Posted by Jason DeGray
Swifting is a short story I wrote about hopping between parallel universes. Always remember: Nothing is impossible in the Realm of Possibility! Enjoy!
“How do I tell her? How can I tell her? There’s no way she’d believe me. Hell, sometimes I don’t even believe me. How can this be real? It can’t be real. Can it?” His knuckles whitened under his grip on the bathroom sink. But he was completely immersed in his thoughts and didn’t notice. Nor did he notice the intense half-insane face staring back at him in the mirror. To be honest, he didn’t know who he was anymore. Every time he looked in the mirror lately, he felt like he was staring at someone else—a different version of himself who was always something of a stranger.
“Forget it. I can’t do it. I can’t tell her,” he announced to his reflection. Then thought better of it. “What am I saying? You don’t fuckin’ care. You’re somewhere else right now. Every version of yourself is simultaneously shifting into a different place. You’re probably shitting yourself right along with me. Well it’s good to know that I’m not going crazy alone.” He laughed softly at his own joke and brushed his teeth. He couldn’t tell her, but he had to tell someone. He was going out.
“You can’t tell her shit man. You got that? You can’t utter a fucking word of this crazy shit to her. She’ll see you for the nutjob you are. Don’t. Say. A goddam word. You hear me?”
He had to hand it to Darren. He had a way of being himself no matter where he was. He admired that about him and it was largely the reason he was his best friend. He was a constant. When a person can’t keep their consciousness stable, constants help them cope. Constants offer grounding in a world that changes more than it stays the same. Darren was who he was. Short. Bristly. Built like a tank. Cursed like a sailor. He made no qualms about who he was or what he thought. He could always be trusted to speak truth, no matter what that truth may be. And most importantly, that never changed about him.
“Dude, you don’t understand,” he told Darren, “Shit is getting bad between us. Bad. All our fights end now with her telling me to go find someone else. I’m dying over here. And don’t get me started on our Bella…Fuck, man. I don’t even know which version of her I’m gonna get. Is this a place where we’re together? Or are we at each other’s throats again? It wears on a guy, ya know?”
Sometimes Darren regretted buying into Kurt’s story when he sold him drugs the first time. Time travel or universe hopping or other shit he was sure came straight from science fiction novels was what the guy talked about. Darren didn’t know for sure, he just thought the guy was kooky and amusing. He was pretty convinced that the drugs were only making whatever the fuck was wrong with Kurt worse. He almost felt bad for the guy. He really did. But his money was good. And the story was good at least. Better than most of the junkie insanity he listened to on a daily basis. But really, he put up with Kurt because he bought the drinks. And a person that did that was a friend, as far as Darren was concerned.
“Then fucking leave her already, man. Shit. It’s always coming back to that woman poppin’ off or doing some stupid shit. Man, that’s prolly why you’re going crazy. She’s driving you straight off a cliff. I read an article that talked about how women nagging their men all the time actually kills them quicker. It’s true. Science and shit. But not you, man. You’re over here all, ‘but I think I might possibly love her sometimes when I don’t hate her fucking guts’. It’s bullshit man. Fucking bullshit. And you need to man up and opt out before you end up in a damn nuthouse or worse.”
“Yeah I hear that,” he said morosely. But he wasn’t really paying attention. He’d heard all this before. He knew this narrative by heart because it was whata he should be doing. But he couldn’t. He could never bring himself to ‘opt out’ as Darren put it. So he changed the subject. “Lately, I’ve been getting this visions. These mental flashes of these other versions of me offing themselves one by one. In all these different and weird ways. It’s like it’s moving down the line and I’m trying to keep ahead of it.”
“Oh man. You’re back to that freaky multiple universes shit? So tell me this: what happens when one of these other you’s puts one in his skull? Why don’t all of you die then?”
“It’s not how it works. We are connected to our other selves, but they are each an independent clone born of the choices we didn’t make. I think that movie ‘What the Bleep Do We Know’ explains it best.”
“What the Bleep Do We Know.”
“Never heard of it.”
“Huh. Probably not a movie here, then,” Kurt said to himself.
“Or you coulda just dreamed it up in that nutty head of yours.”
Darren checked the time on his smart phone. “Well as much as I love our little chat, I’ve got other business.”
Kurt had another beer, musing about his next move when he noticed the woman sitting at the bar. He hadn’t seen her before, he’d been too engrossed in venting to his friend. But damn if she wasn’t staring at him without staring at him; trying to act nonchalant and failing miserably. He normally wasn’t a brazen man—never could find the courage to talk to an attractive woman—and this stranger was definitely attractive. Brunette hair failing over her shoulders and halfway down her shapely back with a face of a movie star and body to match. But this wasn’t a pick up. She was watching him. Had been watching him and he wanted to know why.
He got up and made his way to the restroom where he splashed cold water on his face while trying to muster some grit. Whenever he emerged from the bathroom, she was still there stirring ice in an empty glass. He wasted no time in approaching her lest his grit fizzle out, and said in his best imitation of a macho voice, “Hey there.”
She looked him up and down, making no effort to hide the fact she was studying him before replying, “I need another drink.”
“I don’t work here. You better tell the bartender.”
“I know that,” she snapped smoothly. “I’m asking you to buy me a drink.”
“O.K…Wow. That was really forward.”
“You gonna buy the drink or what?”
“Yeah. Sure. Why not?” Kurt signaled for another round and sat down next to the intriguing brunette. “So what’s your name?”
“No? Your name is No? Man your parents were mean.”
She laughed and it sounded like a thousand crystals tinkling together. “I meant, no you can’t get in my pants. You’re with someone.”
“How d’you know that?”
“You’ve got a total dad bod going on. Vain enough to know you should look good but too lazy to give a shit.”
“Oh that’s hilarious,” the sour tone in Kurt’s voice was unmistakable.
The Brunette smiled disarmingly. “Look I get it. Depression can do that to people.”
“So now I’m depressed?”
“Definitely. You failed as a photographer. You failed as a—what was it you called it?—Oh yeah. Free lance journalist. You’ve failed as a partner to your wife. You’ve failed as a father. And most importantly, you’ve failed to remain rooted in one place for years now. Ever since your ‘accident’ with the train.”
The color fled Kurt’s face and he stumbled out of his chair. The barstool clattered to the floor as he backed away. “Who…who are you?”
“I’m a friend.” Her disarming smile seemed infinitely less so, taking on the qualities of a sinister leer instead.
He backed quickly toward the door. “Who the fuck ARE you? How do you know about me? About my Swifting?” The first few weeks after he realized his universe hopping, Kurt did an internet search and found an online forum dedicated to this very phenomenon, which they called “Swifting”. The forum was a safe, anonymous place full of people like him where stories were shared, theories discussed, lost loves and lives lamented, but most importantly, it offered camaraderie. It didn’t take very long before the forum became a constant and those on it like real friends. Lately though, it had been quiet and Kurt couldn’t help but wonder why.
“Kurt! Don’t you dare split without paying,” growled the bartender. A burly vet Kurt had no intention of pissing off.
“Hey yeah. About that, I’m gonna leave it right here.” He threw a wad of cash on the table nearest him and bolted out the door.
“What the hell was that about?” the bartender asked the Brunette.
“I don’t know. Threatened by beauty, perhaps?”
The bartender grunted and shuffled over to collect the money from the table, “Damn nut jobs. City’s full of em.”
SWIFT_K: Any1 on right now?
GRL_BLU: Hey. What’s up K?
SWIFT_K: Just had some crazy shit go down.
SWIFT_K: This girl at the bar started talking to me like she knew about me. About my Swifting.
INCOMING PM FROM GRL_BLU
GRL_BLU: I think you should run.
SWIFT_K: WTF?? Y???
GRL_BLU: Look. I don’t know NEthing for sure. OK?
GRL_BLU: I was chatting with Kid_Kode the other day. Said he met some1 at Mal Mart. Some bald guy, I think. Said dude knew a lot about him.
SWIFT_K: WTF??? Where is Kode? He on?
GRL_BLU: No. Hasn’t been on in 3 days.
SWIFT_K: Shit. Shit. Shit! We should def not be logging on here anymore.
GRL_BLU: I know. But this place is a constant.
SWIFT_K: Not anymore.
GRL_BLU: I guess… Good luck, K. I’ll email you my info if you ever need to get in touch.
GRL_BLU: Be careful OK?
SWIFT_K: You know me. 😀
Kurt shut down the computer and immediately started stuffing clothes into a duffel bag.
“Kurt, what are you doing?” Esme, his wife, stood in the doorway holding their daughter.
“Baby, we gotta go. Get you and Bella packed. Quickly!”
“Where are we going?” she had known Kurt for what seemed like lifetimes. She knew every quirk, every trigger for mood swings. At least she thought she did. Lately, he hadn’t been the same. Almost as if he were a new person every few days. “What’s wrong with you?”
“Baby, we don’t have a lot of time. We aren’t safe…I don’t think…”
“Stop it, Kurt. You’re scaring me.” The baby agreed and started crying, sensing the tense and uncertain energy around her parents.
He briefly explained his encounter at the bar, leaving out the Swifting details.
“So you think this woman is after you to kill you? Why?”
Kurt searched his imagination for a plausible lie to go along with his fantastic truth. “I, uh, have been on these online forums. Umm…grassroots activist type stuff. And people started disappearing off the forums lately. Word is, they got approached by someone with a lot of information about them before they disappear.”
“We gotta call the police!”
“No!” Kurt exploded and then wrangled his control back. “That’s not—I don’t think they can—or will—help us. Please just pack your shit and go to your mother’s.”
“My mother lives in Arizona. You know that.”
“Yeah. Perfect. Get there. Fast. I’ll drop you guys off at the airport. Catch the next flight you can.”
“What’re you gonna do?”
“I’ve got to figure this out. I’ll catch up to you when things have calmed down.”
She stared at him, boring into his soul, trying to decide if he was serious or lying to get her out of town so he could fuck around with whatever little bitch he’d been screwing. Kurt had been acting weird lately, and she automatically attributed his odd behavior to cheating. She was convinced that was the reason for the deterioration of their relationship. It had to be. Nothing else made sense.
He shifted uncomfortably beneath her gaze. “Esme, please. I’m serious about this. It’s not safe. Please. If not for me then for Bella. Go to your mother’s!”
“O.K.” she finally conceded. “For Bella. I have two weeks I can take. Will you have your government-wants-to-kill-me shit figured out by then?”
“For sure. I’ll see you there in a week. Tops. Now please, pack and let’s go already!”