Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 3: Final Convergence

 (Author's note: Doing Flash Fiction Fridays again, link over and read the other great stories.)

When he awoke and looked around, nothing in the room seemed familiar. Scott tried to remain calm and just waited for everything to come into focus. It had been years since the last transition and it always took time for his senses to adjust to how things had changed. Disappointment flooded through his mind as things became clearer. Scott had begun to hope the rift in space he had opened around himself in a foolish attempt to run away from his problems had finally healed letting him finally piece together a new life.

The new room was about the same size as the one he went to sleep in, that at least was a consistent pattern but the furnishings were radically different. The ornate Colonial American style dressing table, Chester drawers and night stands he had come to appreciate had been replaced with brightly colored, ultra modern looking equivalents that while functional seemed sterile and utilitarian. Even the bed he found himself was just a mattress laying on top of a box spring that was only slightly raised above a hardwood floor.

More importantly, Scott realized that from the looks of the disheveled bed sheets he, or more accurately, his counterpart had not slept alone the night before. Experience had long taught Scott that while he was alone he should try to figure out the type of person whose existence he had abruptly assumed.

After climbing out of bed, he quickly searched through the drawers of his nightstand, dresser, and open closet. In the process, he found a wallet with identification saying he was Scott Wilson Phillips of Los Angeles, California. That little bit of information was actually a huge relief, while patterns repeated across contrasting realities, occasionally he would drop into a completely different identity. Since he had the same name in this new existence there was a good chance he wouldn't have to relearn the basics of life and family history.

On a whim, he opened the curtains of the huge window that occupied one full wall of the bedroom and was greeted by bright sunlight and a gleaming city situated next the ocean. Wherever he was it didn't look like his Los Angeles or any of the others he had visited. The buildings he could see were mostly futuristic, organic-looking constructions made up of spheres and pyramidal structures all connected by an elevated mass transit system. On the ground, he could barely see the streets because of all the trees planted alongside. Where there were breaks in the foliage covering the roadway he saw small cars and people riding bikes.

“At least here they seemed to have beaten the problem with smog.” Scott said out loud to himself remembering the overwhelming level of pollution he had to deal with in the last reality.

A sound originating outside the bedroom pulled Scott's attention back to his immediate surroundings. Subconsciously feeling like a trespasser he quietly walked out of the bedroom careful not to make any noise. Just past the bedroom doorway was a small flight of stairs leading down to what looked like a living area with a couch and chairs. Again taking care not to announce his presence Scott slowly descended the stairs listening for any sounds that might give a hint of his current situation.

Reaching the bottom, he saw that the living room had the same utilitarian style as the bedroom above. The furniture was basic but comfortable and there was another huge window looking out at a different section of the city. The amazing view almost pulled Scott towards the window but another sound further off to his left reclaimed his complete attention. Hugging close to a small section of wall on his left he turned the corner and saw her.

“Amanda,” Scott gasped in bewilderment.

The beautiful blond woman, dressed in a loose t-shirt and yoga pants was standing at the kitchen counter buttering a piece of toast quickly turned around after hearing her name. “Hello sleepyhead,” she said rushing over to embrace Scott. “I was beginning to think you weren't going to ever wake up. You tossed and turned all night and there was one time I woke up and you seemed to have disappeared. I just assumed you went to the bathroom, so I turned over and went back to sleep. Just how did you make it to the bathroom without turning on the light?”

Scott just stood there looking into the face of his long dead wife. It was definitely Amanda he thought to himself, although graceful lines now played across her face signifying the fourteen years that had gone by in this reality. When Amanda had died in his reality she had been just twenty-five years old, and at her athletic prime.

“What's wrong Scott?” Amanda asked, “you look like you've seen a ghost.”

Scott longed to tell her the truth about everything but instead he pulled her close not wanting to ever let go. This Amanda's body was just as firm as he remembered his own wife's had been and it didn't take long for her to respond to his burning desire.

“Wait a minute baby,” she said pulling away, “I have hospital rounds this morning and you have some sort of presentation to give to your egghead physics buddies. As much as I would like to play hooky and make love all day we both have responsibilities.”

Scott just nodded sheepishly and let Amanda slip away to eat her breakfast. “You're right,” he said, “there are times I just can't seem to control myself around you.” He hesitated several seconds being careful to phrase his next question so his newly returned wife would not think he was going insane. “Amanda, I have forgotten most of the stuff I'm supposed to do today. Where did I put my schedule keeper?”

“Oh God,” she said in dismay, “you'd forget your own head if it wasn't attached to your neck. Your data planner is on the desk by the couch.

Feeling he had dodged a bullet, Scott walked back into the living room and found what looked to him to be a normal computer tablet laying on the desk. Before he could reach down to pick it up a face appeared on the screen. “Hello Dr. Phillips,” the voice attached to the pleasant but clearly computer-generated face said, “I am ready to assist you today.”

“Please show me my schedule,” Scott said hoping it would be easy to gain access to his counterpart's files.

“What is the password doctor.” The artificial face asked him back.

“Oh not again,” Amanda said from the kitchen, “just use the retina scan override, you'll be all day trying to guess your password.”

The retina scan procedure took only a few seconds and with his computer assistant now believing Scott was his counterpart he had total access to that man's data. A few minutes later Scott had reviewed his counterpart's schedule and was sure he could pass himself off as the other man.

“One word of warning Dr. Phillips,” the tablet said, “until you re-institute protection firewalls, anyone can access the data in my files or listen to incoming calls.”

“That's fine,” Scott said placing the device back on the desk, “I'll take care of that later.” He then ran back upstairs to shower and get ready for the day. Scott could not believe how fate had smiled on him and he decided right then to drop all his research and find a way to make sure he never left this reality.

Twenty minutes later Scott returns to the living room to see Amanda sitting on the couch holding his computer tablet with tears rolling down her eyes. “You lied to me, you bastard!” She screamed at him. “You said there was nothing between you two and I believed it!”

Without another word Amanda handed Scott the tablet after triggering it to play back a recorded video call he received just minutes before.

“Hello Scotty,” a brunette woman said from the screen, “I've made our reservations for the resort down in Acapulco for next month. It starts the day after your wife leaves for the conference in London and ends two days before she get back. I can't wait to see you for lunch today.”

Scott lowered the tablet and looked back at his wife. She now held a small pistol in her hand and was taking aim at the center of his chest. Before he could say anything Amanda pulled the trigger and he fell to the floor feeling the blood flowing out from the chest wound.

As Scott's life slipped away he had time to think of the cosmic joke associated with his existence. It had been his rage at the discovery that his own Amanda was having an affair with another man that caused him to murder her. Overwhelmed with guilt, he later rushed to his laboratory and climbed inside an experimental quantum phase inverter that was supposed to painlessly scramble all his atoms into nothingness, instead it deposited him in an alternate reality.

A few seconds before Scott died he realized this was a fitting but ultimately ironic end to all his journeys. 


sage said...

Some interesting twists at the end of this! Very Vonnegut-like.

Pixel Peeper said...

Cosmic joke, indeed!

The Bug said...

I love it! Just desserts indeed... Now I want some chocolate :)

Rose Green said...

Loved the build up and the final twist. Thanks for sharing.

Joyce said...

When I clicked on Publish, my internet connection cut out. It appears my comment has been erased. Hopefully, I can remember it in its entirety.

I really enjoyed the way this twists and turns. I'm sure we have all felt at times if we could only go back and redo a moment, or if we could simply step into another's shoes, that life would be better. Unfortunately, the grass is definitely not always greener on the other side of the fence, as Scott learned the hard way. I didn't see that ending coming. Apparently, what goes around really does come right back around. Ah, fate...

Just a couple of minor corrections:
1. In the 7th paragraph, 'Just passed the bedroom...' should be 'Just past the bedroom...'
2. In the 10th paragraph, 'The beautiful blond women...' should be 'The beautiful blond woman...'

So glad to see you back at F3, and looking forward to more of your stories.

Beach Bum said...

Joyce: Yeah, I wasn't at all happy with this story. It just didn't come together like I wanted and I eventually had to submit it as is to beat the deadline. Didn't meet the deadline for this week's story at all, been busy and tired from working third shift. I should be back for next week though.

Anonymous said...

Nicely done. I liked the slow exploration of Scott's reality, as he tried to figure out just who he was. I wondered too if he would be stuck in numerous other realities - surviving in some, dying in others.
The science behind it all got pushed in a little fast at the end, but this is still a good story, with potential for some tweaking in your 'spare time'.