“When Xionsyes Xelo took over this planet,” Hershel began in his melodious narrator’s voice, “he started screwing around with how time works on this planet, and we’re not entirely sure why.”
They were back in the house Marie was beginning to consider Elsy’s. Elsy herself was bustling around in the kitchen and the room was starting to smell pleasantly of simmering butter, caramelized onions, and some sort of searing meat. Alice had explained to the other what had happened with Milo – although Marie still wasn’t entirely sure what had happened, she couldn’t deny the puppy chewing contentedly on a toy under her feet.
Marie spread her hands wide over the plaid red, pink and yellow tablecloth and felt the slightly scratchy material under her fingers. She was still having trouble believing this whole situation was real. Touching solid things helped – although she still hadn’t ruled out a long-term coma, or even a hefty dose of LSD.
“About seven or eight years ago, we started noticing the wildlife was acting strange,” Hershel was saying. “Our pets were aging and getting younger, un-aging, if you will-“
“I won’t,” Galen interrupted, entering from the kitchen with a pitcher of sangria.
“On a weekly basis,” Hershel continued, unfazed. “If that wasn’t weird enough, after a few months, there seemed to be multiple versions of our pets running around, young and old versions, even if the pet in question, the original one, was still quite young.”
Marie accepted a cold glass of sangria from Galen and took a long swig.
“Okay, weird,” she said.
“It gets weirder. One day, about a year or so after this started happening, a woman who used to live here ran into herself – a much older version of herself, out in the woods, collecting mushrooms and flowers and things in the same place where she usually foraged.”
“What?” Marie asked loudly. “How is that possible? How do you run into youself?”
“We don’t know,” Alice said, “but it’s happened to all of us. Some of us more than once. I went to a party which I was already at once. It was terribly disconcerting.
“Milo’s died now probably close to a hundred times,” Alice said tiredly. “Always peacefully, and he always disappears almost right after.”
“That’s extremely freaky,” Marie replied.
“You get used to it.”
“You don’t,” Galen disagreed. “Poor dog. What’s worse is running into people who have left the planet. Or running into yourself as a kid. Or running into yourself a few minutes in the future, because then, you walk away, and you end up running into yourself a few minutes in the past. ”
“I ran into two of me once,” Elsy said in her quiet way, bearing a tray full of quesadillas. “It was not one of my better mornings.”