This wasn’t supposed to happen. I thought I’d planned everything out so perfectly - so precisely. But still something went horribly wrong, and I have no idea how to fix it. I don’t even know if it can be fixed. I may have just doomed us all to the worst possible fate imaginable: A world without a future.
Maybe I should rewind things a bit and introduce myself - my name is Maxwell Darby. Ever since I was a child, I’ve been able to cast my consciousness back in time exactly one week. However, I am unable to use my power again until I’ve lived through the full week and return to the point in time where I jumped back from. This means I can’t travel backwards indefinitely. I can continuously relive a single week over and over again, but once I use my power, the moment I go back to is the farthest into the past I’ll ever be able to reach.
I first discovered I had these powers when I got into a fight with a bully at school in the first grade. I’d seen him beating up on one of the smaller kids, and none of the nearby adults were doing anything about it. I tried to intervene, but I wasn’t particularly strong or fast, so I was promptly overpowered. The bully began choking me, and as I started to panic, I suddenly found myself sitting on the bleachers in the schoolyard, surrounded by my friends. We were playing a game of rock-paper-scissors, and Jimmy had just decided to ignore the rules, throwing an atom bomb against Mike’s rock.
“Atom bomb beats rock,” Jimmy said triumphantly, a self-satisfied smirk on his face.
“That doesn’t count!” Mike cried in protest. “You can’t use an atom bomb!”
“Yes I can,” Jimmy retorted. “We never made a rule against it.”
“Fine! We’re gonna make a new rule right now: Nobody’s allowed to use anything besides rock, paper, or scissors from now on!” Mike nudged me with his elbow and said, “Right, Max?”
“Wha-? Oh, yeah,” I replied in a daze. I was incredibly confused - we’d had this exact same conversation last week when Jimmy tried to cheat with the atom bomb. I was surprised, since once we’d solidified something as an official rule, nobody would break them.
As the day continued, I started noticing how familiar everything seemed. Our Math teacher gave us a quiz that seemed to have the same exact questions as the one last week. The bus was ten minutes late picking us up due to a flat tire. When I got home, the block of afternoon cartoons aired the same episodes that I remembered already seeing. By the time I was ready for bed, it was pretty clear to me that something really strange was going on.
There were many more instances throughout the week that lined up with my memory of what had already happened - the lessons we had in class, the food served at lunch. Even the fight my parents got into one night when my father spilled his drink on my mother’s favorite shirt. By the time I reached the morning of the day I had gotten into the fight, I started wondering if maybe I could figure out a way to change what had happened.
I initially tried to warn the adults supervising recess about the bullying, but they brushed me off. The bully was just hanging around the jungle gym with his cronies, and my insistence that I knew he was going to start picking on someone because I’d already seen it fell on deaf ears. So I decided to take matters into my own hands. I stopped the smaller boy while he was on his way over to try to play on the monkey bars and asked him to join my friends and I instead. He agreed, and as we all played our usual game of rock-paper-scissor without any illegal moves, I kept my eye on the bully. When the bell rang, recess ended without any sort of fight occurring.
My subsequent classes were all completely new, and the episodes aired on TV were ones I’d never seen before. The next day was the same. I soon came to realize I had somehow gone back in time and changed the course of events so they occurred differently. It took me a while before I was able to replicate my jump into the past. Once I’d figured out how to do it, though, it quickly became like second nature.
Over the years, I’ve used my power liberally to enrich my life, but I stuck to doing things that wouldn’t draw too much attention to myself. I mainly would go back and bet on sports, only putting down enough to make a decent profit without raising any eyebrows or pissing off the bookies. Occasionally, I’d play the stock market when there was a big earnings surprise, but again, I never bought enough shares in anything that would cause anyone to take note.
For a long time, I’ve lived quite comfortably and had plenty of fun. But recently, I’ve noticed some disturbing changes during my trips back in time. Normally, the deviation of events during my excursions are limited to the activities directly involving me, as one would expect. Then, a few months ago, I was reliving a week in which I made a stupid mistake when a news story online caught my attention.
I’d specifically remembered seeing a similar story the first time through the week, except now, the events had apparently played out differently. Originally, it was about how a strange explosive device had been discovered at a mall about an hour from where I lived, but it had failed to detonate, and authorities were puzzled as to its origins. Concerning, but at least nobody had been hurt. This time, however, the story was about an explosion at the same mall that had resulted in a number of casualties, and the authorities were investigating the incident, but no immediate cause could be found.
I’d hoped this was just a fluke - a situation where random chance had for whatever reason gone a different way while I was reliving a week, and not an indication of something worse. After all, it was possible that other things had been different during my previous trips to the past, but were of such trivial nature that I would have never noticed, like someone turning left instead of right at a street corner, or ordering a Big Mac instead of a Quarter Pounder with Cheese at McDonalds.
Still, the incident gnawed at me. I’d spent years making money betting on underdogs and major upsets, many of which came down to a fluke play or a string of good or bad luck, and they had never turned out different. Surely I would have encountered a change at least once before, even if it was rare. Unable to push these thoughts from my mind, I decided to perform a test.
A little while later, I pre-chose a specific date I would jump back to, and as I lived through that week, I made certain to pay close attention to every single detail as I went through each day. I even took notes, as even though I wouldn’t be able to refer back to them, I’d hoped doing so would help sear the specifics into my mind. In particular, I read as much news as I could stomach, especially anything that seemed like it could have easily played out differently and involved numerous moving parts, like a political protest involving armed participants and authorities.
After jumping back and going through the week again, I was aghast at just how many things were different the second time through. The kind of things that I was certain had never changed before in the past. The first thing I saw was that results from a number of football games showed different scores, and in some, entirely different winners and losers. I’m used to having to keep track of those sorts of things, so it was easy for me to spot immediately. There were other obvious changes as well - a celebrity I was very fond of died three days later than he had previously. But more importantly, there was another explosion.
I hadn’t seen any stories about undetonated explosive devices before I made the jump, but the blast was front-page news this time, so there’s no way I would have missed seeing it before. This was definitely a change. It was also unsettlingly similar to what had happened at the mall near me - an investigation could not determine the exact cause, but authorities were continuing to look into the matter. I don’t know why, but I felt a responsibility to figure out what had happened. Maybe because a part of me knew that if I hadn’t traveled back in time, it wouldn’t have occurred.
When I finished reliving the week, I did something I almost never do - I jumped back to go through the same week a third time. I’d memorized all the pertinent details concerning where and when the explosion would happen and prayed that it wouldn’t detonate sooner this time. The explosion was set to happen at an office building in a city several states away, but if the event occurred as it did previously, I had about a day to get there and stop it from going off again.