“Valkyrie Ex Nihilo” by Oganesson
His arm swung and nailed the alarm clock five minutes before it was set to go off. Upon doing so, he rolled out of bed, stripped his pajamas, threw on a shirt and a pair of sweatpants and ran out the door. This was accomplished within ten seconds.
The kitchen was a mess. Despite this, with utmost efficiency, he grabbed a day-old omelette and a container of Chinese food, grabbed a set of keys on the counter, grabbed a passport and dashed out the door.
He didn’t bother shutting the refrigerator, nor the door. He jammed the key into his car, unlocked, hopped in and turned on the ignition. With a completely stoic expression, he pulled onto the street, u-turned onto his lawn, mowed down the fence to his backyard, annihilated a table and three chairs, tore apart another fence and found his way to the alley.
As he shoveled handfuls of omelette into his mouth, the accelerometer grew to 60km/h, at which point he jerked around a corner, then another. Birds caught unawares flew every which way. A garbage can was punted fifteen meters into someone’s backyard. The man’s face remained nonplussed nor minused.
After several minutes and a container of udon noodles, he made his way out of the alley. He tore across the street, the perpendicular cars forced to screech to a stop. Five rear-end collisions occured because of him.
And so, now going 70, he opened his door and jumped. His car, hitting the curb, also jumped, albeit in a completely different direction. The car annihilated someone’s living room, kitchen and kept going, breaking down the opposing wall and stumbling to a stop in a backyard fountain. He had previously learned that the corresponding family was out on vacation.
Having jumped from a vehicle traveling at 70 kilometers per hour, his recovery consisted of fifteen consecutive somersaults and a collision with a set of stairs. He was completely unharmed.
The door in front of him blew open as a twentysomething woman in comically oversized glasses stepped out. She opened her mouth to speak.
“Please make sure Mr. Mittens stays safe,” yelled the man, voice partially muffled by the settling of wood and drywall. “The final words of your sister, Mary July Robinson. You felt guilt that her cat was what she valued most. She should’ve valued science, like you and your father! You now believe it good that she didn’t know more of the world, as you believe the world a horrible place. This belief isn’t reciprocated by your brother. As such, you fight often. You’re 5 years old, as your birthday is on a leap day. Your debit pin is 5568, as it corresponds to the hex code for dark olive green if you interpret the ‘8’ as a ‘B’ and treat the blue as zero.”
“Groundhog Day.” He picked himself up, walking past her inside. “I’ve been through this a couple million times, I’ve determined that you’re a good step to breaking out.” He shut the door. “At least, a fun step.”
Completely dumbfounded, her eyes followed him as he walked into her kitchen and opened a cupboard. “Two cups of bengal spice tea. Shame you don’t have a bottle of pre-boiled water lying around, it’s always a time waster.”
“-er. Water. Pun.” He cracked a wide smile, closing his eyes. “Ah, my sense of humour has degraded immensely. I’ve already sieved you for recommendations, but I’m sure there’s some TV show or another that’ll re-energize my humour batteries. Satire-ies? Sat-er-ies? Does that pun work?”
He had a kettle on her stovetop, cranked to max temperature. “Maybe I should just bite the bullet and start watching anime. That’ll probably stall me a few more million, though.”
“Alas, you do not. I’ll cut to the chase, I’m flying to Washington to talk with your father. I wish for you to testify to the veracity of my claims. If you require further evidence, I can provide such.”
“…I…am…very…confused? What was that crash?”
He handed her a mug. “It’s fine. Let me just buy the plane tick–shit, I forgot to invest in SiliCo. Give me a minute.” And so, he marched down her hall, into her bedroom, pulled a case from under her bed, entered the 8-digit combination and shot himself in the temple, dying instantly.
One cycle later, he was alive, in her house. He pulled the cell phone from his pocket and sold shares bought thirteen minutes prior, making a profit of 1.3 million. “Fun fact, the most money you can make in that period is 8 billion, assuming you start with two hundred Canadian. Of course, that requires a whole lotta shuffling around and some moderately underhanded stuff, like forging a will.” He handed her another mug.
“Yes, I get it, you wanna cycle through your greatest hits of confusion and worry. Alas, madame, your broken record schtick is not equivalent to progress. So, unless you’re unconvinced, let us vamoose.”
And so, he grabbed her hand, pulled her key from her pocket and brought the both of them into her truck. Dazed, she dropped her tea.
“I don’t have this down to peak efficiency,” said the man as he nailed the gas. “Ultimately, I plan to go directly to NASA without needing an in. To do that, I’ll need to learn more about the employees. Bringing you is a good way to do that.” He ran a red light and swerved around a jeep. “Of course, it’ll be hard to talk with them regardless. Pure chaos there, what with all the stars having teleported.”
“…That…is…unusual.” Her face was as white as her hands, which were gripping the sides of her seat.
“Oh yeah, I’m Chet, by the way. You’re Lisa. Hello, Lisa.”
“The time loop is restricted to an area around earth, encompassing the moon. As the earth resets its rotation each loop, but not its orbit about the sun, the day-night cycle eventually becomes inverted. About half of the year, people wake up with the moon. Causes insane panic after the first few hours.”
“Sorry, I’ll try to be more concise next time.” He pretzled around a turn, barreling to the airport. “Time loop only encompasses earth and moon. Don’t know radius, nor shape. Plan to figure that out.”
“Good? Figuring things out is good.”
“So you’re a biology major.” Seeing the parking lot was completely cluttered, he ran down a fence and proceeded down a runway. “Tell me, what are the implications of a man who can’t die?”
Once again, blood drained from her face and hands, she gripped the sides of her seat. “…That…depends…”
“No crap. I’m certain my prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and cerebellum retain information after each cycle. I wonder if I’ll get dementia after a few more cycles. If I retain memory from previous loops, does this mean parts of my brain physically survive? I’ve annihilated each of the a-”
The top of the vehicle blew off as the whole thing flipped, caught on the wheel of a plane. Chet’s neck snapped, as did the rest of his body after being slammed against the pavement. He died.
“Oofda, shame I can’t move my save point upwards,” he said, fingers playing upon his phone as he bought and sold in rapid succession. “I suppose the cerebellum is the TAS to the prefrontal cortex’s RTA. …Wow, that was an exceptionally stupid observation, I hope I can get someone to call me out on that,”
Twenty minutes later, a hand holding a mug of bengal spice: “So I said, the cerebellum is the tool-assisted speedrun to the prefrontal cortex’s real-time attack.”
“I don’t know what any of that means.”
“I’m Chet, by the way.”
He ditched the car under a jet bridge. He popped open the glove compartment, pulling out her passport. He placed his (completely spilled) tea mug on the ground. “I’ve gotten to this point seven times before, I’ve gotten to Washington twice. The United States declares a national emergency in one hour thirty-four minutes, closing the borders. As such, we need to take the plane that departs in five minutes, gate 47. I’ll lead.”
And so they rushed on foot to the front of the airport, flew through security and made it to the gate, Chet yelling and waving his arms all the way, Lisa following dumbly behind, still grasping her (also completely spilled) ceramic mug. He presented his phone, it functioning as both tickets.
“If there’s no success here,” he said, “I’ll go to CERN. Or just rethink how to do this. I’ve tried contacting them via the Internet, no dice. I could head down to the university, I suppose, the people there might have contacts.” He gestured for her to sit. It was first class.
She sat. “…Wouldn’t that be easier?”
“Ha, yes.” He plopped down beside her. “When you have infinite chances, you wanna do the stupid ones first. Now, I have a couple hundred grand to splurge, so buy whatever you want.”
“…Why are you taking me, anyways? What makes you think they’ll let you in just because I’m with you? …And if they would let you in, why is it necessary to bring me? Why not just have me write a letter?”
“I want your company. Sue me.”
“No you won’t. Your wont is to not sue me. Your wont is that you won’t sue. …Agh, insert pun here.”
“One’s typical behaviour. I have memorized a lot of useless information. Ask me anything.”
“What’s…what’s the meaning of life?”
“Okay, screw off.”
“You said anything.”
“Okay…” he stared off into space. “Well, miss biologist here will want me to say ‘to reproduce and flourish’ or something. Something overly reductionist to justify her cynical worldview.”
“You don’t know me.”
“I don’t?” And so he began reciting:
‘Liz, we have to go.’
‘Please…just five more minutes.’
‘We’ve already had five more minutes.’
‘I don’t care! I just…I don’t care.’
‘…Elizabeth May Robinson.’
“And then you buried your head in the blanket and cried and cried until your dad picked you up and put you in your car and drove home. You couldn’t sleep at all. It later turned out your sister had had heart complications during the night, they couldn’t bring her back. And so you were super depressed and still are to this day, albeit not as much and for a wider variety of reasons!”
“…Who told you this?”
“Why, you did, of course! The first few times I met you, I of course tried to seduce you, but that mostly ended with a lot of crying. So, I brought you down to a therapist, you told me what he told you, I transmitted this information through loops. And so, the ultimate conclusion we got to was, you need to get out and do stuff, lest your lack of doing stuff depress you further.”
“…What does it matter if the world keeps restarting?”
“Because it won’t forever? Because I have the opportunity to make it better through learning stuff?”
“No. No you don’t. You can’t make it better, you can’t bring my sister back.”
“You see, this is why I wish I had save points. When you’re not a deer in the headlights or a frigid bitch - as you are now - you’re a wonderful person.”
It took her a second to think that through. Then, Lisa hammered Chet over the head with the mug still in her hand. The mug shattered.
“Ouch,” said Chet, underwhelmed at the gash in his head and the blood outside of it. “Fine, I’ll go kill myself. See you later.”
The onlookers, just as dumbfounded as Lisa was a few minutes ago, watched as Chet walked to the galley, grabbed a knife from a trolley, slit both his wrists and fell to the floor.
And so, in his bed, sayeth Chet: “That was fun.”