Carol's first fleeting thought that morning when she woke up was;
My name is Carol Verricker. I have to remember that.
Which in itself was confusing since her name was Lydia Mason.
Lydia rubbed the sleep out of her eyes and got out of bed. For a brief second, the room around her went swimmy and faded around the edges. Her eyes crossed involuntarily. She leaned against the bed post, trying to get her head back in order. When the feeling passed and she could see properly again, she had the distinct feeling that something was wrong. Something about the room was off, and she just couldn't quite put her finger on what it was.
Was the carpet always that color blue? she thought.
After a moment of staring ineffectively at the carpet, she shrugged it off as leftover dream-lag and got ready for school. When she opened her door, a white and brown blur ran into the room and leapt onto her bed.
It's Kimmy, she thought. Such a good kitty.
"Hey, Biscuit," she said to the beagle sitting on the coverlet. "Who's a good boy?"
Biscuit beat his stubbly little tail a few times to show he was happy, but kept his head down to show he was guilty. She knew that look; he was waiting to see if she would kick him off or not.
"Go ahead," she told him. "I guess I'm not feeling like myself today."
Lydia went downstairs, trying to clear her head. Twice she got lost in her own house, turning into a closet where -for some inexplicable reason- she thought there was a bathroom. She had forgotten the stairs completely, and only just managed to catch herself before falling down the steps.
She trudged dazedly into the kitchen and tried to ignore the nagging, not-quite-itching feeling in the back of her head. From the stairwell she could hear her parents chatting while they made breakfast.
But I don't live with my dad, she thought. I see him on Wednesdays and every other weekend.
"Morning Mom. Dad."
Mr. Mason gave a little wave without looking up from the eggs he was working on. Mrs. Mason said 'Mornin'" and returned to her pancake batter.
Lydia had just sat down at the table when she heard footsteps trudging down the stairs.
I'm an only child.
Her little brother Cody came into the kitchen and sat down at the table without unsticking his eyelids. He mumbled something she took to be 'Good morning' and slouched in his chair.
The family ate breakfast in relative silence, which gave Lydia time to think. She had the strangest headache. For a while, it really did feel as though she was two people, or perhaps one person in two bodies.
What was it? she thought suddenly, remembering the weird dream. What was it again? 'My name is Carol'. . . something. Carol something.
Then Cody knocked over her glass of orange juice and all thoughts of Carol Verricker were cast out of her head.
Ah well, she thought. It probably wasn't important anyway.
* * * * *
In a miniature pocket universe two alternate realities down the way there is, in the loosest sense of the word, a building.
It has walls, and from the outside it has a roof, which implies a ceiling. And that may very well be where its connection to physics as we know it ends. When seen from the front, the structure looks to be an elegant Arabian palace that wound up amidst a field of red flowers. From the left it's a space station, floating in space. The right has it as an old fashioned medieval castle, complete with a moat. No one knows how, but the back - originally intended to be underwater- somehow managed to look like something we would equate with an M.C. Escher painting. Doors to nowhere are wrapped around odd angles while pillars that turn at ninety degree angles still inexplicably hold up the overhang, which itself is upside-down.
Nobody goes through the back.
Sitting in a gazebo out in front, two men are playing a board game. It is a complex enough game with the vaguest resemblance to chess, only in this case there are millions of pieces and billions of squares, all of which manage to fit comfortably on a regulation size game board. There is a spinning wheel involved somewhere, and there are several pairs of dice, each for a particular occasion.
One of the men is bent down, retrieving the pencil he'd been using to keep score. When he rises up, he eyes the board suspiciously. Something isn't quite right.
"Did you move any of my pieces?" he says.
"Oh no," says the red player. "I wouldn't do that."
The yellow player is unconvinced. "You switched one of them, didn't you? I could've sworn I had one of mine on that side. One right there."
"Nope. As you can see, it's just mine." The red player gestures to the pieces on that side of the board, all of them his.
The yellow player snorts and picks up a pair of dice. "My turn," he says.
And the games of the gods goes on.