I found a gold ring that transported me to a parallel world. My guide and I are in the office of Professor Sebastian, a man whom she hates for some reason. (The story begins here.)
* * *
“Welcome to this dimension, travelers. My name is Peter Sebastian and I am very pleased to see you. Even you, Miss Kim; you can stop feigning unconsciousness now.”
The robot set Jessica on her feet and took hold of her upper arms. I saw her muscles tense, but its grip didn’t shift in any way.
“Sebastian you bastard, if I’d known you were here I’d have brought a nuke!”
“Still feisty as ever I see, Jessica. You know I still prefer the name Hye-jin; it fits you better.”
“Kim Hye-jin is dead! You killed her!” She kicked the robot in its shin. “Get this tinkertoy off me and I’ll return the favour!”
“Which is why you’re being restrained, my dear. In any case, I did not ask for your presence here, you came to me.”
“It was an accident.”
I’ve seen enough thrillers in my time to guess what he was doing. He was deliberately pushing Jessica’s buttons. The bad guys always did that in interrogations. I decided to take the role of monkeywrench.
“Jessica, I can tell you two know each other, but I’m in the dark here. I take it you two have met before.”
She turned her venomous look on me, but then it faded. “Yes, we’ve met; he raised me from a baby. The second time.”
“The second time?”
“Ahem. As you can see, Jessica and I do have a history together, but I don’t know you. I would love to hear your story.”
Oh great, I thought, I’ve deflected him off of her and onto me. “Not much to say, really. My name’s Roger Ambrose and I work as an engineer in Canada. I was out jogging yesterday and I found this ring…”
From the look Jessica shot me I’d said something wrong. I couldn’t fix it though, so I plowed on.
“…and it somehow transported me to another planet. I got into a bit of trouble there and Jessica rescued me. In order to get away, she brought us here. That’s where we met your man Vince, who brought us here. By the way, what was he saying about shooting somebody?”
“I am a man in power, Mister Ambrose. I assume you’re wise enough to know that can sometimes have an ugly side. In any case, I look forward to speaking with you both later.”
He addressed his henchmen. “Take them to Number 27 so they can freshen up. I can sense,” he wrinkled his nose, “that Jessica would definitely enjoy a bath.”
We took the elevator down and all got into the car in silence. Red and Vince rode up front while Jessica and I shared the back with a pair of robots.
I was trying to think of something to say when Jessica disrupted my train.
“Do I really need a bath, Boy?”
“Well, I guess we do both smell like horse.”
“Like horse shit, you mean. Yes, it would be nice to be clean again. I will take a bath. You should too.”
“I usually take showers.”
“Then you should take a shower. I prefer my bath. That means you go first.”
I couldn’t understand why Jessica would care about bathing arrangements, so I decided to change the topic.
“I take it you know what Number 27 is. Does he have 26 other houses?”
“No, he means Number 27 Westcott Road. The house I grew up in the second time. He wishes to put me on edge with the familiar surroundings.”
“How would you feel if you returned to the place where you were held captive for seventeen years by the man who stole your husband and children?”
“Point taken. Your real name is Hyejin?”
“No. That was the Korean name my parents gave me. I was born in San Francisco; my English name is Jessica. That is who I am, Boy. Sebastian tried to call me by my Korean name but he could never pronounce it right. Still can’t.”
“So, if you grew up in Chinatown, how could you have grown up here?”
“Time travel, Boy! Have you got horse-dung in your ears? Time travel is rare, but Sebastian is one of those who can do it. He tricked me into going to see myself just after birth, then kidnapped the baby I became. In my home world I became just another baby who vanished from the hospital.”
“Then what happened to baby you?”
“I became baby me! That’s the problem with time travel: you’re only allowed one body at a time! The mind of ‘baby me’ is gone! My body and my life before I went back are gone! My husband never met me and my children were never born!”
Jessica clenched her fists and started shaking. I put a hand on her shoulder to try and reassure her; she threw herself against my chest and started wailing.