Primus v. Secundus

An account by Dr. Sanjay Bose, as provided by Dr. K. Kitts
Art by Leigh Legler


LEFT

Grabbing Paul by the collar, I screamed in his face. “It’s me! I’m the original! You’ve got to help me prove it.”

The security guard yanked the back of my shirt, forcing me into a seat at the table in Conference Room A. He leaned in and spoke quietly into my ear. “Dr. Bose, please stay seated. You’re freaking out Dr. Winn.”

He was right. Paul had pressed himself as far back into the stackable conference chair as he could, his eyes wide. Holding up my hands in surrender, the guard released me. I pressed my palms onto the top of the table, examining the black letter “L” drawn on the back of my hand. A rivulet of sweat ran over my ribs. The small meeting room tended to be freezing in the summer with no way to control the AC, but now it felt oppressive.

“Please, Paul. Just get my wife down here. She’ll be able to tell us apart. She’ll know it’s me.”

Paul snapped out of his dazed expression. Frowning, he said, “I’ve got a call in to Dr. Sanders. She’s evaluating the situation. There might be some danger. She wants to wait before contacting your wife.”

“You ran the counter over me. I’m not radioactive. The beam’s shut down.”

“Yeah, well the beam was shut down before you got …” He flicked his fingers. “Duplicated.”

RIGHT

An hour ago, something went wrong, and the electrical system on one of the large bending magnets blew. The beam destabilized and the synchrotron dumped, all at the speed of light. Control rack number two overloaded. I ran toward the unit with a chemical extinguisher, anticipating an electrical fire.

As I approached the rack, the air grew heavier and colder, like a slap from an open freezer door. It disoriented me, and I collided with someone. Looking up I saw my face, on my body, holding an identical extinguisher.

The rack sparked. Simultaneously, we hit it with a burst of chemicals, the white clouds mixing and coating both of us. In unison, we set down our canisters and pulled the rack out and away, disconnecting it.

Paul sat there at the control computer, gaping. His grad student Dianne paused for a split second and then grabbed a Sharpie. She dashed up to me and scrawled an “R” on my hand and an “L” on my copy. Only then did the fire alarm sound.

LEFT

Dianne passed me the inkpad. I pressed my thumb onto the pad and then against the paper under the letter “L.” My duplicate had already left his print under the “R.”

They were the same.

She handed me a tissue. “Well, he isn’t your mirror image.”

I wiped the remaining ink from my thumb and asked, “What do you think happened?”

She shook her head. “Hell, if I know. I can’t imagine how you could’ve been duplicated, but neither can I understand how it’s possible to snag your counterpart from a parallel universe. The beam was barely in the TeV range when it dumped. It makes no sense.”

She excused herself to go show my print to the duplicate and check on Sanders’ ETA. The boss was downtown at corporate to report on the latest upgrades. A semi had jackknifed on the highway, delaying her arrival.

The guard stood outside the door. Was it to keep me in or gawkers out? Word had spread about some sort of accident at Hutch Fourteen. When the beam dumps, everyone gets pissed, their experiments jeopardized or ruined. People want to know who screwed up.

Primus v. Secundus

She meant it as a joke, but it wasn’t funny. How could I prove I was the original if my duplicate always reacted exactly as I did? What makes a man an individual? His deeds? His memories? His thoughts? His emotions? We held all these in common. Then, perhaps his family?


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Winter 2016 collection.


RE: Your Request for Information on Dr. S. Bose: The Human Resources Department only verifies dates of employment and job title. We will provide no further information.


Dr. K. Kitts is a retired geology professor who lives in the high desert of New Mexico. She served as a science team member on the NASA Genesis Mission and worked with both Apollo lunar samples and meteorites. She no longer wishes to talk about “what is” but rather “what if.” She is currently writing both short and novel-length science fiction.


Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.

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4 Responses to Primus v. Secundus

  1. Jean Asselin says:

    Great short story!

    Kept me wondering how *I* would react in such dire circumstances: would I display the required killer instinct to survive? Could I live on half my income and resources? Could I talk my double in behaving differently? All nicely disturbing questions.

    (The illustration for the story rocks, too!)

  2. David Eisert says:

    Great ending. It is such an Intriguing question how one would react if they had an exact double. Would they be a friend or foe? What would you share?

  3. Todd says:

    You’d think Rayna, with a baby on the way, would like having an extra husband for doing stuff around the house, plus, in the future, an occasional three-way. In my opinion, the Dr. Boses are being a tad selfish.

  4. Derrick says:

    Loved this! It kept me riveted all the way to the end, a very well thought-out story.

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