Another Wrong Number

Today’s writing prompt:

After getting a strange phone call offering help with stabilizing reality you start to notice that things keep changing inexplicably. For example, your phone number is not what you remember it being.

I was dreaming that I was swimming. Somewhere there was a bell ringing. I finally woke up enough to realize that my phone was ringing. I answered it.

A man’s voice said, “Good. We finally synchronized eigenstates with you. We need your help stablizing reality. The field could collapse at any moment.” There was a click on the line. I looked at the phone. It said call dropped.

I was awake. It was 4:45am and there was no way I was going to get back to sleep before my alarm rang at five. I sat on the edge of the bed and stared at my phone. I didn’t remember changing the desktop photo on it. Who was the kid in the picture. He looked familiar but the name just wasn’t coming to me. He looked a little bit like my little brother.

The cat came in from the other room and jumped up on the bed beside me. “Well, Sylvester, I guess it’s time to get up.” He meowed his agreement and head butted me. I gave him his morning fix of kitty bits in gravy and headed to the bathroom for my morning shower.

After the shower, I got dressed and was fooling with my phone before putting it in my pocket. I noticed that it listed my phone number as something different from what it had always been. I scratched my head for a minute and decided to call my provider.

“This is Melody, how may I help you today, Mr. Howard?” the agent asked.

“It seems that you changed my phone number without telling me?” I said.

“My records show that your phone number has always been (123) 555-4567 since you’ve had service with us. That’s been eight years, right?”

“I’ve been with you for about eight years but that’s not my phone number. It has always been (123) 555-1902,” I replied.

“We show that number being listed to a James Fletcher. Did you perhaps confuse your number with a friends?”

“No, I don’t know a James Fletcher. Perhaps I’m just confused. Thank you.” I was getting a little freaked out.

“Is there anything else I can do for you, Mr. Howard?”

“Just one more thing. What is today’s date?” I don’t know why I asked. Imagine my surprise at the answer.

“Of course. It’s September 31, 2018. Is there anything else?”

“No, thank you.” I hung up stunned. When had September gotten an extra day. I checked the calendar on the refrigerator just to make sure I had understood correctly. I grabbed my bag and headed out to work.

I got there half an hour early thanks to my early morning caller. I waved at Mary, the receptionist as I walked past. She waved and said, “Just a minute, Steve. Who are you here to see?”

“I work here, last I checked,” I responded.

She looked at me kind of funny and said, “You haven’t worked her in over a year, Steve. You left here to start a freelance business.”

“Oh, right. Sorry. Old habits die hard. Well… I guess I’ll be going then.” I turned and walked back out. On the way home, I noticed that the stop lights were blue instead of green. I got home and went to my office. I had been thinking about starting my own business. When had I taken the plunge? I remembered going to work yesterday. Why would I set an alarm for five if I worked for myself?

My phone rang. I jumped. Then I answered it. “Stephen?” The voice sounded tentative.

“Yes? Who is this?” I asked a little more emphatically than I meant to.

“It’s Carl. Your partner. We invented the Eigenshifter together.”

“The what? You mean like business partner?” I was trying to make some kind of sense of what he was saying.

“Yes, your business partner. The Eigenshifter. You know. The machine that changes which universe you are in. Only it isn’t working properly. We’re jumping randomly between universes and I can’t get it to stabilize. You’ve got to help me.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m not sure. The address on the door of the office here says 2200 Maple Street SW Suite 4b. Get here as quick as you can. The instrumentation is indicating a major shift in the next hour.”

“Stay calm. I’ll be there as soon as I can.” I hung up. I didn’t remember anything about him or inventing an Eigenshifter but in light of the strange things that had been happening this morning I didn’t have any better ideas so I programmed the address in my map application and headed over to the office.

When I got there the door was standing open. I went inside and closed the door behind me. “Carl?” I called. There was no answer. There was no one in the outer office so I went through a door to my right. It opened into a hallway. There was an archway about half way down the hall that opened into a lab area.

I called again, “Carl?” Still no answer. There was a machine on the lab bench. It was an electronic circuit built on one of those prototyping boards. There was an instrument with several meters and a display screen sitting on the shelf above the unit connected to it by several wires of various colors.

On the bench beside the circuit was a schematic. I was puzzling over it when a voice behind me said, “At last! I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Carl?” I asked.

“No, it’s Charles, your partner, remember. You designed the Timeslip and I helped build it.” He looked truly puzzled.

“Things must be worse than you thought. When you called me you said your name was Carl and the machine was called the Eigenshifter.” He looked at me with shock.

“You’re right. We’ve got to do something to stabilize reality before one or both of us disappears. Have at it.” He pointed at the prototype.

“I hate to tell you this but I haven’t a clue what this is or how to stabilize it.” He cringed. I looked back at the schematics. It had been a long time since I took electronics in high school but I didn’t want to disappear.

I was about to move one of the probe wires when a familiar voice said, “Don’t touch that!” I looked up and it felt like I was looking in the mirror.  “I think I can fix it and things will all go back to the way they were.”

“How do you mean?” I asked. “The way they were for you or me or Carl or Charles or whatever his name is? What reality will we go back to?”

“The one where this all started. You will still be part of me and Charles will be Charlie instead of Charles or Carl. It’s better than this random drifting through alternative universes.”

“Okay.” I said. “Do it.” He came over to the bench and took a few measurements. He turned a few nobs and then…

I was dreaming that I was swimming. Somewhere there was a bell ringing. I finally woke up enough to realize that my phone was ringing. I answered it.

A man’s voice said, “Hello, Sharon?”

“No, I think you’ve got the wrong number.” I hung up and went back to sleep.

Tomorrow’s writing prompt:

You start a new job in the morning. It is your dream job. Your friend calls you and asks for a ride to the other side of town to visit his girlfriend in the hospital. You take him but when it’s time to come home your car has been stolen.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.