Jeremy Comes Home: Chapter 1, Scene 1, Draft 2

Jeremy Crowther turned the corner onto Freeman Drive and saw his house for the first time in a year. His first thought was that nothing had changed. The same cracks ran down the edges of the same beige stucco walls. The same wet magnolia leaves overflowed the same sagging, moldy gutters. The same brown patches of dirt fought the same brown patches of grass for control of the same brown yard.

Jeremy slid his backpack off his shoulder and set it on the sidewalk.

Nothing had changed.

He took a deep breath. It was now or never. He dragged his backpack toward the house, rehearsing once again the words he had practiced a thousand times during the past three days. "Mom, I'm so sorry." He never made it past those four words. He had no idea what would come next. That would depend on how his mother reacted. And maybe, he hoped, he wouldn't need any more words at all. "Mom, I'm so sorry."

He stepped onto the dusty cement porch. The same dust.

He reached toward the doorbell, then hesitated. What would his mother do when she opened the door and saw him standing there? Would she drop to her knees in relief and wrap her arms around him? Would she yell at him for what he'd put her through, what he'd put his family through? Would she turn him away, send him back to the street to punish him for running away?

Jeremy brushed the thoughts aside and rang the doorbell.

His mouth was dry. He licked his lips. If he were going to change his mind, now was time time. In another few seconds–

The deadbolt clunked. The doorknob turned. The door made a cracking sound as it freed itself from the snug doorjamb.

And there stood Jeremy's mother, looking down at him.

She looked just as he remembered. She wore her usual blue jeans and dark shirt, and the watch she always wore, with the tarnished metal band. Dear God, nothing has changed.

But no, one thing had changed. Her hair was shorter. And darker. She must have dyed it. So that was two things. At least these two things were different.

Jeremy's mother blinked, then frowned. "Yes?"

"Mom," Jeremy said. "I'm so sorry."

Her head jerked back. "What did you call me?"

"Mom, I–"

"What kind of prank is this?"

She doesn't recognize me, Jeremy thought. Had he changed that much in a year? "It's me. Jeremy."

She glowered at him. "What kind of shit are you trying to pull here, Jeremy?"


"Stop calling me that."


Jeremy's mother looked over his shoulder toward the street. "Okay, you and your friends have had a jolly good laugh. Now leave me alone."

"Mom, what's going on? What are you–"

She stepped back and reached toward the door.

"No, wait!" Jeremy blurted. He reached up and pushed on the door with his hand. "Mom, wait! I want to come home!"

His mother stiffened and gaped at him. She raised her right hand slowly to her mouth. Barely audibly she whispered, "Aaron?"

She's punishing me, Jeremy thought. Punishing me for running away, for abandoning her the way his dad did, the way Aaron did. She's punishing me, and I deserve it.

He began to cry. "No, I'm Jeremy. Your youngest son Jeremy."

His mother wiped the corner of her eye with the back of her hand. "Jeremy, I think you're at the wrong house."

"No!" Jeremy shouted. "This is my house. You're Natalie."

"How do you–"

"And Gil lives here, too, and Deena. And Aaron used to, but he–"

"How do you know about my family?"

"I am your family! Mom, what's–"

"You little shit," Natalie said, her voice cracking. "I don't know what game you're playing, but this is fucking cruel."

"What?" Jeremy squeaked.

"You're a hateful young man, Jeremy, or whoever you are," Natalie said. She stepped back again, this time more quickly, and grabbed the edge of the door.

As the door swung shut, Jeremy thrust his foot out and blocked it. "What are you doing? This is crazy!"

"Get out!" his mother yelled.

The door jerked back, then smashed hard into Jeremy's foot. He yelped and pulled his foot away.

The door slammed shut.

"Mom!" Jeremy cried. "Mom, I'm sorry! I'm sorry!"

The deadbolt slid gently home.

Dinner at Gourlay's

"Is that your father?" Tami asked. She pointed at a booth on the far side of Gourlay's.

It was my father, and he was with a woman I didn't recognize. Actually, a girl, probably no older than Tami. That son of a bitch! After all of his lectures about how I treat women.

Tami said, "You don't think he's..."

The girl in the booth leaned forward and slid her hand across the table. Dad slipped one hand under hers, and with his other hand stroked her fingers.

The maitre'd said, "Your table is ready. Right this way." He pointed the way with the two large menus bound in black leather.

"Wait a minute," I said, and started toward my father.

Tami grabbed my arm. "Jeff, no."

I jerked out of her grasp and kept moving. I bumped a chair. The woman in the chair yipped, and I glanced down. A beet-colored stain bloomed across the right breast of her canary yellow blouse. A drop of wine fell from the glass onto her orange slacks.

The man across the table from her said, "Hey, be careful."

My father looked up from his booth. When he saw me he jerked his hands away from the little tart. "Jeff! What are you doing here?"

"I'm on a date," I said. "Same as you."

"This isn't what it looks like."

Dad's date said, "It isn't?"

"I'm Jeff," I said, extending my hand to the girl.

"Darlene," she said, and shook my hand.

Tami had come up beside me and I put my arm around her. To Darlene I said, "Do you know Tami? I'll bet you were in homeroom together."

Dad said, "Jesus, Jeff, you don't have to be insulting."

"I was just saying how youthful she looks. Don't you think she looks useful? I mean youthful?"

The sides of Dad's neck reddened. He looked at Tami. "Are you Jeff's latest conquest?"

I looked at Darlene. "Oh, is Gourlay's the kind of place you take a conquest, Dad? I thought it was a place to take someone you're serious with." I pulled Tami closer.

Dad said, "Tami, I hope you're not buying Jeff's schtick about being serious."

Tami said, "Jeff, let's go."

"And I hope, Darlene, that you're not buying Dad's schtick about being single."

Darlene looked at Dad. "Ben, you son of a bitch."

"Holy shit. Did he tell you his name is Ben? Benjamin's his middle name. His first name is Jeffrey, like mine. And his wife's first name is--"

"Shut the fuck up."

I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket. "I should capture this moment. Your grandkids will want to see it," I held up the phone and pushed the camera button.

"You little shit!" Dad stood and swung his fist at my hand. I jerked my hand back just in time, but I lost my grip on the phone. It spun, flipped through the air, and splorked into a bowl of tomato soup, which erupted onto the yellow blouse and orange pants of the woman I'd spilled wine onto.

The maitre'd said, "I'm going to ask the whole lot of you to leave."

Darlene said, "Ben, give me forty dollars for a cab."

"I'll drive you home."

"Give me forty bucks."

"Fuck it, then," Dad said, dismissing her with a wave of his hand. "Find your own goddammed way home."

I said, "Like father, like son."

Tami said, "What?"

"I think he's trying to tell you," Dad said, "that he's just as big an asshole as I am."

"Give me forty fucking dollars, asshole!" Darlene shouted.

I reached for my wallet.

"Not you." Darlene said, "The other asshole."

I held out two twenty dollar bills.

Tami snatched the bills out of my hand. "Maybe we can share that cab."

"Or perhaps instead of a cab," said the maitre'd, "you'd all prefer to leave in a paddy wagon."

Tami said, "A what?"

My father said, "Given your likely career, young woman, you'll know what paddy wagon is soon enough."

I wound up and hit him. I'm sure I telegraphed the punch, and part of me probably expected -- or hoped -- that he would duck out of the way, but either he didn't see me or he was too stunned that I'd actually take the swing. I caught him solid on his left cheekbone, and he went down. He hit his head on the corner of the table, and a fork pinwheeled up and landed on his forehead, smearing roquefort dressing across his eyebrow. He lay still.

Darlene was gone. So was Tami.

"That's enough," a man behind me said. He wrapped an arm around my throat, and with his other hand stuffed my soup-drenched cell phone into my shirt pocket. He patted my pocket, then wiped his hand on my sleeve. "You don't want that to come true, buddy. Trust me on that."

"I don't want what to come true?"

"Like father, like son. You have a choice."

"Who the hell are you to be giving me--"

"Right now you have a choice. You can choose mindfully, or you can wait until you discover that the chance has passed you by, that you're stuck with who you've become. That moment is not too many years in your future."

"I can't breathe," I said.

He relaxed his hold on my throat. "Can I let you go now?"


He let go.

I turned around. He looked at me with an expression that I couldn't interpret. Looked me right in the eye.

I walked past him and headed toward the door. The woman in the yellow blouse leaned away from me as I passed.

I stopped.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry about your clothes. I should probably pay for the damage."

"I appreciate your saying so," she said. “That’s payment enough for me.”

I began to protest, then stopped. I looked at the man. He raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Well? What’s it going to be?”

I nodded. I apologized again to the woman, then turned and walked out.

Many Happy Returns: The Scenes

Here are all of the good bits from Many Happy Returns, all of the scenes in which stuff happens. I wrote a lot of other stuff, too, but it was mostly background stuff about the science and about the characters.
Cycle 0 (before time loops)
Dan, Friday Afternoon
Amy, Friday Evening
Dan, Saturday Morning
Amy, Saturday Morning
Dan, Saturday Evening
Amy, Saturday Night
Cycle 1
Mamie and Pickles
Olin in Traffic
Erika in Labor
Jude Leaps
Rynn in Space
Jesus Answers Mindy's Player
Later in Cycle 1
Homer Places a Bet
Cycle 2
Mamie and Pickles
Olin in Traffic
Erika in Labor
Jude Leaps
Rynn in Space
Later in Cycle 2
Jacob and Zack
AlPoo's Blog
Cycle 3
Cycle 27
Woody Balks

Many Happy Returns: Woody Balks, Cycle 27

"Where are the parachutes?" Woody Bumberschott asked nobody in particular.One of the other two guys in the cabin of the plane (Woody couldn't remember their names) shouted to the pilot (who had given the surely fictitious name Icarus Wallenda), "Hey Icky, this guy wants a parachute!"

Icky looked around at the guy who had spoken, then at Woody. Then he looked down at a clipboard that sat in the otherwise empty co-pilot seat. "What do you want a parachute for, Linwood?"

"Woody," Woody said. "People call me Woody."

"Why do they call you Woody," Icky said, and looked at Woody's crotch.

"Hey," Woody said, reflexively covering his crotch with his hands.

The other two guys in the cabin laughed.

"So you don't have parachutes?" Woody asked the pilot.

Icky shook his head.

Woody pointed to the co-pilot seat. "You mind if I sit here?"

"Be my guest," Icky said. "We'll be over the target soon, though."

Woody sat. "You really don't have parachutes?"

"What would be the point?" Icky said.

"I mean left over from before. When you did sky diving."

"I didn't need them then, either. People brought their own. You don't want to trust something like that to some drunk assed has been pilot wannabe."

"Wannabe? You're not a real–"

"Relax," said Icky. "I'm a real pilot."

"Well, that's reassuring."

"And a real drunk, too, if you want to know the truth."

Woody looked at the steering yoke in front of him. "Where's your co-pilot?"

"Ain't got no co-pilot," Icky said. "What do you want a co-pilot for?"

"Well… What if something goes wrong?"

Icky laughed and turned to the two guys in the cabin. "Hey, Steve, what if something goes wrong?"

"What do you mean?" Steve said.

"Our friend Woody here is worried that something might go wrong!"

Steve and his buddy laughed.

Icky looked back at Woody. "Woody, my friend, what's the worst that could happen?"

"Well …" Woody said, and trailed off. Dying wouldn't be the worst thing that could happen. Dying was the point.

Icky said, "Well what the Christ did you think 'skydying' meant?"

"I don't –"

"If something goes wrong, we die, which is the whole point. So, again, what could go wrong?"

"Well…" Woody said. "We could… I don't know, crash or something but not die. Just be mangled up bad."

"Well, one," Icky said, holding up a finger, "by the time we get close enough to the ground to crash, you'll be long gone. You'll be part of the ground. And two, well, why does that matter? In three minutes you jump. In three minutes forty one seconds, give or take, you hit the ground at about a hundred and twenty miles per hour. In three minutes forty one and a tenth seconds, you're beyond caring. So what's this all about? You chickening out?"

"I don't …" Woody said. His mouth felt dry.

Icky turned. "Vick, how many times you done this?"

Vick said, "This will make thirteen. Lucky thirteen."

"How about you, Steve?"

"This makes ten," Steve said. "I have to prove I'm not a cat, you know."

"Anything ever go wrong? For either of you guys?"

"No," Vick said. "Not unless you count total catastrophic biological malfunction, That's happened a few times. Like, twelve maybe."

Woody said, "What's it like?"

Steve said, "It's a total frigging rush. In every sense of the word. Biggest frigging panic of your life. Then you hit the ground and you're back wherever you were on Friday afternoon."

"Speaking of which," Icky said, looking out left window of the cockpit, "we're here. Anytime you're ready …"

Steve stood up and leaned out the open portal, restraining himself with his hands on either side. The wind whipped his short blond hair. He pushed himself back into the plane, turned around and said to Vick, "See you next cycle?"

Vick nodded. Steve leaned back and fell out of the plane.

Woody turned to look out his cockpit window, but couldn't see Steve's fall. He thought he heard a scream, but wasn't sure.

"Hey, Mister," Vick yelled. "You coming?"

"In a minute," Woody said. "Enjoy your trip."

"My what?" Vick said. Then he winked, stepped forward, and tripped on a bump in the rubber mat that ran between the eight seats of the small cabin. "Oh!" he said as he fell out the portal.

Woody suspected that the "trip" had been a fake one.

"Your turn, sunshine," said Icky.

Woody looked at Icky and blinked.

"You might as well," Icky said. "I ain't giving your money back either way. As if money made a gnat's worth of difference anyway."

Woody said, "Did you ever have anybody change their mind?"

"Not yet, I ain't. What the Christ did you come up here for if you didn't want to experience the ultimate frigging thrill ride?"

"I wanted to. I thought I wanted to."

"And now you don't?"

"I'm not sure."

"I take great pride in giving people their money's worth."

"Even if they change their minds?"

"Well, let me rephrase that. I take great pride in giving people everything they paid for."

"But…" Woody's mouth was even dryer now. "What if they don't want it any more?"

"Well," Icky said. "Remember when I said it don't make sense to worry about nothing going wrong?"

"Your evocative phrase, if I remember right, was something like 'because you'll be part of the ground.'"

"Well, that was number one," Icky said. "I never did tell you number two, the other reason not to worry."

"What's… what's the other reason?"

"Because if anything starts to go wrong, I can always just do this." He dipped the steering yoke sharply toward his lap, and the plane tilted nose first toward the earth.

Many Happy Returns: Dan, Cycle 3, Friday Afternoon

Dan Roberge immediately recognized the pattern of darker and lighter green. It was stairs.

Last time, he had chosen not to run, but instead to wait out the day in a Holiday Inn just east of downtown Sacramento, then head south on I-5 in the morning. But the cops had found him somehow, at three in the morning. Perhaps the taxi driver who had dropped him off at the hotel had tipped off the police. The cops didn't say how they had found him, only that they were good at what they do, and, by implication, Dan was not good at evading them.

On the ride to the police station, Dan had joked that if the loops kept happening, he would get better at evading them.

One of the cops, the woman, had turned to him calmly and said, "We learn, too."

Dan started up the stairs. He had spend Saturday in jail thinking up ways to evade or outrun the police. After all, he reasoned, if the time loop kept happening, he had to avoid capture only for a little more than a day. Then the time loop would carry him back to these stairs, and he could kill her again. Kill both of them again. As many times as he wanted, over and over and over.

But now that he was on the stairs again, ascending again to the bedroom of his poorly named wife and her mustached young goat lover, the thought of killing them again wearied him. And the thought of killing them over and over again in an infinite progression was a prison. A prison of his own making, but a prison nonetheless.

He turned the gun in his hand so that he gripped the barrel, and held it so that it pointed to the side. He reached the bedroom doorway.

In the bedroom, Zombie Goat cowered in a far corner.

Faith stood facing Dan, naked and gleaming. She spread her arms out to the side and glared at him. "Well?" she said. "What are we going to do this time, asshole?"

Dan held up the gun, which he still gripped by the barrel and which was still pointing to the side. He reached out with his other hand and released the… well, he didn't know what to call it… the chamber that housed the bullets and rotated them one by one into firing position. He tipped the barrel upwards and four of the bullets fell out, thumping on to the carpet.

"Fuck," Dan said, and shook the gun. Another bullet fell out. With his fingernail he dug at the last bullet, which finally popped free and fell onto the carpet beside the others.

Dan heard a noise and looked up. Faith stood near the wall, holding a table lamp, reared back as if prepared to strike.

Dan tucked the gun into his pants behind his back, and raised his hands, palms forward.

Faith said, "So you're no threat, is that it?"

"Apparently I never was much of a threat."

"What are we doing here, Dan?"

"Whatever we want to do, sweetheart."

Faith set down the lamp. She reached down and plucked her powder blue panties off the floor. She sat on the edge of the bed, pulled her panties up to her thighs, stood, and pulled the panties the rest of the way up. She then repeated the process with her jeans.

Goat boy, still in the corner, said, "Can I go?"

Faith turned sharply. "You? Not we?"

Dan said, "It looks as if you have poor taste in men. Or in boys."

"Yes, well, I knew that before I came up here with my little friend, didn't I?"

Dan looked at Bigote. "Looks as if you're going to spend eternity coming back to this moment, fucking a woman who despises you."

"Jesus," Faith said, and looked at her former lover. Her future lover.

"What's the matter, honey? Don't like the idea of having this weasel's cock inside you over and over throughout eternity?"

"Can I go?" Bigote said. "Can we go?"

Faith raised her voice slightly. "Jesus, grow a pair, will you? Why don't you just try it and see what happens?"

Bigote stepped gingerly out of the corner and retrieved his clothes from the floor. He held them in a bunch in front of his privates and took a step toward the door.

Dan stood his ground in the doorway.

Faith said, "For Christ's sake, Dan, let him go. This is between you and me."

"Wait," Bigote said. "Shouldn't you two go? I mean, it's my house."

Dan reached down and scooped at the bullets with his fingers. Two of then spun under the bed. He pulled up two in his hand. With his other hand he reached behind his back and gripped the gun.

"Okay, okay," Bigote said. He again stepped, again tentatively, toward the doorway in which Dan stood.

Dan pressed his hands outward into the doorjamb, the gun in his right hand.

Faith said, "Dan, let him go."

Bigote took another step.

Dan didn't move.

Bigote ducked forward, angling between Dan and the edge of the door. He got his head through, but his shoulders didn't fit in the space. He turned sideways, but the hand holding his bunched clothes bumped against Dan's leg. He moved the hand away, and slipped between Dan and the doorjamb, and as he did so his penis brushed Dan's leg.

"You son of a bitch," Dan said. "You just wiped my own wife's juices onto my leg. That's the kind of thing that could make a guy angry." He pointed the gun toward Bigote's head.

Bigote turned and ran down the stairs. He opened the door and ran out without closing it behind him.

Dan turned back toward Faith just as she began to swing the lamp. He ducked, and the lampshade dimpled on his head, popped off the lamp, and flew into the hallway.

"Hey!" Dan said, and stood up holding his hands up.

"I'm going, Dan."

"No, you're not." Dan stepped back into the doorway to block Faith's exit.

"We have nothing to talk about."

"We have everything to talk about."

"I have nothing to say to you, and I'm not going to listen to anything you have to say with a gun in your hand."

Dan tossed the gun across the room. "Happy? Now can we talk?"

Faith pulled the lamp back. "Are you going to let me by?"

"Why don't you just try it and see what happens?"

"You don't have the gun any more," Faith said. "You can't shoot anybody."

"What? Who the hell would I shoot even if I had the gun? There's nobody here but you and me." He started to turn to wave his hand to indicate the empty hallway and stairway, but Faith threatened him again with the lamp.

"You don't have the gun anymore."

"Why the hell do you keep saying that? You saw me throw it."

Faith rushed at him.

Dan stepped back and tripped over something. Something big. Something that moved. Zombie Goat?

"Where's the gun?" the thing said in a voice that was not Zombie Goat's voice. A kid's voice. Kid. A young goat.

And there was yet another person in the hallway, moving toward Dan. Someone too small to be Goat Boy. Another kid. Before Dan could see the second kid clearly, the kid slammed the lamp shade down over Dan's head. The kid on the ground shoved, and Dan fell again. There was no floor to catch Dan. He tumbled down the stairs. As he fell he heard and felt a sharp snap in his lower leg. He stopped head downward on the third step. His cracked leg poked between the slats of the railing and his good leg pointed upward toward the bedroom, toward where Faith stood pointing his gun at him.

The doorway darkened, and a man said, "You can put the gun down, Mrs. Roberge. We'll handle it from here. It's nice to see you alive again."

Many Happy Returns: Chapter 8 Scene 6

Anderson Cooper: Good evening. Tonight we'll be talking to Kendal O'Brian, the Deputy Director of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration. Deputy Director O'Brian, thank you for coming.

O'Brian: Thank you for having me, Anderson. Please call me Kendal.

Cooper: Okay, Kendal. What is your role in all of this? What is FEMA's role?

Kendal: It's important, if there is another time loop, that people be prepared when it happens, so that they can help to reduce the danger and confusion. So we at FEMA are putting all of our energy and effort into helping people to be prepared.

Cooper: And what advice to you have for people?

Kendal: The most important advice is for those people who, when the loop happens, find themselves somewhere safe, or even relatively safe. The most important thing they can do is to stay calm, to relax and stay where they are so that they don't contribute to the chaos that the people around them may be feeling. If you're with your family, stay with your family. And if you're separated from family and friends, please refrain from making phone calls unless it is an absolute emergency. We need the phone lines to coordinate emergency activities.

Cooper: And what about people who loop back into dangerous situations?

Kendal: Well, obviously, the exact nature of the advice depends on the specifics of the situation. But the key idea is to do whatever you can to prepare a plan of action. If, as we anticipate, the next loop cycles back to the same moment as the first two loops, then clarify in your mind, be crystal clear about the exact moment you will cycle back to. And perhaps most important is to continue to do whatever you were doing at the time. If you were driving straight down the center lane of the highway, continue to drive straight down the center lane. If you were changing lanes, continue to change lanes. Whatever you did in cycle zero, do that again on the next cycle. We've seen people panic, naturally, to find themselves back in high speed traffic, and make large, sudden changes in their behavior. And of course this is a natural reaction to surprise and danger. Unfortunately, it means that the people around you have to cope not only with what just happened to them, but also with the sudden, surprising, unpredictable actions of dozen or hundreds of drivers around them. This in turn creates more danger, and more panic, and more sudden, unpredictable actions, and we get into a vicious cycle that increase the danger to extreme proportions. The key to reducing the danger is to realize that whatever you were doing at that moment in cycle zero, what you were doing was safe enough to keep you alive. So the idea here is to do that same thing, to keep yourself alive and relatively calm, so that you don't create chaos for the people around you and they don't create more chaos for you. If everyone can prepare themselves, and do whatever they did during cycle zero, we can get through those first few seconds and minutes relatively safely, gather our wits, and continue driving as normal.

Cooper: Do you really think that's possible? To ask people to calm down and not to panic in a situation like that?

Kendal: Yes, for several reasons. First, human beings are remarkably adaptable, even in emergency situations. In our business, we see people whose houses are being washed away in floods leave their grief aside and help to rescue neighbors in danger. We see the best of what human beings are capable of, the generosity of spirit, the courage that is always there inside us, waiting for an opportunity to show itself. And second, each time the loop happens will be less and less of a surprise. Everyone, of course, was surprised and stunned and shocked at the first loop, and reacted instinctively to an unfathomable event. People report that it took them several seconds to make sense of what they were seeing in front of them, even though the objects were familiar. For example, a common report is that people found themselves looking at a complex shape they couldn't identify. Then they recognized that it was a face, but they didn't know whose face it was. Then they realized it was the face of their spouse or child or parent. It's as if the sensory input were coming in, but the brain hadn't caught up yet, and still processing whatever was happening just before the loop. That's a classic – if extreme – reaction to extreme surprise. The larger the magnitude of the surprise, the longer it takes for the brain to make sense of even familiar sensory inputs. It can take several seconds, but subjectively it feels much, much longer. And it's not the change that causes that lag in the brain, it's not the change, but the surprise. Think of when you watch a movie, and the scene cuts from an actor's face to the doorway of a building on a crowded city street. That's just as much of a change to our senses. But because we've become used to such things in movies, we don't experience any particular confusion when it happens. The same thing can happen with the time loop. If we can reduce the surprise, we can reduce the chaos. And if we reduce the chaos, we reduce the danger. And one way to do that is to anticipate the time loop. That will greatly reduce your surprise. And if you can plan out what actions you will take immediatly after you cycle back, and if others around you take predictable actions instead of unpredictable ones, the danger is greatly reduced.

Cooper: We have some callers with specific situations who want to know whathey can do. Can you take some calls?

Kendal: Of course, of course.

Cooper: Vera from Minneapolis, your on with Deputy Director O'Brian.

Vera: Thank you, Anderson. Director, you said to do whatever we did in cycle zero. Well, in cycle zero, I was changing lanes and someone cut in front of me. Their bumper caught my bumper, and I spun off the road and … died. Of course, I immediatly found myself back in that traffic, in the middle of changing lanes. I don't know what I did differently. Whatever it was, it was instinctive, and I did it before I even fully realized where I was and what was happening around me. But whatever I did, it was different, and it kept me alive. Are you saying that I should go back to changing lanes, and that other driver should go back to cutting me off?

Kendal: No, of course not. And this is why it's impossible to give hard and fast advice. For those people who were killed or injured or put in danger in cycle zero, either through their own actions or the actions of others, what we recommend is that, as we advise others, you plan out your actions. But where we advised others to repeat their actions until everyone gets their bearings, we advise people who are in such danger to change their actions in the smallest way that will keep them safe. And, if it makes sense given the situation, delay the change in your actions for as long as is safely reasonable. This will give others around you time to, literally, come to their senses. If your changes are smaller, it will be less difficult for people to react to. And if you make your changes as late as possible, people will be better able to observe it, make sense of it as their minds catch up with their senses, and respond safely for themselves, for you, and for the people around you.

Cooper: But doesn't any change have a chance to ripple, to cause people to have to respond suddenly, causing yet further changes for people to respond to?

Kendal: Yes. The best we can hope for at first is to reduce the confusion and chaos.

Cooper: What do you mean by at first?

O'Brian: We're anticipating that these cycles may continue indefinitely. If that's the case, then people will learn from cycle to cycle how to anticipate the actions of the people around them, and, probably more importantly, to react in ways that other people can predict. The key is predictability. The better you can anticipate, the better off you and the people around you will be. And the better you act in predictable ways, the fewer surprises the people around you will have to adjust to. We expect that most situations will stabilize in only a few cycles, and perhaps even on the next cycle. You have to realize that at the exact instant after the loop, the physical world is doing exactly what it did before. The only thing that differs from loop to loop, as far as we know, is how poeple act.

Cooper: So the bottom line is what?

O'Brian: If you're safe, stay where you are. If you're in a potentially dangerous situation, do whatever you did before that worked. If what you did before didn't work, adjust your actions enough to create safety for yourself, but make the changes as small as will be safe for you, and make the changes as late as will be safe for you.

Cooper: Deputy Director Kendal O'Brian of the Federal Emergency Management Association, thank you very much. If there is going to be another cycle, and if the cycle happens at the same time as the previous to, we are about a minute away. Sixty seconds… fifty nine… fifty eight…

Many Happy Returns: Chapter 8 Scene 5

Larry King: Good evening all, and welcome to a special weekend edition of Larry King Live. Tonight we'll be talking about two topics that are on everyone's mind: death and time. Recent events have led all of us to question what we knew – or what we thought we knew – about the nature of these two important elements of our lives. Mostly we have only new questions about death and time. We will talk to people tonight who might be able to answer some of those questions. Our first guest is an expert on time, Doctor Itzhak Bars of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Doctor Bars, what do you make of the events of the past… Well, I don't know what word to use. What do you make of the loop in time.

Bars: Honestly, Larry, it was as big a surprise to me as it was to everyone else.

King: You've developed an unusual theory about time. You say that there are two dimensions of time.

Bars: Yes, that's right. There's the normal time dimension that we're all familiar with, that we all experience. And there's a second time dimension that we don't interact with; at least not in a way that we experience directly.

King: Then how do you know that this second dimension exists?

Bars: Because it helps to simplify some aspects of what is called the Standard Model of subatomic physics. And it answers one of the major questions about the standard model: How gravity relates to the other three fundamental physical forces – or the one other fundamental force, depending on whethe ryou see the electroweak force as one, two, or three forces.

King: Is this the so-called Grand Unified Theory that scientists have been seeking?

Bars: Not quite, but it does move our understanding a step or two in the direction of a Grand Unified Theory. What my theory suggests is that – well, let me back up for a minute. First, I say that there are two extra dimensions, one of time and one of space. So instead of the usual four dimensions that people talk about, the three dimensions of space plus one dimension of time, there are actually six dimensions; four dimensions of space and two of time.

King: And that simplifies phusics? It sounds as if it makes physics more complex.

Bars: It's more complex than the way the average person thinks about space and time, if they think about it at all. But of course we've known since the Standard Model became the standard that it didn't explain everything we want it to explain. We've known that we have questions that the Standard Model just doesn't answer. So one possibility is that reality is more complex than the Standard Model suggests. Another is that a different model, a slightly modified model, might actually describe reality in a simpler way. That's what I think my T2 model of time does. It actually simplifies our understanding of the forces and particles that make up the physical world. Not compared with how most people think of space and time, but compared with the Standard Model and the many patches people have applied to it to try to make it account for everything we have observed.

King: If we don't experience the extra dimension – the extra dimensions – what good is it?

Bars: For most people it doesn't do anything useful at all. But for physicists, it's very helpful. It says that the world we see around us is not all there is. The real world that we see is like a shadow of the six-dimensional world. And depending on how we observe the shadow – what angle we choose to observe and analyze it from, – we get a completely different reality. We're observing the real, six-dimensiona universe from one perspective, and that's what produces the shadow that we observe.

King: Could we observe a different shadow, is that what you're saying?

Bars: We can't observe the other possible shadows directly, but we can get hints of them. For example, there's an extension of the Standard Model known as supersymmetry. In the supersymmetry model, each of the particles in the Standard Model has a superpartner, a companion particle that is heavier than the particle in the Standard Model. Each of the four-dimensional models of time and space say that these superpartners – if we can ever observe them – will have a given set of properties such as mass and spin and electrical charge. My six-dimensional model places different constraints on those superpartners. That was one of the things we were hoping to learn from the LHC.

King: That's the Large Hadron Collider that we've heard so much about the last few days?

Bars: Yes, that's right.

King: What do you make of the shutting down of the collider?

Bars: Well, on the one hand it's a tragedy, because within hours of starting up it produced a result that particle physicists have been andicipating for three or four decates.

King: That's the Higgs boson?

Bars: Yes. So that was a result of immense importance to science, within hours of the LHC starting up for the first time. So clearly the potentioal for what we could learn from the LHC – what we could have learned from it – is enormous. But of course I also understand the safety concerns.

King: So how do you explain the time loops? How does your idea of two-dimensional time help to explain it?

Bars: Well, I don't know, exactly. You have to understand that this is new to me, too. I certainly didn't predict that what we're experiencing was possible. In fact, my model actually helped to explain some of the questions in the Standard Model about why time flows in one direction and not the other. It actually helped to explain why time travel is impossible. It showed where some of the constraints come from, including the constraints that prevent sending matter or even information into the past.

King: So this is all science fiction even to you?

Bars: Well, yes, except that it's really happened.

King: So is that what happened? We've all gone back in time?

Bars: Well, that's what's so odd about this. Our bodies didn't go back in time. Only our minds did.

King: But our bodies are still here, too.

Bars: Actually, they aren't the bodies that we jad on August ninth are gone. They don't exist in our reality any more. Our minds seem to have traveled back into the past and taken over the bodies we had then. It's as if we are possessed, but by our future selves.

King: Why did our consciousness survive the loop? Or as you put it, why did our consciousness go back in time, all by itself?

Bars: Again, I don't have an answer for that. I'm not an expert in consciousness by any means. You'd have to ask Sabrina Wheeler about that.

King: We will. We have her scheduled for an upcoming show in the next cycle. It's interesting that you mention her. She, along with Fred Alan Wolf and a number of other scientists, suggest that consciousness is not just something that happens in our brains, but is actually more fundamental than that, a part of the universe in the same way that space and time and the usual forces are. Is it possible that one of your extra dimensions is the dimension of consciousness?

Bars: No, I don't think so. There are superficial similarities, of course. My model and their ideas all posit a reality beyond what we can experience, detectable only indirectly through inference. Byt the two extra dimensions in my model are definitely a space dimension and a time dimension.

King: So are they wrong?

Bars: Well, I'm not saying that. You may know that there are other theories that include even more dimensions than my model. String theory, for example, includes a sub-theory called M-theory, which includes eleven dimensions. This theory is completely compatible with mine, though the "extra" seven dimensions in M-theory are different from my two additional dimensions. To make M-theory and my theory compatible you have to add my two new dimensions to theirs. So M-theory would then have thirteen dimensions.

King: You're not superstitious, are you?

Bars: No, not at all. Now, it's possible that Wolf and Wheeler's consciousness dimension align with the extra dimensions of M-theory, but more likely they're talking about something that's more like a field or a force than a dimension. The challeng with any theory like theirs or mine – any theory that suggest that there are features of the universe beyond the ones that we have observed or even inferred so far – is to find a way to test it. So again, though I understand the reasons for shutting down the LHC, I do feel some sadness that we won't be able to benefit from it.

King: Would you start it up again if you had your way.

Bars: I might. I'm not certain. I might.

King: Well thank you for spending time with us, Doctor Bars. What's next for you?

Bars: I am, of course, rethinking my theory to account for what we now know about the time loop.

King: And how is that going so far?

Bars: At this point I'm still searching for information. There's an intriguing result from CERN and the LHC. When they say that the LHC has been shut down, you have to understand that every time we cycle, we go back to a time when the LHC was fully operational. Now, they are doing everything they can – putting better and better procedures in place – to shut down the LHC as fast as is possible at the beginning of each loop, but it does take some time. A minute or so currently. That may improve over time. But in meantime, in that minute, they do generate events that offer information for us. Of particular interest is an intriguing result reported by an MIT team working at CERN – via blog, because the publication pipeline for the traditional refereed journals takes longer than the time loop allows – that the the results that they observe from the collider do not repeat exactly with every cycle. And some of the anomalies happen to soon to be affected by any changes in human activity.

King: What kinds of changes in human activity?

Bars: Well, I'm not talking about changes in the way the LHC is operated. I'm talking about even subtler things. The LHC, like some other colliders, is an extraordinarily precise instrument. When the collider at Fermilab started up, they found interesting anomalies in their data. At first they thought they had discovered something new about some fundamental particles, that the mass of some particles was subtly but noticeably different than other labs had measured. But it turns out that their collider was picking up interference from a passing subway train. The train had just enough mass to distort the beam of particles and create the anomalous results. Once the researchers understood about the train, they could adjust for its effects. And when they did that, the mass of the particle came out the same as every other lab had reported. But it was an embarassment for the folks at Fermilab all the same. So what I'm saying is that the anomalous results we're seeing in the LHC – a different set of what are called fermions are created just at the start of each cycle – are very likely not coming from anything people are doing. And the actions of the physical universe otherwise seem to be identical with each loop, the sole exception being the actions of people and other conscious animals, and the effects of those actions.

King: And what's important about that?

Bars: There's something going on that producing a different set of fermions each time. And that may give us clues about what is causing the time loop. And, even more imortantly, in the last analysis, it may give us clues about the nature of space, time, and the universe.

King: Again, Doctor Bars, thank you for spending part of your evening with us.

Bars: My pleasure, Larry.

King: We turn next to an aspect of life that we don't often talk about here on Larry King Live, a topic that people often avoid talking about. And that is: death. We have as our guests three people who have died during one or more of the cycles, and who have come back to tell about it. Now, these are not what people call near-death experiences. These are actual death experiences. First, we have Cheryl Blanchard from here in New York City. Cheryl, welcome.

Cheryl: Thank you, Larry.

King: Tell us about your death. That sounds funny, doesn't it?

Cheryl: Yes, and my daughter has commented on that, in a way. She calls me Zom now, in stead of Mom.

King: Zom meaning…

Cheryl: Zom being short for Zombie. I'm her Zombie Mom.

King: What were you doing when you died? How did it come about?

Cheryl: I was in Fletcher's Market on Avenue of the Americas, and a guy came in waving a gun.

King: What did you do?

Cheryl: I tried to dive behind the counter, but I slipped. I think I probably sstartled the guy and made him nervous.

King: And what happened?

Cheryl: Well, he pointed his gun at my face, and the next thing I knew I was standing at my stove heating up Campbell's tomato soup.

King: When was this? Which cycle?

Cheryl: I was killed during what they're calling cycle zero, before the time loop happened. It was Friday night about nine o'clock. And I was suddenly right back where I had been earlier that night, heating up my last can of tomato soup. In fact, that's why I was out at Fletcher's. I was buying more soup.

King: That's probably not a good marketing pitch for Campbell's.

Cheryl: No, I don't think they'll be seeking my endorsement.

King: Sitting next to Cheryl is Alfredo Mendoza, a water skiing instructor from Winter Haven, Florida. Alfredo, what were you doing in New York?

Alfredo: I'm visiting with my daughter. We went to see David Letterman on Friday night. Then on Saturday we were waiting in line to see Cats. That's when I had a heart attack. I couldn't find my digitalis in time, and even though the emergency response people did everything they could, I died in the ambulance. It surprised the – I was really surprised to find myself standing in line with my daughter outside the Ed Sullivan Theater. I mean, Dave did a good show, but it sure wasn't heaven. It was too damned – It was too cold in there, for one thing.

Larry: Well, David is a sweater, or so the rumor goes.

Alfredo: He said he just didn't want us to fall asleep.

Larry: So did you go to the show a second time?

Alfredo: No, they cancelled it.

Larry: Which cycle was that?

Alfredo: Cycle zero when I died. Cycle one when I was back in line at the Sullivan.

Larry: So what happened on Saturday night? On cycle one, I mean.

Alfredo: Nothing. That was surprising. It turned out, my daughter told me, that I had left my digitalis in the hotel room, which I never do. So we both made sure that I had it with me on Saturday. We went out to see what was happening on the streets – It was pretty crazy. People doing crazy stuff. Robbing stores. One guy was standing in the street yelling at people to come on into his store and take whatever they wanted. Traffic was a crawl. Lots of cars were abandoned – I don't know whether that was the cause or the effect of the traffic problem Maybe both. Anyway, I sort of wanted to be out in the excitement at 10:30, to see what kind of craziness would happen at that time, when that first loop time approached. But when it got to be near the time of my heart attack, we changed plans. If I had another heart attack at that time, I'd want to be nearer to help. So we went to some nearby hospital and waited.

Larry: And what happened?

Alfredo: Nothing happened. My daughter and I held hands for a long time, just in case. But nothing happened. The time came and went. I don't know why. I guess because I did different things, I skipped whatever it was that had triggered the heart attack. Maybe it was just standing in line that did it, I don't know. The straw that broke the camel's back. But the second Saturday I didn't have a heart attack. So we waited for a while just to be sure. The emergency room had plenty of excitement to watch, though, because it turns out that people were doing all kinds of crazy stuff. Sad stuff, mostly, with people hurting themselves. A lot of failed suicides came through the door. And a few successful ones, too.

Larry: Where were you when the second time loop happened?

Alfredo: Still in the emergency room lobby with my daughter. And then the next instant we were in line for Letterman again.

Larry: Our third story is from Iris Hibbert. Welcome Iris. How did your death come about?

Iris: I shot myself with my gun. And, yes, it was on purpose. I guess I found the chaos too much to cope with.

Larry: What chaos? Was this in cycle zero?

Iris: No, the chaos of the time loop. This was in cycle one.

Larry: Okay, so this was in cycle one. What were you doing when the first loop happened?

Iris: I was at home, in my apartent, watching Jacob's Ladder on TV. You know that movie? The guy, Jacob, has all kinds of hallucinations So one minute I'm watching the guy in the movie see all of these wierd things happening, and the next I was on the subway, on the way home from work. I had my briefcase in my hand and I was wearing my blue suit. The same blue suit I had worn on Friday of cycle zero. And I recognized the people around me. They were the same people who had been there on Friday. So there I was on the subway train, and I freaked out. Just like everybody else, I suppose. The train started jerking, I guess because the driver or conductor or whatever was probably freaking out, too. People were yelling and screaming and crying and yelling, "Stop the train! Let me off!" It felt really claustrophobic, like the train had suddenly become much smaller or something. But it was a total panic, and everybody seemed to feed of everybody else's emotions. It was a real mess. And when the train finally stopped and we got topside the chaos seemed just as crazy, if not moreso because now the panic wasn't just people, but people and cars. Car accidents everywhere. People abandoning their cars and screaming. I heard some gun shots somewhere not far away. And I guess the chaos overwhelmed my senses and I couldn't make sense of it all. I thought the world was ending. It was Judgment Day, armageddon. So I went home, got my gun out of the closet and … well, I did just like you see on TV.

Larry: And what happened next?

Iris: Then, of course, I was back on the subway again with the same people and the same suite and the same briefcase. And everybody freaked out again, but it wasn't as bad, you know? One lady kept saying, "I knew it, I knew it was going to happen again."

Larry: So you killed yourself, and then you were back on the subway. Obviously you didn't kill yourself, because here you are telling the story. What made you react differently the second time around?

Iris: Well, when I was alive again, I realized that God was sending me a message. Not just giving me a second chance, but telling me no, it's not my time yet. There's something else he has in mind for me, something else he wants me to do.

Larry: God has a mission for you?

Iris: Yes, obviously. I only wish I knew what it was.

Larry: Something that strikes me about all of your stories is that for all three of you, there was nothing between the moment of death and the moment of finding yourself back on Friday evening. Is that right?

Alfredo: Yes. I remember realizing that I was dying, and then immediately I was in line at the Ed Sullivan Theater.

Larry: What did you make of that aspect of it, the instant-ness of it?

Alfredo: I was confused. I didn't expect the afterlife to look like the Ed Sullivan Theater, that's for sure. But I had some thoughts similar to Iris's, that maybe God has more in store for me.

Larry: So you consider yourself religious?

Alfredo: Yes, more or less. I haven't attended church for a long time, but yes, I believe in God.

Larry: And you, Cheryl?

Cheryl: It was exactly the opposite for me. I expected that there would be no afterlife, and I was very surprised to find out that there was one. But I didn't expect the afterlife to consist of heating up Campbell's tomato soup.

Larry: Do you believe in God?

Cheryl: No, I don't.

Larry: And these events don't make you reconsider?

Cheryl: Well, yes, I admit they did. At first I thought, if anything could be interpreted as a sign from God, this is it. I mean, going back in time? I don't know a lot about science, but they always sayt hat time travel is scientifically impossible. So, yeah, I reconsidered for a minute. But then I thought, there's probably some scientific explanation. And besides, why would God do something like this? It doesn't make sense.

Larry: Iris and Alfredo, what do you think it means that you went right from dying to right back at Friday night? No tunnel with a bright light, no meeting with loved ones. What did you make of that?

Iris: I don't know. I think it means that it wasn't a real death, in a way. I'll know it's my real death when I meet Jesus.

Alfredo: I hadn't really thought about it, but I guess that's how it is for me, too.

Larry: Do you want to take a call? We have time for a call or two.

Iris: Sure.

Larry: The caller is Jack, from Louisville Kentucky. Jack, your on with our guests.

Jack: I want to know abou the eights.

Larry: The eights? What does that mean?

Jack: August 8, 2008. That's 8/8/08. Do you or your guests think that's a coincidence?

Larry: What does that have to do with our guests?

Jack: Think about it. And we keep goint back to 5:28, right? That's 9:28 Greenwich Mean Time. In other words, it's eighty eight minutes past eight o'clock on 8/8/08. I'll bet if you look at the exact time, it's 8 seconds past 5:28. You really think that's a coincidence?

Larry: That's an intriguing observation, Jack. I'm going to look into that. Unfortunately, that's all we're going to have time for tonight. I'd like to thank my guests Cheryl Blanchard, Alfredo Mendoza, and Iris Hibbert. Next up is a special weekend edition of Anderson Cooper. Anderson, what's on our schedule tonight?

Cooper: Thank you, Larry. Tonight we will be counting down to ten thirty nine. And we'll be talking with Kendal O'Brian, the Deputy Director of FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, about how to prepare in case there's another cycle.

Larry: Well, all right, I'm looking forward to that.

Many Happy Returns: AlPoo's Blog, Cycle 2

Stay tuned for my serial novel. Posted August 9, 2008, 11:00 am by AlPoo.

Hey, kiddies, guess what? I'm going to write my novel after all.

For those of you who missed my rant yesterday, let me summarize. Waaahhhh! I can't write my novel because the time loop erases everything I write. Waaahhhh!

I think that gives the gist of it. As for the details, well, those are gone like the pages of my novel. C'est la guerre, or however you spell that. Them's the breaks.

But I figured it out: I can still write my novel. But I'll publish it a scene at a time, right here on AlPoo Saves the Day. Every day I'll write another scene and publish it here. If you want to read it, you'll just have to keep up.

Dostoevsky wrote serials, and he did okay. Dickens did okay, too, with serials, at least if Miss Breckenhall, my ninth grade English teacher, told me the truth. And even Stephen King wrote a serial once.

So I'm in good company. And anyway with the time loop there's no other way to do it.

Once again blogs are the future of publishing. Once again the brilliant and handsome AlPoo saves the day.

Oh, and Miss Breckenhall… If you're out there somewhere reading this, you should know that I still pine for you just like – excuse me – just as ten years ago. But now I'm all grown up, if you know what I mean. So IM me, any time, night or day. M'kay?

Many Happy Returns: Police, Cycle 2, Friday Afternoon

Ray and Patty approached the officer and the two teenagers. This time – this cycle, as the terminology had arisin – they hadn't waited for the phone call. Ray had called Patty by cell phone, and they had arrived separately but simultaneously on Anton Court, she from the precinct and he from the dentist's office.

Ray addressed the officer. "Looks like you had the same idea we did: Don't wait for the call this time."

"Yeah. Good thing, too. Probably prevented one of the killings."

"Which one?"

"The woman."

One of the teenagers said, "She was naked."

"What?" said Patty.

The other teenager said, "She ran right out of the house naked."

"What are your names?" Patty said.

"I'm Will," the first teenager said. "That's Jeff."

Jeff waved.

"So," Ray said, "There were no gunshots this time?"

"Oh yeah," said Jeff. "That, too. There were two shots. One right after the reset, and another one when we were trying to follow the naked lady."

"You followed her?"

"Sort of. But we didn't know what to do."

Jeff said, "We called to her and told her she could come into our house."

Will said, "Because it would be safe there, that's all."

Jeff said, "But she just yelled at us to get out of the street, that he was coming with a gun."

"Did she say who was coming?" Patty asked.

"She didn't say, but we figure it was her husband, the guy who killed her before."

Ray asked, "Where did she go?"

The officer said, "We picked her up. Took her downtown."

"What's the situation inside?"

"The young guy is dead. Looks like he bled out through the groin."

"Jesus," said Jeff.

"There was a second gunshot wound in his neck, but there wasn't much bleeding from that."

"Any information on the shooter? On Roberge?"

"We picked him up, too. He was waiting in the living room when we got here, his pistol on the coffee table. He was no trouble at all. Put his hands up when we entered. Just said, 'This is getting old.'"

"So maybe he's done with this crap, then."

"What do you mean?" Jeff said. "You got him in jail, don't you? How's he going to kill her in jail?"

"I don't think jail is going to deter him," Ray said. "About twenty eight hours from now I figure we're going to – what did you call it? – reset again, and he's right back here with his gun. Let's just hope he's seen the error of his ways."

Patty said, "I'll settle for him recognizing the futility of all this. No matter what he does, his wife just isn't going to stay dead."

"She's like a zombie," Will said.

Jeff said, "A totally hot naked zombie."

Ray said, "I'm sorry I missed it."

Patty rolled her eyes.

Ray said, "For forensic purposes, I mean."