Gertie and Bridget play road games

“I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves. I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves and this is how it goes…”
Vivien was singing, her cultured accent clashing awkwardly with the childish lyrics. She was getting more off-key with each repetition, but somehow the rest of the car restrained from indulging her pestering by asking her to stop.
“I spy, with my non-enchanted eye,” Bridget said to Gertie, grinning at her own choice of phrasing. “Something that’s green.”
“Is it the energy drink billboard?” Gertie guessed, just as their minivan passed the lime-green advertisement.
“Yep!” Bridget said.
“Go fish,” Faye said, and her oldest brother Peter drew another card from their deck. “Do you have any...twos?”
Peter groaned and handed three cards over.
There was a chime on Faye’s phone, and she swiped away an “emergency weather” notification as she put down her set of four. The sky was bright, the road in front of them was empty, and the land around them didn’t have a building in sight. It was all trees and scrubby little bushes and the occasional masquerading cell tower.
Ernest, tasked with watching the box that contained the egg they were transporting, sat in the front seat of the car, searching through the albums he had on his phone for something the little storm owl chick would like to listen to. It hated pop music, but somehow Vivien’s annoying rhyme wasn’t making it throw down lightning and thunder onto the car.
“I know a song that gets on everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves, everybody’s nerves…”
“I spy,” Gertie said.
Bridget squinted into the distance. They were approaching a mountain range, and the road was curving to go into a tunnel. A green sign above it was so rusted that she couldn’t make out the words.
“Is it the rust on the sign?”
“Darn. Yes.”
Charlie, Peter and Faye’s middle brother who had accidentally turned himself into an ostrich, honked in what sounded like a hopeless groan.
“It’s not taking forever,” Faye lectured him. She wore many enchantments that allowed her to understand animals, and ostriches were no exception. “We’ll be in Delliflor soon and get some dinner.”
“...And this is how it goes!”
The group passed through another tunnel.
Peter and Charlie watched each other as they held their breath the entire way through, only gasping for air when the car was out in the sun again.
“Alright, that’s the third time,” Vivien said. “Can you please explain what that’s for?”
“Our cousin once told them that ghosts like to live in tunnels,” Faye said dryly. “So it was the easiest place to get possessed. And that they liked to enter through your mouth. So if you hold your breath when you were in a tunnel, you’d be safe.”
“And you believe that?” Vivien asked.
“I guarantee you, I cannot ‘spy with my enchanted eye’ any ghosts in here,” Bridget said. “And I would actually see them.”
Peter shrugged. “It’s a nice tradition. And it improves lung capacity.”
Charlie honked in agreement.
Ernest groaned as another “emergency weather” notification blocked his view of his playlist and swiped it away, checking the sky. It wasn’t even warm enough to constitute a heat wave.
Faye grinned at her brothers. “Want to tell them what you do when you see a rabbit or should I?”
“Yeah, it’s smaller than a toaster oven,” Vivien said. 
Gertie frowned.
“Is it edible?” Faye asked.
Vivien’s eyes sparkled. “Yes.”
“Is it a dessert?” Gertie asked.
“That’s five questions so far, and...not really?” Vivien furrowed her eyebrows.
Faye groaned.
“It’s probably a breakfast food then,” Bridget said, not looking up from the basketball game she had downloaded onto her phone.
“Is it a breakfast food?” Gertie asked Vivien.
“Isn’t that cheating if you’re not playing?” Vivien accused Bridget.
The recorded game went to commercial and Bridget made eye contact with Vivien. “Is it something one would eat for breakfast?”
Vivien sighed. “Yes.”
Ernest fiddled around with his ukulele, playing random tunes. The egg in his lap trilled.
“It’s someone else’s turn to babysit soon, right?” he asked.
Peter started from his nap. “No way, man, it’s only been half an hour.” He pointed to the clock on the minivan’s dashboard.
Charlie honked.
“It always feels longer, when we’re stuck in the car the whole time,” Faye said.
“At least no one has to drive,” Gertie said. The car’s magical auto-driver took care of that. “Imagine how hard it would be if one of us had to be at the wheel all the time.” She grimaced at the thought.
Ernest’s phone chimed again in conjunction with Faye and Peter’s, and they swiped the alert away. Bridget grumbled about it covering up part of the basketball game.
“Is it pancakes?” Gertie asked.
“No,” Vivien said, beginning to smirk.
“Gertie!” Bridget scolded. “No guesses yet!”
“Is it prepared in an oven?” Faye asked.
They all groaned.
“It could be so many different pastries...” Gertie said.
“There are plenty of ways to differentiate between different types of pastries,” Vivien explained.
“Says the baker,” Faye said with a pout.
“There are a lot of tunnels here,” Ernest said as another looming mouth approached them.
“There are a lot of mountains,” Gertie responded.
Peter and Charlie held their breaths again as the car was covered in shadow.
“Guys?” Ernest jolted, staring at the car’s dashboard.
Vivien turned back from her game to try to see what he noticed. “What?”
“The clock!”
Vivien stared at the LED dashboard clock. It read twenty minutes in the past.
“Oh no,” she said, looking around outside the car as they left the tunnel. Sure enough, she recognized the same bed of flowers they’d passed earlier. Followed by the fallen tree. Then a billboard on the opposite side of the road for a rest stop.
Charlie honked.
“He says he told us it was taking forever,” Faye translated.
“What’s going on?” Gertie asked.
“Time loop,” Bridget said. She showed everyone her phone - she had clicked on the “Emergency Weather” alert and it had taken her to an information website about an active temporal anomaly.
“What?” Ernest squawked. “How do we get out of that?”
“Wait, isn’t that what got Aunt Joanna on the way to mom and dad’s wedding?” Faye asked. “Wasn’t she trapped in a time loop for like, a week?”
“Is there a spell we need to cast?” Gertie suggested, ignoring the worry rising in her chest.
“Oh no,” Peter rubbed his temple. “Do we need to call a service hotline?”
“Guys, how long have we been in here?” Ernest asked. “What if it’s been months?”
Bridget shook her head at Peter’s question. “It says we need to activate the car’s Temporal Regulator.”
Peter’s eyes went wide. “A Temporal what?”
Bridget sighed. “Regulator. It’s a button in the car.”
All eyes went to Vivien, who was sitting sideways in the driver’s seat and craning her neck to look at Bridget’s phone.
“Oh…” she hesitated as the car continued to drive itself. “I...I bet I can find that…”
After scouring the minivan’s glove compartment, Ernest produced the owner’s manual. He scanned the index, opened the right page and located the diagram revealing the Temporal Regulator button.
“Who would have known about this?” Vivien grumbled as she pushed the car’s clock in with a click. The car chimed and the clock started flashing blue on the dashboard.
“We have to wait until we reach the end of the loop to see if we get out,” Bridget said. She held up her phone. The website had a picture of the road, with a flashing green light representing the car.
The minutes clicked by, one by one. They didn’t play games or music; even the storm owl chick was silent, waiting to see if they made it out.
“It was a chocolate chip muffin,” Vivien said. “The answer to the twenty questions. If you cared.”
They passed the energy drink billboard, and in the distance the mountain and tunnel rose up from the horizon.
The green dot approached the end of the time loop, and the minivan approached the tunnel. The dashboard started to whine and the blue light of the clock filled the entire car.
They didn’t notice the dark of the tunnel this time, when the whole minivan was glowing.
They came out of the tunnel and the clock’s light went back to normal, and the minutes continued to tick by. The map vanished from Bridget’s phone, and everyone looked up.
It was as if nothing had changed. The road was just as empty as it had been before and the sun in the sky hadn’t progressed any further.
“Oh no!” Faye cried, pulling out her phone to try to open the alert again. “How are we going to get out of here?”
“I spy something silver,” Gertie said, pointing at the side of the road.
Everyone looked up again. There was a statue of a soldier holding the Crescynthian flag. They hadn’t seen that before. They’d made it out of the loop.
“Finally,” Ernest said, stretching as everyone else cheered. “Okay, whose turn is it to watch the egg?”


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