There were only three types of people that existed. The ones that hated Carl, the ones that thought he was absolutely perfect and the ones that hadn’t met him. That was because sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.
Carl was taking in the beauty of the golden sun slowly rising at the horizon, knowing that he might die today. Twenty four years had passed since he was born for the rest of us, but he had lived for more than one lifetime. Some people get absolutely bored if they are born with more money they could ever spend, but lack the imagination to properly entertain themselves. Carl had a different problem.
When he was just a boy of six, he had gotten lost in the woods that he went to with his father. While his dad was gathering berries, he decided to trail off on his own, following shiny cobwebs that glittered in the morning light. He loved to watch how the greens and browns of the wood and the yellows of the sun glistened in tiny crystal balls of dew in the spiderwebs. The moist and oxygen filled air made him a little dizzy and gave him a feeling that nature itself is giving him more energy than his little body could hold. He was used to going to the woods and didn’t think much of it when he lost sight of his dad, because it had happened before and sooner or later he would either hear his voice or spot the car they arrived in and all would be fine.
After what felt like an hour of silence (except for the wind in the high trees and the occasional bird calls) Carl started to get a little worried. He called out “Dad!?”. Silence. “Daaaad!?!?”- again nothing. He felt a sudden emptiness in his now pounding heart. It only takes a second for doubt to cross the border and become fear. Carl was now afraid and alone. He started running towards wherever felt right hoping to see his dad or anyone who could help. He looked between the trees as far as he could see and ran on top of hills to see even further. Carl kept yelling for help but his screams never reached anyone. After a while he felt tired, his sight was blurred with tears of desperation and his clothes were dirty and torn from tumbling down a small hill after he had tripped on a root. He became hungry and his tongue felt dry and sticky, he needed water. He no longer felt energised by nature, he now felt drained and empty. As the sun started to go down, the darkness sneaked inside him as well. He started blinking slower and every time he closed his eyes he went somewhere far away from the woods, somewhere safe. Mosquitoes came out, the colder the air got, the more mosquitoes came. And they bit his neck and face and arms and they sucked and they made the little boys skin itch in more and more places until he stopped feeling them at all. The woods become alive at night, all the sounds become louder and scarier, especially because he had no idea where they came from. The darkness should be hiding the scary things but it does quite the opposite, it attracted whatever dark beings he had in his mind. So all of Carls’ nightmares came to life that night, it didn’t matter that the witches and ghouls and vampires and zombies he saw that night weren’t actually there. He saw them as if they were and for him they were all real. For him it wasn’t a tree branch falling in a pile of twigs, for him it was a troll stomping on someones bones, crunching them as he hissed with the sound of wind.
Completely exhausted Carl found a little cave and he crawled in it to hide from the beasts of the night. He closed his eyes and in his heart he hoped that if he talked to his dad in his own mind, that somehow he could hear his voice and come save him. He didn’t.
Morning came, he didn’t notice himself falling asleep, he only understood that he had, because now he was awake and shaking, cold and still lost. There was no convincing himself that it had been a dream. He noticed another drop of dew in a spiderweb near the cave he had slept in and suddenly he became calm. He focused his gaze at the light in the water and the world around him started to shake. It didn’t worry him, the trees falling, the sand around him rising up as if weightless and the sun stretching out across the sky felt natural and normal. He blinked and once he opened his eyes, his mother was singing “happy birthday” and he blew four candles that were on the cake in front of him.
Later he excused himself from his own fourth birthday party to go upstairs to his room and the parents didn’t seem to mind. That night he laid in bed knowing he had done something. He didn’t quite understand how and why he was able to do that, but he was now two years younger and not lost in the woods anymore. He slept.
Over the years he found out that he could return back in time. It wasn’t always two years, it could be twenty seconds, it could be a decade, he never knew before he was already back. He learned not to waste it on gambling bets and on getting dates, because no amount of money and no meaningless hookup was worth potentially going through puberty for the twentieth time.
However he did try and save lives, but realised there was nothing he could do about cancer and stopping one accident from happening didn’t stop another and death didn’t care about the years he had to relive trying to stand in it’s way. Sometimes, eventually, death would become kinder to the ones that had to leave this world and take them in a more painless way or delay their death for a few years and it was enough for Carl. Mostly he travelled back just a few minutes or a day, it depended on how important it was for him to do it. If it had just been because of a misplaced word in an argument, he would just jump back in time right before he said it. If it was something as bad as hitting a deer on the highway leaving him paralysed from the neck down, it was a decade or so. Sometimes he wouldn’t go back even if he was in pain or in big trouble. Not because he wouldn’t think it’s worth it, but because he liked feeling normal, he wanted to know what grief felt like, he wanted to know what “getting over” something means.
Sometimes it doesn’t work though. Sometimes he made mistakes he regretted, but no matter how he tried he couldn’t go back. It didn’t bother him much, because some of the moments that felt important when they happened lost their significance with time.
It was his third time being twenty four and he had been an entrepreneur, a teacher, a homeless person and a lot more in his many lives. He wrote plenty of stories and published them in a blog. He only had a few readers, all of which thought the stories were pure fiction, but they weren’t.
It had been seven years since his last “re-do” as he called it in his head. He was tired of life when most of us would just start to feel the taste of it.
Now he only wanted to be normal, to stop being able to go back again. He wanted to die and at the same time the thought of not existing terrified him so he decided to leave it up to fate.
As he watched the rising sun and felt the warmth on his face he felt empty once again. Empty and dark and scared, just as he felt as a little boy lost in the woods. He knew than in just a few moments the building he was in was about to collapse because of an explosion on the bottom floor – he never knew if it was a terrorist attack or a gas leak that caught a spark, he didn’t care. He only knew that it would happen, because it wasn’t the first time he was there. This time he ensured he was alone in the building. He felt a rumble beneath his feet. “it’s happening” he whispered. He clenched his fists and shut his eyes as tight as he could and thought to himself “sometimes it works”.