Updated: Dec 22, 2022
We often do not get to repeat our actions or quests, no matter the conclusion. However, we are the first to claim that given a chance to repeat, success is not far from reach.
“Déjà vu” by Santhosh Annabattula narrates the story of an assassin stuck in a time loop after being assigned a quest to extract an asset. However, the assassin is not just attacked by the guards. He is hurt by the ones he is trying to save too.
The assassin landed in the middle of the corridor with a puff of dust. He has been through the Quantum bridge a thousand times before, but his head still reeled from the impact. He looked at his watch. The time read 9.9.2032 1137 Hrs. He stopped his humming ARK and placed it in his pocket. He walked to the room’s door, cocked his handgun, and wrapped it in a package. He knew he couldn’t break in. The instructions given to him were clear. “Enter the zone. Extract the asset. Kill the rest.”
The man knocked on the door thrice, paused and said: “I have the package. Just like you wanted”. There was some muffled conversation inside. Then somebody walked up to the door and opened it. The assassin walked inside the room, holding the package in his hand. While he was being frisked, he looked around. Six armed personnel in black robes guarded another six unarmed people in white robes. He looked for his asset and spotted her lying on the floor with a guard standing against her. The whole place looked ragged and was lit by a lone window on the sidewall. The guy finished searching for him and asked for the package. The assassin smiled, unwrapped the handgun and shot him in the head. The room erupted.
The assassin used the dead guy as a shield and killed two other people. Bullets whizzed past him from both sides. It was mayhem. He shot the chandelier hanging above, killing another guy. He then grabbed an M6 automatic and made short work of the guard standing near his asset.
Meanwhile, two more armed guys emptying their magazines at him. He ducked behind a couch and held his asset close for safety. Just then, he noticed something moving from the corner of his eye. There were a couple of white robes attacking him. The assassin moved swiftly to gun one down and used his knife to cut the throat of another one. Before he could understand what was happening, his asset darted and stabbed him with a shard of glass.
The shocked assassin gathered his senses and knocked her unconscious. This moment exposed him to black robes, and he was hit by a couple of rounds. He grimaced in pain and tried to catch his breath. He then shot the gas line on the opposite wall, and the explosion made the black robes duck. The assassin used the moment to slide across and gun the black robes down.
The man dragged himself near the window. His lungs were punctured with bullets, and blood was oozing out. He was gasping for air and knew he was dying. He used his watch to send an SOS message to his unit. There was no response. He didn’t want to die here. He wanted to go back and see his little girl. He then did the unthinkable.
His handler repeatedly told him one basic rule during his missions: “Never use the ARK if you are close to death.”
He wondered what unspoken horrors awaited if he did that. But he made up his mind. What could be worse than dying alone in the future? He removed his ARK and plugged in the current date and place. He was counting his breaths and held the ARK firmly, and it kicked into motion with a loud whirring sound and started pulling him into the bridge.
When he was about to pass out, he noticed that the room had returned to normal as it was when he entered. Then he heard a knock on the door with a familiar voice calling out. Suddenly, all surrounding sounds drowned out, making the heartbeat progressively louder. It was HIM who was back again. He tried to yell loudly, but it was drowned in a vacuum. He died, or so he felt.
The man knocked on the door thrice. He felt a sense of déjà vu at that moment. He ignored it and brought his focus back to the assignment. He said, “I have the package. Just like you wanted.”…
After a few minutes, he gasped for breath and knew he was dying. Then the ARK whirred into motion by itself and sucked him into the vacuum.
The man knocked on the door thrice. He felt a sense of déjà vu at that moment. He ignored it and said, “I have the package. Just like you wanted.”
He was stuck in a time loop for an indefinite period.
The man knocked on the door thrice. He felt a strong sense of déjà vu at that moment. It was pulling him back. It was a weird feeling. He wondered what unseen dangers awaited him on the other side of the door. Fear and doubt got the better of him, and he decided to give in to his impulses. He retraced his steps back into the corridor and outside the building. He knew the consequences of his actions.
He will be labelled as a deserter and will be hunted down. He came onto the sidewalk and saw a couple of cars coming and stopping on the other side of the road. Armed units got out, and the assassin got ready to fight. But then they turned to the other side and aimed at someone else. For a moment, he thought he was dreaming.
But he recognised his daughter, who is 10 years older now. She was walking toward him, and the guns were aimed at her. She saw him and froze. The assassin placed himself between his daughter and the attackers and rained bullets on them. He was hit several times, but he continued fighting till he killed everyone. He gave out a primaeval yell and dropped onto the floor. He saw his daughter running towards him and smiled. He knew there was no coming back this time. Light shone on him warmly, and the assassin died in peace.
This short story is available in a paperback & ebook.