23: Short Trips (part 2)

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23.4 Pockets

Alternate Everywhere: 20 May 2128

Rick gasped, unable to comprehend where he was. Up and down no longer existed, and his stomach threatened to protest violently. He was both spinning head over heels whilst simultaneously not moving an inch. His hands reached out to grip something, anything, but there was nothing to hold onto. Similarly, his eyes found nothing upon which to focus, the grey fog that surrounded him was both inches from his eyes and miles away.

He forced himself to calm down and to probe his surroundings with any sense that still felt as if it had meaning.

"How am I breathing?" he thought, the panic momentarily rising again. But it was abundantly clear that he was not suffocating in a vacuum. "So, where am I?" It was like being in a sensory deprivation tank, something many of the NewGen would do once in a while. However, this tank was as large as... well, it felt like an entire universe.

He shut his eyes against the greyness, folded his arms around his body and let himself drift, not trying to fight the sensations.

Slowly, he began to make sense of everything. The evenly spread fog was punctuated in places by five enormous shapes, each of them lined up separately leading away from where he currently hung suspended. Observed by other senses, they appeared to be occupying exactly the same space.

"Hah," he shouted, as a moment of realisation condensed the shapes into five worlds. And that realisation generated a picture of the worlds resting like snooker balls in pockets in a line, each one not quite in the real universe. But neither was he – he was in his own pocket.

He opened his eyes and could now see through the grey. Whether or not he was seeing in the pure visual sense was irrelevant – he could now perceive the five worlds distinctly. And they were far from calm.

Each one exhibited fluctuations and turmoil. While his own pocket felt at rest, the others containing the variations of the Earth were edging closer together, the minuscule creepage would eventually join them back together. How long?

Five days, the answer came. Rick was unsure whether he had calculated that himself or if the information had been generated via some external source.

But in five days all these worlds would be one.

"How is that going to work out?" he murmured.

Unknown.

"Who said that?"

Unknown/known.

"Who are you?"

Rick.

"Me? Why me?"

This time there was no answer. Rick felt spooked. Had his mind, working on another level, provided the answers? He had no idea.

"First sign of madness..." he muttered, leaving the rest unsaid.

He tried to contemplate the recombination of the worlds again. He could draw no definite conclusions.

"Could get a pretty messy," he said, after a while and looked closer.

He observed how world 'one' was straining to align itself with 'two'. As he watched, a volcano erupted in Iceland and a tremor hit New Zealand. But 'two' not only experienced similar events in the same locations, being bombarded from both sides it was simultaneously sharing an earthquake with 'three'.

He realised he was further along the line of pockets than world 'one' was from reality. So, he was closer to the source of whatever he could now tap into. He sensed that world 'one' had once been as far as here when they had first been split up. The closer it crept back towards normal space the further from the source it became. Well, that accounted for the reduction in the abilities of those who lived there.

But, why wasn't it affecting him? Maybe everyone else was tethered to their world. He felt he was tied to none of them in particular. Those on 'one' could only tap into the level at which their world stood while he felt he could walk from one to another at will and, at the same time, be in contact with all of them simultaneously.

"I need to see them properly," he told himself.


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