A Response to Time Loops

Artwork from All You Need is Kill.
In All You Need is Kill, a novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka turned into a manga (and the source material for the movie Edge of Tomorrow), the earth has been overrun with aliens known as Mimics. New recruit Keiji Kiriya is stuck in a time loop that starts the morning before his first battle and ends mid battle the next day, if he hasn’t died before then. When Keiji realizes he is trapped in the loop, he tries several times to escape, but there is nowhere for him to run to. So on the fifth loop, he commits himself to fight against the loop—to train and learn until he overcomes it.

And he does. He pushes himself, trains his mind, and learns how to fight effectively, because every time he fails and dies, he can start again, having learned from his mistakes. It’s slow work. Every day he has to go through the same conversations, the same basic training, before he can focus on becoming a better soldier to escape the loop. Every time he wakes up, his progress is erased, except for the little piece he learned that he carries in his mind.

I admire Keiji’s dedication. It only takes him four failures, four loops, before he vows to fight the loop, and he doesn’t break that vow. Some days he gets through his mundane tasks only to break his back minutes into training. The loop starts again, and he goes through another three hours of push-ups before he can begin his true work.

I can relate to the feeling of being in a time loop. Sometimes it feels like the world gets reset when I go to bed. Every morning I make my bed, make breakfast, do the dishes, walk to work, come home, make supper, rinse and repeat. I eat, and I have to eat again. As a Christian, I try to make time to pray, and then I do it again the next day. I can’t hold on to being full. I can’t hold on to peace or patience. I can achieve it for a day, but I need to start all over again the next.

I admire Keiji, but his discipline is utterly foreign to me. I can much more easily relate to Jack O’Neill and Teal’c in Stargate SG-1’s episode “Window of Opportunity.” When the Colonel and Teal’c are trapped in a time loop, they also must figure out what caused it and how to break free. Their approach, while similar to Keiji’s, is undertaken in a completely different mindset.

Both work to free themselves, gathering the information in painstakingly small amounts, loop by loop. But unlike Keiji, O’Neill and Teal’c aren’t committed completely to their goal. They take loops off, finding more and more bizarre ways to entertain themselves, knowing they don’t have to deal with the consequences.

Screenshot from Stargate: SG-1.

Both eventually find their way out of their respective loops, but only Keiji is changed by the process. When he finds out that the only way to end the loop is to kill the only person who understands what he’s been through or be killed himself, he can’t stop fighting against the loop.

I’m the type of person who wants to do something once and be done with it. It’s hard to be consistent with mundane chores that need to be done every day, never mind the important things. Spending time with God, exercising, or learning a new instrument—those things that take time and dedication—are hard to consistently do. It often feels like mustering the focus and mental effort aren’t worth it when I know I’ll have to find them again the next morning. I want be like Keiji—to push through every day, to be disciplined—but when I’ve had a late night and want the extra half hour of sleep in the morning, or I’ve been out of the house for 12 hours straight, I just want to ‘take this loop off.’

It’s hard, almost impossible, to see the progress I’m making. Some days, prayer seems useless. I see my friends having a rough time and doubt my words could do anything for them. I don’t see myself growing in my faith, and I don’t see the fruit of my labour.

It’s in these moments that I want to be like Keiji—not minding what the outcome is, but being fully committed to the course—pushing forward because the person I’ve become can’t do anything less.

Julia Hamm

Julia Hamm

Guest Writer at Area of Effect
Julia Hamm has been exploring fantasy and sci-fi worlds since she could read, and has been making and building things for almost as long. She loves books that contain more ideas than plot, and has approximately six more hobbies than she has time for.
Julia Hamm