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The threads that bind us
Delia squeezed her eyes shut and waited for the agony of worlds splitting apart. The screeching pain as infinite universes unravelled. Time stretched out before her, threatening to freeze her in this moment of fear. The fear of destroying the very fabric of existence. The fear of being stuck. But most of all, the fear of confronting herself. She had to do something. She could just keep her eyes glued shut and run for it. The front door was straight ahead; she didn’t hear her alternate self close it. She could feel her in front of her still, her stare boring into her. Yes, she should run. So what if she knocks herself over as she escapes? She knew better than anyone how hardy she was; she’d bounce right back up, call her a bitch and flip her middle finger at her back as she retreated.
Running was the best option. The less time they spent together, the less likely things would unravel. And yet, Delia found herself unable to move. This reality’s Delia finally broke the silence.
“So you’re the one causing all the trouble?”
Delia let her left eye open a fraction. Her other self was indeed staring at her, but not in shock or fear, but in that bored way she did when Gav started his monologue on the history of baseball.
“Just because we can move between universes doesn’t mean we should just pop in and out of them whenever we feel like it.”
Delia’s eyes blinked open. “We? You can too?”
“We all can. We are one and the same, after all. What? Did you think you were special?”
Delia’s shoulders slumped. Yes. She did.
“And you’re skulking about my apartment, risking everything. I’m pretty sure the entire universe is about to implode because you can’t stay in your lane.”
She nods. “Yes, I know. The space-time continuum thingy. But it hasn’t yet, has it? Maybe we were wrong about that?”
“Are you asking me or telling me?”
The other Delia rolls her eyes, which land critically on my outfit. “I thought all of my selves would have had the sense to throw away that monstrosity by now.”
Delia clings to the sides of her sweater, pulling it across and closer to her body. “I can’t believe any of us could let it go.”
“It’s a sweater, Delia,” she says as if to a child, “it’s just organised threads wrapped around us. Binding us to who we were, not what we are.”
Delia scowls at the tone, at the words that made no sense to her. “It was…”
“I know whose it was. It doesn’t matter. You need to let go. And you need to stop moving about worlds. It’s messing everything up.”
She clings harder to the jumper. “Of course, it matters! And how is it messing everything up? I’m careful!”
The other Delia rolls her eyes. “You really think you are being careful as you have a conversation with yourself? You need to get a grip, girl. We are all connected. This lost girl phase is throwing us all off balance. And the doorman wouldn’t let me into my own apartment because he insisted I was already in it. Had to threaten his job to let me pass.”
“You threatened Darren? That’s a bit mean. He needs this job.”
“He doesn’t need anything. He works here because retirement bores him. If his own son ever did fire him, he could go and spend the rest of his privileged life in a country club playing golf and drinking martinis. You’re a gullible one, aren’t you?”
“I’m compassionate,” Delia counters. “Which is more than I can say for you. I can’t believe you and I are the same person.”
“The feeling is mutual. And yet here we are, carbon copies of the same human, shaped by the world we live in and what we created for ourselves.”
Delia frowned at herself. “We’re not that malleable. We are who we are at our core.”
“Of course we are,” the other Delia retorts with a snort, “But there are layers. Layers and layer and layers. We are bound together by our core selves, but there is so much more that shapes us into variations of our core self.”
Delia had to admit that made sense. This was the first other self she’d encountered; she’d just assumed all the others were just like her.
“Look, I have a lot to do today. Unless the world ends of course. Want to tell me why you’re world-hopping all over the place? The Delia in the dairy-free universe still can’t go out in public by the way.”
“How do you know so much about all of this? About our other selves?”
“Because since you ripped open the fabric of the universe, I’ve been able to feel them. I feel the isolation of the self that is afraid to go out after being chased from a cafe by an angry mob. I feel the angst of the self that still listens to angry music while she eats breakfast. I feel the joy of the self that isn’t lactose intolerant as she scoffs a cheesecake - I really hate her. And I feel you. Lost. Worried. Stuck. So, could you figure it out please? Out of all of them, you’re the one that gives me the biggest migraine.”
Delia’s eyes widen. How could she know all of this? Be connected like that? How could she know what she’s feeling?
“Because I am you, Einstein. Yeah, I can hear your thoughts too.”
“But… but how?”
“Because I’m the one most at peace. The one that accepts the choices she makes and makes the best of the consequences. So I can tune into the rest of you quite easily. No it’s your turn. Why are you here?”
Delia smirks at her, “You’re so in tune; you tell me why I’m here.”
“Very mature. Just ask your question.”
Would it be that simple? Ask a question, get an answer, and go home. It couldn’t be. But that’s what she was here for.
“I broke up with Gav.”
“And? You ripped the fabric of the universe open over an ex?” Delia’s other self looks at her with a hint of disdain. “That’s pretty pathetic.”
“No. No. It’s not just that. Life has just been so hard since I ended it. He wasn’t the right guy, but maybe it was the right life. You know? I mean, look at you. OK this place is a bit bare, and you are expecting. I don’t want that. But look at the view!” Delia turns to look out at the expanse of the city. “It seems I would have had a much easier life if I’d stuck it out.”
The other Delia shattered the room with her laughter, pulling Delia back to face her. “What’s so funny?”
“You! You are so wrong about everything. First, this is Laura’s baby. You know, that sister of ours? We agreed to be a surrogate. Well, I did. And this life doesn’t come easy. All choices have their pros and their cons. I decided that marrying Gav had more pros. You decided it didn’t. You are living the life that suits you, as am I.”
“But we are the same!”
“And yet we are also so different. You are the Delia that couldn’t settle for less than a knight in shining armour. I could. You made the right choice for you. Searching for something that could have been is a waste of time because it’s a life not destined for you.” The other Delia gives her a soft smile. “And it’s messing everything up for the rest of us.”
Delia looked down at her trainers, noting the black shiny heels her other self was sporting. How any version of herself could wedge her hobbit feet into those things was a mystery.
Her other self moved closer and tentatively placed a hand on each of her shoulders. “You are where you are supposed to be. I am where I am supposed to be,” she whispers. “Close your eyes.”
Delia conceded, taking a deep breath as her eyelids gently fell.
Delia strained, trying to hear anything in the quiet of the almost bare apartment. Finally, she heard the double beat of her own heart, perfectly in sync. With it, she could feel a sense of peace, of acceptance. Slowly, the sound began to fade, the feeling lessen. She opened her eyes and found herself in the doorway of her own apartment.
Don’t worry, a voice sounded in her mind, I’m still here. I’ll always be here if you need me. On one condition, of course.
“What?” Delia asked out loud.
Stay in your own lane.
“I will,” she conceded, “On one condition.”
“Once a month, we throw on the sweater, put on our favourite show, and eat enough cake to feed all the versions of us
I don’t have it anymore.
“Yes. You do.”
Fine. Deal. Want me to invite the others?
Delia smiled at the thought of infinite versions of her taking time out together, sitting on infinite different sofas, and being nothing but themselves in their own space, even for a moment.
Yes. That would be perfect.