“Wait who won yesterday?” Sally asked her gathered coworkers. She did not know everyone on the staff, but she assumed all 20 were there. She eyed the mob of office workers dressed in sneakers and running clothes, each carrying a variety of sharp weapons. After a moment of murmurs Paul Sanchez, someone she did recognize, raised his hand.
“Five minutes, Fred!” Sally yelled as the door slammed. Then, she looked at Paul to confirm his choice. “The usual, Paulie?” He nodded. Killing Fred became enjoyable again when he was able to enlist the whole office. He did not even bother to keep track of time anymore, but he guessed it had been about 50 years since he met Dana Sharp. He reminisced about that day while Sally watched the clock.
Paul caused a month-long time loop, though he did not know it was him. One day, decades after it began, the loop was different. He met a woman that not only broke him out of the time loop but showed him how to control it. The damage had been done, and his Earth would always be looped, but he learned how to exert some control over the length of the loop. His latest experiment, at Dana’s suggestion, was to let everyone in on the loop. She advised him to keep it short until people got used to it and add more days as time went on. While he couldn’t break them out of the loop, he hoped to eventually make the loop long enough that it didn’t matter. Sally cleared her throat.
“Paul, take the day off. You’ve been winning too much lately. Everyone else,… GO!” The workers bolted towards different exits so that none became crowded. Sally sat down on her desk and smiled at Paul.
“Why is it always Fred?” she asked, then gave a shrug. “I don’t like the guy either, but EVERY time?” Paul smiled.
“I’m petty,” he laughed. “I don’t even hate him anymore, but I used to. That’s good enough.”
“It’s stupid, but the game is the only reason I come to work anymore,” Sally sighed. “Time loops really suck after a while, everything gets boring if you do it enough times,” Sally waved a dismissive hand out the window. “Even murder.”
“Yeah, but at least the world is in on it this time. You can’t imagine what it’s like alone,” Paul said. He looked down at the floor and hoped she wouldn’t see the sadness collecting in the corner of his eyes.
“I know, but what’s going to happen if it never breaks?” Sally asked. Paul shrugged. He never really had feelings for Sally when they worked together, but the loop seemed to make everyone more relaxed and he began to see a different side of her as time went on. He decided to take her to a different Earth the next time he reported in. He heard cheering and loud footsteps coming up the stairs.
The office door burst open. The first thing Paul saw was Fred’s head on a pike. Eric, one of the interns, vigorously shook the pike up and down as he led a parade of employees back to Sally.
“Congratulations, Eric,” Sally said. She stood and winked at the crowd. “The rest of you better start sucking up to him. I guess that’s it for today, see you all today,” she laughed and turned to leave. Paul stood up and followed her out.
“What’s your plan for the rest of the day?” He asked as he joined her in the elevator. The doors closed, and Sally shrugged.
“I don’t know. I didn’t plan on getting out of work early. You?” The doors closed and the elevator began to descend.
“I’m going somewhere, and I was wondering if you’d like to join me?”
“Sure, I’m game for something new. Where we going?” Paul reached for her hand with his left hand while his right hand reached into his pocket.
“Somewhere time isn’t looped.” He said. He pulled out a black card and dropped it on the floor of the elevator. The faux marble linoleum disappeared beneath them leaving only a pitch black void darker than anything Sally had ever seen. They sank into the darkness slowly instead of the free fall Sally expected from going into a hole.
Sally opened her eyes, though she wasn’t sure if she had them closed. One second she saw only darkness, and the next she saw what looked like a futuristic bachelor pad. Something resembled a bed rested against one corner of the wall, and a large screen on another wall was obviously a TV. Piles of clothes dotted the room, most on the floor, some on the bed and other chairs. What she could see of the floor looked like solid glass with water flowing under it. Everything had some decorative lighting on it.
“Where are we?” Sally asked. “And how did we get here so fast?” Paul sighed.
“This is my room. Sorry about the mess, I didn’t expect company today,” Paul explained. He grabbed her hand and led her out of the room through an automatic door that slid open as they approached, then closed behind them. The hall was almost all white, with bright lights scattered at regular intervals.
“Where are we?” Paul asked to let her know he was going to answer her question. “This is an alternate Earth where time isn’t looped. How we got her so fast was the card,” Paul stopped. “
“You mean you can get out of the loop any time you want? Why do you keep going back?” Paul shrugged
“FRED!?” Sally shouted with a combination of outrage and surprise.
“Yeah. Like I said. I’m petty.”