This short story has multiple endings but this is the one that my heart resigns to. Enjoy.
“Just take two shots and it will all work out.”
“But what is it?”
“It is a type of healer, tastes just like vodka. It will stop the pain, don’t worry.”
I was so naïve to take them, and Clarette disappeared after my first one. I still drank the second. Not a lot happened while I sat there, waiting for them to work their magic and make me feel better. When I realised nothing was happening I decided to pick up my spirits, get up and go inside. I took a step forwards but somehow didn’t move. Trying again and again I wandered whether I’d been spiked.
Clarette’s voice began to surround me “You need to go backwards”. Where was it coming from? I look around me, but with Clarette nowhere to be seen I decide that I am just going crazy and I take another step. “Backwards!” The voice rings again in my ears. I’m definitely going crazy. Taking a deep breath, I step backwards but once again end up back at the start.
“Listen to me! Go. Backwards. Retrace your steps. I can’t guide you any further, I’ve already done too much just by being here. Just do as I say and you’ll get your chance to make sure it all works out.”
I realise at that minute that I am not crazy at all, I’m full blown psychopathic! I stand, catch my breath and hope to God that I survive tonight so that I can report ‘Clarette’ and get her punished. After a few minutes I decide to start again.
I turn around, nothing happens. I take a step backwards, nothing happens. I keep reversing… How is this working! I didn’t expect it to, but I find myself continuing backwards into Nan’s house and further from that into the dining room. Sitting back down, James comes in and I say “No, thanks” before he asks “Can I get you a cup of tea?” then he leaves again. I stay sat, trying to work out what is going on. I sit for a while, before deciding to see what happens if I try going back again.
Standing up, I walk backwards up the stairs, give Grandad a hug as he says “I’m fine sweetie, don’t you worry about me” before I automatically ask “Are you OK?” Suddenly I jog backwards down the stairs and into the living room, hug everyone in an anticlockwise direction walk back to the doorway and look into the house to see my family crying. I jog backwards to the car.
While Dad reverses the ten minute journey home I have time to think about what is happening. What did Clarette give me? I don’t feel drunk, or drugged up. I wander how long I will be walking backwards, and whether I will remember the future when I get brought back to the present. Nobody wants to see what’s coming without a way of stopping it.
We arrive home and walk backwards into the house. Dad stands by the TV, Emma and Ollie cuddle on the sofa, and I sit in the corner. “We have to go to Grandads now. Everyone else is already there.” Then it’s silent apart from whimpers for what feels like a lifetime. We then all face Dad and listen to him say “Your Nans been in an accident. She has been killed.” before the atmosphere and our mannerisms change to the nervous kind. “We need to talk first” Dad says as he gets back in the car, and as he reverses off we go back into the house.
I take off my shoes, go back to my room, open my laptop and spend an hour and a half watching PS I Love You in reverse. Half way through Nic came in to say “Dad is picking us up in an hour, be ready, he said it’s important.” Then I do my after school routine backwards. Mom and Dad get home and have a backwards discussion about leaving, Mom disappears to take a phone call, I fill the dishwasher with clean crockery, bring the dog bowls in and empty their contents back into the food back, then travel backwards to Uncle Dave's, walk backwards to school, and backwards into science.
Right about then, something strange happened. It took me longer than I am willing to admit but conversations started to make sense, and when the bell went to signal the end of the day, everyone walked forwards out of class.
The room stopped still as Clarette reappeared. “Haven’t you worked it out yet?” I stare blankly, realising I was about to relive the moment I want to forget more than anything. “Don’t you understand? Things don’t just work out by themselves, you need to fix this!” She disappears again and everyone else starts moving as I realise that I don’t have much time.
I sprint to Uncle Dave's and I spot Nan right as she is walking out the door. I remember Clarette’s voice “Retrace your steps… You’ll get your chance to make sure it all works out.” This statement rings in my mind as I stop on the corner of the street, take a deep breath, and watch Nan get into her car.
“What are you doing?” She’s now stood next to me watching Nan start the car.
“I can’t change this, Clarette. If it isn’t tonight then it will be another night. And how would I know how to stop it anyway? This future as planned, who am I to change it?”
Clarette sighs and hands me another shot. “Take this and you’ll never see it coming. Good luck.” She disappears for the final time.
I watch Nans car turn out of view, say my final goodbye, and I take the shot.
I’m at Uncle Dave's fifteen minutes earlier than usual, how the hell did I manage that?