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Just Like Clockwork

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Just like clockwork, every morning Cecil would wake up to the sound of sunrise screaming, lazily scroll through his social media apps, then make some coffee for Carlos and himself as Carlos finished his shower. Once coffee was made, he would turn on the tv to play reruns of Friends or regularly scheduled government approved tv static.

They would make breakfast together, sit together on the couch in front of the tv in comfortable silence as they ate and occasionally show each other cat videos before it was time for Carlos to go to the lab.

Just like clockwork, Cecil would give Carlos a kiss goodbye and exchange ‘I love yous’ as he went to get ready for his own workday. He would usually have another hour or so before he had to get ready, so he would do small things like tidy up the house or start on a new fic for his erotic fanfiction blog.

By the time he was done, he would start to get ready for work, drive over to the station, get his daily news reports, ads, and stories, then start his show.

Just like clockwork, he would check his phone during the weather to see if he got any texts or calls from Carlos.

And just like clockwork, he would text him back or call him after the show before his drive home.

But today was not like that.

-----

He had woken up like normal, to the sound of Carlos’ shower and his slightly muffled acting practice. He couldn’t be sure but he was certain that Australians didn’t sound like that.

He continued to listen, but when he went to reach for his phone, it was out of battery and he couldn’t find his charger. He wondered if he had left it at the studio the day prior. For now, he used Carlos’ and went to make their coffee for the morning.

And yet, there was no coffee beans and his mallet for his coffee pounding board had gone missing? What a sour way to start the morning.

He grumbled, now lacking caffeine and irritated by his supposedly missing property.

It was eased when Carlos offered to make breakfast for both of them, letting Cecil settle down on the couch and enjoy his morning reruns. He was still slightly miffed about all his misplaced items though.

As Carlos left for the day, Cecil had noticed something strange in the bush in front Carlos’ car. It was rattling, a small tuft of black beautiful hair sticking out of it.

He shook his head. It was probably just The Secret Police again keeping a watchful eye on their building.

When he went to work, nothing seemed too out of the ordinary aside from a small rock that had been aimed for the back of his head as he walked into the station. He rubbed the spot sorely, glaring out at the parking lot before brushing it off and hanging up his blue coat on the coat rack near the front door.

He heard the broom closet door shut fast as he was looking over his papers. It wasn’t uncommon for doors to close on their own, especially as the faceless old woman who secretly lived in your home would repeatedly close doors to annoy anyone in the vicinity. So he also brushed that off as another normal, and not at all weird occurrence.

-----

“Dear listeners, it seems that time has been acting stranger than usual today. There have been several reports of local residents redoing their days over and over again. As well as not at all. Doubles are being seen all over town ALSO redoing their days. But unlike the incident a few years ago with the sandstorm, these doubles seem to be-- oh!”

“Oh listeners, it seems James, our new intern has just received another report from… what was that? Yourself? He seems to be pressing his phone to the glass, a text message from his own phone number saying to find… a new… jo-- oh James, I can’t read the tiny print from here. Anyways.”

“I recommend keeping a journal nearby to jot down anything you might have done or are doing again, with a government approved writing utensil of course. And if you see your double, try inviting them for a nice cup of tea or catch up on those shows you’ve been neglecting with twice the accuracy. And while you do that, I’ll take you all now to… the weather.”

He flicked a switch on his soundboard, moving to pull his phone out from his pocket. He leaned back in his chair, spinning slightly back and forth as he scrolled to see his texts and missed calls.

Three new voice messages.

“Hey Ceec, My team and I are looking into that green phenomenon you called about earlier. The one near Route 800? It looks like it’s still there and were on our way right now with our equipment. I’ll call you when we get there. Also did you want me to pick up dinner tonight? Ralph’s is having a sale on chicken legs. Catch one, buy two half off— alright gotta go. Love you”

He quirked an eyebrow. He didn’t remember calling about a green phenomenon or the sort?

Two new voice messages.

“Cecil were here at the place. Everything looks like normal desert; flat sandy areas with a few raised dunes nearby with pepperings of sagebrush and cacti. Nothing out of place asides from a lit campfire. It’s rather small, only being fed by a few pieces of scrap wood and a handful of newspaper clippings. But the flames are bright green with a lingering scent of freshly brewed coffee. Our equipment doesn’t seem to be working either. Some things are going haywire, beeping like crazy while our other equipment just won’t turn on. I don’t know if there’s some sort of magnetic interference in the area but it’s quite odd. We’re looking into it right now--”

“Dave? Dave what are you looking at?”

“Oh dear. I have to call you back Ceec. Looks like we’re not alone here. There’s a figure over one of the dunes just a few feet past the firepit and-- Dave hey wait don’t--!”

Fidgeting with his phone case, Cecil continued to twist his rotating chair back and forth. Was Carlos okay? Who called him earlier? It definitely wasn’t him.

One new voice message.

“Cecil… Cecil please turn around.”

Cecil looked at his phone screen, brows furrowed in confusion as he sat up and slowly turned his head. His breathing caught as he saw Carlos standing behind him in his recording booth. His breathing ragged, clothes torn, and glasses lense slightly cracked with his phone pressed against his ear and a white cat, with a bandaged paw and eyes, resting in his arms.

The radio host stood abruptly, knocking his chair over as he moved to reach for his boyfriend, but his hand simply phased through the other.

“Carlos? Carlos is that you? What happened-- what’s going on? Why do you have a cat?”

The room lights began to flicker, Carlos’ grip on his phone tightening.

“I don’t have time to explain, they’re almost here-- Please just find me. Go to the firepit and find me.” The voice came from his phone speaker rather than the form in front of him. But before he could say anything else, Carlos’ figure began to flicker with the lights then finally disappear, leaving Cecil alone in his recording booth.

The weather was just about over, Intern James knocking on the glass to catch his attention.

His mind was racing as he looked up at the intern behind the glass before finally stuttering something into the microphone.

“Sorry dear listeners, an emergency just came up. I-I need to go. Intern James will finish the show while I am away.”

He threw off his headphones and rushed out of the studio, to the dismay and horrific scuttling of Studio Management. But he didn’t care. He grabbed his coat, which he could have sworn was blue and not red, and ran out into the parking lot.

He needed to find Carlos. He needed to make sure he was safe.

As he started his car, backing up haphazardly and speeding off to where, he hoped, the campfire was still, he put his phone on speaker and called Carlos.

It went straight to his voicemail, causing Cecil to curse and slam on the breaks way too hard at a stop sign. It made him lurch forward, his glasses askew as he went to fix them. He cursed again, forgetting momentarily that he didn’t have stop sign immunity anymore.

But for a quick second, he could have sworn he saw himself cross the street in a hurry. He looked around, trying to make sense of what he just saw, but simply shook his head as he sped towards Route 800 again.

Right now, only his boyfriend mattered.

--—

By the time he arrived at the location, the trucks that Carlos’ team of scientists used to haul their equipment over had been covered in layers of sand, rust, and debris-- as if they had been there for decades.

There was no sign of life aside from the lit fire pit in the midst of the decaying scientific tools strewn about.

Cecil got out of his car, moving to grab a baseball bat he kept in the trunk. He had no idea if the Secret Police would hear him scream or not all the way out here, but best to be safe than sorry. Though as he looked down into the trunk, he saw an unfamiliar satchel. Or… was it familiar. Maybe it was Carlos’?

He wasn’t sure, but he picked it up and put it on anyways, slowly approached the fire once he closed his trunk.

“Carlos…?” He called out softly, gripping the bat tighter, the satchel making a soft clicking sound at his side as he walked.

The fire seemed to flicker at that, despite there being no wind. He tried again, getting closer.

“Carlos? Darling are you there..?”

The fire seemed to still for a moment before a soft whisper came from it. Calling him to step even closer.

“Cecil…”

The flames hissed, jittering and increasing in size.

“Cecil… Ki Tov.”

He looked at the fire, head tilted curiously.

“I-I’m sorry. Ki Tov? What happened to Carlos, where is he?”

“Cecil. Ki Tov. Give me… Ki Tov.”

The flame grew even larger now, almost the same height as him. It seemed to reach out towards him, alluring with its scent of coffee and…

He reached forward, slowly meeting the flames appendage with his own finger.

Just as he touched the fire, he heard a voice from behind him.

“CECIL!”

He turned his head just in time to see Carlos-- and himself. Both bruised, tattered, and bleeding.

Before he could run to them, the fire grabbed him, wrapping its flames around his center and mouth. It pulled, making him drop his bat as he tried to pry himself away.

All he could process was the Cecil next to Carlos running over to try and grab him. Their fingers grazed each other, but instead of the other Cecil grabbing him, he tossed something into his open and outstretched hand before he was fully engulfed in the flames.

He screamed, panicked and flailing— the fire didn’t hurt but he did feel something smack him in the back of his head.

Then… it was dark.