Fantasticoe Spring 2011

Regress

Riley Bell
"Fifteen!" he shouted as he opened his eyes. 

The alarm on his phone was going off; it read 6:15 am, June 26th. The shrill buzz was irritating, loud, and the only thing that could wake him up before eight in the morning. Seizing the phone off the floor, he silenced the alarm and sat up. 

Mumbling a curse, he rubbed his chest where it hurt, right under his heart. Pulling the blond hair away from his eyes, he looked around the room, staring at the mess he had to clean again. The floor was littered with empty pizza boxes and soaked clothes from the rainstorm from the night before. The room stank, and he knew that he should clean it again before he left for work. 

Grumbling to himself, he slowly untangled the sheets from his feet and put them on the floor, stepping on something sharp. Yelping in pain, he cried out, "Again? Seriously? How is it that I always forget that tack?" He reached down, picked up the tack, and slammed it back on the note-covered cork board hanging next to his bed. 

Shuffling around in his heart-covered boxers, he picked up the wet clothes and dumped them in the laundry basket next to the door. He gathered the pizza boxes into a pile that he carried through the main room and set on the kitchen table. Opening the fridge, he snatched the leftover burger from that fancy restaurant he went to the night before and ate it without vigor, tired of having nothing but that in the fridge every time he got up. 
A glance at his phone brought his attention to the voice mail, and he saw that he had those messages from her. He rolled his eyes and called his voice mail to delete them. 

"You have thirteen new messages. Message one: "MAXWELL YOU GODDA- Deleted." 

Max began rapidly hitting the delete key. He didn't want to listen to her whining again; he already knew which of the thirteen would insult him and which would beg for his return. Breaking up with her the night before hadn't been the most rational decision because it brought her crazy up to a new level, but he knew he had to get away. Dealing with her made him want to kill himself. He laughed at the thought, knowing that killing himself would just keep the torment going longer.


Post-shower and shave, Max went to his closet and selected his clothing for the day. He tried to mix it up each time around, picking out a pair of dark-brown kakis and his lucky blue dress shirt for this attempt, as well as his under-clothes. As he set them on the bed, his phone began to ring a seven a.m. alarm. Realizing he was a bit behind, Maxwell quickly threw on his clothes and dashed out into the living room of his apartment. He picked up a few hair-ties for his shoulder-length hair, the pizza boxes, his bag, and his keys, and he rushed out the door to his car. 

Locking the door, Max turned to run down the stairs. He nearly collided with his neighbor, who was coming up the stairs, but he stopped himself in time. 

"Oh, Max. Late for work again?" asked the old lady. 

"Not yet, Mrs. Bear. But I do gotta run. You take care today!" he shouted as he darted down the stairs behind her. 

"Thank you honey! You too!" she shouted back. 

He reached the front door and opened it by backing into it because his hands were full. The door opened easily, and Max felt a warm breeze blow through his hair. Slowing down for a moment to observe the weather, Max noted that it was warm and bright. The climate didn't match the mood inside him, though. He felt grey inside and was tired of doing this same thing over and over. Max just wanted to be done. It was the most unusually stressful day he had ever repeated this many times. Days that required fifteen retries were very rare. 

After throwing the pizza boxes into the recycling bin next to his car, Max jumped in his jalopy and started the engine. He set his bag and phone on the seat next to him and began putting his blond hair up into a ponytail while he looked at the phone to check the time again. It was 7:09 a.m. Max realized that he would have to deal with that event at the intersection again. He groaned and was annoyed that he would have to do this, but he knew that it was for the best that he got involved. Putting the old car in reverse, Max drove out of the parking lot and into the city. 

As he maneuvered his way through the city traffic, Max kept an eye out for the drivers he had seen recently. He soon saw the kindly-looking old man, driving five miles under the speed limit. Max also noticed the college boy with the stereo up too loud, and the young teen girl who was always gabbing on the phone to someone. As he glanced at her, talking away on the phone, he remembered in horror the last time he saw her and how badly her car and her body was damaged. I won't let that happen this time, he thought, as he passed in front of her and the rest of them. I don't want anyone else to get hurt. 

As they reached a particular intersection, the light began to turn yellow. Max had enough time to get through, but he slowed down to a stop. Just as he reached the intersection, the light turned red. He looked in his rearview mirror, and saw all those people behind him. Smiling, Max looked over at the man sitting in his car next to him. 

Rolling down the passenger window, Max yelled out at the man, "Hey, sir! Don't go right away when the light turns green!" 

The man, whose window was already down, looked at him funny and said, "What? Why?"

"Trust me. I got a feeling that something's gonna happen here." Max smiled politely at the man, who gave him a look that could only be described as "what an idiot." 

Nevertheless, when the light turned green, no one moved. The other side of the intersection was empty; there were no cars to warn over there. The other cars behind them started to honk, and the other driver began to go when Max shouted, "Wait! Three more seconds!" 

The guy looked at him like he was crazy, and took off. 

"No!" Max shouted. 

When the other driver was more than halfway across, a huge blue Jeep came barreling down the road and straight through the intersection. It slammed into the back end of the crossing driver and the front end of the teen driver he had seen before. 
The sound of rending metal and screams filled the air as shards of metal exploded from the impact. The white bursts of the airbags filled the windows. Max watched as the three cars slid down the intersection, looking horribly mangled. The cars came to a slow stop, and he felt relief when he noticed that the three drivers were all still conscious. 

Not staying around to be late for work, Max started driving away, commenting to himself, "Well, nobody died this time. Let's call that a success." 


The bank was filled with people and their noises. Children were screaming, adults were fretting, and laborers were cashing their paychecks. Crowding had rarely been this intense for such a small bank, and the tiled floors were covered in muddy footprints given by the grace of the previous day's rain. Max had been at work for three hours thus far, trying to help deal with the influx of people they got on payday. Sitting at the counter, he saw a familiar face coming towards him. 

An older woman walked up to the counter, and before she could speak, he said, "Looking to open a credit card account with us?"

Surprised, she nodded. "But how…"

"You'll want to be talking to my buddy, Guy, over there," Max said, while pointing to Guy's cubicle. "He knows all about the credit cards you can get from us, and he's the most fun to talk to. At least, I think so." 

The woman looked at him like he was crazy, but said, "…Thanks. I will," before walking off quickly. 

Max sighed in relief. He remembered how that woman wouldn't stop bugging him for information he didn't have about the credit card system, and he thought it was best to get her pointed in the right direction before she took up too much of his time.

His phone began to vibrate in his pocket. It was the alarm he had set up to remind him when it was nearly time to face the reason he was stuck in this day. He turned to a woman behind him, and asked, "Could you cover this window while I quickly use the restroom?" 
"Sure, Max," she happily responded. "Just don't take too long in there!" 

"Oh, I won't." 

Max came out from behind the counter, and went to the men's bathroom near the entrance to the bank. Taking deep breaths, he began to mentally prepare himself for what was coming. He reached into his pockets, pulled out a pair of rubber gloves that he had snatched from the back, and put them on, not wanting fingerprints all over everything. The anticipation and fear was building rapidly, but before it could incapacitate him, he heard the sound of gunfire. 

"Showtime," he said to himself. 


Two gunmen had walked into the bank, carrying semi-automatic rifles and wearing bullet-proof vests and ski masks. One of them shot a few rounds into the ceiling, and then said, "Alright, I think you know why we're here. Get down on the ground, and nobody make any sudden moves. I think we can resolve this without resorting to violence."

Every civilian got down on their hands and knees, some covering their heads in fear. The men walked up to the counter, slowed by the amount of people that were in line. 

While the gunmen were focused on the counters, Max had snuck back out of the bathroom. Moving quietly but not slowly, he arrived at the back of the line of people as the gunmen reached the transaction windows. Max picked up the metal pole that held up a rope barrier used to control the lines, disconnected it from the rope, and took a running leap at the leftmost criminal, stepping on a cowering person and using him as a launch pad. 

The metal pole came down hard on the thief, slamming his head on the counter and knocking him to the floor. He would probably be out for only a few minutes. The other man turned and began to fire his rifle, but Max had anticipated this and was already out of the way. A window far behind him shattered, and there was screaming from the cowering people. 

Max closed the distance between them in less than two seconds, and swung the pole hard. The hit connected, sending the gun to the floor and the gunman into the counter. Max picked up the gun and pointed it at the man, keeping his finger off the trigger. 

"Get on the ground, before I make you," Max growled. 

The criminal was shocked and stunned. Before too long, he did lay down, grumbling the whole way. 
Max looked at the woman who had taken his place, and inquired, "Did you set off the silent alarm yet?" 
She nodded, astounded into silence. 
"Good," he replied. 


Opening the door to his apartment, Max threw his bag onto the floor, slammed the door, and began to dance around in victory. He had finally done it. No more attempts, no more bullet wounds, and no more thieves! It had taken him a lot of work to get this far, but the nightmare was finally over. 

Max turned on the small television he had and tuned it to the news channel. He saw himself, having an interview with the cute news reporter. Before he could hear any of it, though, he turned on his radio and began to dance to the fast music that was playing. 

He soon sat down on the couch and began debating his options. He really didn't want to go through all that again, but he didn't feel like taking a nap. He wasn't tired enough yet. If he didn't get some sleep and he died somehow, though, he would have to do the whole day over again. 

Before he could think further, Max's phone began to ring in his pocket. Turning off the radio and the TV down, he answered it. 

"Hey Max, it's Guy!" shouted a loud voice. 

"Hey Guy! How's it going?" 

"Great! Hey, that was some really impressive stuff you did today. You saved a lot of lives." 

"I did what I had to do," he replied, shifting on his couch. 

"I know you did. Anyway, the wife had a great idea. Why don't you, a couple of our friends, and us all go out to dinner to celebrate! My treat!" 

"I don't know…" Max replied. He was still considering staying at home and trying to take a nap; playing the cautious route. 

"Oh come on, man! We really want to thank you for this! Please?" 
Max smiled, and
he asked himself what could go wrong? A night on the town couldn't end badly so long as he stayed relatively sober. 

"Oh fine. I'll go. Where do you want to meet for dinner?" 


As he walked down the street towards their cars, surrounded by his buzzed buddies, Max began to finally let the worry out. It was too late in the evening for anything to happen until he got home; this day would finally be over. 

Prompted by the friends who weren't at the bank, Guy began to imitate the swinging motion of the metal pole Max used to knock out the thieves and made swooshing noises, causing everyone to laugh. "Max," said Guy, "I'm so glad you were there. But how did you know it was gonna happen?" 

"Know? I was just in the right place at the right time," he replied smugly. 

"Now that's unlikely. And you're so idiotic, charging those guys unprotected! The odds of you surviving were really low! Promise me you won't do shit like that again. You only live once!" 

Max began a deep laugh, and said, "I promise."

A young woman walked up to the group of friends. She was wearing a dark-colored dress that barely qualified as clothing, and was staring at Max quite intensely. There was something wrong with the look on her face, like she was barely under control. 

"Are…are you that guy who stopped the robbery earlier today?" she shyly inquired. 

"Why yes he is, miss! Saved us all! He's cute too, ain't he?" Guy responded. 

Max began to blush profusely as he punched Guy in the arm. "Ignore the idiot over there." 

"Oh, but he's right. You are kinda cute…" She walked closer to him, reaching into her handbag. "We just need to…get rid of something to make things more interesting." 

His curiousity rising, he asked, "And that would be what?" 

Her smile quickly turned sour as she pulled something silver out of her purse. Before he could get a good look at it, there was a loud sound and a lot of pain. 

"You!" she yelled as the gun in her hand reflected the nearby street-lamp's light. 

Max fell, clutching his heart. He held on long enough to hear her say, "That's for putting my boyfriend in jail, you dick!" There was suddenly a lot of motion as people began to move, but his mind was quickly fading. Max was dying again, and he watched the world disappear before him. A piercing, loud ringing began to fill his ears, and- 


"Sixteen!" he shouted as he opened his eyes. 

The alarm on his phone was going off; it read 6:15 am, June 26th. The shrill buzz was irritating, loud, and the only thing that could wake him up before eight in the morning.

Seizing the phone off the floor, he silenced the alarm and sat up. 

"GODDAMMIT!" he bawled out at the sky. 

He sat in bed, his mood worsening as he saw that his room was, yet again, covered in pizza boxes and the rain-soaked clothes. It had all begun again. Doing anything almost seemed to be worth nothing on days like this. 

Grumbling to himself and rubbing where he got shot, he slowly untangled the sheets from his feet and put them on the floor, stepping on something sharp.