MM: hello again, inspector. B)

WI: How are you even taaalking to me. I blocked you three tiiimes!

MM: did you really think something like that could stop me? B)

MM: but that isn't important right now. B|

WI: And whyyy do you keep using that stupid face.

MM: why do you keep using extra vowels? your keyboard broken? B|

MM: that's not important right now.

WI: It's how I taaalk. It adds personality, baby.

MM: i said that's not important right now. B|

MM: i guess today is finally the day you mess everything up. B|

WI: Excuuuse me?

MM: i guess there's nothing i can do to stop you, is there? B(

WI: What are you taaalking about? I'm not doing aaanything.

MM: don't play dumb, inspector. B|

MM: unless you don't yet know? B?

WI: Well, cleeearly, baby.

MM: maybe there's still hope for you yet, inspector. B)

MM: i think you should just stay home today, inspector. call in sick. pretend to break your leg. really break your leg. it's all the same to me. B)

WI: Whyyy would I do that, exactly.

MM: you really don't know. B|

WI: Would you stop with the all-knowing facade, baby? What could you pooossibly know about me?

MM: i know everything about you. your past, present, and future. B|

MM: i've watched your whole life. it's disgusting, inspector. B)

WI: Suuure. I toootally believe that.

MM: don't blame me for how inferior your chat client is. B|

MM: i don't see why everyone doesn't use kismunicator. B?

MM: but that's not what we're talking about. B|

WI: It isn't?

MM: don't act stupid, insepctor. B|

MM: no, we're talking about you finally making your big mistake. and how you still have a chance to avoid it. B|

WI: Which appaaarently I can do by not going to work today.

MM: that's one way. B)

MM: or you could make the right decision when the time comes. act like a good person. B/

MM: can you do that, inspector? B)

WI: This is a reeeal cute headgame you're playing, guy, but I'm going to haaave to block you now.

WI: I'm already late for work, see. I can't affooord to look bad today.

MM: gods, were you even listening? B(

MM: that's what i'm talking about! B(

MM: you have to stay home! or drop that case! or something. B?

MM: you have to do this, inspector cabanela. you have to. B(

MM: look, i'll even prove i'm serious by not using that stupid face.

MM: you can't do this to me. you can't kill me.

MM: inspector cabanela?

waltzingInspector is an idle soul.

MM: shit.

Your name is Yomiel, and this is the fourth time this has happened. This is the fourth time that you have failed to change your own fate. You are beginning to feel a little like this is a lost cause.

You use a messenger called Kismunicator that lets you, essentially, reach through time. This is useful, since you don't have any time powers yourself. So instead you use the messenger to contact past versions of the inspector you were just talking to and try to stop him. Kismunicator deletes your meddlings in the past and future if you fail to change things. When you were younger you thought it was kind of stupid, but now it's the most important thing in your life.

If you can call it that.

You stare at the clock and wait for the messenger to clear itself. Just a couple more hours now, you know. You have the time memorized down to the second. Your cat presses affectionately against your side, purring and arching his back. You can't feel him. You've never known what his fur was like.

You fill the hours by imagining how things could be different.

A decade ago, this game seemed like a good idea. It was lauded in every computing magazine, even ones that had nothing to do with gaming; it was years ahead of its time, something like virtual reality and an rpg in one. You were a proficient programmer yourself, paid to work on some complicated stuff, and you were suckered in by its crisp graphics and endless potential. When the game arrived at your doorstep, you convinced your fiancee to take the dive in with you. You promised it would be fun, a bonding experienced. And she was always so thrilled to make you happy, so she agreed.

Gods, you should have seen it coming.

The game promised these fantastic things, like amazing powers and mastering death and new worlds. It delivered in subtle ways. When you started playing you thought maybe it wasn't working, because you were still sitting at home in front of your laptop as if nothing had changed. You shrugged it off after a few more tries — it wasn't worth that much trouble — and you two went about your life.

Of course, it was working. You just didn't know at the time that it liked to make dramatic entrances. For you, that happened at Temsik Park. (You were never sure how that tied into the game's weird vocabulary — it favored certain words, like kismet and fate. You began to question the existence of coincidences.)

And then you lost a few months. When you woke up you were different; you could do things and, you guessed, those were the amazing powers it touted on the packaging. Maybe you should have paid attention to the riddles that almost-imaginary sprite had sung at you. It was hard to take it seriously when your fiancee had prototyped a damn desk lamp.

You had barely remembered her name when you started looking for her. You almost wish you hadn't. She didn't come back like you did, just stayed slumped and pale over her table for as long as you watched her. You found out later she didn't die the right way, and you thought that was complete bullshit. You still do.

That was ten years ago and you've spent every moment of the decade working, fighting, struggling to bring her back. You did a lot of research; you learned everything about these men by the names of Jowd and Cabanela, about the girl who was in the park, about your own revival. You could write volumes about them.

And you still can't change it.

The cat opens its mouth in a long meow and you blink back to the present. The clock ticks. You take off your shades, fold them, rest them in the crook between the keyboard and monitor of your laptop, and wait.

Hours later, you watch the logs of your conversations with Cabanela and Jowd and Lynne and Sissel vanish, wiped away like chalk on a rainy day. It hurts as much as it did the first time.

And then you open the chat client and start again.

MM: attention, inspector cabanela. B)

MM: this is your fate speaking. B)