This short story is a light-hearted one with little humorous elements, and you would not find
a lot of science fiction in it. However, I have tried to deliver a meaningful message through
this story, which I hope the reader will be able to decipher.
On a lazy winter afternoon, Eddie sat on his couch, flipping the pages of an issue of The Flash that he had casually pulled out from his large comic book collection.
“Earth Two. Duh!” he scoffed. “Apparently there is an earth somewhere just like ours, and
people had the mind back in 1961 to put this baloney in a comic book.”
It was not that Eddie had always been scornful of the seemingly impossible ideas in comic books. In fact, since he was a kid, he had a secret world inside his head where he was a comic-book superhero with self-induced powers, and his weekly visits to the comic book store had sharpened his imagination.
But now Eddie was grown up. At 22, he felt life – the life that was real, outside those comic
books – hurling brickbats at him every day, and he could only roll his eyes at the limited edition comic book in his hand. In a minute, Eddie quickly reminded himself of all the things that had gone wrong in his life in the past one year – graduated with satisfactory grades followed by no job offers, no financial support from parents, peers already settled down or about to. “I wish I got a second chance. I wish there really was an Earth Two, and I would give my best to make my life better.” Eddie sighed, and stared at the fireplace.
The fire looked odd today, with strong black patches visible underneath the orange flame. The patches gradually seemed to enlarge and it was not long before the orange flame turned into a ball of black plasma-like matter. Eddie rubbed his eyes. Was he asleep? It wasn’t clear, and maybe he didn’t care that much. But his curiosity soon got the better of him, and he walked towards the fireplace. The next few seconds were like the feeling when one falls asleep without realising, and then wakes up in a jolt with vague and scattered memories of dreams. Eddie couldn’t figure out how long it took him to regain his senses after being sucked into the plasma, but after he did, to his relief he found that he still was his 22-year old self.
“Holy Lord! What was that?” he exclaimed.”Where am I?” Eddie looked around. There was
nothing much unusual in the place where he was. Looking at the well-built houses and parked cars, he felt as if he had teleported only to a few blocks away from his neighbourhood. He strolled leisurely down the road, looking out for something that might surprise him. He was afraid that he wouldn’t see anything spectacular after all, and the whole teleportation thing would be a disappointment.
But, soon enough, a distant scream caught Eddie’s attention. He ran towards the source of the sound, and the scene before him stopped him in his tracks. A man was holding a gun pointed towards a woman, who was clutching her baby to herself and handing over all her money and jewellery to the man. As if by reflex, Eddie took out his cellphone to dial the police, only to find that the call could not be completed. Although he desperately wanted to help the woman, all he could do was run away because he was unarmed. In a short while, he tried to dial a few more numbers from his contact list, but it only seemed that the place he was in had no access whatsoever to the place he was from.
As Eddie continued his walk, now faster and with scared steps, a whole new world unfolded before him. Wherever he looked, he saw nothing but crime. As if the scene of the mugger was nothing but a prelude, all around Eddie there were scenes of loot and plunder. The beautiful houses were broken into and the neatly parked cars were driven away by thieves, like they were deliberately standing there for being stolen. To his utter surprise, Eddie saw no resistance from the inhabitants of the house or the owners of the cars. He ran to an old woman standing timidly outside her house, whose furniture was being removed by a group of burly men.
“What is going on here? Why are you letting these people take away your stuff?” he asked.
“Hush, kid!” said the old woman, with a voice overpowered by fear. “I don’t know where you are from, but you aren’t supposed to question the authority. Either you give away all you have, or you lose your life. You better run to your home and start packing up your stuff as well.”
Deeply puzzled as he was, Eddie tried to get the meaning out of those words, when he spotted a newspaper lying a little far off. He picked it up, and the meaning of it all became clear instantly. The front page headline said: NEW RULER TAKES OVER, NEW LAW AND ORDER SUBJECT TO DISCRETION OF THE HIGHNESS. What he figured out on reading
further is, over the past few months, democracy in that place had yielded to authoritarian rule, one that threatened to kill the people if they did not give away their belongings. The very thought of this was nauseating to Eddie, and all he wanted was to run back to the comforts of his couch by the fireplace. He frantically searched for the black plasma that had brought him there, but no trace of it was to be seen. Feeling worn out, he took refuge on a roadside seat beside a homeless man. Smirking through his blackened teeth, the man said, “I am a lucky guy you see. I have nothing to lose, and nobody has ever pointed a gun at me.” The voice sounded so oddly familiar that Eddie had to give a closer look at the man. In an overwhelming realisation, it was now clear to him that his doppelganger on this earth (which he had now begun to call Earth Two) was a homeless and penniless man. Eddie fumbled for words, but ultimately narrated his story to the man. It was not clear if he believed the story or not, but he stood up and brought back logs of wood in his arms.”Let’s light a fire and see what happens,” he said.
As the fire blazed and the two Eddies looked into it, sure enough once again the flame turned into black plasma. Eddie was ready to go. “Why don’t you come with me? You will be safe in my house. You will get to eat too.”
“I told you, kid. This is the safest I can be. No guns at me,” grinned Eddie Two.
Eddie smiled, and let himself get sucked in the plasma once more. When he woke up, he was unfortunately not in his house. Before he could even start getting frustrated, the setting of theplace he was in filled him with wonder. Eddie was standing outside the biggest ever residential building he had ever seen. It was no less than an enormous mansion.
As he stood there marvelling at it, a shy-looking attendant came and bowed to him. “Your hot bath is ready, master. If you wish you may please proceed,” he said, never making eye contact.
“What! For me? Thanks!” Eddie exclaimed.
The attendant looked up for a second as if trying to confirm what he just heard, and then looked down again. Eddie followed him to a bath area that he could have only dreamt of. It was as huge as his college auditorium, and had a collection of accessories and bath products that one can find only at the mall. As he got ready to enter the bath tub, he heard a roaring voice from the other end, “Who is that impostor? Get him and bring him to me.” Having learnt from the earlier experience, Eddie hardly took any time to recognise that voice. It was his doppelganger on this earth (What was this one, Earth Three?).
In a while, Eddie learnt that Eddie Three was a very affluent business tycoon who had built
his empire on the money extorted from the common people by cheating them with business deals. He had now a mansion full of five hundred attendants, a property worth billions of dollars, and no family. He claimed to be the happiest man on Earth Three, and could not afford to have another man who looked like him, on that Earth.
“How would you like to die? We have all options available,” bellowed Eddie Three.
Eddie thought for a moment. There was only one possibly fruitful option.
“I would like to burn up in flames,” he answered without flinching.
“Is that so? Sounds innovative,” sneered Eddie Three. “Bring as many logs of wood you can and burn him down.” He ordered his attendants.
“Thanks, but well, I would actually prefer jumping into the fire myself, rather than you
lighting me up. Is that alright?” said Eddie.
Eddie Three looked sceptical. He wasn’t in the mood for a joke. But seeing that Eddie would die either way, he gave in. So the fire was lit once again, and to Eddie’s relief, after a certain time, the fire did turn into black plasma. This time Eddie prayed hard and visualised his comfortable couch by the fireplace in his own house. Eddie Three watched in disbelief as Eddie didn’t die but got sucked into the fire-turned-plasma, but then remarked, “What does it matter where he went? He’s gone.”
Eddie found himself lying on the couch in the same position as the time when he had left, and a look at the clock told him that hardly a minute had gone by since then. He gave out a
triumphant laugh, put aside the comic book, and picked up his journal. Opening a fresh page, he wrote:
“Journal Entry #123 – January 12, 2056
I have been to a place where I was homeless, but brave and kind, and I have been to a place where I was rich, but evil and foolish. But none of these places are better than what I have here with me, right now. Life is not perfect, no matter where you go, what you become. But what you can do is make the most of what you have and what you can control.
Eddie, Earth One.”