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Fiction

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

Shirt: No, not that color, choose something else. Try white?

Socks: Black and purple, who cares if no one can see them? 

Hair: It’s a mess, you're a mess.

“Great, now I look like a witch, don't I?" she sighed and tried to comb her wild black locks of hair into something more tame and appropriate for the workplace. “Today we rock a homeless look.” She winked at herself in the mirror. 

Being late to work was a common occurrence for Janis. But as typical as the routine was, it was always marked with as much panic as if she had never woken up late before. Even with an extra one hour of sleep due to daylight saving time, Janis was the queen of oversleeping and later regretting it. 

She tripped over a textbook and stepped on a pen on her way to the kitchen. Remnants of the night’s study session laid askew on her bedroom floor. She made a mental note to reorganize later, but she would probably forget. Her Mom would have given her an earful if she saw the state of her apartment. A quick glance at her phone told her that she had 4 missed calls from Mom.

It is too early for this.

Janis made a mental note to call her brother, Kenny. If her Mom was blowing up her phone this early, she wondered what kind of hell the woman was putting Kenny through before 8:00 am on a Monday morning. 

Throwing a bagel in the toaster, she rummaged around for something to bring for lunch. She always forgot to go to the store and even what she bought, “I’m out of cream cheese!” She whined, slamming the fridge shut and staring impatiently at the bagel toasting ever so slowly in her bright red toaster oven. 

Time: 7:35 am. Late. 

The 30 minute drive will take 25 min if I floor it. 

Janis grabbed the bagel, hot from the toaster, scarfing down a few bites before careening into the hallway to throw on shoes that she hoped matched whatever shirt she was wearing. She already forgot what she was wearing. Seriously.

She raced down the steps from her apartment to her car. "So what if I’m 10 minutes late? I don't get paid enough to be on time.” She made up excuses.

Janis pictured her boss’s face: receding hairline, deep set wrinkles, and gray eyebrows. Jacob was a kind man, but a stickler for punctuality. His favorite color was beige and he was never off brand. She was pushing her luck with him today, as she had already gotten a verbal warning last month to begin with. She bit her lip and groaned. She was practically begging to be written up. 

Ugh, is that a cop? Hit the brakes. What’s the speed limit? 65 mph. Urgh. 

Traffic was light and she was able to go most of the way without speeding too much. Janis pulled into the parking lot and didn’t see Jacob's beige Toyota, which hopefully meant that he was late to work too. “Oh,” she chimed, getting excited now.

“Jacob, you’re late for work.” It didn’t occur to her at that moment that in the two years she had been working for Jacob, he had never once been late. It should have been the first sign that something was wrong. 

Shuffling into the office building, she made it three steps into the gold lobby before her steps slowed. She smelled…Clorox and lavender? Jacob was militant about allowing only clean linen scents because of his perfume aversion. There were also several large leafy, green plants that lined the mint green walls. Last time she checked, the office walls were a pale blue and the lobby didn’t have office plants. Jacob hated office plants. He was a kind man, but really not that much fun at all. What?

Janis assumed they painted the walls over the weekend and Jacob had a change of heart. She wasn’t much of a details kind of person anyway. Janis started to quicken her pace to reach the front desk, excited to confirm that Jacob was in fact late for work. It would be monumental. She expected her best friend, Marshall’s deep frown and dark eyes to greet her, but instead of her absurdly somber front desk friend, a woman started back at her. She had blonde hair so bright it was almost yellow. Her black rimmed glasses framed a small face with large blue eyes. Eyes that got larger as Janis quickly waved a greeting, hoping to avoid an awkward conversation with a stranger when she was clearly late for her job. It wouldn’t surprise her if she forgot they hired a new receptionist. Forgetting was her signature move. 

She took two big steps into the hallway before a high pitched “Excuse me!” followed after her. The woman jumped from behind the counter, heels clicking on the white tiles, and confronted Janis with something like disbelief and anger. “Ma’am, please sign in at the front desk. You must wait until you are called"

Janis tried to laugh, but couldn’t hide the annoyance in her voice.

“I work here.” She paused and pointed down the hall towards her office. “I’m on the left. Suite 201.” She turned her back on the woman with an eye roll, but another “Excuse me!” cut through the air. 

“Ma’am, you do not work here. I’ve been here five years and I have never seen your face. Now please,” she gestured to the exit. “I believe you have the wrong office. What suite are you looking for?” She asked.

Janis was a little stunned, but she backed out into the lobby and took a closer look at the gold letters mounted on the wall behind the frazzled looking receptionist. Jenkins & Garcia, LLC? Janis did not work at Jenkins & Garcia, LLC. Aloud, she said, dumbly, “I do not work here.” The receptionist nodded fervently, looking relieved that Janis didn’t cause her anymore hardship. 

“I’m going to leave.” she said, again aloud. She pointed to the exit and the receptionist nodded again. Embarrassed, Janis exited the building, grateful that no one else seemed to be waiting in the lobby area. At the parking lot, Janis climbed into her car, sat for a moment, and then climbed out. Looking out into the street, she noticed that it looked practically the same from yesterday, except gas was up by $0.74 and Benny’s car still wasn’t in the lot. She climbed back into her car, staring quizzically at her windshield. As if answers would appear on the hood of her car, she squinted and concentrated on the glass until it blurred out of focus.  

She checked her phone. 2 missed more calls from Mom. A few scattered texts from friends and someone named Mario who she didn’t know.

Texts from Mom: 

Janis, call me back. It’s the least you can do after not coming to Kenny’s graduation. 

Janis gawked and dialed her mother immediately. Sometimes her Mom would text outrageous news headlines or half-truths in an effort to get a reaction from her. But this was a little excessive. 

One ring and a heavy second later, a stern voice said, “Janis.” 

“Mom! Hey, I’m sorry I-” 

“That’s all you can say? I’m sorry? Janis, we haven’t heard from you in weeks! You missed Kenny’s graduation last week for God’s sake. He won’t come out of his room now.” Her voice was sharp, like glass.

“Mom, what?” Janis could feel heat rising up her face. Flashbacks to every argument they ever had. Always her fault. “Kenny’s graduation? He’s in 9th grade. What is he graduating from?” 

“College, Janis! What the hell are you talking about? Kenny graduated from college last week! We invited you months ago. You told Kenny you were coming.” There wasn’t much processing to be done except stare at her dashboard in complete and utter silence. Janis rubbed her eyes and tried to settle the slowly growing migraine creeping into her head. 

Mom took the silence as permission to continue yelling. “You never call. You don’t come home for Christmas. You’re always working. Do you even care about your family, Janis?” Janis winced. Mom always used that line. “We called you for hours. Kenny didn’t even want to walk at his own graduation! Because of you."

Janis was getting a headache. Mom kept yelling, but Janis had stopped listening. 

BANG.

Janis jumped up. A woman in a red dress was banging on the hood of her car. “Hello! Earth to Janis!” She banged again, both fists slammed down on the hood of her silver Honda like she was getting ready to play an epic introduction of “We Will Rock You”. 

“What the hell are you doing?!” Janis yelled, the heat spilled out from her ears and she was outside of the car in a second, ready to brawl. At some point she hung up on her mom, but Janis wasn’t keeping track. 

It was the lady at the front desk, except she was not wearing glasses and she wore a long red sundress. Janis thought it was peculiar to be wearing a summer dress in 40 degree weather in November. 

The woman kept banging on the hood. “Hey!” Janis yelled. “Stop that!” She stopped short of flailing her arms in disbelief. 

When she finally stopped, she looked at Janis and smiled. Her voice was so high pitched it made Janis’s head hurt even more; it carried through the air like a bee sweeping past you. “Janis! You’re finally awake. I thought you’d notice sooner or later. What do you think today’s date is?” The woman jumped up and sat on the hood, flexing her bare feet in the air. 

Janis had the urge to ask what the year was, but everyone always does that in the movies and why would she do that when she had a phone? So she checked.

May 21st, 2029. 

She blinked. Looked again. Then she googled. What is today’s date? 

May 21st, 2029. 

“Do you understand now?” The woman was smiling, almost gleefully, like a child preparing to reveal a grand secret.  

Without another word, Janis climbed back into her car, hit reverse -- sending the woman toppling to her hands and knees -- and pulled into the road. From the ground, the woman watched, mouth agape. Janis might’ve laughed if she didn’t feel like vomiting. 

“You can’t run away from me, Janis.” The woman materialized in the passenger’s seat. Before Janis could scream or hit the brakes, she blinked and then she was in her living room, sitting on her couch with her arms up on an imaginary steering wheel bracing for impact. A scream lodged itself in her throat.

Thoughts rocketed around in her skull. She was feeling severely light-headed. She almost wasn’t sure if she was even in her own apartment, but some notebooks were scattered at her feet. A framed photo of her brother playing soccer hung on the wall. She did her best to focus on the photo and breathe in through her nose. 

2029? Mom? Jacob? What the hell was happening?"

“I can see you’re still confused. But allow me to explain.” The red dress woman was again in her living room, but this time wearing a blue dress and the black glasses from the front desk. 

At this point. Janis began to scream. “Stay away from me! Get out! I don’t know who you are, but-” A loud ringing sound came from the ceiling. It sounded like a telephone ring tone maxed out of Bose speakers. Looking unperturbed, she answered. “Yes?” 

A man’s voice responded as if her ceiling was a speaker. “Christina, your assignment was Jane Fletcher, Soul ID 33909288871.” 

A few seconds ticked by. 

Christina cursed under her breath. “Oh come on,” She turned to Janis and pursed her lips. “You don’t have two kids and never spend any time with them because you work too much?” 

Janis shook her head, still stunned and trying to figure out where the voice was coming from. 

“Ah,” Christina muttered. She rubbed her arms. “Sorry. Thanks, Mike!” A sound like a phone hanging up echoed through the room. 

“Sorry kid. I’m new at the job.”

Janis just sat on her couch, throat dry, as the woman produced a massive wooden wall clock from her dress pocket and began to shift the massive stainless steel clock dials. As she did, the room shook and a cacophony of gears grinding against each other reverberated throughout the apartment. 

“You’ll probably want to forget this ever happened, right?” 

Janis nodded, slowly. 

“Yeah, figured.” She shrugged and dropped the clock onto the floor and it landed with a metallic thud. “Unfortunately, I never learned how to do that. The point of my job is that you remember the wise lessons I teach you.” 

Janis stared blankly at the massive wall clock that seemed to be sinking into her floor. The wooden floorboards bent down into the shape and a faint burning smell wafted through the air. 

“So you’ll remember. But don’t tell anyone,” Christina said and shrugged. “Or else my boss will get involved. We don’t want that.” 

The clock had sunk deeper into the floorboards and it was clear that the wood was melting like wax around it. Wisps of black smoke framed Christina’s figure just as the hem of her blue skirt caught fire.

Janis jumped to her feet and pointed at the small blaze climbing up her leg. “Hey-” 

“Time to go! Try not to be late for work so much, hon. Bad work ethic.” Then the woman jumped into the clock. C

***

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

Shirt: Don't pick green, it looks awful on you.

Socks: Black and blue because who cares if no one can see them? 

Janis froze with one blue sock in hand. She dropped it and raced to her phone lying somewhere on the floor. Fumbling to turn it on, she blinked twice and stared at the white digits glowing on her screen.

Then, she googled the date and checked the date one more time on her phone.

October 31, 2021

7:32 a.m.

Oh no, I’m still late.

Janis ran to the kitchen, "I forgot to go to the store."

October 31, 2021 15:00

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14 comments

14:22 Nov 18, 2021

BESTIE- How did you come up with this? 💕 i could never in a millions years think of anything related. P.S. heyy! Whatsup? :)

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Jexica Marcell
17:23 Nov 10, 2021

Okay, I have a few questions. HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THIS??? You know that feeling when you read a really good book or watch a movie and were like, "I wish I wrote this?" That's how I feel right now. I wish I wrote this!!!! When I write, it's more based on things like songs or other books and I swear to God I could never come up with this even if I tried. I love the socks part where they are two different colors and she doesn't think it matters because no one can see them. That was hilarious and totally something I would do. This was ama...

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Akshara .
17:55 Nov 10, 2021

Awe, thank you so much! 😊 That means so, so much to me. Ok. You'll probably me expected some big-7 sentenced paragraph answering your question, but to be honest, I'm not really sure. Like this idea literally came to me when I was in class! :) Where do you get your inspiration for writing from? I love your writing style! 💕

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Jexica Marcell
18:55 Nov 10, 2021

I get my inspiration from my personality disorders (sadly) and thinking a lot in class. I have no idea where the romance ideas come in, but I'm glad they are in my brain. I also have been watching a lot of movies and t.v shows so that helps too. And thank you!

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Francis Daisy
08:05 Nov 07, 2021

Funny! Great writing, very entertaining. I especially loved the part when she pulled into the parking lot and thought she was in the clear because her boss wasn't there yet. Very clever.

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Akshara .
11:28 Nov 25, 2021

Thank you, Francis. :)

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Your bio is literally hilarious, round of applause 👏👏👏👏 Also, amazing story! Love the plot twist.

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Akshara .
05:55 Nov 02, 2021

LOL, thank you Sierra! 💕 I love your bio too, fun! :)

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Ivy Spade
14:20 Nov 01, 2021

I didn't except that! Omg, I love all your writing I can't get enough of it!!

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Rachel Rose
15:23 Oct 31, 2021

Woah, this was super creative Akshara! 💕 *emphasis on creative* Just one small thing, which you probably know but still - when you're writing dialogue, the speaker tag, unless it's a proper noun, doesn't need to be capitalized.

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Akshara .
15:25 Oct 31, 2021

Aw, you're always one of the people who always read my stories first. ✨ Thank you for commenting, and yes, I'll make sure to do that in the future. :)

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Rachel Rose
16:30 Oct 31, 2021

My pleasure, Akshara. 💗 Could you please give my story a read? I've recently joined Reedsy, and would like some critique to improve. :)

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Akshara .
18:03 Oct 31, 2021

I'd love to give your story a read, I'll get to reading it ASAP. :) Thank you once again, and I'm sure your story will be great. 💞

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Elliana Ramirez
15:16 Oct 31, 2021

I loved this story, made me smile. It was very creative, and makes you think about what's gonna happen next. The small but effective one-liners made it PERFECT! ;) I just loved the idea of the character going a lot more forward then she expected! 💞

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