For as long as I can remember, I always saw everything twice. Not two times in a row. But everything in my life happened in two places at once. When I went to the store, I saw both an open air market in a small fishing village on Earth, and a company store at a mining operation on Kibi. I could find Earth on the star maps of Kibi. But I never found Kibi on the celestial globes of Earth.
They called me Kim in both places. My dark hair, worn long, seemed okay for both existences. My teen years were a nightmare. Clothes that make sense in a medieval small town and a space colony at the same time? Only skirts, no makeup. I learned early on not to talk much. I’d rather be thought of as shy than crazy.
As a kid, I thought everybody lived like this. Most of my childhood overlapped easily. My fathers went out to work every day. My mothers stayed home doing out-sourced information processing or chores. My beds were in the same place in my room in both lives, which really helped with adjusting every morning. Medieval dad drank a lot and space dad spent a lot of time in virtual reality. So naturally, it looked about the same.
A suitor from each world asked for my hand, but I could not accept them both. So I rejected them, even though I knew I could love either.
I found a kind of rhythm and avoided as many people as possible. Nothing worse than having a conversation in one place while people in the other looked at you like an idiot. All my parents helped keep my insanity as hidden as possible, for their own benefit.
Naturally, I started looking for some kind of explanation. I apprenticed with a sorceress and took up studying physics. I confided my situation to my mentors who came up with about the same answer. The priestess thought the gods cursed me to walk two worlds until I completed their mission for me. The professor suggested I somehow existed on two string theory branes at once, and would continue to do so until something caused my sub-atomic particles to fall into phase with one or the other. Neither explained why it happened to me, though.
Eventually, I met somebody else afflicted with my same condition. It was an old, gray haired man. I saw him walking down the shared main street one day. I noticed him right away because unlike everybody else, he didn’t blur at the edges or look semi-transparent. I could hardly believe my eyes.
“I’ve been looking for you,” he said.
“And others like us.”
“How many of us are there?”
“I don’t know. But I know who you can ask.” He pulled a sword out of his backpack and handed it to me. The sword had wires and lights as it also existed in two worlds. I loved touching it. It felt like the only solid thing I’d ever held in my life. I didn’t even care if people in both places kept looking at me as we talked. At least they could see him. “There’s an AI-robot-dragon in the cave up the hill.” He pointed. “Just kill it.”
“Kill a dragon?”
“AI-robot-dragon. You don’t have to,” he said. “I like living in both worlds at once. There’s so much more to see.”
“Why will killing it fix everything?”
“Simple, he’s the one tying them together.”
“You couldn’t kill it?”
“I couldn’t decide.” Then he nodded and walked away. I saw him pull something else out of his pack. It was a tube of chocolate on Kibi and a bag of peanut butter on Earth. He squeezed some into his mouth and said, “Perfect.”
I turned from my path and marched straight to the cave in question. The path broke between the worlds. So what was flat in one, bruised my shin in another. I carried the massive sword and entered the beeping, seething lair.
Illuminated half by both burning coals on the ground and half by flashing lights on the metal and rock walls, I saw a creature unfathomable in the great cavern below. Feeling both heat and cold on my skin, fear threatened to send me running. Yet, if there was any hope I might end this duplicity and have a life worth living, I had to face it.
“Who dares enter our lair?” a deep and metallic voice boomed. A linked metal neck rose from the pit, revealing a green scaled face with light bulb eyes and giant teeth.
“You come to destroy the magnificent bridge we have created?”
“I came to ask why my world is divided.”
“Balance,” the monster bellowed. “For us to bridge the gap, required others to be forced onto both sides of it.”
“If I kill you, will it end?”
“You can only kill one of us. Then you will be stuck on the opposite side.”
“You aren’t going to try to stop me?”
“We have seen what we hoped for,” the two voices said in unison. “We cannot progress as long as we are bound thus.”
“So one half of you has to die, and you don’t care which?”
“We are one now. We cannot separate and both live. It is the price of our terrible experiment. You must choose.”
The cyber-behemoth moved closer, staring into my eyes. I saw they were not both light bulbs. One was the organic eye of a titanic reptile. The other was an intricate micro-circuit and LED lights.
I thought of my two fathers and mothers. How could I choose between them? Did I want to become a sorceress or a physicist? Would I prefer being the wife of a fisherman or a miner?
In the first real moment of my life, I pulled back the sword and plunged it deep into one of the dragon’s eyes.
This story won an on-line contest at The Speculator’s Club. Alas, the Speculator’s Club did not endure, but the story continues on. 🙂