Parallel

Jamie rarely went out with her friends, as they and she were equally broke, but the day of her eviction seemed a special occasion. She ordered lobster for everyone, on her. She saw no reason to hold back.

“My friends!” She said, clinking her champagne glass. “My wonderful friends. Starting tomorrow, I am homeless, jobless, and present company excluded, alone. I have made a wreck of my life without even the convenience of recreational drugs. Thank you for knowing me. This is the beginning of the end. At least it’s mine!”

After a brief defeated cheer, several of her friends spoke up, pledging their support. They would see her through this difficult time. Some had spare couches and amiable roommates. Some had tents they weren’t using. Her friend Stacy had a crystal that could send a person ten years backwards in time, and Jamie was welcome to it, if she wanted.

“No, I couldn’t possibly.”

“Please, I insist.”

Jamie held the gem, a misshapen pink prism about the size of her palm, up to a lamp in Stacy’s apartment. She saw nothing inside it, but it seemed oddly hopeful. She considered the warnings she might give her ten years past self. Relationships to avoid, jobs that had gone nowhere, the administrative nightmare it had been when she’d bought that horrible Volkwagen. Of course she’d research some lottery numbers, invest in Facebook, get on the forefront of the natural foods trends she’d heard so much about. She would do all of that. She would save her life.

“So when you break the stone, you should get about ten minutes with your past self to do whatever you want. I usually just cuddle with mine, but please, go as far as you like.”

Jamie was a little taken aback by Stacy’s hedonistic self-indulgence, but she did not criticize her friend. She held the rock closely. As soon as she finished her research, she would slam it against the ground and invade her old life, leaving details of every advantage she should have had.

Her last night in the apartment was spent frantically googling. When was the market best? What dates specifically? Which stocks jumped where when? She would have to get this information out fast, so she practiced it until sunrise, in terms her twenty-two year old self might possibly understand and remember. The knocks would come soon, angry knocks from a sideways fist. After one last review, she threw the rock down and saw her fifth-year college self.

She was receptive and attentive, more so than Jamie remembered being at the time. Perhaps the shock of seeing the effects of ten years of failure had woken her up, an unlikely circumstance this early in the morning. “Just make sure you make these investments before the end of the year. Please be sure you understand.”

“I’m sure,” her younger self chirped. She was taking this too casually. This was going to fail. As the ten minutes came to a close, Jamie smiled a sad smile at her vacant younger self, while she remained empty in other ways.

The apartment was the same. The knocks happened, and the yelling, just as they were supposed to. She was displaced, a refugee. Reality had finally happened. She left her things where they were. Someone would steal them. She didn’t care.

Elsewhere, in a reality she’d created, another version of herself was eating crepes in bed on the top floor of her estate. “Wasn’t it nice that I made this life for myself?” She swallowed, wistfully remembering, and wished she’d made out with herself when she had the chance.

#change, #ineffective, #parallel-universes, #regret, #science-fiction, #time-travel, #universal-parallels

Robustness

As the train pulled into the station, Ezekiel thought about calling ahead, but it was best if she didn’t expect him. His plan depended on a certain amount of secrecy, if he had a plan.

He noted: he was the sort who made plans.

Before he talked to Leslie, he wanted to know what his objective was. He knew why he’d left the first time, and cringed as he remembered. He was certain that his infatuation was over, more certain, surely, than he had been at twenty-three that she was the love of his life. The insanity of who he had been then seemed unreal. The way he’d stalked her, engineered situations with her, tried to be her hero, all seemed like something he’d seen on late-night sitcoms. He’d nearly killed her trying to create an opportunity to save her. She had been more traumatized than grateful.

Once he stepped out of the underground, he would know what he was doing. Almost everything is based upon momentum, and as soon as he stopped thinking, he could proceed in the direction he was going. The escalators all went up. He walked toward them.

He had to use the bathroom, and noted: he was the sort of person who drank too much water.

The entrances to two opposite gendered restrooms were entirely symmetrical, and neither one had a door. Social convention dictated that he should enter the men’s room, but he resented that it said “MEN” so clearly on the wall. The women’s room was nowhere near as capitalized, perhaps due to space restrictions, but he felt a little oppressive using a MEN’s room, convenient as urinals might be.

He noted: he was a thoughtful person. He cared about rights. The thought satisfied him as he peed.

#fiction-in-parts, #idiot, #pretension, #regret, #restrooms, #trains

pH

Research was the easy part. Some compounds produce scent and flavor when dissolved in an alcohol solution. Obvious. Which associations are triggered in test subjects depends largely, but not entirely, on the relationship between the synthetic molecule and those found in nature.

Olaf wasn’t in the mood to document. He’d done it all so many times, almost precisely the same paper. This week’s research had focused on butterscotch simulations, but the principle was the same as it had been for vanilla, peanut butter, coconut. Butterscotch. He’d done this exact research before, but the company thought it important to revisit flavors periodically.

He drank some coffee. It stimulated him, but it didn’t make him want to sit at his computer. It made him walk in the snow to his car. He started to drive to work, but he was already there. He felt foolish. He added some whisky to his coffee, and a peppermint.

He checked his email. None of the pharmaceutical companies he’d applied to had written back to him. Every few minutes, he moved from his empty document to his empty inbox.

A cigarette made him work in the furniture factory again. A few minutes playing a game on his phone made him desperate for a change, anything at all. He sniffed a failed butterscotch. What could he say about the failures, except that they weren’t quite right?

He poured some in his coffee. It smelled like late nights in college. He drank it, and though it was vile, he downed the whole mess in one go and looked back on it fondly. Listening to rock and roll music, he began to type.

#fake-science, #microfiction, #personality, #regret