Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

It all started when Amelia and I were sat in the deserted faculty restaurant at 3AM. In reply to a piece of silliness that had being going on all day, I said: “What if the dream goes sideways?”

The silence of mutual epiphany descended and we dropped our cans to race back to the lab.

It’s been twenty-eight years since then. The ‘dream going sideways’ effect has become the Pardell-Surrensson Theory of Multiplanar Interaction, and we are famous, or infamous, depending on who you ask. If a dream is not your mind organising the events of the day, but is actually your mind peeking into one or more alternate realities, then the subconscious has a reach far greater than anyone thought. If one considers the placebo effect, one might get a glimmer. But when one realises that past-life remembering is ‘forced’ interplanar viewing, then reincarnation becomes a dirty word – or an appealing religious alternative: as the soul goes from reality to reality, living a new life in each. Of course, there are those who choose to interpret multiple realities as many hells on the way to one heaven, but I secretly sympathise with those who believe that the mutated concept of Karma – popular in early twenty-first century western social media – is finally vindicated; live a life as a bad person, come back as a slug on a world of salt…

Amelia Pardell has been asleep for twenty-six years, hibernated at near-zero to slow the spread of the ferocious cancer that was travelling up her spine toward her brilliant brain. Today is the day I have to decide whether to let my partner die, as she has reached the boundaries of conceivable cryonic retrieval. It’s 3AM. I’m sitting in the deserted faculty restaurant, sipping a can of the same brand that we dropped all those years ago, torn between swearing and crying.

There’s the ‘crakk-tsssh’ of a can opening and a familiar voice says: “Let me go. I’ve not been here for ages.”

I drop my can and leap away from the voice, spinning round and staggering backwards as I recognise her.

She smiles: “Sleep deeply enough and you can ‘wake up’ in an alternate. We’re not sure of the exact rules over that govern it, but we’ll be coming to ask for your help as soon as we’ve stabilised the reverse bridge.”

Stepping closer as my body refuses to do anything but shake, she raises a hand to my cropped grey hair: “It suits you. I can’t wait to introduce you to everyone who’s put up with my drunken ramblings about my Professor from another world.”

She stands on tiptoe to plant a kiss I never expected to receive on lips that can only ache as hers withdraw; then she is gone.

I notice that the can from the vending machine went with her and smile in the knowledge that we won’t be apart for much longer.

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