Jenny agrees to meet me at our once-favorite hangout.
A bar on the East Side.
It goes by the name A Good Yarn and it was previously home to a dealer of rare books, from what I’ve been told.
The walls were still lined with bookshelves, now devoid of any literature. Just bare shelves holding the occasional ashtray. Smoking was still legal in this U. Thank God.
I have never really cared for the history of the places I’ve encountered and I’ve ran into this establishment several times in my travels through different U’s.
In some, it is very much a bookstore.
In others it’s a coffee shop.
One time it was a porn store.
But for now,
it’s a bar and right now
I am getting drunk.
And smoking like a fiend.
‘Cause who knows what awaits me in the next U.
U nevar can tell.
Up until recently, Jenny and I were “good hangs”, that’s a phrase used in this U to describe companions who get along with each other.
In this U, we weren’t that good of friends or even romantically involved.
We apparently just hung out and got drunk together.
And we usually drowned our sorrows at A Good Yarn.
There were other bars we frequented, but we always ended up here.
At least in this U.
As I sat there waiting for her, I worried that it wasn’t going to go down exactly as I planned and I would be stuck here until the next cycle.
(Moar about “cycles” later.)
My relationship with Jenny is complicated. Or was complicated. We were simmering enemies. Or are simmering enemies.
I fucked her over recently.
I mean, I had to. In order to flip…well, I will explain. I mean I am explaining.
Sorry, syntax is off.
Time doesn’t really exist the way you think it does.
Language is sometimes a problem in more directions than one.
In some U’s, words and phrases have different meanings than in others.
Sometimes a “rose” is not a “rose” and it can be confusing for the newbies.
It’s just something you learn to deal with.
And I am not even sure which version of English I am speaking most of the time.
(see Different Types Of English Spoken Throughout The U’s for more information.)
I sit at the bar alone. There are just a few other people here, but it’s still early. A Good Yarn usually caters to a late-night crowd. Their happy hour is from midnight to 2 am. Music is playing from somewhere undefined. It’s not a jukebox, nor a radio. It’s just music from somewhere. I don’t know if it’s piped in or coming from a chip in my head. I really haven’t had that much time to think about it. Sometimes when I flip, I just accept things the way they are and try not to ask too many questions. People get suspicious when you ask too many questions.
Music is usually always different in each U. Different bands, different songs, different genres. I can’t explain to you what genre HipTrop is, you would just have to hear it. It has drums and it has big choruses and most of the songs are about animals and it was insanely popular a few U’s ago. However, big name music acts have been a constant. In every U I’ve flipped to, there has always been a Madonna, a Prince, a Michael Jackson in varying stages of their career. I could write an entire series of books on pop stars and how they are in different realities. And I might do that once this one is finished. Once I get to the ?.
I would kill for a Jager Bomb.
There’s no Jagermeister here.
Can you fucking believe it?
In this U, it was never invented or produced. Instead, there’s something called Leiderfuster, which is kind of like Jager, but also different. There’s also no Red Bull, but something called MadRam…and instead of a Jager Bomb…this concoction is called a Battering Ram….or BatRam for brevity’s sake.
Bomb or Ram, the effect is the same: the next day you feel like something really awful has happened to your head. And I loved it.
The physical pain kept me tethered and only when I was really, really drunk was I able to be loose.
More about that later.
I had told Jenny to meet me at 9ish. And that was another thing about this U. There was no concept of being early or late for anything when it involved drinking alcohol.
If you told someone to “meet you at 9ish” that just meant that you yourself would be there and that they were welcome to join you.
And it’s just about time for her to arrive. I got here an hour early to get some BatRams in before she meets me. I like to stay drunk. It makes things easier.
Easier to download the memories into this corpus. So that it can unlock them later.
I am paying attention to EVERYTHING.
The bartender, a guy named Jolley (who looks anything but) has dyed red hair that hangs in curls around his face, but closely cropped on the sides and the back. He has too many tattoos like he has something to prove. He asks if I want another BatRam.
I say yes.
There is a couple (male/female) at the corner of the bar. They are leaned in close to each other. The man is young, the lady is older.
By their behavior, it appears that they are newly in love.
He steals glances at her when she’s not looking.
When he goes to the bathroom, she looks absolutely miserable until he returns. They look like they have very little in common, which they’ve masked with alcohol. She is newly divorced and he’s never been in a significant relationship.
When he returns from the bathroom, she asks if he washed his hands.
He says no.
She says good.
Then she licks his fingers.
Even though I know the relationship won’t last, it will burn bright for awhile and then crash and fade. These relationships are doomed.
Those lovely damned things are so beautiful.
The man catches me looking at them. And I can’t look away. I know these people. I’ve met them before. The same crazy newly in-love couple. This couple is one of the few things that do not change from U to U.
They wave back.
Are they my “watchers” that I’ve been told about?
I am not a big fan of the human race. Most of them are fat, lazy and stupid and seek to fulfill their pointless needs and wants with dumb jobs and a lack of passion.
They buy worthless stuff, they eat poorly, and they stay sick all the time. There are a few exceptions, naturally. But I’ve yet to meet someone who feels the way I do…in any reality.
I am probably not “human” anymore. If I ever was. Raymond says we’re born this way. More about Raymond later. Which brings me to this: You’ve been chosen.
If you are reading this, then you’ve been granted this special knowledge.
To do whatever with.
See, a lot of people chose not to read this. You did. Congratulations.
I am going to teach you how to flip to other realities. But I warn you. It’s not easy.
But it’s mutherfucking cool.
How these words are reaching you, I have no idea.
But I can feel you reading them from where I am now.
It feels good.
Keep doing it.
The syntax is off. And it feels delicious. It’s a sensation like Deja Vu, but like being in three places at once. It’s truly an odd sensation and the best way to describe it is as if you were to spin around with your arms out while getting a blowjob.
Which is how I know that I am about to flip. The edges of objects get fuzzy…and I wonder if I get fuzzy to them. Not the objects, but the people who see me. But I don’t wonder too much about that. It’s not my concern, ‘cause I’ll be out of this ?, soon. With its fucked-up music and lack of Jagermeister.
Suddenly, the barstool to the right of me is occupied by Jenny. I feel her presence. Totally familiar, this presence. Her energy. Part of her multidimensional entity. I cannot get into that now because you will stop listening to me. But her energy is calming. And it washes over me. And for a second I think I could almost stay here. In this one. This ?.
In most every ?, there is a Jenny close to me in some form or fashion. In some she is my best friend. In others she is my girlfriend. In very rare cases, there is no Jenny at all.
In some she has close-cropped bangs.
In some she is fat.
In some she is a rail.
Fucking Jenny though.
Same short nose.
Teeth too big for her mouth, but in a sexy way.
Lips like an open wound.
I hear her drop her auto keys on the bar. I keep my gaze forward. I stare at a neon sign for Milner Lite that hangs above the bar.
She sighs and asks, “Did you bring the key… and my money?”
I say “yes” without looking at her.
But it’s a lie.
I have no money.
I feel the U shudder like it wants to vomit me out.
This is good.
This is very good.
“Well, give it to me,” she says impatiently holding out her left hand.
And I want to laugh.
In another U and in another time, I needed her desperately.
You know how people say that when something really bad happens to you and your world falls apart that you find out who you friends are…well I found out that Jenny wasn’t one of my friends.
Not this Jenny, but at this point it hardly matters.
They’re all the same to me.
And they all deserve what they get.
In every U.
“In a second,” I say. “I want to explain some things.”
She withdraws her hand and places it in her lap, barely containing her rage. She sighs. “I don’t have a second and I don’t want an explanation. I’m a busy person. I don’t have time for this shit.”
I laugh silently.
Silence from Jenny.
She’s agitated, I can tell.
I fight back a grin. “I’m not going to give you the money,” I say.
I continue: “Until you hear me explain—”
“Explain?” she asks. “I don’t want an explanation! I want the money you owe me.”
I glance over to her. Her blue eyes like jewels underneath her straight-cut bangs.
Like that famous old pin-up model Greta Page.
She’s wearing a muted gray wool cardigan she most likely bought at a thrift store.
It has holes in it.
From moths or cigarette burns.
Not her cigarettes.
Perhaps the ones of the previous owner.
Jenny doesn’t smoke here.
She pulls the cardigan around her. Not because she is chilly, but because she is nervous.
Jolley yells out her name. “Hey Jenny!”
“Hey Jolley,” she says cheerfully.
“Usual?” he asks.
And she nods to the bartender as he points to a bottle of Jonnie Walker Purple. Her usual in this U. A shot of JWP and a diet coke, no ice. Every version of Jenny I’ve ever encountered drinks a version of this. Some things are constants in all ?s. Unless there is no Jonnie Walker Purple.
Jolley puts Jenny’s drinks down in front of her. She kills the shot of JWP easily and waits a few moments before taking a sip of her Diet Coke. I stare at a full BatRam in front of me. I’m not sure how it got there.
I can’t remember ordering it.
The ? is already starting to fold into itself and time takes on this shimmery quality like gossamer.
Or maybe I am just drunk.
I pick up the BatRam, pour it down my throat and slam the glass down on the bar a bit too hard.
Jolley yells at me. “Easy! Don’t be breakin’ the glassware.”
Not so jolly, this Jolley.
I tell him I’m sorry, but I don’t mean it.
I don’t mean half the shit that comes out of my mouth.
I order another and ask Jenny if I can get her another drink.
I have just a few dollars in my pocket and I need to get rid of them.
“I didn’t come her to have a drink,” Jenny grabs her shot and downs it.
“But you did,” I remark. “Just then, you had a drink,” I noted.
She sighs. Then there is a softness about her, but it’s brief. “You gonna tell me what the deal is?” She turns towards me slightly.
“Well, hurry up ‘cause I gotta pay my rent. I should never have loaned you the money. Never.”
I turn to her.
She looks at me. Through me, actually.
I’m starting to fade here.
She hates me.
Anger boils behind her eyes.
Of course, her hatred of me is deserved.
I fucked her over pretty hard.
Left her with a mountain of shit to deal with.
Or rather, about to leave her with a mountain of shit.
Maybe she’s here thinking I am going to help her with it.
There’s almost a hint of hopefulness in her eyes.
She thinks maybe I might give her more than what I owe her.
Thinks I might even say I’m sorry.
Jenny’s a fucking bitch no matter how cute she looks.
I take a deep breath, pretending that I care.
Hoping to give some artificial emotional weight to what I am about to tell her.
But I don’t care.
It’s shocking how much I don’t care.
I kind of just want to see her hurt.
I need to see her hurt.
She has to hate me.
She has to want me to die.
In addition to being a function of flipping, this step needs to happen in order for me to move on to the next ?. She needs to be aware in order for the new consciousness:Joe to take hold.
“Do you believe in parallel universes?” I ask her.
She takes a gulp of her Diet Coke.
Ah, she’s nervous.
Nervous Jenny’s gulp their drinks.
Other Jennys might have grabbed for a cigarette at this point, but she doesn’t smoke here.
She looks at my cigarettes.
“Want one?” I ask.
She waves to Jolley who moves quickly to pour her another shot.
“No, Joe.” she says plainly. “I do not.” and she looks away. She sighs heavily.
I narrow my eyes at her.
“I do not want a cigarette and I don’t believe in parallel universes.” She sighs.
I can tell she’s thinking of the last time we fucked.
I fucked her good.
She is staring straight ahead.
“Jenny,” I say. “Listen, it’s okay if you don’t believe. But I am going to tell you why things have been so fucked up lately.”
“Joe?” She turns her head sharply. “What could possibly explain why you did the things you did?” The shot of JWP appears in front of her.
She downs it.
Not so much from the sting of the drink, but the sting of what’s passed between us.
I hurt her really bad.
She’ll probably never trust anyone again.
Just like me.
“I’m not going to be here tomorrow,” I say.
“Great,” she says and looks everywhere around the room, but never at me. “I should have sent Jacob to meet you.” She puts a hand to her face. “I can’t even look at you.”
“I wish I could say I’m sorry,” I move my hand to touch hers but she pulls it away.
“I fucking hate you, Joe.”
And it’s cool.
‘’Cause in some way I hate her, too. For her apathy.
Not this Jenny’s apathy.
“Good,” I say. “Hate me.” And it’s true. “I need you to never want to see me again.”
“Need it?” she looks at me incredulously. “Like me never wanting to see you again will somehow make it easier on you?”
“I need you to want me gone from your life. To never want to see me again,” I say. “I’m not from this universe.”
“No shit,” she says and runs her hands through her hair. “You’re like a fucking alien, now. I don’t even recognize you.” She chances a look at me. She’s afraid to look at me. She might remember the good times we had…the times that she and some other Joe had. Another version of me that’s long gone. Even I don’t know where that Joe is. It’s not my problem anyway.
The in-love couple gets up from the table.
“Later, Jolley,” the man says.
The woman blows me a kiss.
“See ya, baby,” she smiles.
There is a Fast-forward moment.
Jenny is crying. I apparently said something.
I grab her arm. “Seriously, Jenny.”
She looks at my hand clutching her arm. “Don’t fucking touch me.” I remove my hand.
Jolley looks alarmed. “Everything alright, Jenny?”
She glances to both of us, one at a time. She nods to Jolley and then turns to me.
Her eyes are finally on me for the first time.
I’m not some blur to her…or maybe I am.
Maybe it hurts to look at me when I am getting ready to flip.
I never really thought about it.
Why people looked away.
She wipes a tear from her cheek.
It reeks of bitch drama.
“You got five minutes, Joe. I want my money and then I never want to see you again.”
I grin on the inside.
She always is.
She wants to believe in some reason, no matter how preposterous, for what I did.
For what I continue to do to different versions of her in different U’s.
Same Jenny, different Joe.
But we’re all the same.
“Like I said, I am not from this universe.”
She rolls her eyes.
“Listen,” I say. “I am in the body of a man you used to know. A guy named Joe. I switched our corpus. Our body. I entered this universe via him, and his consciousness now occupies my former corpus in the universe I previously visited. And I am going to flip into a new corpus tonight and a new Joe will be in this corpus. And he might come looking for you.” I pause. “And that’s why I needed to tell you this.”
She stares straight ahead.
“I want you to be prepared,” I continue. “He won’t know what’s happening.”
She grasps her drink. Two tears run down her cheeks, out of each eye.
She leans her head down, a truth dawning on her.
She doesn’t believe me.
She never does.
In a barely audible voice, she states: “You don’t have the money, I knew it.”
I stare straight ahead, letting her draw her own conclusions.
She puts her palms on the bar. “I can’t take your crazy self-sabotaging shit any more. You need help, Joe.”
And her shoulders hunch and she seems as if she’s about to crumble.
But she doesn’t.
Jenny’s bend, they don’t break.
She straightens up her shoulders “I can’t take this anymore.” She waves to Jolley. “I need the tab.” She turns to me. “I’m going to pay my tab and I’m going to leave. Don’t follow me. Don’t try to explain anything to me. I am done with you, Joe.” She stands up off the bar stool and reiterates: “So fucking done!”
I turn to the bar and pretend not to notice Jenny as she gathers her auto keys and her purse. I hear Jolley ask her if she’s okay.
I see her nod.
I stare at the bar.
The empty glass in front of me is fuzzy and not from the alcohol.
I see them whisper.
Jenny and Jolley.
I hear Jenny’s heels click as she walks out of the bar.
She doesn’t look back.
Jenny’s never look back.
Jolley approaches me. “I’m going to need you to pay and get out, Joe.”
I look up to him. “I don’t have it,” I say plainly. “The cash. I don’t have anything.”
One of the rules of flipping into a U is that you can’t have any money.
You must own nothing.
Jolley sighs. “Well, then, we have a problem.”
“Yes,” I say. “But I have the solution.”
“Call one of your friends,” he says. “You can use the bar phone.”
“I don’t have any friends,” I say as I start to unbutton my shirt.
This next part has to happen quick before someone tries to stop me.
I can feel the flip coming.
And I can see slightly what’s on the other side.
My next U.
Just a faint image of my new corpus lying asleep in a bed.
Man I am getting so good at this flip stuff.
I quickly kick off my shoes.
“Dude,” Jolley asks. “What are you doing?” Rising alarm in his voice.
“I’m hot,” I say.
And it’s true.
My body temperature is rising because of the impending flip, but that’s not the only reason I’m doing this.
I unbuckle my belt and pull my pants and underwear off and within seconds I am naked and sitting with my bare ass on the barstool.
I gather what I was wearing into a big lump in my arms.
“You can have my clothes as payment,” I say to him as I dump them on the bar, the belt buckle clinking on the wood. “That belt buckle is worth at least 50 bucks.”
Jolley looks nervous. “Fuck dude, put your clothes back on or I’ll have to call the cops.”
“Call them,” I say. “I’m not afraid.”
The other patrons look nervous, too. I see them squinting. One woman is ogling for a peek at my cock.
I am probably getting fuzzy to them. It’s all fuzzy.
From behind Jolley’s head, I see a million Jolley’s all at this moment in time in millions of other realities. All slightly different. All bitching at a version of me.
I lean back from the bar and push off and fall backwards towards the floor.
By the time my head hits the floor, I am knocked unconscious.
But I am not there anymore. I mean “me” or the….well…shit.
A Clumsy and Slightly Inaccurate (for now) Introduction to Parallel Universes And How To Travel Between Them
To offset some of the nastier side-effects of ? travel, it helps to stay as drunk as possible as often as possible.
It can also help you cope with the inevitable emotional devastation you will cause to those unfortunate enough to be around you as you’re passing through their ?.
With any luck (and a little effort, you’ll only be there for a few days.
You’re just passing through, anyway.
Always remember that.)
Your actions will have no consequences, so just do what you can to get through it.
At least no consequences to you.
Before we go much further, we’re going to have to get some terminology out of the way or else this is all going to sound like gibberish. Or maybe it does already.
I am pretty fucking drunk as I am writing this so who the fuck knows.
My name is Joe and I am a Flip Witch. This means that I have the ability to travel to Parallel Universes. PU, is my own acronym for Parallel Universe and I shortened it because it’s hard to remember how to spell parallel when your drunk. Two L’s? One L? It can drive you crazy.
And if you’re paying attention, then you know that I am drunk pretty much all the time.
Here’s some definitions of things:
PU: parallel universe. Look around where you are now. This is your universe in which you live currently.
Unbeknownst to you (or knownst to you),
there is a PU right next to yours where life is going along pretty much the same as it is where you are right now.
You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it.
It’s just right there.
It is so much like the universe in which you live, that the changes are almost imperceptible.
Ѻ: This symbol denotes that this is the universe you are currently inhabiting.
If it’s 2013 in your Ѻ, it’s probably 2013 in the PU. If Hillary (two L’s in Hillary? Right?) Clinton is the president of the United States in your ?, then she’s probably the president in the PU.
?: This symbol denotes the alternate you. There is a version of yourself in the PU. You probably have the same friends and the same job and pretty much the same life. You like the same things. If you’re gay in your Ѻ, you’re probably gay in the PU. If you’re in jail in your Ѻ, then you’re probably incarcerated in the PU. As I said before, the PU is almost a mirror-image of the U you’re living in now.
I say “now” because it is possible to switch to the PU without you knowing it. And in fact, it doesn’t take much effort at all once you know how to do it and what to look for.
And you may have done it already.
I know several people, Flip Witches like me, or were born in one U and are happily living in another PU.
You can spot another Flip Witch because it’s kind of hard to look at them. They have a “fuzziness” about them.
If you successfully travel to the PU, know that there is another PU right beside the one you’re currently inhabiting.
You can choose to stay in that PU or (like me) move on to the next one.
It’s up to you, really.
But there are some conditions that must be met before you can travel between the PU’s. But more on those later.
Corpus: your body in any particular U. It houses your consciousness. I could go on and explain what all your consciousness consists of, but it’s really boring and I hate looking things up in Witipedia and explaining it. In a clamshell, it’s just your thoughts, feelings, and emotions in one big package that is unbound by reality or space time.
Like your corpus is the auto and you are the passenger (and sometimes driver if autos in your U don’t drive themselves).
Oh yeah….sometimes when you get further from your original U, things start to get really unfamiliar.
You won’t encounter an alternate Earth run by dog-headed people until you’ve passed through several Us.
And even then, they’ll probably speak English and wear Abercrombie. Unless you are already a dog-headed person.
And if you are, I am sorry for assuming that you are not. And if you start seeing hams with eyes then you've reached the point of no return. So let’s kick off some rules which I will throw out in no particular order. Follow these and you’ll be a successful Flip Witch in no time.
Rules of Flipping
FLIP RULE #1: Make no assumptions.
In the PU, things will be different, but the same. Your friends may have different jobs, but they’ll still be your friends. Due to something called Quantum Equalization, big deal things in the PU’s will be mostly similar.
Say if HC (Hillary Clinton) died as a child and was unable to grow up to become president, that PU will cease to become the PU next to yours and branch off into another direction more closely aligned to that particular PU.
Think of it all as a big pot of spaghetti with the strands constantly moving and being stirred around.
And the Us that are most like each other are drawn to each other.
The U’s are constantly realigning themselves.
If this doesn’t make sense to you…smoke a joint and then re-read this entire chapter.
Again, I want to apologize if this introduction is clumsy. PU Travelling is clumsy and messy. And I guess that brings us to this next question: Why PU travel at all? Imma goan to get to that.
Whole New U
I open my eyes.
Above me is a ceiling, thankfully. I hate it when I flip and my new corpus:Joe is homeless…although that makes flipping to the next U a bit easier.
I’m in a bed. It’s comfy. All Joes like comfy beds.
I spread my arms out and feel around to see if anyone is beside me. Sometimes I have found myself in bed with a woman…sometimes a man. To be a successful Flip Witch, it helps to be bisexual or to just not give a fuck who you, erm…fuck.
I like chicks and dudes.
Bisexuality is where it’s at.
I’ll fuck anything.
However, I do not fuck fat people.
I doubt this fact will ever change regardless of what U I am in.
Today I am alone in bed.
And I am hungover.
Most Joes drink to excess. I burp up the remnants of a Jager Bomb, thank God. That means there is Jager here.
That Leiderfuster shit was gonna drive me crazy.
I sit up and look around.
The bedroom is modest.
The furnishings spare.
Most Joes have simple living spaces. This is probably because most Joe’s lives are a complete disaster.
I take a deep breath. The air is nice here. Good.
One time I couldn’t breathe upon waking into a new corpus:Joe.
I thought I was going to die of suffocation, but thankfully the girl lying next to me knew that her Joe was asthmatic and immediately knew what to do.
She also blew my cock off as I used the inhaler.
She dug asthmatic dudes.
She said she loved going down on me.
All Joes have nice cocks.
I am naked beneath the covers.
Most Joes always sleep naked and that makes inhabiting the new corpus easier for some reason I quite haven’t figured out yet.
As much as I know, there’s still so much to learn about this.
I should write a book.
I get up and scan the room for a computer-type thing.
With any luck, this Joe will have a Facebook account and I can get up to speed on his life fairly quickly.
I am not entirely unconvinced that the creator of Facebook is a Flip Witch.
How else could she have become the world’s youngest billionaire and at the same time have pretty much created a manual for each new corpus life?
Facebook is a Flip Witch’s best friend.
I stagger out of the bedroom and notice some of the artwork this Joe has hanging on his walls. It’s all pretty much shit.
Big circles with barely perceptible skulls, painted most likely with cow’s blood.
What’s the deal with fucking cow blood in art?
This either means he has no artistic taste or is fucking someone who is an artist…which is worse?
I couldn’t tell you.
The hallway leads into a room.
I assume it’s a kitchen but I shouldn’t do that.
It breaks one of the rules.
MAKE NO ASSUMPTIONS.
On the kitchen table, I spy a laptop type-thing.
Sometimes things are obviously what they are, but not quite what you might be used to…I call these “type-things”.
I sit down at the kitchen table and lift the lid on the laptop type-thing.
A quick glance at the keyboard and the letters are slightly rearranged from what I’ve seen before.
This is a very good sign and I will get to exactly why later.
Luckily, the web viewer is already open to his Facebook account so I won’t have to spend hours guessing the password of which 99% of the time it’s his favorite Pokemon combined with the year of his father died.
That’s another constant among Joes.
We all like Pokemon, however our favorites can be inconsistent.
Personally, I’ve always preferred Charmander.
However, this new keyboard arrangement means I am getting further from my OU. And I failed to define that, so let me define that now.
OU: Originating Universe. This is the universe you consciously remember starting in.
You must be aware that you can never return to your OU…and due to the nature of all of this there is no reason you’d want to.
Fuck those people.
The only reason the OU is important to a Flip Witch is it helps give you some perspective on how many U’s you’ve flipped through.
Honestly, I can’t remember how many, but I know it’s been a fuckton for some paradigm shift like this keyboard arrangement.
At least Facebook is still called Facebook and Hillary Clinton is still president.
On his Facebook profile, this Joe has a picture of himself standing next to a statue of Ronald McDonald wearing a slightly Victorian-era looking manner of dress.
Whatever the fuck that means.
I hate fast food, always have.
It’s one of the few things in the world that will make me vomit.
Well, that and fat people.
The new corpus:Joe looks like me.
Tallish, weirdly handsome, wavy dark hair, prominent nose and a perpetual five o’clock shadow.
He’s grinning in the picture, which is kind of uncharacteristic.
We Joe’s are the grinning-on-the-inside type.
And for a second, I feel a twinge of sadness over where this Joe is, now.
I wonder if he is grinning on his hospital bed or in his jail cell.
Or still knocked out on the floor of A Good Yarn.
Not that I think too much about where the Joes before me go.
His last status update was “going to meet Jenny at A Good Read.”
I grin on the inside.
See, I told you these PU’s were similar to a degree.
Same places, different names.
But I bet this Joe and this Jenny were meeting for an entirely different reason…or not.
Remember RULE#1: Make no assumptions.
On his profile’s INFO tab…this Joe is male (good) and currently single…however he doesn’t list his sexual orientation.
Doesn’t really matter, anyway.
Most of us Joe’s “dongivvafuk”, a particular term I picked up a few U’s ago from a bisexual transsexual pedophile who had given up all hope of ever defining what he’s sexually attracted to.
This corpus:Joe doesn’t have his job listed but it doesn’t really matter.
I won’t be going into his work anyway.
Usually the first thing I do is ditch his job and things just kind of spiral from that.
It’s shockingly easy to mess up a life.
Okay, now to find out who his friends are.
Does he have a mobile phone type-thing or some other communication device lying around?
Does he have clean clothes?
I need to make an accurate assessment of how long it’s going to take to completely untether me from this corpus:Joe and onto the next.
After sifting through his Facebook profile, his life seems pretty standard.
I don’t read his emails.
I am an asshole, not a voyeur.
I am only here for one purpose.
To fuck shit up to enable me to move on.
One of the benefits of flipping into a series of versions of yourself is that you amass the knowledge of that personality.
In other U’s, Joes have had a variety of jobs.
From bank tellers to video store clerks to whatever.
As a result, I know a little bit about a lot of stuff.
Enough to be able to bullshit my way out of anything…or into anything.
I’m interrupted by a ringing phone.
It’s an old-school ring.
And sure enough on the kitchen wall is on old-school phone.
It’s a deep black color, old rotary dial.
Don’t know if this is standard in this U, or if it’s just a Joe-nod to our usual retro sensibility.
I get up from the table and move towards it.
There is, naturally, no caller ID so I have no idea who is calling.
This is usually a bad sign for reasons that I can’t get into right now.
I may have failed to mention that traveling to parallel universes has consequences.
I was warned about them by another Flip Witch I met named Raymond.
More on that later.
I pick up the phone and put it to my ear.
There is static like it’s an overseas call.
“Hello?” I ask.
And there is nothing but static on the other end.
“Hello?” I ask again.
Finally, a gravelly female voice asks: “Joe? Are you coming into work today?”
“Wasn’t planning on it,” I chuckled. “Unless it’s fun. Where is it I work?”
“Joe!?” the woman snorted. “You work at the animal shelter on route 9! Are you okay? Are you coming?”
“No,” I said. “Get fucked.” and I hung up the phone.
I shuddered. I fucking hate animals.
Especially homeless shelter dog-type-things.
People who own animals seriously freak me out.
Not only does it show a weakness of character, they are basically shit machines that take your money and food and then shit and piss in your house as thanks.
Animal owners are dumbasses.
Animals can’t be owned.
How arrogant do you have to be to think you can tame nature?
Tame a dog and you take it’s soul.
Dogs have souls.
More on that later.
I looked to the laptop type-thing’s screen open to the picture of grinning Joe.
The sooner I got out of here, the better.
I clapped my hands and rubbed them together villanously. “Let the destruction begin,” I laughed to myself.
As I clapped my hands, the stench of the night of alcohol hit me.
This corpus:Joe’s pits stank like an old pot of coffee.
I despise armpit smell.
This would not stand.
I am a fastidious Joe.
I went into the bathroom.
I approached the tub and tried to figure out how to turn on the shower but all I could get was a trickle of water out of the tub faucet.
Sometimes figuring out these basic things can be a challenge because different people invented different things at different times.
I was in one universe where there was no such thing as deodorant.
But it was kind of okay because people in that U generally took care of themselves and didn’t eat fast food.
Fuck fast food.
I climbed into the tub and squatted down filling my cupped hands with hot water.
After wetting my entire body, I searched for soap or something to cleanse myself and all I could find was that hideous AXE stuff that seems to crop up in every other U.
I picked up the bottle and noted the name of the fragrance. “Comely Nights” it said.
“What kind of asshole would buy shower gel called ‘Comely Nights’?” I dumped some of the stuff into my palm and looked at the sickening blue color.
It smelled like a bunch of cologne bottles were just dropped into a vat at random with some bull semen.
Hence the name, perhaps.
It almost made me vomit.
Almost….Joe’s never vomit.
When I got out of the bath, the phone was ringing again.
With a towel around my waist, I answered it.
I didn’t even get the word “Hello” out.
FLIP WITCH RULE#3: You can’t take it with you.
To effectively flip to the next PU, you have to have as little ties to the current U as possible. This means, no money, no job, no friends at the very least.
If you owe people money, then they have to not want it from you or have to have resigned themselves to the fact that their not going to get it.
At least from you.
It helps if people actually hate you enough to want to never see you again.
No one can love you, want you, need you or anything like that.
That’s why U’s in which your corpus in homeless make it easier to pass on to the next one.
You can have nothing, be nothing, and you have to be naked.
I don’t make these rules, but they must be followed.
It’s cool though, ‘Cause I am not shy.
There is also something else called Quantum Deferment.
It’s kind of an advanced concept for new Flip Witches, but I am just going to barely touch on it here because it’s kind of important.
If you know something is attaching you to a current U and that it’s preventing you from moving on, you can initiate QD.
As I’ve said before, it’s an advanced concept and is completely unavailable to inexperienced Flip Witches.
Basically, whatever it is, you can defer it to another U…but know when that QD comes due, you’re going to need to take care of it at any cost.
Each flip gets easier, trust me.
Sometimes I think about my OU.
I still remember it quite vividly.
And I am sure you have questions as to why I decided to start flipping.
And as much as I can tell you about that right now, is that the decision was made for me.
YOU MIGHT BE A FLIP WITCH IF…
Everybody has the ability to flip into a PU.
And if you are alive and breathing chances are you’ve already done it.
Ever had that feeling of falling when you’re trying to get to sleep?
Scientists call it Hypnogagia, but in the more severe cases (like the kind that really freak you out) you can be rest assured you’ve just flipped into a new corpus.
Now, just because you have the ability, doesn’t mean you can be a successful Flip Witch.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
Have you ever remembered anything that other family members or friends do not?
Are you forgetful?
Do you remember band names being different?
Do you remember lyrics being different?
Do you remember anything?
Are you even alive?
Can you verify that you are not in your OU?
This is new.
The Joe that used to be in the body wants to speak.
Now this is getting interesting.
I sit across from this woman. She has black hair that is pulled back into a neat bun at the nape of her neck and she is pretty for her age, which I estimate to be about forty.
She wears glasses.
Black frames with the lenses tinted slightly pink.
She is thin, but not overly so.
And this woman says she’s a counselor and she says her name is Marie.
But I don’t trust what I am seeing or what I’ve seen.
We’re in an office buried deep within a hospital.
A nurse brought me here in a wheelchair.
I am sedated and I am restrained by leather cuffs that bind my wrists and my ankles.
I don’t know why I am here or how I got here.
Marie sits across from me scribbling in a notebook.
I stare at the pen as it moves across the paper.
The room is silent except for the noise of the pen moving across the paper.
She stops writing and looks up to me.
“Joe,” Marie says. “I need you to be completely honest with me. There’s a lot at stake here.”
I am getting frustrated. “I have been honest with you,” I say. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
“Let’s try working backwards this time,” Marie sighs. “What’s the last thing you remember from last night?”
I sigh. “I was thinking of how hungover I was going to be at work today,” and it was true. “I had way too many Jager Bombs last night.”
“Ok,” says Marie. “Before that.”
“I took a Somnabul when I got home. Red Bull has a lot of caffeine and I thought it might help me sleep. It’s doctor prescribed…I have the bottle at my appartment.”
“Joe,” says Marie as she takes off her glasses. “That’s what’s so troubling. There is no such thing as a drug called Somnabul. There’s no such thing as Jagermeister or Red Bull.”
I shake my head. “I don’t understand. How can there be no Jagermeister?” I move my wrists against the restraints. “Have you tried to call Jenny?”
“Yes Joe, we have. The number is disconnected.”
“Look her up in the Direkct. Jenny Fugate,” I look hard at the woman named Marie. “Please, I need to see her.” God I am so fucking desperate.
How did I get here?
In this hospital?
“Joe,” says Marie leaning forward. “I’ll be honest with you. You’re facing jail time. Public nudity is a very serious crime. Unless you start telling me the truth, I’m not going to be able to help you.”
My mouth starts quivering. “I didn’t do anything,” I say, tears coming. “I was at home in bed.”
Sympathy in her eyes perhaps?
I am so bad at reading people.
She says finally: “I’m going to recommend that we keep you for a few more days before turning you over to the authorities.”
I glance sideways. “I don’t have health insurance,” I say.
Marie looks at me stunned. “Joe, no one in America has needed health insurance since 1996.”
Back To This U
This is definitely new.
I can see into the other U’s. Well, at least this one.
The last one.
I kind of feel bad for a second.
But it doesn’t last.
This next part is closed off to me.
But you can see it.
That frustrates me.
I am the narrator here.
Why do you get to see what I cannot?
A Word From Marie
“My name is Marie from Eastland Hospital. Is this Jenny Fugate?” I am in my office on the landline.
I have my notes on Joe in front of me.
There is no immediate answer on the other end after she had said hello.
Tracking her down had proved to be difficult.
The information Joe had provided me had been…unreliable.
He had said that she worked as a clerk at A Good Read, a bookstore on the East Side and the address he provided yielded similar but different business. At 1411 14th street, there was a bar called A Good Yarn…incidentally where he was found naked, drunk and passed out on the floor.
Due to the Compatriot Act, I am forbidden to give Joe exact details other than what he is charged with.
Until we can do a complete memory scan, I must rely on his testimony
Jenny answers finally: “I know why you’re calling.”
“Do you?” I ask.
“I submitted my financial documents to the Health Board last month. Geez, you guys.”
“No Jenny,” I interrupt her. “Do you know a man named Joe?”
A brief moment of silence. “Is he there? In the hospital?”
“Yes,” I say.
“Good,” she says. “Keep him there. He needs to be locked up.”
“So you know him?” I ask her.
“I thought I did.”
“I’m going to need to ask you some questions,” I say.
“Look,” Jenny says. “I don’t want anything to do with this. I told him I never wanted to see him again and I meant it. I have to work extra shifts this week and I’m behind on my rent and-”
“Jenny, there is financial compensation for your time if you choose to participate.”
I say: “Whatever information your provide we can pay you for.”
“Yes,” I say.
“Well, that depends on the amount of information you can give us. Our goal is to get Joe back as a functioning tax-paying member of society.”
There is a brief pause. “Will I have to see him?”
“No,” I say.
“Can I think about it?” she asks.
“Sure,” I say. “But I’ll need an answer in the next 48 hours.”
A huff into the phone. “I need to think about if I want this kind of stuff in my life. I mean, I could use the money, but sometimes the money is not worth it…at least where Joe’s concerned.”
“Let me know your answer as soon as you can,” I say. “He’s not well and saying some pretty bizarre things.” I glance at the notes regarding Joe and say: “It’s like he’s from a parallel universe.”
There is a loud crash on the other end of the phone. I pull the earpiece away from my ear. Jenny’s voice comes onto the line.
“Sorry, I just dropped my phone.” Jenny says. We’re going to need to talk. My answer is yes.”
MOAR RULES AND MOAR RULES
FLIP RULE #7: Objects cannot pass between the U’s
It’s not for lack of trying, either. Due to the nature of FLIP RULE #3, anything you own must be forfeited. But Raymond told me of these Quantum Lockers that can store things. I have yet to find one. So, my missions in each U.
1. Fuck shit up.
2. Find a quantum locker.
3. Fuck moar shit up.
4. Break people’s hearts.
5. Get drunk.
6. Get laid.
7. Get drunk.
8. Pass to next U.
9. Quantum Locker…FIND IT!
A Call from Jenny
“Hello?” I am standing in the new corpus:Joe’s kitchen dripping wet. The ominous black phone has rung and I have it held to my ear.
Through the crackle of static, I hear a female voice. “Joe, it’s Jenny.”
“Hi,” I say, almost sort of pleased.
“Just calling to check on you,” she says with a somber note. “You were pretty messed up last night.”
“Yeah,” I said. “I feel like crap today.” I lied.
“Me too,” she says. “Listen, I think we need to talk. What time are you going to work today.”
“I’m not,” I say. “I called in sick.”
“Oh, you must be feeling pretty horrible,” she says. “You never call in sick.”
“It’s more that I have a ton of errands to run,” I say fidgeting. I need to get off this phone and onto what I need to do.
“I’m going to come over, then.” Jenny says.
“No, it’s not necessary,” I say.
“I’ll bring you something to eat.”
“I’m not hungry,” I lied.
“It’s my job to take care of you,” she said. “Or it’s gonna be.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, a growing horror in my gut.
“When we’re married, silly,” Jenny laughs into the phone. “Granted, you’re just my fiance, now. But I’ll still take care of you in sickness and in health.”
“Shit,” I say to myself. “This is bad.” I drop the black receiver. It hits the ground. I can hear Jenny say from the other end. “Joe? Are you okay? I’m coming over.”
“Shit,” I say again. “Raymond was right.”
FLIP RULE #4: Identify the break points.
A break point is that in which two parts separate.
Upon arriving in your new corpus, it helps to identify the people, events and objects that might keep you tethered in the U.
Jobs, leases, loans and other types of ownership including pets, and family heirlooms.
These objects/events/people/things are called “snares”.
The break point is that action, event or consequence that will set you free from the snare.
A good strategy is to take care of the easiest snares first like a job or a car.
Secondary snares such as a girlfriend/boyfriend or other type of relationship are more problematic and the sooner you can identify the break point in these relationships, the sooner you’ll be on your way.
+-3-MARIE VOICE LOG
I meet Jenny at where she works, a bar on the East Side called The Family Wash.
It used to be a laundromat.
I have brought Joe’s patient notes with me and also a note that was found in his pants pocket.
“Let’s be clear,” Jenny says as she sits down across from me at a table near the window, “I want nothing to do with him. I am just doing this for the money.” She casts a miserable glance at the bar where she undoubtedly spends so much of her life catering to drunkards.
And I am not judging, just being truthful.
I smile at her. “As Joe’s rehabilitation counselor, it’s my job to get him back to his status as a tax-paying member of society. Any help you can give in achieving that—for whatever reason—is appreciated.”
She smiles back at me. “What do I need to do—and when do I get paid?”
“Your check will arrive within thirty days,” I say.
She sighs deeply, her shoulders hunch.
“Is that alright?” I ask her.
She nods. “I’ll just try and keep my landlord at bay.”
“Jenny,” I say after she’s signed the necessary paperwork that she didn’t read.
No one ever reads it.
I say to her: “You said that you and Joe used to be good friends. When did you notice a change in him?”
“Well,” she says. “He’s always been weird and sort of off-kilter. He’s always had a…unique view of the world. He didn’t believe in owning things or having expensive tastes. He believed that things owned you and the less he had, the freer he felt.”
I shuffle through some of the notes in Joe’s file. “In the incident report,” I say, “the bartender remembers you saying ‘I’m sick of your self-sabotging’ to Joe. Would you elaborate on that?”
She looks towards the ceiling. “I remember Joe being extremely self-destructive. He couldn’t keep a job or a relationship or anything really lasting.”
“Forgive me,” I interrupt her. “You talk about him as if he’s dead.”
“He is to me,” she said matter-of-factly. “He had no right to ‘teach’ me how to live.”
I look at her curiously. “Can you elaborate on that?”
“Well, about a week ago he and I got real drunk over at A Good Yarn. And I was complaining about work and having to pay for my apartment and all the other stuff that goes along with it. And he tells me that he knows the secret to living a happy life. He quoted some Bible verse and it is so clear in my mind because it made sense at the time. He said ‘And if thy hand serve as a snare to thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having thy two hands to go away into hell, into the fire unquenchable.’”
I look at her for a brief moment and then say: “What did that mean do you?”
She looks at the table and then straightens the condiments in their caddy.
No doubt a nervous habit. “Well, I think he meant that if I hated my job, I should quit it. That if I hated my apartment, I should leave it. But I told him that I liked having a place to sleep and money to eat. And he just gave me a cold stare and said: ‘If you like these things, then quit bitching about the methods in which you use to attain them.’”
“Do you hate your job?” I ask her.
She looked around The Family Wash. “Yeah,” she says. “But what else are you gonna do? There’s bills to pay…I still owe my student loan for my useless degree.” She moves to straighten the condiments again, but realizes the futility of it. “I just feel sort of trapped.”
“What happened after that night? What did he do to make you hate him so much?”
“Well, that night he said he was going to do me a favor and that he needed the keys to my apartment. I was drunk and I kind of thought he was going to do something nice for me like clean or paint so I gave him my spare. And the next day while I was at work, I got a call from the landlord saying my apartment building was on fire. Joe said it was an accident but I knew he was lying and I called him on it. And I screamed at him because so much of my stuff was ruined and I had let my insurance lapse and the whole thing was so stupid.”
“And this was the breaking point for you?”
She looks around, “Yeah. I mean, it’s one thing if Joe wants to fuck up his life to remain free, it’s another to fuck up someone else’s life. I worked hard for my stuff…and despite the way I feel trapped sometimes, I’d like to keep it.” She fumbles nervously with her apron. “I mean we all hate our jobs, right?”
I look at her. “I love my job.” I sift through my briefcase to find a paper.
“Well,” said Jenny. “You’re in the minority, then. Most people I know hate their jobs.”
I find the paper I’m looking for and then place it on the table. “I have the opposite experience,” I say plainly. “Most people I know love their jobs, their homes and the lives they’ve built for themselves.”
Jenny looks around nervously as if she’d been caught in a trap. “You’re lucky.”
“Maybe,” I say to her with a fair amount of sympathy, “The conscious decision to do what you love, live where you want and be who you want has little to do with luck.”
I slide the paper over to her. “What’s this?” She asks.
“I’m going to recommend that you be the custodian of Joe when he’s released.”
“Custodian?” she asks. “You mean, take care of him? No! Absolutely not!”
I narrow my eyes at her. “After what you’ve said and given the evidence that I’ve collected, I can’t assume that he is mentally deficient in anyway. He has unique thoughts and opinions, but we don’t institutionalize people for that anymore. We don’t imprison people for being different.”
She flusters. “I don’t want him around me, anymore. Plus, I can’t afford to take care of myself much less Joe.” She runs a hand through her hair. “This is crazy.”
“Did I mention that you will receive a weekly stipend while he is in your care?”
Dollar signs in her eyes, she stands up. “Look, I won’t be manipulated into doing what I don’t want to do because of money.”
At this point I look around The Family Wash. “Aren’t you doing that already? Why are you working here if not for the money?”
She’s exasperated. “I don’t want him to be a part of my life anymore,” she says. “I can’t be clearer.”
I stand up and gather my belongings. “Just meet with him,” I say. “He’s been asking after you.”
She stares at the ground. “He has?”
“Yes,” I say. “Something has happened to him. He is completely disconnected from reality at this point. He’s looking at three options: incarceration for the next ninety days, lifelong institutionalization or being in your care until he’s able to return to society as a tax-paying citizen. It’s my job to find the most efficient and less-costly way of achieving the desired results.”
“I know Joe. He’ll die in prison,” she says matter-of-factly. “he’ll die in a hospital if he has to stay there the rest of his life.”
“You care about him.” I say. “Despite what he did.”
She sits down and puts her head in her hands. “I don’t know what to do.”
I pull my chair over to hers and sit down. “The stipend is generous given then nature of current healthcare costs.” I take her hand, and she lets me. “You wouldn’t have to work here.”
She looks around The Family Wash and I can read the expression in her face. “So, in effect, you’d be paying me to take care of him?”
“Not exactly,” I say. “In cases such as this, when the patient has completely disconnected from reality I’ve found incarcerating them or hospitalizing them only serves to delay their recovery and in fact helps keep them from reconnecting the reality as it is. I’ve been involved in cases like this before.”
She’s mulling it over, I can tell.
“You won’t be alone in this,” I say. “I’ve helped people before through this.”
“What if he’s dangerous or violent?” she asks. It’s a valid question.
“Right now he’s scared, alone and confused,” I say. “I suggest you come for a visit tomorrow. Seeing you might jar him back to this reality.”
“I don’t know,” she says looking around. “This is kind of all too much.”
“It’s my job to get him back as a tax-paying member of society,” I say as I stand up beside her. “It’s my recommendation that he come stay with you. It could be good for both of you.”
This is bad
“No,” I say to myself as I rifle through the new corpus:Joe’s closet. “This is bad.” Of course I’m talking about my predicament with Jenny being my fiance and it’s clear that I’ve arrived at my first outer ring.
It’s true that I’ve lost count as to how many times I’ve flipped but it can’t have reached the number required to jump to the outer ring.
Of course the weird layout of the computer keyboard should have clued me in.
The black landline phone should have been a tip-off as well.
But Jenny as my fiance is bad for a few reasons and immediately I think back to what Raymond said and what he had warned me about.
A few flips ago…or a hundred…shit who can keep track? And a quick flash in my mind to Raymond.
I was at some bar downtown. It was… I don’t know how many U’s ago. Had to be over a hundred. I was sitting alone and this old guy just sits beside me and starts talking.
“How long you been flippin’?” he asks.
I turn to him. He’s at least 60-something and speaks with a slight Southern drawl. He’s got thick black-framed glasses and he’s dressed like he’s much younger than what he is…as was the fashion for older people in that particular U. He’s wearing a trucker’s hat.
There are pins on the top of it.
More about that later.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I say and turn back to my fresh Jager Bomb.
“Don’t bullshit me, boy,” He leans in close. “You’re fuzzy,” he says as he waves a hand in front of my face. And then he whispers, “I know what you are and I’m one too.”
I regard him warily.
Up until this point, I thought I was the only one who possessed this particular talent.
He looks right through me and suddenly I’m scared.
“Let me buy you a drink,” he says and tries to catch the bartender’s attention.
I watch his hand move weirdly. It reminds me of a fluttering bird caught in a trap.
Without a word, the bartender brings me a Jager Bomb.
I look at him with a faint sense of wonderment.
“How’d you do that?” I ask.
“I’ve gained some…skills in my travels,” he laughs. “So where you headed?”
“You don’t want a drink?” I ask him.
“Shit boy, I been doing this too long,” he says. “I don’t need to be so loose,” and he leans in again and whispers. “To be untethered.”
The way he whispers enchants me.
I take a sip of my Jager Bomb.
The one he got for me remains untouched.
I could double-fist them but don’t want to get too drunk too soon.
“I asked where you headed?” He leans back on his barstool. “Or do you even know?”
I fumble with the shot glass.
“Look boy, I’m not gonna hurt you or nothin’ I just wanna help you.”
“I don’t need your help,” I say. But that was a lie.
I had a million questions for him.
“You gonna know what to do if you get stuck?” he asks. “It can happen, you know. It’s happened to me dozens of times and years can go by. Some of the snares can be pretty sticky.”
“Snares?” I ask.
“The stuff that keeps you in your place,” He offers out a hand. “The name’s Raymond. You?”
“Joe,” I say taking his hand and shaking it.
I was never a good handshaker and I could see the judgment in his eyes.
“You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing, do you?”
“No,” I finally admit and was relieved that I had relented.
It’s kind of exhausting to pretend to be a bad ass all the time.
“Snares,” Raymond says with a fair amount of grizzled authority, “can be a bitch. Back before we were so industrialized, they had a name for us. They called us Flip Witches.”
“Flip Witches?” I laugh. “Who is ‘they’?”
“Well I wasn’t around then,” he laughs. “I’m not that old. I’m talking about like thousands of years ago. Before there was so much shit to trap us. Used to, people could travel between the realities pretty freely, from what I understand.”
“Who told you this?”
“Other Flip Witches. It’s been passed down from the older ones. It’s not like there’s a written history of Flipping.”
“Maybe there should be,” I said.
He points a finger at me. “Don’t you go getting no ideas. This kind of stuff shouldn’t be known to just anyone.”
“How did you do it?” I ask. “Your first flip?”
He looks contemplative for a moment. “Shit, I don’t remember.” And then he laughs. “You?”
“I was in a car accident,” I say.
“Ouch,” he says. “Yeah, that’ll do it.”
There was more to it than that, but I didn’t feel like getting into it. Not with him.
“Ever wonder what happened to him?” Raymond asked me.
“Him?” I ask.
“Your old corpus. Your old body,” He grins. “The old version of you.”
Up until this point, I hadn’t really given much thought about what happened to the consciousness I was replacing.
I just thought I had slid into a new version of my life.
“That’s what they call it, the corpus.” He fumbles with his watch looking at it, maybe for the first time. He seems kind of amused by it. “Did they have those slide puzzles where you came from? You know where you gotta move the squares around?”
“Yeah,” I never really liked them. They were sort of maddening to me. There was no reward to solving them and you always knew what the picture was going to be. “What do those puzzles have to do with what happened to my old body?”
“Corpus,” Raymond corrected me. “Some other version of your consciousness just slid into your old body.” He pauses for a second. “I’m going to give you some advice on how to get to the outer edges. That is, if you want to go.”
I look to him. “I’m not sure how much I want to know.”
He laughed at me. “The outer edges are different for everyone. The U I originated in looks way different than where I am now.” He looks around the bar. “Wearing clothes is still odd to me.” He looks down at his shirt.
I took a sip of my Jager Bomb. “Okay, I want to know more.”
“Oh do ya?” He laughed.
“I want to know everything,” I said.
“Well then,” Raymond said fluttering his hand. “Let’s get some more drinks. I’ve got all night.”
“Joe?” Jenny calls out to me.
I am still in the bedroom trying to find something to wear. I’ve at least put on some underwear type-things and some socks.
Everything in the closet seems weird.
Fashion in this universe seems to be skewed older.
Everything looks buttoned up, almost Victorian-era.
“I’m getting dressed,” I call out.
I hear her enter the room and I turn around and I can’t quite believe what I’m seeing.
But she’s fat.
Not just fat, but obese.
In her hand she hold a canvas sack with a big script M embroidered on it.
“I brought some MacDonald’s,” she says casually. “They are making MacLoins again so I got us a couple. You like MacLoins, right?”
I stand there with my mouth open.
She walks over to me. “I am out of fry points for the month, stupid quota.” She leans in to kiss me on the cheek but I pull away.
She is SO FUCKING FAT.
She gives me an odd look. “What’s wrong, babe?”
“You’re fat,” I say, almost not even realizing it.
She looks confused and slightly embarrassed. “Well, I know that Joe. I lost a pound last week, geez. You don’t have to be mean.”
All I can do it stand there.
The smell of the food is horrible.
Jenny looks terrible.
Her skin is taut, she’s wearing too much make-up and her Victorian-style blouse makes her look like a frilly wedding cake that’s been left out in the rain.
Her long hair is piled on top of her head in a bun making her look like too buttoned-up…and way too fat.
The sight and smell of her makes me want to vomit.
“Joe,” she says. “What on Earth is wrong with you?”
“I think I’m going to pass out,” I say. And before I can say anything else, I find myself falling to the ground.
I GOT YOUR NUMBER
I am being wheeled into Marie’s office from my hospital room where they have been keeping me for the past few days.
Today is the day Jenny is finally coming for a visit.
I am excited, but a bit nervous due to the inconsistencies in my memory.
Marie has told me to just keep believing the things I believe until I see or hear evidence to the contrary.
They’ve kept me in a kind of bubble and haven’t told me too much about my situation and after my first day of talking to Marie, I’ve remained pretty much silent.
I keep turning things over in my head. If I have gone crazy, then I must be so far gone that I don’t even realize it.
I am still restrained in the wheelchair with leather cuffs binding my wrists and ankles.
I am wearing an odd hospital gown made of a too-soft material that’s clearly synthetic in nature.
Marie enters her office. “Good morning, Joe.”
“Good morning,” I say.
She takes a seat at her desk and looks at me. “Are you ready?”
“What’s going to happen?” I ask. “When Jenny gets here.”
Marie looks contemplative. “Well, that depends on how your interaction goes,” she said.
I look to my hands. “I feel like I haven’t seen her in weeks. I am so excited.” I smile.
Marie smiles back and says: “That’s the first time I’ve seen you smile.”
The phone on her desk rings and she picks it up and identifies herself.
After a brief pause, she says, “Thank you.” And then she looks to me. “She’s here.”
Suddenly there’s a pit in my stomach and I almost don’t want to see her.
“Are you okay,” Marie asks me.
“Yes,” I say quietly. “I’m just nervous. I don’t want her to see me like this.” I look down at my restraints.
“I’m sorry Joe, it’s a necessary precaution.” She stands up and walks over to me. “No matter what happens, Joe. You’re going to be okay.” She puts a hand on my shoulder. “Do you understand that? I’m going to help you through this.”
And I suddenly feel like crying. I trust her. “I understand,” I say.
I wake up. I look to the ceiling above me. I sit up suddenly taking in a sharp breath.
“Oh my gosh,” I hear Fat Jenny say. I see her come into the bedroom.
She doesn’t really walk, she just sort of ambles. “I thought I was going to have to call the minister to come give you last rites.” She comes to the bed and sits down on the side of it. The mattress groans under her weight. “You okay?” she asks me.
“No,” I say putting my head in my hands.
“It’s your drinking,” she says. “You need to quit all that before it kills you.”
I glance at her and then at her hands which appeared to be covered by blood…or barbecue sauce. She notices me looking at her hands.
“I ate your MacLoin, sorry.”
I gag a little. “I didn’t want it anyway.” I say.
And then I fall back onto the bed and pull the covers up to my chin.
“I can go get you another one, but I used up my quota today,” she says. “Unless you want to let me use your card again.” She looks at me hopeful.
“The CAP card!” she looks annoyed…and hungry.
I put my hands on my forehead. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“The Calorie Allotment Program,” she says. “Jeez have you lost your mind?” She stands up beside the bed. “So give me your card and I will go get you whatever you want,” she puts out her fat hand.
“I’m not hungry,” I say. I can still smell the “Comely Nights” on me.
“Well then,” she says. “I’m just gonna take care of these then.” She produces a couple of cards from within her shirt.
“What are those?”
“Our ALCOP cards.”
I give her a questioning look.
“Alcohol Consumption Protocol cards.”
And then I instinctively know what that is.
If the government restricts food, then it would also restricts alcohol consumption.
She stands up from the bed and it springs upwards. “I’m just going to cut these up.”
“No!” I scream.
She puts her hands on her hips. “You are acting so weird. Tell you what, how about you get dressed and we go get something to eat…and a drink.” She leans forward, the fat in her face moving along with her.
“I’m going to need more than just a drink,” I say wiping a hand across my brow. “A dozen would be better.”
“Silly, we can only get one per hour.” She waves the cards. “Two, if you use mine.” She leans in and kisses me on the cheek leaving a smear of barbecue sauce.
“Jenny!?” I scream and move violently against the restraints.
I look to Marie who is standing in the doorway.
Jenny looks terrified so I pull it together long enough to mutter the words: “You got skinny.” And tears come. “How long have I been gone? HOW LONG HAVE I BEEN GONE!!??” I want to put my hands to my eyes but I can’t.
Jenny looks to Marie and Marie nods.
“Joe,” she says not looking at me. “I’ve always been skinny.”
I shut my eyes.
For a long time.
When I open them, they are gone.
Jenny is gone.
Marie is gone.
I am whimpering.
I look around the room. I am so tired of being here.
The Outer Rings
“You’re just beginning, boy,” Raymond says.
I am so fucking drunk.
I can barely see.
We’ve been at the bar all night.
They are closing it down.
I feel like taking my clothes off.
“Get naked if you want,” Raymond says. “And I will give you this gift that I don’t give just anybody.”
He leans in close.
“If you ever get in a place you can’t get out of. I am going to give you the name of the ‘game-master’ if you will.”
I am laughing.
“I am going to whisper it in your ear. But be warned. You never know where you’ll end up. It’s for him to decide.”
He whispers it into my ear.
I look at him. “That’s a weird name,” I say. “What the hell’s an Oxopoy?”
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