Author : Bob Newbell

I raise my hand and wave to get Scott’s attention as he walks into the restaurant. He comes over and joins me in the booth. He gestures at my drink.

“Is that whiskey? Never seen you drink anything stronger than red wine. Something up?”

“Yeah. Remember a couple of weeks back when you, me, Angela, and Kim had dinner? You mentioned you’d grown up in Warren, Michigan on a street called ‘Loretta Drive’ and Angela corrected you and said it was ‘Loretta Avenue’?”

“I remember,” says Scott. “I got out my phone and googled it. Angela was right. It was ‘Avenue,’ not ‘Drive’.”

“But you’d been so certain. I mean, it’s where you grew up. How could you have been wrong about something that basic?”

“I don’t know. But I was. Look, Tim, what’s this about?”

I finish my drink. The waiter takes a drink order from Scott and I order another drink for myself.

“I’ve been noticing some similar things since we got back,” I say. “Subtle things. A picture of me as a teenager wearing a shirt I have no recall of ever having. The water faucet on the back of my house being about a foot to the left of where I remember it. That sort of thing.”

The waiter brings our drinks. Scott consumes half of his with one swallow.

“So what are you suggesting?” Scott asks. “Do you think traveling through hyperspace did something to our memories? They checked us out really thoroughly after we got back and gave us both a clean bill of health. They even did full-body medical scans on both of us.”

“You’ve seen the surgical scar Kim has where she had her gallbladder out?”

“Yeah, when she wears a bikini. Not that I was checking out your wife or anything,” Scott says with a smile.

“The scar’s gone. She says she’s never had gallbladder surgery.”

Scott finishes his drink with a gulp and stares at me.

“Scott, this morning I spent two-and-a-half hours in a meeting with the administrator of NASA and a bunch of higher-ups trying to explain some discrepancies. Among other things, they wanted to know how the software for the ship got upgraded to a version that they’re just now completing.”

“What?! Tim, how is all this possible? We thrusted out to the orbit of Mars, completed a hyperspace jump one light-year away, stayed in the Oort Cloud for 30 minutes while the jump engines charged back up, then jumped back to Mars’ orbit. And we came right back to Earth.”

“Scott, the prevailing theory at NASA is that we’re from a parallel universe. This universe and the one we came from are nearly identical, but not exactly. So the street you grew up on and the clothes I had as a teenager and the women we married…”

“Okay, do the geniuses at NASA have a plan to get us back where we belong? Do we jump again? Are our counterparts from this universe in the world we’re supposed to be in?”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple. They think that every trip through hyperspace lands you in an alternate universe. We landed in a different world when were came out in the Oort Cloud. And in yet another world when we jumped back. They think it’s statistically impossible to ever jump to the same world twice.”

“So we’re trapped?”

“Yeah. And it also means you can’t use FTL to explore the universe. Not the same universe, anyway.”

The waiter returns. “Would you like any more Zack Daniel’s whiskey?” he asks.

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