Marcus Faber lived an average life. He was average height, average build and had average looks. He was married to a very lovely woman named Sara whom he made love to on an average of one point two-five times a week. The point two-five stemming from the fight they averaged once a month that resulted in “make-up sex.” At age thirty-three, Marcus Faber was well on his way to becoming partner at the internet startup he helped build from the ground up. To say that Marcus Faber lived a routine existence would be an understatement. To say all that changed on April 1st would be a misnomer.
April 1st began like any other day: the alarm went off at fourteen past seven and again five minutes later. It wasn’t until Sara’s hairdryer sounded from the bathroom that Faber knew the shower was free and he really should get going. However, today he roused himself with slightly more ease because he was scheduled to present Neotek’s partners with Epsilon, a project that would revolutionize the wireless world. After a brisk shower, Faber got dressed, fed the dog and stood in the kitchen eating a piece of burnt toast while the television blathered on about government funding for a new cyber-prison. A minute later a horn honked outside and Faber grabbed his briefcase, kissed his wife and flew out the door.
Eddie Francis was slick and good-looking. He had been Marcus Faber’s best friend and partner since grad school. He was married and had two children, but you would never know by the way he toyed with the women at work. The fact that he didn’t carry any pictures of his family or wear a ring on his finger didn’t hurt his cause much either. “The ring hurts my finger, baby,” he told his wife. Faber didn’t necessarily approve of Eddie’s indiscretions, but nevertheless he enjoyed Eddie’s recaps on their monthly fishing trips as well as the occasional play-by-play as they carpooled to work. It wasn’t until they were pulling into Neotek’s parking structure that Eddie brought up Epsilon…
“Damn it!” Faber moaned, balling his hand into a fist.
Faber shook his head, “I left the freakin’ disc at home.”
Problems never seemed insurmountable to Eddie and this was no exception, “Don’t sweat it, man. We’re not making our presentation until two. You can just dart home during lunch.” He then added, “And hey, maybe you can convince Sara to give you a little send off, if you catch my drift.” Faber shook his head again, this time half-smiling. Ahh, Eddie.
Faber only lasted until eleven-thirty. The thought of Epsilon burning a hole through his desk at home was driving him insane. He couldn’t find Eddie, probably off flirting, so he borrowed another co-worker’s car. When he pulled up to the house just before noon, he didn’t even notice that the front door was slightly ajar. He rushed into his den, grabbed the disc and breezed back through the kitchen. Before he could call out for his wife he inhaled the distinctive smell of cigarette smoke. Neither he nor Sara smoked so he scanned the room for the source. He saw a smoldering cigarette butt beyond the sliding glass door to the alley out back. He was about to investigate when a man in a black ski mask and gloves emerged from the bedroom. Their eyes locked and Faber froze. Before Faber could react, the perpetrator disappeared through the sliding glass door. As Faber approached the door he passed the kitchen counter and was shocked to see Sara, sprawled on the linoleum, swimming in a pool of her own blood – a knife lodged squarely in her chest. Suddenly all the sound in the room was sucked away and the room began to spin. What’s happening? Who did this?
He touched his wife’s face. Her eyes opened for an instant and her lips parted. Was she saying something? Faber would never know, he was still in the vacuum and it was only a moment later that all remaining life in Sara’s eyes let go and she was gone forever. He clutched his wife in his arms and began to weep silently. He didn’t hear the neighbors shouting. He didn’t hear the sirens approaching. He didn’t hear the men racing up the front steps. And then all of a sudden the sound came flooding back into the room as the door burst open and a half dozen police officers came filing in. One of them tried to pry Faber off his wife’s bloody corpse, but Faber wasn’t letting go. Not yet. Two more officers began to tug at Faber’s arms. He cried out like a lunatic and began to fight them off. And then all of a sudden Faber stopped. For some reason he didn’t want to fight anymore. Perhaps it had to do with the stinging he felt on the back of his neck. He tried to reach back, but he couldn’t. He was falling forward. Why? That’s when he glimpsed the conductors of the electroshock weapon. And then everything went black…
The alarm went off at fourteen past seven and then again five minutes later. It wasn’t until Sara’s hairdryer sounded from the bathroom that Faber awoke with a start. He leapt out of bed and rushed into the bathroom, “You’re alive!”
Sara gave him a funny look, “Is this an April Fools joke?”
“Wait, it’s April 1st?” Faber asked, trying not to sound too much like a question.
“All day long.”
Faber nodded to himself. It was only a dream. He walked over to Sara and gave her a warm hug, “I love you so much.”
“What’s going on?”
“I’m just nervous about showing Epsilon to the Magnificent Seven.”
“They’re gonna love it,” she said stroking his cheek.
“We’re celebrating tonight.”
“First you’re nervous and now you’re cocky?” she said. “Should I wear a dress?”
Faber showered quickly, fed the dog and accidentally burnt his toast. As he ate the charred bread, he noticed that the news was relaying the same story as his dream the night before. Déjà vu? Before he could give it much thought a horn honked outside. Eddie was right on time. Faber grabbed his briefcase and kissed his wife. As he walked out the door he made a u-turn, marched back into his office and grabbed Epsilon. He wasn’t going to forget, this time.
As they drove to work, Eddie recounted his latest interoffice dalliance. Faber thought he recognized the story, but dismissed its familiarity due to the fact that all Eddie’s exploits were starting to sound the same – the sweet talk, the martini lounge, and his “frequent flyer” discount at the Motel 6. It wasn’t until they pulled into Neotek’s parking structure that Eddie brought up Epsilon. Faber popped open his briefcase to show him the disc, but it wasn’t there. Faber rummaged through its contents. Still nothing. Faber ran his hands through his hair, “I swear I grabbed it on my way out.”
Then Eddie said something that was too familiar, “Don’t sweat it, man,” Faber shot Eddie a look as he continued, “We’re not making our presentation until two.”
Eddie and Faber spoke in unison, “You can just dart home during lunch.”
“I’m having the biggest déjà vu of my life right now,” Faber stressed.
“That means you’ve done all this before, right?”
Faber looked up, hoping for an explanation, “Yeah, why?”
“I just want to know if we nailed this presentation later today or not.”
Faber could only laugh. He was taking this project way too seriously.
Once in the comfort zone of his office, Faber decided to call Sara to see if the disc was still on his desk at home. But there was no answer. “Probably out walking the dog,” he reasoned to himself, “Or out shopping with Myra.” But then he began to worry. What if something terrible had happened to her? What if the dream was a premonition? Faber hurried down the hall to Frank McDermitt’s office and asked to borrow his car. The fact that Faber knew he would say, “Yes.” made Faber worry even more.
As he rushed up the front steps, Faber noticed that the front door was slightly ajar. He cautiously entered the house and looked around the room. Empty. Instead of making a bee-line for his office, he crept slowly over to the kitchen counter and peered over the edge only to see Sara, on her back, surrounded by blood, just like his dream. He looked up to see the man in the black ski mask exit the bedroom. And again, the man fled through the back door. This time Faber decided to give chase. He darted out the back door and ran after the masked man. He followed him around one sharp corner after the next, leaping over trash cans and other debris. The adrenaline was pumping hard through his veins. He was gaining on him. Then the man leapt onto a chainlink fence and began to scramble over. Faber lunged at his foot, but missed it by millimeters. He’d never catch him now.
Faber returned through the sliding glass door and bent down beside Sara’s body. Her lips parted again, but before she could speak, the door burst open and the six police officers from his dream barreled in. Faber got to his feet and raised his hands in the air. If his dream taught him anything, it was to remain calm. One of the officers shouted, “Hold it right there!”
Faber pointed to the sliding glass door, “He just ran out back.”
The officer didn’t seem to care, “Take him down.”
Faber was confused, “Wait, I didn’t do anything.” He pointed to Sara, “This is my wife.” But before he could argue he heard the electro-charged zaaaap of two Taser darts piercing the flesh on the back of his neck. And then everything went black.
The alarm went off at fourteen past seven. Two seconds later, Marcus Faber was checking the date on his watch – April 1st. He jumped out of bed and ran into the bathroom. Sara was just toweling off. “Pack your bags, we’re leaving town.”
“What about your presentation?”
“Screw the presentation.”
“You’ve been working on Epsilon for over a year.”
“Just pack your bags,” he said.
“I’m supposed to go shopping with Myra.”
Faber leaned in close to her, almost menacingly, “Cancel.”
While Faber packed a duffle bag, Sara got dressed. “Where are we going?”
“Wherever. Anywhere.” His tone was almost desperate.
As he zipped up the duffle, Sara turned on the television. When Faber noticed that Dan Jeffries was giving the same report as the two previous days he quickly shut it off. Before Sara could argue Eddie’s horn honked out front. Faber quickly hurried outside in his jeans and t-shirt.
Eddie looked skeptically at Faber’s ensemble, “You are aware we’re supposed to make a good impression today?”
Faber jammed the disc into Eddie’s palm, “I’m sure you will.” For the first time ever, Eddie seemed nonplussed as Faber jogged back up the front steps and entered the door he left cracked open.
Faber shouted, “Almost ready, hon?” No response. “Honey?” Suddenly he sensed something was terribly wrong. He walked through the kitchen and cautiously peered over the edge of the counter – Sara was on the floor, just as she had been the day before and the day before that. Faber rushed back to the front door, but Eddie was gone. He turned around to catch a glimpse of the man in the black ski mask running out the back door. Faber was about to follow when he heard the familiar sound of approaching police sirens. With no time to think, he quickly grabbed his duffle bag off the kitchen table and dashed down the back alley. They weren’t going to catch him this time.
Faber cut behind several houses before emerging on the street. Two cops nearby recognized him and began to give chase. Faber had enough of a lead that when he stumbled over several pedestrians he was able to use it as a diversion and duck into a trinket shop. The owner saw Faber crouching down on the floor as the cops ran by. Faber looked up at the television to see Dan Jeffries reporting about a fugitive on the loose. An insert picture of Faber appeared in the top right corner of the screen. Jeffries said, “His name is Marcus Faber and he’s armed and extremely dangerous.” Upon seeing this, the owner whipped out a shotgun from behind the counter and took aim at Faber. As he fired, Faber dove out of the store, narrowly averting a bloody end. As Faber scrambled to his feet, the cops saw him and the chase was on again. Faber ducked down an alley, but the brick wall ahead of him could only mean one thing – dead end. As he turned around to face the music he heard a familiar zaaaap…
7:14 AM…7:14 AM…7:14 AM… Every morning the same the thing. No matter what he did. No matter how hard he tried. He could not save Sara. It didn’t matter if he ran. He was always captured. It didn’t matter where he hid. He was always found. When he tried to kill himself it only made seven-fourteen come faster.
Faber walked into Eddie’s office and shut the door, “In approximately seven minutes this building will be teaming with police officers, all after me,” Faber said almost complacently as he set the timer on his smart watch.
“You’re trying to pull one on me,” Eddie said with his usual confident smile. Eddie was about to continue when Faber cut him off, “This is some kind of April
Fools joke, right?”
“I was just about to say that,” Eddie said, looking slightly confused, “How did you know…?”
Faber cut him off again, “Because we’ve had this conversation before.”
“I don’t get it.”
“I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but I’m living the same day over and over again,” he said as if reading from a script, “and every time it happens I find myself framed for murdering Sara.”
“You are messing with me.”
“Turn on the TV,” Faber said with authority.
Eddie gave him a look but complied. Dan Jeffries was giving the mid-day market report when he touched his index finger to the transmitter in his left ear. “We have a breaking story coming through. It appears that a programmer at Neotek has just murdered his wife and is on the run…”
Faber said in unison with Jeffries, “His name is Marcus Faber and he’s armed and extremely dangerous.” Suddenly the alarm went off on Faber’s watch and Eddie jumped. Faber said, “Seven minutes. Look out the window.” Eddie looked out the window nine stories below. Six police cars screeched to a halt out front, their occupants hurried toward the entrance below. “Now do you believe me?”
“How long has this been going on?”
“Four hundred and eighty-seven days.”
“What do you want me to do?” Eddie asked.
“I can’t seem to leave town, but I think I found a way,” Faber said looking at his watch again, “In approximately ninety seconds the cops will reach your office. I just need you to delay them for three minutes. Can you do that?”
Eddie gave Faber an awkward pat on the shoulder, “You got it, guy.” And with that Faber disappeared through a side door to Tobin Mueller’s office. Exactly ninety seconds later the police burst in on Eddie…
Faber had used his time wisely. After his last suicide attempt he decided there had to be a way out even if he had to create one. He knew that if he went to work each morning, he had just under three hours before the murder occurred. He took it upon himself to use those three hours to his advantage. He discovered that the office next to Eddie’s was equipped with an emergency escape chute that would land him on the ground in twenty seconds flat giving him a healthy lead on the police. He also discovered that there was a taxi parked directly across the street from where the chute let out. Faber knew that if he took the taxi thirteen blocks north he would be at Transworld Corp. where a helicopter was just landing on the roof’s helipad. Fortunately for Faber there was a pilot change scheduled that morning and if his timing was right, he could rush past the new pilot and make off with the chopper. Four hundred and eighty-seven days before, Faber didn’t know the first thing about flying a helicopter. But recently his mornings were spent learning to fly.
The plan had been set; he was ready to make his escape. However, this time, when he exited through Eddie’s door, Marcus Faber didn’t find himself inside Tobin Mueller’s office, instead he found himself entering his own home. It took him a second to realize what had happened. He expected to see the man in the black ski mask exit the bedroom but was surprised to see Sara exit the bedroom. Had he done it? Had he broken free of this never ending cycle? Sara looked over at him and said, “Be careful, you’re going to burn your toast.” Faber’s eyes shot over to the glowing toaster as Sara turned on the television. Was this day number 488? If it was, why didn’t it start at 7:14 AM? Why did his last day end so abruptly? And then Faber heard something he had heard a hundred times before. But this time he listened. He turned to the TV as Dan Jeffries was finishing his report on government funding for a new cyber-prison…
“Damn it!” shouted Dan Jeffries, more to himself than to the other technicians around him. Jeffries was a computer technician also known as a “guard” at the Los Angeles Cybernetic Penitentiary. He was assigned to maintain the programs of almost a hundred inmates. Normally it was an uneventful job, considered child’s play by most programmers; however inmate number 11067 had proven quite a challenge as of late.
“What is it?” called the “Warden,” anxiously. He was a short bald man with glasses and a lab coat emblazoned with the “LACP” logo. His trepidation stemmed from the fact that he was in the midst of giving General Archer and several other high ranking military officials a tour of the facility. If Archer approved of the system, Cybernetic prisons would go national. Currently they were only being used in three states.
Jeffries replied, “I tried to reset 11067, but there was a glitch and his program started mid-run.”
“So what?” said the Warden, trying to portray some semblance of authority.
“So, 11067 caused the glitch himself.”
Archer asked, “How is that possible?”
Jeffries hit a button on his control panel and a holographic image of inmate 11067 appeared on screen. He was adorned from head to toe with electrodes. His eyes darted back and forth beneath his closed lids. Jeffries said, “He’s become aware.”
The program was simply called Sisyphus, after the mythological Greek character who was sent to Hades and sentenced to push a large boulder up a hill only to have it tumble back down again. He was doomed to repeat this process over and over again for all eternity. Convicted criminals were placed in a semi-cryogenic stasis, where they were forced to relive the day they committed their crimes, over and over again until their sentence was served or they expired from natural causes. The program itself was constructed out of pieces of memory. Occasionally there were missing fragments, often attributed to crimes of passion where there was a psychological block and the prisoners didn’t remember the actual murder. There was also an unthinkable alternative for the lost memories and with Sisyphus still in the beta-testing phase, it was an unspeakable alternative – the accused could be innocent.
Faber turned to his wife and asked, “Where did I go to high school?”
Sara gave him an inquisitive look and answered, “Roosevelt High. Why?”
Jeffries explained, “There’s always some sense of awareness, usually on a subconscious level, which means there will be some minor variations in the program. As a result we provide the various avatars the inmates interact with, with as much personal information as we can – birthdays, anniversaries, etc. This prevents them from becoming suspicious of their environment. Consciousness is typically a low risk factor, given that Sisyphus was designed so the subjects aren’t even aware that they’re reliving the same day. They wake up fresh each morning and in 11067’s case, kills his wife.”
“So what’s so special about 11067?” Archer asked.
“He’s actually aware of every day that passes. I have to write over a dozen new sub-routines a day just to keep up with him.” Suddenly an alarm sounded and a heart-shaped graphic above the hologram began to throb…
Faber went through a laundry list of question for Sara, quizzing her on everything they had ever done. Everywhere they had ever been. And each time she came up with the correct answer. Sara was growing tired of this line of questioning, but Faber pressed on, “One more question,” he said, “What was the name of that kitten you had that died of leukemia when you were seven?”
Sara smiled warmly, “Wow, I haven’t thought about that in a long time,” she took a moment to think and then continued, “You know what…I honestly can’t remember.”
It seemed like a valid response, but not to Faber, “That’s funny, because you never had a kitten.”
11067’s heart rate began to increase exponentially.
“What’s happening?” asked the Warden.
Jeffries fingers raced across the keyboard, “He’s waking up!”
11067’s eye shot open and he gasped for air. He looked around and saw that he was surrounded by a seemingly infinite row of men, lying in beds just like his, all with electrodes attached to their bodies. 11067 sat up and saw himself staring back at himself six rows up. The south wall was a giant mirror. With no time to think, he mustered all his strength, lifted up his bed and charged at the mirror…
General Archer and company covered their heads as the wall behind them shattered and they were showered in glass and mirror fragments. A moment later, prisoner 11067 emerged from behind the wall. He locked eyes with Jeffries and then fled down the hall.
“Aren’t you going to call security?” Archer asked.
The Warden bit his lip, “We don’t have security.”
“Why the hell not?”
The Warden gave a sheepish look, “All our prisoners are usually…asleep.”
As 11067 ran through the streets he remembered the days after April 1st. He remembered his wife’s funeral. He had her buried in her favorite dress. He remembered the trial. The knife was his and nothing was stolen during the “robbery gone bad,” as his attorneys called it. They argued that the “burglar” must’ve found the knife in the house and 11067 scared him off before he could take anything. However, 11067 and his wife had one of their monthly spats the week before and for the State’s money, that provided motive. The only real evidence to the contrary was the butt of an unfiltered Kool cigarette found in the back alley behind his house, but it wasn’t enough to acquit so 11067 was sentenced to twenty years in the Los Angeles Cybernetic Penitentiary.
11067 barreled into the Neotek lobby, past security and scanned the directory board for “Francis.” He found it at the top of the list – President. The elevator doors opened and 11067 darted inside before security could reach him.
Eddie Francis was in the middle of a board meeting when 11067 burst into the conference room. “Faber?” Eddie asked, barely recognizing his old friend. Faber nodded. While he took a moment to catch his breath, Eddie halted security, “It’s okay,” and cleared out the conference room, “Give us a few minutes, fellas, wouldja?”
Faber’s heart was still racing, “I need your help.”
“Fifty people must’ve seen you come in here, Marcus,” Eddie said as calm as ever, “So I can’t help you escape. But I’ll do what I can. What do you want me to do?”
“Have them re-open my case. I can’t go back to that torture,” Faber said urgently.
Eddie opened up a pack of cigarettes and offered one to Faber. They were Kools. The image of the Kool cigarette butt lying in the alley behind Faber’s house, flashed through Faber’s mind. Sisyphus had done something to Faber. It had sharpened his memories. He could taste and feel the moments of his past with a new crisp clarity.
Faber stiffened, “When did you start smoking?”
“’Round the time of your trial.” Or just before, Faber thought.
Faber took one of the cigarettes, “How’s president treating you?”
Eddie lit up Faber’s cigarette, “Could be worse.”
“Epsilon must’ve helped you there.”
“It didn’t hurt.”
Eddie was a cool customer and Faber didn’t have time for games, the police were beginning to gather outside the conference room, “The Magnificent Seven would never have gone for co-presidents, would they?”
“Probably not,” Eddie said, taking a seat at the head of the table.
Faber put out his cigarette in a smokeless ashtray, “How long were you planning it?” Faber’s mind flashed back to Eddie’s car, “You can just dart home during lunch.”
Eddie almost smiled, “Planning what?”
“Using my fishing knife, that was clever.” Faber’s mind flashed back to their last fishing trip – Eddie had conveniently forgotten to bring his knife and borrowed Faber’s to gut the last catch of the day.
“What I want to know,” Faber asked, “is how you knew I was going to forget the disc?”
Eddie took a drag from his cigarette and looked up at the police waiting in the wings outside the conference room. He knew the room was soundproof, he designed it that way. “Dumb luck,” Eddie said exhaling, “If you hadn’t forgotten I would’ve corrupted the disc and you would’ve had to run home for the master.” Clever.
“And the man in the ski mask, that was you?” Faber asked, knowing it was. When Eddie didn’t answer Faber continued, “You killed Sara.”
“You heard all the details in court,” Eddie said putting out his cigarette, “Do you really want to hear again how I couldn’t get the knife through Sara’s breastplate the first time?”
No he didn’t. Faber charged at Eddie and tackled him in his chair. The momentum was so great that both men went flying through the fifth story window…
The alarm went off at thirteen past seven and again five minutes later. Changing the settings on his alarm clock every night before bed didn’t help Marcus Faber sleep any better, but it did help him wake up better. He could at least start each day knowing it was a different day. Even though it had been almost two years since he lost Sara, Faber was just beginning to live with it. But knowing that he was free from his cyclical nightmare, helped ease the pain as did the knowledge that Eddie Francis was rotting away in a cyber prison just outside San Francisco. Faber was back working for Neotek in his corner office and was already marked for partnership thanks to the continued success of Epsilon. He was adjusting just fine to the new routine he called his life…
Prisoner 11067 was safely back on his gurney at the Los Angeles Cybernetic Penitentiary along with his fellow inmates. They were now watched by armed guards, in the event that one of them happened to wake up. Dan Jeffries stared at a holographic image of 11067, along with General Archer and his fellow politicos. Jeffries explained, “11067 made a very impassioned case, but it hinged on the fact that his friend smoked the same cigarettes as the one found at the scene of the crime. It wasn’t enough to convict his friend or overturn the case.”
“That’s all well and good,” Archer said, “But how are you dealing with his ‘awareness’ of Sisyphus?”
“There’ve been a few similar cases, some we were able to reset, others, such as 11067 required a modified version of Sisyphus where they actually believe they’re living a normal life and each day is a new one. Unfortunately these people need to live a somewhat blissful existence in order to stay “unaware.” We can throw the occasional wrench in their plans, but that’s about it. Granted, it may not sound like a prison sentence, but they’re off the streets and saving tax payers money.”
The General took a moment to stare through the recently repaired two-way mirror. He marveled at the seemingly endless rows of inmates, then turned to Jeffries and patted him on the shoulder, “Excellent work, Warden.”
Rick Suvalle is a Los Angeles-based film and television writer. His works range from preschool animation to movies about man-eating birds of prey. To learn more about Rick you can check out his website at http://www.ricksuvalle.com.