[YoU knOw th_at yoU caN't es_cApe us A-A-Alex. iT is nEveR th_at easY.]

There are times when Alex doesn't know what's real anymore. The deja vu will come just a little too strong, the timelines will lay just a little too close, and suddenly she'll be unable to tell if she's living or dreaming anymore. She has lived every variation of their time on the island, woken up to every scenario on the ferry home, she will think that she's made it finally, with or without the others (too many changes to count how many times she has-hasn't lost them), then will step onto the pier right back onto it again about to step onto the ferry to the island to redo the entire experience all over again.

(Explaining it like that, even in her own mind, is part of the reason she hates time loops so much more than she thought she would at the beginning of all this. It's still annoying as ever, if not more so, but now it has the added element of confusion.)

The others notice when it happens now, too.

She was good at brushing it off when the lapses first started happening. A reassuring smile, a joke cracked at the right time, and she was golden. Their concerned glances turned to conspiring grins or rolled eyes, and she was home free. Lately though, it's been getting harder. She stares off into the distance for too long, freezes too noticeably, gets a look in her eyes that can't be explained away. A smile and some puns aren't enough to get the others to look away anymore.

She's lived through their concern enough times now to be able to track their though processes. 1) Is Alex possessed? No, she's herself right now. 2) Did Alex hit her head at some point during all of this? No, we were with her, and there's no sign of an injury. 3) Has Alex started going off the deep end? Maybe. Alex can answer that one herself.

It's hard not to have that thought sometimes, when she sees Clarissa's body falling from the window and no longer feels horror, or when she tries to close the source of the anomalies again and thinks I might actually die this time without feeling any fear. It's hard not to think it when she gets lost in the past, in past conversations and past actions and past thoughts and past past past that will become the present current now and the future then soon.

(Her thoughts travel in loops these days too: get off the boat, get on the boat, go to the island, try to change something, change not enough, try to leave the island, try to save everyone, succeed-and-or-fail, get off the island, get off the boat, rinse and repeat.)

The days when she drifts off are the days she wonders if this is what the ghosts meant when they said that she didn't understand what they were feeling. There is simply no explaining the Void, the inescapable pocket of space-time where you simply exist, remembering what others have forgotten and to a certain degree being forgotten yourself. Parts of you that you share with those you love get forgotten and after a while it is too tiring to keep reminding them so you let it go, and so bit by bit you fade away.

Alex can kind of understand now why the ghosts choose to stay on the cursed island. At least they remember each other, and at least none of them forget what has happened, unlike everyone else they might encounter. There are days when she would give anything for one of her friends to show some recognition at what is happening, and there are days when she thinks she sees that spark in their eyes that she's been looking for, but those days are always the worst because they are the shortest, and they are the days where she doesn't save anyone because they aren't allowed to remember like she is and like the ghosts are.

(She wonders how long it will take for her t like the ghosts keep telling her she will, how long it will take to breakapart like the smashed case of an hourglass, letting time spill out over the floor in the shape of sand. She wonders if there will be anyone to sweep up her pieces when that happens, to give her some semblance of a form before she becomes one of the ghosts herself.)

She doesn't think she'll really escape, and she tries not to think about the fact that a part of her has given up hoping that there will be one. After all, there is only so much of this that a person can take, and sooner or later she'll reach her limit.

[tHen sh_e'lL joiN tHe oth_Ers on The iSl_anD in lOokinG foR a N_ew to_y to p-p-plAy wIth.]