Hannibal Heyes jumped out of bed and started getting dressed. Somehow, he had to get to the bottom of whatever was happening to him. Apparently, he was the only one affected by the repeating day. Everytime he'd tried to explain it to his cousin, Curry had thought he'd lost his mind. He decided not to try it today. He needed some time to get his brain around what was going on and proving to Kid he wasn't insane wasn't productive.
As he came to that conclusion, Kid Curry walked in the door.
Heyes turned toward him. "Morning Kid."
"Went out to get some breakfast and a paper. Didn't want to wake ya, so I just brought you something back."
"Were you awake in time to see the excitement?"
"The excitement is what woke me up." Heyes went to the wash basin to wipe the sleepiness from his eyes.
Curry sat the coffee and food on the table. "Since we're runnin' low on money, I was glancin' at this paper while I ate and saw a couple ads for jobs. One's out at a small ranch patchin' up a barn. The other's deliverin' some documents out to a mine."
Heyes spoke before Kid could continue. "I'll take the barn job. You go deliver the
Kid was caught off guard. It wasn't like Heyes to want the harder job. He eyed him carefully. "Heyes, you feelin' alright?"
"You've asked me that for the past...," Heyes stopped mid sentence. He had started to say 'past four mornings', but that would just provoke an interrogation. "I mean, how come you're always asking me that?"
"Because sometimes, you're just plain weird. But, if you insist, I guess I'll take the delivery job." Curry was smiling on the inside.
"Fine. Shouldn't you be going?"
Kid once again studied Heyes. "If I didn't know better, I'd think you were trying to get rid of me."
Heyes finished drying his face off. "No. You just want to make sure you go grab that job up before someone else does. Easy jobs advertised in the paper don't stay open for long."
Kid was still staring at him. "Well, I guess you're right."
"Of course I'm right. How many times have we found an easy job advertised only to find it filled when we got there to take it?"
"Alright, I'm goin'." Curry rolled his eyes and started for the door.
"I'll be leaving myself as soon as I eat this."
"Well, be careful. You know you have trouble nailin' two boards together."
"I'll be fine," Heyes smirked, hoping in his mind that his statement would be true today. Getting killed off the last couple of days had him wary. He watched as Kid left, then sat down at the table to eat and collect his thoughts.
'Alright,' he thought. 'I went to the barn, ended up arrested because of the old man at the livery. Went to the mine, got killed. Stayed in town, played poker, got killed. Who've I ran into...? Sheriff Murray on multiple occasions, Widow Logan, that guy that tried to rob me, those jerks at the mine, those fellas at the poker table, that old farmer Turner...was that all...? It's all running together...WAIT...there was someone else. That guy that works in the stable. Everytime I'm near the livery, he's been staring a hole through me, but he's not turned me in, so he must not know who I am. BUT...maybe he knows something else...'.
Mind made up, Heyes finished his sandwich and coffee and left the hotel room. After looking to make sure ole' Turner was gone home, he headed toward the livery stable.
The stable man looked up and smiled as Heyes entered. "Hello," the man said with a seemingly knowing smile. He leaned his pitchfork up against the wall of one of the stalls and wiped his hands with his bandana. Upon closer inspection, Heyes noticed the man's skin had a darker tint to it, like an Indian.
"Howdy," Heyes answered. "Say, you got a couple of minutes to spare?"
The man looked around and seeing they were alone said, "Why yes I do...Mr. Heyes."
Heyes was shocked to say the least, but kept his poker face in place. "You must have me mistaken for somebody else. My name's Joshua Smith."
The man smiled even larger. "Alright then Mr. ...Smith. We will go with that. So, what can I do for you?"
"Well, for starters, how long have you been around this town? I'm trying to find out some information."
"Mr. Hey...Smith. Ask me what is really on your mind."
"You are in the middle of a rather...unusual situation and you are trying to find out what's going on."
There emerged a crack in Heyes' facade, but only slightly. He managed to maintain his neutral look. "What do you mean?"
"Do you seem to be waking up in the same place day after day, doing, not maybe the same thing, but something similar perhaps. Are you stuck in a seemingly endless...loop?"
Heyes' look finally faltered. He couldn't hold it in any longer. "Alright buddy. What do you know?"
"Calm down Mr. Heyes. It is alright, I assure you."
"It is most certainly NOT alright. I've been here in this crazy town for four, five days now. Or is it really just one? I don't know. I DO know I want some answers. I seem to be the only one affected by it. My own partner thinks I'm nuts if I tell him about it. So, I'll ask you again...WHAT do you know?"
"Mr....Smith, I think there is someone else you need to talk to. He lives south of here, right outside of town in a little one-room cabin. He is known as Cat Of A Thousand Circles by his people. He told all the townspeople to just to call him Cat."
"Just go Mr. Smith. You may be enlightened." With that, the man turned back to his work.
Heyes sighed in exasperation. Giving in, he saddled his horse and went to find this Cat person.
Heyes rode about fifteen minutes south of Destiny Loop. Sure enough, over a little ridge, was a small cabin with a little garden growing beside it. A fire pit built from rocks lay on the other side of the house. He rode up to the porch and dismounted. The place actually looked quite cozy and well kept. He knocked on the door. A moment later, it opened.
"I have been waiting for you to show up Mr. Heyes," said a wizened Indian with long gray hair. "Please come in."
Heyes hesitated a moment. "It's Joshua Smith and how could you know I, or anyone, was coming?"
"No, Mr. Heyes. Your name is not Joshua, it is Hannibal. Do not fear. I have no desire or need to claim the price on your head."
He didn't know if it was the kind, calming way the Indian spoke, or just his general demeanor, but Heyes believed him. Besides, he wasn't going to argue with anyone that could possibly explain to him what was going on with this crazy day. He walked inside.
"Please, sit down. My tribe's customs do not permit me to tell you my given birth name, but to the white man, I am known as Cat Of A Thousand Circles. You may call me Cat."
"You can call me whatever you want if you can tell me what's going on around here," Heyes said as he sat down in a chair made from wood and elk antlers.
"You have been experiencing an unusual phenomenon, have you not?"
"That's one way to put it."
"Hannibal, there are things in this world beyond comprehension. Like, why do some things happen? What would happen if you had done something differently, followed a different path, taken things into your own hands instead of letting others take control. Take yourself for instance. You have no doubt questioned your path many times. Was this path chosen for me? Can I change it? Is destiny written for every child born into this world before they are even here? Unfortunately, I do not have the answers."
Heyes opened his mouth to speak, but Cat put up his hand.
"I am one of the last remaining members of my tribe. They were ran off this land many years ago. My father was chief at that time. When the white man came and forced my people to leave, my father spoke a curse on this land. I was small at the time and do not remember all he said. All I know is that for some people who enter this land, they shall forever be in an endless loop, destined to relive the same day forever. People of the tribe were exempt from the curse if any chose to come back, but we can and have seen it happen to certain people. That is how myself and my half brother at the livery stable know who you are. We have seen and heard all that has happened to you so far."
"I've never heard of such a thing. I don't...didn't even believe in things like curses. So, how do I break it?"
"That, I do not know. Some men have never broken the loop. Their only way out was death by natural causes, old age. Twice, men have found the secret to break the loop. But I cannot say what it was."
"You mean to tell me I could be stuck reliving this same day until I die of old age?"
"Yes," Cat rose to stand in front of the window. "Unless, you find the secret that will lead you out."
Heyes closed his eyes and sighed.
Cat turned to face him. "Do not worry Hannibal. I am sure with your level of intelligence, you will resolve the puzzle."
Heyes stood up. "Well, thank you for your time Mr....uh, Cat. I think I'll head back to town now." He walked toward the door. Cat opened it for him.
"Remember Hannibal, this town is named Destiny Loop for a reason."
"Yeah. It's destined to drive me crazy. Well, goodbye." Heyes went out and mounted his horse.
"Goodbye Hannibal,...and good luck."
Heyes rode back into town. He wanted, no, he needed a drink. He was definitely NOT going to play poker this time though, unless it was a game that that guy Charlie wasn't in. Getting stabbed in the back once was enough. He dropped his horse off at the livery and walked toward the saloon. He pulled out his pocketwatch to check the time and as he did, he heard a commotion from somewhere way down the street. A runaway wagon rounded the corner and was headed straight down main street. Heyes remembered the incident from the day before and took off at a run toward the general store.
Just as a ball bounced out in the street, he leapt and grabbed a small child who had started after it. The wagon flew by at that moment. The child was startled by being grabbed and began to cry. A woman ran out of the general store to see her daughter in the arms of the ex-outlaw on the ground. Rage filled her eyes until witnesses began to thank and congratulate Heyes on probably saving the little girl's life. The woman was quickly filled in on what had transpired and ran to her daughter to sweep her up in a hug. Heyes picked himself up off the ground and the woman turned to him. Placing her daughter on her hip, she immediately embraced Heyes in a hug as well.
"Oh thank you thank you THANK YOU!" the woman cried. I could never thank you enough for saving my little Lily!" She let go of Heyes and started digging in her bag. "I don't have much, but here, take it please." She reached her hand out which held a dollar and two bits.
Heyes closed her hand over the money. "Seeing your little girl alright is thanks enough," he said politely.
"At least let me treat you to dinner," she insisted. "You can at least come to my house and let me fix you a homecooked supper."
"Really, I..." Heyes started to decline, but the watery eyes of the thankful mother changed his mind. "Well, if you insist ma'am."
"Please, call me Annie."
She led him to a small house on the outskirts of town. It was a modest little house with two bedrooms and a small garden.
Annie bustled around the kitchen as Heyes played with little Lily at the kitchen table. "I hope you like chicken stew Mr. Smith."
"Please, call me Joshua. And I happen to love chicken stew." Heyes was busy drawing a cat as requested by Lily.
"I still could never thank you enough for saving my Lily."
"It was nothing Annie. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time."
"Well, it means the world to me. Lily's all I got left after my husband passed."
"Sorry to hear that."
"We get by, don't we sweetie?"
Lily giggled as Heyes finished her kitty. She immediately asked for a horsey so her kitty would have a friend.
"Now Lily, don't pester Mr. Smith."
"Oh, she's no bother. I enjoy drawing on occasion." He stifled a smile as he thought back to all the plans and bank floorplans he had drawn out.
"Well, as soon as you're done with her horsey, it'll be time to eat."
"Sounds good." Heyes hurried and finished Lily's horsey which she named 'Joshua'. The kitty's name had become Lily.
Annie set the table with the help of Lily who insisted on giving Joshua his bowl, then served the stew.
"I have to say this is the best meal I've had in days," Heyes smiled.
And indeed it was.
Come to the dark side...we have cookies