Emergency procedures on the door spelled out where to go in case of fire. His jacket hung in the closet next to it. I asked which of the two he was referring to.
He swung his legs over the side of the bed. “Suppose I put my clothes on right now and walk through that door and you’ll never see me again.”
“Suppose I laughed at how ridiculous that is.”
“Maybe it’s not ridiculous. Suppose that by walking out that door, you never see me again.”
We hadn’t wanted our roommates barging in while we were busy with our – ahem – biology homework, so he offered the privacy of a hotel room. Sure, I’d said, but I’m broke, too. I turned on the most impish grin I had.
Since we were off in a world of hypotheticals, I decided to play along. “So you just created two universes by offering yourself two choices. Stay or leave. But even if you walked out, I’d run into you eventually.”
“Suppose you couldn’t open the door.”
“Why am I taking this conversation seriously?”
“Because it is serious. I’m up for another go if you know what I mean.”
“You killed the mood with fixating on that door.”
“You don’t have to be so uptight.” He threw his pants on. “Women!”
“You’re planning on waiting for me to fall asleep and then walk out on me. I’m not worried you’ll stick me with the bill.”
“OK. I warned you. When I walk through that door, you’ll never see me again. Never ever.” He sashayed out the door. The door scraped on the frame and the autolock clicked into place.
Because I was expecting something of the kind, I felt it as I didn’t feel it when I called Sarah and told her I wasn’t able to make the physics study group. It felt barely noticeable and much like tearing off peeled skin after a sunburn. You only feel it because you’re actively tearing off dead skin that would shed in the shower with the help of a washcloth. It didn’t hurt, but it wouldn’t. Not if the peeling away of alternate universes happens every time you make a choice.
This time I felt it and this time I was aware of the split. In my universe, Chas walked out that door. In the other universe, he stayed. Perhaps he had more than one option. Suppose he stayed at the door to see what I would do. Suppose he went back to his dorm.
Damn idiot was right. I was thinking about him more than I would have if he hadn’t pointed out that door. Manipulative bastard.
He thought I would jump up and run after him, did he? This may be a cheap hotel, but it was quiet and the bed was comfortable and no roommates would be waking me up in the middle of the night. I didn’t have class until 11 am.
I felt the split again and wished my other selves well. Then I rolled over and went to sleep.
When presented two options, Laura Thurston often chooses both. Her stories have appeared in anthologies from Strange Musings Press and are forthcoming in Tales of the Unanticipated and Devilfish Review. Her most unusual work is a translation of A Klingon Christmas Carol, the world’s only professionally performed play in the Klingon language. The play was originally produced by Commedia Beauregard in 2007 and staged in four cities as of Christmas 2014.
She has a variety of interests including martial arts, languages, performing, reading, and of course writing.
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