This piece of fiction is a response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Challenge, locatable here.
It took me one-and-three-quarter days to work out that time had started going backwards in my flat. I had begun entering the front door at around 6:40pm on February 5th, and had been repeating the action in a loop until I finally snapped out of it – mainly due to thirst, hunger and exhaustion – on February 7th at about ten past eight. I knew this first of all because my watch was keeping personal time, and that matched with what I can only describe as the sickening memory.
It’s difficult to communicate what living the same time over and over again does to your brain. It’s like having a tape upon which a short clip has been recorded and rerecorded many times. I can state in the name of science that not one of the times that I went through the door was exactly the same, though. There were pauses, moments of confusion, instinctual grasps of desperation at the handle, until finally realisation came crashing down.
Once I realised I was being duped I turned my attention to how I was going to get in. I stalked around the side of the building (living, conveniently, on the ground floor) and peeped in through the kitchen window. At first everything looked normal: the cool green walls, the pile of washing up, the scratched wooden table. But then I noticed all the elements that were to aid my entry, all sitting neatly right there in the kitchen like the hand of providence had arranged them for my personal viewing pleasure.
First of all my digital wall clock, the one they had all scoffed at, was sitting casually opposite the window ticking backwards at a normal rate, telling me that it was 6am, and the calendar was only peeled back to February 3rd, which I soon worked out meant that time itself had started regressing inside the building at about midday on February 5th.
But the catalyst for my brainchild was my phone, which was gently uncharging on the sideboard.
I don’t even know how I remembered it, but I knew for a fact that I had received a text at 11:42pm on February 2nd at exactly the moment that I was leaving the house.
I checked the text, the time was right. There was nothing to do but wait. And go to a pizza restaurant before I died of malnutrition.
I returned to the flat five minutes before the calculated time and pressed my beak once again against the kitchen pane. 11:47pm, February 2nd – perfect! I matched the time to the second against my watch and hurried around to the front to wait like an excited schoolboy to perform what was probably a very daft idea.
I had my phone in my right hand, requisite text message on the screen, and my back to the door. At the moment the kitchen clock would have been striking 11:42 I opened the door and stepped in backwards, making sure to look down at my phone. The text message packed itself into an unread message and then sucked itself out of existence with a backwards ‘ping!’ It had worked! I was inside. Who was duping who now, Mr. Backwards Time Flat?
Again, it seemed to begin with that nothing was amiss, and I almost started to believe that I had lifted the curse from my abode, but upon inspection the clock was still moving anti-clockwise, steadily backwards into the past. Sounds were also warped, everything from the pad of my feet on the carpet to the pilp! of water droplets as they left the steel basin and went back to the Water Board. Nevertheless it was my flat, I was inside and that made me the winner. I went to bed for a well deserved rest.
I woke in the morning just as it was getting dark. After shuffling clumsily to the sofa I turned on the TV, only to be dismayed by the Breakfast News playing backwards. No biggie, I reasoned, I’ll just find a way to play recorded stuff in reverse, although I was still too tired to ponder the finer points. I tried the radio – same thing. I picked War and Peace by Tolstoy out of the rack and was extremely puzzled to find that it made no sense unless I started at the end and read in reverse, at which point I lost the information of the story, which for some reason was already in my head.
It was then I started to feel extremely full. I went to the kitchen and without thinking about it took a dirty bowl and spoon out of the sink, sat at my table and spooned milky Rice Crispies out of my mouth until I had a complete bowl. Then I shook the cereal back into the box after impossibly sucking all the milk of it with the carton. It wasn’t the best morning I had ever had.
I went back to the sofa and tried close my eyes and forget about everything that was going to happen, or remember everything that hadn’t happened yet, whichever was easier.
Earlier in the morning I got an urgent feeling of emptiness and was drawn to the bathroom. It wasn’t until I faced the toilet that I knew what I must do. I washed my hands, then pressed the flush handle and it rose out of the depths. Closing my eyes I sat down to do my reverse business, telling myself that it was necessary – that it would turn into lovely nourishing food in my system which I could then regurgitate and send back to the supermarket.
Three days of that was enough. It was now January 30th. I had to escape. I reasoned that leaving would be the same loop-trap as entering, but I had no frame of reference for my outside future to pull a similar trick to the one I made getting in. Worse than that I no longer had any original memory – paradoxically not even of the text – of any of the days between the 30th and the 3rd. And what had happened to the original past-me whom I had usurped to get here? I was starting to worry about him as he hadn’t shown up (although in all honesty, I had considered the awkwardness of trying to explain something to him in reverse time and was glad to have avoided the associated headache.)
To Hell with it, I thought. Using my sofa as a spring-board I leapt head-first through the closed window… and landed feet first on my sofa, just in time to see a pop-eyed-with-surprise other-me step backwards out of the door and lock it.
The glass had merged behind me. I rushed to the kitchen. The calendar read February 10th and the clock was marching forward. I collapsed for a moment of relief.
The next thing that was on my mind was the bottle of vodka. I snatched it from the cabinet, got the stove lighter from the drawer and a cloth from under the sink. I stepped outside with my Molotov cocktail and hurled it through the same window through which I had leapt.
That is how and why I burnt down my flat. This is my signed and sealed confession at Bunbury Police Station, February 10th 7:33pm.