East Asian Funny Horror

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Soyeon would try one more time.

She stepped into the library, stretching her arms behind her, ready for another attempt. She’d get it this time for sure. Without a doubt. Everything down to the second had been memorized, and she wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

Soyeon checked the notes on her phone, then approached the table where Ji-soo studied. He didn’t know her…yet. She knew him many times over. He read through a textbook on ‘고급 생화학 - Advanced Biochemistry’, copying and highlighting notes, lounging in the silence. 

Soyeon tapped her fingers on the chair beside him.

“Is this seat taken?”

No, but I’d prefer to study alone.

“No,” Ji-soo said, looking up from his textbook, “but I’d prefer to study alone.”

A couple seconds of silence did the trick. She’d tried a dozen other ways to work the scenario: asking him about his major, complimenting his jacket, passing a note—all resulted in being waved off. 

“I’m sorry,” she said. She began a countdown in her head. “It’s just I used to study with my friend,” 15,14,13. “but she’s in Canada now. I feel uncomfortable being alone here.” 9,8,7. “I promise I won’t be a bother.”

Ji-soo nodded, gesturing to the seat.

4,3,2. A girl in a pink blouse tripped behind him, her water bottle opening mid-fall. The bottle hit the ground and spilt; the girl bit her lip on impact. She got to her feet and wiped blood from her mouth before running off.

Soyeon exhaled. The countdown had been off.

“I’ve gotten that right every other time.”

“What?” Ji-soo asked. “What are you talking-”

“I was supposed to catch her and impress you. It gets your attention.” She rolled up her sweater sleeve, revealing a silver watch with a crystal blue finish, golden hands ticking. Sleek and professional. A steal for the price she bought it for.

“Hold on, I’ll see you in five minutes.”

She hit a side button—the air distorted around her—and she appeared outside the library, five minutes in the past. One more attempt. She would get his number. 

Soyeon browsed her phone, waiting, then stepped into the library. She tapped the seat. Spoke the same line, ‘but she’s in Australia now. I feel…’ and counted down, tapping a finger against her leg for accuracy.


She stood up and reached a hand at a forty-five-degree angle. The water bottle landed in her palm. Soyeon threw it into the air, grabbed the pink blouse girl and set her straight, then once again caught the water bottle, handing it to her. Soyeon smiled and patted the girl’s shoulders, sending her off.

“That was…” Ji-soo started, “how did you do that?”

I’ve practised it twelve times.

“Oh, you know, I saw her about to trip and I had to do something. Anyways, what are you studying?”

“Bio Chem. Makes me wish I took a different major.” He looked at her arm. “I’ve never seen a watch like yours. Where’d you find it?”

Soyeon exhaled. She’d left her sleeve rolled up—not part of the plan. “Yard sale,” she said. “Some old guy was telling me it’s a one of a kind from Sweden. He priced it so cheap I could’ve found it at the dollar store. Know what it does?”

Ji-soo shook his head.

“It lets me go back five minutes. Which is frustrating, since then I have to wait for the girl to walk by, and I’m getting bored with scrolling through my phone. If it was one minute-”

“Are you alright?”

“Ah, just…I’ll be right back.”

Soyeon hit the watch. Smoke trailed out from the buttons—overuse? She didn’t care. Next attempt would be for sure. Outside the library, five minutes in the past, Soyeon waved her arm up and down to cool off the piece.

Walk in. Tap the chair. A couple seconds of silence.

“I’m sorry,” she said. 15,14,13. “It’s just I’m used to studying with my friend, but she’s in Germany now. I feel-”

“Germany?” Ji-soo said. “My brother transferred there. Which university is your friend going to?”

She clicked the side button. Smoke puffed out, the watch burning her arm. She undid the strap, a fine leather, and blew on the case to cool it down. Students passed by and gave her puzzled looks.

Another try. Walk in. Wait at the table. 

“Can I help you with something?” Ji-soo asked.

“That’s the first time you’ve asked that. Oh, I didn’t tap the damn chair.”

Reset. Catch the girl. Continue.

“Anyways,” she said, “what are you studying?”

“Bio Chem. Makes me wish I took a different major. And you?”

“Aerospace Engineering.” Soyeon reached into her bag for her books. “Orbital mechanics and all that. It’s hard, but I have a lot of time to study.”

Soyeon carried on with the conversation, referring to her phone for notes, listening to pages flipping and the tapping of laptops. Everything according to plan. This had to be it. Ji-soo laughed at her joke, and she went in for the finale.

“It’s nice studying with you. Could I get your number by chance?”

“Uh.” Ji-soo hesitated. “I’m sorry, I think you misread this.”

“Okay. Whatever. You’re impossible. One more try.”

Soyeon hit the watch, flinching as it heated up. Smoke billowed out.

“One more try what?” Ji-soo said. “Hey, is your watch burning?”

“It’s not supposed-”

The air distorted around her. Her ears popped. Her vision flashed white, then black, then into a dreamlike image of her sitting at the table. Soyeon watched a past version of herself talk from attempts ago—where she failed the countdown timing.

“I was supposed to catch her and impress you. It gets your attention.” She rolled up her sleeve. “Hold on, I’ll see you in five minutes.” She hit the watch, then collapsed forward. Her head hit the table with a thunk. Blood trickled out of her nose, eyes, and ears. Ji-soo recoiled.

The dream switched to another.

“Ah, just…I’ll be right back,” she said. The watch clicked. Smoke trailed out. Soyeon watched herself fall off the chair, hit the ground, and convulse. The dream switched. “Germany? My brother transferred there. Which university is your friend going to?” She pressed the button, then fell onto the table, eyes rolling back into her head.

Five minutes in the past, outside the library, Soyeon broke into shivers. She stumbled to the table and rested her hands on the chair. Ji-soo looked up.

“I’m not dead, am I?” she asked. “You didn’t see me die?”

“Do I know you?”

“Oh, god.” Soyeon hit the button. The visions repeated, faster, dozens this time. In her dorm, studying, pressing the watch for five more minutes. Blood leaked from her mouth and onto her notes. Getting more sleep—dying in her bed. Rewinding to make it to class in time. A dead body in the hallways.

Five minutes in the past, Soyeon rushed outside, unlocked her bike, and took off. Wind battered her hair. She shivered, trembling, struggling to keep steady. She collided with a pedestrian. They tripped onto the road—a car drove their way.

Soyeon hit the watch.

A hundred visions of her death followed.

Five minutes in the past, Soyeon pedalled to the neighbourhood where she bought the piece. The barrage of visions looped in her mind. She collapsed from her bike and stumbled onto a lawn, the old man reading a newspaper on his porch.

“You!” she called. She fell to her knees. “You have to help me. The watch-”

“Back already?” The man folded his newspaper. “How many times have you pressed it?”

“I…” she took it off, holding it out. “Hundreds. I’ve time travelled hundreds of times now.”

“It’s not time travel. That would be impossible.” He reached out to take the watch. “All you’ve been doing is creating a copy of yourself in a parallel world. Your body in the current one dies each time. I tried to explain this to you at the yard sale, but you took off.”

He grabbed a pocketknife from his jeans and flicked the blade, then popped open the back of the watch. Letters read ‘återställ’ above a pinhole.

She squinted her eyes. “I can’t read Swedish.”

“Restore.” He dropped the knife and picked up a pen, then tapped the pinhole. A series of clicking noises followed. “Good as new,” the man said. “Next time you use it, the visions and the memories of use will fade. Shoo before you do it. I don’t want your body on my lawn.” 

He returned to his sudoku puzzle, and Soyeon stumbled to the street. She raised the watch in front of her—one more death to forget it all. The hands ticked, taunting her. Who could live knowing they’ve killed themselves a hundred times over? But to continue the cycle, stuck in a loop of repeated deaths, only finding mercy in resetting the process…

Had she done it before?

Soyeon closed her eyes, then pressed her thumb against the button.

December 01, 2021 04:40

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Angel Marie
05:36 Jan 03, 2023

May I ask you if what you're country origin??? I just want this story to be on my assignment.


Alex Sultan
19:06 Jan 03, 2023

I'm from Canada, friend. Best of luck with your assignment.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Felice Noelle
23:12 Apr 01, 2022

Alex: I read this older story of yours, too, drawn in by the comments it received. I just finished reading a supposed bestseller by Haig, "The Midnight Library," It has a slightly different slant that you night find interesting; but, I much preferred yours. I won't ruin it for you, in case you want to read it, but Haig has the main character choosing different lives to try out, based on the idea that we all could have had countless different lives lived if we had just made a different decision at countless points in our lives. I liked ...


Show 0 replies

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.