“Double Vision”

Jamie Lomax

All rights reserved by the author

 

 

            The whole day had been rainy.  Cape could still hear the rain pitter pattering on the roof as he sat in his study, filling out some paper work for his job.  He worked at NASA as a mission controller, and was regarded as an expert at the job.  He was just finishing a report on another successful mission. 

            His house was old and it creaked as the wind from the storm blew against it.  It was in a secluded part of town, with a few neighbors down the road.  He lived alone, his job taking up most of his time so that he had never found a wife.  The study which was the most important room in the house as far as Cape was concerned, was on the second floor.  Papers showing projected trajectories of future missions, physical constants, and equations lined the spaces of the study walls that were not covered by bookcases.  The bookcases were full to the point of explosion.  Old physics books with newer journals and papers were scattered in no particular order on the bookcases.  His desk was slightly messy.  Papers were thrown on top of it so that it looked like there might be some type of order to the piles, but one could never be sure.  Cape claimed that there was an organizational system but it was only known to him.  Much to his disappointment, Cape barely kept the piles straight in his mind, but he would never let on to that.  He was too proud and wanted to be seen as an all-knowing person.  Cape had just enough room to work on the desk.  Between the piles of paper and books there was a computer.  This provided Cape with the necessary programs to run calculations for future missions.

            He decided that as soon as he finished his mission report, which was going to the head of NASA, he would go to bed.  It would be later than he liked, but the “go fever” required for working at NASA was strong in him.  He was addicted to his work and constantly stayed up all hours of the night working.  His days were long.  He was usually at work from seven in the morning to eight at night and that was a short day for him.

 Just as he started his last piece of paperwork, the door to his study burst open, and a man who looked suspiciously like Cape walked into the room.  His clothes were wet from the storm, and his face wore a look of happiness mixed with madness.  While he stood in the doorway staring at Cape, a puddle of mud water formed at his feet.  The intruder thought that he had just won the lottery by making the biggest discovery of his life.

            “Who are you?” said Cape. 

“You” replied the intruder. 

“But how can that be?  I have no brothers and sisters, and I have never been

cloned.”

            “Remember what you were working on before you started at NASA?  Your ideas were right, and I had the space craft built to go along with it.” 

Cape sat with an astonished look on his face.  He couldn’t believe it.  “What?  Why did you come here?”

“Curiosity I guess, I knew in theory that I could travel to parallel universes, but I had to find out for sure.  And knowing that I might be able to see what my parallel universes’ selves were doing: it was just too big of an opportunity to pass up.”  He half lied with this response.  He was telling the truth, he did want to see what this universe’s Cape was doing but he didn’t tell the real reason for his interest.

Parallel universes were just a theory before Cape’s travel.  Scientists had four different versions of how parallel universes could exist.  They were called Level One, Two, Three, and Four.  Cape felt that the Level Three parallel universe would be the most likely to exist.  This type of universe is derived from quantum mechanics.  In this universe, other universes break off of it so that every physical possibility happens.  The number of universes keeps increasing so it was defiantly a feat for Cape to have found a universe in which he existed.  Scientists believed that the only way to travel between these universes was through wormholes - rips in the fabric of space-time.

“So, what are you doing?” asked the other Cape.

“Well, I’m just finishing up a report on our last mission.  It was a real success.  I think we’re coming close to having our new engine system work perfectly.  It will speed up the time it takes to get to other stars and planets tenfold.  It will be just as big a revolution in travel as the airplane was centuries ago.  We just need to rerun the Atropos 5 experiments over again, make some final adjustments, and I think we’ll have it.”

“So, how did the Atropos 5 mission turn out here?” asked the intruder Cape with great anticipation of the answer.  “We had an accident ten days into the mission.”

“Well, we had an accident ten days into the mission, just like you.  We got the crew back though. I thought we were going to lose them.  We were lucky I guess.”

 

The other Cape spent several days with his parallel universe self.  During that time, he didn’t venture outside of the house.  He was afraid of either someone recognizing him and realizing that he should be at work or someone who had just talked to his other self meeting him in the street.  Instead, he found Cape’s files on the missions preceding Atropos 5.  He studied them so that he knew them inside and out, and had tucked them back into their appropriate places before Cape had returned home from work.  When he did return home, the other Cape would help with the work Cape brought from his office. 

The Cape from another universe constantly thought about what he was going to do in this universe.  He thought about all of the possibilities of what could happen and he hoped that he ended up in one of the universes, if they broke apart, in which his plan succeeded.  He couldn’t help smiling to himself.  His plan was unfolding just as how he wanted.  He would become successful again.

One night, just after they finished the work for the night, they stayed up talking and eating ice-cream for a while.  The other Cape had left the room they were in for the bathroom, while Cape took care of their dishes.  Cape was washing the dishes, with his back to the kitchen door, when the intruder Cape entered.  Cape turned around to talk to his counterpart.

“Oh my god!  What are you doing?” said Cape.  His face turned white and he almost shook with fear.  At the other end of the room the intruder Cape stood with a gun pointed with dead accuracy at Cape.  The kitchen was silent, and you would be able to hear a pin drop except for the running water.  The table lay in between the two Capes, providing the only protection from the gun for the Cape who was washing the dishes.  There were no knives for him to grab.  He had kept them in a drawer closer to the Cape with the gun than himself.  The Cape with the gun slowly rounded the table, making sure to keep himself between the other Cape and the door that provided the only exit out of the kitchen.  The other Cape stood frozen to the spot with fear.

“The Atropos 5 mission- as you should well know, I was a mission controller, and it was going fine until about ten days into it.  You should know that I wanted more than anything for the crew to make it back safely.  Anyway, when it came down to crunch time I was worried but I knew that I could get them home.  It was stressful. 

“For three days I worked out the problems that occurred during the mission, and found answers as part of a team.  Then, when it came down to one of my split second decisions, I didn’t know what to do.  I was the best trained controller in the room, and I froze.  The problem that came up on my screen I had never seen before.  Nothing close to it had ever shown up in any simulation I had ever been in.  I thought of what could be done and only came up with one solution, but I wasn’t sure if it would work.  I told CAPCOM what should be done but I hesitated first.  It was an unconscious decision, my hesitating, but it was enough for our universes to split apart at that time.  CAPCOM tried to tell the ship how to fix their problem, but it was too late.”

“That’s not how it happened,” said Cape.  “It all ended fine.”

The room became quite again.  Cape thought about what he was doing.  For a moment he thought he might regret what he was about to do, but then the prospect of going back to his job and having his decisions and ideas respected again was over whelming.  Besides, he was only going to harm himself, what was wrong with that?  In a way it was his life.

“I know,” said the intruder. “At least here that’s what happened.  All fifteen of the crew were killed in my universe.  I felt horrible, but stayed at NASA.  I was offered a few more mission control positions on some of the later flights, but I weaseled my way out of them.  I told my boss once that I had family visiting during the time that the mission was supposed to happen, and it might be better to assign someone else the job because my mind would not be on the task at hand.  It took a while but I started getting other assignments, away from the control room.  I felt better at these, but I still couldn’t forgive myself for what I had done.

“So, instead of concentrating on my work, I daydreamed about my earlier years: where lives were not in my hands, when the biggest stress from my job was trying to understand complex ideas.  Eventually I started researching again.  I had all of my old notes so it wasn’t too hard. 

“Several months after I started, I figured out a way to travel to a parallel universe.  The metal needed to withstand the stress of the wormhole was developed by NASA a few years beforehand for one of their interstellar missions, but it had never been tested.  Somehow, I convinced my bosses I needed to be the astronaut on the test mission.  I traveled to a nearby star, just like planned but I didn’t stay on course on my way back.  I broke off communication with the mission controllers and headed toward the nearest plausible spot for a wormhole.  With luck I found one, and traveled here.”

“What does this have to do with me?  I’ll do what ever you want.  Just don’t do anything.  Don’t kill me.”  Cape was confused.

At this point the room became silent again.  Cape thought about what he was doing again.  He thought for a moment that he might be doing something that he might regret but then the thought vanished from his head.

“Well, you live in the universe where everything came out right.  I’m not supposed to be a failure, and I failed on the Atropos 5 mission.  I’m going to replace you.  I’ve been studying your mission reports after the Atropos 5 mission.  I know them inside and out.  I’m going to be you.  I’ll be regarded as an expert in my field again.  I’ll be able to go to work and the people who work with me won’t know that my actions killed anyone.  I am you.”  With that final statement, the intruder Cape killed his other with one shot before his conscious could stop him.

Cape buried the body in his yard, behind his house, near the forest that almost encircled the house.  He cleaned the kitchen making sure that no one could detect what had happened; he wasn’t going to let something silly mess up his plans now.

 

For the next few weeks, he went to work.  No one he worked with noticed that anything was out of the ordinary.  The weeks turned into months and he was the one who everyone looked up to and wanted to be again.  His only problem was that he still knew what he had done to the astronauts in his original universe.  This along with killing his other self to get what he wanted started haunting him.  He killed someone to escape the fact that his actions had killed. 

            Cape became more of a loner than he was before.  It was the only evidence something had happened that was perceivable to others.  He avoided people as much as possible, he went to work and holed himself up in his office, he did his shopping late at night when virtually no one else was out, and he stopped going to all the social gatherings that he was invited to.  He became a miserable man.  He was consumed with guilt for what he had done, and Cape realized that traveling to another parallel universe would not solve his problems.  Eventually Cape became so overwhelmed with his feelings that he no longer cared for anything.  He started neglecting daily chores.  His house lay in disorder.  The dishes had not been cleaned in months, dust bunnies were piling up on the floors, and his clothes had not been washed often.  He wore them wrinkly.

            The holidays had come and gone several times.  He was alone then, just as he normally was, but his guilty feelings became worse at that time of the year.  Something about that season being the season of joy, and Cape being unable to experience it made him grumpier than usual.

            One night about two years after his first arrival in this universe, he took out the gun that he used to kill his other self with.  He wondered what it was like to be shot.  Cape thought it was strange that he killed himself and he doesn’t know what it felt like.  As his conscious suddenly poured more guilt into him for his actions, he lifted the gun, and shot himself for the second time.  His dying thought was how he hope his actions did not affect to many other parallel universe Capes.

 

© Copyright 2003 by the author

All rights reserved