Mark was in the gentlemen’s toilet of the Harvey Arms pub when the clock struck twelve that New Year’s eve, as he had been the year before. Mark wasn’t known for his natural timekeeping abilities, if anything he was famed for quite the opposite. It had often been said that he would be late for his own funeral, and he had instructed his friends (should the worst happen) to ensure that he would be, so as to meet everybody’s expectations. Mark’s bladder, on the other hand, was an excellent chronometer, and it took great pleasure in commanding him to the nearest urinal not only frequently but at the least opportune times.
As he drunkenly swayed in the general vicinity of the urinal, Mark heard the DJ say something muffled and incomprehensible before starting a countdown from ten. Soon every sole in the pub had joined in a unanimous cacophony of reverse enumeration. Mark urged his pipes to hurry up and evacuate themselves before it was too late.
3… 2… 1…
The merry punters of the Harvey Arms erupted into a round of jovial cheering as Mark zipped up his fly. He rejoined them just in time to pretend he knew the words to Auld Lang Syne, hoping nobody would realize that he hadn’t had time to wash his hands. They were all too drunk and distracted to care.
“Happy New Year!” said Helena, before kissing Mark on the cheek.
“All the best, mate,” said Patrick, taking him by the hand and squeezing.
Laura’s mouth ejected a variety of sounds which Mark presumed were intended to form a sentence, but they fell on baffled ears. Mark returned the sentiment as best he could.
There were hugs, kisses, hand shakes, and best wishes all around, and another round of drinks was ordered by everybody in the building. Mark got himself another pint of the usual and one for Keith, who strangely was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he’d gone outside for a smoke.
“Where’s Keithage?” He asked Helena as he set the extra drink down on the table.
“Keith?” Helena looked puzzled. “He’s gone to Skully’s house in Leeds this year. Remember?”
Mark did not remember. In fact he distinctly remembered otherwise. Keith had spent the previous New Year’s Eve with Skully, and he’d made a point of celebrating in the Harvey this time around. “But, he was here a moment ago.”
Helena chuckled and accused mark of losing his mind. “I think that means you need another drink,” she said, pushing a short glass of Jägermeister into Mark’s face.
For a moment, Mark considered the possibility that he really might be losing his mind. He knew he’d spoken to Keith tonight – a long conversation about wormholes, as a matter of fact. But he gulped down his bitter medicine and decided not to let his wavering sanity spoil a good night.
Mark felt very strange when woke the next day. And it wasn’t just the pounding of his head, the soreness of his eyes, and the dry taste of wet dog in his mouth. He was used to that by now. No, something felt wrong – out of place somehow. He forced open his eyes to look about his bedroom. Where was the new office chair he’d received as a Christmas present? Where was the exercise bike he’d bought last spring? The book on his night stand was Ringworld by Larry Niven, though he’d finished reading that what must have been almost a year ago.
Only when he switched on the TV did the puzzle begin to resolve itself, although he could not quite believe the answer to be true. The news was showing clips of fireworks displays throughout the world, of how various cities and countries had rung in the start of the year 2015. The London Eye had become a giant Catherine wheel, the Eiffel Tower a giant Roman candle, and in New York a ball had been lowered on a column in some strange tradition that only Americans seemed to understand.
Wait… 2015? But surely this was the start of 2016?
Checking his phone, Mark found that the screen was no longer cracked. Or perhaps it had yet to become cracked. The date showed January 1st 2015. Could it really be that he’d moved back in time exactly one year?
How would you continue this story? Is Mark stuck one year in the past? Is he doomed to repeat the year forever? Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.