Loop

And we’re back to that time of the week, story time. Its Sci-Fi, i guess. You can probably guess what the story’s about but I’ll confirm it. The idea is the protagonist is stuck in a loop. One day keeps repeating over and over. He’s trying to break that cycle. You’ll have to read to find out what happens.

It’s a Tuesday. Like any other Tuesday Mike has to get to work. His alarm woke him from a decent slumber twenty five minutes ago. He’s showered and just finishing pulling on his shirt, fastening the buttons as fast as his long fingers will allow. If he lived in a larger apartment, instead of this studio one, he might not actually be capable of leaving with enough time to spare to get to work without being late. Even so he’s cutting it close.

With his shirt buttons now fastened he grabs his keys. He doesn’t have the extra time for a slice of toast like he usually eats. So he simply checks his pockets to make sure in addition to his keys he has his wallet and swipe card. He can’t forget that. If he does they’ll be hell to pay at work. Not because he’s new and they don’t know who he is. They’ll be hell to pay just because it’s easy to kick up a stink when you work in a money exchange. He understands the need for security, but still you would think after three years his boss, Amelia, would show a little understanding. But oh no that would be entirely too easy.

He fishes the swipe card out of his pocket to complete the quick inspection. For it being the same one he was issued on his first day it’s still in remarkably good shape. Mike isn’t sure how. He would have thought with it scraping about against his keys it wouldn’t be, but he isn’t about to question it.

With everything, that is essential, about his person, Mike grabs his jacket, a dark blue colour, and quickly throws it on. Within seconds the dark shimmering blue material is covering the baby blue coloured shirt he’s chosen for today. He does a quick check in the mirror on the way out, brushing his short dark hair with his hands more out of habit than a necessity. After all, it’s too short to actually suffer the affliction of having even a single hair out of place. No stains, he concludes checking his shirt, which there shouldn’t be as it’s freshly washed and ironed.

Then like a tornado he rushes out the door, locking it behind him so that his apartment and all it’s cheap furniture, that he’s had dating back years, is secure before he jogs half-heartedly down the narrow corridor to the stairwell with its old rustic looking varnished wooden handrail. For all the nicks and gouges in its surface it is remarkably smooth as his palm rubs over it. He forces the thought out his head, determined to keep moving and so as a result begins to rapidly descend the stairs.

He could risk trying to descend two at a time, but doesn’t feel comfortable doing so in this building. In any other he might but not this one. It’s an old converted factory and due to that the stairs are not at all as uniformed as you might wish to believe them to be.

He’s seen people falter and trip because of a surety that it’ll be fine. It’s a mistake no one makes more than once. Mike had made it too when he’d first visited this building on the east side. At the time it had been all he could afford after losing his last job because the guy he reported too had it in for him. In fact, the guy had it in for a lot of people. All sorts of claims were banded about and discussed in whispers behind Antonio’s back, but no one had ever found out the truth as to why he would take what seemed to be a random dislike to someone and then bully and push them until they either quit or made a mistake that would get them canned. To make matters worse it’s not like Antonio was ever consistent. For example, when Mike first went to work in that warehouse near the docks Antonio had been friendly, even complimented and congratulated Mike for a job well done, often. Then a few months later, out of the blue, Mike became the target of Antonio’s ire. Mike hadn’t done anything. It was just like a switch had flipped in Antonio’s head and he now regarded Mike as the root cause of all issues in the warehouse during the twilight shift. Even on his days off.

That doesn’t matter now, the dark haired man with hazel eyes and a blue suit thinks, and he’s right. It really doesn’t. But from what he understands nothing has changed. After Mike split from that job Antonio found a new target. Not that he only had one while Mike had been there. He hadn’t. He’d had several. For a second time he reminds himself that this is ancient history now and on this occasion actually succeeds on moving past it, unlike his first attempt which was short-lived and fleeting.

Mike is near the ground floor. He risks taking a quick glance at his wrist, where a digital tracker come clock is fastened. The readout is vertical, hours and minutes only. He wishes it had the function to display seconds too, though he understands that he might be the only one concerned with such things.

Finally, his foot hits solid, actual ground rather than the solid storied ground of the various floors of the apartment building that had once been a factory. In truth, it had been a number of different factories throughout its life before it was converted. Mike doesn’t remember any of the details. They were important at the time, when he’d been viewing what is now his apartment. All he can say is that none of the uses it had were considered to be capable of resulting in health risks. That was all he’d been concerned about, especially as there have been a lot of horror stories regarding factories that were converted without proper cleans for hazardous material. Those as a result caused health problems for the residents that they will never get rid of. For the price he paid for his apartment, he was convinced at the time that this building would be one of those. But truth was, the owner just wanted shot of the unit. He can’t remember why on that either.

Mike steps out onto the street. There is not a cloud in the sky, he smiles at the discovery in the seconds prior to him doing a ninety degree turn to join what seems like an endless stream of pedestrians who plod down the wide sidewalk. There are so many bodies, so tightly packed together that Mike cannot see his feet. At one time that had worried him as the last thing he wanted to do was make a wrong step, trip and then barrel into a mass of people ahead of him. After years of taking this route however those fears have long since banished on all but the rarest of occasions. Well, one occasion really, when snowfall comes to the city. It’s a rarity, to put it mildly. Still, it had taken a couple months for Mike to get to a level where he didn’t feel uneasy about the journey. He isn’t too macho to admit that. At least he isn’t too macho to admit it to himself. Whether he’d admit it to anyone else he cannot say because it’s never come up in conversation. He isn’t even aware as to how it might.

The thoughts roll around slowly in his head as he follows the flow of the pedestrians around him. He’s certain that if he tried to stop he wouldn’t manage it. Rather, he would be taken by the mass around him. He imagines it would be like a bird attempting to fight against a strong wind, or a fish hoping to swim against the tide. In most instances both prove to be futile. Thankfully, Mike has no need to stop. If he wore laced shoes it might be different, but he doesn’t.

Issue management, Mike calls it. In simple terms he tries to limit the things that could negatively impact him before they happen. Wearing shoes without laces, and instead wearing slip on ones, is just one example. Still, he’ll be happy when this week is over. It’s pay week and though Tuesday has only just begun it feels like it’s been a very long week. I’ve only done one day; he says no himself before offering a half shrug. With the people around him packed so tightly performing a full shrug could result in issues, and the last thing Mike wants is to make himself any later than he already is. It’s not typical for him, but for some reason his alarm didn’t blare at the right time. Instead, it screeched into his ears at the second opportunity. Just as well he’d set that second alarm or he really would be late for work. Likely still be in bed after staying up to watch some documentary or other that he was so tired while staring at that he remembers nothing about it other than that it was set in Egypt. It might have been a history thing about the pharaohs. He can’t be sure as for some reason that doesn’t seem right and might have been a couple weeks previously.

Suddenly Mike turns and breaks away from the flowing tide of people. He’s pleased to be free of the crush, even though it isn’t quite at the point of being a crush. The street he’s on now is much quieter, but still bustling with people who mill about heading for work or the shops. It’s difficult to tell which in the city. So many people dress up to take a trip to the corner shop. He’s never understood as to why. Not that he has time to consider such things. If he was a little earlier, a couple minutes, he’d grab something. But then had he been in possession of that time he would have had toast. It isn’t a hearty or filling meal but it would have tided him over. Alas, such was not fated and so his stomach is rumbling something fierce as the lights change so that he is able to safely cross the street. He wastes no time in doing so and then turns again to break away from his newer smaller shorter lived group he moved as a part of. It means he finally has space he would call sufficient, so let’s out a sigh followed by a deep inhalation. The air gets uncomfortably hot when bodies are so close together. It isn’t helped by all the towering structures around that blot out much of the sky an keep the heat contained.

Mike may have lived in the city a long time but hasn’t the foggiest what half these buildings are. He suspects a mixture of office and residential. Yet, why they would be mixed together makes not an iota of sense to him. He continues on his way. He won’t reach a conclusion. He never does and this is a subject that returns to him on the daily and has done for… He can’t be sure. Longer than he thinks it should have but nowhere near as long as he’s been taking this walk everyday.

A couple of people, randomly dispersed among the entire spaced out mass, have open umbrellas in their hands. Mike’s brow furrows prior to him taking the chance to look up. He didn’t dare do it immediately. If he had it might have drawn attention. To no surprise the sky is clear. Always a few who have to be different, he thinks. Though, he is pleased to see he isn’t the only one who takes the time to check if rain is imminent. He smiles, to himself not at anyone in particular and then crosses another street.

He’s almost to work and by the looks from the clock on his wrist, he refuses to call it a watch because in his mind it isn’t, he’s now a couple minutes early. He really doesn’t get that but a gift horse is a gift horse, and so with another two streets crossed Mike soon arrives at work, the exchange.

At one time he’d have taken in the sight of the towering slab of glass and metal, but those days are long gone. He doesn’t see beauty in these structures anymore. All he sees are boxes. He finds that a little sad, but following a swipe of his card, a beep to grant him access and then a shove of the heavy security door, Mike is inside.

A wide smile appears suddenly across his face. It’s forced. Not because he dislikes the people he works with but because it’s a warm-up for having to do it all day. Even if some dumdum is screaming bloody murder at you and calling you every name under the sun because of a mistake they made but are too…arrogant to admit. Everyone in the exchange gets at least a couple of them during any given day, usually.

“Morning!” Mike shouts loud enough so that everyone in the exchange will be able to hear.

Most reply in kind with what he knows are forced smiles being put on show in preparation for the days shift. Still, Mike has to admit it’s a damn sight easier than working the twilight shift in a warehouse. Well, it is in his mind.

The exchange isn’t large or extravagant, yet the corporation who owns it are. They have a lavish office building at the heart of the financial district. It stretches a hundred and three stories up and comprises a block of glass which is sat atop an old sandstone building with more columns than are really necessary. Apparently, he’d learned when he got the job, their parent company, Alta, have been based out of it for over a century.

Mike doesn’t remember what Alta stands for. He knows it’s an acronym but after having secured the job he forgot near enough everything he’d researched about the exchange and its parent company. The knowledge had served its purpose and landed him the job. Using it in the future would, in his eyes, just come off as bragging.

He takes his position at one of the four customer liaison points. He rolls his eyes just thinking about the truly corporate name that the tills, as he would define them, have been given. A quick swipe of his card followed by the entry of his passcode and he’s ready for the day ahead.

He adjusts the monitor on its defiant multi-axis stand to just where he wants it; only for the monitor to edge slowly back to where it had been previously. Mike hangs his head and wishes that Alta would spend the money deserved to refit the exchange. It’s starting to look its age with the wood panelling on the walls, even if it is lightly stained, and the thick blue carpets over which things have had to be strategically placed to conceal the various stains and wear marks that are the inevitable result of prolonged daily use. After all, the exchange has a couple thousand people come through it regularly. Mostly to exchange money back from whatever currency the people of the city had used while abroad on their holidays but now have no use for being back home.

Mike can’t remember the last time he went on holiday. Something tells him it was when he was young, before adolescence. If that is right then it would have been with his parents and two brothers. They are both younger than Mike, but only by a few years. Lucas and Rydal are their names and they’re twins, non-identical ones born eleven minutes apart. Lucas never lets Rydal forget it either.

It’s been a good while since Mike has seen his brothers, or his parents. They live out west in a small town. The town Mike was born in. It’s not the town his brothers were born in however. He can’t remember the name of where they were born. He was too young when they left, maybe five. From what he understands however it was a lot like the town he was born in, which his family returned to. Suffice to say in Mike’s eyes that means small, quiet and very boring. Your prospects were the local hardware store, the bank that no one ever visited or one of the other handful of unimportant, struggling but somehow still open stores that anywhere else would have closed long ago.

“Everyone ready for the new day?” Amelia, the manager of the exchange asks from behind her thick rimmed glasses which sit halfway down her nose. Somehow she manages to neither look through or over them.

Amelia is maybe a couple years older than Mike but a lot smaller. He towers over her. Or at least he would if he weren’t perched atop a stool. The padding offers no comfort. It became pancake thin, he hates to think how long ago. Further proof this place needs some TLC. The requests have been put in, by the truck load, but the likelihood of any of them being addressed is… slim to none. That’s the honest truth of it.

In response to Amelia everyone offers their forced replies in the positive except Mike who is busy lost in thought. As a result Amelia singles him out. “Are you ready Mike?”

A forced wide smile appears across his face. “Of course I am Amelia. Today is going to be another great day.” He makes sure to keep his tone from sounding mocking, but several of his colleagues have to stifle snickers. They know full well he’s hamming it up and exaggerating positivity all just because he can.

“Good. That is what I like to hear Mike. Positivity is key. You’ll go far with it.” Amelia utters while heading for the shutter switch. She’s the only one with a key. Alta, more likely Amelia, doesn’t trust anyone else to have it. As a result Amelia never takes a day off. Not officially anyway. She works and works and works. From what Mike has gathered she has no family in this city. No husband, wife, children, nieces, nephews, anything of the like. She lives alone in a small, but bigger than Mike’s, apartment a few miles north of the exchange. No one that still works here has seen it. It’s just what the various employees have passed along as they rotated in and out over the years.

Mike is now one of the longer serving, other than Amelia that is. From the sounds of things she’s was here when they built this block in place of whatever stood here previously.

Sadly, some would probably believe Amelia’s claim that positivity will help you go far. It isn’t true. At least not at the exchange it isn’t anyway. If it was then Mike wouldn’t have put in for a senior role three times and been denied every single time. Funny thing is the position is still open. It seems no one is suitable for it. Mike wonders why it even exists in the first place if they can’t fill it due to… whatever reason they decide as to why no one is suitable for the role.

Amelia thumbs the shutter switch. In response a struggled whirring can be heard. Even the shutters need some serious help. It won’t come until they fail one day, which tells you how much Alta care for preventative maintenance and about the exchange as a whole.

“Taking bets on who gets a crazy first?” Erica, the youngest and newest member of the exchange asks. The stocky blonde with brown eyes is looking past Clara to Stuart who shrugs in response.

“Probably Mike. He’s been on a lucky streak recently. Hasn’t had a crazy in… How long is it Mike?” Clara asks without pulling her green eyes off the receding shutter. She can already spy the first customers from the knees down. They are gathered around the glass doors meant to welcome customers.

“Three days without a proper crazy.” Mike replies.

“New record?” Stuart queries without pulling his own eyes, which are also brown, from a point on the water stained false ceiling tiles above. He hopes none of the customers look up there. He also hopes that Amelia doesn’t catch him. He’s already had one warning for staring off into the distance.

“Nah. Don’t think so.” Mike and Clara reply in unison. They have both been here for a similar period of time. Mike beats her by a couple weeks but its close enough that they say they started simultaneously.

“Morning. Good morning. It’s so nice to see you again. Welcome. Yes they’re all active, pick any you like. Of course, we are always here to help.” Are just some of the pleasantries Amelia offers as the customers begin to shuffle in.

“Brace.” Erica blurts with a dry smile before having to quickly transition to her forced one as a customer steps close and begins to ramble on about their life’s story. The one none of the four serving as customer liaison have asked for but are relentlessly offered without any option.

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