There wasn’t anything odd about the day nor was there anything strange about the place she was visiting. Instead of following The Plan, she decided to move away from the time where whatever happened earlier happened. She wasn’t sure, but she knew something bad happened and she had something to deal with it. When she had woke up that morning, she had done so in a small room with a single large window with open curtains with the night sky vibrant with stars.
A king-sized bed with expensive slick black sheets with a dark blue comforter had kept her warm for however long she had been sleeping. Her face felt swollen as if she had been crying, but her memory could not tell her what she had done. When she had looked through her notes, the circle that she had picked was completely missing. Where the paper had been was burned out in a hole. The notes simply said do no go back to New York.
So, she didn’t.
The room had a large table with her belongings and oddly enough clothes that would fit her. She changed after showing in a stainless-steel shower with a massive head and allowed the hot water pull at her skin washing her clean of something that she wasn’t sure what happened, but she felt a deep sense of guilt and as if something far away in the sky was coming for her.
But she did not believe in anything that she didn’t see.
The rules she had broken so far, giving that woman money, were rules she had made up. There wasn’t something out there tending to things like this. And she didn’t think, honestly that she could do any wrong. Instead, she brushed her teeth with an individually wrapped toothbrush and walked back out into the one room and pulled open the top drawer to find an envelope with her name scrawled in cursive. Beside it was a car key. She looked around the room as goosebumps ran across her skin.
No one should have known where she was. No one should be able to know where she was. She looked out the window to see a silver Honda Civic with a dark cab. The drive followed down the hill and onto a curving road illuminated by sulfur lights. Other than that, there was nothing nor no one else around.
She opened the envelope. The letter stated the following:
There’s nothing here for you other than this car and four million dollars. This house is paid up to six years. Consider it a gift. Why don’t you rest and think about what you’re trying to do. I know you won’t. But at least I thought I could try.
I’ll see you at the end of the world.
And that was it.
Whatever she had done might have drawn some attention from someone enough for them to find her. If she had been one of those people, she wouldn’t have tried to stop them with money and a car. She looked down at the bracelet with the gem and shook her head. That was someone like her that knew what she was doing.
Perdita put the note in her notebook and took up the car key. Instead of, like always, gathering up her things, she decided to leave them in the house and drive a little way down the road to see what was going on. Outside the air was cool with the taste of ocean salt on the air. The car started easy, and she turned on the radio to hear “Feel Good Inc” play.
The interior smelled of heat and new plastic. Whomever bought this car had driven it to this house and left it for Perdita to find. Nothing more. There was a post it note on the steering wheel that gave an address. With nothing else to do, Perdita backed down the hill, turned left and followed the winding road from the small house into a cluster of streets and buildings illuminated by orange lights and light traffic.
She could see people had on light jackets anticipating a cooler night. The drive was about ten minutes down the main street and then a minute down a narrow street to where there was a squat building with tinted windows. The sign read buffet.
Sitting in the car she watched a man walk to the door, look around for a moment, look a tablet in his hand and then go inside. Perdita could feel her stomach growl and she knew that she could go in and eat, but there was no way she would be able to talk to anyone. Something told her something terrible happened last time and she wasn’t sure she wanted to do that again.
Twenty minutes passed by and the man stepped back out of the restaurant holding a thin plastic bag with THANK YOU writing on the side and a notebook in the other hand. His hair was combed back and his polished shoes caught the light from the street lamps. He looked at the notepad again, looked up and down the street and then froze when he looked at Perdita.
“No,” she whispered. “Keeping looking.”
The man looked at the notes one more time, slipped them into the bag, and then crossed the street to her car. She could have drove away before he got there but she didn’t. Instead, she held up a hand and waved and he did the same. His smile was as strained as hers. He went around to the passenger’s side and stood waiting for her to roll down the window.
“Perdita,” he said raising a brow.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Doesn’t matter right now,” the man said. “I bought some food for us to eat when we get back to your place.”
“I’m not letting you in this car,” she said.
“That’s what the notes said,” he smiled.
“The ones that told me to come here and buy you exactly what was on the list,” he said.
“Who wrote the list,” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I just got here.”
“How did they know to find me?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said again. “I just got here.”
She frowned at him.
He smiled back.
“I’m doing the best I can,” he said.
“Well at least you’re trying,” she replied. “More than most.”
“That’s right,” he said. “More than most.”
“Do you have a kid,” she asked.
“Twins,” he said. “Or well, I mean, I don’t know how many I have theoretically, but I have my twin girls and I just met my twin boys before I had to leave.”
“That doesn’t make any sense,” she sighed.
“None of what’s being going on makes any sense,” he said.
“Get in the car,” Perdita unlocked the door. “But if you try anything, I’ll kill you.”
She was serious. If he touched her, all she had to do was close her eyes and he would die instantly right then, and then later he’d die again, but she wasn’t sure she’d want to do something like that to anyone.
He got in the car, buckled his seat belt and she drove back home. They did not talk.
Back home they laid out the Styrofoam containers of food that he liked and that she liked and they ate with the plastic forks and drank cans of Pepsi that she found in the small fridge tucked into the corner of the room. They sat across from each other in the floor with their legs crossed.
“I haven’t eaten in days,” he said. “Kinda.”
“Who are you?” pulling a crab cake in half.
“My name is Liam,” he said.
“And why are you here,” she asked. “I’m here to help my wife, but then when I got to where I was going, this note told me to come and find you.”
“Why me?” she asked.
“I’m not really sure why the note said to find you,” he sighed taking a bite. “But I knew I needed to find you after New York.”
“New York,” she whispered.
“Yes,” he said. “New York.”
“What did I do in New York,” she asked.
“I was hoping you could tell me,” he replied.
“I don’t remember,” she ate some noodles.
“Do you remember a thing with an acorn head with thin sharp teeth?”
Perdita closed her eyes and tried her best to remember something, but nothing could be summoned. She shook her head and he shrugged and continued to eat. She followed suit and they ate in silence.
“You can jump backward and forward,” he said.
“That’s true,” she replied.
“I can only jump from side to side,” he said finishing his drink.
“There’s other places?” She asked excitedly.
“Yes,” he nodded. I’m not sure how many but I think it’s infinite,” he squinted.
“You came from one of those places,” she asked.
“Yes I did,” he sighed. “And I think I stepped into one that you made.”
“I made?” she blinked.
“Yeah,” he shook his head. “I think you made one when you did something, and that’s what happened in New York.”
Perdita nodded. That meant she needed to be extra careful when she went forward and backward. Those rules she had made for herself were necessary. That’s why Sarah had disappeared from the notes, she had rewritten some of the notes and changed everything so it was something new. Which mean that there was a new one running right along beside hers.
“You see it now,” he said. “What happens if you mess with things too much.”
“Yes,” she said. “I can see it.”
“The note asked me to stop,” he said.
“Mine did too,” she wiped her eyes.
“Don’t cry,” he said. “You didn’t know.”
She nodded and they turned on the television. There was an announcer that claimed that they were going to start up the large hydrogen collider in four hours. As she watched numbly Liam stood up and pulled out his digital apparatus and stared at the screen.
“Oh no,” he whispered. “Oh no.”
“What?” she asked.
“When they use that thing,” he pointed to the television. “It pushes two of the lines together.”
He showed her the lines and how they went together.
“Does that mean one is destroyed,” she asked.
“It means one of them barely survives,” he said.
She could see that he was starting to lose it.
“They’re all gone,” he whispered. “That night I went to sleep they all were overwritten and I wasn’t.”
“Why?” She asked.
“I guess I was dead in the other one,” he whispered.
“Then we have to leave,” she said.
“We do,” he nodded and stood up.
“But you have to give me oen of those,” he pointed at her bracelet.
“And you have to give me one of those,” she pointed at the apparatus.
They stood staring at one another. She handed him the bracelet and he handed her an earbud.
“This is going to break a lot of the rules,” she said.
“This will be worth it,” he replied.
And then they were gone.
It was a moment where the story could have ended. They could have lived in that house and used the money to travel to any place that they wanted to. But grief has a way of making people not see the things right in front of them.