Inktober 2021: Week Four

Oya everyone!

Yeah, it’s Tuesday again. Work happened. Writing did not. Just Roll With It is the best thing ever.

Let’s go.

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Day 19: Loop

The first thing I notice about you is your eyes. They’re wide, bloodshot, darting around like you’re looking for something about to attack you. 

“Hey,” I say, and you look at me.

“Hey.” 

“You good, man?” I push my laptop away from me, shoving a few papers on the desk as I do. Your eyes track it and your mouth twists. 

“Yeah. I’m fine.” Something in your voice is off.

“ . . . you sure about that?”

You exhale slowly, looking away from me and running your hand through your hair. “No,” you say with an exhausted-sounding laugh. “No I’m not.”

I frown, patting the chair next to me. “Hey, sit down. What’s going on?”

You settle in the chair, huffing out a breath and resting your elbows on the desk, rubbing your eyes, your shoulders hunched. “I . . .” You let out another ragged laugh. “I guess I don’t have anything to lose, huh?”

I blink. “Dude. What are you talking about?”

You take a deep breath, meeting my eyes. 

“I’m stuck in a time loop.”

I tilt my head. Your voice is flat, genuine, desperate. 

“Time loop?” I echo. “Like . . . like you’re living the same day over and over again?”

“Yeah. I know, I know, it sounds crazy. I don’t know how it’s happening, I don’t know why it’s happening. It’s . . .” You bury your head in your hands. 

I shift in my chair, turning to face you. “Okay. Any idea what the, uh, the trigger of it is? The thing you’re supposed to change to make it stop?”

You look up. “What?”

“I dunno what the technical term is, I’m not that into science fiction–”

“No, no, I mean–” You stand up, starting to pace. “You believe me?”

I nod slowly. “Yeah. I mean. I can’t think of any reason you’d just say that.”

“No one else has . . . okay. Okay! Um. Uh.” You snap your fingers, eyes darting around again, shaking a little.

I stand up and grab one of your hands. “How many loops have you gone through?”

“Uh. I think twenty? Twenty two maybe?”

“Does it last the whole day?”

“No. No, it always stops at three pm. Exactly. When . . .” You look around the room, clenching my hand tightly. “This guy comes in.”

“A guy?”

“Yeah. He . . . he’s like. I don’t know. A bad guy. As soon as he enters the building the day starts over.” You rub your eyes, voice getting a notch higher. “I’ve tried everything. Somehow he always gets in. I don’t know what he wants, I don’t know who he is. You . . . a couple of the times you died and I was so afraid that it was going to be the last loop and it would be real–”

I take your other hand, holding both tightly, rubbing my thumbs on your palms in soothing circles. “Hey. It’s okay. I’m okay. We’ll figure this out.”

“It’s already almost three! I’ve spent the whole day trying to figure out who he is, I can’t find anything!”

The clock on my desk changes, reading 2:57.

“We’ll figure it out. When, when it loops again, come to me right away. I’ll be . . .” I think for a second. “I’ll be at home until nine. We’ll work this out, and if we don’t get it we’ll have another loop to get more information.”

You let out a shaky breath, letting your head droop a little. “Okay. You’re right. You’re right.”

“Uh huh.”

2:59.

“You won’t remember,” you mumble.

“That’s okay. You will.”

3:00. Downstairs, a door slams open.

Day 20: Sprout

“There he is again.” Tucker nodded his head in the direction of the little boy, poking his brother in the leg to make sure he was paying attention. 

“Who? Caleb?” Ryan looked up from his book. “Ah.”

Across the park, a little kid ran around chasing a rabbit. He laughed in delirious joy as only little boys can, and as each bare foot left the ground a cluster of dandelions sprang up, already waving in the breeze.

“He’s leaving a trail,” Tucker observed. 

“The guys who take care of the park aren’t going to like it much.”

“Just dandelions.”

“They spread.”

The rabbit dove into a patch of tall grass at the edge of the park, leaving Caleb to stare at it as his chest heaved, bindweed vines curling up around his ankles and blooming pink and white blossoms. 

Ryan went back to his book. “Hi Caleb,” he called in an exact imitation of Tucker’s voice.

The boy’s head snapped over to them and his face lit up. A clump of clovers sprouted around him. 

“Tucker!” he cheered, sprinting over. 

Tucker half-heartedly glared at Ryan, but his face changed instantly when the kid skidded to a stop in front of him.

“Hey, bud,” he said, sitting up instead of lounging in the grass. “Having fun?”

“Did you see the bunnyl?! Did you see the bunny Tucker!?” Caleb bounced up and down. “Oh, hi Ryan, did you see the bunny!?”

“I did,” Ryan said absently.

“You almost got him,” Tucker praised.

Caleb nodded, ruffled hair flopping with the force. “Wasn’t gonna actually catch him though. Mum says bunnies have to stay outside with their families.”

“She’s right.”

Behind the boy, the rabbit had crept out from the grass and was now nibbling on the clovers growing from where Caleb had been standing. Tucker didn’t call attention to it.

“Do you wanna play with me?” the child asked. “You aren’t doing anything.”

“Reading,” Ryan deadpanned.

I’ll play with you, Caleb,” Tucker said, pushing to his feet. 

Caleb beamed, bouncing up and grabbing the older boy’s hand. A few stalks of chicory unfurled behind them as he dragged Tucker to a little stream with a lovely bridge spanning the shallow water. They knelt at the rocky bank, Tucker plunging his hand into the icy flow. 

A little swirl of water spiraled up, bapping Caleb on the nose. He squealed, scrambling back. 

“No fair!” he giggled. “I can’t do that!” 

Tucker grinned and tossed up a few shimmering spheres, sending them orbiting the child’s head like a crown.

Caleb straightened, staring in awe. “No, no, hold on,” he said, pressing his own hand into the grass. Clovers sprung up between his fingers and he quickly plucked them and wove them into a circle. 

“Here.” He reached up to place it on Tucker’s head. “Now we match!”

Tucker placed a hand over his own mouth, heart breaking a little. “You are too pure for this world,” he informed the child. 

Caleb’s dazzling smile turned mischievous. “No I’m not, cause I’m about to attack.”

Tucker gasped for air between wheezing laughs when Ryan was suddenly engulfed by sprawling clematis as Caleb tackled him into the ground, book forgotten in the deep violet petals.

Day 21: Fuzzy

When Katie opens her eyes it is much brighter than it should be. Unbearably bright light streams in through her windows. 

She huffs, snuggling deeper into the little cocoon of blankets that do little to keep the cold air from slurping the warmth from her body. 

“Time to get up!” she hears her mother call from outside the room.

“Too cold!” she whines. 

“Up!”

Katie blinks blearily, clocking the thick snow outside as the cause of the painful brightness. “Tooooo cooooold.” She tucks her knees up to her chest, trying to conserve heat.

Something approaches, and without any more warning her thick fuzzy blankets are ripped away from her exposing her poor shivering little body to the elements.

“AAAAAAGH!”

“WAKE UP!”

Day 22: Open

“Do you even know how to pick locks?”

I batted my hand blindly in Mika’s direction. “Shush, I’m a professional.

“Technically, you’re not, seeing as how nobody’s paying you for it–”

“Said shush.”

The lockpick slipped, and I bit my lip as I repositioned it. 

“Why would you lock a secret passage? Aren’t they made for getting in and out of places quickly? Doesn’t having to take the time to unlock a whole door kind of defeat the purpose?”

“I don’t know,” I said in exasperation. A few tumblers clicked against the pick.

Mika crouched next to me, narrowing her eyes at the stubborn lock. “Aren’t you supposed to use that one for the tension thing?” she said, gesturing to the tool wedged sideways.

“I am! That’s why it’s doing that!”

“Then why isn’t it working?”

“Because it’s DIFFICULT!”

Mika slammed a hand over my mouth. “Shh! We are still trying to be sneaky, you know!” She hissed and brought her hand back, shaking it wildly. “You just licked me you disgusting little–”

I stuck my tongue out at her and slid a little closer to the locked door. 

Mika huffed and stood back up. 

I tuned out everything else but this lock. Pin after pin slid into place. The solid resistance suddenly eased with a soft click. 

The lock turned and the door silently swung open.

I sat back, turning to grin at Mika. “See? Professional.”

Mika’s eyes were blown wide. Her mouth opened and closed like a gasping fish.

I frowned, but before I could turn to see what she was staring at a heavy hand settled on my shoulder. 

“Good work, lad,” the captain of the guard said in his deep, rumbly voice. I stiffened. “Haven’t been able to open that in years. Prince William hired you, eh?”

Mika nodded frantically. 

“Good on you. Don’t let him do it again, though, he isn’t supposed to.” The captain pulled me to my feet, grabbing my lockpicks and pressing them into my hands. “Go on home now, kiddos.”

Without a word of argument we booked it. 

Day 23: Leak

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Red splattered on the white surface. 

With every breath, drops spread farther, spattering like paint flung from a brush. 

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

Wide eyes stared into a mirror. Purple-gray shadows hung under them. Fingers clenched white knuckled on a counter, red flecks appearing on the wrists.

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

A cough. Crimson flew everywhere. 

Drip.

Drip.

Drip.

A flinch as someone banged violently on the door.

“What the heck are you doing in there!?”

The door opened. 

“ . . . you better clean that up.”

An apologetic, bloodstained smile.

Day 24: Extinct

“Mum! Mum! Tell us about the dragons!”

“Please, mum!”

“Alright, alright. But then you better go to sleep!”

“I will!”

“I will first!”

“Shhh. Silence. Ahem. Back in the days when the stars sang and the seas rolled sweet–”

“Really?”

“No, shh, it’s just how the story starts.”

“Ahem. Back in the days when the stars sang and the seas rolled sweet, our land was wild. The wind played with the woods, the sun and the moon danced together, and dragons filled the earth.”

Dragons.

“Shh!”

“This was dragon country. Their homeland. Every river, every lake, every brook was filled with their singing. Every tree shook with their majesty. Every rock held sun-warmth for their scaly bodies. The people lived in harmony with the dragons, offering them treasure and companionship in return for protection. But then came Rhiona.”

“No!”

“Yes! Rhiona the Serpent, the Silverblood. She broke the treaties between human and dragon, killing and destroying and burning. Many dragons joined her in her frenzy. Many humans fought back. War followed.”

“I don’t like this part.”

“Shhhh.”

“Humans died. So many humans died. But then came Philip. Philip on his own sought out and dueled the Serpent. It was a long and grueling battle, but in the end he triumphed.”

“YES!”

“The humans made him their king. But the dragons grew crazed by the Serpent’s death and were never friends with the humans again. Eventually, a sickness took them and most died. Those that were left were mad and violent and battled humans and each other until they were killed.”

“Oh.”

“That’s sad.”

“Yes, it is. Some people still search for the last dragons. Maybe they still exist, in some far corner of the world. But if they do, they exist on their own, separate from the humans. And maybe that is how it should be. And so it happened, and may it never happen again until the stars go silent. Now, go to bed.”

“Aw, mum . . .”

Day 25: Splat

Ash wheezed through hysterical giggles, slamming her desk so hard her monitor shook. 

“No, no, dude watch this–” Raz’s voice came through her headphones, high-pitched with laughter, slowly growing louder. On the screen, Ash watched his Minecraft character climb up the ladder to her perch up on a cobblestone tower. “Please tell me you’re recording, I have to see this–”

“Yes, yes, I’m recording.”

“Okay okay. Watch.” The character straightened, looking her dead on with blank pixel eyes. Raz jumped off the pillar and started screaming. 

As his character fell his voice faded out with ridiculous speed.

RazberryPi hit the ground too hard

Ash hiccuped, gasping for air. Raz’s laughter soon came back to her ears as he respawned and ran back.

“Why is that so funny?” Ash squealed. “It should not be this funny!”

“We are ABSOLUTELY playing Bedwars with proximity chat. I don’t even care, we’re doing it.”

“Oh gosh. I will not be able to function. Why is this funny it’s so stupid I can’t–”

Raz’s character ran away towards a cave. Ash sat back, hand on her chest as she tried to breathe like a normal human.

Then she heard Able Sisters slowly intensify as Raz sprinted towards her and she lost it.

Day 26: Connect

Snap!

Erica jerked her hand back, wincing at the tingling running up her arm from the small shock. Around her the ship pulsed and hummed, engine sounds echoing softly between the deck and the hull.

“Y’alright, girl?” A voice called down into the maintenance crawlspace.

“Fine!” Erica yelled back, shaking out her hand. And it was fine, not a big shock. Just startled her, mostly. She squinted at the mess of tangled wires, trying to sort out which ones were meant to go where. The shields were acting up more than usual, probably because whatever naff-nut had serviced them last had just started plugging random cords into ports. Like an idiot. 

Why was Erica the only competent mechanic on this ship? No, scratch that, why was she the only competent being, period. If it weren’t for her they’d be scattered atoms. A million times over. 

She was not getting paid enough for this nonsense.

“Why the heck is the air filtration here?” she whispered savagely to the board. “You don’t even go here!” Another small shock as she yanked the offending connection out and shoved it back into its port. “And you! You, yeah you, you’re the deck plate power, aren’t you. What in the name of the core are you doing in the shield control?!” 

This time when she tore out the wire, gravity stopped working. Screams and shouts came from all over the ship, repeated with a chorus of thuds when she replaced it in the proper location.

“ERICA!” someone bellowed.

She ignored it, turning her attention to a cluster of flashing lights. “And you. Calm down, you little jerks, I’m getting to you. ‘Oh, look at me, I’m life support and I’m gonna freak out for no reason!’ Shut up. You’re fine. You can survive for thirty seconds, I’m fixing you.”

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Ta-daaaaaaa

Next week is the last week! I hope you’re excited!

I hope I’m excited!

I’m gonna go to bed!!!!

~Ace

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