Christina woke up abruptly, as if someone had shaken her.
She rubbed her eyes and checked her sub-dermal chronometer. 4am.
Then answered. “Hi.”
There was a time when hearing voices in your head meant that you were a prophet. That you had a direct line to the Gods.
If you traveled to other worlds, you did so as part of a ritual, to bring back healing medicine to save the tribe.
Then we got civilised and realised that it was mental illness and drug misuse that gave us these things, and so we locked up our prophets and visionaries.
The computer project didn’t get as much press as others. It didn’t have the visual appeal of a giant cannon shooting atoms around a country and the whole science behind it was hard to grasp.
“So, explain it once again?” The reporter looked utterly bemused.
Dr. Stanwick tried not to roll his eyes. He tried not to sigh.
It was, witnesses said later, “an epic fail.”
“OK – it’s like this. We hypothesize that there are many worlds -”
“Right – let me stop you there. Where?”
“Sorry?” Stanwick was confused, now.
“Where are they? Why can’t we see them?”
“They’re parallel to this dimension.” The scientist sliced the air with his hands, trying to convey the idea of ‘parallel.’ He didn’t attempt to disguise the sigh, this time. “Look. It doesn’t even matter. It’s like this. IF there are many worlds, some of them will be very similar to this one, and the people in them will be doing very similar things. That means that there’s a version of me, talking to a version of you – probably many of them.”
The reporter opened his mouth, about to ask another question. Stanwick hurried his explanation, pitching his voice slightly louder. “The upshot of this is that if I’m building a computer that taps into the computing ability of another world, then the me in that world is probably doing the same thing. That way, when we turn them all on our computational power goes through the roof.”
The reporter stood, slack jawed, for a moment. “So…you’re going to…like, hijack wi-fi from another dimension?”
The range of responses to that question was staggering. They all flashed across the scientist’s mind and, pretty much instantly, across his face. At last his shoulder’s slumped, with a sigh. “Yes. That’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
No one noticed it at first. Occasionally people found themselves thinking lovingly of someone else, or harbouring a resentment they were previously unaware of – but they put it down to tiredness, part of the constant internal monologue
Panic attacks spiked. People became severely disorientated – seemingly unaware of where they were; or claiming there weren’t where they should be. Everything was slightly different. It always passed, but they carried the memory with them.
At the other end of the scale scientists were making greater and greater leaps, writers were reaching new levels of excellence.
It took 18 months before anyone thought to ask why and then only because the nation’s current favourite z-list ballroom dancer broke down on Live TV.
It came at the end of a dazzling display. She was spun the breadth of her partner’s body. Everyone had seen the rehearsal tapes. The spin ended with a freeze for a beat, then a dazzling solo.
Everyone agreed what she lacked in acting ability, presentation and singing she made up for in dance.
She stumbled from the spin, looked around the room, she fear and confusion plain on her face. She looked down at her dress – up at the audience, and let loose a feral howl.
She screamed at the panel, demanding to know how they got her there, where “Danial” was. She then fled the set and locked herself in a toilet, breaking the director’s arm, a security guard’s collar bone and blowing her agent’s right knee off.
When they calmed down her down, she just repeated, “I wasn’t where I was meant to be. I was in a wasteland. Like…if there’d been a war. And I was injured, bleeding. It was so real. And people were screaming. I don’t know what happened.”
She won the popular vote that week.
Stanwick had guessed this might happen. His diaries stated that you can’t break down the walls and not expect a little bleed. Researchers said his risk calculation was naively short – as if he deliberately turned a blind eye to it.
They all agreed that he couldn’t have factored in slippage on the scale it was happening.
Sudden movement triggered it initially – consciousness folding on itself, slipping through the walls to another when.
As news spread, it spread everywhere. People slipped, but generally everyone was better at handling it.
No one was ever alone again.
But – that first time…. “Hal…” The word faltering. The nervous cough. “Hello?”