So, I’m back. (Whether I’m also better than ever, I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader.) I’ve decided to use my return to do one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges. The challenge this time was to pick a sentence and use it as the opening sentence to a story. I won’t tell you what I picked, as it’s the first sentence of my story (duh), but I will give you a link to the challenge, here. The story is after the break.
The clock strikes 12:17 and all I can think is I should have called tails. Nothing really feels different. The clock “striking” 12:17 is kind of odd, especially since it was 12:00 sharp when the coin was flipped. Has everything really changed? I never really wanted to move to a different universe, but it sounded so cool. The idea that I could go to an alternate reality with just the flip of a coin had me reeling. So, it was flipped, I called heads, and when it came up heads, it’s all of a sudden 12:17 and the clock is still chiming.
The absurdity of this whole situation is just too much. I pick up the coin and look around the room that just moments ago held somebody else, but now holds only me. Who was that guy? I’m having trouble remembering his face. He said he was a god of fortune or something. I didn’t believe him, of course. I’m not stupid. Maybe he was.
I look down at the coin in my hand, a penny. A god or not, that guy sure was a cheapskate. I look down at its shiny, copper surface. The face on the heads side isn’t the familiar side-view of Abraham Lincoln. It’s somebody I don’t recognize, long hair, a line across his cheek that could be a scar. I pocket the penny. Money’s money, no matter what reality you’re in, right? Faintly, I wonder if all my money has changed, but not really enough to actually go through the effort of checking.
The gravity of my situation hasn’t really hit me yet, but I begin to think about it as I walk across the rough, wood floor of the room toward the only door. Was this floor always made of wood? Maybe more has changed than I had thought. I’m beginning to realize what being in an alternate reality means. I may never get to go home again. I realize that there is technically no “home” for me to go to in this universe. That even if there was something resembling my home here, it would already be occupied. An alternate version of me, similar to me, but not quite me would surly be already living anywhere I could call “home” in this reality.
My eyes go wide as I watch the door transform in front of me. Not physically, of course. It stands there just as starkly as it has the whole time. Instead, it transforms metaphorically, from a symbol of freedom and adventure, to one of entrapment and abject horror, reminding me exactly how little I matter. In this reality, “I” don’t exist in the way I know myself. Nobody here has ever met “me” and nobody cares. I feel more alone than I’ve ever felt before. To know that literally nobody has ever met you before is a humbling feeling, and I haven’t even set foot outside my little room yet.
I decide to go through the door anyway. I’m in this other universe whether I leave my room or not, plus, my companion has disappeared, so, I don’t really have much anything else to do. I throw open the door and the hallway is exactly the same as it was before. A few, small things are different. The carpet is lime-green instead of the understated gray it was before, the walls are a couple of shades darker and every picture on the wall is of people I’ve never seen before. So, maybe it isn’t quite the same as before.
I need to find the guy who sent me here. What was his name? I get the feeling it started with an “L”, but I can’t be sure about that. For some reason I can’t seem to remember a single thing about him. What was he supposedly the god of again? I don’t know, but one thing is for sure, he can send me back home. I need to find him.
I walk down the long, empty hallway, looking at each of the pictures. The entire time I’m in this hallway, I feel a mounting fear. What if I find someone at the end? What if I don’t. I can’t decide which option would be worse, but I continue anyway. What else am I going to do?
It takes me no time at all to reach the end. It is still a house, after all, and laid out exactly the same as the one I started in. At the end of the hallway is an entertainment room. This one is much different than the one I knew. The carpet is gone altogether here, replaced by the same rough wood from the first room. The pool table is gone, replaced by a marble-topped bar. An improvement, I’d say. There is a sofa and two chairs, all three made of what looks like red leather. In front is a large TV playing a show that looks vaguely familiar, but I can’t place it.
In one of the red leather chairs is a man I’ve never seen but instantly recognize. He is leaned back with a slice of what is most likely pizza in his hand. He doesn’t look godlike. In fact, he looks like a bit of a slob. I approach him.
“You,” I say when I am a few feet from him.
He turns. “Oh, hey buddy. What’s up? Wanna slice?” He offers a slice of the “pizza”. It has purple squares on it. I wasn’t really hungry before, but I’m certainly not now. I shake my head disapprovingly. He shrugs. “Whatever, more for me.”
I’m pissed. How can he be so casual about all this? “You brought be here,” I say. I really hope he gets the hint.
He doesn’t. “Sure did,” he says around a slice of purple-square-pizza.
I can feel my blood pressure rising. “Could you send me back?” I ask him as politely as I can.
“Sorry Chief. No can do.” He’s not really paying attention to me.
I slam my hands down. “What do you mean, ‘no can do?’” Maybe he’ll take me seriously now.
He sits up and puts his pizza on the coffee table. “Listen, you asked me to do this, right?” I nod. “Well, I did it for you. What’s the problem?”
I try to stay calm. I fail. “So you expect me to just live here where I don’t know anybody?” I ask, barely able to keep myself from slapping the god in front of me.
“Woah there buddy,” he says, a little smirk on his face. “Who said anything about ‘other people?”
I immediately stop what I was going to stay. My mouth works silently for a few seconds. I run to the nearest window and look through the curtain. An empty street is my only view. “I’m the only person here?” I whisper.
He leans back in his chair and picks his pizza back up. “Looks that way.”
I grab his shoulders in a panic. “You have to send me back!” I yell in his face.
“Wow, you’re not too bright,” he says, pulling my hands off his shoulders. “I told you, I can’t send you back. Don’t you remember the deal?” I nod my head. “Oh you do? You remember telling me how awesome it would be to live in a world where you wouldn’t have to fight with anybody ever again? And I made you the deal if you called my coin-flip right I’d send you there? You really remember that?” My head is nodding slower. “Well, here you are,” he says, throwing his arms wide, slinging cheese and purple squares across the room. “It’s not my fault you didn’t think it through first.”
My anger is returning, bit by bit. “How was I supposed to know it was real?” I ask.
“I told you who I was didn’t I?”
“And I was just supposed to believe you were some sort of god?”
“Well, you know now,” he responds, as unflappable as before.
I turn toward the front door. I can’t deal with his smugness any more. I throw open the door to the blinding sunlight.
“Later buddy,” the insufferable god behind me calls.
It’s been over a year since I last saw the prick god. He used to come by and taunt me every now and then, but he must have gotten bored. He was right, of course. There’s not a single other person in the whole world. It’s maddening, but I’ve gotten used to it.
The clock strikes 12:17 and I pull that old penny out of my pocket, more out of habit than anything. I listen to the clock chiming while rubbing the penny between my fingers and think, not for the first time, how I should have called tails.