Hello my fellow humanoid meat-creatures! Our benevolent Over-Tyrant, RULES STALIN has dragged me from the deathless slumber of hyper-sleep to help out with the uploads. @ntrophi has taken a prompt which was ripe for sly shenanigans and joyous japes, hollowed it out, and filled its insides with a haunting inevitability and just a soupçon of despair.
STORY NUMBER: 44
PROMPT PROVIDER: @aaronweight
It was safe to say that today was shit. Jack had woken up late, which had meant that he’d rushed getting ready for work. That meant that he’d left his phone on the table, and had probably missed the phone calls from his boss wondering where the hell he was. He’d missed his bus, which meant that he’d got stuck in rush hour traffic, which had made him even later. He’d tried to buy coffee and a bacon butty, only to find he’d left his wallet at home too. He’d been splashed with muddy water while waiting to cross the road, then someone else had spilt coffee all over him as he tried to navigate around them. And he was pretty sure that he had a blister developing on his left foot.
All of this seemed to pale in light of the fact that the world appeared to be ending.
He hadn’t noticed that anything was out of place until he’d gotten to work and found that no-one was manning the security station. Usually there was an irate security guard sat there who would scrutinise your work pass for what felt like an hour, even though he had seen you walk out of the door the night before. Jack chalked the absence up to the guard sneaking off to have a crafty fag, and thanked his lucky stars that he didn’t have to deal with him. The problem was that he couldn’t get in without the guard there to buzz open the door.
Jack was pondering this problem when he heard an odd sound; like a giant sheet of paper being torn in half, with a weird edge to it that made him feel nauseous. He turned, a frown on his face, and promptly fell over in shock. The main door to his office faced the Thames; plenty of benches for him to sit and think when the atmosphere in the office got too much. The river appeared to be on fire. He sat on the floor, blinking wildly, trying to remember what the hell he had for tea last night and whether it was something that could make him hallucinate this much. His eyes darted around the sight before him; the river was on fire, and the sky was the colour of blood. He suddenly realised that he could see the northern lights singing and dancing their way across the sky in a madcap race for the horizon. He’d never seen them in real life; he’d always wanted to, but not like this. They were an acrid, dirty purple colour, fading into greasy black the further north he looked; a sickening slash piercing the sky. Jack was no expert, but this looked bad.
As his mind raced, he noticed someone else stood by the river, slumped on one of the benches with their head down. Wanting some kind of confirmation that he was not going crazy and that this was actually happening, Jack sprinted over, clapping the man on the back.
‘Mate, am I dreaming, or is this real?’ The man looked up at him, sorrow etched across his face like a tattoo.
‘I can’t stop it, Jack. I’ve tried so many times, but there’s nothing I can do,’ Jack frowned.
‘Uhhhhh, what? How do you know my name?’ The man shook his head.
‘We’ve had this conversation so many times and you never remember me,’ Jack’s mind reeled, desperately trying to ignore the calamity overhead and focusing on this stranger. His face was vaguely familiar, but no recollection was coming to him.
‘I’m sorry, I don’t –’ The man raised a hand, cutting him off.
‘It doesn’t matter. I thought if I had enough time then I’d be able to think of a way to stop this, but I can’t. We’re doomed. All of us. There’s no way to stop it,’ Jack shook his head, vaguely aware of a low rumble that had started somewhere above him. He didn’t want to look up; he was terrified of what might be there. The man was pressing something into his hands.
‘This is a terrible thing that I do, but I can’t face it anymore. I’ve watched the world burn too many times, and I can’t stop it,’ He was crying now; fat, wet tears streaking down his face as he stood up and faced the inferno. ‘If you’re a braver man than I, you’ll throw this thing away and face up to fate, but if you’re not ready, you can reset,’ He stepped away from Jack, clambering up onto the wall that separated them from the river. Jack wasn’t sure what to do; every sense was overloaded and he was getting the distinct urge to scream. The rumbling was growing louder.
‘What do you mean?’ He had to yell now, to be heard over the sound. The man turned away from him and faced the fire. Jack took a half step forwards, reached out a hand, but it was too late. The man stepped forwards and disappeared, leaving nothing but the stink of charred meat and whatever he had given to Jack. He looked down; it was a watch. One of those cheap Casio things; two buttons, one unmarked and the other that said “reset” in bold white. A sense of urgency gripped him and he looked up, regretting it immediately. The sky was on fire; the air was on fire. Feeling his composure slipping away from him, he did the only thing he could think of. He pushed the reset button.
Eyes bolted open as he heard his alarm go off. He sat up, fingers shaking as he reached out in front of him, trying to stop the fire from engulfing him. It took a few desperate moments for him to realise that he was fine; everything was fine. Just a dream, he thought before looking down at his hands and feeling a slick pulse of terror slide down his spine. He was still holding the watch.
PROMPT: A watch that can reset the day back to waking up in the morning with a simple button press