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

Homunculus

The Phoenix Lord was in the middle of some speech when Jocelyn received the order to strike. Even though she was newest member of the right arm, she was in charge of the killing blow, a complicated manual control that required finesse. The rest of the crew stood around her console, shouting encouragements. She could do it. As she began the crank, tension built, and she steadied herself. She spun the wheel faster, pulling out the pegs as necessary, in even intervals.

“You’ve got it.” Murmurs from all around her gave advice, but she maintained her concentration.

“Pull the switch!”

“You have to do it now!”

She waited. The official go-ahead hadn’t yet come through, and she couldn’t make a move without their say-so. A sudden quake knocked her from her seat.

“Are you going to finish the job, or do I have to take over?”

She looked up. The final lever was only a few feet away, and she leapt toward it. Her fingers fell into place around the shaft.

“Why isn’t she pulling the lever?” asked her head of operations. The crew around him made no suggestions, though they clearly had ideas of their own. “What’s going on in the right arm?”

“We’ve lost communications. Most likely, they’re waiting for our go-ahead.”

A hand pushed her back to the floor. Jocelyn looked up at her coworker, a stodgy fellow in a bird costume. “You had a chance to prove yourself, but that moment is over. You will have to defeat me if you want any professional glory, but as you can see, I’ve already won.”

As he yanked down on the switch, Jocelyn struck him in the eye, a perfectly tuned punch that knocked him cold. Her coworkers gasped.

“What’s gotten into you?”

#fractal, #mecha, #meta, #microfiction, #professional-rivalry, #science-fiction

Time Loop

Because he had invested everything he had and several hundred thousand dollars besides in what had been all but proven impossible, Lowell was getting desperate. He hadn’t even proven the theory, and in a month, he was supposed to have a working prototype of what was basically a science fiction premise.

“I guess you’re pretty upset right now,” he heard himself say. “Don’t worry, I’m here to help you.”

Seeing himself standing there was an immediate relief, proof that he would succeed in his research.

“Go get a pen and a video camera,” his future self dictated. “And remember everything I’ve said so far. Don’t take your eyes off me. Remember everything I do.”

Lowell understood. In order to preserve the fabric of the universe, he would have to act exactly as his future self acted when in the future that was him. One word out of place, one extra breath, and reality could fall apart. His future self was being careful, not making any sudden movements. Lowell would have to be that still, too.

“Try to relax,” his future self said, though he sounded like he was just saying the words. Once Lowell had the camera set up, he sat in his most plush office chair. He noticed, his future self looked more nervous and uncomfortable than he did.

“I’m going to help you relax,” he heard himself say, gritting his teeth. He watched himself get to his knees. He rubbed Lowell’s thigh and unbuttoned his pants. “I’ve never done this before, but I have to.” He took Lowell’s still flaccid penis into his mouth and rubbed it with his tongue. Lowell didn’t try to stop him. The universe depended on it.

“Pay attention,” his future self said. Lowell closed his eyes. He would figure it out.

#absurd, #microfiction, #narcissism, #paraphilia, #science-fiction, #time-travel

Edit

By the time she regained consciousness, she was already dead. She was sure of it. The transfer seemed to be a success, and as they had explained, the old mind would die as its last synapses copied over. Now she was new.

She thought through her name, the date, the president, all of the amnesiac questions. Though she couldn’t verify her answers, she was confident.

All she had were her thoughts. They had never been so clear. In her old body, she had had to wiggle her fingers to remember anything. The affectation seemed strange now that she could not move — had nothing to move.

She had to forget about moving.

She did.

While she couldn’t remember what she had just forgotten, it was gone. Deleted. This self-control would have been useful when she was trying to quit smoking.

She forgot the rush of nicotine and would have smiled, had she had a face.

Science had gone to great lengths to preserve her memories, so she was done forgetting, at least until they backed her up. Patience.

Once she was preserved, though, she would do what years of therapy couldn’t. All the lingering unhappiness and trauma of simply being alive had no purpose now that she wasn’t.

Gender could be abandoned, too. In what sense was she female anymore? In what sense was she Jewish, or a Sagittarius?

She made a list of regrets. People she had known whom she shouldn’t have known, desires she’d never fulfill. As soon as they copied her consciousness, she’d be who she wanted to be, no more or less.

For the sake of science, it would be nice if her backup reached a different conclusion.

#ai, #fake-science, #forgetting, #microfiction, #science-fiction, #self-control

Uninhabited

As she descended through the clouds, she made a note. “Clouds: a promising sign.” This was the first planet she had found with water, or anything like water.

Once she’d passed through the atmosphere (an atmosphere, too!), she gasped. Vegetation? They were of unusual shapes and bluer than ones she’d known, but unmistakably alive. She scribbled furiously in her notebook, drawing the round and spidery plants with all the detail she could see.

She found a rocky peninsula to dock her ship, one of the few crops of unoccupied land on the hemispherical horizon. These specimens were precious, and she would not disturb a single organism if she could help it. Some diagnostics revealed the outside temperature, 25 degrees, and revealed the air to be more or less breathable. She wouldn’t take off her helmet just yet, but what were the chances?

Her instruments confirmed that this was not Earth. A cynical part of her posited that maybe she’d experienced some tragic relativity and left humanity behind, but no. She was in a different galaxy. She was as remote as anyone had ever been, as far away from any of her species as the last rhinoceros had been, the last anteater, the last anything, but her society was still alive and well.

She took a step onto the surface, getting a sense of the gravity. It was comfortable.

A particularly vivid cactus-butterfly-looking plant caught her eye. It looked fuzzy. It looked warm.

Impulsively, she removed a glove and brushed the plant with her fingers. Its color changed, all through the spectrum, until finally it settled on a white and collapsed. Plants near it went through the same process, and she watched the kaleidoscopic blight unfold all around her.

She ran back to the ship.

She made a note.

“Clouds.”

#clouds, #genocide, #microfiction, #science-fiction, #whoops