Author Note – This was written circa 2008, during the first draft. It is self-indulgent and utterly terrible and I love it for those reasons, but for the same reasons it never made it into the book. Enjoy!
Contact: European Continent, sector NW2/34
He gazed blankly at the screen, still showing his latest ponderings. He looked up slightly at the little model phoenix perched above his desk.
“Hmm, needs a clean,” he muttered vaguely.
He looked to the right, at one of the bookcases. There was nothing on this one he had not read at least twice. He looked to the left at the mess of a bin behind the door. Nothing fun there.
He returned his gaze to the screen, then upwards again as he scrunched his face and made a humming noise. Without watching his hands, he began to type on the keyboard that was on his knees. Then a pause while he removed the spelling mistakes.
Then he stared at the wall again.
A crick of the back later he fiddled about with the computers menus till it started playing bouncy music, and an equally bouncy red overalled character appeared on the screen generally starting to smash his world up. A few minutes later the bouncy man died and the game window was shut in disgust.
Then an “Ah!” noise and furious typing for about ten or twenty minutes solid. Then click back onto the game and concentrate fiercely on not dying. Inevitably, the character dies again and the writer clicks it off in disgust once more.
Yawning, he hits the save button and uncrosses his legs from his perch. For some reason the typist has chosen to sit on the absolute left corner of his bed with his legs crossed while he works. If he called it work. He would probably have laughed for no obvious reason if you told him what he did was work. He found it more like stress relief, which is probably why he never got stressed in public.
He had written a whole book about that.
The ex-writer stood and stamped his foot a couple of times to get the blood flowing once more. Then, limping somewhat, he exited the room and went downstairs in search of somebody to entertain him. What he found instead was a note.
“Gone food shopping, will give you a ring to get bags. Mum.”
He sighed and moved the note over to the dresser. He thought that he had heard the door shut about one o clock so that meant there was at least half an hour left before his mother summoned his presence. He knew he really needed to move out of the family home sooner or later, but he could not really afford it at this point. Besides, he liked his family, they were generally nice people and fun to argue with. Oh, there was a thought, was his brother in?
He opened the door to the other downstairs room and peered in. Unless the fool was hiding behind the sofa, the brother was not in the house either.
The writer slumped on the sofa and turned on some cartoons to ease his immediate boredom. It did not work, for he managed to have another idea and pelted back up the stairs to frenziedly churn out a couple of thousand words.
Then, staring at the ceiling some more.
He yawned, and smacked the print key till the aging printing machine started up, held together by sticky tack and hope. It disgorged a few dozen pages which he added to the pile on the other side of the bed, ready to be gone over with a pencil whenever he could be bothered to.
Then he reached behind himself to claim a book from the bedside shelf and lay on his stomach for a time, waiting for the phonecall from his mother which was taking its time in coming. He hated that, how he couldn’t start anything too long-winded so he would have to stop and run to the phone before he was accused of taking his time in getting there.
A few minutes later having read the same paragraph three times without taking it in, the book was discarded and he slumped downstairs to TV once more.
Where was this phone call?
He jumped up and moved automatically, but then his logic centres took over and pointed out that it was the front door bell and not the phone.
“Huh, must have got a taxi back,” he muttered as he went to open it for his wayward mother. What greeted him was certainly female, but definitely not his maternal parent.
“Hi!” she said brightly. “Do you live here?”
The writer looked behind him to check he had not skipped dimensions or something when he had opened the door and uttered the appropriate phrase to the vision of loveliness stood before him.
“Yes?” he tried.
This seemed to please her. “Oh good, do you have a moment to answer a few quick questions?”
“Er, I don’t own the place, so I’m not sure I’m allowed to do any surveys. If you are trying to convert my religion I would be happy to argue why you are doing it wrong, if you are selling something, I have no money and nobody else here would be interested. If you are wanting the toilet or the telephone you won’t mind me standing over you while you make use of either. Sick I know, but I have to have some fun.”
The lady’s face had gone into the frozen rictus where the smile does not quite reach the eyes, the stare having been glazed over with utter confusion.
He grinned in a friendly way. He loved having this effect on people. “Don’t worry about it, what is it you were wanting?”
She shook herself and returned his smile in an almost identical fashion.
“I was just wondering if you can tell me your name first of all?” she said.
“Okay, as long as I can see you writing it down,” he replied. “A WWF guy nearly got me to sign up a few weeks back because his notepad was actually one of those godsawful forms.”
She laughed, “No, its nothing like that, I’m just doing a survey on the homes in the area for the council, want to see my badge?”
He looked down and inadvertently glanced into a very well formed part of female anatomy that appeared to have been adjusted on purpose for best presentation. He quickly shifted his gaze to her little ID tag. It seemed real enough, but heaven knew he could produce an identical one in about ten minutes on his computer. Ah, well, lets play along.
“My names Sean…surnames spelt H…E….”
She dutifully wrote this down and moved on. “How old are you Sean?”
“Twenty-three, sorry about that.”
“Oh no,” she said as she took a note, “I’m exactly the same age.”
“You look terribly well preserved for it,” he said, ever the charmer. “I wouldn’t have put you past nineteen.”
She blushed ever so slightly. He was secretly amazed, this sort of banter never actually worked as well as this. His flirting technique had died on its feet ever since his last girlfriend had…no, that was a memory not to bring up now.
“Ok Sean, calm down,” she said with a smile. “Do you think that the paving in your area is of good quality?”
“Fine. Do you consider that you receive premonitions?”
His face contorted slightly. “Is that a question on the council list or are you really here to covert me?”
She looked startled at the accusation. “No! It’s a genuine question, look!”
She showed him her clipboard. And yes, visions of the future was lodged right there between comments on paving and the nearest post office.
His suspicions were riled though, attractive lady or not. “Which council did you say you represented again?”
“This one of course…” he voice trailed off at the look on his face. “Oh all right, I’m not from the council.”
“Aha, how much money did you want from me then?”
“What? No, I’m not here for your money either. Look. Truth be told I’m here for you Sean…no wait!”
He has started to shut the door on her face and her hand quickly pushed back on it to try and stop him. His face peered round the wooden frame.
“Hmm? I’m listening, try hard now.”
“I am here for you, really. At least I think it’s you. Look I used to live in this house too…”
“No you didn’t.” he said flatly.
“Oh not here,” she said with some irritation. “Somewhere else. Look, do you believe in parallel worlds? Do they have that concept here?”
His face went entirely blank and his eyes read every pore of her face. She made half a step backwards at the intensity of his gaze. He studied her as she gaped slightly.
“Wh…” she began, but stopped as he held up a hand and smiled widely.
“Would you like to come in for a cup of tea? You aren’t quite who I was expecting, but I see the resemblance now you mention it.”
“Huh?” she uttered.
“You are me, yes? Come in and you can tell me what you need.”
“What…how did you know?”
He smiled at her, face demonic. “Because I wrote it last week.”
They now stood in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil. The lady was leafing through a small stack of loose paper and boggling slightly.
At length the kettle finished boiling and Sean prepared two identical cups of tea. He sipped at his while she sat down on the kitchen chair and continued to read.
“Are you reading the bit about you being recruited?”
She looked up and nodded dumbfoundedly. “I mean, its almost exactly like…well my tortoise’s name is actually Slyfoot and you got clothes and things wrong, but the rest…”
He nodded and rooted in a cupboard for some digestive biscuits. “Bet you can’t notice what’s missing. I’ll hint for you, it should happen just after you lot pick up the assassin. Incidentally what’s he like?”
She flicked through the pages up to the appropriate point. “You mean you don’t know? You have me nearly perfect.”
He made a dismissive noise. “You are female version of me, I just had to think about what the obvious differences would be and weld in a few details from friends of mine. Usual artistic licence. But now I’ve actually met you, there’s a lot more I would love to say. You are very good looking you know.”
She coloured slightly and giggled. “Doesn’t that count as narcissism?”
“Oh yes, but I’d still love to compare freckles later.” He smiled widely and offered a biscuit. She politely declined.
“Well, the assassin, the other John, he’s a really laid back sort of guy. Completely without stress and really well trained.”
“Hmm, better looking than me?”
She laughed. “You are obsessed! He looks almost exactly like you, just lived differently, probably exercises more and has a scar just here.” She indicated an area of her cheek just under her eye. “Aside from that, you could be twins. To be honest, he creeps me out a bit though. Never know what he’s thinking.”
“I’ll show you that chapter later,” said Sean. “You know I keep thinking this should be really weird for me, and I should trying to work out what the trick is, but I just keep getting déjà vu. Plus you look enough like me now I know to look for it. I mean, I knew this could happen, but I never thought it would actually happen. It’s creepy.”
“I know what you mean, when John first tried to explain it to me…”
“I know, I know, it’s in the book,” the writer sighed. “You noticed what isn’t in there though?”
She frowned and riffled through the pages for a minute. He waited patiently till she found it.
“You. You aren’t in here.”
The writer nodded. “Yup, this meeting, this day and anything that happens afterwards involving me, isn’t in the story at all. I’m not in it. I never envisioned that I would be. I mean I thought about including me, but it just didn’t seem natural, I can’t explain it.”
She frowned again. “But what does that mean?”
“Well, and this is just thinking offhand you understand, the book you hold in your hands is an accurate vision of the future, just not our future. It’s the future of the us’s from the next set of dimensions over. Which means if you want a more accurate prophecy, you, or John, or one of the others will have to visit the me a couple of dimensions over who is writing about this meeting and includes himself in the rest of the story.”
“Yeah. Gods that sounds weird.”
He grinned. “Doesn’t it just?”
“But if that’s so, then we can’t…”
He nodded. “Yes. I did get the bit about how the Traveller works right I think. You cant skip dimensions that are too close together else you get fried from the friction. So I’m the most version of me you can get hold of.”
“Well do you want to come with us?” she asked, looking him in the far too familiar eyes.
“Does a bear tree bark for toilet paper in the woods? Hell yes I want to come along. Just give me a few minutes to get a bag together and make some phonecalls. Incidentally, where are the others hiding? They did come with you didn’t they?”
“They are in a bed and breakfast along the Promenade, I probably ought to phone them too, to say you are coming.”
“Use the house phone, I’ll use my mobile,” he said pulling out a little blue flip phone and pressing the on button. She stared at the device.
“That’s a mobile phone on this world? Ours are bricks!”
He laughed slightly. “Really? That’s one thing that never came up when I described your world. I wonder what else is different? Do you have DVD players?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I’ve got loads of films for mine.”
He smiled. “I know, you have good taste.”
“Stop that! This is strange enough as it is! It’s like you know me better than I do, but I barely know you at all.”
“Sorry,” he sighed. If it gives you any comfort you can get to know the others pretty well by reading that,” he said, pointing at the unbound book. “As for me, well, I’m happy to answer anything you ask. I’ve got no secrets from myself.”
She smiled brilliantly at him. Sean found himself thinking disgraceful thoughts.
Terri looked down. “I know, its just…well you are me, you might know. When I was a teenager I wondered what the perfect guy would be like, and I figured he would be just like me…I mean…”
“You wondered if you could clone yourself,” he said looking blankly at the wall off to the right. “Then you grew up a bit and got a real lover and childish fantasies never crossed your mind again till just now. I cannot believe we are having this conversation.”
“I’m sorry,” she said stepping back and looking away. “It’s just, you seem so right you know?”
“I know,” he said, looking at her with the eyes that matched hers. “But it would be very awkward, as gorgeous as you are. We are the same person give or take.”
“Ha!” she said. “And we both masturbate enough is that what you are saying?”
He blanched and looked disturbed. “Well, I try not to…you know…makes you go blind.”
She giggled and covered her mouth.
“Stoppit!” he said with a smile. “I’m admitting nothing. Now I must go pack and call my mother. I wonder where she’s got to anyway…?”
“Oh, can I meet your mother? Will she be just like mine?”
“Short, has reddish hair, talks in non-sequiters, nags a lot and is always good for a cuddle?”
She nodded with her mouth open.
He grinned, “Then yes I suspect she will be rather like yours from what I pictured. Hell, I based your mother on mine, a little. Some differences though, else I would be in trouble when she read it. She’ll be home in a minute or two. I’ll pack, you drink your tea and read the book.”
Terri nodded as he bustled out of the room and bounded up the stairs. She flipped back to her section of the book and marvelled again at the near, but not quite accuracy of it. Then she turned to the front and read all the things John had not told her yet. She wondered vaguely what John would say about a find like this. He seemed pretty wound up about the situation as it was, but how would the knowledge of not only events being pre-ordained, but a version of him had written them all down affect him? Would he snap and give up? Would he go mad and set the Brute on a rampage? Would he smile in that bizarre way of his and go on to finish his quest magnificently?
It occurred to her, as thumps came from upstairs, there was an easy way to find out. She flicked ahead in the book to the point where Sean the writer joined the group and…But he wasn’t in it was he? He had said so himself and indeed the proof was in front of her, that he had not included himself in the book, so in this version, he never met John and the book of the future never reached him. That would mean that anything that happened in the book after this point, might not happen in reality.
That worried Terri.
The back door opened and an amiable lady wandered in carrying shopping bags. She looked just like Terri’s mother.
“Hello, are you a friend of Sean’s? Has he left you all alone? Did he give you any food?
Upstairs in his room, with bags and clothes scattered all about, the writer hunched in front of his computer once again. He opened a document a month or so old and spent time reformatting it so the writing was as small as possible per page. Then he set it to print while he packed.
He looked balefully at the writing on the screen, scanning ahead to the end result of that other story, the earlier draft of the one he had showed Terri, the one he knew he would not and could not show the rest of the group.
The version he had edited himself out of.
He prayed he would not need to read it to them.
“Hi Mum!” Sean said as he lugged his overfull backpack downstairs, “I’m going away for a bit, need a hand with the shopping before I go?”
“Oh, are you? Where are you off to?”
“Going to Brighton with this lady,” he said sticking his tongue out.
Oh, well, you could have told me,” his mother said confused but happy.
“Nah, I’m lying Mum, she is just my lift, I’ll be back in a week though. I’ll give you a ring when I get there. This lot need putting away does it?”
Sean busied himself with the shopping bags in the kitchen, while his mother tried to work out what to think. She smiled brightly at Terri.
“Are you taking him somewhere good then?”
“Um, as he said, I’m just the lift, just a few of his…er…mates going…paintballing?”
“That sounds fun. Sean! Why didn’t you tell me you were going paintballing?”
“Why don’t I tell you anything, Mum?” came the voice from the kitchen. “You will only gossip and worry.”