300-word story: An intelligent machine finds itself all alone in the world.
300-word story: A desperate woman signs up to a radical scientific experiment.
Sally hadn't volunteered out of courage or curiosity. It wasn't because she felt a responsibility to help mankind take its next giant leap. She did it for the money, which she needed desperately.
Sitting opposite her, the scientist explained that she would be left alone in the room whilst it was flooded with a special type of radiation. There would be no pain or discomfort; the risk was far more sophisticated, hence the large sum in exchange for her involvement.
Once the scientist had left, Sally could still hear him over the intercom. He counted down from ten, flicked a switch and… nothing. As far as she could tell, absolutely nothing happened.
After a minute, a buzzer indicated that the radiation had dispersed, at which point the scientist re-entered the room.
"Sally? How are you feeling?"
"I'm fine," she replied. "Didn't it work?"
"Apparently not. As you know, the procedure should have temporarily sent you to a parallel universe. One that would most likely appear identical aside from minuscule differences, perhaps too subtle or far away for you to ever notice. However, you never left this room."
"Right," said Sally. "I still get paid though, yeah?"
"Yes," nodded the scientist, visibly disappointed. "Yes, of course."
Sally exited the facility and went home. The experiment had been a failure, which was a shame, but she was ecstatic nonetheless. Her debts completely wiped, life was now infinitely more comfortable.
Meanwhile, back in Sally's original universe, a woman who looked and acted just like her did the exact same thing. Neither would ever know that a stranger was living in her house, sleeping with her husband, raising her children. The instantaneous transferral had worked both ways and was a monumental success, yet the worlds kept on turning as if nothing had ever happened.
Copyright © 2020 Rich Sutherland
Image: Ismael Sanchez
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