Chapter 39: Groundhog Day

Kodek was sitting on he commuter train musing as the scenery outside whipped by him. Lately, a lot of things had been whipping by him. An image of himself strapped in a straight-jacket and fastened securely to a stretcher while reviving some particularly harsh electrode therapy flashed through his brain. Then he briefly marveled at the fact that his brain was working at all. Shock therapy. He quickly derailed that train of thought, it had been spontaneous, anyway, that hadn’t been what he’d been thinking about. In fact, what he had been thinking about was Bill Murray. The actor. Well, not exactly Bill Murray himself, but rather a Bill Murray film that he and Anna had been out to see the night before. The movie had been billed as a comedy, though at first, Kodek had found it utterly terrifying. Bu as the story went on, which saw Bill Murray waking up day after day, morning after morning, only to find that it was the exact same day over and over and over… Like some bad Charles Beaumont Twilight Zone script… Kodek nearly had a panic attack …at first. But then something hit Kodek, something epiphany-like.

With all this shit that The Corporation (or really it was The Brain acting as some sort of rogue agent-slash-mad scientist as Kodek was only now beginning to realize) had put him through, he’d been trapped… Like Bill Murray. No wonder he’d nearly had a panic attack in the men’s urinals in the theater last night. But he’d made himself go back to the movie, for Anna, mostly, to not ruin her night, or their date, oh, the endurance that woman could inspire in him was pretty astounding. But there, just as things were beginning to work out alright for Bill Murray up there on the big screen, was when the epiphany hit. Or at least it was the sensation of an epiphany.

Kodek realized hat he couldn’t be Bill Murray anymore, no sir, he had to be the audience. Or more specifically, he had to be his own audience, he had to now be concreting his own life (or lives) from a third-person perspective. Which is exactly why he had started writing his diaries in this manner, now, in the third person past-tense as if it were only the deranged genre fiction of a madman.

Of course, thinking about the shock treatment, maybe he as going mad, just a little. After all, here he was, on a train, ranting to himself in third-person past-tense. He wanted to put the electric thoughts behind him, and he reached into his inner coat pocket and fingered the tin of Altoid breath mints in there – was about to pull them out when his whole body froze. Being seated on a moving train, the sudden lack of m movement really wasn’t all that dramatic, but to Kodek, what he saw was pretty damned important.

He kept his eyes focused down the passenger car as he watched Lizzie Borden, the yellow waitress emerge from the toilet, and damn if she didn’t glance back at him, for just a fraction of a second, before instantly -yet nonchalantly as hell- turning her back to him and stepping through the connecting car doors to the next passenger car (only now, and for the first time ever, that Kodek could remember, she wasn’t wearing her blood-splattered yellow diner waitress outfit with Anna’s name tag over her left tit. Now she was wearing a fetishistic French Maid outfit underneath a London Fog dark-grey trench coat with black knee-high flat-bottom boots – boots that were made for running). Should he go after her? Should he get the fuck off the train? It was still moving, but Kodek had been in harrier situations before… Didn’t really matter, Kodek was still planted in his west with his hand frozen inside his jacket pocket. Talk about indecisiveness. maybe his brain had been fried, after all. A few wires slipped loose courtesy of the medical staff at Bedlam.

No, that’s it, he was going after her. He removed his hand from his pocket and made to rise up out of his seat, ready for action, hell he was wearing thick-grip soled shoes that were awesome for running, too, and– Lizzie plunked herself down in the seat across from him. Well, that was a bit of a twist. She smiled sweetly at him and he relaxed back down in his own seat.

“Kodek,” she greeted noncommittally.

“Lizzie,” he nodded back, just as noncommittally, his eyes roving for just a second to her left breast where the ANNA name tag used to be clipped. Wrong outfit, idiot, he told himself, and by the time he got his eyes back to Lizzie’s face she’d already caught him looking.

Damn it.

“I don’t work for The Brain,” she kicks off the conversation.

“Yeah, I figured something was fishy between you two,” he said, remembering the epic gun battle between the handful of them and the millions of other-dimensional slug-bats that had gone on outside (then inside) the warehouse. Funny, Kodek thought, I haven’t thought back to that night in months. How could so much have happened since then?

“Brain’s fucking around with the timeline and he’s dragged me in with him,” Lizzie went on. By the look on Kodek’s face, she could see he wasn’t sure it she was going to help him, kill him, or just talk his ear off. “So I had to go along with some of his schemes in order to get close to you. Sometimes the schemes were even my idea.”

“Like San Francisco,” Kodek said, giving her what he thought of as a perfect poker face. She smiled at him. Good.

“I don’t know about San Francisco,” she said. She was telling the truth. It sounded different than- “This time warp thing, it messes with your head.” Kodek couldn’t have agreed more.

He reached into his jacket pocket and removed the tin Altoids box after all. That, and a stainless steel surgical blade. He set both down on the table between them.

“Is that what I think it is?” Lizzie asked.

“I have no idea, what do you think it is?”

Lizzie licked her teeth like she was removing renegade lipstick from them. At most she’d only been wearing a lip gloss. Kodek opened the Altoid tin. It wasn’t breath mints that were inside. Jammed into the little tin like rancid sardines were six long black slugs. Only they weren’t slugs, not really, Lizzie could see the centipede legs squirming under the things, making the dark brown sweat-juice they were stewing in flick up over the edge of he tin, leaving putrid speckles on the tabletop.

“You know what this shit does, right?” Kodek asked. Lizzie nodded. “So, I was thinking, I’m pretty sure I’ve only ingested entire slugs,” he hovered a thumb and finger over one of the sick pulsating things-in-a-tin.

“You’re ‘pretty sure’?”

“My memory’s fuzzy.”

Lizzie nodded, “Yeah, I gotcha.” Kodek was slightly relieved. “So, you do finally get that the point of Groundhog Day was that he had to not only change himself, but to do it truthfully so that he would still be himself in order to get the girl?”

Kodek hoisted an eyebrow. “Have we had a conversation about Groundhog Day before?”

Yes.”

And what did I say?”

You said you thought the movie was actually a metaphor for a boring life in a dead-end job, or town, or something and that the only way out of a seemingly redundant rut was to make yourself be the one who bring change and inspiration and excitement to each day.”

That was very astute of me.”

Yes, only too bad you didn’t come up with that until we’d talked about it four times.”

We’ve had this conversation four times?”

Six actually, but the first two times Groundhog Day didn’t come up,” Lizzie told him matter-of-factly.

Is that so?”

It is,” she affirmed.

So, what was it we did talk about then?”

She pointed to the open Altoid tin “Those slimy sardines and how they’re the key to the universe.”

And what did I say… I mean, pertaining to the key?” Kodek asked this only to find out how much he and Lizzie had apparently talked on some other identical timeline/dimension. He already knew what answer he was thinking in his mind…

That you could measure how much time you disrupted simply by the amount of those slug-things you ingested. Hence, the surgical blade.”

So, if I eat an entire one of these things–” (slug-sardines)

You could wind up anywhere. Or, anytime.”

How much would I need for one day?”

You’ve already figured that out,” she told him.

Have I?”

Of course…” She reached into the inside pocket of her London Fog trench and [produced her own Altoids tin. But it wasn’t hers, exactly, because it was exactly the same tin, right down to the scraped red ink on the right-hand corner and the same dent near the pin-hinge at the back.

I gave that to you?”

Yesterday,” she said, and opened her tin. Inside, the slug-sardines had been sliced into pieces, and nearly half of them were gone. The pieces that were left looked dead – they weren’t pulsating like the ones in Kodek’s tin. But his eyes went wide when the sardine-pieces, now about he size and off-colour of canned oysters, started to clamber over the edge of the tin and escape like baby spiders from an egg. Only these weren’t just spiders.

Um, Anna…”

I’m not Anna.”

Huh?” Kodek seemed confused, but he was completely distracted with the crawling sardine-pieces, as they were now leaving think green slime-trails behind them that were actually burning holes through the table. “Maybe you want to get those back in the tin.”

Can’t we touch ’em, we’ll disappear.

Like those little bits of the table. Kodek tucked his feet under his seat in case any of that slime dripped through – like it was doing right now. He didn’t look under the table, only imagined the slime was cutting through the bottom of the train, then left behind to corrode through the railroad tie, the ground underneath, the continent underneath that, the ocean, the ocean floor, the core of the planet, the current dimension He and Lizzie were now traveling through and having conversations they’d evidently had before (not to Kodek’s recollection, though…)

Suddenly, Lizzie’s face twisted weird, like god had turned it into a funhouse-mirror reflection of itself… and then it started to melt right off her skull.

Kodek pulled out his gun and shot her in the chest.

And she exploded. Splattering of green slime hit Kodek in the face and began to take on a life of its own, crawling down his throat and into his belly, then burning right through the organs inside his torso and –

 

Kodek tilted his head to the right – He kept his eyes focused down the passenger car as he watched Lizzie Borden, the yellow waitress emerge from the toilet, and damn if she didn’t glance back at him, for just a fraction of a second, before instantly -yet nonchalantly as hell- turning her back to him and stepping through the connecting car doors to the next passenger car.

A few seconds later, Lizzie Borden plunked herself down in the seat across from Kodek, who suddenly had not only an overwhelming, but a nauseating sense of deja-vu.

Still can’t remember, huh?”

I’m not–” Kodek started, but then let the words dry up before they’d even left his mouth.

It’s okay, you took too much.”

Took too much? Suddenly a vision of green/black slime splashing into his face and down his throat filled his head, and he could instantly taste the foul slug-sardine-fluid on his tongue. The Altoid tin in his pocked seemed to buzz.

You were right,” she told him. “Cut those things up into smaller pieces.

I haven’t-”

Take them out of your pocket,” she reminded him. He did, and set the tin down on the table between them. “Now, open it up, take out that surgeon’s blade you have, and cut them up. About half an inch thick,” she told him. About the size of tinned oysters, he thought. He did what she said. And then she pulled her gun on him.

Now, I’ve been waiting for you for about two years since last time. This time, it’ll just be a day.”

What will just be a day?” he asked her, more curious than concerned, though he felt like he already knew… sort of.

The deja-vu.

Lizzie put the gun to his chest. “Eat one,” she said.

He did.

And then she turned the gun on herself, shooting herself in the face, crimson blood splashing everywhere, splattering his eyeballs

 

Kodek tilted his head to the right – He kept his eyes focused down the passenger car as he watched Lizzie Borden, the yellow waitress emerge from the toilet, and damn if she didn’t glance back at him, for just a fraction of a second, before instantly -yet nonchalantly as hell- turning her back to him and stepping through the connecting car doors to the next passenger car.

This time she hurried back to the seat, plunked herself down with a smile and said, “See? This time it only took one day for you to catch up.”

One day, Kodek mused… The repeating of this commuter train ride was somehow also healing his mind, giving it a single track to focus on so his memory could slowly piece itself back together.

This time,” Lizzie said, “You take a piece, swallow it, and just before you go I’ll shoot you in the head.”

Kodek was amused to find she was saying this like she was telling him what a kick-ass favour she was about to do for him. And then the twist came:

If we don’t kill at least a few of you,” she explained, “then your sanity will never come back to you.”

Kill a few of me?

She pulled out her gun – again.

Now eat one,” she demanded.

Out of curiosity, he did. He felt tha familiar tingle in his body.

Don’t worry,” she said. “You’re not the one anyway.” And she shot him in the head.

 

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