Short: “Ouroboros”

Writing Prompt Response

Time is a flat circle. When you die, you are reborn as yourself to live the same life over and over again. This applies to everything in the universe, and the universe itself. That is, until someone, somehow, finds a way to leave themself a message from a past life.

 

“Don’t touch the fish.”

It was certainly an odd fortune to get in a cookie at a Chinese restaurant. Compounded by the fact that I had actually ordered pork, it amounted to a fairly awful prediction. I stared at the piece of paper for a second before dismissively throwing it to one side.

“What did it say?”

I looked up into the eyes of my date: we had met the other day at the market and hit it off. She was fair-skinned and slim, with a quick wit and a passion for history. Sarah was the complete package as far as I could see.

“Oh, something odd about not eating the fish.”

Her nose scrunched up as she frowned. “How odd!”

“What does yours say?”

She snapped the cookie in half, retrieving the message from within the crumbs. She read it and frowned again.

“What is it?” I asked.

“It says,” she flipped the note over. “Tim, please ring this number.”

I froze upon hearing my name. Out of nowhere my body gave me a burst of adrenaline. “Wh-what? Does is have a number?”

“Yes.”

There was a pause as I sat there staring at the message while Sarah looked worryingly over the top of it.

“Do you think I should ring it?”

“Of course not! Who knows what person wrote that. It could a be a prank, or maybe meant for another table…” Sarah trailed off.

I agreed to hold off and the rest of the meal passed quietly. Afterwards, as Sarah grabbed her coat I snatched at the fortune, concealing it in my pocket. We went our separate ways in town and it took ten seconds of restraint before I begin feverishly dialing the number.

The tone rang on and on. My hands were shaking, my heart pounding against my ribcage. The winter’s chill turned my breath into mist. I had no idea why I was so affected by the message, but something urged me to get to the bottom of it.

The tone clicked onto an answering message.

“Hello Tim.”

I almost choked. It was my voice.

“I don’t have much time, in both senses of the word. You need to get to this address across town as soon as you can. If you don’t then something awful will happen, and I think you might die.”

I stumbled through the night, the handset clapped tight to my ears, listening intently to each instruction. The message couldn’t have been a prank – the man (or me?) – had spouted memories, people and dates that no phonejacker could know about. His knowledge led me to a warehouse in the industrial estates, helped me get past a coded door and into a dimly-lit shop floor.

“Okay now Tim, you need to go through this main floor and you’ll get to a smaller room. Through the door at the end of that room is where you need to be.”

I followed the instructions to the letter, but as I approached the final door – a heavy metal thing with iron latches and hinges – something made me hesitate. There, on a peeling poster on the wall, was the warehouse company’s logo.

A flying fish.

Don’t touch the fish.

“Tim you need to go through that door.” The voice on the other end began to become frantic. “Tim! Through the door, now!”

It began to warp and twist. Suddenly it wasn’t just my voice, it was that of thousands, millions. A symphonic cry by countless people in countless languages.

Panicking, I dropped the phone and span around, aiming to run as far as I could from whatever was on the other side of that doorway. I took no more than two steps my legs buckled under me.

I couldn’t move my legs, they had become dead weight. It was then that I saw it emerge, as if from nothingness, stepping into the real world.

Cloaked in shadows, ethereal yellow eyes glowing from beneath a cowl of writhing smoke, stood the unimaginable horror of death personified.

OUROBOROS

The shriek was deep and yet shrill, terrifying and soothing, all in one. Retching in fear I grabbed for my phone.

OUROBOROS

I punched the numbers in automatically, instinctively.

“Hello, you’ve reached Tim-” My own voicemail chimed.

“The fish! The factory!” I screamed, the shadow creeping ever closer to me.

THE CYCLE SHALL CONTINUE

“Don’t touch it! DON’T GO NEAR IT!”

I fell into nothingness, a blip on existence snuffed like a candle.


I put my phone back in my pocket, a little shaken.

“Who was it?” Sarah asked, worried by my expression.

“Just a prank call, I guess,” I replied. “Anyway, let’s see what’s in your fortune cookie!”

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