By: Andrew Thomas Prenger
I was sitting at my normal booth at the bar talking to The Damned Tinker when it happened. It was quick enough that most people didn’t even see it before it hit them. Those that did see it quickly drained their drinks or stared dumbfounded while it overtook them. Not much else they could do. Even being aware of it didn’t mean a person could outrun it. I knew of speedsters who tried and still failed.
It was a shimmering wave of energy appearing out of the wall at the front of the building. It looked like boiling air above hot asphalt. As it swept through the patrons of the bar they disappeared. Some managed small shouts of surprise, but most simply vanished. D.T. had his back to the wall. He just finished telling a joke and was laughing at his own punch line. I thought of telling him something quick, but saw the futility of it.
It wasn’t as though this was anything new to us. We’d all been through this many times before. Reality changes were surprisingly common. Someone or something was overwriting reality. Could be a time traveler killed Hitler again, could be some twat divided by zero. All I knew was that in a few seconds I would be in some different reality, living some other person’s life. All I could hope for was to not be an asshole until someone fixed this mess.
I, like a bunch of other people at the bar, decided to finish my drink. Who knew what this new world would be like? There could be no beer there.
When the wave hit me it was not pleasant. Normally when this happened it felt like standing under a warm rain. A brief, comfortable transition from one world to the next. You switch to a place that feels normal until reality shifts back and your real memories return. Then the alternate world seems like a dream you only slightly remember.
This shift felt like fire. Every inch of my skin felt like it was roasting. The wave shook me hard, my teeth rattled. I was worried I would bite my tongue off. My nose spewed blood out of it like a geyser. The fresh blood actually felt cool on my chin. I felt my body contort, then return to normal, then contort again. Limbs growing and shrinking painfully. Slowly my body stopped burning so hot. My body contorted again, but then didn’t contort back.
My clothes shifted. The body armor I had on turned into a button down green shirt and black slacks. My shoulder holster slowly turned into a tie. My pint glass became a coffee cup filled with hot liquid that spilled all over me because of the shaking.
As quickly as everything started, it ended.
What once was the bar was now a meticulously decorated kitchen. I was sitting at a mahogany kitchen dining table instead of a booth. There was a newspaper spread out before me. Slowly I realized the hot coffee spilled on myself. It wasn’t as hot as the fire that just tore through my skin, but it still hurt like a motherfucker. I stood up, uselessly slapping at my shirt, and knocked my chair over. It barely missed smashing into a large picture window.
My nose was still bleeding uncontrollably. I lurched over to the sink where I saw a washcloth. As I stepped forward my pants fell down around my ankles, tripping me and sending me to the ground. I wasn’t even in this world for thirty seconds and I already hated the shit out of it.
I got up and shuffled over to the sink. I grabbed the washcloth and stuffed it against my nose as I tilted my head back. This was a new experience for me. Not the bloody nose, I’d been popped in the face so many times I’d broken my nose thirteen times. What was new was going through a reality shift and remaining unchanged.
I’d traveled through alternate realities almost as many times as I’d broken my nose, but that was different. Those times I went through doors or a portal or a phone booth. Never before had I traveled to a new reality through a wave and remain unchanged.