Five Bottles

Author: Phillip E Temples

I know he’s at work right now. I called his office number earlier from a burner phone and he answered. I slip quietly into the hallway of the apartment complex, looking in both directions from the stairwell door. It’s the middle of the morning; no one is in sight. The hallway appears all too familiar to me. I walk the route to my unit—I should say, my doppelganger’s unit. I try my key. Not surprisingly, it works and I enter. The alarm code should be identical, too. Good. He’ll keep an encrypted copy of his latest work on a flash drive in the safe in his study.

My name is John Hunter, and this world is eerily similar to mine. In fact, they’ve given it a Kensington score of 99.8 percent. Personally, I’ve detected no differences or anomalies while here. Geography. Check. Religions and customs. Check. Property listings, wedding announcements, obituaries. Check. The morning paper reveals all the same news stories: the national political scandals, indictments of high-level figures, even talk of possible impeachment. I note only some very minor differences in some social media posts. A few random selfies, cat photos, and sundries are either added or missing. But that could just be Facebook screwing around with its algorithms. According to the experts, it’s clear this world has only very recently budded off from ours. Or—ours from it. Who knows? I’m not a physicist, just a skilled agent in Operations. I have to admit—of the many worlds I’ve worked in, this one is so identical to ours it’s weirding me out.

We suspect they’re reconnoitering our world. Or I should say, he is—John Hunter prime. We think he’s already made a visit to our world. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the data on John Hunter prime’s USB stick is nearly identical to what’s on mine.

I quickly clone the data on the stick, close the safe, and head for the door. I’m feeling a bit parched. On my way out, I open the fridge and peer inside. A six-pack of Dos Eques sits there from my purchase three days earlier. I pop the lid on a bottle and chug it. I shake my head in disbelief.

I walk a few kilometers until I find the portal and then re-enter my world. Aside from a brief second of lightheadedness as I pass through, it feels as though nothing has changed: like I went home from work, had a beer, and returned. I wonder if John prime will suspect when he sees the missing bottle of beer. Frankly, I’m not sure I would be that observant.

Later that night, I return to my apartment complex. I catch myself looking both ways in the hallway to see if I’m alone then I shake my head in disbelief.

/Relax I’m home./

I go inside, turn off the alarm, and head to my study to deposit a flash drive containing today’s report in the safe. Then I turn on my internet radio and stream Beethoven’s Piano Concerto Number Four in G Major. I walk into the kitchen, open the fridge and grab a beer.

/What the–!/

I’m horrified to see the six-pack contains only five bottles. I immediately reach into my jacket for my holstered sidearm, but I’m too late. I feel the cold barrel of a pistol pressed against the back my head.

“Hello, John,” says John prime.

My world goes black.

3 Comments

  1. djl

    Nicely framed flash with an anti-drinking message!

  2. Hari Navarro

    Really smart writing, I enjoyed this a lot. I’ve just been reading some more of your work, Phillip. Great stuff, I’d highly recommend it.

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  1. “Five Bottles” Published on 365 Tomorrows – Phil Temples - […] The market 365 Tomorrows has accepted and published my flash fiction story Five Bottles today. […]

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