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#WPW ~ January 0

In October, I started up the idea of #WritingPromptWednesday. The concept was to, once a week, just take a random writing prompt or idea and do a short story or flash fiction piece based on that prompt. The idea here isn’t to be great, or overly polished, but rather it’s to just let the creative juices flow on something without pressure. 

This week’s writing prompt came courtesy of Reedsy’s Writing Prompt email newsletter (so I obviously didn’t unsubscribe from this list), These guys send out a regular email with a selection of writing prompts to choose from.

The one that I chose from the New Year theme was:

As the countdown on New Year’s Eve reaches midnight, you look around to find all your party guests have vanished. You think it’s a clever prank until you glance at your phone and see the date is listed as, “January 0th.”

As always, this isn’t designed to be overly polished, but rather a bit of a free-flowing exercise to break out of the more focused and important pieces of writing that I need to do. If you’re inspired by the prompt, then please feel free to write something in a comment.

January 0

“Five! Four! Three! Two! One!

“Happy New Year!” Steven shouted.

Stopped.

Silence.

The room was dark.

“Uh, guys?” He called out, to no response.

The glass of champagne remained in his hand, and he lifted it to his lips, the sparkling wine bubbling on his tongue and tingling in his throat. With his free hand, he removed his phone from his pocket. The screen lit up at the movement, and in the top corner, an exclamation point drew his attention.

No Service

Even stranger, though, was the display on the screen of the phone.

00:00
January 0

The bright phone screen illuminated his surroundings. He was still in his apartment. The couch rested against the wall to his right, the coffee table stood in the middle of the room, his desk in one corner, the TV still hung on the far wall. He turned around.

Outside the sliding doors to the balcony was only the same blackness that he was surrounded by. Steven stepped around the coffee table and reached for the door.

“I wouldn’t step out there if I were you.”

The glass slipped from his hand. The stem shattered, and champagne splashed across Steven’s shins. He spun on his heel, looking for where the voice came from. Standing across the room in the same place that he had been as the countdown commenced into 2019, stood his own reflection. Steven gaped.

“You’re…” He started.

The reflection shook its head.

“Not you.” It said, “Just like this isn’t actually your lounge room. It’s just how your mind perceives things here.”

“Which is where?”

“Nowhere. And everywhere. We call it The Void – you’re outside of what you recognise and understand as Time and Space, so you’re not really anywhere.”

“Okay,” mused Steven, his voice filled with scepticism “But what am I doing here?”

“Well, that’s the interesting part for you.” The reflection said, “You’ve been granted an opportunity. Being where we are, I can guide you to any moment in time that you have already lived.”

“Sorry. What?” Steven asked.

“You have the opportunity to relive one day of your life, Steven.”

“Repeat that?”

The reflection repeated itself word for word, and Steven’s mind swelled. Around him, it felt like the room started to spin, none of this could possibly be real, could it? He stared at the disconcerting image of himself standing on the other side of the coffee table, and then walked toward the couch, where he sat down.

“One day of my life.” He said quietly.

“That’s correct. You get a second shot at any one day of your life.”

Steven closed his eyes, and began to explore a mental playlist that consisted of almost 30 years’ worth of memories. He had so many regrets, so many moments where, looking back, things could have been so much better if he had taken a different choice, things could have been so different.

“What happens at the end of it?” Steven asked.

“The day? You come straight back to midnight of January 1, 2019, and continue on with your life.”

“So it doesn’t change anything?”

“Well that depends on you.” The reflection said, “Do you want to change something?”

“Where would I even start?” Steven asked, disappearing into his memories once more.

There was the day that he had left for college; he could still see Michelle’s heartbroken face when he had told her that he didn’t want her to follow him to San Francisco. Less than a year later, his mother had told him in a phone call that Michelle was getting married, and since that day he had wondered many times, what might have been if he had allowed her to come along with him after all.

Perhaps it could be the day that he had refused the job in London, giving him the opportunity to live and work internationally – the career would have been filled with adventure and travel, but he had chosen, instead, the salary raise that had been offered from his existing firm in Chicago.

He considered the last conversation that he had with his grandfather. He regretted not resolving their argument before the old man had passed away. Maybe he could make a better go of that conversation.

As he continued to reflect on the important moments of his life, Steven’s memories dragged forward to the present. 2018 had been a difficult year; it was one that was just as soon forgotten as any he had experienced in his life. Between the feud that he’d had with his own sister, the stress from work, and a relationship breakdown early in the year, Steven had been ready to kiss the year goodbye since September.

Yet as he replayed again the high and low points of his life in his mind, he came to a realisation. Every moment, regardless of how good, bad or indifferent it was, had brought him to this very point in his life. For just a moment, he thought back only minutes earlier in his life, and saw Jennifer’s blue eyes and sandy blonde hair grinning at him as they had been dancing in the lead up to the commencement of another year.

And he realised that even if he could go back and fix the bad moments in his past – even just one – he would be trading away his entire life from that moment to this, and probably trading away whatever problems he had dealt with to this point for a completely fresh set to deal with.

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been sitting there, when he finally spoke.

“None of them.” He said.

The reflection seemed confused.

“There’s no day of your life that you would like to visit again?” It asked, “No moments you’d like to redo?”

“There are plenty,” Steven said with a shrug, “But it’s all the past. It’s tomorrow I should be focusing on, not yesterday.”

“You make a wise choice, Steven.” The reflection said, “Welcome to the future.”

Around Steven, the room lit up, and the sounds of several dozen friends shouting joyfully to one another rang in his ears. He was home, the very same instant that his journey had started.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, and he turned, looking into a pair of sparkling blue eyes.

“Happy New Year,” Jennifer said.

She stood on her toes, and he tilted his head down. Their lips met briefly, and she laughed, a smile across her lips as they pulled apart.

From somewhere in the corner, a voice started singing, and soon the entire party was joining in a semi-drunken rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Steven looked around at the friends and family who were sharing the evening with him, and felt a sense of deep satisfaction.

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