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Kitty Is Alive, Kitty Is Dead

Jennifer Campbell-Hicks is a writer, journalist, wife, mother, and lifelong science-fiction fan who lives in Colorado. Her fiction has appeared in venues including Fireside Magazine, Abyss & Apex and Every Day Fiction. This is her second story in Daily Science Fiction. She blogs at: jennifercampbellhicks.blogpot.com.

"I wouldn't open that door if I were you."
Kitty stopped with her hand on the knob.
"Why not?" she asked.
When she didn't get an answer, she released the knob and turned around. The woman watched Kitty from a brown couch where she sprawled with one arm and one leg dangling limply over the edge.
They looked identical--same blond hair, same green eyes--except the other Kitty had a bullet hole in her forehead that dripped dark, viscous blood down the bridge of her nose, and her skin was white and slagged like a corpse's.
Kitty kept her distance.
"Why shouldn't I open the door?" she said.
Other Kitty sat up and wiped blood from her nose with her sleeve. There was a flicker, and the couch turned from brown to the bright pink of an Easter egg. "Do you know where we are?"
"A room."
It was like a shipping container, except it was a perfect cube and furnished like a display at a furniture store--couches, side tables, lamps, an area rug. There were no windows and one door.
Everything felt hazy and dreamlike. Kitty had only a vague memory of how she had gotten here. She had volunteered for an experiment. She had needed the cash.
"This is more than a room," Other Kitty said.
"How so?"
"In here, anything is possible."
"That's impossible."
"Anyway, why would that stop me from opening the door?"
Other Kitty smiled. Flicker. She sat on a four-poster bed draped with an acid green quilt, and the bullet hole was gone. Instead, a knife stuck out from her chest.
"You know the answer," Other Kitty said. "You know because I know. You just don't want to admit it. We're the same."
"No. You're dead."
"And you're alive. I told you, anything is possible. At least, so long as no one outside the box observes what's inside. If that happens..."
A memory came to Kitty of what she had been told when she volunteered. It seemed lifetimes ago.
"The possibilities collapse," she whispered, bumps of fright shivering up her spine.
Flicker. A slushy machine appeared and then--flicker--turned into a jukebox. Kitty walked over to it. The jukebox was filled with records. She selected one. The record dropped onto the turntable and started to spin. The first notes played of The Beatles' Blackbird.
Another flicker. Shimmery, transparent curtains appeared around the four-poster. Other Kitty watched her intently with one good green eye. The other was bashed in along with the left side of her face. The knife was gone.
Kitty sat beside her other self on the bed. The silky curtains gusted as if in a breeze. She could smell bacon frying somewhere nearby.
"Why do you care if you vanish?" Kitty said.
Other Kitty shrugged. "Dead is only another state of existence. It's not the same as being erased from the record of the universe."
"You're scared. I get that. I'm scared, too." And she was, literally trembling. Sweat slicked her forehead, cold and clammy. "I can't stay here, though. I have a life outside that door."
Family, friends, a boyfriend, a job.
Flicker. The Beatles became a country ballad. A man crooned about losing his woman to another man because he had never treated her right.
Kitty stood and--flicker--was surrounded in a fun house hall of mirrors. Half the mirrors showed her alive. In those reflections, she saw the tattoo between her shoulder blades of a black cat licking its paw. The other half showed her dead.
Other Kitty said from the mirrors, "If you open that door, you and I have an equal chance of ceasing to exist."
"I know."
"You're still going to do it?"
She felt at the mirrors until she found an opening and stepped through. Other Kitty reflected back and forth from mirror to mirror, dozens of her, growing smaller and smaller, shrinking into infinity.
A few more steps through the maze, and Kitty stood in front of the door. She grasped the knob.
"Don't," Other Kitty said.
"I'm sorry. I have to."
She turned the knob and opened the door.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Author Comments

I wrote this piece for the Codex Weekend Warrior contest, based off the prompt that my protagonist doesn't belong in his or her environment and takes steps to solve the problem. My brain immediately went to a fantasy version of Schrodinger's box.

- Jennifer Campbell-Hicks
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