Lacey pulled herself awake to the sound of knocking. She could hear Wendy moving upstairs, but called out to stop her from making her way down, “I'm up. I got it.”
If Wendy said anything in reply Lacey couldn't hear it. Rubbing her eyes and trying to wake up she made her way to the door and almost closed it again as soon as she opened it. “Pip? Do you know what time it is?”
Pip made a show of checking his watch before giving her his most punchable smile, “Half past nine.”
“Really?” Lacey squinted into the kitchen to catch the microwave clock and hummed in surprise. So it was. “Late night.”
“Black light charades,” Pip said without inflection. Lacey tried not to wince. It'd been a building party that Pip had not been invited to. “Rent day Thornfield. Pay up.”
And any lingering guilt Lacey might have felt disappeared. She knows she shouldn't be upset about a landlord collecting rent, but there was just something about the way Pip did it that made her want to punch him in the face. Instead she left him at the door and went to the hidey hole they stored the rent money. Walking back to the door and double counting it she heard the tell-tell sound of Wendy's watch going off and the less normal sound of Wendy falling out of her bed. She was running out the door with a quick wave and muttered, “Ugh, rent day,” as Lacey passed over the money.
The rest of the day passed quietly working on a few projects and researching some prospective protests. It capped with Wendy bringing home sushi that she ate with far too much joy. “Look, Dub Dub, I know you like sushi, but can you eat it with a little less relish?”
“Sorry,” Wendy said with a guilty look on her face. “I just really wanted to get my own back against some fish.”
Lacey choose not to comment. Her Dub Dub's job was weird and varied and hidden behind confidentiality clauses.
Lacey woke to the sound of knocking and rolled over. She got the door yesterday, Wendy could get it today. She fell back asleep to Wendy stumbling down the stairs.
It was sometime after noon that she rolled out of bed and made it to the kitchen. They were out of coffee, which was confusing because Lacey was certain she'd bought some yesterday after realizing they were out. Noser must've borrowed it and Lacey made a mental note to remind him to leave enough for a cup or two when he did that.
After running out to get more coffee the rest of the day was spent fleshing out some ideas she'd had about a new project. It was a peaceful day and she was just finishing up and washing off the paint when Wendy came home with more sushi. “Still working on your feelings about fish Dub Dub?”
“Still?” Wendy looked at her in confusion. “I mean, yes feeling about fish. Hateful feelings, but what do you mean by still?”
Lacey gave her own look of confusion as she scrubbed under her nails to make sure all the glitter was out, “You had sushi yesterday.”
“No,” Wendy sat down on their couch and popped open the container. “Yesterday was pizza, beer, and black light charades.”
Now Lacey was getting concerned, “Dub Dub that was Sunday.”
“And today is Monday,” Wendy put the back of her hand on Lacey's head as she sat down next to her on the couch. “Are you feeling okay?”
“Today is Tuesday,” Lacey said as she pulled out her phone to double check. “Isn't it?”
They both stared at the date and time displayed on Lacey's phone. It was Monday. Wendy got up and walked to the kitchen, “You don't feel hot. Want some tea?”
Lacey nodded and leaned back so she was sprawling on the couch, “Maybe I'll go to bed early too.”
Lacey jerked awake to the sound of knocking on the door. With a sigh she rolled out of bed. She yelled up at Wendy that she had the door and blinked the sleep away as she opened it to see Pip. “Pip?”
“Rent day Thornfield,” Pip smiled and leaned against the door jam. Lacey blinked at him and tried to think. She knew, knew beyond a doubt, that she had already paid Pip the rent. When she didn't move Pip clapped his hands in her face, “Come on, black light charades break your brain?”
Lacey didn't reply. Instead she walked quietly over to the rent hidey hole as she heard Wendy's work watch go off. The rent money was in there and she grabbed it. Wendy ran past as Lacey slowly walked back to the door and muttered about rent day before she was gone. Pip counted the money while standing in the doorway and asked, quietly, trying not to show actual concern, “You okay?”
“Yeah,” Lacey really wasn't sure of that.
Once Pip was gone she walked back to the kitchen and checked. They were out of coffee. With a hint of panic she checked the date. It was Monday. Again. With more than a hint of panic she checked the apartment for any sign of anything she had done yesterday. The notebooks she'd been writing in were blank. Her paints were at the levels they had been, even though she remembered running out of purple. It was like the previous day hadn't happened. With shaking fingers she texted Wendy to call her when her work thing was done.
It was a couple of hours before she got the call. She answered trying to keep her voice from shaking, “Dub Dub?”
“What's up?” Wendy sounded winded. She must've called right after finishing her work thing. Lacey could hear something squelching in the background and tried to figure out what it was. “Lacey?”
“Yes, sorry.” Taking a deep breath she asked the question she'd figured out she needed to ask, the only thing that really made sense despite not making any sense,“How do you know if you're stuck in a time loop?”
“Umm, same thing happening every day?” Wendy replied with a laugh. “Movies say you should wake up to the same thing every day.”
“What's going on?” Lacey could hear Sexy Boss Man asking in the background. “Is Lacey okay?”
“Is that Sexy Boss Man?” Lacey could really use Sexy Boss Man and his pillow lips right now.
“Don't call him that,” Wendy said with annoyance. “Why the questions about time loops?”
Lacey took a deep breath and blurted it out, “I think I'm in a time loop?” She didn't mean to make it sound like a question. “It's been Monday for three days and I keep buying coffee and Pip keeps asking for rent and we keep being out of coffee and having the rent money.”
She waited what seemed like an eternity as Wendy and Sexy Boss Man had a rushed conversation away from the phone. Sexy Boss Man was the one to get back on the line though, “Lacey this is important. I'm sending Dubbie home now with a standard time loop questionnaire for you to fill out. If you're really stuck in a time loop we'll get it figured out.”
“Okay,” She wasn't sure why Wendy's work had a plan for time loops, but she wasn't going to question it. She just didn't want to wake up to Pip at her door again. Wendy said a quick goodbye and then it was just waiting again.
Two hours and three hundred questions later she has to ask, “Why does your work have three hundred questions to ask to determine what's causing a time loop?”
“You know? It didn't even seem weird to me at this point,” Wendy said as she waited for the answers to tabulate. “Apparently most time loops are centered on the beginning or end of the day with a slight emphasis on the starting point. Although approximately 12 percent are triggered by something that happens approximately 3 hours into the loop.”
“Well, I wake up to Pip looking for the rent money every day.” Not that Wendy didn't know that at this point. They'd gone over ever aspect of the last three days from Lacey's perspective.
Wendy's watch binged at them and Lacey waited while Wendy read through the results, “And it looks like that's where we should be focusing our attention.”
Wendy said everything with a sense of certainty, like she knew they'd figure it out, and it was enough to calm Lacey's nerves. Breathing out a sigh of relief she asked the all important question, “How?”
“I am going to give you a passphrase. They're randomly generated at the beginning of the year, one for each day and kept confidential until needed.” Wendy looked at her watch and hit a few buttons, clearly waiting for the passphrase to reveal itself. Lacey tried to pretend that this was a normal and sane thing for a company to have on hand as it didn't seem to bother Wendy at all. With a small look of surprise Wendy said, “Purple Pineapple Penguin.”
“Purple Pineapple Penguin?” It was very alliterative at least. “I just tell you that tomorrow morning if I wake up to Pip demanding the rent?”
“That and let us know the fish are in Water Treatment Plant 5,” Wendy said still completely serious. “Before I have a chance to run out you need to say it's an emergency, give me the passphrase, and let me know about the fish. And the important answers from the questionnaire.”
“What kind of consulting firm do you work for?” Lacey asked without hope of a real answer. She was used to Wendy being unable to tell her things at this point. Instead Wendy told her the things she needed to know from the questionnaire
Getting to sleep that night was hard, but at some point she dropped off.
Lacey practically flew out of bed at the first knock. With a rush of adrenaline she ran to the door, with only a brief stop in the kitchen to grab the rent money. It was disappointing, but not a surprise, to find the money there and Pip at the door. “Pip, rent day?”
“Ah, yeah.” He looked confused, but took the money and didn't even complain too much when she slammed the door in his face.
Just in time to catch Wendy, “Emergency passphrase Purple Pineapple Penguin.”
Wendy almost fell over she stopped so quickly, “Lacey?”
“Dub Dub, I'm stuck in a time loop. Today's emergency passphrase is Purple Pineapple Penguin and the fish are at Water Treatment Plant 5.” Lacey found herself breathing heavily as she spit everything out as quickly as possible.
Wendy stared at her for a minute before pulled up something on her watch. “Okay, time loop. Let me call into work.”
Less than an hour later Sexy Boss Man was at the apartment and they were narrowing in on possible time loop causes. Apparently whatever was going on with the fish was easy enough to deal with once Sexy Boss Man knew where they were.
Sexy Boss Man and Wendy both pulled out an array of bizarre equipment and Lacey watched in bewilderment as they scanned the apartment, then the hall, and finally the building. Lacey doesn't have anything to contribute, but it's a chance to spend time with Sexy Boss Man so she's willing to follow them around.
Finally something seemed to happen and they're back in the apartment standing by Lacey's bed. Wendy looked at something on the machine she's holding, “Yep, total dead spot here.”
“It appears that the unique architecture of the building combined with Lacey's frankly outstanding taste in bed sheets have created a complete dead zone.” Sexy Boss Man said in response.
Lacey doesn't understand a word of what they're saying, but can't help herself as she turned to look at Sexy Boss Man, “600 thread count Egyptian cotton. You spend a third of your life in bed.”
“A good nights sleep is invaluable,” Sexy Boss Man replied. Lacey's pretty sure she could stare into his eyes until the day started over again, but Wendy pushed her to the side as she walked between them. Sexy Boss Man coughed and did that thing where he doesn't blush, but Lacey gets the feeling that he should be blushing, “Right. Dubbie let's find the source of the time dilation field.”
Somehow Lacey is not surprised to find herself staring at the door to Pip's apartment. Sexy Boss Man forced his way in past Pip and there's no hiding the absurd machine in the middle of the living room. Lacey lost part of the conversation when Sexy Boss Man stopped directly in front of her, jacket and pants showcasing his buttocks just right, but tuned back in to hear Pip finish his explanation, “I'd be able to collect rent money for days. My plan was sure elegance in it's simplicity.”
The most startling part was the way Wendy and Sexy Boss Man completed the last sentence with Pip. Sexy Boss Man gave Pip his best disappointed face and Lacey tried not to swoon as he directed Wendy to turn off the machine, “Messing with time. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“Yeah,” Wendy said with her voice muffled slightly from the innards of the machine. “Besides it's not like you'd be getting new money. It's just the same money all over again.”
From there it's surprisingly quick and easy to dismantle the machine, get it into Sexy Boss Man's car, and sigh sadly when he declined her offer for coffee. “It's fine, we're out of coffee anyway.”
“Another time,” Sexy Boss Man said as he got into the car.
Lacey doesn't protest when Wendy drags her back up to their apartment and crashes on the couch, “This has been the longest Monday ever.”
“I'm ordering pizza,” Wendy said as she heads up the stairs to her room. “I think you've earned some vegan cheese and veggies from that one place.”
Lacey doesn't respond, instead laying down on the couch. Her Dub Dub was the best Dub Dub.