In Which a Collision is Narrowly Averted
Emily, Dan, and Emmy walked almost on top of one another through the first hallway, and made a right turn hastily, and Emily nearly ran into a guard. His eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth to say something, but she cut him off when the other two were paralyzed with fear. “Watch where you're going, will you? You nearly took my head off!”
The man was older, and he looked over each of their faces slowly before he answered. “My apologies. Where are you headed, Miss...” He studied Emily's badge, “Barton?” He locked eyes with her and she made herself taller.
“We were heading back to the lab after a quick break. Really, we must be going,” she tried to sidestep and keep walking past him, but he sidestepped right with her and remained directly in her path.
“What's the hurry? Late for school?” The man raised his eyebrow at her and smirked.
“Excuse me!? I may be young, Mr,” she paused and looked hard at his name badge as well, “Parrish, but that just makes my Master's Degree in nanotechnology all the more impressive. Would you like to see my diploma, or are you going to allow me to return to my desk, sir? Or shall I call down to the desk and speak to your supervisor about the harassment we received today?” She crossed her arms and stared him down.
Mr. Parrish took a step back, cowed, and muttered, “I'm sorry ma'am. I'll let you get back to it,” and he let the three of them walk past him.
Emily nodded in triumph, “Thank you,” and the three teens swept past him with an air of importance. As the stepped down the hall, she heard the guard behind her.
“Don't get in that one's way,” he was saying to another guard, in a voice he thought was quiet, “She'll have you for dinner.” Emily didn't turn to see the other guard's reaction, but did hear the two of them set off down the hall behind her, in the opposite direction.
“That was close,” hissed Emmy.
“No kidding,” breathed Dan. “You sure are quick thinking, there, Emily. Good thing she's the one with the badge, eh Emmy?”
Emmy nodded grudgingly, then admitted, “You were pretty smooth,” as they rounded the next corner and stepped toward the locked door of the storage room.
Emily smiled at them and nodded to Dan once she was sure they were alone. He pulled his locksmith tools from his back pocket and set to work. The storage room lock was about as powerful as the one on the door leading from the stairwell, so it didn't take overly long to pick, but was not as fast as the one outside.
The click of the door opening put a wide grin on Emmy's face, and the three of them stepped into the dark room quickly, shutting the door behind them. Emmy flicked on a light, and their eyes widened as they looked around at the size of the room.
Emily had assumed the room was going to be a typical small room or large closet, tall metal shelves filled with boxes, maybe some files, but generally pretty boring and simple. The room she'd just walked into was long, bent at the end, like an L shape, and was filled with interesting little gadgets.
Some of them were making noise or flashing colors, which surprised her. The only things at her house that did things like that were meant for small kids. They were only around for when Emily or her mother babysat at the house. And they gave everyone bigger than 10 a headache, so they came out as little as was necessary.
She stepped toward a tall shelf, feeling somewhat hypnotized by the round glass-like object sitting there. The middle was smoke-like, but it swirled and changed colors without any outside interaction. “What's this do?” she asked Emmy, reaching out to touch it.
Emmy stepped forward and hit her hand away, hard. “I don't know what it is, but I know that's not why we're here. We need to find a suitable hiding spot to put this in, later, so it can be found.” She stepped to the end of this hall and turned left, down the end of the L, and pointed to a shelf that sat empty in one place. “That is where I got this from. Help me find a different place to put it back. We need to try and not move things too much, because the Coaties who use this room to store their experiments all seem to have amazing memories, and they'll notice if things are shifted too much.”
“What do you propose we do, then?” Dan asked, eyes wandering. He was trying to not look impressed, but Emily could see his wandering eyes settle on a small silver object, and he took a casual step toward it.
“Hands to yourself, Dan,” She scolded, eyebrow raised. “He raises a valid point, though. If we can't move anything, and they know where everything is already, how are we supposed to find a hiding place for it in here that they'll figure out eventually?”
“We find something wide, but small, maybe, and tuck the PA behind it.”
“PA?” Emily's face grew weary.
“Portal Activator,” Emmy sighed as though it should have been obvious. “Can you just help me look for something small but big?” She didn't hear how ridiculous that statement was, and Emily decided to keep the idea to herself.
It only took a minute to find the right place. Emily pointed at something that reminded her of a silver flat screen tv, “There! It's big, but skinny, and the Activator should fit behind it nicely.” She smiled widely at her discovery.
“That will do,” Emmy nodded, then turned to Dan as though Emily was not even there. “Are you ready to get home?”
“Yeah, much as I like hanging out with myself and all,” he grinned.
“Alright, then. Need to find that blank wall spot, “she wandered around the corner again and paused at a space between the bookshelves. “This will do nicely,” Emmy smiled at Dan, and got out the activator. She mumbled to herself a bit, and Emily caught a blip of a number, “35.436...” as Emmy turned a dial. She pulled at another one, mumbling under her breath, and turned yet another dial to set it all in order.
The first switch pulled down flicked the machine on and Emily could hear its workings whirring as it tried to turn on and warm up. The second switch came a moment later and a round opening formed in the area on the wall where they'd stood staring stupidly.
The opening shimmered and wiggled at first, like the portals always did, and they peered through to the other side of the same wall in Dan's universe. The room was an office there too, but its occupant was away at the moment. “Better hurry before they come back!” He looked around and suddenly realized, “I left my bag in the stairwell.”
“Oh, crap, do you need it? I can go back out there and get it for you,” offered Emily.
“No, it's just a bag, and I have my tools. That's the important part I wouldn't want to lose. I don't have any of my school books or homework in there or anything. That stuff is on my bed,” he thought for a moment. “Yeah, I have everything I need. I'll just tell my mom I lost the bag or someone took it, and she'll get me a new one.”
“Lucky. If I lost mine, my mother would tell me to suck it up and I can have a new one next year!” Emily laughed and the other two joined her, then the room went uncomfortably quiet.
“I guess this is it,” Dan smiled at them. “Was nice seeing my girlie selves, I guess, and you guys have a good life. Don't get caught, Emmy,” he smiled at her.
Emmy smiled back, “Oh, don't you worry about me. I have my ways out of things.” She winked, and grabbed his arm as he stepped toward the portal. “Test it first, be sure it's solid. Toss something through.”
Dan took his shoe off and tossed it through the opening, and it landed on the floor in the office with a little tumble. “Looks solid enough to me!” he grinned. “Later!” He paused and turned back, “No, not later, I guess. Bye!” He jumped through the opening and pulled his shoe back on, tossed the white coat back through the opening with yet another smile. “Don't need this anymore!' And he disappeared from view.
The girls heard the door click open, then shut again, and Emmy pressed a button on the Activator to turn it off again. She pulled her white coat off and tossed it on the floor next to Dan's coat, and leaned over while Emily took her own coat off too. She heard Emmy say, “Your turn,” and she smiled to herself, glad to almost be rid of this girl who was turning out to be less and less like she thought she could ever be.
Emily leaned over to toss the coat onto the pile on the floor, and when she turned back around to get ready to go through her own portal, something hit her square in the face, hard, and she fell back into the metal shelf behind her. She heard things toppling on those shelves, and all went quiet.
In Which Emmy Does the Unthinkable
When Emily was able to open her eyes once more, her head buzzed loudly and her eyes wouldn't focus quite right. She felt warmth on her neck, touched the spot, and her hand came away bloody. She'd hit her head when she fell and was bleeding from the spot. She felt at it gingerly, but it seemed to be a smallish cut. Head wounds bleed profusely, she knew, so it must not have been too bad.
She fell, why did she fall? She looked up from her spot on the floor and saw Emmy standing there fiddling with the dials on the Activator again. She finished what she was doing, and turned to look down at Emily's heap of a body on the floor.
“Oh good, I didn't kill you. I was worried for half a second,” She said in a voice that didn't sound worried one little bit.
“What the hell are you doing?!” Emily meant it to come out strong and clear, but her tongue wouldn't quite do what she wanted it to do.
“Well, let's see. I am doing what Dan said. I'm not getting caught.” Emmy stared at her, emotionless.
“I don't...” she began, but Emmy threw her head back laughing, and cut her off.
“Of course you don't understand. Honestly, how can you be me? This is going to be fun,” The last phrase came out in a quiet musing voice. She stood staring at a point in the ceiling and zoned out for a moment, then snapped back, “I'm probably caught already. So the not getting caught advice really doesn't help me. I'm pretty sure they know it was me, but haven't done anything about it yet.”
“So they know. What are they really going to do to you? You're giving it back,” Emily said, voice a bit clearer. “You might be grounded, but how bad can that be?”
“No, I'm pretty sure this time my parents will push for legal intervention. 'We can't get through to you! When will you learn?'” she mocked her mother's voice. It was Emily's mother's voice too, but those words had never been spoken to her. “I can't go down that road, so I'm doing the only thing that's been left to me. I'm leaving.”
“Okay, so come with me. I'm sure my parents will let you stay with us,” Emily offered, and felt at the back of her head again. The blood was congealing, and she sighed a tiny bit, in relief.
“No, no, that's not good enough. If I just disappear, they'll think I've run away, and I can't have that. I'm no coward.”
“But you're talking about running away. So, you are a coward, it would seem,” Emily wished, the moment the words escaped her lips, that she had just kept quiet.
Emmy stepped forward and raised her hand, threateningly, and Emily threw her hands up to shield her face. “Shut up! I'm not a coward! I'm thinking clearly, and this is the only way.”
“So your plan is to leave me here and take my place over there?” She peered around her hands, then lowered them upon seeing Emily's back turned. She took the moment to stand up, but found she needed the help of the shelf to do so. Emmy's silence confirmed it. “Why me?” She asked, shaking her head, growing angry. “Why me and not one of the other copies of us? Why did you have to ruin MY life?”
“Your life was already pretty ruined, wasn't it? No friends, parents always fighting, about to lose the house you grew up in because your dad is so lame he can't keep a job?”
“You take that back!” Emily stepped forward, shouting. “Things aren't always perfect for me, but I like my life just fine, thank you!”
“No you don't. Or, well, you didn't anyway. Now you've got a little boyfriend. Or, I guess I do,” she threw her head back and laughed again.
Emily rushed forward and pushed Emmy to the ground and hit her in the face with a closed fist. “He's mine, you bitch!” She roared.
Emmy was too strong, pushed her off, and slammed her into the ground, hitting her head in the spot where she was bleeding, and the world spun. “Not anymore,” she said, laughing, as she stood up and stepped forward to press the button on the Activator.
The portal shimmered and opened again, and a beeping sound came from the Activator that Emily hadn't heard before. Emmy tossed a shoe through to the storage room on the other side of the opening, and nodded when it arrived safely on the other side.
Emily pushed herself back up, and felt her head once more. The scab opened again and the blood was coming faster than before.
Emmy turned to her and smiled. “You asked why I chose you. Well, I'll tell you. It's not because I wanted to ruin your life. I chose you because you look like me. I chose you because I can steal your life. I can be you better than you can. And if they catch me now, well, it won't be me, will it? I get to live happy and free while you take the fall. Enjoy living my life. I know I will enjoy being you.”
Emily tried to stand, tried to reach her, not really noticing the beeping on the Activator grew quicker until Emmy had jumped through to the other side, and the portal closed on its own. A timer. She'd set a timer. And she was gone.
Emily pushed a button on the Activator, but it was the wrong one, and the little machine shut off entirely. She screamed and picked it up, and stopped herself from throwing it just before it left her hand. She couldn't destroy it. It was her only way back. But she couldn't take the whole day to figure out how to work it from there either. And then how would she get Emmy back to her own side, if she went in?
She wanted to sit down and cry. She wanted to scream and throw things and ruin half the cool looking little things that sat around in the room. But she couldn't, and she knew that. “I have to stick to the plan. I have to be her for a while,” she said aloud, resolving herself. The very thought sickened her, but she had no choice.
She slipped the white lab coat back on, made sure she had the name badge on, and picked up the other two coats. She could return them on her way, and it would give her cover for the bulge in her shirt. She carefully tucked the Activator in her shirt the way Emmy had done earlier, held the coats in front of her, took a deep breath, and stepped back out into the hallway.
She walked past a guard who looked at her funny, and she debated excusing herself into the bathroom. She couldn't waste time, she decided, and walked straight for the lab where she'd found the coats earlier. She hung up the extra two coats she had borrowed, then slipped back out again, keeping the lab coat and name badge for later, just in case she needed to sneak back into the building. She couldn't think of why she might need to, but she didn't want to risk it either. She was sure the opportunity to steal one from the bathroom would not present itself again.
Emily slipped out the door at the stairwell and picked up the two back packs. She couldn't leave any evidence behind. She carefully put the activator in the bottom of Emmy's bag, then scrunched up Dan's bag and stuffed it into the large pocket on Emmy's. She slung the purple thing over her shoulder, and stepped down the stairs as quickly as she dared, lab coat still on.
In the hallway downstairs, she passed one of the office workers, nodded to him as she did so, and exited out the door she'd entered without anyone stopping her. She ran to the bus stop where they'd gotten off at, and boarded the first bus to arrive, heading back toward her house. She had a little money, thankfully, and she was grateful they'd thought to check the money differences earlier. She wouldn't be accused of having fake currency, at least.
The ride back to Emmy's house was both excruciatingly slow and far too fast, Emily sitting there trying to envision what might happen. Were Emmy's parents like her own? Were they both the same people, or was Emmy's dad her uncle or something? Would she be caught, like Emmy thought she would be? How would she figure out how to work the Portal Activator on her own?
Her head seemed to stop oozing blood, at least, but her hair was matted with it and she knew the first order of business, besides hiding the Activator somewhere in that room, was to take a shower so nobody saw her head wound. The bus stopped when she pulled the string, and she climbed out with a sad smile to the driver. Nothing would ever be the same again. She didn't know how she knew it, but she did.
When she arrived home, nobody was there, and she was thrilled to discover her key from her universe worked at that house too. She hadn't even considered that it might not work, not until the key slid and the click confirmed that it did. She breathed a sigh of relief, and ran up to her room. Not her room, but hers for now.
She pulled the Activator out of her bag and hid it in a box of old papers under the bed, then grabbed new clothes and went to take her shower. Her shirt needed to soak in the sink so the blood wouldn't set, so she filled the sink with cold water while she undressed slowly and pulled out a towel. She pushed the shirt under the water and swished it around a bit, then hopped into the shower and took care washing the blood from her hair. She wanted the blood out, but didn't want to disturb the scab that formed, and it was not an easy task.
She got out, checked her soaking shirt and was pleased to see there was just a small brownish smudge there where the deep red had been caked. It would have to be good enough, and she could probably hide it under her hair if she decided to wear it again. It was one of her cute shirts, with little cartoon ponies on the front, so she wanted to take it back to her side with her, at least. She probably shouldn't wear any of her own clothes on this side, though the thought of wearing Emmy's clothes made her want to scream.
She pulled the clothing on anyway, and glared at her reflection. Too many cheerful colors. She hung the wet shirt to dry on the towel bar and went back to Emmy's room. Her room. She was looking around in the other girl's room to see what she could find when the door clicked open and a familiar voice called up, “Emmy, I'm home! Are you here?”
And this concludes our little peek inside the book I'm working on. Hope you enjoyed! It's still rough, but it's a pretty solid start! :)
And this concludes our little peek inside the book I'm working on. Hope you enjoyed! It's still rough, but it's a pretty solid start! :)