Contest #156 winner 🏆

39 comments

Science Fiction

Something happened in the lab the other night. I’m not certain what but it was something.

I powered up the device, and there she…I…the other I…was. It was a possibility I hadn’t considered. By opening a door into a parallel universe, I opened the door to myself in that same universe.

Some clarification first. My name is Samuel Worth, I am a thirty-four-year-old physicist that likes doing stupid experiments in my garage. I go by Sam. Her name is Samantha Worth, a thirty-four-year-old physicist that likes doing stupid experiments in her garage…she goes by Sam.

One difference at our conception, or possibly even sooner. We look too alike to have a wildly different selection of genes from our mother and father. We knew, in an instant. Until the age of twelve, we looked identical.

I’d been called “girlish” when I was a child, she was called a tomboy. Right up until puberty hit us hard. We shared an awareness of our entire lives up to turning on the device.

She reached out a hand, both of us unsure of what might happen. I reciprocated and our hands touched. At that moment, the machine powered down. My consciousness divided itself between two worlds, without severing the connection.

The following morning, he/I had to sit down to pee, because it was too confusing to try to do things differently than she/I. By the time we/I had finished breakfast and a cup of coffee, it was becoming easier to manage both of my selves at once.

Driving was probably dangerous, so we/I took public transportation to the university. We/I didn’t have any lectures today but had to maintain office hours.

“Dr. Worth? I have a question about the math behind Bell’s Theorem.”

He/I looked up at Caleb. He was a good kid, quiet, reserved, perhaps a little slow. In university on a swimming scholarship, did well in nationals, and hoped for a shot at the Olympics. Not the sort you’d imagine going for a physics degree, but he never stopped trying his damndest. He/I settled into going over the math with Caleb, when she/I was interrupted.

“Dr. Worth? Can you help me with this proof? I think I missed something.”

She/I looked up at Chloe. She was a “bad girl” type…at least, she tried to act that way. Not the sort you’d imagine going for a physics degree, unless you got to know her. Under the torn jeans, tattoos, hot pink mohawk, and acidic tongue hid a sharp mind.

We/I had a moment of panic, realizing we/I had just spent several uncomfortable seconds in a sort of fugue. “Sorry,” we/I said, “it’s been a strange day.”

For some reason that is still unclear to us/me, she/I and he/I changed places. She/I came up with a new approach to explain the difficult parts to Caleb, to help him grasp it, while he/I pored over Chloe’s proof, finding an arithmetic error in the midst, and helping her rework it from that point forward.

We/I finished the day with a fresh pot of coffee in the garage, trying to restart the device. By working from opposite ends, we/I was able to troubleshoot in half the time it would have taken otherwise.

The fact of the matter was, there was nothing wrong with the device. It just refused to start. Power levels in and out, and amperage drain on the circuit all pointed to it still running, but…nothing.

Even after unplugging the power supply, the device still showed current flowing through the circuits consistent with being powered on. The pot of coffee long since empty, we/I prepared for bed.

In front of the sink, we/I looked into the mirror. The same eyes, the same fine lines around them, the same hairline, but a masculine and feminine form both visible in the mirror. It was strange, and perhaps even more unnerving than the awareness of being two versions in two universes simultaneously.

We/I called the university and had our/my TAs take over lectures for the rest of the week. Every waking minute was spent in the garage, trying everything to reset the devices. We/I finally decided to destroy them. Break them down to unusable debris and never attempt this experiment again.

As the week went on, we/I felt our link growing weaker. She/I and he/I could still sense one another, but it was as though our local consciousness was again taking the forefront.

The final memories we/I had together were on Saturday evening. She/I was in a diner he/I usually frequented, while he/I was in a bar where she/I was a semi-regular.

Chloe left the booth where her similarly tattooed and pierced friends were laughing boisterously and approached. “Dr. Worth? I thought you said chicken and waffles sounded disgusting.”

“It wouldn’t be fair to dismiss it without empirical evidence. And I’m off work; call me Samantha, or Sam.”

“What’s the verdict, Sam?”

I smiled. “It’s fantastic. Just the way I remembered from another universe.”

Chloe laughed. “You’ll have to tell me about that some time.”

“Nope.”

“And, how you plan on traveling to another universe.”

Caleb entered the bar with other members of the swim team. “Come on, guys. Quit trying to hook me up. I just want to have a beer then go back to the dorms and study.”

He saw me at the bar and approached. “Dr. Worth! I never see you here.”

“Hey, Caleb. I’m off work, call me Samuel, or Sam.”

“Well, Doc—Sam, I didn’t take you for the wine type.”

I swirled the glass of red and took another sniff. “I remembered enjoying this in another universe,” I said.

“Is it as good in this one?”

“It is.”

“Do you think it’s actually possible to travel to another universe?” he asked.

We/I began explaining to Chloe and Caleb how the universe is well within the Schwarzschild radius for the amount of mass present, and how that presents the possibility that the universe itself has an event horizon we are well inside.

It was some time during that explanation that I no longer felt my other self, and suddenly felt very alone.

July 23, 2022 19:38

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39 comments

Graham Kinross
23:06 Aug 01, 2022

I like the cerebral multiple reality experiences. Is this something you would continue or is it done?

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Sjan Evardsson
12:34 Aug 02, 2022

It's certainly something that leaves a tickle in the back of my brain. I may, at some point, pick this back up and expand it.

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Michał Przywara
21:47 Aug 01, 2022

It's a good take on the prompt. I like the idea of the mind splitting between the bodies/realities, as it opens up a number of curious questions about the nature of consciousness. Also, while they appear to have separated again by the end, it looks like some memories or habits may have transplanted, with them visiting each other's hangouts. I am a little surprised that they'd dismantle the machine though, and never attempt the experiment again. Perhaps it's disorienting and maybe even dangerous, but it's the kind of ground breaking resea...

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Sjan Evardsson
22:25 Aug 01, 2022

Thanks. I was thinking along the lines of: the machine is removed from all sources of power, and to cursory examination seems to be shut down, but the circuits are still operating with power from who-knows-where, keeping a rift between the universes open. If I were to expand this, for sure I'd get into that sort of conflict, and the need to keep it out of hands that would find nefarious uses for it, but that would be for another day.

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Michał Przywara
22:36 Aug 01, 2022

That's a good point. There's a lot to explore with this setup, but you can only do so much within 3k words. It's definitely more important to bring things to a conclusion, which we do get.

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Michał Przywara
20:57 Aug 05, 2022

Congratulations on the win!

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17:36 Jul 25, 2022

So cool. This should surely be a contender for the win.

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Sjan Evardsson
21:43 Jul 27, 2022

Thanks for the kind words, Katherine.

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22:48 Nov 29, 2022

Simple, yet this story leaves a good impact. the POV's between the two were great. Great story!

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Robb Fulkerson
19:18 Sep 28, 2022

This is a well told tale. I enjoyed the possibilities such a phenomenon presented, and the oppertunity to explore where they could go. Like other commenters, I would like to read about those possibilities from your very imaginative mind. One thought, for those of us not so knowledgable as you, a little explanation of some of the terms you used, like Schwartzchild radius, would help us to realize more of the story's meaning. Thanks, and Kudos

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Jennifer Osborne
11:35 Aug 20, 2022

Congrats on your win! I have never read a piece quite like this. Quite creative!

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Sjan Evardsson
21:13 Aug 20, 2022

Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

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Lily Finch
01:51 Aug 11, 2022

Hi Sjan, what an awesome idea for the prompt! I thought it was neat how you had the two Sam's create their own energy regardless of whether the machine was plugged in or not here in our universe - I think? How about Caleb and Chloe any ideas for another bit of writing?Lots of opportunities. Especially if the two Sam's can somehow reunite to help one another at a future time. Thanks for the read. Congratulations on your win! LF6

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Riel Rosehill
10:23 Aug 07, 2022

Sjan, firstly, congrats for the win! This story was so unique and creative, and the ending worked so well. I wonder is one day the story would repeat itself, but with Chloe and Caleb :) My favourite sentence was the last one. Well done!

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Sjan Evardsson
20:52 Aug 07, 2022

Thanks for the kind words.

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Avery Mossop
10:17 Aug 07, 2022

This story is so great! What an original idea with the I/we concept! I was sad for them when they finally separated.

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Jane Bradshaw
05:31 Aug 07, 2022

A very different type of story, you took me for a ride into amazing possibilities:) Well done Sjan, and congratulations on your win:)

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Nicolae Dumitru
04:55 Aug 07, 2022

It is interesting to know that there is wine also in another universe! And that it is just as good!!!

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Sjan Evardsson
20:54 Aug 07, 2022

And don't forget the chicken and waffles! 😉

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Faith Ogedegbe
12:36 Aug 06, 2022

I enjoyed the story.

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Sjan Evardsson
20:29 Aug 06, 2022

Thanks.

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Kendall Defoe
02:41 Aug 06, 2022

Damn good job with this prompt. I/Me thank you for this!

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Mary Avery
01:58 Aug 06, 2022

Congrats on the win, Sjan.

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Sjan Evardsson
20:30 Aug 06, 2022

Thanks. ❤️

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Ophelia Baker
21:45 Aug 05, 2022

A definite brain-teaser! Loved the simplicity, and the combined pronouns. Very original, and a much-deserved win. :)

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Tommy Goround
21:18 Aug 05, 2022

Standing for a clap:::: clap, clap,. Clapping.

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Andrew Bryant
20:44 Aug 05, 2022

A mind-bending story! I enjoyed it. Maybe a future version might examine the experience from the other end - the person without the machine who is suddenly thrown into a link?

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Zelda C. Thorne
18:32 Aug 05, 2022

What a creative story! Enjoyed the way you showed the consciousness splitting /melding together. Also gave an interesting insight into self and gender identity. Congratulations on your win👏 Are all your stories sci-fi?

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Sjan Evardsson
20:40 Aug 05, 2022

The majority are sci-fi or fantasy, though I do a few contemporary fiction pieces as well.

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15:27 Aug 05, 2022

A clever exploration of the meaning of self and identity. It reminded me of how people who have had their corpus callosum severed describe the world. Congrats on being chosen this week! 👑

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Ashley Frerichs
15:12 Aug 05, 2022

Well deserving of the win, Sjan! So creative. Reading the comments below, you could absolutely expand on the story and create that tension via conflict between the two halves, but I think it works well as is, too! Great job.

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