I found a gold ring that transported me to a parallel world. I thought I’d escaped from the mad scientist’s lair, but then he walked into the room. (The story begins here.)
* * *
I was just stretching out to take a quick nap when the door opened. A man came in and my jaw dropped.
“Hello, Roger. It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Doctor David Sebastian.”
He looked a lot like the other one, except that his hair was closely-cropped and his immaculate suit was chestnut brown. I stared at the hand he was holding out for a moment, then took it. His grip was firm but not forceful.
“I understand you’ve met my twin from the other world. It may be a bit unsettling, but we are not the same person.”
“How is that even possible?”
“From what I understand, which is limited, it is not uncommon to meet the same people while travelling between worlds. However, their circumstances are often different from place to place. One might be a criminal while another is a politician, for instance.”
“Not much difference there.”
He shared the chuckle.
“You understand what I mean, I hope. In fact, it’s even possible to meet other versions of yourself, though that’s quite a bit rarer.”
“So it’s like one of those stories where every decision you make causes an alternate world to split off?”
“No. The energy cost of that would be more than astronomical. There are two main competing theories. One is that splits occur as entropy builds up in the universe, much like a dripping faucet; you know a split is coming, but can’t predict when. The universes remain entangled so future events tend to run in parallel.”
“What’s the other one?”
“That the whole multiverse, like the universe itself, is just a figment of our imagination constructed by human thought.”
“How does that explain anything?”
“If everything is a construct of human thought, then a powerful-enough thought can add things to so-called physical reality. It’s all a dream anyway.”
“Which one do you think is right?”
“I tend to favour the first one, though if some of the stories I’ve heard are correct, the second theory can’t be totally discounted. The truth is probably more interesting.”
“Okay, I guess. Now, do you have any idea how I’m supposed to activate this ring?”
“Everyone I’ve encountered has said it’s a two-step process. First, you identify a destination, and then you concentrate on travelling there.”
“Well that’s helpful. I’ve wanted this thing to work a whole bunch of times and nothing’s happened.”
“Did you think of a destination?”
“How do I do that?”
“You need some kind of mental pattern. One person used combinations of Chinese symbols, another used abstract geometrical patterns. I guess it’s really anything you can remember and that is sufficiently complex.”
“Like a phone number?”
“A phone number? I don’t think that’s anywhere near complicated enough. You can try it, but remember if it works you’ll be transported away from here, and you may not be able to get back.”
I imagined my home phone number, and wished myself to go there.
“The most important thing is to carefully remember your…”
Somebody kicked me in the head. I didn’t quite lose consciousness, but I did develop an understanding of what migraine sufferers went through. The first thing I did was roll over and throw up.
When the headache died down to an unpleasant throbbing I tried to look around. I was on a beach in the early afternoon; nobody else was there. The sun beat warmly on my back, bright enough that I could only see things by squinting. I could hear the surf and smell the aroma of salt with a tinge of fish. Behind me I could sort of see a bush line and some trees (palms?). There might have been a rock in the distance.
I staggered to my feet and started walking toward the bush line; my only thought was the darkness of blessed shade. I made maybe three steps before falling on my face into the soft amber sand. Since walking was out I started crawling.
After some time I ended up underneath some brush by a clump of palm trees. Definitely palm trees. I wished for something to take the taste of vomit out of my mouth but had no idea how to get it. Instead, I reflected that now I knew how to use the ring. Now all I had to do was find my way home. At that, consciousness faded to black.
- End Chapter 1 -