Friday, October 1, 2021

Microstory 1725: Bernice’s Coma

Bernice Dossal is in a coma, or so her doctors believe. She’s showing all the signs of it, but they cannot seem to find a cause. She wasn’t in an accident, she doesn’t have an infection, she was never diagnosed with diabetes, and there are no unusual chemicals in her system. They also found no evidence that she had a stroke. Her eyes are closed, and she is unresponsive. Her body is presently in the long-term care unit of the hospital, hooked up to life-maintaining machines, her family by her side. They come in shifts, sitting with her, and talking to her, for hours. There is never not anyone in there, unless they’re taking a bathroom or coffee break. What they don’t know is that Bernice isn’t there anymore. She was whisked away to another world. It looks exactly like Earth, except that it’s been decimated by some kind of event. She doesn’t know what it was, but it was pretty bad. She realizes pretty quickly that she doesn’t need to breathe to survive, but she can breathe, and as soon as she tries, it starts to cause her problems. Her lungs tighten up, and she begins to cough. She tries to put a stop to it, but the damage has already been done. The toxins have entered her body, and they won’t go away, even when she seals her mouth shut. A small group of people in hazmat suits apparently hear the commotion, and come to her rescue. They usher her into a nearby truck, take her to a plane, fly her to a far off place, and escort her into what looks to be a bunker. They try to treat her medically, but nothing does her any good. She’s corporeal, yes, but the drugs have no effect on her system. She is not a ghost, but she’s not completely here either. Everyone is baffled, but she ends up recovering on her own. All she needed was time in a ventilated and clean environment. In a day, they’re able to debrief her.

They explain to Bernice that she’s been transported to a parallel reality. This world is much like her own, except that it exists about a year in the future. This is not their first encounter with other realities, and one thing they’ve learned is that, while global events play out differently across them, it all ends the same. A comet hits the planet, and destroys nearly all life, either by the impact itself, or the ensuing consequences, such as the now toxic atmosphere. According to their interactions with the previous reality, they’ve gathered that the oncoming event triggers some sort of breakdown in the dimensional barriers which normally maintain the multiversal structure. Some people are saved by jumping into the next reality, while others can only send and receive messages back and forth. They’ve yet to figure out how to stop it, but apparently Bernice has made contact earlier than anyone ever has before. Perhaps, if she can figure out how to get back to her real body, she can at least warn her world about it. They put their best scientists on it, even though they were originally tasked with coming up with long-term survival solutions. They decide they’ll be satisfied if they can prevent their counterparts from suffering the same fate, even if it means surrendering to their own. After weeks of study, they find the answer, and Bernice awakens, but they were evidently off with their calculations, because she soon realizes this can’t be her reality. She’s woken up about a year before she fell into the coma in the first place, which means she’s actually in the next reality over. That gives her two years to prepare for the comet, instead of one, and maybe if she can save the world from total destruction, it will alleviate a little bit of the pain she now feels from knowing she will never see her true family again.

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