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Mary opened her eyes to a pounding on her chest. She coughed up water and focused her blurred vision. A figure in a black sweatshirt with the hood up was punching her chest in a fevered attempt to waken her. The invisible face behind the shadow of the hoodie saw her open her eyes and immediately ran away. Mary heard a loud pop, and propped herself up on one elbow. She pushed her red hair out of her face. The mysterious person was gone. Mary looked around. She was soaking wet and under a bridge. She heard the lapping water below and assumed she fell into the lake. The hooded figure must have pulled her out and saved her life. Mary checked her pockets. Her phone no longer worked and her purse was gone. She looked up into the night sky. She tried to remember how she fell into the lake. What was the last thing she did? Mary held her head. The last day she remembered was a Friday. She'd gone to the laundromat and had just gotten off of work and gotten home. Had she made it home? Was it still Friday? Someone had come to her apartment that morning. Someone with a crazy invention, claiming that that they were going to change the world. Her head throbbed and she got up. Headlights gleamed in the distance and she hitched a ride back into the city. Walking up to her apartment, she felt a hard object in her back pocket. She reached in and pulled out a small, blue, pen-like object. Had that always been in her pocket? Mary thought nothing of it and continued. She turned on the lights and gasped. Her entire apartment had been ransacked. Tables overturned, the rugs torn up, and drawers on the floor. Mary almost threw up. In the middle of the apartment, two dead bodies lay in blood. Were these the burglars? She went to the sink and almost puked, but held it back when she looked over at her refrigerator and saw her alphabet magnets had been moved. They spelled "GET OUT MARY" and she widened her eyes. Who had put that? Nevertheless, she felt it was serious. She ran for the door and descended the stairs rapidly. The ground beneath her shook as she burst through the buildings door. Looking up, the fourth floor windows were blown out by flames grasping at the night sky. She covered her open mouth and began to feel light headed. A hand reached her shoulder and a man's voice said "Come with me, Mary." She turned around and saw the hand's owner. A tall man with white hair and dark, grim eyes, Eyes that had seen a lot in their day. She knew the man. She did not know how, but beyond a doubt knew this man. Her head began to painfully throb again and was only halfway into the car when she fainted.
Mary re-awoke in a brightly lit room. The man was in front of her tinkering on a metallic doorway which didnt seem to lead anywhere. He closed the heavy steel door and turned to face her.
"Hello Mary. You've had quiet a night, haven't you? Well, it's not going to start getting easier now." Mary shook her head, trying to think clearly.
"Who are you?"
"Well, I'm a...protector, I suppose you could say. When someone performs an action in life that isnt in their Plan, I step in to correct it. You created such a deviation."
"Wha...What? Did I break the law or something?" The man seemed to find this amusing.
"No no, dear, just a small slip up. I'm not with the police. However, in order to fix this small error, only you can fix it. I, nor anyone else, can interfere in your life in this way."
"In what way?" He motioned towards the doorway.
"This is a Quantum Displacement Machine, or in your terms a time machine." Mary stared at the man, then the machine, then back at the man.
"Mary, I'd love to give you time to take all this in and such, but we need to act quickly. The only way we can travel through time is when a small hole is teared through space when someone deviates from their Plan, like you did. This door accesses that tear. Now, you need to walk through this door, and you'll be-"
"Wait wait, you want me to go back in time?"
"Yes, now you will be placed in the middle of the city, about six blocks away from your apartment. You need to go to your place and convince yourself to test this brand new invention." He handed her a small clear orb." Mary remembered someone coming to her apartment and asking her to accept some crazy invention. Was this it?
"Come on now, Mary." She looked down at the orb and back up at the door. She walked towards it and opened it. A bright light illuminated from far beyond the door, a light she did not see before.
"So I just convince myself to use this?"
"Yes, and you must also be in the room. Just have her touch the orb at the same moment you do. We must fix this error." Mary took a hesitant steop forward into the machine, and her body immediately felt like it was being torn in all directions. She blinked and suddenly found herself in the middle of the street, still clutching the orb. She looked around her and jumped out the way of a speeding car. Placing the orb in her pocket, Mary fast-walked to her apartment. She stopped to grab a newspaper out of a garbage can, and her mouth fell open. It was January ninth, 2009. She had been transported back four years. Mary sprinted to her apartment and rapped on the door.
Seeing the pale hand wrap around the wooden door and pull it open gave Mary the chills. She saw herself standing on the door step in front of her. Mary, panting, quickly explained what happened. Her opposite was equally stunned. Mary forced her way in.
"Look, my face is all the proof you need. I'm you! We just have to use this device and everything will be fine." Mary placed the device on the table between them. "We just have to touch it at the same time."
"Are you sure?" Her counterpart seemed more accepting than she'd expected. Mary supposed it was because of the one-hundred percent copy of her own self standing in her kitchen. The second Mary placed her index finger on the orb, as Mary herself did the same. The orb began to hum softly and the same tearing of the body ripped through Mary. After blinking, both Mary's found themselves in the same room, but empty. Mary looked down at the orb, then up at herself. They looked around, and just as Mary was about to say something, a knife lunged from behind the steel door and stuck the past-Mary in the back.The same man who had picked Mary up from her exploding apartment was the wielder. He stepped out and let the dead body slump to the floor. Mary screamed in horror and dropped the orb. The man looked up. Not knowing what he would do, Mary noticed the gleaming light still coming from the steel door. She dove into it, and landed on the hard concrete of the 2009 pavement. She got up and for the second time dodged a car. Looking around, Mary saw a mind-boggling sight. She saw herself, stooped over a garbage can, reading a newspaper. Realizing the situation, she catches up with herself and explains the new situation.
"So that man is planning to kill me when I use this orb and it takes me back?"
"No, he's going to kill her!" Mary sat on the curb and considered the options. If only they could overpower the man. Have the element of surprise.
"Wait, do you still have the invention?" The counterpart produced the orb.
"What if we use it to go forward to just after I left? We could get him to tell us why he wants us dead." Both Mary's nodded. They gripped the device and after blinking, located the man reaching for the doorway, where Mary had just left. Both girls tackled the stunned man and he fell against the empty floor and his knife clattered next to him.
"Wait a minute." Mary said, realizing the floor was empty. "Where did that dead body go?" Struggling, the man was happy to explain.
"Since you apparently stopped yourself from completing the initial task, there was never a body to kill."
"Why do you want me dead?"
"I told you, you made an error."
"You said I was going to fix that!"
"You were! I knew you wouldn't kill yourself voluntarily, I had to give you an incentive."
"Kill myself?" Mary looked at her other self, who was quietly listening.
"Yes. Whenever an error is made, the person cant go on living. The damage to everyone else's Plans would be too catastrophic to even calculate. And the only way the person can be taken care of is if they kill their past selves before they make the mistake, so that then they cease to live and no one elses lives are changed. And all the Plans of people who ever met you are adjusted accordingly."
Mary thought a while.
"Wait, so if you killed my old self, why am I still here?"
"You were fading. I saw it even as you were jumping through the machine. But the minute you stopped your old self from the primary objective, you were saved." Mary shook her head. This was all too much.
"Ok, what if I stop myself from ever making the error? That has to count for something."
"It won't do anything." The man shook his head. "The chances of success are too small"
"So there is a chance?" The man sighed. "When and where did I make the error?" She picked up the knife and pointed it at his face.
"Ok, ok." He sighed. "Today at 3:32 and fifteen seconds, you made the mistake at the E-Z Laundromat on the corner of your street."
"What was the mistake?" The man stared at the knife.
"Not even I know that." She inched forward the knife. "I swear, its above my pay-grade." She believed him.
"Ready?" She was looking at her counterpart and it nodded. They took a zip tie that was being used to hold together some wires, and restrained the man to a desk in the room that was bolted to the floor.
The tearing at her insides subsided as Mary and herself arrived on the usual spot on the street, this time in 2011. Immediately, they ran to the apartment and camped out across the street. After three minutes, they saw yet another Mary exit the building. Then, they opened their mouths in horror. The man they had just restrained to a desk was currently following Mary out of her apartment.
"Whats he doing here?" Mary's counterpart asked.
"I...I have no idea.Um, you follow her, and I'll follow him." Mary quickly caught up to about ten steps behind the man, and her counterpart entered the laundromat to explain the newer situation. The man ahead turned into an alley, and Mary followed. As she rounded the corner, the man was no where to be seen. She saw a doorway and ran up to it, thinking he escaped through it. She opened it just a black cloth covered her face and a strong aroma filled her nose.
Once again, Mary woke in the brightly lit room. She looked down at the desk beneath her arms, where in just a few years the man sitting before her would be tied up to.
"Hello Mary. Considering there are two copies of you, I can only assume that the error you made today was not resolved by me in the future. This has to end. If you had enough time to come all the way to the time where you made the error, then this has gone on long enough. I have here," He dumped a large square aluminum case on the table."half of a small bomb. I want you to place it in your apartment, connecting it to the other half." Mary expected to argue and fight with the man, but instead she was covered again with the black cloth and thrown through the Quantum Displacement Machine. Mary ripped off the cloth and dodged yet a third speeding automobile. The case lay next to her, and she wondered what year it was, She knew it must be the future. The man wouldn't send her back. He'd send her forward and have men waiting for her however many years later it was. Sure enough, she noticed several very large men who were watching her every move. She began to head for her apartment and stopped at a trashcan. She looked up and saw a man mutter something into his cuff link. January 9, 2013. It was the same day she was pulled out of the lake and her apartment...exploded. Mary suddenly felt a sharp poking in her side. One of the men was sticking a gun into her back.
Mary complied, and made it to her apartment. She walked the steps and the man did not follow. He was probably scared of the bomb in her hands. He did however give her another command.
"Make sure its connected."
She used the key she hid in the potted plant next to her door to enter her apartment. Her apartment had already been ransacked, whatever the reason. She searched for the connecting half of the bomb. She turned over already turned over tables and threw things around, searching for it. The escort from below got impatient and knocked on the door.
"What is it?" She asked.
"Under the bookcase in your bedroom." Mary turned and went into her bedroom. She had a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that she got behind. Using all her strength, she tipped it over. The outline of a trapdoor was etched into the floorboards. She lift the door and found an oddly shaped mechanical piece inside. She went back to the kitchen and opened the case. The pieces matched perfectly, much to her disappointment. She reinserted the bomb into the trapdoor and closed the lid. How did these people get into her house and alter her floors? She got up and threw some books on the trapdoor to conceal the outlines. She suddenly realized what the hell she was doing. This was suicide. She was planting the bomb that would detonate and kill her. But, this bomb did go off and she didn't die. Someone warned her. She looked at her refrigerator. Her alphabet letters were randomly scattered, holding various notes and pictures. She spelled out the warning and left. On her way down, she stopped. She was walking down to the tough guy who was either going to kill her here, kill her later, or send her back to the man in the brightly lit room who would kill her. She thought. She had nothing to fight the man with. She checked her pockets again. The pen-like device was still in her back pocket. She held it tightly and thought. The thug below was getting impatient. He banged on the door, which startled her. She dropped the device and it fell below. She ran down to get it. She picked it up just as it rolled into a puddle of water. Tugging. Tugging at her body. She blinked, and was suddenly in the middle of another road. She grabbed a newspaper. December 25, 2000. She looked back at the pen. It could travel through time just like the orb. She didn't know how to control it though. She tapped it against her chin and went back to thinking of Chad. He'd be protecting her right now. Like that Christmas when some men cornered her in an alley and her beat them up. She looked down at the newspaper. That Christmas Chad had saved her had been in 2000. She traveled back to the date she was thinking of when the pen touched the water, Mary looked around and saw a man drinking out of a water bottle, She ran up to him and thought as hard as she could about one specific time. She poured the water on the pen and blinked. She immediately ran for the apartment. As she rounded the corner, she felt the rumbling beneath her feet. She ran to the door of the apartment and collided with herself just as her opposite was leaving the building. She grabbed her arm and ran to an abandoned building a few blocks down. once inside, she was greeted with hostile questions. She stepped into the light and the sight of her own face was enough to silence her counterpart. Mary explained the newest situation.
Her counterpart reached into her own back pocket and produced a blue device.
"Yeah, I don't remember putting this in my pocket at all today." Mary looked down. She realized that the exact moment when her memory began to fade was when she was putting on her jeans in the morning. The blue device had rolled out from under her bed and she almost put it in her pocket.
"I never did put it in my pocket." Her counterpart finished her thoughts. She was right. That must have been the error. But how did they have it now?
"Maybe you or I give it to the past us." Mary thought about it.
"You're right. We never had this when we left. We left our clothes at the laundromat, realized we were late for work, and went straight there. I have to go back and give it to myself. It has to be after we wake up at the bridge. You wait here. Mary stuck the pen in a nearby puddle and thought of the time. She turned, and instead of dodging the usual car, she stood her ground. The car came to a screeching halt and she pointed the blue pen at the man. Who knows what it looked like at night. The driver clearly assumed the worst, and ran from the car. She got in and sped off, headed to the bridge. She drove to the place where she had been near the lake, and suddenly a person ran in front of the car. They jumped and slammed into the windshield. Mary got out to see if they were okay, but by the time she checked the person had run off. Mary got back in and drove just ten feet until she saw herself cross the street. She looked in the back and put on a hat, using it to cover her face. The girl got in and gave the address she would like to be taken to. Mary made sure to avoid street lamps to make sure the inside of the car stayed dark. She dropped herself off and as the girl was exiting, slid the extra blue-pen device into the girls back pocket. Mary drove around the block. Nearing a puddle, she stopped the car, got out, and returned to her post-explosion counterpart.
"Ok, so that man sold us the pen this morning, we chose to not bring it with us to the laundromat and work, and now you gave it to yourself so that you could travel through time once the man captures you?"
Mary thought. "I guess so. But that man must have been doing something else in the apartment. If he interfered with me that means he already knew I'd screw up."
"Or maybe you already had screwed up. Maybe not bringing the pen wasn't the error."
"The man had be plant a bomb in the apartment, but half of it was already there. He must have planted the bomb while he was in there this morning!" They ran into the building and used the spare key to get in. Mary ran to the bookcase and tipped it over. The trapdoor was there. She opened it and-
"Nothing." It was empty.
"Maybe it was somewhere else first?" They frantically looked around the apartment. Searching everywhere, hopelessly, for the half of the bomb. Turning over tables and emptying drawers, Mary began to cry. She collapsed and her counterpart sat next to her.
"He must have done it later." Mary slammed her hands against the floor.
"Why is this happening to me!" She screamed and cried into the wood floor, while her counterpart stroked her back. Mary had just started to calm down when her opposite stopped. Mary looked up. Her counterpart was gone. She looked around, and saw no one. Then she remembered what the man had said about fading. Mary didn't know why she hadn't faded yet. Maybe she still had a purpose to serve. She thought. All the help she had revived had been given by her own self. The message on the refrigerator, the drive home, the pen. There must be one more thing Mary needed to do ensure her own survival. Then she knew. She knew what she had to do. She bolted for the door. As she was reaching for the handle, she heard voices coming up the stairs. She backed into the kitchen and grabbed one of the knives off the ground. Crouching behind the counter, she heard two men come in.
"There's a trapdoor in the bedroom, put it in there." The bomb. They were planting it now. Mary peeked around the corner and saw one man enter the bedroom while the other looked around the rest of the apartment.
"Geez, someone messed this place up." She sprang up, covered the man's mouth, and stabbed him in the back. As he yelled, the other man dropped the man into the trapdoor loudly.
"You say something?" The man yelled. Mary hid behind the overturned table and waited for the man to come out. He saw the dead body and knelt down to check if he was breathing. Mary pounced on him and stabbed him multiple times. When he died, she ran out the room to fulfill her purpose. She grabbed her blue pen-like device and stuck it in a puddle. When she appeared, she ran to the bridge. It was a two mile run, but she feared taking a car could cause too many variables. She had placed herself about forty minutes before she appeared to steal the car. When she finally arrived at the bridge, she saw no body. She ran passed a street vendor, and stopped. What if her counterpart awoke and saw her? Mary waited for the vendor to turn, and stole a black sweatshirt from the cart. Mary waited for something, anything to happen. She tried remembering what had happened to make her loose her memory after she got off work. Someone had dumped her in the river. What was her error? Mary thought as she saw a black van pull up under the bridge and heard a loud splash. As the fan was driving off, she saw the driver. It was the man. It was always him. He had been waiting after work to pick her up. To kidnap her and drug her so that she would forget. Then feed her a story about how she made a mistake and had to kill herself. She remembered. He had been laughing. There was no terrorist motives, no politics, just amusement. He had obtained the technology to travel through time, and used it to torment Mary for his entertainment. He put on a facade to make her think he was like a guardian of sorts. She was furious. Once the van was completely out of sight, she ran down the hill She arrived at herself. Her wet red hair was sprawled across her face. Giving herself mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was a strange experience, but when there was still no breathing, Mary started to panic. She pumped on the chest a few times and returned to mouth-to-mouth. She became frantic, feverishly pounding on the chest over and over. Finally, the eyes fluttered open. The girl coughed up water and blinked rapidly. Mary quickly ran away and accidentally slipped on a rock and slammed her knee into the rocks. Her leg made a loud popping noise and she limped up the hill as quickly as she could. Looking down at her leg, she limped onto the road, just a car came around the bend, she tried jumping out of the way, but hit the windshield. The driver stopped to get out, but Mary was already hiding behind a bush.
I won't let you do this to me. She thought. She took the blue pen and limped over to a water fountain. You can't take my life away from me for your enjoyment. She thought of the time, and turned on the fountain.
"Hello mam, my name is Amy West with the Neighborhood Watch. I just want to remind you of a few procedures we have regarding strangers." Mary stood in her doorstep, patiently listening to the blond woman wearing a hat much too large for her. It covered her whole face. When Amy was finished, she turned to leave. She bumped into a man on the way down the stairs. She must have bumped him pretty hard, because that man fell down the stairs very hard, without even the chance to blink. He just wanted to inform that nice woman Mary about a revolutionary new product. A crowd formed around the man, but the blond lady was nowhere to be found.
Mary ditched the large hat and blond wig. You can't take away what makes me who I am. My destiny. You messed with things beyond your control. I'm going to live my life. You should have lived yours a little better.