. He said they should take a break. When she got home, she sat in her old spot in front of her closet door, crying in front of her mirror.

Suddenly, she saw it. The scar above the right eyebrow. She leaned closer to the mirror, staring at her reflection, running a finger over her brow. But as she looked closer, it cleared. That was weird. She sat back and tried to get in the same position as before, but the scar was gone. Probably just a figment of her imagination or a weird refraction of light from one of the tears in her eyes.

At dinner, she was distracted and couldn’t get the image of that faint, white scar above her eyebrow out of her head. And the thing was, it wasn’t just the scar. For a split second, the image staring back at her, hadn’t been hers.

Later that evening, she grabbed a bottle of eye drops from the bedroom and sat in front of the closet mirror and dripped 3 drops into each eye, careful not to blink too much. With water-filled lids she looked again. At first, she didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary, but just as she was about to turn away, a glint of gold caught her eye. There, on her reflection’s ring finger was the black ring.

The eyedrops leaked down her cheeks. What did it mean? Soon her eyes were dry and the ring was gone. She quickly grabbed the bottle again and dripped more drops into her eyes. A few moments later, a faint image flickered on her ring finger again.

This time, she moved her fingers to take off the imaginary ring. As she slide it from her finger, the ring in the reflection moved slowly down her finger. And then it was off. Her reflection flickered for a moment.

She’d been expecting something bigger to happen, but what, she wasn’t sure.

“It’s about time you figured it out,” a voice said from behind her.

She whirled around and there was Madelyn. At least, she thought it was Madelyn.

“Is that really you?” she asked, tentatively.

Madelyn nodded, her eyes filling with tears. They flew into each other’s arms crying and laughing. She was seventeen now and looked much older than the last time she’d seen her.

“What happened?” Madison asked. “Where have you been?”

“It was that stupid ring!” she said, crossing her arms in front of her chest. “It was a trap! Mrs. Stone knew that I’d be jealous and would try to steal the ring. As soon as I put it on, it locked me on the other side of the mirror. I’ve been trying to get your attention all this time, but the spell forced me do copy you’re every move. I thought I was going to be stuck forever!”

* * *

Everyone celebrated Madelyn’s return. Well, almost everyone.

“Who’s that?” Madison, asked a couple of weeks later, starting out the window.

Creeping along down the sidewalk in front of their house was an old woman hunched over a walker. She had long gray hair that swept past her waist. She glanced up at their window and glared. Large, circular glasses sat halfway down her nose. She snarled at them as she pushed her walker forward and limped down the street.

The Magic Ring – Part 1 of 2

Five-year-olds Madison and Madelyn Stewart trailed after their mother up the front walk of Mrs. Stone’s house. Usually their babysitter Natalie took care of them on Saturdays while their mom was at work, but today, Natalie had called to say she was sick.

“Thank you so much for a taking care of my girls,” Julie said, quickly kissing each girl on top of their head before rushing off. The girls watched from the open doorway as she rushed back to her car, her high heels clicking along the cement walk.

Mrs. Stone was over six feet tall with long, straight, gray hair that hung down to her waist. She had giant, round, black-rimed glasses that sat halfway down her nose and, along with her pursed lips, gave the illusion that she was part fish.

She ushered the girls inside and the door gave a resounding thud as it closed behind them. Sunlight shone through the windows, it’s beams catching the multitude of dust particles hanging in the air like glitter.

They dragged their feet as the followed her into the kitchen. On the table, laid out on a pale pink towel, was what looked like the entire contents of her jewelry box. They scrambled onto chairs and stood on tiptoe to have a closer look.

Most of it was cheap costume jewelry, but the girls didn’t know any better. They quickly snatched up strings of fake pearls, beads, and bangle bracelets. Soon each girl had multiple lengths of necklaces hung from their necks, bracelets up to their elbows, and a broach pinned beneath each of their shoulders. They were both grinning from ear to ear.

Then, Mrs. Stone brought out the gloves and helped each girl pull on the silky material. Madison in blue, and Madelyn in yellow.

“Can we keep these?” Madelyn asked, her eyes wide looking eager and hopeful.

Mrs. Stone laughed. “No sweetheart, not these. But, I do have something you can have.” She gave them a quick wink before turning to the jewelry box the girls thought was empty.

They exchanged a grin as Mrs. Stone opened a tiny, hidden drawer in the box and pulled out a ring. It was gold with a giant black stone set in the middle. She held it up between her thumb and forefinger. It was tiny. The perfect size for a child.

Mrs. Stone leaned forward and gave them a sly grin. “Whoever is the best behaved today can have the ring when you go home today.”

The girls’ smiles flickered. “Only one of us gets the ring?” Madison asked. Madelyn frowned.

Mrs. Stone just nodded and smiled. Then, she tucked the ring back into the box. “How about a tea party?”

* * *

That evening, when the Julie came to pick up the girls, they jumped up and down excitedly asking to see who would get the ring.

“What’s this?” Julie asked, a nervous smile on her face as Mrs. Stone left to get the ring.

“Mrs. Stone promised to give the best-behaved girl a ring.” Madison said.

“It’s so pretty,” Madelyn said, clasping her hands together.

Julie’s smile turned to a grimace.

Mrs. Stone came back into the room holding the ring triumphantly in her hand. “The winner is” she gave a long pause. The girls practically vibrated with excitement.

“Madison.” She finished making a sweeping gesture as she presented the ring to Madison. Maddison slowly reached up and tentatively took the ring grinning from ear to ear. “Look Mom!”

As she slid the ring on her finger, Madelyn dissolved into tears and sobbed as they walked back to the car. Once the front door shut behind them, Julie started muttering under her breath about the stupidity of giving a gift to only one of the girls.

* * *

That night, Madison carefully placed the ring on her nightstand while Madelyn glared at her. They both climbed into bed, but while Madison was able to fall asleep right away, Madelyn tossed and turned thinking about how unfair it was that she didn’t get that ring.

Finally, unable to take it any longer, she quietly crept out of bed and tiptoed to her sister’s nightstand guided by the pale blue light of the nightlight. She picked up the ring, feeling the weight of it in her palm.

Just as she was about to slip it on her finger, Madison woke up. “What are you doing?” she demanded.

Without saying a word, she slipped the pilfered ring on her finger and vanished.

The Boomerang Jump – Part 4 of 4

Jason was working on adding locks to the laboratory doors. It hadn’t occurred to him until one of his test subjects escaped that it was an obviously necessary protocol. He would have made his intern, Curtis, do it, but he had seemed rather stunned and out of it since the last test subject had vanished. He’d have to keep his eye on Curtis in case he decided to do something stupid.

Jason didn’t mind fixing the locks himself. It gave him something to do while he waited. He’d dreamt of being a time traveler his entire life. He couldn’t believe his future self had actually accomplished it. To be honest, he’d never really been that much into science so he was actually quite stunned when someone appeared at the agreed upon time.

“Oh no, not again,” he heard Curtis moan. He looked over to see Curtis moving away to the edge of the room, a look of dread on his face.

“What’s wrong?” Jason asked, but he didn’t need to wait long to know the answer. A swirling cyclone of water began spinning on the platform followed by a second one. For a moment they looked like they were going to merge, but quickly split again. Then. they both disappeared revealing a man and a woman.

“Ah, I see our next test subjects have appeared,” Jason said, working frantically to get the lock in place.

“No, no exactly,” the man said. His eyes scanned the facility and he raised his eyebrow as he looked around. “Appalling.”

“My thoughts exactly,” the woman said. “Did you follow the directions we sent at all?”

Jason stood slowly, feeling confused. “You sent? Who are you?”

“We’re the ones who have been sending you the messages,” the woman said, walking around the lab inspecting things.

“We’re friends in the future?” Jason asked.

They both laughed. “Definitely not. You were born way before our time.”

“You stole my technology?’ Jason asked, feeling outraged.

“Your technology,” the woman laughed. “You don’t honestly believe you could have come up with time travel?”

“But my letters—” he started to say.

“We wrote them,” the man said. “The hardest part was making it look like we didn’t know what we were doing. Those poor dears who travelled back after we messed up the machine. I hope they didn’t suffer. Although, we weren’t expecting you to kill Simon.

Jason spluttered as he tried and failed to process the information coming at him. “Why?” He finally asked.

The woman shrugged. “The world was coming to end and we needed somewhere to go. We needed someone to prepare a place for us, which you did, albeit poorly. Our only other option was to join a group who planned to colonize a new planet. Can you imagine it? Me? A farmer?” They both laughed.

Jason was barely listening. He could feel the betrayal washing over him turn to rage. 4 years he’d spent building this laboratory, not for him as he’d thought, but for them.

He lunged towards them. The man saw and sighed. He casually stepped out of the way. Jason was about to turn around and lunge for them again, but his body was frozen in place. He suddenly couldn’t move. Water began to fall around him, swirling. It felt like his insides were being pulled up out of his head. And then everything went still.

He was back in his laboratory, but there were way more high tech gadgets about. Above him, the sky through the glass dome was an orangey red. The ground shook knocking him to the floor.

He’d finally got his wish. He was a time traveller. But, for some reason he wasn’t as excited about it as he’d thought he be.

The Boomerang Jump – Part 3 of 4

April 6, 2057

Dear Jason,

I assume the laboratory is finished. Congratulations. While we are discouraged that all of our test subjects have died so far, we are confident it is only a matter of time before one survives. Now that your laboratory is finished, this project should remained more contained and we will be able to start sending them much more frequently from your perspective. Your status reports have been invaluable. Thank you.

* * *

August 23, 2015, 4:48 am

Curtis had been working at WatchWorks Lab for a week and still he had no idea what he was supposed to be doing, but as long as it counted towards his practicum he didn’t care. At least he was pretty sure it counted. He should probably double-check that.

He sat at his desk slowly rotating in his chair. The curls of his red hair flopped against the back of the headrest as he stared up at the ceiling which was a dome of windows that gave a clear view of the slowly lightening sky.

He stopped rotating when he heard a strange dripping noise coming from the centre of the lab which was a raised platform that looked like a stage. He had a sneaking suspicion that his boss, Jason or Dr. Thompson as he preferred to be called, had a flair for the theatrics and saw it more as a stage than for any practical purpose, especially since it seemed as though no actual science ever seem to happen here.

Following the noise, he realized that drops of water were materializing in the air above him and dropping down into a puddle at his feet. As he stood there, they started dropping faster and faster until it formed a stream. Then, the stream began to rotate and expand.

Where moments before there were just drops falling, a cyclone of water and mist had appeared. Curtis stumbled backward to get out of the way. The cyclone expanded outwards, then narrowed. Then, as though it were breathing, it continued to grew thicker before sucking back into a tiny spiral. Then, as quickly as it had begun, it gave one last heaving attempt to breech past the edge of the platform before it narrowed and disappeared completely. But not everything had disappeared.

Standing, where the cyclone had been, was a man with slicked back, dark brown hair and a wild, wide-eyed look. His eyes darted around the lab while he stood in a crouched position like he was preparing to sprint away.

Finally, his eyes landed on Curtis and they narrowed. “Who are you?”

“Hi, I’m Curtis.” He tentatively stepped forward awkwardly stretching his hand out.

The man looked at his hand, but made no move to shake it. “What year is it?’

Curtis, with his hand still outstretched, raised his eyebrows. “Excuse me?”

“The year? Is it still 2057?” His eyes drifted away and started darting around the room. “The lab doesn’t look any different. But I did go back, didn’t I?”

Curtis had no idea what the man was talking about and started backing away towards the door.

When he didn’t answer, the man fixed his gaze on Curtis again. “Well?”

“Ah, no, it’s not 20-whatever you said. It’s 2015.”

The man seemed to visibly relax and he grinned for the first time. “Fantastic.”

They stared at each other for a moment and then he sprang forward and bowled over Curtis, knocking him to the floor. By the time Curtis picked himself up, the man was gone.

* * *

August 24, 4:35 am

“What do you mean he’s gone?” Dr. Thompson shouted, his face turning from pale white, to a deep red. “Why was he early? Where did he go? Is he coming back?” He waved his hands about frantically in front of him as he peppered Curtis with questions.

“Um, I don’t know,” he shrugged.

“You don’t know?” Dr. Thompson said, so angry he was almost levitating off the ground. “You don’t know! What am I paying you for?”

“To be honest, I don’t know,” he mumbled.

Dr. Thompson ripped a tattered envelope from his lab coat. “August 23! He wasn’t supposed to be here until August 23. Why did they send him early?”

“Um, it’s August 24 today,” Curtis said, his voice barely audible.

Dr. Thompson glared at him for the longest 3 seconds of Curtis’s life, before whipping out his phone to check the date.

“Dammit,” he said, crumpling the paper in his fist.

Curtis was momentarily distracted when he heard footsteps coming down the hall. What now?

The man had returned and he was holding a piece of paper in his shaking hand. “Am I going to die?” he asked, holding the letter out to them.

“Give me that,” Dr. Thompson said, snatching the letter out of his hand. He quickly scanned it.

“So, is it true. The others before me died?”

“So far,” Dr. Thompson said, unconcerned.

“I feel fine. I just won’t jump back. I didn’t want to anyway. That’s why I ran away,” he rambled.

Jason raised his eyebrows at the man. “You have no choice. You automatically return after 24 hours. Didn’t they tell you?”

The man’s face fell. “No. But it looks like they didn’t tell me a lot of things.”

“Hmm,” Jason said. He’d grabbed a clipboard from one of the cupboards and was now scribbling furiously on his board. “Well there’s good news and bad news. You won’t necessarily die. The second recruit lasted much longer than the first. And look at you. It’s been nearly a day and here you are. Still breathing.”

The man seemed to perk up a bit. “So I might be okay?”

“Well, see, that’s the bad news.” He reached into his pocket. “I actually think you might have been our first test subject to live, but then you ran away and read the letter, so now you know too much.” He stabbed the man in the ear. “So, no, I don’t think you’ll be okay.”

He pulled the paper he’d been scribbling on off the clipboard, folded it carefully, and pinned it to the inside of the man’s coat.

Curtis watched in frozen terror unable to make his feet move towards the exit.

“Pity,” Dr. Thompson said, before stepping over the body and walking towards the exit. “Clean up the mess after his body disappears.”

This definitely was not going to count against his practicum.

The Boomerang Jump: Part 2 of 4

April 5, 2057

Dear Jason,

I trust by now you have purchased the farm. I’ve included detailed blueprints for the laboratory and the numbers to another lottery. From here, it will be much easier to conduct experiments as we will be sending test subjects back and forth between identical facilities. You will have 1 year to complete the project at which time I will send test patient number three.

* * *

August 23, 2014, 4:31 am

Greg woke up early and stumbled out of his tent. The bottom of his tent was a swimming pool and his sleeping bag was drenched. It had been the most miserable trip from start to finish, not the least issue being that his uncle hadn’t told him he’d sold the farm six months ago. He’d had to sneak onto the back field and pitch his tent rather than stay in one of the dry rooms in the house.

He’d set his alarm for 4:30 so he could pack his things up before the new owners of the farm caught sight of his tent in the early morning summer sun. He didn’t need to bother with the alarm. He’d been awake most of the night.

He was just packing up his tent trying in vain to shake the water off the canvas when an odd metallic screech like a metallic bird sounded. He stopped moving thinking maybe he’d pulled one of the tent poles the wrong way. As he examined the tent the noise sounded again, but seemed to be coming from above him.

Suddenly, there was a great gust of wind that sent his tent flying and nearly knocked him off his feet. An enormous crack of thunder sounded and shook the ground with tremendous force. Then, just as suddenly as it started, the stilled and everything went quiet.

He brushed the dirt from his hair and looked around and saw to his surprise a woman standing in front of him. She appeared to be in her late 20’s and was grinning broadly at him. She walked towards him with her hand outstretched.

“Hello,” he said, jumping a bit in surprise when he caught sight of her. He had no idea where she came from.

“Hi,” she smiled. “My name is Stephanie. Are you Jason?”

“No, my name is Greg. You must be looking for the owners.” He frowned slightly. “My guess would be up at the house.” He pointed to the right. “I can drive you up in my truck once I find my—”

He broke off as he realized that his tent was nowhere to be. Oh well. Good riddance. He didn’t plan to ever camp again.

“Ah, no actually,” she said, laying a hand on his arm. “Do you think you could give me a ride into town.”

As they climbed into his truck, they missed the angry man running down the driveway towards them, lab coat flapping in the breeze. He was waving his hands frantically trying to get their attention.

* * *

Somehow, they were ended up spending the entire day together. She new in town and fascinated by everything. She kept asking question after question.

It wasn’t until after supper that she started to look a bit green.

“Are you feeling okay?” he asked, as they walked out of the restaurant.

“Yeah, I’m just feeling a bit nauseous.” Her eyes started to droop.

“Do you need to sit down?’ he asked, guiding her to a nearby bench. No, I think something might wrong. I need to see—”

“Darling! There you are!” A man with a blonde mustache and a lab coat came up to them. “Ah, tsk, tsk, tsk.” He shook his head sadly and said conspiratorially with Greg. “She drinks too much, my love.” He gave Greg a nudge in his die with his elbow.

Greg frowned. “She wasn’t drinking. And who are you?”

“Me?” he said, looking scandalized. “I’m her husband.”

Greg looked over at Stephanie. ‘You’re married?”

She stared blankly back at him, her eyes glazed over.

The man scooped her up and carried her over his shoulder.

“Stephanie!” he said, feeling very uneasy about this man carrying her away. “Is this your husband.” But she was now unconscious and didn’t say anything.

The man sauntered down the street leaving Greg greatly troubled.

The Boomerang Jump – Part 1 of 4

April 4, 2057

Dear Jason,

You are no doubt waiting in the Peterson’s field just like we agreed. In answer to the question you are dying to ask: yes! We succeeded in developing time travel. It only took us 46 years, but I’m thrilled to tell you, we’ve finally done it!

I’m sending my first test subject to you. He is embarking on the first ever boomerang jump and will return automatically in exactly 24 hours. Detail how the jump went, the heath of the subject, and any other details you think are worth noting. Do not be alarmed if he dies. This is, of course, the first try and there are bound to be some mishaps.

I’ve also included the date and numbers of an upcoming lottery. Use the money to buy the Stangland farm which will become available in 3 years time. It will make an ideal test facility.

I will send the second test subject to their field in 3 years and 61 days on August 23, 2014 at precisely 5:00 am. Please send your reply and field notes with test subject #1.

* * *

June 23, 2011, 3:46 am

Daphne was running away from home. Again. She was eleven years old and tired of being compared to her perfect older sister. She trudged down the familiar dirt road flashlight in hand. She knew, by this point, not to walk along the main road. Guaranteed, either her parents, her older brother, grandparents, or an obnoxious, nosy neighbour pick her up and take her home. But, if she cut through their field to the old dirt road that was hardly every used, then she could walk for miles without being seen.

She had her earbuds in listening to her music as she allowed her anger and self pity wash over her to fuel her forward.

After what felt like an hour, an odd mechanical noise chirped. Alarmed, and suddenly afraid that she had been caught, she flew into the bushes on the side of the road. By now, the early morning sun was peeking over the horizon and she was able to see without her flashlight.

She yanked her earbuds out of ears and listened intently. At first, all was quiet aside from the soft rustling of leaves. Then, the noise sounded again and she thought it might be coming from above her.

She couldn’t see what was making the noise. Suddenly, a blinding light and loud cracking noise exploded through the air and she duck down, throwing her arms over her head. The ground shook throwing her off her feet.

When she caught her bearings again and lifted her head, she saw a tall man, about 70, with a large pot belly jutting out in front of him. His rumpled clothes hung disheveled from his overweight frame. He stood in the middle of the road staring, with an odd expression on his face.

She stayed in her place in the bushes and peered through the leaves. The man appeared to be disoriented. His eyes were crossing and he leaned to one side. Just as he looked like he was about to topple over, he stumbled forward, caught his balance then began to lean to the other side.

Daphne was about to sneak away, when another man, about 25 years old, appeared down the road just coming up over the top of the hill. He raced towards them with a wheel barrow swerving about in front of him and his white lab coat billowing out behind him.

He stopped when he got to the older man, dropping the handles of the wheel barrow. He bent forward and clutched his knees, gasping and breathing hard. Suddenly, the older man gives a load moan and and started to topple over to the side. The man with the lab coat noticed just in time and jumped into action. He grabbed the handles and slide the wheelbarrow under the man’s falling frame and caught him. He landed in a heap sending off a metallic clang.

“Easy does it, easy does it.” He quickly scooped up the limbs that were hanging limply from the wheelbarrow, knuckles and shoes dragging on the ground. Then, he started riffling through the coat pockets of the unconscious man before giving a shout of delight. He emerged with an envelope and eagerly tore it open.

After scanning it for quick moment, his smile growing larger with each word and he whooped in delight! “Ha HA! I did it!” He slapped the shoulder of the man in the wheelbarrow and cackled with delight.

That’s when Daphne noticed that the large man’s condition seemed to be getting worse. Not only was he unconscious, but blood had begun to drip from both nostrils and started to leak from his ears.

From inside his lab coat, the younger man pulled out a folded tarp and with a grand swoosh and a flick of his wrists, he unfurled it. The tarp lay over the body as the man giddily trotted away pushing the wheelbarrow back the way he came.

Daphne stared at the empty path and the drops of blood trailing after the men, her mouth hanging open. She slowly emerged from the bushes, her backpack hanging on the crook of one elbow and dragging on the ground.

When she finally came to her senses, she raced back home, hid in her room, and told no one.

* * *

I wrote this story based on a prompt from the Instagram page:

“People are dropping dead in the middle of the street completely randomly from brain aneurysms, but they have no identity. It turns out that they are time travelers in the early stages of the technology and the jump to the past is causing their brains to melt.”

Then She’ll be Back

After my mom died, l quickly learned everyone grieves differently. There are those like Grandma Gene, who busy themselves, afraid to stop moving for even a moment for fear that their emotions may catch up and tackle them to the floor. She basically took over planning the funeral, brought over the most disgusting casseroles every day that neither me nor my dad ate. I dug a hole in the backyard and dumped the contents into it each day, so we wouldn’t hurt her feelings.

There are those who feel their emotions are like a blanket to wrap themselves in and dissolve into a puddle on the floor in anguished cries, outbursts of anger, and even laughter. This was like my mom’s sister, Aunt Tracey. On the day of the funeral, she would find me every hour, burst into dramatic tears, and drape herself over my shoulders while I awkwardly patted her shoulder. At sixteen, I didn’t feel qualified to offer counselling sessions.

Some box up, sell, and give away everything that even remotely reminds them of their loved one while others insist that everything remain as a shrine to the deceased and act like their loved one had only gone out for a moment and is expected back at any time.

This last type was my father or so I thought. Two years after she died, everything still looked exactly how my mom had left things. She had gone out for groceries and never came back home. We buried her the following week. After the funeral Grandma Betty, (my Mom’s mom) had come over to help pack up her clothes.

“Don’t touch those!” Dad shouted as he grabbed the box from Grandma Betty’s hands. Startled, she started fluttering her hands in front of her, stuttering incomplete sentences, and batting her eyelashes like a surprised frog.

“You are not to touch anything. These were Denise’s. Leave them be.” He grabbed an armload of empty, deflated boxes that slide sideways out of his grasp. He crashed through the doorway dropping one of them in his anger. He stumbled over it and left it crushed on the floor before crashing down the hallway.

“Alright, dear, I say we call it a day,” she said to me, blinking away the tears that had filled her eyes.

After she left, she refused to come to the house anymore. Instead, she invited me over to dinner once a week insisting that a growing boy needed a good home-cooked meal. Thankfully, her food was eons better than Grandma Gene and I happily accepted.

But like I said, it’s been two years and my mom’s clothes are still hanging on her side of the closet. Her make-up bag is still sitting on the bathroom counter. I used to sneak into the bag when dad was asleep and practice.

Today, I had finally had enough. It was time to accept that mom was gone. I picked up boxes from the grocery store and snuck into the house. As per usual, Dad didn’t even look away from the TV.

I had filled two boxes when my dad came up the stairs. “What are you doing?” he glared at me.

“It’s time.” I said. “We need to move on.”

He tried to grab the box I was working on, but pulled I it back ripping it from his fingers. “This is ridiculous. She’s gone. This isn’t healthy.”

Rather than get angry, he gave a great sigh and sat down on the edge of the bed “You don’t understand. Leave it. She’s coming back.”

“What?” I asked, staring at him incredulously. “No she’s not. She’s dead.” Harsh, but the truth. Things were worse than I thought.

“You don’t understand,” he said again. “We faked her death so she could get away. But, the danger will be gone soon, and then she’ll be back.”