Miranda knew something was wrong the moment she opened the newspaper. The reason for this wasn't the fact that the nearest movie theater was being torn down, or that a house had caught fire and burned down with a family of four inside. It was the fact that this was yesterday's news. Even the daily horoscopes were identical. Puzzled, she flipped to the front page to check the dates. November 24, same as yesterday. She pursed her lips, trying to fight the anger and gloom that surged up inside. The neighborhood children were always playing cruel pranks on her, this was just another one of their jokes. The anger fizzled out quickly, but the gloom washed over her, as per normal.
How pathetic. Tormented by children.
With shaking hands, she put the newspaper into the recycling bin and resolved to go about her day as normal. She had her breakfast, grabbed her purse and jacket, and left the house. And, as per usual, there was a gaggle of kids out on the street outside.
Normal children would sleep in until noon on a weekend, but the ones on Coachlight Drive would never fail to get up in time to meet her as she left her house at 9:15. Miranda supposed she should be flattered in a way, but… well….
"Miranda, Miranda," they chanted, as soon as they caught sight of her, "She's all bad luck! Full of doom, full of gloom, what a dumb and ugly duck! Looking for a job today? Who cares, you'll just get chucked!" Miranda pulled her coat collar tighter around her neck and locked the door, maneuvering around the children on her way to the bus stop.
"Hey Miranda, take this!" laughed one of the boys. Miranda sidestepped immediately, narrowly dodging a glob of mud, which splattered on the mailbox instead. "No way, she dodged it!" the kid said in disbelief.
Miranda glanced down at his disgruntled face, and hurried on her way. She may have been stupid, but did they really think they could get her with the same prank as yesterday?
One long bus ride later, she was in the downtown area, hunting for a job. She had a short break for lunch, and kept looking… and looking…. but there was nothing new. Defeated again. Time had passed quickly, so it was already 4:30 by the time she got back to the bus stop. She stood by the sign to wait, staring at the window of a women's fashion store. She could see her reflection in the window: tall, gangly, unattractive, with dark hair pulled back in a tight bun, a haggard face with eyes surrounded by the darkness of mascara and too little sleep. She wore a loose green shirt under a nondescript brown jacket, and worn blue jeans. Ah, how ugly. No wonder she'd been fired from 100 jobs now.
She caught sight of another woman in the reflection and for a moment wished she was that beautiful. But then she stiffened and turned to look at the woman, heart beating faster. She'd been here yesterday, stared at the same window yesterday, seen that woman yesterday. And this woman was wearing the same clothes, applying the same makeup while looking at the same compact mirror! And now that she thought about it, Miranda noticed how very familiar everything had been: the job selections, the line at McDonald's…. She'd been passing it all off as deja vu, but no one was supposed to get deja vu so much in one day!
Something weird was happening. Things were repeating themselves. But was she sure?
Miranda put a hand over her racing heart and willed it to calm. She would do the exact same things as yesterday. Go to the store, buy some food for dinner, go home and watch TV. Somewhere along the line, something would happen to break the cycle, she was sure of it. With this thought in mind, she climbed onto the bus. She sat near the back and couldn't help but watch the other passengers.
She got off the bus near the Hy-Vee closest to her house. Deciding she was in the mood for frozen pizza, she made her way over to the freezer section and was terrified by the mother and child arguing loudly over ice cream. She hadn't seen them yesterday, but she'd heard their shouting from across the store. She picked up a pizza and headed for checkout line 8. Lo and behold, it was the same timid, punkish blond kid she'd run into yesterday.
He stuttered a hello - same as yesterday! - scanned the pizza and recited the price, then mentioned somethining about a discount on gas - same as yesterday! As he turned his attention to the next person in line, Miranda grew desperate and squawked, "Excuse me, but what day is it?"
He looked startled.
"Oh. Um… It's the 24th."
She felt as if gravity had failed her for a moment and tottered out of the store in a daze.
The 24th. The 24th! Today was yesterday! How was that supposed to work? It wasn't. Today could not be yesterday, because today was always today, it could be no other! So today was the 24th, which may have been yesterday, but was also today! Her confused inner rambling was rudely cut off as a car sped by, splashing dirty water all over her. Just. Like. Yesterday. Miranda sniveled and let out a few miserable sobs, then continued on her way.
Upon reaching home, she heard the booming chimes of her grandfather clock in the living room. This had happened yesterday as well, but it didn't phase her. Clocks were supposed to chime every hour, and that normalcy was comforting. She managed a watery smile and brushed her hand across it, muttering, "Thank you, my dear."
She continued to the kitchen, heated up the pizza, and sat in front of the TV to eat. She picked a romance movie and sat there, eyes glued to the screen as she munched on the pizza. Almost forty minutes later, as the protagonists french kissed and Miranda dolefully told herself that no one would kiss someone as useless as herself, a loud shriek came from outside. Without thinking she leapt up, dashed over and threw open the window, leaning out to spot the source. She was greeted with the same view as yesterday. Mrs. Wheeler was attempting to strangle her husband, leaning halfway out the window as she screeched about him cheating on her, despite his gurgles of "I would never," and "but I love you!"
Miranda shut her window and forced herself not to hyperventilate. She knew what would happen. Their shouts would draw Mother's attention, and the old lady would be there within three minutes, screeching at the both of them about how stupid they were. She'd whack them over the head with her cane and storm off back to her house, scowling all the way. Crisis averted.
Sure enough, a minute later the old woman's voice joined the din.
"MARY WHEELER WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING?"
Miranda held up one hand and hit the power button on the TV. The pattering from the rainy scene cut off abruptly, leaving the room in silence save for the yelling next door. She sighed. She couldn't take any more of this. Pizza forgotten, she walked to her bedroom and flopped on the bed, not even bothering to change her clothes. Maybe she could just sleep off this horrible day, and she would wake up tomorrow and it would all be a very bad dream.
Her dream was awful. She imagined herself running around and around on a record, which was playing backwards on a gramophone. It was dark, but a gold line glowed overhead, dotted here and there with gleaming spheres. There was an odd, ticking melody all around. The melody was nice, but the running backwards was far too much like her repeat-day for her comfort.
As it was, she woke before her alarm and gazed up at the ceiling for a while before heaving a sigh and rolling out of bed. She slowly walked over to her dresser and pulled open a drawer. She inhaled sharply. There, on top of the stack of clean shirts, was a loose green one. Hadn't she worn that to bed? Miranda looked down- she was wearing her long-sleeved purple pajamas. For a moment she just stood there, staring at her sleeve, and then she took off. She flung the front door open, snatched up the newspaper, and whipped it open right there on the porch.
November 24th. Yesterday again.
She collapsed against the doorframe. What the hell was she supposed to do now? Panic? Of course! Wait, no. She needed to persevere. She would make sense of this, somehow. And with that in mind, she lifted her head, nodded to herself, and decided to go about the day as usual. She hadn't expected it to be so damaging on her psyche.
Everything was the same. From the kids throwing mud to the job offerings and line at McDonald's. Honestly, someone had to realize what was going on!
And so it happened that Miranda broke down at the bus stop. The question had been plaguing her all day, so she turned to the woman with the makeup and stuttered, "U-um, excuse me…."
The woman looked up disinterestedly. Miranda fought the urge to back down and plowed on instead. "H-h-haven't you gotten tired of that outfit? It's been three days now…." The woman gave her a look of incredulous rage.
"Excuse me?" she shrieked, drawing the attention of bystanders. "Are you saying I look ugly? Last week's fashion?"
"No, that's not what I meant at all!" said Miranda, horrified.
"Well you're certainly one to talk, dressed like that," the woman hissed. Miranda pulled her jacket tighter, even as she began to shrink. She wished the ground would swallow her up, and was relieved when the bus finally showed up. She stopped at the grocery store again to pick up a sandwich before heading home, splashed again by dirty water (she really should've seen it coming), and had her meal in front of the TV, uninterrupted in her misery until the Wheelers went at it again. She tried to focus more on the Doctor Who episode, but as Mother's voice joined in, she got an idea.
Now, Mother was an elderly lady who lived across from Miranda, their backyards divided by a drainage ditch. She was well known among the surrounding neighborhoods as the person to go to if you wanted to get things sorted out, and she commanded respect from everyone. Everyone else looked to her for advice, why not Miranda? Even if this problem was something no one had ever approached her about….
It took Miranda a good twenty minutes to talk herself into it, and by then Mother was long gone from the neighboring house. As the grandfather clock began to chime again, Miranda forced herself off the couch and pulled on her shoes. She hesitated by the glass door. Now or never. She had to get help from somewhere, or she'd go insane. She sucked in a breath and seized the tiny ray of courage, and threw open the door without another thought. She charged down the hill, through the little trickle of water, and up the other side, leaping onto the porch and knocking on the glass door.
It was only after she did this that she realized how strange it was to have someone come to the back door. Odd. Suspicious. Rude. She couldn't run to the front and try again, because then the old lady would think it was a prank and be angry, and ooh…. she'd gotten herself into a mess again. So she just stood there and wrung her hands anxiously until she saw someone enter the little sitting room beyond. It was Mother's gardener, Barba, if she recalled. He was practically a giant, with a bald head and a baby face, who loved nothing more than Mother and his flowers. Normally he was all smiles, but he seemed a bit startled now. Probably because she was at the back door. And she may have trampled a flowerbed on her way here. OH GOD. She had, hadn't she? She clapped her hands to her face and let out a wail of despair. Barba hastened to open the door, but before he even touched the handle, words were spilling out of Miranda's mouth.
"AIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEE! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! I'm a creep at your back door and I crashed through your flowerbeds and ruined your hard work! I'm so useless! So useless!"
She kept babbling, and Barba held up his hands. "It's all okay, miss, you've done nothing wrong…." Miranda just sobbed harder.
"What the hell's with all the noise tonight?" grumbled an aged voice, and Mother shuffled into view. She was short, with a slightly hunched back, long gray hair tumbling over her shoulders and face round and heavily wrinkled. She raised an eyebrow at the sight of Miranda. "You're the woman who lives behind us, right?" Miranda hiccuped and nodded.
"I'm s-so sorry to bother you, but I really need help and everyone says you're wonderful with advice…."
Mother sighed tiredly. "Fine. Sit down," she said, gesturing at the faded sofa with her cane, "and we'll talk. Barba, could you please…?"
"Of course, Mother," he said with a smile, and left the room.
Mother sat heavily on the sofa, and Miranda sank onto the opposite cushion. After a slight pause, Mother asked, "What's troubling you, dear?" She sounded much softer. Miranda inhaled deeply and clasped her hands in her lap.
"Well you see… that's the third time you've gone to break up the Wheelers' argument…."
"With him cheating on her every other week, I'm surprised it's not more," Mother chuckled.
"No, that's not what I meant," said Miranda, blushing and bowing her head in shame. "I mean the same argument with the same words at the same time. It's been yes- er, 'today' for three days now." She glanced up at Mother to gauge her reaction. She half expected to be yelled or laughed at, but no, just a raised eyebrow.
"Three days," she repeated, with a hint of skepticism.
"Yes. Every morning I've gotten up, eaten breakfast, and read the same newspaper. When I leave the house the children tease me and try to throw mud at me. I take the bus downtown to look for jobs without any luck, and end up at the same bus stop with the same blond woman applying makeup. I go to the grocery store to get dinner. On the walk home I'm splashed by dirty water. I eat in front of the TV, and at 6:45 on the dot, the Wheelers fight. You come to break up the fight shortly thereafter. By then I'm so tired I go to bed. But I get up the next day to find everything the same as yesterday- same clothes ready to wear, same amount of money in my wallet, everything." Miranda's voice trembled as she said this, and Mother's brow furrowed.
"Have you tried talking to anyone else about this?" she asked.
"I asked the woman at the bus stop, but she didn't seem to realize it was happening. No one does. Am… am I going insane?" said Miranda.
"Well, I certainly haven't noticed such a thing," Mother murmured. Miranda bowed her head further in despair. "Miss Lotto." A gnarled hand rested atop hers, and she looked up. Mother's face was stern, but her eyes were soft. "Just because an old crone like me doesn't notice, doesn't mean something's not happening. I don't know what's going on, so I'm unable to do anything about it. But I do have some advice for you," she said.
"You do?" said Miranda, barely daring to believe it.
"Yes. If this happens again, if tomorrow is still 'today,' I want you to sit down in front of a mirror. I want you to look at your reflection and tell it everything that's bothering you." She gave a crooked grin. "Then we'll see how crazy you are."
Miranda wondered whether she was was supposed to feel insulted, but there was something in the way she'd said it that made it seem like more was lingering beneath the surface.
"Tell my reflection?" she whispered. Mother nodded sagely.
"That's all I've got, really. Do you want some tea? Barba can put on a kettle…."
"No, no, I don't think so. But thank you," said Miranda, standing up. "I think I'll go home. I'm afraid I left the door open, silly me…." She chuckled unevenly.
"Good night then, Miss Lotto," said Mother with a smile. "I hope tomorrow comes for you."
Miranda hoped so too.
That night she had a nightmare. it wasn't the record, but it made her miss the backwardness.
No, this time she was kneeling in the dark, unable to see anything beyond herself and the object in her hands- a set of headphones with crosses on the sides. The floor below was wet and smelled like something she just couldn't identify, though it lingered at the edge of her mind. It wasn't the imagery that scared her. She just knew, deep down in her bones, that these headphones belonged to someone who was supposed to be here. He wasn't, and it terrified her. And then she realized blood was soaking into her jeans.
Miranda jolted awake seconds before the alarm went off. The beeping scared her out of her wits, and with a shriek, she attacked it. The clock toppled off the nightstand, muffled slightly by the carpet. At that point she realized what the noise was, and calmed herself down. Deep breaths. Deep breaths. Once sufficiently calm, she picked up the clock and turned it off.
She was wearing purple pajamas again. She'd made sure to wear the pink set, but no, purple. Opening the dresser confirmed her fears. All the shirts were clean. But because she was still in denial, she walked to the front door and opened it. The newspaper sat on the porch, in the same place as every other November 24th. Miranda gave the thing her best 'bad luck laserbeam.' The paper was unfazed. Damn it all. So she picked it up and surveyed the contents.
November 24. She wanted to cry.
She dropped the paper right there on the porch and slouched back inside. She hauled herself back to her bedroom, grabbing a chair from the kitchen as she went. She stood this in front of her dresser and plunked down onto it. Above her dresser there was a large rectangular mirror, set in a simple wooden frame. It was conveniently placed, so…. She stared at her reflection, and was struck by just how tired she looked. Her lips twisted, and she forced herself to look directly into her own eyes. Might as well try Mother's advice.
"Today is the fourth November 24th," she said to herself. "Everything's the same. The people, the events, the weather, everything. No one remembers. It's like the time keeps resetting itself and I'm the only one who notices. I… I can't take another day of this. It's too much."
She stared for a bit longer, and her shoulders slumped. She looked utterly defeated. "I'm insane," she muttered, reaching up to wipe her eyes. "I've gone crazy." She chuckled a bit through her tears. After a while she gave up on trying to stop the flow. Who was there to watch her, anyway? Her hands fell to her sides. She blinked her eyes a little clearer and gave the mirror a watery smile.
Her expression froze. Slowly, it morphed into terror, and she screamed. Because suddenly, that wasn't her reflection anymore.
And here's the first chapter of my more modern, AU Rewinding City. Miranda will be the main character, but in later chapters there will be shifting POVs...