The Go Again

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story

Submitted: February 24, 2015

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Submitted: February 24, 2015

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The Go-Again / Ryan Parmenter

The shovel hits something solid, and it clangs in way that makes my teeth hurt. I dig out around the lockbox, throwing more dirt on the pile next to my dead accomplice. The firelight from the torch planted in the ground flickers over his cold face, an orange glow morphing against black shadows on dead flesh. I exhale condensation, but none seeps from Randall’s corpse. The heat has already left him. His clothes are pooled around what remains of him.

Kneeling, the cold dirt beneath the worn denim covering my kneecaps, I pull off my work gloves. I dig into the dirt around the box. The dirt goes under my nails. I shiver. My thumbs rub the rusty metal of the box, freezing cold and damp. The thing smells like well water.

Randall had said it more times than I could handle: Be sure.

Somewhere in the trees above, a bird cackles. My throat still hurts. I had screamed when it happened to him. I had screamed until I couldn’t.

The box comes out of the dirt easily enough. It cannot weigh more than a heavy book, and I hear something slide within it. I scrape weeds and roots from the top, brushing it clean. By the light of the fire, it looks golden. But I know that in daylight it would be the color of blood.

I fall back to a sitting position, still holding the box in both hands.

“The devil,” he had said, “will let you live your life all over again.”

“Especially if you got it wrong,” I had said.

I set down the box next to the planted torch. Bending down to open my pack, I open the flap and draw out the bottle of Myser whiskey. I twist it around in my hands, studying the label.

“Thirty-five hundred dollars,” I mutter. A single chuckle escapes me. “Ridiculous.”

I tear the foil from the bottle’s mouth and twist the corked cap. The cork pulls from the mouth with a shallow popping sound. I tilt the bottle to my lips. An initial sting is quickly smoothed over by a rich flavor. A healthy dose falls down my throat, and a warmth hits my stomach.

The box glimmers, reflected firelight on its lid.

Randall had been fifty years old. About my age. The dead body draped in his clothing appears to be a boy of grade school age.

A tingling sensation runs through my limbs. Once again, I bring the bottle to my lips, tilting it and enjoying the second gulp. When I was a child, I thought that this must be what magic tastes like.

 

****

 

In the dingy little tavern, Randall had said, “When you open it, you will have it all to do over again. You can make better choices, fix your mistakes, and love the ones who got away. It will all happen quickly. But every wish you have ever had–every desire–will come true.”

I had said I did not want to risk my soul.

“What have you got left?” he had asked.

A muted television hung from a cobwebbed corner showed a science program, the Big Bang exploding into the Universe, continually expanding in a fractal pattern.

“How do you know?” I had asked. “How do you know it works?”

He had smiled at me. The evening before, in the motel, sirens wailing from outside, he had sat in the corner chair. “What does it matter?”

Sitting on the corroded, split cushion in the booth furthest from the entrance, I had looked up through wet eyes. “It matters because I do not want to go through torture again if it fails.”

Randall had said, “Greg, that would be up to you. Wouldn’t it?” He had paused, looking away. He had turned back to meet my eyes. “Be sure.”

“I can’t do worse than I did in this life.”

Randall had smiled, neon light through the blinds slashing his face like war paint.

“How do you know about this thing?” I had asked. “The go-again?”

Randall had said, “This wasn’t my first time around.”

 

****

 

My grandpa’s den smelled like cigars. Grandma washed dishes in the kitchen after Thanksgiving dinner. My belly was full of turkey and potatoes and corn. My gut stuck out beneath the suspenders my ma had strapped on me. I climbed onto the office chair, my legs wobbling, my sneakers scuffing the cushion as the weight shifted. The casters snagged on shag carpet, and I caught my balance. My hands slapped against the glass doors of the locked cabinet. My young breath fogged the glass, seeing the ornate glass bottle within. I had been to enough school that I could make out words now. I made out the word “Myser” through the fog. I turned to see my grandpa scuttling down the hall toward me, swearing.

 

****

 

At the casino with my wife on our honeymoon, she placed a black chip on the felt square wearing the number 7. A rosy-cheeked rogue came between Sherrie and I, dropping his strong palm on my shoulder, squeezing it. I smelled the familiar stink of drink. His other hand, I could see, squeezed my wife’s shoulder.

“It always stops where you’re most happy.”

I met my wife’s eyes, which glimmered in the colorful lights all around us. She guffawed, and the head between us squinted with a stupid grin. I laughed, shrugging as he squeezed my shoulder again.

The white ball tumbled into the Roulette wheel and skittered until settling into a groove in number 7, red.

Sherrie shrieked, tossing the man’s arm from her shoulder and lunging to embrace me. That night, we bought him more drinks than I could match. That was the first night I remembered meeting Randall.

Now I’m sure I met him before.

 

****

 

“Greg,” Sherrie had wept. “It’s gone. All of it.”

The store had closed. Everything we had sold could now be bought for less money through a computer.

Already, I was thinking, crocodile tears. She never wanted the store to work. Our partner, Randall, seemed to have unlimited funds. He would brush it off. But it was a huge blow to my savings and to my ego.

This was before I found out that Sherrie was sleeping around.

 

****

 

I watch my reflection distort on the lockbox. The dead of night has cut through me, and I feel nothing but the awkward heat before the onset of numbness.

I pull the work gloves back on. The work gloves are mostly silhouette. Even so, I can make out stray droplets of blood in the fabric.

I set the box back down, again grabbing the bottle of Myser, pulling the corked cap and tilting it to my lips. It tastes of anachronism. I was never supposed to have it.

 

****

 

Killing my wife was easier than I thought it would be. Once I got my hands around her neck, there was no turning back, and I just tried not to look at her eyes as they went red and dead. Even though I was fairly sure she was dead, I stabbed her in the chest with a kitchen knife a few times for good measure.

The police would look for me first. I didn’t make much of an effort to cover anything.

I met Randall at the car he had waiting around the block. I slid into the passenger seat, pulling the door closed with what felt like the last of my energy.

“You want the go-again,” he said. He was not asking.

“Yeah,” I said. “I’m sure I got it wrong this time.”

He sniffed. It might have been stifled laughter.

“Be sure.”

 

****

 

In the dingy little tavern, Randall had said, “I got him. The son of a bitch Sherrie was sleeping with.”

“He’s gone?” I had asked.

“He’s gone,” he had said. “One more victim of this faulty cycle.”

“Who–?” I had started.

“He’s gone,” Randall had cautioned. “Now let’s go get that drink you always wanted.”

 

****

 

The reflection is almost impossible to see now. Wind ruffles the clothing on the small body that was Randall. The torch is burnt down to a flickering ember.

I toss the bottle into the woods, watching it tumble, spilling thousands of dollars worth of whiskey into the pine needles and dirt.

I pick up the box, not even saying a prayer, and pry it open.

 

****

 

The doctor pulls me from the womb. I’m screeching. They chop the cord.

 

****

 

When I’m seven years old, I meet a boy in my class named Randy. At recess one day, Randy tells me that he’s in love with Sherrie.

 

****

 

I gulp the Myser whiskey stolen from my grandpa’s den cabinet on Thanksgiving. It feels like poison in my belly. I toss the rope up around a tree branch and pull both ends, looping it and pulling a knot. Fading sunlight pours down through the limbs.

“We’re going to fly!” Randy yells. “We’ll be like superheroes. We’ll live forever.”

“Be sure,” I say.

I offer Randy a gulp from the bottle, but he says, “I’m not supposed to.”

“Do you remember me?” I ask.

He looks worried. Then he grabs both strands of the knotted rope, hoisting himself off the ground and swinging forward, his knees bent and legs lifted off the ground.

While he swings, I drop the bottle. I pull a rock from the ground, dirt getting under my fingernails. The rock is cold and sharp and heavy. As Randy swings back toward me, I swing the rock with both hands and hit him in the face. The noise is a dull crack. He goes to the ground, blood all over.

I crouch over him and pound his face again and again, screaming until I can’t, knowing that if I let him live, he will grow up and ruin my life.

When Randy is well dead, I toss the rock to the ground. I reach into my bookbag and pull out a red lockbox that I got for my birthday. I open it, and stow the bloody rock inside.

I dig a hole with my bare hands and shove the lockbox into the dirt, covering it and burying it completely.

As I tie the noose, I think about how Randall had said that the last time hadn’t been his first time around. Maybe next time, he’ll kill me.

I pull the noose around my neck, tip-toeing on Randy’s fallen body. I step off, gritting my teeth painfully as the rope constricts around my throat, imagining the bodies of two dead seven-year-olds in grown men’s clothing in the dark woods in a future that may never come around.


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