prompt: dot, title: what you got in (just like) starting over flash fiction

  • May 25, 2023, 6:32 p.m.
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“Have you ever killed yourself?” Dakota just stared at him, wide-eyed, her very spine reflexively drawing her head further back from him. “I know it’s a weird thing to ask a stranger out loud, but you wanted to know what I am, that’s where it begins. Have you ever killed yourself?”

“Jesus, I mean…” how she wished she could read his mind deeply, to know where he was going with this, but all she could get from him was a grim sincerity, “the situation we’re in, it’s hard to not to want to take the easy way. I’ve tried twice. Thought about it, millions of times, of course.”

“I don’t mean,” Bobby rubbed his temples, transmitting some of the scorch from the floor onto his forehead, “I don’t mean attempting suicide, I mean killing yourself. Taking a gun or a knife, your own bare hands and murdering one of your alternate selves.” He saw a metal folding chair in one of the corners. “Can I sit down, maybe?” “Yes,” she said, taking in the fact his surface feelings made it clear he wasn’t exaggerating or lying, “of course you can sit.”

He sat, his knees popping again as he did. “The first thing that they… make us do, after they turn us into this, after they activate these powers and call us each a Zeitgeist, the first thing they do is make us go from parallel universe to parallel universe, murdering other iterations of ourselves. I was told I was killing monstrous versions of myself, before their powers could kick in too, that were even worse people than me and would abuse the abilities. They said I was killing potential Time Hitlers because most of me, most of the mes in the multiverse were just terrible people and I was nearly as bad. I was so confused and frankly hated myself so much, I believed them, at the time. I murdered thirty-five iterations of myself, connecting the dots from timeline to timeline, in my own literal blood.” He looked up at her. “You got ibuprofen on this world? I wouldn’t ask but you guys, uh, stole my backpack.” She looked toward the mirrors. “They’ll get you some.”

“Only when I met one of their other victims did I realize, they did that to all of us, had us kill off a batch of alternates. Never figured out if those versions of ourselves actually threatened them or if it was just a weird psychological control tactic or what, but they had us all do it,” he shrugged, “Miss Lennon, that’s what the hell I am.”

Two old men emerged from behind the mirrors, her uncles Kurt and Phil, handed Bobby water and pills, but they were clearly more concerned about their adoptive niece. “I had no idea you were suicidal,” one said. “Wonderful child, this awful Earth would be even worse without you,” said the other. Despite everything else, she was loved. She was all their hope left in the world.

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