ORIGINAL FICTION: "If 9 Was 6" by Richard Anderson

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The boy ran with all his might, the terror he felt giving him fuel to go on. Looking back he couldn’t see the wyvern that had apparently decided he looked like a good lunch; but not far off in the wood he heard its high pitched shriek. Trying to increase his speed, he stumbled over his own feet and a loud cry passed clenched teeth.

Turning over on to his back, he expected to see his death in the form of a flying reptile. The sky was clear and in fact the very woods he had been running through just a moment ago were gone. He lay in a large football field that had a public library at one end and a city rec center at the other.

A passing police officer walking his beat came running up to him He had seen the boy crying and running in terror. After lifting the boy to his feet and calming him the policeman was treated to the most fantastic story he had ever heard in his life. After a few minutes trying to get useful information from the boy the policeman walked him to Public School 11 which was just a few blocks away in the direction the boy had evidently come from.

At the school the officer found a frantic kindergarten teacher who was organizing a search for the child. The policemen learned his name was Roger and, after telling the teacher the tale of a forest and a wyvern, he was assured that the child would be taken care of. This started what for Roger would be years of psychological therapy that just increased the misery of his childhood.

#

Roger fidgeted in line as he waited for his morning coffee. It was a minor annoyance that Starbucks was crowded at this early hour; that just added to the other annoyances that had started his day. Once he opened his eyes Roger knew it was doing to be an uncomfortable one.

Light switches seemed inches from where he reached for them, his clothes seemed to not fit quite right and his car’s seat need adjustment so he could drive in comfort. He hated days where everything felt wrong. He had been having more of these of late and prayed that it did not mean he was going to have another attack.

“Hi! Your usual?” said the counter girl.

“Yeah, sure.” Answered Roger. He was distracted because the girl - already his favorite at this store - seemed a little taller, a little prettier and her hair was a little blonder than he remembered.

As Roger walked out of the store he sipped his drink and swore under his breath. His usual was a regular coffee, black, not this vanilla latte crap he was given. He started to turn and go back, then decided to hell with it. Roger - like he’d always done in the past - just gave up fighting the world and just started to roll with it.

From as far back as he could remember Roger at times felt the world was not quite right. Little things would be out of place or people were a little different. At its worst he would see things other people did not see and experience things that other people insisted could not have happened. As he grew older, he learned not to tell people what he saw, did or felt. He spent years in therapy and ended up with a prescribed bag full of antipsychotics that he never bothered to take. He didn’t know what was happening to him but he was sure he wasn’t crazy.

The rest of the day seemed alright, with no major upsets. It was not till he has almost home that things really went out of whack. Roger found himself in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Instead of rows of apartment complexes, his street had suburban ranch style homes with well-kept green lawns. It was something out of a nineteen fifties fantasy of American life.
Roger stopped to orient himself and found that the home across from him had his apartment number on it. He parked his car and got out. Slowly walking up to the door he was stopped short when it suddenly opened.

Stepping out of the door was a tall stunning blond with long hair dressed in demure shorts, sandals and a top that was both modest and sexy.

“Your home early; everything all right?” The blond asked in a voice like his mother had when she questioned his dad, when the old man came home grumpy.

“Yea sure the traffic was light today.” Roger said to cover his total confusion.

“Don’t stand there, come in. Want a beer honey?” the blond ducked back into the house and Roger followed.

Roger found himself in a large tastefully furnished living room with a state of the art plasma television on the wall. Looking around he saw pictures with himself and the blond - whom his mind named Betty - in various places and poses. There was even one of them which had to be a wedding picture. Roger experimentally said her name aloud as he looked at the wedding picture.

“Yes what is it dear?” said Betty as she gave him a cold beer bottle.

“Nothing I just feel a little spacey today.”

“Oh please do not be in one of your moods today I wanted to just relax with you tonight.” Betty pouted at her husband.

“I’m just a little whacked from work.” Roger had decided to just roll with the situation.

“I spoke with Jill Morrison today she said you guys at the plant are catching hell from the government about the project.”

“Bob Morrison needs to zip it especially to his chatty wife.” Roger said, with unexpected venom the source of which was a mystery.

“Well don’t worry about it tonight. You’re early, so diner will be a while why don’t you relax and see if there’s a ball game or something on TV.”

The diner came an hour later and was an excellent light meal of fresh green salad and little strips of salmon grilled with lemon and butter. Betty chatted about mundane housewife things as they ate. Roger gave what he hoped were appropriate responses in her infrequent pauses.

After diner they sat together on the couch drinking wine and watched TV shows that he only dimly remembered. As the night wore on, Betty came closer and closer until they were in full cuddle mode.

At about ten in the evening they went to their large master bedroom with, a king sized four post bed and made love before each dropped off to sleep. Roger was content but as he drifted off a part of him asked if this was real.

#

Sometime in the night Roger rolled over and felt he was alone. This snapped him awake with a racing anxiety. He nearly broke the bedside lamp trying to get it on.

Once lit, Roger could see that he was not in the large master bedroom of a suburban home. Against one wall was a dresser cluttered with prescription pill bottles. The bed that he just jumped out of was a run of the mill twin, not the grand four poster of the night before.

Moving into the main room Roger saw it was decorated in early American bachelor with mismatched furniture and posters on the walls like one would find in most male dorm rooms.

He groaned as he realized that he was back in the life where he was mildly mentally ill. He thought that he must have had a major attack, something he likened to an epileptic seizure but, instead of losing control of ones body he lost control of reality.

He remembered that this had happened all his life. When he was young he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. As he got older he stopped telling his parents and doctors about what was happening to him. They finally believed that he had grown out of the disease, which sometimes happens.

In fact what he termed ‘his attacks’ had lessened in frequency, but never had really stopped. This last event was the worst he had experienced in years. The hours spent with Betty were so vivid that he knew that they were real but he could not understand how or why it could be.

He sat in his broken La-Z-Boy and closed his eyes and felt the world drop out from under him.

#

“El Tee, you with us?” Someone said into Roger’s ear as he felt somebody shaking him.

Roger looked around and in the dim light of a crescent moon he saw he was in a ditch with a group of men, one of which was speaking to him. In the distance he could see flashes and hear the thud of artillery.

“I’m here what’s up.”
“Captain Morrison wants us to move up and place a mortar team on the ridge up ahead.” Said a Sergeant that was a few years past retirement age.

Roger looked out from his position in the ditch at the end of a former wheat field that now was blasted from weeks of artillery and mortar fire. About two hundred meters in front of Roger was a low ridge that passed for high ground in this part of the American plains.

Roger felt disorientated he seemed to remember being in his apartment and before that with his wife Betty. The thought of her made Roger to instinctually move his hand to his breast pocket and removed a picture of a tall pretty blond in a sun dress.

“Lieutenant, the Captain said to move out.” Roger replaced the picture of Betty and gave orders to what he knew was his weapons platoon in the Free States Army fighting what was left of the federal government here in West Texas.

Roger led his men out into the field heading for the ridge when the sky seemed to be ripped open by a rushing freight train.
“In coming!” screamed someone a second before there was a bright flash then darkness.

#

Roger opened his eyes with a start and found that he was now lying on a hospital bed. At the end of the bed was Betty her blond hair now cut short in a business style.

“Welcome back Sergeant.”

“Betty, what is happening?” Roger said half sitting up in the bed, and seeing the room for the first time. The room was a standard single room with a window through which could be seen a desert landscape with mountains in the distance.

“Relax Sergeant Andrews you are safe now.”

Before he could say anything else an older man with graying hair entered the room. He was a hands breath shorter than Betty and had a pinched look to his face.

“I see our wanderer has returned. How are you feeling son?”

“Bob, what the hell is happening? Please tell me!” Roger’s voice was rising in pitch as he spoke.

“Now relax Roger your memory will return with time, but to help I will tell you.” Bob Morrison tried to smile at Roger and continued.

“You are Sergeant Roger Andrews, USAF, and we are at a base in central Nevada. You are assigned to the security team for Project Looking Glass.”

“And what is Looking Glass?”

“That is classified but let’s just say it had an effect on the space-time continuum and you got caught up in its backwash.”

“What the hell does that mean?”

“Well you have become unstuck in what you would call reality and you are slipping into different worlds where you are the same person but in different circumstances.” Added Betty as she reached out and placed a hand on Rogers arm.

“Which world is my reality?”

“All of them in a sense, but as far as we can tell it started when we ran a test a few weeks ago.” Morrison explained without looking at Roger.

“Can you fix it?” Roger tried to say in a calm voice that he did not quite pull off.

“Maybe we have a plan but it has risks.”

#

Project Looking Glass was housed in the desert east of where America once tested nuclear weapons. From the outside it was just another concrete bunker that dotted this part of Nevada. Inside it looked like Tesla and Edison had a contest to see who could build the biggest electrical device. The air was heavy with ozone and the smell of burned isolation.

Bob and Betty guided Roger through the maze of wires, breakers and what looked like huge electrical Ferris Wheels to the center of the machine. They directed Roger into a large chair made of tubular metal bars and what looked like rubber straps.

“Sit there Roger and with luck we will be able to lock you into a reality.”

“Which one?” Bob and Betty looked at each other for a second then looked away busying themselves with adjusting the chair.

“So you don’t know. Fine. Just get it over with.” Said Roger while in his heart he hoped to be sent to the world where he and Betty were married.

Bob and Betty left Roger in the chair and after a few minutes he could feel an electrical charge build up all around him. Through the building noise of electric arcing he could hear Bob Morrison counting backwards.

When the count hit zero there as a loud crash and a bright flash that blinded Roger. Blinking his eyes blinded by after images Roger looked around and thought he saw a dim shape.

“Roger is that you?” The voice of Betty sounded as the universe came into focus.

End

Copyright 2011, Richard Anderson

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