Author : Axel Taiari

…And warps him back two minutes ago through an internal blizzard of gunmetal sparkles, the time-storm scrambling his brain before the world reboots. Swirling colors rearrange themselves. Janus stands still, gulping down the motion sickness, his confused body slowly getting used to the constant rewinds. Without losing a beat he rushes to the phone at the other side of the lab, vertigo making him collide with a table on the way. He picks up the receiver, dialing the number with trembling fingers. He stares at his watch while dial tones moan. I need more. I need more, he tells himself.

Her sleep-laced voice says, “Hello?”

It’s me.

“Hey”, she says, and Janus hears her rub the back of her hand against her tired eyes. “When are you coming home, baby? It’s late.”

I’m not. Please don’t hang up this time. Please.

Silence on the end of the line. Janus’ pupils stay glued to the slipping clock.

I want you to listen, okay. I love you. I love you. And I’m not coming home, I never will. I will keep trying, but I am not and I think I understand that now.

“This isn’t funny.”

He sighs. She always said the same thing.

It’s not a joke, honey. But I need you to know: I love you and I would have spent my life with you and I wanted to marry you someday and…

“You’re scaring me. You at work? I… I’m on my way, okay?”

No, no don’t, just lis-

She hangs up.

He listens to the static for a moment, muttering to himself before letting the receiver drop. Another failure. Janus looks around the lab. Endless rows of humming computers forever crunching mountains of data. Everywhere, discarded pages where hieroglyphic theories and equations craft a broken riddle. At the far end of the room, the chair waits for him. Neural nodes dangling, wrist straps undone. He shakes his head, preparing for another time wave to claw him away kicking and screaming. The experiment had failed, and the loop would not shatter. He has two minutes for everything. He has two minutes for nothing. He could try to warn the others of the incident, beg them for help, but they would soon forget, his attempt erased. Two minutes was enough to commit suicide and perhaps free himself. It was enough to call everyone he loves, tell them all the things he never dared to say. But they wouldn’t remember, or never believe him. Two minutes were not enough to fix anything, alter calculations, build up a new device. He had tried to destroy the time chair. In a previous attempt, he trashed the lab, picking up random computer cases and throwing them against each other. He had set the entire room on fire and ran out, only to be sucked back into the vortex. He had punched the walls, smashing his fists into concrete until the warp embraced him, nursing his bones and sucking up his blood.

Twenty seconds now. His skin begins to glow, an itching sensation creeps along his muscles and his vision dims. He runs to the nearest table and picks up a ballpoint pen. He draws another straight line on his arm, the thirty fourth in a row. The rushing current of time approaches with a roar, injecting fragmented echoes of unborn realities into his skull. He sits on the floor, watching the world disintegrate in chunks, and as he thinks of what to do next, the storm devours him again.

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