The alarm clock piped up: beep, beep, beep... John Sykes rolled over and examined the offending object through rheumy eyes. Besides 'beep, beep, beep,' the clock said 6.15. The digital calendar beside it (a gift from his geek cousin) said 3 October 2011. Monday. John hated Mondays. He hit the 'off' button on the clock, rolled over in the feather bed, and went back to sleep.
Exactly one hour later, something very large and very fast fell from the sky, striking the Pennsylvania farmhouse with great force. It terminated the house with extreme prejudice, obliterating the structure, two trucks parked outside, a quarter-acre of vegetable garden and a barn full of pigs, and the rest of John's day.
The alarm clock piped up: beep, beep, beep... John Sykes rolled over and examined the offending object through rheumy eyes. Besides 'beep, beep, beep,' the clock said 6.15. The digital calendar beside it (a gift from his geek cousin) said 3 October 2011. Monday.
John wasn't that much of a science fiction fan, but he'd seen that movie about the ground hog. Being a practical sort of person, he got up, danced around on the cold floor until he found his clothes and boots, went down to the kitchen for some breakfast, and mulled the problem over while he got ready for work.
He was just starting up the truck that didn't have a burned-out transmission when something very large and very fast fell from the sky, terminating (with extreme prejudice) the house, a quarter-acre of vegetable garden and a barn full of pigs, both trucks, and the rest of John's day.
The next morning, John got dressed faster. Grabbing his jacket, his lunchbox, and a thermos full of coffee, he ran out to the functioning truck and threw it into reverse with great rapidity. Then he parked it next to the bob-wire fence across the road and stood leaning on it (the truck, not the fence), sipping his coffee, until 7.15.
He watched thoughtfully as something very large and very fast fell from the sky, obliterating the house, the vegetable garden, the pigs, and the dysfunctional truck. He made a note of the time.
Then he called in sick and went to the Punxsutawney Public Library, a place he had never been before. It turned out they had Google. From Google, he learned that the persistent object which kept wiping out his abode was a rogue satellite with a decayed orbit. The satellite in question belonged to a tv company. John resolved to cancel his subscription, even though he enjoyed Billy the Exterminator.
John Sykes wasn't the sharpest pencil in the box – he'd graduated 177th out of a class of 200, but only because that nasty teacher from Pittsburgh had given him a D in English. Otherwise, he would have made it to 170th. As previously noted, John was a practical young man, and it only took him two more iterations of the day before he had made a phone list. The fact that he had to register for a new library card every morning slowed him down a bit.
The next day after that, John turned off the alarm clock, ran downstairs to the phone – did anyone expect the greater Punxsutawney area to feature reliable mobile service? – and started punching numbers like mad.
An hour later, he was into his fifth fruitless conversation with an unbelieving bureaucrat. The nervous PhD at JPL was reaching for the number of Homeland Security when his line went dead.
John, of course, was really dead. But only for about 23 hours.
In spite of what Ms O'Leary thought, John was not 'terminally stupid'. Even if he couldn't spell 'chronosynclastic infundibulum'. He could spell Punxsutawney. He was dogged, too. Over the next several months, John developed a talent he never knew he had: a photographic memory. He also became adept at web searching. By the time he was done, he could have passed the quantum physics final over at Clarion University.
It was a bit annoying to have to dodge a falling satellite every morning, but John came of pioneer stock. He sucked it up, and drove to the library every day to learn. The good thing about temporal causality loops, he noticed, was that one had an endless supply of sick days. Abandoning the attempt to convince a rocket scientist that he was one, too – at least, in under sixty minutes – John tried a different approach. He needed a practical solution, and he needed one which could be implemented in under an hour. The hardware store was no help. Anything he'd buy on 3 October would be gone when he woke up on 3 October. John had to think hard about this – but oddly, he had nothing but time. For the first time in his life, John was rather glad that Peggy Jean had turned down his proposal of marriage on the grounds that she didn't want to spend the rest of her life in a broken-down farmhouse. Being alone left him with free evenings over at the Super 8 Motel.
It took some doing, but at last John had memorised his flow chart. 'Bring it on,' he thought grimly.
The alarm clock piped up: beep, beep, beep... John Sykes rolled over and examined the offending object through rheumy eyes. Besides 'beep, beep, beep,' the clock said 6.15. The digital calendar beside it (a gift from his geek cousin) said 3 October 2011. Monday. John hated Mondays. Particularly this Monday. He hit the 'off' button on the clock, rolled out of bed, and grabbed his clothes..
Almost one hour later, something very large and very fast – a television satellite with a decayed orbit – began re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere, headed in the direction of the Sykes farmhouse. It didn't get very far, though: at the moment it touched the atmosphere, a relatively small missile struck the satellite at great speed, deflecting its approach. Entering at a different angle, the satellite presented a greater surface area as it hit the upper air, encountering more friction and turning into a fireball. Combustion was complete long before the falling object could do any damage to trucks or farmhouses.
On terra firma, John Sykes heaved a sigh of satisfaction as he turned off the missile launcher he had manufactured in 55 minutes using old truck parts, a pitchfork, fuel composed of manure from the barn mixed with ordinary household chemicals, and a guidance system powered by his cousin's geek calendar. He went inside, had a second cup of coffee, and called in sick.
John thought he would take the day and go over to Clarion University. There was a professor he wanted to talk to. After that, he thought he'd call Peggy Jean and see if she wanted to go on a date.
But first, he needed to go feed the pigs.