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The Problem with Wednesdays

by J. R. Lowe about a year ago in Short Story
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Learning to let go of grief is never easy

No matter how bad your heart is broken, the world doesn’t stop for your griefFaraaz Kazi

Prologue

Wednesday was undoubtedly the worst day of the week for Aubrey, or at least it used to be. Now it was all she knew. Every day was a Wednesday, and every day was the same:

  • Wake up at 6:15am to the screeching sound of her alarm, drag herself out of bed and attempt to look presentable.
  • Catch the 7:05 Air Train to the Inner-City Hospital.
  • See her son for the last time and collapse under the weight of her grief.
  • Repeat.
  • She’d lost count how many Wednesdays like that she’d been through – hundreds? Thousands? She couldn’t say for sure. Time loops were unforgiving, or at least this one was.

    Every day when she saw her son for the last time, so weak and fragile as he lay in his giant hospital bed, she hoped it would be different, that it would be the time he would finally make it, but he never did. She had seen the life leave his eyes more times than any mother should have to, and every time it destroyed her completely. It was as if the world had lost all its colour. There was a tremendous weight on her, and everything felt like an effort; every breath, every thought, every motion.

    Aubrey was imprisoned in her own dystopian world, refusing to let go. Yet she had done this to herself - intentionally. A few years prior, her colleague’s project had been shut down due to a ‘Class V Risk’ rating it had received from the research committee. They weren’t wrong to do it, anything that involves the manipulation of time should be approached with the utmost caution after all.

    It was a shame to see Layla’s life’s work be reduced to nothing by some rejected paperwork and a ‘Hazardous Waste’ sticker. Still, Aubrey was grateful for the opportunity it later provided. After her son had been terminally diagnosed, Aubrey became desperate, and acquiring Layla’s project seemed to be the only option she had left to try and save him. Of course, this was entirely unethical and unquestioningly illegal, but there was no way she was going to lose her son, not after she’d lost her husband a few years before. Jaden was all she had left.

    Stealing the equipment was easy enough. She’d worked at the facility for the past eight years, and in that time had plenty of opportunity to befriend the guards and admin staff. A quick mention that she had to pick up a few things from the restricted access area, and no one questioned a thing.

    The benefit of being so close to Layla was that she knew all about the project and exactly how it worked. After setting it up in her home, all she had to do was turn it on and she essentially had herself a reset button. Now the world was stuck repeating the same Wednesday over and over again, and Aubrey was the only person who remembered anything after each reset.

    When she first started, she was almost certain she could save Jaden, but she had tried everything she could. Now she had given up, and just appreciated the time she could spend with him. The machine would only reset the last twenty-four hours, so Wednesday after Wednesday, Aubrey sentenced herself to the most painful day of her life.

    Alarm

    Aubrey’s violently pink vintage alarm clock let out a series of loud screeches before she slapped it into silence. She unleashed a tired groan as she heaved her body out of bed. Every motion felt so heavy, as if she were wading through water.

    She reached the bathroom and sighed as she stared at her deathly reflection. Huge, dark bags bordered her eyes, her skin was pale and hair sprung from her head in extravagant curls, each lock choosing a different direction and forming a mess of brown springs. She let out another exhausted sigh as she locked eyes with her reflection, “You can do this.” it whispered to her. Aubrey didn’t believe a word of it.

    Train

    The Air Train wobbled gently as it glided by the cityscape like a giant mechanical snake weaving through the sky. Its occupants swayed gently with the motion, as if they were Christmas carolling in unison. It was almost peaceful, and perhaps it once would have been for Aubrey if she wasn't painfully aware of where she was going, and what was going to happen.

    She'd sat in a different carriage to usual today. It was nice to experience things that were a little different every now and then. If she had to watch the disgruntled businessman spill his coffee, or listen to the snarky young woman's phone conversation with her rude and 'useless' husband one more time, she knew she was going to lose her mind completely.

    The occupants of this carriage were much tamer. It was a relief. There were a few other, much quieter business people who looked mortified to be heading into yet another day in the office, but it was much more peaceful than she expected.

    Aubrey stared out of the carriage window as she tried to pass the time. How many more times can I do this? She thought to herself. Watching Jaden slip away, day after day, had consumed her. She wasn't living. Not really. Guilt was beginning to overcome her as well. She'd sentenced herself to repeat this day, over and over again, but in doing so had also entrapped the rest of the world, the rest of the universe, the rest of everything. She knew it was selfish, but she couldn't stop herself. A stream of tears began to pour from her eyes, blurring her view of the metropolis. Her sobbing must have been quite loud because suddenly an old woman tapped on her shoulder.

    "Is everything ok, dear?" she asked in a soft and weathered voice.

    Aubrey was caught completely off guard, "Uh, yes..." she said in a panic as she began to hastily wipe away her tears. She made eye contact with the old woman, and realised she wasn't going to budge. "Well no, but there's nothing I can do about it. I'm going to lose someone I love."

    The old woman nodded nostalgically in understanding as she clutched a silver heart-shaped locket which hung around her neck, then took a seat next to Aubrey.

    “Death is inevitable." She started, "I know it sounds harsh, but it’s natural. It’s ironic in a way, isn’t it? That you have to die in order to have ever truly lived….”

    “I suppose…But how did you learn to accept it?” Aubrey replied as she dabbed at her eyes with a tissue.

    “Oh, I didn’t. I guess I just realised that life must go on. The world wouldn’t wait for me. I had to learn to live without my Husband.”

    “But what if I don’t want to live without the person I’m going to lose? I don’t have any reason to without him…” Aubrey asked. The old woman could see the desperation in her eyes and let a small sigh.

    “I think, in a way, continuing to live means that a piece of them will always be alive. They say that you die twice you know? Once when you take your last breath, and once when someone says your name for the last time. I think it gave me comfort knowing that my life had meaning after that - I am living for the both of us. I'm talking about my husband right now, so in that way, a part of him is still alive.”

    “But… I don’t think I could do that. I'm not strong enough. How did you overcome your grief?”

    “I had to, love. Like I said, the world won’t wait for you. Even if it would, I don’t think I’d want it to because then I would never let go. I think I would’ve held onto my grief forever, and in doing that, would have never lived again.”

    The old woman stared fondly at her locket as the two sat in silence for a moment. Suddenly, the Air Train beeped and an announcement echoed through the carriage, “We are approaching the Inner-City Hospital Stop, please prepare to depart the carriage from the doors on the right. Thank you.

    Goodbye

    Aubrey grasped her son’s small and delicate hand as he lay almost motionless in the oversized hospital bed. He looked so weak and fragile as he lay there sleeping. She checked her watch anxiously: 12:32pm. It was 3:34pm was when Jaden would slip away. Every repetition of this day had been as painful and as difficult as the last, but this time it felt different. She knew this time had to be the last.

    The old woman’s words from the Air Train played on her mind, 'Like I said, the world won’t wait for you. Even if it would, I don’t think I’d want it to because then I would never let go.' Aubrey knew what she had to do, and it hurt immensely.

    Jaden began to stir and slowly opened his eyes. A smile spread across his face when he recognised his mother.

    "Hey, mamma!"

    "Hey, baby." Aubrey said as she stroked his hair gently. "I love you so so so much, you know that right?"

    "I know." Jaden said weakly, "I love you too, mamma."

    Jaden looked up at his mother, he could tell something was wrong. She was different today. Aubrey's mask of joy had slipped, exposing the remorse she had so desperately tried to hide.

    "What's wrong?" he asked.

    Aubrey stumbled for a moment, "Uh, I'm just a little upset about something that's all. I have to let go of something that means a lot to me."

    "Why?"

    "Well I wouldn't unless I had to. But by holding on I took away everything from... a lot of other people. And from myself as well I guess."

    "Oh... well I think you're doing the right thing. Will everyone else be ok now?"

    "I hope so."

    "What about you though? Will you be ok?"

    "I'm not sure." Aubrey stared sadly at the floor, trying to hold back a flood of tears. Realising her pessimism, she quickly collected herself and looked up at Jaden, "But I will be one day. As long as you're here to help me."

    "Of course I will be." Jaden chirped quietly.

    "Thanks, baby." Aubrey smiled sadly and leant in for a hug.

    They talked for what felt like only a few more minutes before the air suddenly felt colder and a wave of peace filled the room. It was 3:34pm.

    Repeat...?

    The house was deathly silent when she walked through the front door, as if the world had come to a halt and was hanging on Aubrey's every move, and in a way, it was. The machine sat on the other side of the living room, buzzing lightly in a manner that beckoned her to come closer.

    Aubrey knew there was nothing she could do to save Jaden. Time after time she had failed him. Now she was stuck in a hopeless cycle of losing him. It was agony. She creeped closer to the machine, like a predator hunting its prey. Yet it seemed that Aubrey was the one who was terrified for her life. She was terrified of letting go. Grief was all she knew now.

    Tears began to stream from her face as she pictured her son's face, the sound of his voice, the way his smile looked when he laughed. She would remember it forever. Each step felt heavier than the last, but Aubrey charged on. Her heart was racing, her palms became sweaty and it felt as though the world was holding it's breath. She reached the machine, paused for just a moment to collect herself, and then switched it off.

    Short Story

    About the author

    J. R. Lowe

    I confess, I don't exactly have a specific topic or writing style, or an organised train of thought for that matter. On the plus side, that means there's probably something here everyone ;)

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/J0SHwrites

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