Day 23

Liam did try to get up and move to the door, but Richard struck him across the face with the butt of his gun knocking him onto the ground. It wasn’t enough to keep Liam down because he turned and locked eyes with two glowing orbs at the window. The off-key humming intense and he started to run for the door with blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. There the click of the gun and before Richard could pull the trigger Perdita slammed into Liam knocking him down. The gun went off punching a hole in the door.

“Don’t fucking shoot him,” she shouted as her ears felt as if they had exploded.

Liam struggled to get up, but Perdita pulled his arms behind his back. She shouted for some rope or something to hold him down. Richard quickly handed her some zip ties and she secured his hands and feet as he screamed and roared that the lights were friends and that they could show them what they truly were on the inside. He used the word angels.

“This isn’t going to stop,” Richard said putting his hands on his hips.

“Even when they’re gone?” Perdita asked.

“When the sun comes up, he’ll come back to senses, but now all it will take is the noise that those fucking things make.”

“We won’t be here tomorrow night,” Perdita said.

“If you are,” Richard sighed. “He’s going to try and kill you.” “Liam would never try and kill us,” Perdita looked down as her friend struggled.

There was a blank look in his eyes that made her feel sad. There was also an underlying urge to suddenly look at the lights to see what he saw, but she knew that it would be the end for all three of them. So instead, she checked his restraints and went back to the chair to look back into the fire. Richard, on the other hand, stood over Liam with his revolver out frowning the whole time.

“Why are you so determined to shoot him,” Perdita asked.

“Maria was my wife’s name,” he said. “And we had Jacob, Sarah, Colton, and Merida.”

“Those are all beautiful names,” she said.

“She had protected our babies from a wild bears, men, and half-men half whatever them things were when I wasn’t here,” he squatted down and looked at Liam. “Then I was home for three days. We spent it as best as we could enjoying the kids and each other.”

There was a long pause and he stood and walked to the fireplace and looked in.

“And she went and looked out the window while washing dishes,” he tossed something into the fire, and it popped. “I was asleep upstairs. And she walked right out the door and every one of them kids followed her. When I woke up there wasn’t anyone left in the house but me.”

“I’m sorry,” Perdita whispered.

“If there was a way I could go back and fix it,” he said. “Wake myself up before she did it.”

And there was something that clicked in his head, and he looked at Perdita with an eagerness that she was sure never came across a face like Richard’s. He took a step forward so quickly that she stood up from her chair.

“If you’re really a traveler like your friend says,” he whispered. The orange lights shifted behind them as more joined in humming and pressing against the windows. “Let me go back.”

“It won’t work,” she said. “Not like you think. You’ll wake up that man that’s you, and he’ll save his family. But when we come back here your family will still be gone. You’ll create another reality that won’t be stable. Bad things happen in those.”

“At least part of me will be happy,” he said.

“I’m not going to risk my daughter here alone,” Perdita said.

He pointed his gun at Ophelia lying on the couch and pulled back the hammer. There was a great fear that came across her and she knew that she couldn’t outrun the bullet. That she’d watch her daughter die in front of her yet again. The best thing she could do was hold up her hands. He took her wrist and put it to her temple.

“You’re going to take me there,” he said.

“I can’t take you,” she said. “Unless you have one of the machines.”

“Get the one off your friend,” he pointed the gun.

Perdita did what she was told at gunpoint. She set the time to collate with her own machine. He gave the date and time he fell asleep and then she told him the rules and how things had to work. There had never been an instance where a person had met themselves in the same timeline so she was sure what would happen. But with a gun to her head, she knew that she couldn’t stop him.

They jumped back ten years prior to a late evening. The house was empty, and the sun was just setting. Perdita judged that they had about two hours before Maria opened the door and killed all her kids.

She followed him up the stairs to the back bedroom where he eased open the door. There, lying on the bed with his boots still on, was Richard sleeping soundly. She eased into the room with Richard and informed him she didn’t know what would happen if they saw one another, but Richard didn’t say anything. He walked up to the bed not even trying to be quiet.

“Wake the fuck up you pathetic shit,” current Richard said.

Past Richard mumbled something and threw his arm over his eyes. Current Richard frowned and reached down and pulled himself up and threw them to the ground. Perdita watched as there was a ripple that came from them, and she knew that time had completely stopped. The weight of it started to press on her and she could hear the loud grinding of gears. Whatever she had let him do, it was about to break something permanently.

“We don’t have a lot of time,” Perdita said. “He’s awake.”

“No,” current Richard said looking down at past Richard who was waking up.

“What the fuck is this?” Past Richard shouted. “Who the fuck is this?”

He babbled something else, but she could tell he was already starting to lose his grip. That if this lasted much longer, a sleeping Richard wouldn’t be the death of his family anymore.

“You’ve wasted what you had,” current Richard said. “You’re not a good enough man for them.”

And with that he pulled a knife from his belt and fell on the past Richard. The blade came close to his throat, but past Richard moved his head to the side and up smashing current Richard’s nose. Blood spurted out and current Richard swore but he didn’t get off past Richard but returned the favor. There was a loud crack as his head connected and then past Richard’s head bounced off the floor. It was enough. He cut his throat open and watched stoically as he bled to death. He took off the apparatus and tossed it to Perdita.

“I don’t think you want to do this,” Perdita said.

There was a loud crack, and she could feel the weight release as time started forward once again. Something had broken, a new progression in a different direction. Richard shook his head and stood up looking down at the dead body.

“No place where I was for me,” he walked over and pulled out metal trunk and began emptying blankets and guns. “This is where I belong.”

“It’s not going to end well,” Perdita said.

“Nothing is ever going to,” Richard said. “Take this shit and go.”

Perdita did as she was told and returned to the room where her daughter was still sleeping soundly even though Liam was still screaming to let go so, he could be with his friends and mother. But there was no Richard because he was now doing something else in another reality. The lights moved around her, but something was different. She could see that the boards looked thinner and less durable. The house itself groaned but then there was nothing. Time was erasing what wasn’t there, she realized. For how long they had the house, she wasn’t sure.

Sleep wouldn’t come. It only came when the sun rose, and Liam stopped screaming. Only then did she fall asleep in a chair that the bottom half had completely disappeared. She didn’t mean to but jumping like she had did something to her and she knew that if she didn’t sleep, she’d die.

When she woke, she was laying in cold grass. Ophelia was stretched out beside her, and Liam was standing over them frowning. That’s when she realized that the restraints had disappeared as well.

“I’m not sure why,” he said. “But I don’t remember yesterday and now I’m fighting the urge to kill you.”

Perdita sat up and looked at Ophelia and then the wilderness around them. The air was cold, and she knew that she needed to get her daughter somewhere. But they would have to walk until they found some civilization before she could really assess her daughter’s health. So she stood and shook hear head.

“There was something yesterday,” she said. “But it’s already fading.”

“There were lights,” he said. “But you kept me from them.”

“Then we got to keep you from them again,” she said.

Liam looked at her and then back to the woods and she could see there was a longing that she couldn’t explain. She picked up Ophelia and started following the river because she didn’t know what else to do. Liam followed her and she could feel his eyes on him and hear him mumble the words traitor. Even when she grew tired and didn’t want to carry Ophelia anymore, she kept on. Liam seemed different.

The sun was almost down when they made it to a small town with a sign that said Anaconda. As they walked down the streets, they noticed all the buildings had no windows and the doors were metal. There was a hotel called the Mellow Moose. There was a picture of a moose standing in front of some mountains. They entered the lobby, paid for the room, and went into a room that the only light came from three small lamps spread across the room.

Perdita assessed Ophelia and from what she could tell, her brain needed time to connect to the eye and heal itself before she woke up. If she had any way to wake her daughter, there would be a lot of pain and screaming that might lead to damage that couldn’t be fixed no matter what technology she could find.

“Why do I hate you,” Liam said with his face in his hands. “What happened?”

“It has to do with those lights,” Perdita said. “Whatever happened, it had to do with those lights.”

“And you kept them from me,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have hurt you,” Perdita said. “I did it for a reason.”

But they couldn’t remember any more than that. Every single memory about Richard was being removed from their minds to repair the damage he had done to the timeline. There were people that ceased to be. Mothers and fathers disappeared and then the entire family from their cars. The car itself would slowly disappear as well until all was right.

Soon there was no trace of Richard or those that had a ranch out in the forest. And the only trace of anything was that sometimes those that had lost people in this time repair would get mournful and lonely for no reason. They would consider their feelings something to deal with the weather and take a trip or drink a little until it went away. But it never went away completely, because there were things, they lost that they never knew they had.

The sun dropped and there was an alarm that went off in the town. Liam opened the door and there was a man standing there with a large bar. He shoved Liam back and slammed the door shut. There was the clatter of metal and when Liam tried the door again it wouldn’t budge. He shouted and pounded the door and walls until he was exhausted but nothing gave.

“What the fuck is this?” Perdita asked standing up. “What are they going to do to us?”

That’s when, through the thick concrete, they could hear the humming coming toward them. Liam paused and walked toward the door. Everything was closed tight, so there was no light coming from any cracks, but they could feel a group of somethings come close to them and press against the walls. Liam started nodding and talking to the humming while Perdita kept asking him what he heard, but he wouldn’t pay her any mind.

At one point she touched him, and he turned around with blank eyes and a wide smile. He held his finger up to his lips where drool as pouring down his chin. He hooked a thumb behind him to the wall and mumbled spit the word friends.

In another dimension, Richard took his dead body, broke the limbs with brute force and shoved it into the locker where he covered it up with the blankets he took out. He then went downstairs and greeted his wife and kids when they came in from the evening walk. They laughed and talked all through the evening and when the lights came, he ushered everyone to bed and made love to his wife.

The next morning, he woke up, took the trunk into the wood, and buried it deep in the earth. He stood over his own grave covered sweat that he wiped off with the handkerchief he kept in his back pocket.

A wolf sauntered around the corner and looked at him for a long time. Curious, Richard looked back at the wolf and smiled feeling the freedom of having his old life given to him. The wolf, in return smiled too. But not how a dog is supposed to smile. Its lips curled up revealing even squared teeth pressed together. They were stained a dark orange that he assumed was blood.

He backed up a little as his heart began to race. He grabbed his gun and pulled it free, and the wolf stopped smiling. There was the sound of bones cracking as its back legs bent forward and its forelegs elongated and the paws became twisted digits. When it had finished it was six feet tall. The tail had grown long enough that it disappeared behind a tree.

“Now why and go do a thing like that,” it purred.

“Don’t come any closer,” Richard said.

“Don’t worry,” it said. “I won’t. But I’m going to remember your scent, find your home.”

“I’ll be waiting for you,” he said.

“Sure,” it shrugged.

As it shrugged the bones weren’t used to such a thing, so they dislocated and it collapsed in on itself. There was a mass of fur, flesh, blood, and bone that coalesced and reformed to look like a regular wolf. Except that where the bones met one another, the skin had been peeled off exposing the white surface.

“Go on Richard,” it smiled again. “Lock the doors.”

All his life he had practiced with a gun. So, his single shot was true and it found it’s mark in the center of the skull. The wolf yelp and screamed and thrashed on the ground as it died. Blackness oozed from its anus and wrapped around a tree. The wolf was turned inside out and its flesh as also wrapped and pulled around the tree.

The wind drifted and he could hear laughter.

Richard ran home and gathered his wife and kids, put them in a truck and drove to town where he knew there were concrete buildings that nothing could get in. When he got to town, he ordered a room from the Majestic Moose, and pushed his family in. The alarms went off and the humming came as usual. But behind it there was howling as well. It came on the wind, and he could hear things scratching on the surface on the walls trying to get into their room. He could even hear his name being called.

His wife laughed. His kids laughed. And though he didn’t want to he laughed.

He didn’t stop when he noticed that they all had those wide square teeth. He didn’t stop when his wife hooked her fingers in her eyes and pulled back the skin to reveal a triangular skull. The skin hung in shreds from the edges. The children continued to laugh as they ran to the walls and started slamming their heads repeatedly. They continued to go even when their faces were mush, and their brains were coming out of the shattered skull.

Richard laughed as his wife slipped her now three fingered hands into his stomach and squeezed his lungs like a dog would when it was chewing on a rubber toy. She did this for hours, squeezing parts of his organs as he laughed as if he was being tickled. Then she pulled them out and put them in her own body that was void of everything but a spine and dried fat.

He lived three more days while his not wife devoured headless but still moving bodies of his children. He watched as her belly swelled. And on the third day of how it split open and out came a something that looked like him and the wolf he shot.

“Hello again,” it smiled.

That’s when he screamed his last scream.

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