I parked my car in the gravel lot and walked toward the rusty “Scenic Overlook” sign. It was the same as I remembered. Though the stone wall of cemented stones looked like erosion had taken a toll on it. I rested my arms on it and leaned my head over the edge. Waves crashed far below, losing their never-ending battle against the massive boulders off the shore. I used to look at the view every morning on my run, but that was years ago. Back before Mrs. Leary. Back when I ran for myself. Back when I wasn’t running from anything.
I moved here just over thirty years ago when I was twenty-two. It was 2022. I was fresh out of college and just starting my first job as an analyst. It paid the bills but I really wanted to be a cop. Burgundy, OH was a nice enough town. Cheap rent and good people. It sat right up against Lake Erie which made it a popular tourist stop during the summer. I used to run every day. Rain or shine I’d lace up my Nikes and be out the door by 6:30 am. My route was nothing too interesting. Up and down my surrounding neighborhood streets until I hit six miles. When you really give yourself over to a routine, you notice everyone else’s. The same grey Ford passed me on mile two. They usually gave me a wave or flashed their lights if it was dark. On mile three I’d pass the window of Rob Morrison’s deli. It was closed, but sometimes I got a glimpse of him in the back, prepping for the day. I liked that routine. Not just because of the running, but because of the people I saw. They were part of my day, and I was part of theirs.
My favorite part of the morning was when my running app told me my run was over. It happened at the same spot every time; right outside Mrs. Leary’s house. She was an old sweet lady who I presumed to be in her mid-seventies. When I first moved there, she’d wave as I passed. After a few weeks, she started asking “You want some water, hun?”. Not long after that, she’d have two hot cups of coffee, a bottle of water, and a modest breakfast ready and waiting for me to finish my exercise. We hadn’t known each other aside from me being the kid who jogged outside her house at 7:30 each morning, but we became close. I never met my grandparents. I guess I assumed they died before I was born but never got confirmation on that. If I had to guess, this is what having a grandma felt like. I don’t remember the specifics of what we talked about, but we’d shoot the shit for a good hour before I’d walk the half mile back to my apartment.
As the years went on, she got older and missed a few mornings. Couldn’t blame her, though it did disappoint me and usually never happened more than two days in a row. As selfish as it sounds, I sometimes wish I would have never met her. She was a wonderful lady, but damn did she leave me a mess to clean up. Not that getting murdered was her fault.
It was a cool morning, on the cusp of autumn 2025. I had already waved to the grey Ford and saw Mr. Morrison loading his front window up with fresh cold cuts. On cue, the voice in my headphones told me I’d finish my jog. I looked up at Mrs. Leary’s porch which was empty for the third day in a row. Three days was the longest we hadn’t had our morning coffee together. Can’t exactly tell you what flipped in my head but I decided to check on her. I opened the screen and knocked on the old wood door. After a couple of cycles of waiting and knocking I walked around back, peering through windows on my way. I couldn’t see much as most of them had the blinds drawn. One didn’t but required me to climb on the air conditioner to see through. Once on top, I cupped my hands around the sides of my head to see clearly and saw nothing out of the ordinary. It was the kitchen I had been in multiple times, as clean as ever. The tiled floor was perfectly white and there were two clean coffee mugs on the drying rack. I hopped down and made my way to the backyard, which at one point was surely a beautiful garden. Over the years, it had taken over the yard and looked like its own self-sustaining ecosystem. I walked up the back stairs to the door and resumed my knock-wait cycle. Eventually, I got restless and worried so I tried the handle. It was unlocked.
“Mrs. Leary?” I shouted. There was no reply but the silence was deafening. I continued through the living room which looked normal enough and up the stairs to the second floor. The lacquer on each step had worn off over the years of ups and downs. I could feel my heart beating after each step I climbed and I was positive it had nothing to do with the jog. The wallpaper was an off-white floral design. Out of date, yes, but definitely in line with Mrs. Learny’s personality and taste in fashion. Once on the second floor, the bathroom was directly ahead. I peeked inside but nothing notable stood out. In fact, the immaculate condition of the house was jarring in and of itself. After walking through the other bedrooms, I got to what had to be Mrs. Leary’s room. The door was closed but unlocked. I turned the nob and the door jumped open as if it were a challenge to get closed. I opened the door further, slowly revealing a tidy and organized bedroom, complete with a vanity and record player. As it swung further open, the foot of what had to be Mrs. Leary’s bed came into view, paired with her feet poking upward from under the sheets.
Looking back, I find it quite interesting how in that moment of seeing her feet, I was absolutely positive about what had happened. Poor Mrs. Leary had slipped away in her sleep. No family or friends, aside from me, noticed her absence. To be honest, my first thought was confusion about who to call. Whatever emotions I initially felt sprinted away when the door was fully open. I saw it for what had to be less than a second, yet I see it in my head every time I close my eyes. Mrs. Leary had clearly been shot once in the head while she was asleep. She looked so peaceful as if she was just sleeping, but the black hole on the center of her forehead told the true grizzly tale. My memories of what happened after are a blur. I remember calling the police but I have no recollection of how I got to the police station. Honestly, the next thing I remember clearly is punching in the code to my apartment.
I showered for the first time that day, nearly eight hours after my morning jog. Afterward, I called my boss to explain why I hadn’t logged on for work that day, and why I likely wouldn’t for a few more. There seemed to be a film of grey over everything that week. The colors were dull and eating food made me nauseous. I didn’t run. I didn’t wave to the grey Ford or Mr. Morrison. I tried to distract myself and pass the time with movies I enjoyed but the sight of her laying there was burned into my eyes. It was everywhere I looked. You probably won’t be surprised to hear I was pissed off for the entire next week or so. Not just because my friend was murdered but because I didn’t hear shit from the detectives.
A few days passed and I decided to lace up the Nikes. Thought it might shut my mind down for a bit. Took my usual route. Saw the Ford, but didn’t wave. Don’t even remember passing the deli. Paused a while at the “Scenic Overlook” but continued on after a small break. I turned on Mrs. Leary’s street and made my way down to her house. I realized I hadn’t done this run for myself, it was an excuse to stop by Mrs. Leary’s house, maybe talk to a cop or detective and see what was happening. It didn’t take long for a chill to run down my back. The road was a solid three-quarter of a mile, but from the far end, I could tell something was wrong. There were no police cars. No crime scene tape. After a minute or so, my phone told me the run was over, and there I was, outside the house I’d been seeing in my nightmares for the past week. It looked as normal as it ever had. I walked up the steps and looked through the front window expecting to see official-looking people working tirelessly inside. Nothing. I walked around the house as I had days before to the back and walked up the back steps. I tried the knob again, trying to ignore the aggressive deja vu. This time it was locked and I was livid. How could there be nobody here? My friend, a harmless old lady, was murdered in her sleep and nobody in this quiet little town seemed to give a shit.
I pulled out my phone and dialed 911. I wasn’t sure if this was an emergency per se but at that point, I didn’t much care.
“911 where is your emergency?” said a man’s voice.
“I want to know what’s being done about Mrs. Leary’s case.”
There was a long silence before the voice returned. This time it was cold and emotionless. “Hang up the phone, kid. Leave it alone.”
“Wha…” The line cut before I could finish my sentence. Even this many years later, I can feel the anger and confusion I felt that day. If I think about it too long, my cheeks turn red and my adrenaline starts pumping. I walked home confused trying to think who to call or what to do. I probably would have called a neighboring police force or the FBI, but that’s when I got the envelope.
Now it’s not that big of a coincidence. It didn’t just show up that day. I had neglected to check my mail for the entire previous week and the envelope had been delivered at some point over those days. It was a legal size manila envelope, sealed with a string on one end. Inside, a handwritten note.
Hello, my dear,
I’m sure you have plenty of questions. I’m hoping to answer them as well as I possibly can but I can’t make any promises. I’m writing this in 2022. Today we had our first cup of coffee together, and I know it won’t be our last. If you’re reading this, I’ve made the mistake of getting too close to you, which I was not supposed to do. As you’ll learn, I can be quite stubborn so I’m also sure I’ll have no regrets about it at all.
Surely, you will be the one to find my body. That wasn’t supposed to happen either but that’s my fault. I’m sorry you had to see that. I also want to say that you’re likely not going to believe what you read next, and I don’t expect you to. In time, all will make sense.
I don’t know how this whole thing started but what I do know is a long time ago, a version of me in a different timeline did something bad to you. As a result, some kind of domino effect led to a global collapse and destroyed all of humanity. I don’t know what I supposedly did or what it caused. All I know is it can’t happen again. To prevent it from coming to fruition, you and I have been set up in an infinite time loop together. The loop is intended to ensure that at no point I can screw up the intended path of the future. For it to be avoided, I must die in every loop and it must happen before I get a chance to do whatever it is I did to you. Once I’m gone, I can’t interfere with you or the future of humanity. If I’ve sent this, you’re clearly a wonderful boy, and I’m sure I’ll grow very fond of your company over the years to come. Remember me and cherish the memories. In time, my error will fix itself and all will be resolved.
And that brings us to today, September 17th, 2025, again. I’m fifty-five years old and have been a cop for the last twenty. I’ll be honest, I thought the note was bullshit too. Sure enough, three years ago in 2052 (yes, I know it’s confusing) the loop reset and it was 2022 again. The reset didn’t affect me at all. I still looked like an out-of-shape middle-aged man with a hairline that seemed to disappear more each day. Soon after the reset, I met my wife, had a couple of kids, and tried to live my life as it was intended. I kept my distance from the younger Mrs. Leary, only reaching out to inform her of the loop. It took some convincing but she came around once I showed her the note she wrote for me. She also promised not to interact with my younger self this time. I made the same promise and quit jogging in order to put on a few pounds. I hoped that was enough to kill any resemblance between the two of us.
The one thing I couldn’t leave alone was figuring out who did it. From a distance, I kept my eye on this loop’s Mrs. Leary. Nobody seemed to dislike her or want her dead for any reason at all. I kept my ears open every day for nearly thirty years but never found a motive or anyone else aware of the loop. It wasn’t until I accepted that there was nobody in the world who wanted to hurt Mrs. Leary that I finally figured it out.
I took one last good look at the view of the crashing waves at the “Scenic Overlook” and got back into my grey Ford. I drove over to the road that I had run down hundreds of times in my younger years and parked outside the familiar quaint house. I knocked on the wooden door and was greeted by a sweet old lady.
“Thought I told you to keep running,” she said as she looked at my gut.
I laughed as she gestured for me to come in. I was worried she didn’t know why I was there but she must have seen it on my face.
“Don’t worry. I figured it out too,” she said. “How about a cup of coffee for old-time sake?”
“Sounds good,” I said with a smile.
After the cups were empty, the two went upstairs and walked down the floral hallway to her bedroom. She tucked herself in and looked up at me with a tear in her eye, one that I mirrored. She nodded her head and closed her eyes. She already looked like she was peacefully sleeping. I couldn’t help but feel sorry. Not for me or her, but for the younger version of me running around the neighborhood at this very moment. Not yet aware of what he’ll have to do later in life. Not yet aware of what he’d already done an infinite amount of times in the past. Not aware of what he had just done. For now, I could let him run. One day he’d have to find out and I’d likely have to be the one to explain it all to him. But not now. For now, I’d let him run.