“STEVEN!!” Stephen woke to the sound of someone calling his name; annoyed they were pronouncing it wrong. Then, the shaking started. He opened his eyes to find his younger sister’s blue eyes staring down at him. They sparkled with excitement that matched her broad smile, but she didn’t stop shaking him. “WAKE UP! DANA SHARP IS COMING TO MEET YOU!” she shook him harder out of giddiness.
“Take it easy, Shay,” he said. “Who?” He asked. His sister stopped shaking him and gave him a puzzled look.
“Dana Sharp? The creator of the AlterNet and the most powerful woman in the multiverse? I don’t know what you did, but she just called and said she wanted to give you a personal birthday greeting.”
Stephen realized several things at once and needed to sit still for a moment to process it all. The first thing he noticed while his sister was talking; she looked decades younger. Her familiar salt and pepper strands shined like the vibrant gold of her jr. high years. Her laugh lines were smooth and non-existent.
He also wondered what she was doing in his house, but he glanced around and realized he wasn’t in his bedroom. He felt coarse ground beneath and grabbed a handful of something he guessed was soil while listening. The walls of the room were basic drywall with several unfinished panels. And most confusing of all, it wasn’t his birthday.
“GET UP AND GET DRESSED!” she yelled after he sat still for too long. Stephen looked down at himself and realized he was wearing a pair of swim trunks and nothing else. Despite not having a full grasp of the situation, his sister’s yelling spurred him into action. He jumped up, taking a moment to notice he was apparently laying down in a trench of some kind.
He vaguely remembered one of his houses having a basement, and relied on that memory to navigate to his room. The nostalgia hit hard as he entered. Movie and band posters lined the wall just like when he was a teenager. He dressed while he processed the situation. Somehow it seemed he was in the past now.
“Did she say multiverse?” Stephen mumbled to himself while putting pants on. He didn’t remember ever sleeping in a ditch, and he definitely didn’t remember meeting the most powerful woman in the multiverse. Stephen dressed on autopilot. Once he was done he stopped to check the mirror and his mouth dropped. He wasn’t the 58-year-old silver-haired man that climbed into bed the night before. His light chestnut mop top shagged down over his hazel eyes. All his wrinkles were tightened up into the body of a 14-year-old.
“She’s here!” Shayla yelled through his closed door at the same moment the doorbell rang. Stephen took several deep breaths to try and calm himself.
“Get through this right now. Sit down and think later,” he reminded himself not to let panic get the best of him. He didn’t seem to be in immediate danger and he didn’t want to go back to his old life without making the best of whatever this experience was. He opened his bedroom door just in time for Shayla to miss a knock; she staggered forward into his room.
“She’s waiting in the basement, she said she wants to talk alone,” Shayla said with a heavy pout in her voice. Stephen chuckled and reached out to muss her hair like he hadn’t in years; it filled him with warmth.
“Don’t worry ’bout it, Shay. I promise I’ll tell you everything.” He said, then walked out of the room. A tall pale woman with dark hair was waiting for him as he climbed down into the basement. She wore a white suite that shone like a beacon of clean in the dingy basement; and, she came with a pet. A black cat with a patch of red fur atop its head sat on its haunches next to Dana Sharp.
“Hello, Mr. Hickson,” Dana said. She extended a hand, but made no move to close the distance between them. Stephen approached her and shook her hand.
“It’s Johnson, actually,” he corrected her automatically. She grew a smile at the same time Stephen had a realization. The not quite exact memories and younger version of his sister along with his name change added up.
“That’s what I was hoping for, Mr. Johnson. Due to an unfortunate bug, your consciousness has switched places with Steven Hickson, an alternate reality version of you,” Dana said. Stephen believed her completely given his current situation, and he was relieved. He knew he wasn’t crazy or dreaming.
“Does that mean you can fix it?” He asked. He wasn’t in a hurry to get back to his old body, but he didn’t want to deprive his younger version from being a kid.
“Technically, yes. We learned an extraordinary amount of valuable information from it, including how to reproduce it. However, I’m sorry to say Mr. Hickson was in an accident and passed away. In your body.”
“Oh,” Stephen said. He had no idea how to feel. “What does that mean for me?”
“That’s up to you,” Dana said. “My company will make amends to your families in both universes; without specifics of course. You can choose to stay in that body secretly, or you can share the secret with any of your families…” Stephen wondered which course of action would be best for his sister. He wanted to be honest with both of her, but felt that having his younger face would cause resentment in the long run. “… or we can put you in a new body of your choice to live on the Earth of your choice,” she added as Stephen debated.
“You can do that?”
“You don’t know me on your Earth yet,” Dana Sharp smiled. “But trust me, there’s very little I can’t do.”