Ouroboros – Chapter 4: On Shattered Memories

But her greatest adventure began one morning when she saw a face that was unnervingly familiar in the mirror. One that she recognized, not only from the previous morning, but from many years ago. It looked exactly like the face of the woman in the video tape. She blew a kiss at the mirror, and what she saw sent chills down her spine. It perfectly matched the woman onscreen. She was as sure as she could be of anything. The last time she was this sure of something, she ended up being so mistaken that it almost destroyed the universe. Almost. So she decided to watch the video tape one more time to make sure. Unfortunately, she couldn’t; she thought she had left it in the VCR player down in the basement, but it wasn’t there. She started searching all around the house for it, despite finding it inconceivable that it could be anywhere other than where she had already looked. “Looking for something?” her husband asked as she inspected a drawer in their room that hadn’t been opened in over a year. “No, just my morning ritual of looking at all the places where something could get lost while having a worried look on my face,” she said, sarcastically, “I usually finish before you wake up.” “Really?” he said, “I do the same thing, but I usually just look in your eyes.” She had to stifle her laughter. She could not have her husband thinking it was OK to be that cheesy. “Because I get lost in your eyes,” he explained after a beat. “No, I got that,” she said, “I was just thinking of all the poor life decisions that lead to me marrying such a lame boy.” “I can’t believe you’d call me that!” he said with mock indignation, “I am a lame man, thank you very much, and deserve to be treated as such.” She couldn’t help but laugh this time. “Besides,” he continued, “I know that you’d make all those poor life decisions all over again, if you could. Because you love me, for some reason.” She sat on the bed and gave him a kiss. “You have no idea how right you are.”

“So, er, not to ruin this romantic moment, but what were you looking for, anyway?” he said, kind of ruining the romantic moment. “I’m afraid I can’t say,” she said. She couldn’t have him getting suspicious about the tape. “OK, since you have met a man in your life, ever, you must know that that just makes me want to know even more, right?” he said. “Can’t a lady have a secret?” she said, coyly. “Huh? Oh, I get it. You must be looking for a,” he cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted to the heavens as loud as he could, repeating it as if it were echoing “BIG OL’ DILDO…dildo…do.” “Oh, I don’t have one of those,” she said, laughing, “Trust me, if I did, you’d be the first to know.” “Is that a threat, or a promise?” he asked. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” she said, “But I don’t have time to sit around listening to you being horny. I have important job business to do.” “What about the embarrassing sex toy you were looking for?” he asked, “Did you try looking in the last place you’d expect? Because I may have gotten tired of it lying around and put it where it actually belongs.” “And where, pray tell, do the embarrassing sex toys belong?” she asked, “Have you been holding out on me?” “I think you know exactly where the embarrassing sex toys belong,” he said, waggling his eyebrows as hard as he could. “Do I?” she asked, “I think you’ll have to remind me. But you’ll have to wait until tonight. I have a meeting that I can’t miss today. Someone has to pay for all these embarrassing sex toys, after all.” “Hey,” he said, “My art may not make enough to buy the BIGGEST ol’ dildo, but it could pay for a pretty big ol’ dildo.” “And, in the end, isn’t that what True Art is all about?” she asked. “FINALLY, someone gets it. Anyway, good luck with your adult stuff, and also with your adult stuff,” he said, using finger quotes the second time.

While at work, she came up with a plan to find the tape. She’d go back in time, to the day after she first watched it, and stealthily retrieve it before it could get lost. She then realized that if she did that, then she would be the reason the tape went missing in the first place. But the tape was already missing, so did that mean that she had already taken it? She remembered that it didn’t matter, as long as she got the tape, and went ahead with the plan. She decided to watch the tape as soon as possible; her husband was thoroughly engrossed in his drawings, so she wasn’t worried about him catching her. And, though she prayed that she’d never have to turn it on him, she could always rely on the Oblivion Ray to keep her secret. After putting the tape in the player, she realized that she might as well double check the script while she was at it. While she read it, she started to wonder why she even needed a script at all. Why couldn’t she just use the video itself? Was the whole thing another prank by her future self? She laughed to herself. She had to admit, it was pretty funny. But then she read four words that gave her pause. “Do not mention husband.” The words were familiarly surprising, like she remembered forgetting them. Suddenly, she felt an unusual sensation, one that she had become familiar with, but never quite accustomed to. It felt like her mind was moving, while her body remained fixed. It felt like her memories, and perhaps reality itself, were being rewritten. But it was different this time. Her mind was moving faster, farther than ever before. Just when she thought she could bear it no more, it abruptly came to a halt.

“What the Hell was that all about?” she thought to herself. Much to her surprise, something responded. Not quite a voice, but an awareness of words was forming in her head. “It is your time. The cycle must begin anew.” She had encountered a lot of strange stuff in all her journeys, but this took the cake. “What’s going on? Am I hallucinating?” she thought. The thing in her head, whatever it was, responded. “Your time is running out.” She scoffed. “How can you say that about me? I, who can outrun time itself?” It sounded so cool in her head that she almost wished she said it out loud. “You do not understand. A Chrononaut may think herself capable of outpacing Time by sprinting, but Time is an endurance runner. It will catch up to you. In fact, it already has.” “And what happens when Time catches up to me? What does that mean?” she asked, no longer able to restrain herself from speaking out loud. She remembered her husband upstairs. It wouldn’t be good if he found her talking to herself. “Excuse me for a moment while I find us somewhere more private to discuss this,” she thought. She went back in time, until she was pretty sure that she was chronologically upstream of the first human civilization. “It means that you must record a new tape, deliver it, and teach me how to time travel.” This time, the words took the form of a voice. One that came from behind her. She turned around, and was greeted by her own face: A young face, unblemished by years of adventure. “Who are you? What are you?” she asked. “I am you. Your past and your future, catching up to you,” her doppelgänger said, “And you are an anomaly. A debtor to the bank of cause and effect. It’s time to pay up.” “What the Hell does that mean?” she asked. “You must go back and teach yourself time travel, the way you were taught,” the doppelgänger said. “And what happens to me after that?” she asked. “You know the answer to your own question.” Whatever it was, it was right. Logically, it didn’t make sense for delivering the exact same tape to change her past enough to erase her present, given that she’d already altered history several times without that happened. Yet she knew that that was exactly what would happen. Call it a woman’s intuition. She would die. Or worse.

“That’s not fair!” she shouted, overcome by frustration, “I’m just getting started. You can’t just give me a vast world of possibilities to explore, and then snatch it away before I even get the chance!” Her own voice shouted back at her. “I am you. You are the one responsible for this. You were always living on borrowed time. The very time that you must now lend to your past self.” “That doesn’t make any sense,” she muttered. “Life doesn’t always give you the time to make sense of things. Sometimes you must act, even if you do not understand.” the doppelgänger said. “And if I refuse?” she asked, in the most defiant voice she could muster. “If no one lends you their time, you will retroactively lose your ability to time travel. Everything you’ve done since that day will be lost, and you with it.” “So my choice is between dying and dying? Pass.” If this was some kind of prank form a future version of herself, it wasn’t funny. “You said that I was running out of time, yeah?” she said. “That is correct.” The doppelgänger said. “I guess I’ll just have to make time, then!” “What? That doesn’t make sense!” “Life doesn’t always give you the time to make sense of things, sweetie!” As she pulled the Oblivion Ray out of her pocket and pressed it to her temple, she felt grateful that she wouldn’t remember calling herself “sweetie”. As she pulled the trigger, she could hear the sound of something, perhaps her own mind, fracturing.

For the next chapter in the recommended order, click here

For the next chapter in “chronological” order, click here


Author: havocmantis

I am Havoc Mantis, Skullmaster (like a headmaster but spookier) of The School of Havoc. I am a scholar of mathematics, mysticism, and memes, as well as the intersection of all three.

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