A Love Affair In Reality

Submitted into Contest #202 in response to: Write about two people striking up an unlikely friendship.... view prompt


American Fantasy Science Fiction

One day while walking home from work, Peter Campbell met a man who looked exactly like him. He even walked like him, moved like him, held his head like him. At first, he thought it must be just a coincidence, but then somehow he realized that the man was indeed himself. There are two of me! He stood there, dumbstruck, and after a few moments of silence, the other Peter spoke up. 

"I know this is hard to believe, but I'm you, from a different reality." Peter was stunned, but he couldn't deny the resemblance, and the feeling of recognition. The other Peter went on to explain that he had stumbled upon a device that allowed him to travel between parallel universes. He had been exploring different realities for months. “But now I'm here, and I came to this universe to warn you.”

Peter had read a little about parallel universes, or alternate realities as they are sometimes called, though he never fully understood any of the theories involved. He had read Murray Leinster’s Sidewise In Time, of course. And felt like the theory stemming from that story was close to the truth, that if time is the 4th dimension then the 5th dimension ̶ a direction at a right angle to the 4th ̶ is an alternate reality. It was fun, confusing but fun nonetheless, to think about these things.

But now alternate realities were more than just a fun thought experiment. The man in front of him was undoubtedly himself. And he seemed to have an urgent message.

"Warn me about what?"

"You're about to make a terrible mistake." 

Peter didn't know what to think. "What mistake?"

"You're going to marry Jane."

That certainly was true. He and Jane had been dating for over two years and were very happy together. They planned to marry soon, though a date had not yet been chosen. But he couldn’t get any more information from his alternate self, because the other Peter was no longer there! What happened to him? Back to his own universe?

A thought crossed Peter’s mind: was this a hallucination? Peter mulled over that thought, but rejected it. “I’m not the kind of person to hallucinate.” Peter knew himself. He felt confident in rejecting the idea of a hallucination.

A few days later, a young woman whom Peter didn’t know approached him. She said she used to be a friend of Jane’s. She said there is something Peter ought to know. Jane had been married before and had never gotten a divorce. Then the stranger turned and hurried off, while the stunned Peter was not quick enough to get more details, and find out who the young woman is.

He spent several days thinking about what he had been told. It certainly was an alarming warning! It also fit with the vague warning the alternate Peter had given him. Mulling it over, he came to a couple of conclusions, along with questions. If Jane were still married, then obviously he didn’t want to, and couldn’t, marry her. That was a definite.

Peter felt so wounded that Jane might have kept this from him. These thoughts were awfully painful for Peter. He had grown to love Jane, and it hurt deeply to think about this concerning her.

Could it be true? Yet, why would she be accused of this by someone, if it weren’t true? What would they have to gain by lying about it? And Peter’s alternate reality self had warned him about marrying Jane, even if he gave no details. Some people think the idea of parallel realities is silly, but Peter was not among them. He was taking that warning seriously.

He decided he needed to talk directly with Jane. After dinner tonight, he thought .

That evening, as they sat in the living room, Peter found it difficult to start questioning Jane, but he forced himself to do it.

“Jane, have you ever been married?”

“What? Of course not! Why would you even think to ask that?”

Peter told her about the stranger who approached him one day, and told her the woman said Jane had been married. “I don’t know who that person is, but that’s what she said.”

Jane seemed genuinely astounded. She wondered why anyone would say such a thing. “Who was she?, Jane asked. Peter replied, “As I said, I don’t know who she is. She said she used to be a friend of yours. \I never saw her before, and I was so disturbed by what she said I didn’t think to ask her name. And she walked away pretty quickly.”

Jane then asked Peter to describe the woman. “About our age, I would say. Maybe 5’5”. Blond hair, though it might have been bleached – I didn’t look that closely. She was a little bit overweight, maybe 10 pounds or so. Her face was average, I would say, not really pretty but not unattractive either. Her expression when she was talking to me was, I don’t know, furtive? She seemed like she wanted to hurry up and get finished with what she had to say.”

“What was she wearing?, Jane asked.

“Gosh! Let me think. Jeans, she wore jeans. And her top was loose, short-sleeved, untucked, and the collar had a little button with a loop to fasten it. The top was a green color, I think.”

“It wasn't a bright, neon green, was it?” “Now that you mention it, yes. Why would you ask that?”

“I have a suspicion of who she is. The person I’m thinking of likes to wear those odd-colored camp shirts. And would maybe be the kind to do something like that.”

Jane went on to tell Peter about a friend she had in high school who became a former friend. The person’s name is Sally. She was a cheer leader in school, Jane said. Sally was dating Jack Garner, a popular athlete in school. But then Jack started to show interest in Jane. I didn’t return this interest, Jane said, but Jack’s interest continued to grow even if I did not encourage it. Eventually, he stopped dating Sally, even though he and I never started to date.

This all turned Sally from a casual friend to a growingly hateful enemy. So it wouldn’t surprise me, Jane said, if the person who told you this was Sally, trying to cause trouble for me. We’ve been out of school for a few years, but Sally is the type who might continue to hold a grudge. I can dig out our yearbook and find a picture of her if you want.

Peter found what Jane had said explained pretty well about the “previously married” problem. But one thing still bothered him – the warning from the alternate Peter. If there is no problem with Jane, why did his alternate self say there is?

“Jane, I have something to tell you. I’ve kept it from you so far, but now is the time to discuss it.” Peter then told Jane about his visit from the alternate Peter. He didn’t know how Jane would take it, or if it would advance the resolution of their current problem. Did Jane know about parallel universes, and what was her belief in them if she did know? Did the warning of the alternate Peter carry any weight with her?

“Peter, I have been keeping something from you, too. And for much longer than a few weeks. I have kept this from you for years, and probably for most of the same reasons you kept your secret from me.

“Peter, I myself am from an alternate universe! Seven years ago, something extraordinary happened, something which I have never understood. Like you, I had a visit from my alternate self from another universe. But actually it was I from another universe who was visiting my alternate self in this reality. I don’t know how I was able to do this, or why. I only know that suddenly I was here, facing myself. Then, before I had a chance to say hello and for her to say hello, she disappeared. I knew what had happened, that she went to my reality and I stayed here. And I’ve been here ever since, living happily as myself in this reality.”

Peter could hardly believe his ears hearing what Jane had just told him! And as he thought about it, several questions ran through his mind, the principal one being how did this exchange of Janes happen?

He asked her that, almost at once. “Peter, as I told you, I don’t know what or how it happened. I have tried over the last seven years to figure it out, to find out how. I can only guess. And my best guess is there was some kind of accident, some kind of disturbance in the space-time continuum, that caused me and my alternate self to exchange places. I don’t understand it, even though it happened to me. I don’t really understand very much at all about parallel universes, and my part in them. I just try to live my life as well as I can where I am, and don’t allow these not understood things to distract me.”

"So the Jane I knew in school eight or nine years ago is not you?"

"Well, no. I'm her alternate self from another universe."

“Wow! Jane, do you remember your life in the other reality? Specifically, did you know me there?”

“That was seven years ago in our time, and so the same in that universe. I think time is constant throughout the multiverse. So yes, I did know you. We were both in school then, and knew each other, but did not at that time date or anything. Why?”

“Well, I was wondering if the alternate Peter who visited me is from the same universe where you lived. Whether he is the same Peter you knew in your other reality. If he is, maybe that might help us figure this out.”

“Peter, how can we know? Your alternate Peter might come from my former reality, but is there some way to know?”

Peter and Jane discussed this idea as far as they could, but both quickly realized they had no way of knowing for certain. But then Peter expressed the idea that had been running through his head. Suppose the alternate Peter and the Jane here are both from the same universe. And suppose the alternate Peter in his universe had discovered about the accidental exchange of Janes, just as I have right now.

“Maybe the alternate Peter’s warning to me that marrying you is a big mistake was really because in his universe he wants to marry you, but cannot accept the Jane he currently knows? Maybe the idea of marrying an alternate Jane is something he can’t deal with.”

Jane thought about this idea, and liked it. No way of proving it, of course. But her approach of not allowing things unknown or not understood from affecting her life was definitely in play here. She had one question for this man she loves: “What about you, Peter? Do you have a problem with marrying a woman from another reality?”

Peter didn’t even hesitate. “Jane, you are the woman I deeply love, wherever you might have originated. I know you, I love you, and I want to spend all of my life with you.”

It was not only what Peter wanted to reply, it was exactly what Jane wanted to hear. By the time the evening was over, Peter and Jane had firmly set the date for their wedding.

They hoped the other Peter and Jane will find happiness too. But their thinking about the other two will not affect their own life together.

June 09, 2023 18:27

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Danitza Eterovic
03:52 Jun 22, 2023

I liked the conclusion, not letting anybody to interfere with their love and the Will to be happily ever after.


Vincent Powers
14:57 Jun 22, 2023

Thank you, Danitza. That's exactly what I intended, and I'm happy you got it.


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22:36 Jun 21, 2023

Hi Vincent! Thank you for the creative journey! Really got me imagining and thinking! Lots of fun! Well done!


Vincent Powers
14:58 Jun 22, 2023

Thanks, Victoria! You encourage me.


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