Parallelacide: Short Story
Not in this reality would it ever be clear why they sent her to the university for her first assignment. Shelly stood by the coffee station and held a styrofoam cup to her mouth. She wasn’t drinking from it. She narrowed her eyes and scanned the room for an appropriate place to stand.
There were far more seats than were necessary.
As Shelly looked around, she saw a technician adjusting a camera. They were wearing a polo shirt that carried the symbol of Delamore Universtiy. The technician tampered with the lens looked through the viewfinder. She then clicked her fingers in front of the microphone.
There were other miscellaneous people present. They could be reporters, there was more a chance that they were here for the free doughnuts.
Two middle-aged gentlemen entered and looked around. One of them had a newspaper folded over his arm. The man with the newspaper nudged the taller man beside him, took out a coin and flipped. When it landed, he covered the coin. Shelly saw the taller man’s mouth move. Newspaper removed his hand. Judging by the taller man’s reaction, he did not get the result he wanted.
Newspaper went and sat down. The taller man approached Shelly.
“You look like a fresh meet,” he said passing her, grabbing a styrofoam cup.
“Good to see that sexism is alive and well,” Shelly said.
“Oh, as in meet rather than meat, It wasn’t meant to be sexist. While we’re clarifying, when I looked at your chest it’s because that’s where your press pass is, Shelly”. The taller man scanned the table, “Where’s the full?”
“As in fool or full?” Said Shelly.
“I know where the fool is, he’s on the other side of that whiteboard getting ready to embarrass himself again. I’m talking about the milk. I mean milk is bad for you anyway so if you’re going to do wrong, you may as well do it right.”
“I didn’t see any”
“Budget cuts. What a world that they can afford to give this guy a salary but can’t give us lowly documenters of truth some full fat.”
“What a world we live in”
“By fresh meet, I meant that you look like you’re new on the scene.”
“First assignment, I came from,” Shelly said before stopping when the taller man held up his hand.
“I’m going to have to stop you there,” he said. He didn’t speak.
“Any particular reason?” Shelly asked.
“OK, this is going to come across as rude, promise you’ll get upset.”
“Now, I’m of the opinion that our minds are of limited space and as the years go on that space becomes more of a premium. Space gets smaller, value goes up. Now I’ve been in the game for about a quarter century, a lot of that space is gone. I don’t like wasting space. You aren’t going to be here that long. Start off your career, you got ambition, and you’re going to go on, do better things. This’ll be a forgotten memory in a few weeks. I don’t want to waste the space of getting to know someone too much if they’re not going to be about for long.”
“Oh, OK,” said Shelly.
“You promised you’d get upset,” said the taller man.
“I’m not, you don’t want to talk to me, that’s rude, but you’re a man. I think I understand.”
“Now I’m of the opinion that there’s no point in talking to you, but I can’t bluff for shit. When you’re in debt to a colleague such as mine like Paul over there, you make other kinds of bets. There’s a version were I won the coin toss, and it would be Paul talking to you but, well, here I am.”
“You sure talk a lot for someone who doesn’t want to talk.”
“It’s early” the tall man picked up two cups filled with coffee. He walked over to the doughnuts. They were being guarded by low-level university admins. The taller man turned to Shelly and gestured with his head. She walked over to him.
“The real question is whether these are jam or custard. Grab a plate and lift us one please”. Shelly obliged him. “Come sit up front with us.”
“But I’m not worthy,” she said.
“I don’t care about that. You’re going to want to get as close as possible to a Dr Lazlo Banks presser. Heard of him?”
“Should I have?”
“The creator of telepathy for chickens? How could you not.”
The two made their way to the front and sat down beside Paul.
“See it’s nice to be nice,” Paul said to the taller man.
“I felt my soul die a little” he responded.
Paul leaned forward and looked to Shelly. He extended his hand. As she shook his hand, Shelly noticed that he although he was old his face looked young. He had big round red apple cheeks, and a permanent smile etched on his mouth. The effect of this made his blue eyes look small.
“You didn’t mention she was with the tribune Gary, this changes everything,” said Paul. There was an exaggeration of shock on his face.
“So I have to be friendlier with people unless they’re with the tribune?” said the taller man, who she deduced was Gary. Shelly would make an excellent reporter.
“The tribune is a rag,” Paul said looking at Shelly, a massive smile escaped onto his face. His eyes were wrinkling so much he couldn’t see.
“Who are you two with? I haven’t seen your passes, you’re probably not even reporters” said Shelly leaning in.
“Move back, I can get territorial when it comes to a week old,” Gary took a bite, “Custard, custard goddammit.”
Shelly leaned back.
“You don’t want to know who we’re with. No pass is better than who we’re actually with. We’d like you to have a bit of respect for us old-timers.”
“Tell me,” Shelly said.
There was a noise from the other side of the whiteboard wall.
“Looks like Dr Lazlo is ready to start, you’re in for a treat Shelly,” said Paul. The three of them turned to face the front. Conversations around the room stopped. All eyes were on the door beside the whiteboard.
The side door opened and a man in a white coat entered.
“The good doctor looks a little strung out,” said Gary.
Dr Banks carried a lockbox and set it down on the table.
“This’ll be good,” said Paul.
Dr Banks leaned over the table and shuffled some paper on his desk around. His mouth was moving, but no sound came out. He looked up and focused his attention on the assembled audience.
“This won’t take long. Man’s quest for immortality has gone on since we first stood up and stepped into the sun. In the scientific community there are known to be many universes. These universes are existing now, in other dimensons. Many are concurrently operating realities. They exist alongside us. There are infinite realities. If there are infinite realities, then there are at least several were our wildest dreams are true.”
“What is he talking about?” Paul asked.
“He doesn’t know,” Gary said. Dr Banks looked at them and sighed.
“C’mon guys, questions at the end,” said Dr Banks.
“We don’t have any,” said Gary.
“Well, that’s a wasted opportunity. I’m right here in front of you. What you should be asking is how do we know what reality we’re in?”
“What reality are we in?”
“Shhh, questions at the end. I have a device that will help us discern which reality is the correct one.”
Dr Banks moved over to the box and opened it up. He took out an object that was masked by a purple velvet cloth.
“He’s not,” said Paul, leaning back in his seat.
“Jesus,” said Gary
Dr Banks removed the cloth revealing a shiny silver gun.
“Gun” shouted Shelly.
The whole room recoiled. One man dropped his doughnut another put his hands on his ears.
“Banks, what the hell are you doing?” a voice from the back shouted.
“This isn’t happening,” said Paul.
“Someone call the police” another voice sounded.
“Before you do,” Dr Banks said, “I just want you to know that I pose no harm to you, or even myself. That is if my theory is correct.”
People moved towards the door.
“Now even though I mean you no harm I will have to ask you to remain in the room for a few more minutes.”
People in the room continued to move towards the door. Dr Banks pinched the bridge of his nose with his free hand.
“May I remind you that I have a gun.”
The people stopped moving. Some of the more exasperated in the audience lowered their arms. The room was serene and still. Dr Banks smiled and then looked to the camera technician.
“I hope that’s recording Janice.”
“Let me line up the shot.”
“Me too,” said Dr Banks. He held the gun to his temple and looked to Janice.
Shaking, the viewfinder in front of her eyes, removing her from the realness of the room, Janice focused on Banks. Once she had done so she outstretched her free hand and gave him the thumbs up.
“If my theory is correct then the gun, will not go off and I will be one step closer to becoming immortal. Then, then it won’t matter.”
In one reality, Dr Banks was an undying god.
It was not this one.