Luminescent, the word struck me as I watched her sleeping next to me. Sophie’s skin in the moonlight was luminescent. Lovemaking always put her to sleep and left me restless of late. I’d grown envious of the moonbeams caressing her curves as I’d done in the hour before, yet, my heart wouldn’t allow me to wake my beauty. Instead, I pulled on my pajama bottoms, and let my slipper-ed feet shuffle me down the hallway to the study.
Warm light bathed the room. Drawn to the bookshelf, I ran my hand across the spines, searching for a new adventure in which to settle myself. This collection of books is perhaps why I’d agreed to purchase this ancient house. Sophie loved the old charm and the estate grounds, as did I, but the old plumbing and heating could use an upgrade. The ultra-modern laser lab in the basement, this den, and a happy wife is all I needed to sink my fortune into repairs. The previous owner, according to the news, had left a decade ago and never returned. The bank sold it for a song with all the belongings. The dust, still thick on the books, untouched in years, except for one which had a distinct dusty fingerprint on the spine. The Zopharian Odyssey by R. L. Mallett appeared to be a good read, so I moved the step stool out of the way, reached up and gripping my index finger around the head cap pulled the book toward me. My posture stiffened; my mouth gaped open. With widened eyes, I stood frozen, gazing at the ever-opening bookshelf. It creaked ever so slowly, opening and opening to reveal a hooloovoo-blue color. It was the most electrifying, magnificent blue.
My heart quickened. I shook my head, testing if I were dreaming. This was real. I questioned the good sense of entering. Then I stepped in. The next step had me falling into a full slide, weaving, and gliding from edge to edge as if on a twisted slide, the speed increasing. My breath dragged away for me. I gasped for air to fill my lungs, which I couldn’t expand to save me. I cursed my impulse, forced my eyes open, and searched for any escape before my assured death. The thought no longer left my brain when this couloir landed me with a hard thud. Rolling into the fall, I coughed my ragged breaths cherishing each molecule of air that filled my lungs. A thick white light enveloped me as if in a meadow in the morning fog. Gravity gave way, and I floated for a second eagerly catching my breath. A distant sucking sound alerted me. A vacuum? The hairs on my arms rose and goose-pimples shot up. Instinctively, my arms made like superman in flight and I was off flying upward at speeds faster than the couloir's speed if that were possible. The G-forces flapped my facial skin and pulled at my organs, my stomach lurched. Blue light passed-by in long streaks.
Further ahead this blue light bent into ‘V’ shapes, still farther they gathered, a spider-web of hooloovoo-blue thickened around a midnight-black center. The darker blue of my fingers competed for my attention as my feet and ankles throbbing with pain. Spots appeared, and I know hypoxia was setting in. Whatever is beyond that darkness, I had to get to fast, before I blacked out. Making myself as aerodynamic as possible took every bit of muscle I could muster. The speed increased. I believed the uncomfortable acceleration safer, but that could be the result of oxygen deprivation on my reasoning. Chills set in. My body shook. Everything went black. I woke to cough, wrenching in pain. The steel floor beneath me a sudden holy grail of relief. Silver boots before me led to black slacks, a black t-shirt, and a leather jacket. He was dark-skinned wearing red-framed glasses and sprouting Einstein-hair. He introduced himself as Ron Mallett. My head dropped, fighting off a wave of dizziness.
“So, you must be the occupant of my house,” Ron surmised.
“Perhaps. I’m George Wellsford," I managed to express getting to my feet. "I take it from the lab lasers and the hidden library that this is how you came up missing.’
“Missing? Ahh, yes. Been here for a few years, now. So, ten years back on Earth.”
“If I can ask, where is here?”
“I call it Zopharian. It’s exactly eight hours into the future in a crazy multi-verse. We use the Crab Nebula pulsar and a wormhole to get you here once the STL gets your molecules to light speed.”
“Space-Time-Twisting by Light. The energy of a laser light beam produces a gravitational field. Once spinning in a single unidirectional beam of light, the weak gravitational field of this unidirectional ring laser spins a neutral particle, or you in this case when you stepped into the ring, dragged you around by the gravitational field which resulted. Then the vacuum of the wormhole slowed you as the light pulled you through. Vere outside of that light and you’ll be looking worse than roadkill.”
“All that circular motion and the vacuum make sense, now. Are we both stuck now?”
“Oh no. When you return you follow the same path, only you must reverse the unidirectional beam. It takes about 8 Earth hours. So, you can live it up on Zopharian, and return by daybreak. Because of the circulating distance and the many other factors, you will not age during this eight-hour block of time. Over time, that will become an issue. Easier for me to hide as black don’t crack. I can look young and be older. But now I enjoy Zopharian more. I've found a woman here that makes Earth, even Science, unimportant.”
“Not trapped or lost. You left for love.”
“Yes. And when I found you and Sophie, well, I knew you’d carry on my work.”
“Remember that day you were looking for houses and your realtor didn’t show but a different one showed up and her people didn’t? That was my Zoe. She checked you out for me. It’s surprising what serendipity is. Anyway, in the multiverse, she existed on my Earth. In a way, she died before I met her. Your Sophie is here. When you want to meet her, you must remember to hit this red button then in 1.3 Earth seconds, a green light will signal you to jump out onto the beam. A pulse will pull you to your alternative universe. Time matters. On the way back you must return to your jump-point. The Universe will take it from there. You just jump three times.”
The surrounding windows confirmed I was in space, deep space. Nebula and all. My arms crossed around me and I soothed myself by rubbing my left upper arm with my right.
“Hold your breath for a 1.3 seconds jump at the right moment the molecules will ache when they come back together but you will survive, or you can sit here for the hours then dive into the light and head home. But something tells me, you won’t do that,” Ron added. He hit the red button, and 1.3 seconds on the green - jumped.
Awful how quiet silence is. I paced a few steps back and forth, unable to look at all this wonder and enjoy it to the fullest with the weight of everything on my mind. It was the curiosity that did it. With the next green light, I jumped. If you’ve ever got caught in a current or a riptide, you will understand. This airstream consisted of warm pulses from the Nebula. My body didn’t feel complete. Scattered. I landed in one piece on a subway train. One moment scattered light, then whole matter again in the flash of dark. I grabbed my elbow and rubbed my aching arms, even doubled over for a moment or two to ease the pain. The train slowed.
From the window, I caught sight of her. My Sophie standing there just the way she had when I first met her on Earth. She was stunning. Nothing seemed any different. Had I gone back in time? Or to present-day multiverse? Is this the future? No, Ron had said this was eight hours into our future. My head must still be clearing from my drive. I memorized my location and looked at my watch, winding it to ensure I’d return in time. My Earth Sophie at home bathed in the moonlight would still be sleeping. As I had before, I purchased a bouquet and walked up to her. “Can you help me? I’m looking for a beautiful woman to give these flowers to. Do you see her?” Before I finished the line because I do. She broke in, “You and that old line are late. But thank you for the thought and flowers. Now, let’s get home I just want to jump into pajamas, eat ice cream, and take you to bed.” It sounded like a perfect plan. Not something my Sophie would say. She was a more a baked-goods girl. She also never drove, and this Sophie was hell on wheels. I tried not to make comparisons. Except for minor things; dog not cat, paint colors different in the same house, an accent I couldn’t place; all else remained the same. While close to my Earth home, Zopharian seemed off. There were exhaustible possibilities for both worlds. I could tell she detected differences in me. Where was my counterpart?
I, however, had a part to play. To justify my deeds, I determined we were still the same souls, Sophie and I, as usual, just in a different time and place. I undressed and got into bed with a woman that wasn’t, in some ways, my wife. I had to think about this. But she had other ideas. As I lay there wondering, the word luminescent came to mind as a blue glow caressed her skin from the neon-colored moon. Oh my God, I had to leave, and now.
Rounding the corner at the subway station, I ran into Ron and his Zoe who was my Realtor on my Earth. Surreal for real. Ron explained that my doppelganger was working nights with him. He needed me to return each night for six weeks to take care of Zopharian Sophie. The continuation of the universe counted on me. How could I say no? Ron and Zoe guided me through the process back.
As the train left the station, a light slipped between the train cars of parked box cars on the rail beside us. As we crept out of the station, our train car filled with alternating light and shadow. I stood in the light and jumped. In the shadow, I’d disappeared from the train car. One second on a train, the next moment back to the Nebula Station with the red button.
Just in time, I closed the library bookcase. My Earth Sophie walked by asking about breakfast. One woman could be a dream, and another, a woman of my dreams. An interesting six weeks lie ahead.
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This is truly an exquisite science fiction story; I love the idea of a parallel universe and the way it's been described at free-fall pace. I felt immersed in the action and ensuring disorientation. Your word choice is perfect, like tasteful ornaments decorating a home. Luminescent!
Thank you. I'm thrilled a writer of your caliber found promise in my story. I appreciate your comment more than you know. Again, thank you.