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.”