So You’re Stuck in a Time-Loop by Brandon Barrows [sci-fi]

Imprint - SciFi Imprint Logo 200wSo You’re Stuck in a Time-Loop by Brandon Barrows

Psst! Hey, buddy! Dirty looks from the boss, huh? Well, you are the last one into the conference room again. And again and again and—well, you get the drift, right?

No?

Well, have I got news for you, then: you’re stuck in a time-loop, my friend.

Hey, hey! Don’t look so shocked and don’t look around like that. You’re just gonna draw attention to yourself. I’m in your head. Who am I? You called me pal, remember? And for the record, I’m Floyd McFarland, founder of the Inter-Dimensional Unconventional Search and Rescue Institute, so I’m kind of an expert on this sorta thing. And in my expert opinion, you, my friend, could do with some assistance.

So listen, I’m gonna walk you through this mess and see if we can’t get you unstuck from…but, wait a sec…hold on. These brain-to-brain calls are expensive and I’m seeing a zero-balance on your account here. Of course you signed up for our service; how would you have an account for me to check if you hadn’t? Okay, no problem—you wanna live that same boring-ass staff meeting over and over again? If you don’t want to find out how to break free, back into the normal time-stream, well by all means, have at it. I’ll give you a sneak peek at your future, though: the boss starts reaming you out in about seven minutes and doesn’t quit ’til that blonde cutie from procurement you’ve been crushing on all summer can’t stand to look at you. And then—eh? Okay, then, that’s what I thought. So if you’ll kindly authorize the transfer of five hundred credits, I’ll be more than happy to share my expertise. Ah, thank you.

To brass tacks, then. You’re stuck in a loop of about fifteen minutes, on one of the worst days of your recent life. Sounds bad, but it doesn’t have to be a problem if you don’t let it. Just keep a few things in mind and soon you’ll be laughing at how easy this thing was to beat.

Or…maybe not. In a small number of incidents, the looping effect’s permanent. So small, in fact, that it hardly bears mentioning, but the legal department insists. The details of such are available upon request; blink twice to skip this section, once to continue on to—okay, movin’ on, then.

Step number one: stay calm. Panicking might seem natural, but keepin’ your wits’ll serve you better than mindless terror. Remember, nobody around you knows what’s going on, and freaking out will just make it worse on yourself. So take a deep breath or two and find your focus. If that doesn’t work, maybe a mantra of some kind will help. Something like, “This, too, shall pass.”

On second thought, maybe repetition isn’t what you want to think about at a time like this. But the breathing thing is good advice, so keep that in mind, at least.

Something else you’ll want to remember—oops! That buzzer’s tellin’ me we’re outta time. No, no—I’m sorry, man, but rules are rules even when you’re the boss. Darn it all, I hadn’t even gotten to the really good stuff yet. Of course, if you were to transfer another five hundred creds…

Uh huh. I see. Want some proof I’m for real, huh? How ’bout this? In about ten seconds, Johansen there is gonna spill his coffee and use your tie to mop it up. Wait for it…there! What’d I tell ya? Now about those creds—okay, take a moment to clean yourself up, then we can continue. Done? Transfer completed? Good call; you’ve made the right choice, pal.

So now, let’s take a minute to think about whether this loop is natural or artificial. Why’s it matter? Well, they’re rare, but natural time-loops do happen, typically around a momentous event—something you’ve said or done (or not said or done) that you could have handled differently. The research is still kinda sketchy, but some folks think our own subconscious guides us to the spots where we get stuck. As you navigate your loop, then, be aware of every interaction and every choice you make—no matter how small!—and try something different next trip through. And record those results, man! Get a mental time-loop journal goin’. Any single discrete instance in the loop could be the key to breaking free and back into normal time. Of course, the whole shebang hinges on you retaining your memory when you snap back to the beginning of the loop, and if that’s not the case…. Well, you’d be out of luck without your buddy Floyd, huh? But at least you’d never know the difference. Ha!

But on the other hand, if this is an artificial loop, it’s especially important you keep cool. Why? ’Cuz whoever’s done this to you’ll be watching for your reaction—maybe even from across that conference room table. Johansen is kinda shifty-lookin’, if you ask me, and you never know what someone’s capable of, right? And you don’t want to give them the satisfaction of knowin’ they’ve gotten to you. Assuming s/he/it is even bothering to check in on you, of course, and didn’t just wreak their temporal vengeance, then move on to the next project. I tell you, some of these retribution-seeking types have shockingly short attention spans.

Speaking of, it looks like you’re a little short yourself. I think you know the drill by now.

Good man, good man.

So you think your situation is someone else’s doing, huh? You could be right about that and what I’m gonna suggest may seem radical: try to talk it out. You know, you’d be surprised how often a simple “I’m sorry” can mend even the most broken fences—even with a being capable of manipulating time and clever enough to do so. But you gotta be careful how you do it so you don’t accidentally make it worse. If you retain your memory as we discussed, though, you should have plenty of time to work that out. No pun intended.

Hang on, buddy, the timer on our call’s run out again, so if you’d be kind enough to—

Whaaaaat? Of course not! Well, results are—

Extortion…?

A con artist? How dare you, sir?

How could you accuse me of such a thing when I’m here, offerin’ my time and experience to get you out of a jam. I don’t mean to sound like a drama queen, buddy, but you’re in real danger of spending eternity in that crummy little conference room, and I think we both know it. That déjà vu isn’t just a feeling, man, and I’m the guy to solve your little quandary. Ask any of my satisfied clients when you get outta there. If you get outta there, with that attitude. There are plenty of folks who’d take advantage of a guy in his time of need, and we’re both lucky that I got to you first. I tell you the world’s going to hell in a handbasket when a guy gets this kind of treatment.

Uh huh. That’s what I thought. But after all the time eaten up by that little back-and-forth, the cost has gone up to a thousand creds. And that’s a bargain when I have to tolerate this kind of unprofessionalism. Remember item three? Now would be a good time to practice your apologies.

All right. Well, I’m glad we could get past this too. I’m really concerned about you here, and you’re running outta time, so to speak, so I’m gonna break out the big guns. Pay close attention.

The single most important thing to remember when stuck in a time-loop, the one thing you can do that’ll absolutely save your life—

Psst! Hey, buddy! Dirty looks from the boss, huh? Well, you are the last one into the conference room again, huh? And again and again and again, and…well, you get the drift, right?

 

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