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GUEST STORY: Prometheus' Bastard Step Son

Jason Young is back again with another story.  This is the first chapter of the novel he's currently working on.  You can read some of Jason's stories available on the Kindle here.

Be sure to check out my recent collections available on the Kindle.

I woke up on the deck of a sinking ship. The parts above water were engulfed in flames. The heat was melting me from the inside. As I watched the ship burn I could see the exact same ship sailing off into the sunset, like an eerie vision of a world that should have been.

How the ship came to sinking was a mystery to me. It wasn’t until later that I realized I couldn’t explain how I got on the ship in the first place. My mind was clouded to everything except preserving my life. Though my body was bleeding and damaged, I jumped into the cold water and somehow managed to come on shore.

The word Aegis was written on my bleeding hand in black ink. It meant nothing to me, and that’s when it struck me. My past was nothing but the slumber that I awoke from. As if I were born again, I looked at my past with the same darkness that comes when looking into the future. I crawled into the street trying to find some shelter from the cold, but I never made it.

The next time I woke up I was in a hospital bed. At first they didn’t know I lost my memories, they just thought I was crazy. In their defense they were probably right. Once they found out about my amnesia they sent me to a special ward they called re-education. Not to treat the amnesia, but to train me to live in the real world. Re-education had its own building, and not a tiny one either. One of the orderlies told me it had more patients than the rest of the hospital combined.

They had a very specific program. They started by saying they wouldn’t release me until I understood, which wasn’t quite as easy as it sounds. They showed me examples of the new world, pounded them into my head. I didn’t have any memories of the past, but the vague impressions I kept couldn’t prepare me to cope with what they showed me. The world is full of shadows now, things that aren’t real, things more bizarre than dreams. It’s as if the world changed while I was sleeping, but they tell me it’s been like this for over two years now. They call it the Day the Earth Tore Apart, or D.E.T.A. for short.

The science behind the whole thing eludes me. They’ve told me some theories, but no one really knows. Everything on Earth has separated from itself, as if there were two Earth’s sitting on top of each other the whole time. Now there are copies of everything. Every human being has a double, every animal, and every inanimate object. They told me I was a member of Earth-1, which means I can only physically interact with that Earth’s inhabitants. Earth-2 is on a separate wavelength than ours. Both worlds can see and hear each other, but they can never touch.

When your in re-education, the first thing they make you do every morning is get into a tub of the other worlds water. First your hands, so you’ll understand the water will never get you wet. You can’t even feel a difference in the air. Then they hold your head under until you’re willing to breath. Some people think it’s refreshing to sit under the phantom water for hours, but I had an opposite reaction. Sitting under the water made me sick. To me it represented the life I lost.

Like I said, the world is full of shadows, an entire world of ghosts. You can’t trust the water; you can’t even trust the ground beneath your feet. The world has changed, but my mind refuses to. The world doesn’t make sense to me. The Earth’s population doubled in a single night. I’m glad I can’t remember it. It sounds like hell. The similarities between the worlds will fade in a few generations, but I have a theory that it’s just going to make things that much worse.

Since I’m a part of the first generation it leaves me with a pretty big question. Where’s my double? The person that walks around Earth-2 that looks exactly like me. No one from either Earth came to claim me from the hospital on my release. Maybe he’s dead. Maybe he drowned in the shadows. They tell me that the suicide rate has doubled every year since the split. They tell me that if your double kills itself, you have a seventy percent chance of killing yourself in the next 48 hours. They say it’s worse than losing a twin. Most of the time they do it together.

None of that matters to me though, I never knew him. As far as I’m concerned we’re separate people. I was doing some reading and in this book a scientist said if you look at a picture of yourself sitting on a beach taken ten years ago, not a single cell that composes your body that’s holding the picture would have been on the beach that day. It got me thinking, if that’s true what are we really? Organic vessels filled with memories of the past? And if that’s the case, I’m nothing at all.

It took a long time before they finally released me from the hospital. They take the word “re-education” very seriously around there. They even go over the obvious. They devoted an entire lesson to communication. Why we can speak to people from Earth-2 in person, but why we couldn’t call them on the phone no matter how much we tried. And so on through the whole ridiculous process.

Because of my peculiar situation they deemed me unsuitable for work and got me on a government program for “people with disabilities”. I just had to fill out some forms and the government would pay for me to drink the rest of my life. I didn’t argue with them.

They never found out who I used to be. They took to calling me Aegis while I was at the hospital. Since that’s the only name I’ve ever known, I decided to make it permanent. I found a place downtown where they couldn't care less if I had a real name or not. Aegis suited them just fine. A real shit-hole, not like the upper class shit-holes near the racetracks, but a real bona fide dump. The landlords are real pricks too, but honestly I can’t complain. Having people to hate almost makes me feel like a real person, and I need all the help I can get. The world around me is too fucked up. Other than the cigarette and alcohol industries the rest of the world pretty much just went to shit. The city is filled with violence, gangs run the city. Law and order are unachievable ideals. It’s not that they don’t try; it just doesn’t blend with the anarchy. It’s easy to lose yourself, especially when you don’t know who you are.
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