(Alright, so I have been trying to fix a broken registry in my windows laptop for five days now an it is still freezing up and being a general pain. However, I do NOT want to start this challenge with a no show, so guess what? I am writing on my cell phone!!!)
(Also here is proof of the laptop issues:)
God decided to restart the world today. There might have been more of a fuss about it, but no one ever seemed to notice, and Rowena herself had come to expect it after about the eighth time. It had gotten annoying at the third.
It was rarely a smooth transition. Once, she had been weighing the consequences of a forkful of a particularly tempting rhubarb pie, only to find herself standing at her mother’s grave when she finally decided to take a bite. Once, she had been getting married, pressing lips to her betrothed and blinked to find herself eye to eye with the angel on the headstone.
God truly had impeccable timing.
Rowena didn’t know why the start of the story was always here, this dreary patch of earth that smelled of stale rain and an old breeze. She didn’t even remember her mother. The melancholy Rowena felt standing at the grave was never for her death but for the time she had lost when God decided to start again.
Once, she had run a successful business. Once, she had married for love. The last four times, and this time too, she had simply ceased to try.
“Excuse me,” a man called from the gate behind her, and she mouthed his words as he spoke. “Excuse me, miss, pardon me!”
She turned, and if the stranger noticed her smile was wan, he hid it remarkably well. “Hello. I’m sorry, I was just… reminiscing.” She did not mention that she was reminiscing four dozen lost futures rather than the past. She did not mention to the stranger that she already knew his name was Alexander and that his favorite sweet was turkish delight.
“Perhaps you should reminisce elsewhere. The sky’s gone grey and we can’t have you catching a cold.” A little spark came to Alexander’s eyes and he shrugged out of his worn old coat. “Here, let me just-”
Rowena laid a hand upon his arm and shook her head. “I’ll be alright, thank you. It’s barely a chill.” And if a cold did overcome her, she would not have complained. Perhaps in death, she would be free of God’s wretched game. “My name is Rowena,” she said without feeling, but his face lit up as if she’d given him a star.
“Alexander,” he said, shaking her proffered hand. “I was just hoping you knew the way to the gallery. I’m meant to meet a friend…”
“No! No, no, no!” Alexander snarled, pounding his palm against the mahogany before sweeping the papers and journal off the desk. His outburst had snapped the tension holding him taut, and he crumpled, burying his face into his hands, shoulders heaving with exhaustion.
Footsteps came up behind him, and it could only have been the mage. No one else knew of Alexander’s whereabouts, holed away in a long-abandoned lighthouse. “I take it you failed again.”
Alexander stood up so abruptly his chair toppled, cracking to the ground. His face was a terror, tears tracing the creases formed of unchecked rage. He had the eyes of a haunted man, dark and unseeing despite the lanterns in the room. “This is your fault. All of this is-”
He lunged, and the mage crooked a finger. Alexander slammed to a standstill and collapsed, groaning, to the floor. “My fault?” the mage asked, articulate and cold. “I offered you the opportunity you begged for. Do I need to remind you?”
At the snap of the mage’s fingers, the lanterns dimmed, and Alexander’s old words further blackened the room.
‘Rowena… Rowena, if there was any way to save you, I would. God, Rowena, please, don’t die. Don’t leave me… God, please, I’ll do anything…’
With a crack, the light returned, and Alexander glimpsed the mage’s face for the first time beneath the veil. Contempt. Disdain. Disgust. “And I didn’t even demand your soul in exchange,” the mage drawled. “So, tell me. Did she die?”
Alexander shut his eyes as if squeezing further tears out of them. The mage gave a quiet snort, sweeping past the man to the fallen journal.
“‘So tired of the unending cycle, mourning every shred of happiness lost to God’s callous will, Rowena flung herself into the ravine.’ Tragic indeed.”
Alexander continued to whimper and sob. The mage looked down at him and laughed.
“You piteous, selfish fool,” the mage declared, stroking the finished page as if smearing it with mirth… and then shut the book.
Alexander paled at the sound. “No… no, I have to fix this. Please,” he begged, rising to his knees. “Please, let me make this right-”
The mage sneered, stepping out of the man’s grasp. “I see now you never truly cared for her. Look what you’ve done now. Driven an innocent mad. Cornered her into despair.”
And like flipping a switch, Alexander was on his feet, baring his teeth like a feral creature. “You know nothing! I loved her, loved her more than anything else!”
The mage laughed louder at that, scorn sharpening delight to a cutting edge. “Yes, you loved her! You loved her so much that the one ending that didn’t end in an untimely demise, you ripped out because she married another! You loved her so much that from then on, if she even glanced at someone with too much fondness, you wrote them out the story!”
And then the mage went quiet, deathly still, until frost seemed to gather in the air. “You didn’t love her. You wanted to possess her, own her. I see now I was a fool for thinking you true.”
The mage tucked the book under an arm and turned to leave. When Alexander grabbed and hurled a lantern, the glass exploded before it even neared its mark.
At the door, the mage paused, and then turned to give the man one first and last look of genuine pity. “If you truly cared for her, perhaps you should have written a new beginning.”
Then the mage and the book were gone.