Imagine living in a world that never changed; a generation that didn’t age; a day that never passed. The date is November 12th 2022 and today is a Monday. I should know; I’ve been living the same day for approximately twelve years.
I get up; I go to work. Greet the same people and dish out the same change, the false smiles and emotionless farewells seemingly forever unchanged. I calm the same crying baby with the same green jelly bean and put up with the same crap from the same retired pensioner who seems to go about life with a bitterness that comes as a consequence of exiting the comforting regularity of the workplace.
I lock up my bakery at 5pm exactly, stumbling inelegantly into the same elderly woman who can never grip her battered recyclable shopping bags that she insists will save the worlds environmental crisis one day, before having the audacity to take advantage of my easily manipulated soul, guilt tripping me into picking up her junk before neglecting to produce a thank you in return.
I go home, clean up and go on the same bloody date with the same obnoxious lawyer that walks out on me each and every time; my uncanny ability at breaking through the walls of what is classified as socially acceptable in terms of flirtation; drooling and stumbling over every other word, apparently not particularly an attractive attribute.
Over and over I live the same day, totally oblivious of its blatant repetition. But today was different. My evident epiphany occurred at the hand of one seemingly minute but in fact completely and utterly revolutionary event; I slept in.
The panic was immense as I pulled on the jeans that hadn’t had a wash in the machine I’d never had the chance to fix in these consecutive years of mundane duplication. I pulled my tatty red hoodie over my head and nearly tripped over my boots that were probably a hundred and fifty years out of fashion, pausing however upon realising the hoodie was not red, but black, looking again to see that it was not a hoodie at all but a jacket. This simple phenomenon caused my head to spin for reasons I couldn’t begin to understand, a mere item of clothing breaking a regularity I wasn’t aware existed. I looked down, my breath hitching as my eyes locked onto where my boots should have been, the empty space seemingly impossible for my mind to comprehend, the source of my fall apparently not my boots, but myself.
Aware of the time, I grabbed my pumps, pulling them on before diving into my excuse of a Jeep. Only when I exited my flat and launched myself to where my car should have been, the spot was empty. I looked round, bewildered, checking round corners to see whether I’d mis-parked, but my efforts were futile. My jeep was gone. I cursed, my eyes darting to my wrist to check the time, only to realise that was missing, as well. After a moment of hesitation, I cursed, coming to an unappealing conclusion…
…I would have to run.
The donuts I’d eaten as I changed decided it’d be fun to climb through my throat as I ran through the streets of London, and that on top of my ash filled lungs didn’t make my athletic trip to work too elegant. I weaved in and out of the people of London, all of which seemed to be either smoking, bickering or moaning, my mind not drifting from the thought of an even longer queue to the bakery than normal.
Something wasn’t right.
“Sorry” I panted as I reached the door, only to realise that it was already open. I walked inside, the comforting blast of warm air allowing my worries to melt away before they rose again as I almost did a double take.
My body froze as I proceeded to watch myself serving familiar faces. “Do I always look that miserable?” I thought before shaking my head and scrunching my eyes shut. This wasn’t happening.
I stepped forwards to get the attention of the aged, frail woman to my left, but she didn’t notice me. I tapped the back of her shoulder, but again, nothing. Old age, I decided, before drawing my attention to the handsome man behind her that always winked at me flirtatiously, assuming I didn’t have the intelligence to see the gold ring on his wedding finger as I gave him his sausage roll and caramel slice. I stepped in front of him, but his eyes didn’t even twitch as I waved my palm in front of his face.
“Hellooo” I said gingerly, the word lengthening as my unease increased; impatience turning into fear.
“Anybody?” I called out, shocked by the shakiness in my voice.
I walked outside, and it was exactly the same. The world was repeating without me.
I looked around, desperately hoping I would see something that would answer all of my questions. Instead, I found my eyes focusing on my jeep, parked in its usual reserved spot twenty or so feet from the bakery, my confusion heightening.
After realising I couldn’t exit, let alone drive my car without my keys, I ran aimlessly from street to street, this fresh feeling of fear unfamiliar to me. Nobody could see me. They couldn’t hear me or feel me or sense me, but I could see them! Feel them! I could grab their arm and let it slide through my grip and they didn’t even notice. I crashed into a small boy, probably at the age of thirteen, but didn’t stop to see if he was OK because I knew that to him, that would have never happened.
“Hey!” I heard the voice coming from behind me. It was young, frustrated.
I stopped, turned my head and watched him.
“Mindless zombies” he spat as he got up and brushed himself off.
He looked in my direction and his eyes widened as they met mine.
“You can see me” he said, his voice no more than a whisper.
I nodded almost frantically, and the boy smiled. “Well, would you look at that” he said.
“What? What’s going on? Why can’t people see me? Where am I?”
“You” the boy said grinning, “are in London!”
I stared at him, laughed, looked around and then back at him.
“What? No ohhhh? No Woah!? No sick?”
I continued to stare at him.
“What?” he frowned.
“I already know we’re in London. I’ve lived here since I was eight,”
The boy sighed impatiently. “I don’t mean that London. I mean the other London,”
“Look kid. This day has been pretty messed up. People can’t see me, there’s another me in my bakery, the statue of the Queen is playing a game of hide and seek I didn’t realise I was part of and on top of it all, my jeep drove itself to work! I would appreciate it if you didn’t bull shit me,”
“Mind your language, lady! I’m twelve!”
“Whatever. If you’re not going to tell me what the hell is going on, I’m going to figure it out myself,” I said turning around ready to walk off.
“Wait!” the boy gasped. “Please. I’m not messing with you, I swear. I know it’s overwhelming and weird and… well impossible, but I swear to you, I’m not playing you. The first day is always hard.”
I turned back to face him. I could tell by the look in his eyes he was telling the truth. “Fine, explain. But make it quick”
“Why are you in such a rush? It isn’t like you’ve got somewhere to be.”
I glared at him and he quickly got the hint. “OK, OK, sorry. Well, here goes nothing. Are you aware that you’ve been living the same day on repeat for that last twelve years of your life?”
I looked at him, waiting for him to laugh or tell me this was a big joke, but he just stared back at me patiently, showing no sign of dishonesty. I looked round at the methodical flow of the people of London; listened to the door of the post box that squeaked as it swung in the breeze; inhaled the amalgamation of morning dew and car fumes I’d subconsciously become so accustomed to. Everything I saw appeared so normal, yet it was subliminal chaos. I looked back at the boy once again.
“Twelve years?” I asked, my voice hoarse.
The boy nodded calmly.
I could tell he wasn’t lying, and yet I didn’t believe him, looking down at my hands that hadn’t aged a day. I looked at a calendar in the battered shop window to my left. “What year is it?”
“What year do you think it is?”
I looked back at the shop window. “I thought it was 2022” I said, blinking hard. “But… but the calendar there says 2034”
Looking round I realised every window had the same date of 2034 in their windows. “Why did I believe it was 2022 when every calendar says otherwise?”
“It’s rather simple really,” the boy said, running his fingers through the thick yellow curls on his head. “We have been living through a single day of the year 2022 for the past twelve years as I’ve just said. We turn the pages of the calendar every day – not because we have to, but because it’s done so often that it’s become part of our routine. So, the pages of each calendar have been turned, but the pages of our lives have not. Understand?”
I didn’t, or at least didn’t think I did, but found myself nodding anyway.
“Good. Some newbies can go through denial. This makes it easier…”
“Wait? Some newbies? So ,there’s more of us?”
“Yeah, there’s nineteen of us so far. Well, twenty now. It’s been a couple of weeks since any more newbies joined. We were beginning to think no one else was coming. Over the last few months, people have been what we call blinking out. Like you and me, people have kind of detached from reality and entered what we’re calling this “Other London”. We’re in the same place as you can see, but it’s like we’re in some sort of alternate reality. Only those that have “blinked out” can see and communicate with each other”
“How can this just happen?”
“We don’t know,” the boy said. “Some think it’s God, others think aliens and then some think we’re part of a science project and we’re actually just hooked up to machines.”
“Like the matrix?”
“Exactly,” the boy said. “As much as that’s what I’d like to believe because that’d be undisputedly cool, we have no idea. It’s all just theories. But that’s not all.”
I nod for him to continue, aware expressing my inner impatience will get me nowhere.
“Some of us, just three or four, have kind of developed abilities,” he said edgily, his eyes analysing my reaction.
“Abilities? What do you mean? Like juggling?”
The boy laughed, shaking his head as if that was the most stupid reaction he’d ever heard. “Funny, but not exactly”
I stared at the boy and I could almost see the wheels spinning in his head as he thought through the different possible explanations he could use, finding one that didn’t make him sound utterly insane.
“Come on” I said. “Just spit it out”
“I think it’s better if I let Luke tell you,” he said. “I don’t think I’m really allowed.”
“Allowed? What are you, five?”
“Please don’t be like this,” the boy said. “I’m trying my best. I’m just following orders from Luke.”
“Who the hell is Luke and why is he ordering you around? Tell that pig that this is a free country,”
The boy smirked, shaking his head once more. “You’ll understand soon. He was the first to, you know, blink out. Now follow me”
“Follow you where?”
“Somewhere where we’re not going to be shoved by these mindless zombies ever other second.”
I nodded, undeniably relieved to go somewhere I didn’t feel even more invisible than normal.
“My name’s Klaus, by the way. Klaus Greyson”
“Alexandra” I said, by voice a little less shaky now. “But my friends just call me Lexi”
“Nice to meet you, Lexi,” Klaus said, not looking at me as he spoke. “How old are you, by the way?”
I hesitated, the strangeness of the question taking me off guard a little. “Twenty-four” I said finally.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t worry, it wasn’t an insult. It’s just that all the adults that have blinked out are twenty-four,” the boy said, turning to look at me this time. “And all the kids are twelve”
“This just keeps getting weirder and weirder” I sighed.
“Well you’ll have to get used to it,” Klaus said. “Because we have no idea how long this will last”
Before I absorbed that thought, we came to a stop, and I noticed a smirk on Klaus’s face.
“I’ll see you tomorrow Alexandra” he sighed, grabbing my hand.
Before I could finish, Klaus pulled me forwards and everything went black.