They stood outside the parking lot of a Walmart with their belongings in hand with the sun blaring down at them from a cloudless sky. There were cars lined down the rows gleaming in the noon day. People walked to their cars with their purchases in hand, some pulling along young children with that thousand-yard stare that some got when shopping for too long.
“I don’t remember what we just saw,” she said staring at the Walmart’s flat faced building. “But I feel really bad. Worse than I did for what you’ve told me I did to New York.”
“This time you didn’t do anything,” he said taking her hand and walking toward the store. “This time, I think, you don’t need to remember what happened.”
“So, my notes were right,” she said. “I’m losing memory.”
“Only short term,” he said.
“Every time I jump, I don’t remember the last jump,” she whispered.
“That’s right,” he said. “Let’s get you some food. You’re shaking.”
“I don’t want food,” she stopped just as the doors whispered open.
Inside the stores fluorescent lighting wasn’t enough and it looked dark in there. The air conditioning was cold on her skin. The panic dispersed momentarily, and she could hear some country music playing. Though there was nothing wrong with the store, she decided she didn’t want anything to do with it and she told him so.
He paused and looked at her and she shrugged not really wanting to explain herself because she didn’t know exactly why she wasn’t in the mood to eat. They walked around the parking lot until they found a woman who was driving a silver Ford Explorer. They paid her too much money for it and soon they were driving around a hill and down a strip of road.
“How long have you been doing this,” he asked.
“I think there has been six times,” she said squinting at the sun before pulling down the visor.
“Six,” he said.
“Yes six,” she replied.
They drove in silence for a while longer until they found a small motel perched deeper in the hills. It was a single-story building with faded wooden siding and cheap curtains. They bought a double bed and went inside. He closed the curtains, turned on the lamp at the table and spread out her notes as well as his.
She, feeling sick, poured herself a hot bath and sank down into the water and let out an audible moan. It felt good to her, and she wasn’t sure how long she had be laying in the water, but she had definitely fallen asleep. When she woke, Perdita could see that Liam was standing over her with his hair sticking out and his eyes red. She didn’t care if he saw everything. Nothing mattered anymore. Just the warmth of the water.
“We’ve got to pull you out of this,” he said.
“What are you talking about,” she frowned. “We’re fine, Liam. This is where we belong.”
“You don’t seem to understand,” he sighed. “You’ve jumped three thousand, six hundred, and twenty-two times. And you don’t remember one.”
“That’s not possible,” she said sitting up.
“You fucked up,” he tapped her notes. “You did this without knowing exactly what would happen.”
“I know everything,” she said.
“The hell you do,” he huffed.
“Then what do you think is happening,” she replied.
“You’re leaving parts of your brain back in all those places,” he said. “You’re storing each one of those alternate timelines in your brain. You’re running out of room.”
“That’s,” she squinted. “I don’t even know anymore.”
“Well,” Liam said. “We’ve got to pull it.”
“Pull what,” she asked.
“Jesus Christ,” he sighed. “I’m sorry.”
He leaned down and before she could do anything he yanked something from the back of her neck. There was a stinging pain and she swatted at him getting water on his pants. She was going to say something cruel but at that moment, every single time she had jumped rushed back to her at once.
She would have screamed if she could. Pulled out her hair or stuck her fingers in her eyes. But none of that happened. She grunted and gripped the side of the bathtub as tight as she could. The water around her grew cold and when it had finally stopped, she opened her eyes and looked at Liam for the first, third, eighth, no, eighteenth time.
“You’ve been chasing me,” she whispered. “Haven’t you.”
“Not exactly,” he said. “I couldn’t figure out what was wrong.”
“I was overloading, I was splintering,” she mumbled and raised her hands to her head.
“You’d start to distrust me and split,” he said. “And I’d have to find you again.”
“How long have you been doing that,” she replied.
“I haven’t,” he said.
“But the other versions of you,” she whispered.
He shrugged and smiled.
“It’s not that big of a deal,” he sat down in the floor and crossed his legs. “I thought I could get you to go back to your place and get the cure for my wife’s cancer. But when we figured out that the realities were destroyed, there was no point. I have nothing, my entire existence is gone.”
“What are you doing,” she asked. “Why are you even doing all of this.”
“To get you back to your girl,” he said.
She sat there and looked at him for a long time. There were memories of them running away from horrible things, of things that the other Liam had done when he was looking for his wife. None of them had the smile that he had nor the demeanor as someone who knew the end was already done. To her, he looked like Ophelia when she realized she was going to die.
Later, after they both had cried and held one another, the hunger came back, and they looked for a place to eat in the pamphlet left on the counter. There was a place called Mr. Frizzie’s Pizza Palace that was but two miles away. It claimed the largest pizza buffet in the world. They drove their newly bought car while Perdita hooked the machine back into her head.
“Every two jumps,” she said. “Dump the info.”
“You didn’t handle it well,” he said. “Unplugging you like that didn’t do too well.”
“You two aren’t doing to well.”
Perdita turned to see what looked like an acorn’s head wearing a bowler cap and a tweed suit. When it talked, the top of it split revealing long thin teeth, very human eyes, and another set of humans like teeth scattered through dark purple flesh.
Both responded by screaming and swerving the car. There was a flash of light and they were in the pizza place with plates of food in front of them. Across the table was the thing but it was man that had a long-hooked nose, two large brown eyes, and his bowler cap sat on top of dark black hair.
“You get one of those,” it not-said.
“Listen,” Liam held out his hands. “Sorry about running off like that.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” it not-said.
“Don’t run from this thing,” Liam said to Perdita as she sat and stared.
Around them people ate calmly as if they hadn’t appeared in the middle of the pizza joint. Everyone except someone in the back, and they were not happy to see everything. This, they thought, was not a good thing. This, they thought, was going to require a lot of work. So they got up, walked across the room and shot the not-human in the head. Everyone screamed and ran out of the room.
Perdita looked up to the woman and frowned. She looked familiar, as if they had passed on the street once before. But they had been to so many places that it could have been about anyone. The people cleared out of the place leaving the three of them, and the dead body that was now turning into what looked like spaghetti noodles on the floor.
“We got to talk,” the woman said.