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art by Jonathan Westbrook

Mirror Image

Peter Wood is an attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina where he lives with his patient wife and surly cat. He grew up reading science fiction masters like Ray Bradbury, Philip Dick, and Kurt Vonnegut, and wishes he could write more like them. His stories have appeared in Bull Spec, Ray Gun Revival, Interstellar Fiction, Every Day Fiction, and Stupefying Stories.
Sam looked around Dad's cluttered laboratory. Even after becoming a tenured Ivy League physics professor, he still didn't understand Dad's cutting-edge research into quantum physics. Now, with Dad gone after a three-year battle with cancer, the world would probably stay in the dark.
The dusty lab was a paradox, just like Dad. His father had theorized about parallel universes, but had never owned a mobile phone or television. His lab was filled with equipment that was outdated before Sam was born--vacuum tubes and monstrous computers that took up entire walls.
His sister, Doris, stepped down the rickety wooden stairs from the back-alley entrance. She was dressed to the nines, as if she wanted to impress somebody at the funeral. "I thought I might find you here," she said. "It'll be a shame to auction off Dad's equipment, but that's the only fair thing."
His stomach lurched. "Why the hell should we sell the lab? I need time to go through everything."
"The will says the estate should be split fifty-fifty." She fingered a diamond bracelet. "Of course, if you want, you can have the lab and I'll take the house."
He stared at her wrist. He hadn't seen the bracelet in years, but it was distinctive. "That was Mom's."
Doris smiled. "Dad gave it to me last week."
"The hell he did."
"You should have been here, Samuel."
He cringed. Everybody called him Sam except Doris. Dad had been floating in and out of dementia for months. Doris had stayed with him the last weeks of his life after not visiting for ten years. Dad gave her many "gifts" during this time. His bank account was cleaned out.
"The house is worth far more than the lab," Sam snapped.
Doris shrugged. "Fine. We'll just sell both and split whatever we get."
Sam glared at her. "Don't you have enough money?"
"I've got my future to think about." She walked over to a full-length silver mirror. "Why would Dad have this? He never combed his hair or gave a damn what he wore."
"How should I know?"
Doris leaned casually against a nearby computer.
"Careful," Sam said.
Doris slapped the machine. "This piece of junk doesn't do anything."
But she was wrong. She must have hit a switch. The giant reel-to-reel data tapes clicked as they slowly turned. The mirror glowed. Doris stepped back.
Sam noticed a large coax cable running from the computer to the mirror. "What the hell?"
He saw the reflections of himself and Doris, but something was wrong. The lab was almost empty. There were no computers. In the mirror he and Doris wore casual clothes.
"It's not a mirror. It's a portal. Look. The lab's clear. It's an alternate world, I think. There are some differences. It's one of the parallel universes that Dad wrote about," Sam said.
Doris snorted. "That's ridiculous."
Then Sam noticed one thing that was the same in the parallel world. He and Doris were still fighting.
The other Doris took off the bracelet and waved it in the face of the alternate Sam. The other Sam grabbed the bracelet and threw it across the room.
It slid part way through the portal into their reality.
Doris looked at the second bracelet. "So that's just like my bracelet?"
"It's exactly the same," Sam said.
She reached for it.
"Don't touch it!" Sam yelled.
But his sister ignored him. As she grabbed the bracelet, her twin clutched it from the other side.
"It's mine," Doris said to her other self. "Let go, you selfish witch."
But the mirrored Doris would not let go.
Sam felt a breeze. The lights flickered. He heard a sound like somebody sucking up the last bit of milkshake through a straw. And then his sister was slurped through the mirror.
Sparks flew out of the computer. The mirror went dark and, with a loud pop, it cracked.
The magnetic tapes stopped twirling. Smoke rose from the computer. Sam doubted he could get the dimensional portal operational again.
He hoped Doris could live with herself.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, February 6th, 2013


As I get older I see more and more sad situations where otherwise rational adults squabble over estates and I wanted to write a story where an unethical heir gets what she deserves. The Dad's work place is my homage to those great labs in 50s SF movies and tv shows like The Outer Limits.

- Peter M. Wood

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