Three days later and the euphoria grew stale.
Three days. That’s all it took to go from amazement and wonder to sheer terror and paranoia. Waking up each day to find that there are two of you does that to a person, I guess.
I wasn’t surprised when ‘it’ happened.
My brain struggled to cope with the reality presented in front of me. One moment, I’m thoughtlessly walking into the bathroom, next I’m confronting a naked stranger gazing into the vanity mirror, holding scissors and a blowdryer, perplexed as I was. Recognition came slowly, due to the fact I knew my face from a reflective surface’s point of view, or from a camera’s perspective. This life-sized version of me seemed off; wrong even.
The other self, understood what I was, having the advantage of studying me while I was asleep. Whatever interdimensional travel this was, there was no evidence of any portal. Did they find themselves in a world that was almost identical to their own? Or was it me? Either way, the only difference in our immediate existence was that there were now two of us, standing before each other’s alternate selves, staring back at each other with equal parts curiosity and disbelief.
That first day was spent revelling in awe as we looked at ourselves from what we both agreed was another dimension.
“I have been,” I began explaining, “hearing voices ever since I was a toddler. I believed then it was my invisible twin brother until I realized much later the voice was you, another me, from some other place.”
They replied, “When I woke up next to you it was like a dream had somehow turned into reality. I know you have been dreaming about this too. We are the one person. What I dream, you dream.”
I had always wondered what his life would be like if he had made different choices or taken different paths. Now, standing face to face with his alternate self, he finally had the chance to find out.
“You first,” I said.
“What difference does it make?” answered the other me. “This room is exactly the same. My clothes are here. Everything is exactly the same as I left them before went to sleep. Nothing is different from the time I went dosing off. Our timelines are the same. Unless you see anything that’s changed.”
“You’re assuming I’m in your timeline.”
“Am I in yours?”
“I see no point of divergence.”
“Neither do I.”
Our two selves spent hours talking about our lives and experiences, comparing notes on everything from our careers to our relationships. We discovered that we were more alike than we had ever imagined, despite living in different dimensions. Our memories were exactly the same.
As the second night wore on, the other me realized, “I think it is time for you to return home. I’m never going to forget this experience and that it has changed me forever, but this can’t go on. How can this work?”
“Can you go back?” I ask.
“No. I can’t see how.”
“Then how am I supposed to go? Which one of us is in the wrong dimension?”
“Maybe, this is not an inter-dimensional thing. Maybe it’s a mental illness?”
“I’ve thought about that. Been thinking of it the whole time.”
“Me too,” I confess.
Madness would be a relief. It would make sense. The voices in my head. The premonitions. The lucid dreams. “Let’s test this.”
By morning, I directed my other self out to the kitchen. I put water to boil and opened the refrigerator. “Go get milk.”
“That would prove what?”
“From the neighbour.”
The other me seemed to understand and headed out. By the time I set a pair of cups and saucers, mix the instant coffee with hot water, and let it cool, my doppelganger returned with a bottle of milk.
After we pour in the milk, we both sit and take a sip.
“Return the milk,” said my other self. “She offered pancakes.”
I understood I needed to reciprocate the motion, so I took another sip, picked up the bottle and headed out of my apartment to the retired nurse who lived directly underneath me.
She opened her door and smiled, holding the plate of freshly fried pancakes. “I insist,” she said.
I swapped the milk for the plate and thanked her. When I headed back and confronted my other self with the goods, they were not impressed.
“What? Not proof enough?”
“I don’t know. Should we both go downstairs and ask if she has any syrup?”
The idea horrified me. “Do you realise what kind of attention this would draw? My life, our lives would be turned upside down. Can you imagine the hysteria this would cause?”
“We can say we’re twins.”
“Who’s going to buy that? My family? Yours? We’ll be a freak show. We are two. The same one person, but two bodies. Identical. Mirrored. Cloned.”
“We can say we are clones.”
“There’s no such technology.”
“Hear me out,” I had an idea. “We could use this situation to raise money for developing the technology. We can show investors proof of concept.”
“Who would be the clone?”
“When that thought entered my mind, it killed the mood, but if we…”
“Pretty soon you too will be thinking about how such an enterprise will end badly for both of us. The prospect of revealing our little miracle frightens you as much as me.”
Which one of us was the clone? I thought and felt a sense of dread for having met myself from another dimension if indeed it was that.
“Here’s an idea. We could take turns interacting with our family and the rest of the world. One of us would rest or pursue other interests, the other would go down and live the day.”
“How will it work?”
You quickly came up with the idea. “The ‘plan’ is that one of us should focus on the menial tasks and the other on life choice endeavours. We agree on a rotation system. One week you, one week me.”
“We could hide our secret, but for how long?”
I wondered how long this was going to last. Was this a temporary phenomenon, or something permanent?
On day three there were signs of trouble.
No divergence manifested so far. We both spoke the same. We both behaved the same until I noticed my other self growing less agreeable.
“I don’t think we should share the same lover.”
“We are not currently seeing anybody.” It wasn’t that I didn’t agree with the sentiment, nor was it evidence of a dramatic divergence, but this was not a topic I would ever bring to mind.
“Still, we should pursue different partners. Less awkward that way.”
“That sounds like a brilliant idea, but how are you going to fund any of this?”
“How are we going to fund this lifestyle, with one job? Managing the household is one thing, between the two of us, we can manage, but social expenses, luxury purchases, who is going to own what?”
“We can both go to work. That’s two incomes.”
“Not at the same job.”
It dawned on me. “I’m not looking for another job.”
“Why should I go find something else?”
I was going to suggest we coin toss for it but held my idea back. I’m sure my other self thought it, so I didn’t bother. There was always going to be a complication, some convolution, to make life more complicated and more convoluted. I didn’t know how I would feel if my replica got a better job than I had or got into a relationship before I did, or a better-looking partner. It was a strange jealousy, its main subject being basically me.
By midday, we had ceased talking. Taking refuge in separate parts of the apartment. Distrust set in, because if I were suffering from an outbreak of envy, guaranteed my other self was going through the same thing.
I sat on the couch and watched content on the television taking my mind off the conundrum for an hour or so until a new idea struck me. I hurried to the bedroom where I had been hearing my double rummaging around.
“What if we both move out? No coin toss. We both can sacrifice equally. Two lives, same person.”
As I enter, I feel a presence behind me and a stabbing pain in my lower back. I twist around but my feet trip over the shower curtain that had been placed over the carpet. Falling sideways, I hit the floor, the puncture paralysing my legs.
“Why?” I cried toward the counterpart holding the scissors. I tried to pull myself up, but my hands slipped on the blood-soaked plastic.
I look down at myself bleeding to death, reluctant to elaborate. I knew we both understood what was going on. We both have been looking for it the entire time. Fission of the timeline had indeed occurred, and with that, there had to exist since this divergence, an inevitable differentiation between the two of us.
And this was it.