Author: Glenn Leung
The two of us stared at each other for a tense second of silence. My face was reflected in his eyes, which were also my eyes. We both scratched our chin and were startled by the discordant mirror image. He was wearing a navy blue polo-tee, I was in my prison slacks.
“I don’t get it,” I said, breaking the silence. “We have the exact same life, the exact same misery. As far as I can tell, you were just as emotionally unstable as I was. How are you so successful?”
The Me from Universe L9782 shook his head. It was the shake I did whenever I felt my life was falling apart, a shake I did often. Except this one appeared purposeful, with a calculated frequency, like a sign that things were going to be fine.
“Let’s go back to August 2029,” he said, taking charge like I knew he would.
“Your parents had just divorced. You fell out with your Mom, then ran away from home and took shelter in the church.”
I nodded hesitantly, unsure if I wanted to relive that moment.
“What happened then?”
Why was he was asking this again?
“I already told you! I ran away from that church and met a guy who told me to lash out at the world. One thing led to another, and I’m here now.”
“No. I meant what happened IN August 2029.”
That was twenty years ago; before the transdimensional portal was even discovered; before the whole ‘meet your better self’ program for convicts was started.
“I don’t know what to tell you.”
L9782 me buried his cheeks in his hands, drawing in a lungful of air.
“Light Wolf, Dark Wolf.”
I looked into his eyes in surprise, then turned away because it was still very freaky.
“You remember that visualization exercise you did?”
It might have been long ago, but I would never forget the battle fought in my head. The pastor had told me his version of the Cherokee story and I had pictured my two wolves locked in mortal combat. My Dark Wolf was always towering, tall enough to block the sun and turn the clouds to plumes of ash. My Light Wolf was a small, sad one that glowed with the brilliance of a discount Halloween costume.
“That was just a silly muse,” I said, despite an inkling of what was coming.
He was serious.
“The Dark Wolf of course! Don’t you remember how big that thing was? There was no way I could feed the Light Wolf enough.”
“Did you give the Light Wolf a jetpack with rocket launchers?”
There was another long second of silence.
“Did you also imagine yourself fighting alongside the Light Wolf with plasma cannons?”
“That did it for you?”
His composure was stoic throughout.
“No, of course not, but it made me realize I could do something. I opened up to the pastor about my problems, got the support I needed, and did some reflection on my identity. I kept my nose clean and eventually returned home to my Mom.”
I was flabbergasted. Was this really the only difference between the two of us? A more active imagination?
A low buzz signaled the end of our visit. Just as we were getting up and saying our goodbyes, I snuck in one last question.
“How did you get the idea of equipping your Light Wolf?”
Shrugging, he said: “I guess I knew there were people who could help me.”