The night had drawn in and the ethereal summer glow of the day had turned to a cold, icy blue tone and as Olivia set upon making the evening meal, she felt a sudden unease, as if there was an unwelcome and unworldly presence.
She called for Leo with a panic in her voice. However, no reply came. Where had he gone, she realised she had not seen him for over an hour and the house wasn't sprawling, so that was strange. They live close to the beach and Leo loved to spend time on the porch watching the waves. It was his calming place and with recent stresses he was spending more and more time relaxing there but he was not in his usual recliner.
Olivia searched in and around the house, calling him constantly but Leo never responded.
Suddenly, the front door flew open and there stood a shadowy figure; that of a tall, withered man with hat and cane.
She screamed, “Who the hell are you?”
“Fear not.” Replied the dark presence. “I have been sent by Leo and do not wish you any harm.”
“What do you mean, sent by Leo, who are you, where is he?” questioned Olivia nervously. Her brain was working overtime at the confusion and the shock of these unusual events.
“Leo is in the A.R.C. awaiting your arrival. We must go now if you are to see him again” conveyed the shadowman.
The A.R.C. is the ‘Alternate Reality Cloud’ where people who are despondent with their own lives, given up on their own existence or simply unhappy with their ‘lot’ go to request a transfer to another plain to swap realities with their counterparts. But there is a short period of time between ‘swaps’ to allow for confirmation or ‘returns and rejections.’ This is called the Cloud Area. Once all details and agreements have been finalised the swap is confirmed for the full transfer – the A.R.T.
“I don’t want to swap! I have had no such request from a counterpart and I do not want a ‘new’ Leo.” Sobbed Olivia. “Why does he want this?” she asked the old man.
“My name is Bandy and I oversee the exchange between worlds. Alternative Olivia (Olivia-A as she will be referred to from here on in) is having the same experience as we speak. Olivia-A and Leo-A are waiting in the cloud for you, with your Leo.” Bandy continued, “I am afraid your Leo is dying and your world cannot save him but the A.R. have the technology. “Bandy relayed this information with no emotion.
Olivia fell to the floor, totally in disbelief of the horror she has just had to swallow.
“Dying? Dying of what?” she shrieked.
Calmly, Bandy explained to her that Leo had a so-called terminal disease which meant that all his senses would shut down one by one and his body would then shrivel and die.
“He only has three weeks to live if he remains on this plain.” He informed Olivia.
“But I like my life here, I don’t want a new one.” Came the selfish reply, not thinking of the distress her husband must be in.
Simply and succinctly, Bandy urged Olivia to get her head straight and concentrate on the matter at hand.
“You have one hour to decide. The transition will be seamless and you will simply move plains. Your lives will continue as they have but with the chance of your Leo surviving. Please think carefully!”
Olivia paced and cried, chattering and shouting. Bandy watched on with blank expression. He had seen this so many times in his 100-year service. Nothing surprised him or moved him.
“15 minutes remain.” The old man stated. “If you do not come with me then Leo-A will be sent here and you will be forced to live together. Your decision, but once made, done!”
Again, like a whirling whippet she ran round with panic and desperation taking over. So many thoughts ran through her head, not all that she should be proud of.
How could I let Leo down? Not be there for him when he needs me most. How could I live or even learn to love a new Leo? He would look the same and he wouldn’t be ill, hmm, surely the alternative Olivia would care for him though. Would she love him, would the new Leo love me?
All these questions and ruminations ran over her mind but something cold and unfeeling overwhelmed her.
“3 minutes!” reminded Bandy.
“I have decided. I am NOT going. I do not want to swap.” She said, surprisingly calm and resolute of nature.
Bandy quickly replied, not giving her the chance to revise the decision.
“As you wish. All is settled!” he said affirmingly. And with a whip of his coat tails, he spun around and exited the door in which he came. He was gone and Olivia was alone. Now she felt the pangs of guilt setting in.
Back on the Cloud the others waited. Bandy appeared, stony-faced and without the expected company.
All three of them exclaimed at once. “Where is she?”
With a harsh slam of his cane, Bandy hushed the room. He spoke with them and informed all parties of Olivia’s decision. They were shocked to say the least and did not at first realise the consequences of said decision.
“Leo-A, you must now depart to the other plain, leaving your Olivia to be with your replacement.” Said Bandy with forceful command.
Not one of them could easily accept the situation and Leo-A refused to go. He wouldn’t leave his Olivia, not even to save a life, not even his own counterpart. This left Leo feeling completely dejected, scared and alone, having to resign himself to his fate, without the support he needed to see him through.
Leo begged his alternate to leave, trying to reassure him that he would have a good life with his Olivia on the other plain – even though he was really thinking “what a cold, unfeeling witch she was.”
“Why did she do this to me?” Leo enquired of Bandy.
“Her answer was simply that she could not go through with it. She consoled herself with the thought that Olivia-A would care for you.” he informed the group.
Olivia-A looked at Leo and could not help but feel empathy for him. Upon further pondering she took Leo-A to one side and they spoke for some length, intimately. They agreed to the transfer on the proviso that once Leo was cured, they could re-transfer without question and they would each be back where they belonged.
All agreed. Leo felt the bleakness lift and so Bandy released the necessary documents to the higher powers and the deed was done.
The new challenges were just that. Olivia-A had found herself in the role of nurse maid to Leo as he began his treatment in the A.R. But back on the other plain things were also not so rosy. Leo-A could not easily adjust to his new partner. He could not help but feel she was not worthy of his care and attention. After all, she readily threw aside her Leo and for what?
As time went by, Leo got his treatment and was given the all-clear so it was now time for he and Olivia-A to discuss re-transfer. He had to admit to himself though that Olivia-A had looked after him well and he was reluctant to leave her.
Olivia-A had also grown to ‘love’ Leo but she did crave her Leo. She had missed certain aspects of his character, his kwerks…how he used to make her laugh before they retired for the evening, always going to sleep happy and to wake with his usual greeting to her of ‘Morning beautiful.’
But on the other hand, the new Leo was much more creative and would surprise her with his ideas and ambitions. They would talk for hours! She loved it.
It was a dilemma for them both and they could not imagine going back quite so easily. However, they decided it would be the best option and so they called for Bandy to begin proceedings.
24 hours later, Bandy appeared with the same unexpected abruptness.
“Have you called me to discuss re-transfer as agreed two years prior?” he asked.
“Yes Bandy, we have, although with some hesitation.” Replied Leo. “I am now fully recovered and we have decided it best I go back to my plain and Olivia-A can have her Leo returned. Would you be able to contact the two of them to discuss?”
“I will put transfer requests in place. You will be back where you belong by the morning!” said Bandy and not giving chance for further talks, he was gone.
Leo and Olivia-A spent the night talking and relaying their appreciation for each other, before gently falling asleep just moments before dawn.
When they awoke, each Leo was back on their own plain, in their own reality. Olivia-A was thrilled to have her Leo back but there was always a part of her that missed his counterpart. Leo-A was so relieved to be back. He had not enjoyed being on the other plain. And Leo was soon to find out why.
When Leo awoke, in his own bed, his Olivia was nowhere to be seen. He got up and searched the house, the porch, the beach but nothing, no sight of her. He headed back to the house and as he approached, Bandy appeared at the door.
“Bandy, I am glad you are here. What is going on, why is Olivia not here?” Leo enquired, slightly scared of what was to follow, given the look on Bandy’s face.
“Leo, I have been tracking your lives, here and on the other plain. There is no easy way to say this,” he paused but with some unusual snippet of sympathy in his tone, continued “your Olivia is not here.”
“What, why, what has happened?” asked Leo.
Bandy went on to explain the circumstances of Olivia’s absence.
“I have been over-seeing events in all your intertwined lives and about a year ago, we discovered that Olivia had been living with her own unknown ill-fated condition which affected her brain. She was susceptible to seizures which would ultimately end her life. Unfortunately, the rules of transfer meant that I was unable to relay this information to you, to any of you, although obviously Leo-A knew of this and wanted nothing to spoil the return to his own plain. This now means you are to continue on your own plain without her. You cannot request a further transfer.”
Leo, although shocked at the revelation was more surprised by his relief than his lack of grief. It was the realisation that his own partner had not been the loving, supportive wife he believed her to be, forged by the ‘normality’ of routine.
Time passed and each day became easier living alone. He did miss Olivia-A and she was often in his thoughts. However, one day on the train, things were about to get weird and change his life, yet again, forever.
A woman sat down next to him. I say sat down but she almost fell in the seat, fell in to him, dropping all her books, bag, keys and phone in one pile as she did so.
When she picked everything up, sat back and composed herself, she threw back her long raven hair and turned to Leo to apologise for her disturbance.
“Hi, sorry about that, I am a clumsy lump sometimes!” she giggled.
Leo was struck dumb. He couldn’t reply, he just stared. To the point where it became uncomfortable.
The girl had to do something to break his glazed amazement.
“Are you OK?” she asked Leo. “What’s the matter, speak to me!”
“Erm, hi! Oh, erm, it’s OK, I’m OK, sorry!” he stumbled back at her.
“My name is Sophia, what’s yours?
“L l l Leo, my name is Leo” he stuttered, still puzzled as to the vision before him.
“Nice to meet you Leo, I am sorry for seemingly putting you in a daze, are you sure you are OK?”
“Yes, you too, I am fine, it’s just that you are so much like someone I used to know, it’s bizarre!” he stuttered. “I can’t believe it!”
“Well I do have a twin, maybe you know her, although I am not sure how as she is on another plain, I transferred down here a few years ago and I have not seen her since, Olivia is her name.” she went on to explain.
“Wow!” delighted Leo. “Oh we have much to talk about!”
And that as they say, was that!