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Thursday, May 24, 2018

Microstory 849: Waters Run Deep

I wake up in a different reality, and the first thing I wonder is what in my other self’s past would have driven him to become a runner? All my life I’ve hated running. Walking, hiking, backpacking, even, I get. But running? It’s bad for your knees, and isn’t better exercise than cycling, which at least allows you to take a break once in awhile, and still make progress. Yet, no matter how hard I fight it, I can’t shake the urge to go out and jog. Apparently this version of me uses the activity to clear his head, and if ever there was a time for me to need sort things out, it’s today. The last thing I remember, I was just sitting in front of the television, having recently turned it off. I wasn’t quite ready to get up and go to bed, because of a hard day at work, but I don’t recall anything interesting happening while I was sitting there. No blinding flash of light, no queasiness, no weird sounds. Suddenly I’m just back at college, in what’s clearly my dorm room, surrounded by magazine cutouts of who I can only guess are my athletic icons. It isn’t painful or tiring when I’m out jogging; part of the benefit of being in this new body. It’s still horrific, though, because the part of me that hates this is still rattling around up there in this brain. At first I think I’m running aimlessly, but then I start getting the feeling that this is either my usual route, or one of them. Everything looks familiar, even though I dropped out of school so fast in my reality that I didn’t even see this side of campus. I sense that I’m nearing some destination, and barely even have to stop to open the door to what I would otherwise believe is just a random building. It feels like a different planet, with a much lower oxygen concentration, and higher gravity. I’m so much heavier than I’m supposed to be, so I have to drop to a walk. I pass by little pods, each one containing what appears to be some kind of alien specimen mid-slumber, floating on a bed of water. As I continue, though, I come across several that are completely awake. They’re more shocked to see me than I them. I’m not sure if this is the weirdest thing that’s happened to me today, so I don’t let it get to me. “Ain’t no thang,” I find myself helpless but to say out loud. They act like they understand my language, because they give me the same look any human would if I said something like that around them.

I don’t really black out, but I lose most control of my motor functions, and the next thing I know, I’m tinkering with one of their machines, and flooding this building with pure oxygen. Though the aliens who are awake seem strong enough to suffer through it, they aren’t strong enough to fight me. They have to use all their energy trying to repair the problem, which they may be able to do, but not before all of their sleeping friends die. The stasis pods leave them in highly fragile states, and need to be precisely calibrated to maintain equilibrium. I’ve just screwed with that stability, and I know in my heart that they will not survive. How I know this, I couldn’t tell you. None of this makes any sense to me, yet at the same time, everything seems perfectly reasonable. One of the aliens realizes the rest of his people are goners, so he directs his attention to me, and I have to run again, which is now far easier with more oxygen than before. I race across the little alleyway, and into the next building over. There’s a secret entrance to a hidden passageway though one of the locker rooms, but I can’t remember which one. Nor do I remember how I know any of this at all. One of the showers is still on, and the water is hot enough to burn my skin. The pain jolts me, and it’s like I’m waking up for the first time in my life. Now all the answers are right in front of me. I’m not just from another reality, but from several. One version of me ended up a brilliant scientist, and has figured out how to create something he calls a quantum conflux. He’s assembled a legion of alternates, and converged us into the body of one of our counterparts, so that we can use our respective skills together to solve the problem of the alien invasion. I am but one of these alternate versions, but the question remains, how do I contribute to this effort? I’m no scientist, and I don’t know anything about secret shower passageways. While I’m trying to figure out why Scientist!Me brought me along, the alien catches up with us, and prepares to attack. I reach back and punch him once in the face. He falls on his ass, and doesn’t get back up. Oh, that’s why he chose me. I’ve been in a lot of bar fights.

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