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TRACK LOOP

by Faith Freely 6 days ago in humanity
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Seven

TRACK LOOP
Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

I awoke.

The ringing of a rhythmic hum swam in my ears, followed by echoing voices that seemed to dim the very moment I’d noticed.

I opened my eyes to an orange glow beaming at me through the window, a pale sky trembling at the approaching darkness.

An unsettling sense of dread gripped me.

I sat up. Where was I?

The smell of the brisk winter paired with the medicinal taste in my mouth conceived a mysterious feeling of sudden urgency in my bosom.

I was in a twin sized bed that was hot and soaking with sweat.

How long had I been asleep?

I felt like I must have been sleeping for years.

“Was I in a coma?” I asked myself.

I had no memory of this room, nor did I notice until this very moment that the room was moving.

I leapt out of the crimson sheets and across the room in one swift motion, flinging myself into the door and gripping the door knob like a weapon.

I ran out and nearly slammed my head through the wall adjacent to my suite entrance. This narrowly dodged blow knocked me into a calm demeanor.

I glanced to my right, hoping for the room to start shifting into spiraling Starry Night shapes and confirm to me that this was all indeed some twisted dream.

Instead, my soul stood shocked in a stark contrast to the eerily normal, peaceful scene of first class passengers on a prestigious bullet train.

I began pacing very slowly down the aisle in obedience to the voice that warned me that staring while standing frozen still might arouse suspicion. I scanned the room and spotted a digital clock above the door with bold, red numbers and the dots between the numbers pulsing much slower than my heartbeat.

5:09p.m.

I then focused my attention on the passengers. A woman in a large, brown fur coat was the first to catch my eye. She was the plastic type of beauty. I didn’t find her attractive, but I appreciated her unorthodox fashion sense. She was reading a book over the humongous sunglasses sitting on the edge of her nose.

Before I could read the title, her handbag slipped off the seat and onto the floor, several items spilling out. She leaned down to gather her things, not noticing all of the items under her seat. As I began reading the title of the book, I felt someone’s eyes scanning my right cheek. I turned my head to see the bartender staring at me. He was dressed in a red vest and looking very handsome with his slicked back black, shiny hair. The nuance in his face was neutral, but slightly tense, jaw muscles flexing and eyes unblinking. I gave him a smile to ease his nerves and asked for a drink. I’d tip him good too.

The last thing I needed right now was an enemy.

“What would you like?”

“Surprise me.” I said, noticing the irony.

I sat down, taking a deep breath as the bartender started on his concoction. A sharply dressed businessman joined me at the bar. I examined him briefly but was interrupted as the door to the car slid open with a squeak.

“Tickets, please!”

I turned to see a very large man with an even larger mustache walking along the aisle and greeting each passenger with a curt, impatient tone. He didn’t seem like the type you’d want to inconvenience.

I quickly checked my jacket pocket, realizing that, in my shock at the current circumstances, I hadn’t taken even the slightest notice of the clothing I was in.

My jacket was yellow (my favorite color), and under the right sleeve, a silver wristwatch. I was also sporting a pink dress shirt, black climbing pants with too many zippers, and neon orange tennis shoes with neon green socks peeking out of the top of them.

“What a strange combination?” I said to myself, neglecting to remember how strange of a person I am.

“Ticket, please.”

I jumped. I spun around my barstool, perplexed to find the mustache man right in front of me and wondering how a man his size could be so fast. He plowed his left hand into my bubble with a I’m-on-a-tight-schedule kind of attitude.

He must’ve crept up on me while I was analyzing my very unusual outfit that did not at all seem suited for the first class environment I found myself in.

Embarrassed, I nervously checked all of my pockets, including all six zippered pockets on my baggy climbing pants.

Checking my final pocket, I felt a wadded up piece of paper. Here it was!

I snagged it out with a victorious gesture.

“Oh…” I said, realizing it was not a ticket, but a paper bill.

I offered it to him apologetically, hoping not to upset him and receive a long-winded retort from his scarily large mustache.

“What?” He said, analyzing it closely through his eyeglasses. “Are you trying to bribe me?”

“No, sir. I can’t find my ticket. Could I buy a new one?”

“Unacceptable!” He said. “Gary!”

I didn’t know who Gary was, and, if I’m honest with you, I didn’t care to know who Gary was.

A tall man stood up from the back seat while simultaneous reaching his hand into his inside jacket pocket.

“This way please.” He displayed a badge that glared at me with the reflection of the dying sun.

The mustache man sighed and shook his head in disappointment as I slid off my seat, leaving the money with the bartender, whose charm had been rudely confronted by these unfortunate events.

I followed Gary down the aisle towards the next car, waving goodbye to the bartender, who seemed much happier now than he did when we first met. I checked the time. 5:13p.m. As I followed the guard, I felt a sudden jolt and an increase in the train’s speed. I looked at Gary. He didn’t seem concerned, which relieved my anxieties. Gary lead me to a cozy holding cell with several chairs. Someone was already inside. I sat across from him.

“When we arrive at the next station, I will escort you to the security office for you to give testimony and receive your fine.”

I did not debate him. As he started to close the door, I heard an unsettling commotion on his walkie-talkie.

“He doesn’t look like a Gary.” I said, staring at the tightly sealed door.

“That’s what I said.” Said the man across from me.

“Any idea why the train just sped up?”

“It sped up?”

Maybe I had imagined it.

But, suddenly, we hit an enormous decline, and our chairs slid into the wall with a sharp clang. The man looked at me wide-eyed.

“What the hell?” He said, bracing himself in the corner.

I looked out the window to see the mountains turned on their side, rumbling along to the shrieking soundtrack.

I felt my heart rate blistering the inside of my chest as it drummed along to the climbing score of our fierce, downward trajectory.

Suddenly, the music stopped and the mountains crumbled. The orange light danced around the room like a disco ball, chairs hurtling in all directions, as the train took a nosedive into the white abyss.

We died with the blood-red sun.

I awoke.

The ringing of a rhythmic hum swam in my ears.

I opened my eyes to an orange glow beaming at me through the window, a pale sky trembling at the approaching darkness.

An unsettling sense of dread gripped me.

I DIED.

I leapt out of the crimson sheets and across the room in one swift motion, flinging myself into the door and gripping the door knob like a weapon.

This time, I caught myself and walked out carefully. I glanced to my right, hoping for the room to start shifting into spiraling Starry Night shapes and confirm to me that this was all indeed some twisted dream.

Instead, my soul stood shocked in a stark contrast to the eerily normal, peaceful scene of first class passengers on a prestigious bullet train. I checked the clock. 5:09p.m.

“Holy. Shit.” I whispered to myself.

Somehow, I had traveled back in time.

Did the train exceed the speed of light as it’s gravity expelled us to our detonation? In a state of total depersonalization, I looked at my hands in fascination.

I caught the woman in the fur coat staring at me in suspicion. Her bag fell to the floor, items pouring out everywhere. Among the debris, I saw her ticket under her seat. She picked up her things, neglecting what laid under her seat. I carefully walked over, sat behind her, and stole her ticket.

“Tickets, please!”

I showed him the ticket. He accepted it, failing to recognize the seat number was wrong. I felt an inch of victory. Now, it was time to figure out what the hell was going on. I left my seat as soon as I could without arousing suspicion from mustache man. I approached the front of the car to find that the door to the hallway leading to the engine room was sealed shut and locked. Perplexed, I turned around to see mustache man speaking to the woman, who could not find her ticket. I looked down at his belt and saw a keytag attached to it. Bingo. The bartender approached the scene.

“Roger, she’s with me.”

“Ah, I see. No problem then. Thank you, ma’am.”

Mustache man, formally referred to by his colleagues as Roger, carried on his duties without alerting Gary. That’s when I saw it. The quill tattoo on the woman’s right wrist matched that of the bartender’s. That explains the look he gave me. He was the possessive type. I checked the clock. 5:11p.m. Would the train derail once again? I suddenly found myself running scenarios. How could I get through that door? I needed a diversion.

After taking a shot at the bar and examining the businessman a bit more carefully this time, I checked my watch. 5:13p.m. I waited a moment, eager to see if the events would continue in the same succession as the previous loop. A few seconds later, I felt the jolt. I sat the glass down softly, tipped the bartender, and walked calmly to the restroom. Taking my belt off, I tied myself to the metal railing lining the silver blue walls. I braced myself for the decline, keeping an eye on my watch to mentally record the second it occurred. 5:15p.m.

Decline. The belt tightened around me as I closed my eyes tighter. “It will be over in a blink” I told myself. I plugged my ears, for I did not want to hear the screams of my fellow passengers this time. 5:16p.m. We died with the blood-red sun.

I awoke.

The ringing of a rhythmic hum swam in my ears.

I opened my eyes to an orange glow beaming at me through the window, a pale sky trembling at the approaching darkness.

An unsettling sense of dread gripped me.

I DIED. AGAIN.

Everything returned to me. I reviewed the plan I had assembled in loop two.

After a couple deep breaths, I left the room. 5:09p.m. I made a beeline to the seat behind the woman in the fur coat and awaited the delivery of the ticket. Thud.

“Tickets, please!”

After bypassing mustache man, I returned yet again to the bathroom. Upon arrival, I quickly removed the items I had stolen. This time, I not only took her ticket, but a business card and lipstick as well. I applied the lipstick and kissed the card. My plan was well underway. I wiped the lipstick from my mouth and checked the time. 5:12p.m.

I returned to the bar and sat down next to the charming businessman.

“Excuse me, sir. I saw this fall out of your pocket.” I slid the card across the table.

The businessman looked at me confused. “This is not m —“

WHACK. The bartender wasted no time in slugging him across the cheek. I jumped away, pretending as if I had no idea what this commotion was about.

5:13p.m. Jolt.

Mustache man shouted into his walkie-talkie.

“All crew members to first class immediately!”

Gary tried to break things up, but to no avail. As the crew members rushed in, I swiped one of their keytags and slipped through the door to the engine room while no one was looking. As I approached the engine room, I could see through the glass window on the door. No one was inside. That was the problem! The controls had been abandoned. I used the keytag to open the door.

BLOOD. BLOOD EVERYWHERE. Red splatters decorated the windows on every side and a pool of crimson shimmered on the floor. I fell over. I had never seen a dead body before. I gripped the railing and tried to pull myself up. I launched myself into the room and pulled the breaks. Nothing happened. I tried to yell for help, but the words wouldn’t come. Footsteps. The crew members returned and found me at the scene. They began screaming and cursing me, thinking I was the one who had killed their beloved conductor. I tried to respond, but the words would not show. My mouth was dry. My heart, catapulting. My hands, earthquaking. I somehow found the strength to pull myself up in time. I tied myself to the railing. 5:15p.m. Decline. The crew members were still screaming in horror. But I could not hear them over the ringing in my ears. I shut my eyes tight. 5:16p.m.

We died with the blood-red sun.

I awoke.

The ringing of a rhythmic hum swam in my ears.

I opened my eyes to an orange glow beaming at me through the window, a pale sky trembling at the approaching darkness.

An unsettling sense of dread gripped me.

WHO KILLED THE CONDUCTOR?

I left my room. 5:09p.m.

Stole the ticket.

Kissed the card. Started the fight. 5:13p.m. JOLT.

Swiped the keytag. And this time, I broke the lock panel on the door with a cane to jam it shut and ensure the crew members did not interrupt this investigation. I was going to find this ruthless killer even if I had to die over and over again to do it. Whether or not this was the solution to this maddening time loop, I had no clue. But it was my best shot, and this was the right thing to do in any time paradigm. Time loop or not, I was determined to stand faithful in the face of perilous odds and mortifying fate.

I opened the door. BLOOD. I was just as shocked as I was in loop three. Body trembling and hands dripping with sweat, I crouched down. I observed the conductor’s body closely, the smell of blood in his atmosphere. I winced. He was a decent looking fellow. Dark black hair, middle-aged, but still youthful in his decor, a curious robot earring on his left ear. His throat was sliced and the murder weapon was no where to be found. Who would do this? Roger? Surely not. He seemed ill-mannered, but certainly not evil. Whoever did this is also responsible for my death, the bartender’s death, the woman’s death…

Or did they do it? The bartender is clearly unstable, but how could he have done this without getting caught by his fellow crew members? Unless — were they all in on it? Their reactions to the conductor’s body in loop three suggested otherwise. I needed a quicker diversion so I could arrive here before 5:13p.m. I racked my brains for an answer. I needed a way to get back here no more than 60 seconds after I wake up. I was lost in thought when, suddenly - 5:15p.m. Decline.

I slipped and landed in the pool of his blood. The floor was quaking, and I fought against the gravity best I could in an effort to try to tie myself down. I lost in the end. I held my breath, and I held the conductor.

“Just hold on.” I said to him, his head falling limp against my shoulder. “I will save you. I will save us all.”

5:16p.m. We died with the blood-red sun.

I awoke.

The ringing of a rhythmic hum swam in my ears.

I opened my eyes to an orange glow beaming at me through the window, a pale sky trembling at the approaching darkness.

An unsettling sense of dread gripped me.

I sat up and stared at the sun, it’s glow stinging my eyes.

“Show me the way.”

A gigantic cloud above the sun seemed to pour out of it like smoke.

“Smoke. FIRE!”

A glimmer on the door knob winked at me as I leapt off the bed.

I left the room. 5:09p.m.

I searched only for a moment before I found it - a small, red box on the wall at the very back of the car. I kicked the glass and pulled the lever.

“FIRE!!!” I ran into the room in a full panic. The crew members ran past me all at once, each one of them barking orders at each other. I swiped a keytag, darted through the aisle, and jammed the door behind me. I checked my watch. 5:11p.m.

I laughed at the simplistic ingenuity. I had eliminated two steps in the process, saved myself time, and sealed off the crime scene. The conductor would live! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. Rounding the corner, I could see the conductor standing upright through the window on the door. I rejoiced! Whoever his killer was had been delayed in his monstrosities. I approached very slowly, observing my surroundings with incredible precision and half-expecting the killer to jump out at me. JOLT. I was nearly at the door when I witnessed a gleam of sparkling orange cream soda light spill into the conductor’s atmosphere and ignite a cherry red firework. The conductor fell dead, the knife in his hand landing under his body. I froze, mouth gaped open. He was the killer all along. I began to feel woozy and my vision was shifting between vivid oranges and reds to buzzing silver static screens. I suddenly came to and felt an intense wave of adrenaline kick in. Strapping myself to the wall once more, I began sobbing. I was sick of this. Sick. Sick. Sick unto death. 5:15p.m. Decline.

5:16p.m. We died with the blood-red sun.

I awoke.

The ringing of a rhythmic hum swam in my ears.

I opened my eyes to an orange glow beaming at me through the window, a pale sky trembling at the approaching darkness.

An unsettling sense of dread gripped me.

I NEED TO STOP THE CONDUCTOR.

I left the room. 5:09p.m.

Hit the alarm.

Feigned terror to the first class audience once again.

Swiped the keytag.

Stole a bottle from the bar.

Opened the door.

Jammed the door.

5:10p.m.

I ran down the hallway with light steps, trying to be as quiet as I could.

Opening the door to the engine room, the conductor turned around, a split in the tracks in the foreground. I struck him like a lightning bolt, knocking him out clean, the robot earring spinning in a tizzy on the floor. The train swung right. I dropped the bottle and collapsed to the floor. I had finally done it. It was over. I searched the conductor and removed the knife from his possession. And, with the deepest sigh a soul could release, I slumped against the wall and stared out through the windshield and into the heavens.

“Thank you.”

After all of this, I was left with gratefulness and joy.

JOLT. I shot up and checked my watch.

5:13p.m.

“NO!”

How could this be happening?

HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING?

“Why is this happening?!” I shouted into the mountain range. There was no answer, not even an echo of my own voice. Was the conductor not the one that caused this repetitive death?

“WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?!” I screamed at the sky. Rage brimming over in my lungs, I grabbed the bottle and slammed it into the floor. The glass shattered like a wave smashing a rocky shore, and the reverb struck a cord inside of me and played the melody of an epiphany. I leaped into the air!

“Eureka! Thank you, orange cream soda light! Thank y - “

5:15p.m. Decline.

My body slammed forward, but I caught myself in time. Climbing out of the room, I successfully tied myself to the wall.

I laughed hysterically. Finally.

5:16p.m. We died with the blood-red sun.

I awoke.

The ringing of a rhythmic hum swam in my ears.

I opened my eyes to an orange glow beaming at me through the window, a pale sky trembling at the approaching darkness.

An unsettling sense of dread gripped me.

What if this plan didn’t work?

No time. No time.

I leapt up and left the room. 5:09p.m.

Hit the alarm.

Swiped the keytag.

Stole the bottle.

Opened the door.

Jammed it.

Ran down the corridor.

Knocked out the conductor.

I dropped the bottle and quickly set my sights on the tracks.

As we approached the railway switch, I sounded the whistle. Miraculously, the tracks switched. The train swerved left.

I awoke.

Applauding.

I opened my eyes, shocked to find that I was in some sort of facility. A lab.

Several multicolored wires lined my skin. I sat up in a panic.

“Hey. Easy, easy. You’re okay. You passed with flying colors! Congratulations!”

“Wh- what? What is happening?”

Another doctor came over to check my vitals.

“She’s stable, but she needs to be debriefed.”

They stood me up slowly and sent me with someone. I don’t know who. I didn’t look at them. Everything felt so surreal. I was so baffled that I couldn’t begin to start contemplating what was happening to me or where I was.

I was lead into a small room with white walls.

Rather than sit on the chair, I sat on the floor, where I felt more grounded and safe.

A doctor walked in shortly after.

“Alright. How are you doing? I hear you performed amazingly! Only seven loops! Unheard of. Absolutely spectacular! I’ve never seen this before!”

I didn’t look up. At first, he was just an echoey voice in some distant dimension.

He sat on the floor next to me.

“How did you do it?”

“The sun.” I said.

“The sun?”

“Yes. The orange cream soda light.”

I looked at him for the first time to find a puzzled expression paired with a flicker on his ear.

I squinted and zeroed my focus to find something so cruelly amorphous, so strikingly phantasmagorical…

a robot earring on his left ear.

humanity

About the author

Faith Freely

I write about love, truth, pain, and color.

IG: @zyspex_poet

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