Short story: Full Circle

“You’re going to kill yourself!?” 

Alan almost dropped the mug he was wiping for the billionth time. I felt some enjoyment, seeing that stupid grin he had always carried being wiped from his face. Although I would have preferred it to be quieter. If anyone from the government heard about this, jail would be the most lenient act of “correction”, as they liked to call it.  

“Keep it down dumbass. Want to lose your best costumer?” I hiss at him. 

Alan pouted, knowing fully well that I would follow up on my promise. He needed the extra tip, and I needed him to lend me an ear. I had to have someone hear my last testament in this world. Before I was gone for good.  

“This…this is insane, Renner. This is just something you don’t do…,” he said. 

Alan always had this peculiar trait. His voice never changed no matter which mood he was in. Like his vocal cords were unable to produce anything besides the same pitched voice. The same with his face. As if it had never learned to express emotions. But where he would hide them, was in what he did. Right now, he was polishing the mug, but slower than usual. Like it was a painful task to do. And that’s how I knew, that my friend was sad. Which made me feel happy, because that meant that in this shitty world, I’d made enough of an impact on a single person for them to miss me when I’m gone. And that was more than I had ever hoped for.  

“I won’t be gone gone, you know that,” I said, lighting a cigar and puffing out a few gray clouds 

Alan always scolded me, saying that I wasn’t allowed to smoke inside the bar. But my news must have upset him to the extent that he didn’t care. Where there was smoke, there was fire, and once he followed the smoke he was led to the fire in my eyes, burning with determination. 

“But you won’t be here. Renner, this is ludicrous, how did you think of this? How are you even gonna do this?” 

My friend was plagued by tons of questions, all valid, and all answerable.  

“Simple really, I tinkered a bit with the experimental time travel machine we have back at the lab and discovered that time isn’t the only thing constricting us,” I smirked, hoping that with this revelation, his vocal chords would compose a new symphony for me.  

Alas, the surprise was expressed by the mug being slowly put down for a second. And then the gravity of what I was telling him dawned on him. Whenever something got serious, he stopped everything he did, to relay his entire focus on whatever the problem was.  

“The many-worlds interpretation…,” he said slowly, realizing what I had truly meant. 

“…They would have you executed if they knew about this,” he whispered.  

“Good thing I won’t be here anymore then,” I smiled back. 

“Well, you won’t be entirely gone either. I’ll still remember you, won’t I?”  

I hadn’t quite approached the thematic from that angle, but it wasn’t my problem. This was my life, not Alan’s, and I should be the one to decide my own fate. Not Alan, not the world, and certainly not some idiotic destiny.   

“Will you be able to do it then?” Alan asked, the gravity of the question shown through his moveless body. 

“Do what?” I said finishing the last of my scotch. 

“Will you be able to commit murder?” 

As the syllables left his mouth a chill was sent down my spine. I had never used that word; I had always viewed it as me reclaiming what I should have had. Hearing it being put so bluntly, well, it wouldn’t deter me either way. 

“It’s not murder you drama queen. Well, it is and isn’t. I’m just going to erase one of my existences from one timeline,” I cheekily replied. 

“That’s what murder is 

“And so what if it is, Alan!? Why is it right that somewhere out there one of me is happy while I’m stuck in this shitty reality!? Why does he deserve it and I don’t!? I’ve been through so much shit, I DESERVE a good life, don’t I?” 

“You do, Renner. We all do,” Alan replied, meekly wiping his mug again. 

I would be lying if I said I hadn’t the slightest idea of where that outburst came from. It came from years upon years of pent-up anger, all released in a single burst. Especially after I discovered that the world isn’t a single line, but a nest of different lines, all perfectly co-existing. And somewhere out there, a version of me is having a perfectly happy life. But not for much longer.  

“But…is it really your life to live? You can’t just easily fill in someone else’s shoes,” he remarked 

I put a slightly drunken hand on my friend’s shoulder: 

“I’ve studied different worlds, and I’ve found a Renner that is close enough to me in physical appearance although he’s a bit older than me. I’ve figured out how he walks and talks, where he came from and where he went and he has a beautiful wife, with a smoking body. The only problem is that there’s a kid. But I’ll manage. I…I can finally have a shot at happiness, Alan.” 

“I only need to kill myself,” I whisper. 

“Can’t you come back? To visit?” Alan’s blank face teared up 

“Sorry buddy, after the travel is finished, I’m destroying the machine. Can’t risk the cops finding out about this.” 

“When are you leaving?” 

I smiled, as maybe this final punch would put some emotions into the tears escaping Alan’s eyes.  

“Tonight. I’m leaving tonight.” 

Alan, whom I had known for 24 years of my life without seeing a single emotional response, did not even in my final moments in this world break that spell. But the mug that fell out of his hands and smashed into a billion pieces, said everything I needed to know.  

And so, I left the bar, and my old life behind me.  

***  

My childhood was shitty. There’s no way around it. But I can pinpoint the exact catalyst that sent me into this downward spiral of misery that became my life. It was my father. I don’t remember exactly when it started, but the older I got, the bitterer he became, until he turned into a vile creature. He tried keeping appearances, but as soon as he lost his cool, his rage was felt through his palms. 

I never understood what had happened to him. I just accepted, that the man I had come to believe was my fatherdied someday. 

***  

Although I found myself in a different interpretation of my city, it still reeked of the same putrid trash. I never liked this city, but maybe my perception was warped by my shitty conditions. Well, no more. Even though my hand was firmly clasped around the handle of the dagger, I could still feel the coldness of the blade. I had never killed anyone before. But did it matter? It wasn’t murder, it was justice. And I would want the best outcome for myself. And this Renner was the same as me, just luckier. Killing yourself was not really murder. 

The other Renner always came home from the pub after a night with the boys, and he always took the road less traveled, also known as the alleyway, to get home. If it was something I had learned after years on the streets, is that unless you could bite back, the city would devour you whole, and the alleys were the teeth, ready to chew you up and spit you out. I waited and waited. I was drenched, but I couldn’t care less. All I cared about, was the sweet liberation of this misery. It would finally end.  

And in walked my salvation, wrapped in a brown trench coat. I felt a ball of cold metal slowly gnawing its way through my stomach, but I ignored it. Nothing would stop me now. I lightly tapped him on the shoulder. He turned around. Before my courage failed me, I stabbed him. Not once. Not twice. But thrice. Two times in the gut, once in the heart. His face writhed in agony, blood slowly dripping from his mouth. But he didn’t scream. He suddenly grabbed ahold of me, his eyes slowly draining of life. But there was enough left for him to utter a smile. Then a chuckle. Then a laugh. What the hell was wrong with this guy? 

Elapsam semel occasionem non ipse potest Iuppiter reprehendere.” 

He uttered those words, then fell to the ground. A sea of blood formed around him, with each new wave expanding its area. I’d done it. I had killed him.  

I had killed him. 

I…I could have a life, a real life! All I had to do was hide the body, and never let it be discovered. I had planned this.  

I had won. 

But something about those last words bothered me. Where had I heard them before…? 

***  

My mom eventually lost the battle and died peacefully in her bed. Befitting of such a kind woman, if anyone deserved a good death, it was her. I had hoped…that maybe my mother’s death would trigger a kindness in my father, one that I had come to miss. But that never happened. Instead, I saw something that made me hate my father even more. Not even a single tear did he shed at the funeral. No, he looked happy.  

As if a burden had been lifted from his shoulders.  

***  

Everything was perfect, or rather, so I had hoped. I had the prefect job, the perfect house, the perfect wife. But amidst all these perfections, there was a discord. Like a final piece of the puzzle was missing. My colleague cracked jokes I was supposed to laugh at, but I never got the punchline. My house felt like it belonged to someone else. And the worst, was the look my wife gave me every night we went to sleep, the same one my son gave me.  

As if I was a stranger. 

But I was Renner, wasn’t I? Perfectly so even. A better, and technically younger, version of what they had previously had. The age gap was barely noticeable, six years didn’t arouse any suspicion.  

However, with each passing year, I grew to resent her more and more. Why couldn’t she just love me? Was that too much to ask? All I wanted, was happiness. Did I not deserve that?  

I considered a divorce, to end it, but luckily fate had other plans. She got a diagnosis, and I eventually got my freedom. With one exception. The kid. He had gotten older now, spending his time in college. I always thought before I made the travel that I could handle the kid, but I never could. He just pissed me off. That stupid look on his face. How he defied me, the insults he spewed at me: 

“You’re not my dad, you’ll never be!” 

As if he knew. That little runt deserved every beating he got. But one day, he came home and said the same audacious shit he always did. I beat him, as I always did. And then, he said the most peculiar thing: 

Elapsam semel occasionem non ipse potest Iuppiter reprehendere.” 

Those words, the same ones the other Renner had said as he diedWhere had he heard them? From the other Renner, before I took over? 

“What does that mean?” I barked. 

“Not even Jupiter can find a lost opportunity,” he responded and ran up to his room, probably to cry like always.  

Not even Jupiter can find a lost opportunity. What did it mean? I never understood. 

***  

When I turned 18, I ran away from home. If I stayed for even a second longer, I was sure my next argument with my dad would end in my own death. So I ran away, to a shitty city, where I had a chance to begin a new life. But life never gave me the opportunity, and so, I fell deeper and deeper into the pit of despair that life had dug for me. Every day, I grew more resentful of the world. Every day I hated my father more and more. And every day, I spent every second imagining how my life could be better. Luckily I wasn’t alone. I had my friend Alan with me to keep me from completely submerging into the depths of depression. 

But I always had a lust for revenge, a thirst I was always on the lookout to quench. 

***  

I finally found happiness. The kid ran away. The wife was dead. I sold the house to get rid of the last skeleton in the closet. I was free. I bought a new house, got a new job with new friends, found a new wife, had a new child, and suddenly, all my hopes and dreams came to fruition. I was happy. I had finally beaten fate.  

I had won.  

As I sat in the bar with the boys, I looked at the barkeep and realized that he reminded me of someone. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Maybe someone from my previous life? It didn’t matter anymore, I had forged my own path, and I had no plans to derail from it. The evening came to an end, and I said goodbye to all my friends.  

Outside it was raining cats and dogs, luckily I had my thick coat wrapped around me. I walked down the alleys like I always did, because I feared nothing. I had beaten fate; nothing could stand in my way of happiness anymore. And I trusted that belief, until I felt a tap on my shoulder.  

I turned around, and suddenly, I felt the cold metal of a knife plunged into me. Not once. Not twice. But thrice. An agonizing pain washed over me and blood came bursting from my mouth. But then I looked at my assailant’s face. Then, I couldn’t stop a smile even if I wanted to. Then a chuckle. And then a laugh. I could feel my lifeforce leaving my body, but just as I was about to collapse, I finally understood. 

Elapsam semel occasionem non ipse potest Iuppiter reprehendere.” 

Not even Jupiter can find a lost opportunity.  

Written by: Tobias Klausen

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