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If She Pushes the Button, Turn to Page 116

Robert Lowell Russell, a native Texan, lives with his family in southeastern Ohio. He is a former librarian and current nursing student. This is his second story to appear in Daily Science Fiction and his ninth humorous story overall to be published or accepted. In addition to appearing in Daily Science Fiction, Robert's stories have appeared in Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show, Penumbra, Stupefying Stories, and variety of other venues. His story, "The Flittiest Catch," received a three-star rating on Tangent Online's 2012 Recommended Read List.

Not satisfied with writing stories of questionable content for adults, Robert is starting work on series of middle-grade books incorporating his love of not-so-super-heroes and toilet-humor. For links to more of Rob's stories (or to see him dressed like a ninja) visit: robertlowellrussell.blogspot.com.

Page 49
The basement air smells of mildew and spray-can potpourri. In one corner fluorescent lights reveal a tower of science magazines, their spines straight and their pages crisp. Yellow post-it notes decorate the stack like ornaments on a Christmas tree. Scrawled on the notes are messages like: YOUR GRANDFATHER'S JUNK--KEEP/TOSS? and READ THESE OR THOW THEM OUT!
"Wow, you weren't kidding." Susan scowls at the magazines in the corner. "They really customized that thing to you. Where'd you say you got it?"
"Transdimensional Amazon, I think." Phil holds a paperback book.
"Their prices are fantastic," he continues, "but you've got to order enough to get free shipping or they'll screw you. Let me read some more."
In another corner, his and hers treadmills sit unused except by spiders and silverfish.
"Well, maybe I'd use mine if you'd clean down here like I keep asking," says Susan.
In the center of the space rests a large wooden crate with its lid ajar.
"Hey, is that more of your grandfather's stuff?" Susan asks.
"Hey, is that more of your grandfather's stuff?" she asks.
"So, what happens next?" Susan studies the crate.
If she doesn't find the journal, turn to page 57.
If she finds the journal, turn to page 61.
Phil flips ahead in the book.
Page 57
"It sure is hot down here," you say, removing your t-shirt.
"It sure is hot down here." Phil struggles to remove his shirt one-handed while holding the book in the other.
"What's this?" Susan pulls a leather tome from the crate.
Sighing, he lets his shirt drop and flips to another part of the book.
"It's cheating to skip ahead in those, you know," she says. Susan returns her attention to the tome. "Honey, I think this is your grandfather's journal. It's kind of weird."
"Weird how?" Phil absently flips through his book. "It sure is hot down here." He resumes his t-shirt struggle.
"Klaatu barada nikto?" reads Susan. "Aren't those words from that..."
With a groan of grinding rock and a puff a dust, a door slides open in the basement wall to reveal a stone staircase winding into the depths.
Phil drops his shirt again and flips to a new page in the book.
Page 61
"I'll grab a flashlight," you say.
"Be right back." Phil stomps up the basement steps, and a minute later, stomps back down again with a flashlight in his hand.
The air in the passage is cool and moist. Moss covers the natural rock walls. She presses close to you as you creep together down the stone steps. You try to hold the light so you can see where you're going and peek at the pages in the book.
Susan grabs his hand and forces the flashlight down so she can see the stairs.
"Phil... someone has been down here. See the tracks?" She holds her hand to her mouth. "They go back up, too."
"Yeah, those are mine. I found this place a week ago." He grins. "Sorry, I should have told you sooner. There's some really cool stuff down in the cavern, and maybe you can help me out with something."
Phil flips far ahead in his book. "Well, there's this button."
They continue down the stairs.
Page 98
At the bottom of the stairs is a cavern so immense that the walls seem to end in darkness. Spotlights illuminate stalactites and stalagmites. A stainless steel machine with dials and flashing lights is bolted to the floor. On a panel on the machine is a button, and next to the button is a display that reads: SEND HIM BACK.
Farther inside the cavern is a huge transparent box with a man inside. The trapped man looks exactly like you but with a goatee. The other man screams and points and pounds his fists against the walls.
"Is that...?" asks Susan.
"Yep. My evil twin from another dimension. I always thought that goatee thing was bullshit but there you have it." He indicates the man in the box. "I tried to ask him if evil twin ladies had beards, too, but he just kept screaming about world domination and death rays." Phil shows the other man his middle finger. "Evil Me is a dick."
"And if you push the button?"
"A transdimensional portal opens and slurps him back up. At least that's what the manual says." He indicates a dusty book resting in a nearby office chair.
"And if you don't push the button?"
"Well, he can't get out of the box unless I let him out. And he's fine inside it. There's an invisible toilet, and apparently some kind of water and food pellet dispenser thing, too." He laughs. "It's actually kind of funny to watch him because he keeps mixing up the toilet and the dispenser."
"What are you going to do?"
"Not sure."
"You're so bad with decisions. Some days, I can't believe I got you to say 'I do.'" She slaps the button, and the man in the box vanishes into a vortex of light. "Now what?"
If she pushes the button, turn to page 116
Phil flips a few pages forward in his book, then flips back. "It sure is hot down here." He lifts his t-shirt and Susan snuggles against him and rubs her hand on his chest.
"Told you the Abdominator would work wonders," she says. "Let's grab some Mexican food. Chi-Chi's has half-priced margaritas."
If you go for half-price margaritas, turn to page 121.
Phil starts to flip pages, but she takes the book from him and tosses it away.
Page 121
Hooking your arm in hers, you start back up the stairs together.
She glances at your neck. "Looks like you cut yourself shaving."
In the kitchen, Susan returns her makeup case to her purse.
Phil asks from the living room, "What do you want to do after dinner? Catch a movie or something?"
She pulls a paperback book from the purse.
If you're going out for half-price margaritas with your husband's transdimensional evil twin, turn to page 107.
"It's creepy how specific they are," says Susan, "but he's right, the prices are fantastic."
"What's that, hon?"
Flipping to page 107, she reads to the bottom, then places the book back in her purse next to a box of Junior Mints, a pair of silk panties, and a revolver.
"I don't know yet. I don't want to skip ahead."
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

Author Comments

I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid, though I always cheated by skipping ahead because I hated the idea of missing out on something cool. When I was brainstorming my next bit of weirdness, I knew I wanted to incorporate CYOA books into a story somehow. I tinkered with the idea of writing something in the actual CYOA format, but I couldn't make it work. Instead, I decided to write a story where a CYOA book drove the action. This is my second story to delve into transdimensional wackiness, so including an evil twin in my plot was a no-brainer. The rest kind of wrote itself. By the way, if you check out my blog, you'll see that yes, I am the evil twin. MUAHAHAHAHA! (You know, because of the goatee.)

- Robert Lowell Russell
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