Despite checking it only minutes earlier, I looked at the calendar on my laptop again. October 25th, 2014. I sighed. How could I have made such a stupid mistake? I looked down at the watch on my wrist. Black hands hovering over an embedded silver SC showed 4:30. I tried spinning the dial. Nothing. No more turning back now – I went too far. I focused my attention on the sound of my parents’ conversation coming through my bedroom door, waiting for the right moment.
“Bananas, yogurt, oatmeal…”
“Not the instant kind.”
“Bread, turkey, ham…”
They would get so fixated on the smallest tasks. Didn’t they realize how much bigger the world is than tonight’s grocery list? I patted the pockets of my jeans. Yes, I still had my father’s keys.
“All on there.”
“Do you want the chicken strips again?”
I needed to get the timing right, like I did that first time. If my math is right, I’ve lived almost five years since then without any time passing, and yet this night is still fresh in my memory.
“Let’s try something new next week.”
That was it. That’s the last thing my father said before...
“Aaahhh!” My mother shrieked.
The house turned black. My whole neighborhood did. Even now, I think the freak power outage was the luckiest thing that’s ever happened to me. The unluckiest was the damned watch that was around my wrist. Considering how connected the two are, this night was probably packed with enough positive and negative luck for a lifetime.
“Danny, are you okay?” Came my mother’s voice.
“I’m fine,” I answered, climbing out of my bedroom window.
“We’re going to the basement to grab flashlights. You’re still grounded.”
I hopped down from the window and walked along the side of my house through the brisk air. In front of the black kitchen window that would have normally illuminated my exit strategy sat my father’s navy Explorer. I quickly opened the door and started it up.
If I wasn’t grounded, my father would have allowed me to borrow his car. I felt guilty stealing it, and redoing this night forced me into situation a second time. I couldn’t wait to ditch the watch.
I soon arrived at the carnival where it all began. Things felt very different this time. For one, Jenna is no longer important to me. I tried out a relationship with her but it became clear after some time that things weren’t going to work. Of course, she didn’t know that right now. She would be waiting for me at the cotton candy vendor like she was the first time.
I looked down at my watch. 4:50. I remember that I caught the mage on his way into his tent, so I walked to the only part of the carnival untouched by relentless glowing lights where I found him before. I don’t remember at exactly what time I found him, but it was definitely before 5:00. Out of curiosity, I tried turning the dial back on the watch again. Nope, still busted. My only instructions were to never go back to the time before I got the watch, and I blew it.
“You’re not supposed to have that. I am.” I turned around to see him standing in the same hooded brown robe that he was wearing the first time I met him, with the same yellow eyes looking out at me.
“I was wondering where my Second Chances Watch had disappeared to.” I think he was smiling under his hood.
“I want to return it.”
“Why, young man?”
“I don’t care about second chances. They turned me into a manipulative monster. I’m never happy with where I am or who I’m there with. I can’t accept anything that doesn’t go my way.” My voice started shaking. “I always want to control, control, control. Even if the slightest thing goes wrong, I always turn back time. It’s become a habit now and it’s driving me crazy.”
“Ah, regret, the incurable ailment. How funny it is – after attaining a life that could be free of regret, you go on to regret that you have chosen this life.”
“It’s not about regret. It’s about acceptance. I want to accept whatever happens to me. I want to live with it all.”
“Well then, I regret to inform you that you’ve turned back too far. You can’t return something you haven’t yet bought.”
“I know, I know. I just want to get rid of it.”
He ignored my plea. “There is a failsafe built into the watch. It commenced when you turned back to a time before you were the rightful owner of the watch. Its purpose is to prevent you from journeying back too far.”
“What do you mean? What failsafe?”
“The dial lost its ability to turn backward, but it can turn forward instead. If your previous experiences with time travel have taught you anything…”
Eager to test, I turned the dial forward five minutes. It worked. In an instant, I was standing in front of Jenna at the cotton candy stand where we planned to meet. I was overcome with nostalgia.
Filled with a new energy, I led her by the hand to the ferris wheel where we would have our first kiss. It was stupidly romantic. She would tell me how afraid of heights she was, and I would tell her to close her eyes as the wheel rose. At the peak, soaring above entire carnival, our lips would come together. I don’t like her as much as I used to, but I still wanted to relive that vivid memory. The only thing that stood before me and that moment was the long, boring queue before the ride. I always hated waiting in lines. There’s so much more to life than standing around. My finger lingered on the watch’s silver dial. It would only be a few minutes.