I had moved here two weeks' ago, but had never visited this section of town so late at night. I had been invited to the pub by my neighbour, to make me feel welcome. An hour ago, she had phoned to say she had been asked to work overtime, and wouldn't be able to make it. Seeing as I was there, I drank a couple of cocktails. I was now walking back home.
Drunken people yelled out across the street. A couple of cars drove by, their horns blaring as the inebriated stumbled into the road. A bright yellow car stopped, flashing its headlights. A woman in a red dress banged on the window. The passenger door was opened, and a shouting match started between the woman and the driver. The woman slammed the door closed, and walked away. My stomach churned. I felt as though I had witnessed this before, and a weird protectiveness came over me. I had a strong urge to warn the woman about her actions, but warring partners were not unusual on a night out, and it wasn't my place to offer advice to a stranger who seemed to be in control of the situation.
When I came upon a cobbled street, I was relieved; my house was just a five minute walk from here. The building before me was partially lit by a streetlight. I swallowed, waiting for something, but not sure what. When I heard the clacking of high heels behind me, I felt as though the scene was complete. I turned to see the woman in the red dress trip on the cobbles. My stomach turned over, and my head felt dizzy. I leant on the wall of the building, its texture rough beneath my hand. Familiar. Leave the weapon. The thought came from nowhere. Let go of the weapon.
My head felt heavy. I'm not sure when it happened, but I realised now that my ears were ringing. As if drowning, the pressure kept increasing, and the ringing became more intense, until I thought my head would explode. All these actions, all these feelings; I felt trapped in them. I watched the woman take off her high heels and limp towards me. Under the streetlight, I saw that her knee had been scraped of skin. As she passed, she scowled, possibly embarrassed by her fall. Her perfume wafted around me. I itched my nose from the invading sense, finding that a sadness was overtaking my mind. I knew then that something was going to happen here. Something to her; something to me. The pressure in my head ceased. There was a sudden silence.
As if replacing these things, my eyes started to deceive me. I saw myself as a projection over reality, turning down an alleyway, following the woman in the red dress. I heard a scream coming from where they disappeared, and rushed after the figures.
Shadows lined the alleyway, but light still seeped down its length. The woman was sitting on the ground, cradling her ankle. I saw my own projection kneel down in front of her, my ghostly hand rubbing her shoulders. My back was to the man coming out of the shadows, ready to swing a crowbar at my projection's head. I blinked; grounded myself in reality. The man was not another projection. He was here. I wanted to shout out, but my voice was mute. He swung, and the woman looked up. Light caught in her eyes, and reflected fear. I watched the crowbar strike through my projected form. It collapsed to the ground, but the man stopped the swing of his weapon before it hit the woman.
"Gregg," the woman's voice was husky, "What are you doing?"
Gregg's fingers got a better grip on the crowbar. Although the guy was tall, he wasn't not bulky, and I guessed he relied on technique for his fights. A far more deadly skill than brute force.
"I've had enough, Melissa."
"Just put it down, Gregg. We can talk this through." She placed her hand on his arm, and took the crowbar out of his grip. It clattered as she placed it on the pavement. Melissa then wrapped her arms round him. But the man took her gruffly and pushed her away. "Stop messing with me. I saw you with that woman. I know what's happening."
I saw my projection's hand twitch, and reach for the crowbar. It stood up, lifting a ghostly form of the crowbar out of the physical iron. I watched myself swing it towards Gregg's head. But instead of making contact, it went through him. Then my projection stumbled back, and crashed into the wall, as if pushed. It slid to the floor, and as it lay there, it faded. My heart stung, and my mouth tasted like iron. A scream took me out of this fascination. Gregg was shaking Melissa. Then there was a loud clap as he struck her face. He was angry, distracted, and I realised now was the time to intervene.
I ran forwards, and slammed my full bodyweight into him. My force made him stumble sideways. Whilst he was still wondering where I had come from, I picked up the crowbar. I aimed for his head, but Gregg ducked, and caught the weapon as it came towards him. I didn't have time to think. I let go, grabbed Melissa, and we ran into new territory.
All I could hear was my heart and our feet, all I could feel was the wind against my face. I could smell Melissa. I could feel her slowing. I stopped. She looked like she was in pain. Her scraped knee was bleeding.
"I can't go on. I don't think he's followed us anyway," she said with shortened breath.
I heard a clash from behind her. "He's come. Run."
But it was too late. Melissa was on the ground, blood seeping from her head. Gregg stood over her, and turned his eyes onto me. He smiled. I gasped. The crowbar came flying towards me. My eyes went to Melissa's red dress, which was moving slightly in the wind. The world exploded white, and then there was silence.
"You have failed again." A voice came out the the white space, ethereal and dominant. "I can't keep doing this. I haven't had enough time to recuperate, I'm weakening. You have one last chance to make this right. Do not fail me."
"You have died. You have died three times now, because of that man, and I have sent you back to this situation twice. Each time you have learned something new, and have used intuition to save you from dying the same way again."
"Because my plans for you two go further than victims of this man's jealousy. Though I can send you back, I have not the power to manipulate things first-hand, and it is against our laws to send you back with full consciousness of the future. But your mind is more open than most. You can put this together. Keep sharp. You'll make it." The world became silent and white again.
Still wondering about the strong sense of déjà vu I was having, I looked away from the building. The way the light hit it was making my stomach churn. I saw a woman in a red dress trip on the cobbles. It all seemed so familiar. My head felt dizzy. I leant my hand on the wall of the building, the texture rough beneath my hand. Don't stop running. The thought came from nowhere. Don't stop.