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Old 10-25-2010, 02:42 AM   #1
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The Fourth of July - Chapter 2

The usual disclaimer applies - this is all meant to be harmless fiction. Watch out for occasional swears...



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Chapter 2
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Natasha Coleman started awake, seemingly almost immediately after falling asleep, to the sound of the radio station's news fanfare, announcing the 6am bulletin.

"America is still sweltering as the record-breaking heat-wave gripping the mid-western states continues unabated ..."

She groaned, rubbing her eyes, and forced herself out of bed. Daylight shone outside her curtains, it had still been mostly dark when she'd finally gone to bed. She felt surprisingly alert, considering she can't have had more than two hours' sleep. No doubt she would crash later in the day.

"... Independence Day celebrations..."

Natasha was anticipating another busy day at work, Saturday or not, as everyone worked to prepare this special supplement. She stumbled into the shower.

"... explosion in a marketplace in the Afghan city of ..."

God, another one? At least the news wasn't all about Bono, although she was surprised not to have heard something about him yet.

She started her car, expecting to hear The Unforgettable Fire, but instead was greeted with news on the radio. She was sure she'd left the CD running...

"... economists are predicting a gentle slow-down of the recent boom..."

Yeah yeah, they all said that all the time, as if repeating it would make it true.

Bafflingly, there was no mention of Bono as she drove to work. She didn't pass any knots of weeping fans in the streets, not that she was really expecting to. Not this early, anyway. There did seem to be more traffic than she might have expected at this hour on a Saturday...

A steady feeling of déjà vu intensified as Natasha entered the paper's building, and took the lift up to her floor. She saw John as she got out and gave him a weary smile.

"Morning, John."

He gave her an odd look. "Well, how shall we call you, Miss Coleman?"

Natasha blinked. "I thought I said, you can call me Tasha..."

John smiled. "Right you are then, Tasha. Follow me and we'll get you started, as you're so keen..."

He led her, again, to the small obituaries office and introduced her to Pete.

"I met him b--" she began.

"You know each other? What a coincidence! You'll be helping Pete keep the obituaries up to date – never know when some big name is going to drop dead. Shout out if you need anything. Cheryl will be down later with your paperwork. Welcome aboard!"

Natasha and Pete were left blinking at one another. She sat down and logged in.

"Did John give you your login already?" Pete asked hesitantly.

"Yes, yesterday. You gave me the paper with it all written down." Natasha scowled, wondering if yesterday's excitement had been an anomaly, and she'd be stuck doing the rest of the obituaries while everyone else did something interesting.

"I ... You weren't here yesterday."

"I'm pretty sure I was. Bono doesn't get killed in a plane crash every day, you remember that sort of thing."

"Bono... what? What crash? I haven't heard about a crash..." Pete half stood, peering towards the wider office area and its subdued bustle.

Natasha was staring at the bespectacled man flatly. "You're having a joke on the new girl, very funny. I'm not doing obituaries forever, I'll tell you that."

"That's what I said, once," Pete replied, sitting down again.

Tasha got her portable radio out and turned it on before resuming her work.

"Aw, come on! What the hell happened? Pete, did the computers crash overnight? I worked on these all day and it's all gone now!" Natasha bit back a number of swear words, not wanting to risk offending anyone on her second day.

"I told you, you weren't here yesterday."

"I'm telling you, I was! I updated a dozen of these things, from Neil Armstrong to Bono to Gay Byrne, and it's all gone! They're exactly as they were when I started yesterday!"

"You weren't here yesterday," Pete said again, starting to look at Natasha strangely. "I was here all day on my own, working through the 'M's. It's the fourth today, you start on the fourth. Today."
Natasha stared at him. He pointed at the morning's paper, which was dated Friday, the fourth of July, 2008.

"I saw that exact headline yesterday," Tasha said flatly. "You're going to have to do better than that to play a practical joke on me."

"The computer says it's the fourth too..."

"Computers can be fiddled with. Whichever of you set this up, you'd better have those obits I worked on saved somewhere, that's all I'm saying."

Pete looked at her helplessly, before going back to his own work.

Cheryl came down with the paperwork at lunch time, again, however.

"Oh, you're in on it too? Very funny. I signed these yesterday."

"I don't know what you're talking about," Cheryl said, utterly confused. "I've never seen you before now."

"She thinks we're playing a joke on her," Pete said.

Tasha had refused to work on the obituaries she'd done the day before, instead starting at the 'C's and working from there. But just for the sake of getting people out of her hair, she signed the documents again, posed for the photo for her security pass again, met all the other staff again.

"You're not fooling me, you know," she said to the gathered journalists and admin staff. "I'm sure you have a fine tradition of practical jokes here, but deleting the work I did yesterday is going a bit far. I'm not doing it again. And aren't you all supposed to be scrambling to get this supplement commemorating Bono's life ready for Sunday?"

They were all very good actors, she thought, ignoring all the strange looks they gave her as she walked back to her desk.

She hadn't heard any more about Bono, which was a little odd, but then she'd barely managed to listen to the radio news at all, between people trying to convince her it was still the fourth, and working on the 'C' and 'D' obituaries. She hadn't left the office all day either, grabbing lunch from the cafe downstairs, just as she had the day before.

That irritating feeling of déjà vu kept coming back, though. The radio caught her attention for a moment:

"... released a damning report on the exploitation of immigrant labour..."

This was ridiculous. They can't have roped the radio announcers into it as well. Maybe there was another damning report. There were always damning reports for this or that.

Natasha was wondering whether she'd get to Bob Geldof's file by the end of the day, when the newsreader on the radio paused again.

"I've just been handed a report," she said. "A chartered passenger jet has crashed just after take-off from Dublin airport, a few minutes ago..."

"Oh, come off it!" Tasha exclaimed, but was shushed by Pete. A hush had fallen over the news room.

"... large explosion after the plane seemed to drop from the sky as it was climbing. There are unconfirmed reports that rock star Bono was aboard..."

There was that shocked silence again. Natasha kept listening to the radio, fighting her own shock.

"... on his way to the London Economic Summit, where they were to lobby for increased aid to Africa..."

The silence had given way to murmurs, and the beginnings of the rush of activity Natasha remembered all too clearly.

"... press conference scheduled for this evening..."

"This isn't funny any more!" Natasha shouted at no one in particular, but then John appeared in the doorway.

"Did you do Bono's obit?" he asked.

"I did yesterday! But it's not there now."

"Enough of that! You weren't here yesterday, you can stop fooling like we're trying to trick you. Get that obit done NOW. I want it in my inbox in an hour, if not sooner. Yesterday, if you can manage it," he said with a pointed scowl, and was gone.

"Fuck." Natasha didn't care who she offended. "Fuck! What's going on?"

"I can do that for you if you like..." Pete offered tentatively. He was staring at her with something akin to fear.

"No, I can remember most of it," Tasha growled. "It needs a better picture anyway."

Again, the day passed in frantic activity, and again, the staff remaining in the office gathered to watch the television news. It all happened exactly the same way as it had the day before – and all the news channels said the date was the fourth of July, not the fifth. Bob Geldof held the press conference again, flew into a rage again and delivered his furious rant again. Tasha stayed until 3am again, and switched off her car radio on the way home again. For symmetry's sake, she listened to The Unforgettable Fire again.

The U2 videos and the informercial were on again, and she went to bed as the sky was turning grey, again.

*****

Tasha started awake, again seemingly almost immediately after falling asleep, to the sound of the radio station's news fanfare, announcing the 6am bulletin. Again.

"America is still sweltering as the record-breaking heat-wave gripping the mid-western states continues unabated ..."

"Again," Natasha groaned, forcing herself out of bed. She should have been feeling awful, after two nights with hardly any sleep, but physically, she felt the same as she had the day before.

"... preparations for Independence Day celebrations have been hampered by the extreme conditions, and the increased risk of fire is threatening to prevent fireworks displays in many major cities..."

This time she took her time getting ready, listening carefully to the radio. She changed stations and listened to as many as she could. They were all saying the same thing, reading the same news, telling her it was the same day – the fourth of July.

The television stations all said the same thing. She called three different people, none of whom knew the others, and they all agreed. Today was the fourth of July, her first day in a new job, and Bono was alive and well.

Something very strange was going on. She'd seen Groundhog Day, she knew about time-loops and science-fiction. She knew it was impossible, but... it was that or be crazy. Natasha would take science-fiction over crazy any day.

So, did she have an eternity of fourths of July ahead of her? Was she supposed to get the guy to make time resume? If so, which one? There were a few guys in the office who had piqued her interest, but she wasn't sure she should be applying Hollywood rules to the situation.

She'd seen another film about time loops, years ago. Some European short film, decidedly not Hollywood. It hadn't ended nearly so nicely or neatly. Tasha didn't want to think about that. She hoped desperately that the stress about starting her new job had simply rattled her wits, and she would snap out of it soon, and time would resume its usual course.

This time, when John greeted her, she played along like it was her first day again. She met everyone, and impressed them by remembering all their names. She signed the papers, worked on the obituaries, went to lunch in the cafe. And all through the afternoon, her heart beat faster, watching the clock approach the dreaded moment, the moment when she would know that time was repeating, beyond any doubt.

"I've just been handed a report..."

Natasha sighed, squeezing her eyes shut as everything happened, again.


*****
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Old 10-25-2010, 04:24 AM   #2
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GO SAVE BONO, WOMAN! NOOOOOOW!

I already love this story. I'll wait patiently for chapter 3!
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Old 10-25-2010, 07:49 PM   #3
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Me too!!
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Old 10-25-2010, 10:54 PM   #4
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wow! i'm stunned and impressed. was TOTALLY not expecting that! i'm SO loving this!!!!!!!!!!! i'm practically itching for more!
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Old 10-26-2010, 10:44 AM   #5
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MOAR!

I wasn't expecting this either - very well written, I'll try and wait patiently for more!
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Old 10-27-2010, 11:09 AM   #6
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Hm, this reminds me a bit of a Charmed episode. I wonder what the event is that'll start time again.

You're really good at writing this kind of stories Ali!
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And if U2 EVER did Hawkmoon live....and the version from the Lovetown Tour, my uterus would leave my body and fling itself at Bono - for realz.
Don't worry baby, it's gonna be all right. Uncertainty can be a guiding light...
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Old 10-28-2010, 10:01 PM   #7
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This story is really interesting! Looking forward to the next chapter!
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Old 10-29-2010, 12:57 AM   #8
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Thanks everyone

Alas, Natasha's not as quick as Jorinde is.

I can't remember if I saw that episode of Charmed, Gg, but I'm sure I've accidentally ripped off any number of shows or movies, besides Groundhog Day.
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