Author : Ken Carlson

Parallel universes can be tricky. They create confusion, fear, and a false sense of hope.

So when I informed Nelson, my best friend from our original lives in Manhattan that I intended to destroy the portal between our universe and the other, as well as a good chunk the other’s New York, I should not have been surprised by his reaction.

“Have you gone mad, Brian, or simply cruel!” Nelson yelled at me, shaking his finger up at my face, as his face turned red.

“Calm in the eye of the storm, Nelson,” I said. “You’re here in this world now. Here is where you belong. Whatever happens back there is no concern of yours.”

I had been Nelson’s guide to this Manhattan. As liaison between the universes, my job was to negotiate and protect the path that connected them. I simply led Nelson to a subway stop at 1st Ave and 23rd Street, the H train on the Pink Line. Nelson, a fairly nebbish fellow at heart trusted me and I made the offer to pay for dinner after a long day of working together at Obligatory Mutual Insurance, he came along. At the appropriate stop, I gave him a gentle nudge, stranding him in our other world.

To the casual observer, our two worlds are fairly similar, but this Manhattan made the choice to save itself from a horrendous deadly future. Its technology was decades ahead of Nelson’s world, but you wouldn’t know it because many breakthrough items had become illegal.

Cell phones and personal computers had become a menace to the inhabitants many years ago. Socially, it created a generation of paranoid introverts. Politically it was a hazard as systems could be easily hacked and barriers to protect online fortunes, credit reports, environmental controls, and, most importantly, weapons, were frequently breached.

Violent skirmishes broke out world wide, started and completed before the average person on the street could be bothered to take a moment to silence his or her phone. As nations crumbled, the most powerful in charge took notice. They finally agreed on a new method—Return to a time when cell phones and its technology were never invented. In ways that climate change and nuclear weapons could never be suitably resolved, insecure computers risking dollars and power were.

After the initial wave of discontent of having to give up their Internet addictions, there was mention in the printed newspapers of many addicts committing suicide due to the overwhelming loss to their lives. They returned to speaking to people, rather than typing at them.

“Nelson,” I said, “the action has been decided. The risk is too great for cell phones or the wrong technology to come back in over here.” Our walk had taken us back to the subway.

“Brian,” he said, “what do you mean, ‘action.’ And why are you carrying a briefcase.”

“It’s simple,” I said, “I’ll take this train back to your old stomping grounds. Once I reach there I’ll disembark to leave the briefcase behind, then return. Once it self destructs, the portal will be closed, and the other world, well…”

As the old H pulled into the station, Nelson said he had a question. I leaned in as the loud train slowed to a halt. Nelson clocked me good with a right to the ear. He grabbed the briefcase and ran toward the train himself.

I shouted through the glass after he’d boarded. He didn’t answer. Since the train never returned, I can only assume he detonated it between stations, destroying the portal and leaving both worlds intact.