I clench my eyes shut to another failure, steadying my breath.
“I don’t know if I can do what needs to be done.” I say to myself.
I open my eyes and prepare to try again. And I shift.
I push my way through the sweaty, gyrating bodies. Each one adjusting the rhythm of their dance to let me pass. I slide between them, sometimes touching skin to skin. This is normal for this nightclub. No one is uncomfortable. Mixed with all the various smells is the distinct smell of my cologne. Some would say too sweet for a male smell, but you like it. In this reality, I know where and when I am. I am 21 years old, and this is the day we meet. This is the day that the random chance of the universe allows our worlds to collide. I head off the dancefloor, the bass pounding through me, toward the tables, where you will be sitting with friends. I know the part that comes next, and what comes after that. And worst of all, how it all ends. In this reality, I can save you from me.
I walk near your high bar table as you are pushing back the tall chair. I walk by as the chair catches a crack in the floor and you tumble backwards. In this reality, I don’t catch you. I let you fall to the concrete floor, your straightened strawberry hair flowing around your beautiful face in slow motion. I turn when you hit. I cannot watch. The lump in my throat makes it hard to breathe. I push my way toward the door. I turn toward you once more before I leave. Another man is there, helping you pick up the scattered contents of your small purse. It seems the universe has made sure you meet someone on this day.
I walk out the nightclub doors into the street, my anger overtaking me. I don’t even look up as the tires screech. The bumper catches me low on my leg, flipping me onto the roof. Inertia keeps me rolling down the back of the car and onto the street. My head hits hard on the pavement and I finally feel the pain of the impact, but only where my head hit, the rest of my body seems numb. I see the blood pooling next to me, and my vision goes foggy. The last thing I see is you standing on the sidewalk to see what happened. That man is with you. Even this pain cannot overcome this chasm in my heart. There must be another way.
In this reality, I caught you in the nightclub like I was supposed to. I got to stare briefly into your deep blue eyes until you realize what happened. Club techno music throbbed around us. Drinks tinkled. Voices drowned each other. So loud, we couldn’t talk. Not even in whispers, though we tried. We resorted to passing notes on napkins back and forth. Laughing. Connecting. The last napkin of the night had your phone number on it, and I skipped home like the fool that I was. The night that takes you from this world and changes mine forever. But I can change it this time. Now, we just celebrated our ten-year anniversary. Steak dinner and a couple of cocktails rather than late-night clubbing. We are happy, though there are things missing. The spare room is still dormant, painted yellow; the colour of hope. There are still blank spaces on the walls, waiting for pictures of memories yet to be made. With these thoughts in mind, I press a hand against your shoulder, steering you to the right.
“Let’s walk this way,” I say.
“But the car is that way. “
“I know, I don’t think I should drive tonight.”
“You only had two drinks!” You say, stopping and turning towards me.
“I know, I just don’t feel right, I’d rather be safe,” I say, as I reach for your hand.
You huff, pulling your hand away from my attempt.
“Why didn’t you say something earlier? I don’t want to have to wait for a cab now. It’s already late.”
Accidents happen in an instant, and even this quick conversation probably delayed everything enough to prevent what’s supposed to happen, but I’ve seen how the universe adapts. I won’t risk it tonight. This will cause a fight, but better angry than dead.
“I’m sorry. I’ll make it up to you. We can have a big breakfast in the morning.”
I know this works. We rarely have breakfast together. I’m always in a hurry to get the day started. I know you miss when life was slower. You let me grab your hand as we walk in silence toward the main road. Sure, It will take a few minutes to find a cab, but the awkwardness of this silence will be worth waking up with you in the morning. In this reality, we have now spent more time together than in any other, and I don’t deserve it.
I wake up in our bed the morning after the accident that should have taken you. The room is the perfect temperature, calm and quiet, dimly lit by the morning light. I wonder why I even considered trying to live without you. This doesn’t feel real. It isn’t real. The blanket suddenly feels like it’s crushing me. In this reality, I should be happy, I should be content. But the reality is that I killed you and you’re never coming back, and I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve to be with you in any reality. I hear you making breakfast in the kitchen, but I don’t deserve you. I do not get to be happy. I am vile. I am the black spot in the brightness you brought to this world.
“No!” I scream out loud.
“NO, NO, NO, NO!‘’ I scream, shaking my head vigorously.
Suddenly, the vision in one eye goes dark. The other flooded with white, blinding light. In this reality, the accident has happened, and you are dead. I cannot move my arms or legs. All I can do is call out hoarsely for the nurse. While drool runs down my handsome face.
The VR headset has fallen off my head, stopping the program automatically. I cannot bear to be here in this reality, the real reality. The reality where you are gone, and I am paralyzed.
Your father bought me this VR as a gift, hoping it would help me be happy. But no one wants me to be happy.
“The other guy was drunk, not you,” He said to me. But he knows. He probably decided letting me live with what I’d done and in this state was worse. And he wouldn’t be wrong. It’s torture.
“It’s fully immersive, it reads your mind,” he’d said.
“It will know your desires and build a life for you. You can do anything you want. You won’t even know you’re here in this bed.”
But the only thing I want is you and I can’t bring you back. Forgiveness is unthinkable. I don’t deserve happiness. I don’t even deserve death. I only deserve this reality.
“Oh, I’m sorry, the headset seems to have fallen off again,” the nurse says, “let me fix this for you.”
The nurse slides the headset back down over my eyes, and I take a deep breath. I want to tell her to wait, because I deserve this reality.
And I shift.
I am pushing my way through sweaty, gyrating bodies…
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I like this. I see it as showcasing the perils of escapism, instead of facing and processing tragedy. The narrator is still broken up about his wife, and his own paralysis, and so he keeps trying to redo things, to get "the right" outcome. But even when he does, he can't enjoy it. He can't allow himself to enjoy it. Coping with loss is a natural, albeit shitty, part of life, and it doesn't seem like there are any shortcuts to get around it. All the more so if there's guilt too, because you had a hand in it. And then considering the ending...
You totally summarized what I was going for. I am so glad it came out that way. I appreciate you reading it, and your comments.
This is our future (Aldous Huxley, call your office). Very well done, sir!
Imagine the amazing stories he would have if he was still alive to see where things were going!
Wow! I was definitely expecting a dimension-shift story (there's my bias coming out as a dimension-shift novel writer) but was not remotely upset by the twist at the end. Have you seen the Black Mirror episode San Junipero? Ever so slightly different and also about lost love and pain.
I watched a few black mirror episodes, but couldnt get into, ive heard some of the later episodes are much better, ill definitely check that one out. Thanks.
I've only seen the ones that were specifically recommended to me, which seems to be the way to go-- to basically get them all vetted for me. If you watch, be sure to tell me what you thought! It's one of my favorites.
Jaden, this is amazing. I LOVE how you transition through the different possibilities that the narrator is trying to desperately create. The reveal at the end was heartbreaking, but so well done! I was completely captivated from start to finish, you supply just enough detail to paint the scene, but not too much to distract from the urgency of the piece. Well done!! 👏👏👏
Thank you so much. I'm always afraid my stuff is too short.
Don’t ever feel like you HAVE to write more into something. If if tells the story, and evokes the emotion you want, as long as you hit that 1,000 words, you’re golden 😊
Some early feedback I got from my writing was that it was too vague. I was told there was not enough detail and that I wasn't acutally conveying the emotions I thought I was. I still think about that a lot.
Just remember, each person is different. Some people want to know the thread count of the sheets on the bed 😆 I thought this piece was beautiful in terms of description and emotion. You don’t “bog me down”, but you give enough that I know what’s going on 😊
Great story, the first one I've read in the parallel worlds prompt which seemed like a tough challenge! The description about the nightclub felt very visceral and real, and v well written. The pace slowed down a bit around the section about breakfast, but then the '“No!” I scream out loud.' really sucked me back into the story. The ending really showed the horror of someone helpless and not being able to escape from the guilt of it all. Well done and a powerful story.
Hi Scott! Again, thanks for the comments. You definitely make me feel better about my stories. Never be afraid to give me some feedback as well. Keep me humble lol.
Ooh, such a sad story. There's a message here about not messing with the grieving process, I think. Without acceptance, there's no moving forward. His paralysis at the end is a grief paralysis too. Great story.
Thanks. I don't know why I always write dark and sad. Feels more powerful to me, even though I've read some amazing happy stories on here.
Great story Jaden! Very engaging from start to finish. Love the use of VR as a mode of escapism, and how the MC cannot escape the true reality of what he has done. And, in a way, he hasn’t come to terms with it, still living in a form of denial, trying to find a “new reality”. Some really great lines in here too! Well done!
Thanks so much for your comments. Some of those great lines probably belong to Zelda, she helped on this one for sure.
I know what I have done and I will bring it all to me Away from the others Who cannot bear I push down the pain There is no lock There is no key The pain I bring down Goes where it cannot escape Like light from a black hole I deliver pain, I deliver despair I am the Black
A huge thanks to Zelda C. Thorne for some major contributions to this piece! If you liked this story, make sure you go read her stuff! https://blog.reedsy.com/creative-writing-prompts/author/zelda-c-thorne/