DISCLAIMER: There are references to gay sex as well as some explicit descriptions of gay sex, and anyone who is uncomfortable with this should obviously not be reading this. All characters are fictional and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental. The author retains full copyright of this story, and of stories based on these characters.

The Parallax Effect

A Story by Altimexis

I was having the most bizarre dream. More of a nightmare, actually. I dreamt that my wife was waiting at a bus stop. She appeared to be very young - perhaps even younger than she was when I met her. There was someone else waiting at the bus stop, too - a man, I think, but I couldn't make out his face at first, and even when I could, it wasn't one I recognized. My wife kept looking down at her watch the way she always did when she was late for something, and she was reading a newspaper.

In the background, I could hear the wailing sound of police sirens - many sirens. The sound was getting louder and louder. Suddenly from out of nowhere, a red Porsche came barreling around the corner, chased by the police cars. The Porsche veered to the side as it rounded the corner, and then careened out of control, slamming right into my wife.

I awoke with a start, sitting bolt upright in bed. My heart was racing.

"David, are you alright?" I heard the sound of a man's voice. What the Hell? "Are you OK, honey?" the man asked again.

Slowly and nervously, I looked to my right and found a middle-aged man looking back at me from the other side of my king size bed. What was a man doing in my bed, and where the Hell was my wife?

`What the fuck?' I thought to myself.

I wracked my brain trying to remember if there was anything unusual about last night. As far as I could remember, it was a normal weeknight, and we hadn't been out drinking or anything. We didn't use drugs at all, so I was stone cold sober - I was sure of that. I remembered going to bed with my wife last night and making love to her, so what the Hell was going on?

"David? Come on, you're scaring me," the man said.

He was really quite handsome. He had short, straight grayish blond hair that framed the most angelic face. He had piercing blue eyes and although he appeared to be about my age, there was hardly a wrinkle on his face. He had a sexy mustache that was slightly darker in color than the hair on his head.

His chest and abdomen were well-defined, and there was a small patch of hair between his pecs, as well as a thin treasure trail leading down from his navel. As my eyes traveled further downward, I saw that the sheets were pulled back so that his left thigh was fully exposed. I could just see the base of his penis, which was broad and crowned by a thick patch of light brown pubic hair.

He was a very sexy man, I thought to myself, and seeing him there in my bed, nearly fully exposed, my own cock began to spring to life, tenting the sheets that were barely covering it. When the man noticed this and saw where I was staring, a smile took over his face.

"Why didn't you say you were in the mood for a little fun?" he asked as he gave my cock a playful squeeze through the sheets.

When he put his hand where only my wife had touched me before, I reacted by pulling away. I literally lurched backwards and fell out of bed in the process, landing on the floor with a loud thud.

"David, what's going on?" He said again. "You're scaring the shit out of me. Are you having a stroke or something?"

"Who . . . who are you?" I shouted out, panic stricken, "and . . . and where's my wife?"

"David, you need to stay still. Just lay back down on the floor and I'll call an ambulance. Everything's going to be alright, honey."

There it was again. He called me `honey' Who the fuck did he think he was, calling me `honey'?

"Who the FUCK are you?" I shouted at him. "What did you do with my WIFE?"

"Calm down, David," he said. "We'll get some help. Everything'll be fine."

"No it won't be!" I said and I leapt to my feet, grabbing a pair of boxers from my bureau. I wasn't about to confront this total stranger in the nude - never mind that he was nude himself. My erection was gone now, but I couldn't help but notice how physically beautiful he was. He had a perfect, seven inch circumcised cock. Even in my near-panicked state of mind, I thought about how I wanted to touch it, to hold it and to . . . do more, but for God sake, I'm a married man!

Was this a practical joke being played on me by my wife? No - it wasn't like her to do something like that, and she would never let someone talk else talk her into it.

The man reached into my wife's bureau and pulled out a pair of bikini briefs which he put on. What the HELL? What were men's briefs doing in my wife's lingerie drawer, and how did he know to find them there?

I opened our closet door to grab some more clothes, but stopped dead in my tracks. Instead of seeing my wife's clothes taking up about eighty percent of the space, with my clothes tucked into a small corner of the walk-in closet, my clothes were spread out, taking up fully half, and there were other men's clothes that I didn't recognize, taking up the other half. I saw suits and sport coats I'd never recalled buying. There were shirts and slacks and ties that I would never have considered for myself, but somehow I inherently knew they would look great on the strange man I'd woken up to find in my bed.

Up until that moment, I'd thought there had to be a logical explanation for why a man was in my bed instead of my wife, but confronted by a world that had changed - somehow being fundamentally `altered', my mind raced in circles trying to comprehend the incomprehensible. The room started to spin around me as it slowly faded to black.

I had no idea how much time I'd been out, but slowly, I started to come to. I heard a voice calling out to me as if from the other end of a long tunnel. "David? David, wake up," it said. "Come on, David. You'll be fine, honey. I've called for an ambulance. Now please wake up."

I opened my eyes to find that handsome face peering down at me, showing obvious signs of concern. "Oh thank God," he said when he saw that my eyes were open.

"Who . . . who are you?" I asked the man again.

 "Jeff. My name's Jeff. . . . You don't remember me?"

"Jeff? . . . hmm," I said, not familiar with his name. "No, I don't remember you."

Slowly, I got up off the floor and sat back down on the bed. "I . . . I went to bed last night at around ten o'clock as I always do. My wife of the last twenty years . . . Mary, joined me in bed. We . . . we slowly made love to each other before we turned out the lights. What . . . What the hell happened?"

Jeff looked blankly at me with an expression that bordered on shock.

"Just before waking up," I continued, "I had a strange dream. I dreamt that my wife and another man were waiting at a bus stop. She was young . . . even younger than she was when we met." Sitting on the edge of the bed, I kept my eyes focused to a spot on the floor in front of me, still feeling uncomfortable with the presence of the man sitting beside me. As I related the dream, I could only give the odd nervous head-jerk in his direction. "The man I saw in my dream looked like a younger version of you. . . . In fact, I . . . I know this is going to sound strange to you, but I'm pretty sure he was a younger version of you.

"Anyway, I heard police sirens in the background, and then suddenly a red Porsche came out of nowhere and plowed into my wife, killing her instantly. That's when I jolted awake and sat up in bed."

"I remember that!" Jeff said. "It happened so long ago, but I'll never forget that day. I was on my way to a job interview when the accident occurred. I could literally feel the heat of the Porsche's engine as it narrowly missed hitting me. I was so shaken up, I had to be taken to Emergency and given tranquilizers.

"I did end up getting the job anyway when I was interviewed the next day. They were very understanding. I had nightmares about that event for several years afterwards, though."

"Wait a minute!" I suddenly exclaimed, looking directly into his eyes. "I remember my wife having nightmares when I met her. She told me about seeing someone die right in front of her, but she didn't want to talk about it. All she said was that a man was killed right in front of her eyes, and that she'd stared death down herself."

"David . . . this is just too weird," Jeff said. "It's . . . it's like an alternate reality or something."

An alternate reality . . . was that what this was? But such things didn't really exist, did they? I remembered reading about such things, but that was the stuff of science fiction, wasn't it? I remembered watching The Twilight Zone as a kid, and watching Star Trek growing up. These sorts of things didn't really happen, did they? But if this wasn't an alternate reality, what was it?

I was stunned. It was as if my life - the one I'd lived for the last twenty years, never happened. That was the only thing I could think of, but surely I couldn't have imagined the whole thing, and what was I doing living with a man?

Well, that wasn't so difficult to explain. Even when I first met my wife, I knew I was more attracted to men than to women. In retrospect, I'd probably known since junior high, but I'd been in denial nearly all my life.

When I first met my wife, she swept me off my feet and I fell in love on the spot. We had passionate sex that night and I'd never felt dissatisfied with the sex I had with her ever since. Our love only grew from there and I loved her dearly. She was my soul mate. I occasionally wondered about the path not taken, but my wife's love more than made up for the sexual gratification I might have had with a man, and so I'd never looked back . . . until now.

So, yeah, I was more gay than straight, and had even come out to my wife a couple of years ago. All-in-all, she took it very well. She loved me as much as I loved her and neither of us could even contemplate life without the other. I assured her I would never seek a relationship with a man, and that was good enough for her.

But now, it appeared, I was living in my house with a man who called me `honey'.

"Let's get you dressed before the ambulance comes," Jeff said, bringing me out of my reverie. He grabbed some casual clothes out of my bureau, just where they were supposed to be, and helped me into them. Then he went to my wife's bureau and pulled out some casual men's clothes for himself. More men's clothes in what was supposed to be my wife's bureau!

"David," he said, "we need to get you downstairs." He took my arm and led me down to the family room. The furniture was all the same, but there were subtle changes. For one thing, the whole place had a slightly more masculine feel to it. The window treatments were slightly darker in color, and there were fewer `feminine' touches to be found. I couldn't really put my hand on what those touches were, but I could tell that no women lived here.

It was then that I noticed the pictures. Where there should have been a large photo of me with my wife in our cabin in the Adirondacks, hanging over the fireplace, instead there was a picture of me with Jeff in the same cabin.

Just then, there was a banging on the door. Before he went to answer it, Jeff said, "We need to get you checked out. This really could be a stroke or something, but I don't want them putting you in a psych hospital. The one thing I'm sure of is, you're not crazy."

"You don't think so? 'Cause even I'm not so sure."

"Honey, I know you, and there's nothing you've done to make me think you're insane. Weird . . . yeah, well, that's nothing new, but you're not insane. When they ask what happened, we'll tell them something about losing your memories and having difficulty standing and walking, but whatever you do, don't tell them you think you've been married to someone else for the last twenty years."

Jeff opened the door and told the EMS crew what had happened - that I woke up confused and had difficulty remembering what had happened the last few days, and then had difficulty walking.

They loaded me onto a stretcher, and Jeff assured me he'd meet me at the hospital. The drive took perhaps only twenty minutes, but it seemed like an hour. When I arrived, I was wheeled into a small room and a woman who identified herself as the triage nurse asked me some questions and briefly examined me. She shone a light in my eyes, asked me to smile and then to stick out my tongue, and arm-wrestled with me. After poking me with a pin and testing my legs, she told me it didn't seem like I'd had a stroke and it was too late to use clot-buster medications, even if I'd had one, but they'd do a CT scan, just in case.

They moved me to another room, where I got bored laying down, so I paced for a while before Jeff finally caught up with me. "I'm sorry, David," he said. "They told me they were taking you to St. Vincent's, but when I got there, they had no record of you. Apparently, they were full and diverted you here, to Methodist instead.

"Anyway, how are you feeling?" he asked.

"OK, I guess."

"Are they done with you, yet?"

"They haven't even started with me," I answered. "The nurse who checked me in told me it didn't sound like a stroke, and she told me it was too late to use any drugs if I did have a stroke, but that's it. . . . I guess it's not much of an emergency once they decide there's nothing they can do."

"Well, it's better to be safe than sorry. We'll get you checked over, and then we'll figure out where to go from here."

"In a way, I almost wish it were a stroke. At least we'd have an explanation that made sense," I said. "The alternatives . . . are just too hard to . . . comprehend."

"I know what you mean. I know you're still my David," he continued, lowering his voice, "but if you did somehow materialize from a different reality or something from that dream, then you're not the David I've known for the past twenty years. You're the same to me, but different. We've lost those years together. It would mean starting over. I'm a bit . . . bewildered."

"How do you think I feel? Not only are you a total stranger to me, but the love of my life died in that dream last night. I may never see her again," I said as I started to cry.

Jeff reached out to me and grabbed me in his arms. I ended up crying on his shoulder. As strange as it seemed, I felt as if I'd known him forever. For reasons I couldn't explain, I felt safe in his arms. As luck would have it, it was at that moment that the doctor came to examine me.

Jeff stepped out while the doctor poked and prodded me, and asked me a bunch of stupid questions. True to my agreement with Jeff, I told the doctor I couldn't remember anything that had happened over the past few days. I didn't tell him anything about being married and having some other existence.

The doctor ordered a bunch of tests and a nurse came in and drew some blood. Later, I was wheeled to radiology, where I underwent a CT scan of my head. It was nearly dinnertime by the time a different doctor came in to see me. By then, I was starved - I hadn't eaten all day. I marveled at the fact that Jeff had gone the entire day without food, too. Only love could explain him doing that.

When all was said and done, other than my blood pressure being a little high, which was understandable under the circumstances, they could find nothing wrong with me. My CT scan was perfectly normal and all my other lab results were picture perfect. I was told to make an appointment to see my primary doctor within a week, and that was that.

In celebration of my clean bill of health, Jeff took me out to one of his favorite restaurants - a Chinese place that was also a favorite of my wife and mine. Over dinner, we talked about the situation.

"Jeff," I started, "like you said back at the hospital, I'm not the same guy you've known for the past twenty years."

"God, this is all so strange," Jeff said, seeming to be on the verge of tears.

"I know that you're not quite the same as my David, even though you look like him and talk like him," he continued his reply, "but whether it's because of an altered reality, a parallel universe, or something else entirely, you are still David I've loved for the past twenty years. Just because you have no memories of me doesn't mean I have no memories of you. It may have been a different you, but I'm willing to bet that you have exactly the same interests and tastes as the David I've known all these years. I'm also willing to bet that, given the chance, you'll make all the same choices that he would under the circumstances.

"I may not understand what's going on, but I can almost sense that there's another David somewhere who's sitting in that very chair at this very restaurant, talking to a very confused woman, who's sitting in this very chair instead of me. I can sense that the conversation they're having is nearly identical, even though I've never met . . . what was her name?"


". . . even though I've never met Mary before. Perhaps she is my psychological twin and perhaps that has something to do with why this exchange took place, but know this, David," he continued, "whether or not this switch is real or imagined . . . whether or not it's permanent or temporary, there's someone here who loves you and will always love you. Sure, I want my David back, but you're every bit the same David I've loved all these years, even if you can't remember our life together.

"Know this too . . . that as long as you're here with me, I will love you every way that I can. I know you must grieve your Mary just as my David would grieve me, but you fell in love with me once and you'll fall in love with me again. Until that time, I won't push you nor will I expect anything of you. Take your time, and when you're ready, I'll be here."

"Wow!" was all I could say. The thought of these intertwined personalities was difficult to comprehend, but the one thing I didn't doubt was the sincerity in Jeff's voice.

"Jeff, I do trust you. . . . I'm not sure why, but I do. However it's going to take me time to accept all of this . . . and I'm going to have to do some research. I need to take things slowly. For the time being, however, I'm not going anywhere. . . . I . . . I don't think there's anywhere I can go . . . and until we know what happened, we'd better stay together."

I didn't realize it at the time, but that evening was the start of a new relationship for me and the re-budding of a relationship for Jeff. Together we did some research, and armed with information I gave him about Mary, Jeff was very quickly able to verify that she was indeed the woman who was killed that day at the bus stop. He confirmed everything I'd told him about her. He even managed to track down some of her childhood friends and confirmed some of the more embarrassing stories she'd told me about her growing up. No one else knew those stories.

For my part, I knew that what was happening to me couldn't be unique. There had to be other cases of people going through what I'd gone through. I started by searching the psychiatric literature.

There were several cases like mine reported and the consensus seemed to be that a traumatic event triggers an old suppressed memory - one so horrible that the mind literally creates its own fabrication of the past. In other words, the brain literally rewrites its entire past memories or a period of its memories in order to avoid dealing with something it can't comprehend. In most cases, however, the subjects were otherwise well-adjusted, highly educated people like me. They had no reason to be delusional, and the fabrications were often far more detailed than one would expect from a simple delusion.

Well, that certainly fit my situation. No amount of psychiatric mumbo-jumbo could explain how I was able to recall vivid details about an individual I had supposedly never met. I knew things about her past that no one outside of her immediate family could have known. The mere idea that I had fabricated an entire twenty years of life with a complete stranger was just too hard to fathom.

But if the life I remembered wasn't a fabrication, then what was it? The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I'd really lived those years . . . years with a woman who'd been dead for more than two decades - at least in this reality.

After much reading, I came across a book written by a physicist, Dr. François DeCamp. Dr. DeCamp had been through an experience not unlike mine and had sought out others in similar circumstances to gain a greater understanding of the phenomenon.

In his book, he documented dozens of occurrences in which the plausibility of an alternative individual history could be confirmed - which in my opinion was the major strength of his work - that in each case he studied, the individuals and events experienced in the alternate reality could be traced.

DeCamp found a number of similarities among the cases he studied, and it was these similarities that grabbed my attention. Firstly, in each case the subject woke up to their new reality after dreaming about an event they never witnessed, but that had actually happened. Secondly, the event included a random occurrence - there was a chance of two or more roughly equivalent outcomes. Finally, the outcomes had minimal impact outside of the person whose reality changed.

After reading Dr. DeCamp's book, I resolved to contact him myself. Whereas his book might explain how I got here, it didn't explain why, nor did it tell me if I was here permanently, or if the realities might cross again. I was very much fixated on finding a way back, even as I was becoming closer and more intimate with Jeff.

"You look perplexed," Jeff said one evening as we sat up in bed late one night, reading.

"I'm sorry, Jeff, it's just that I'm not used to all this," I replied.

"You mean living with a man?"

I nodded my head, but quickly added, "but it's more than that, Jeff. I could easily live with someone like you for the rest of my life if I'd never met my wife. I don't have a problem with being gay and out, but there's a whole other life I experienced and I still really miss it."

Jeff and I had been intimate for a couple of months now and although a small part of me felt guilty - that I was cheating on Mary, somehow I knew that she would understand . . . and approve.

"Let me see if I can help take your mind off of that," Jeff said as he set his book aside.

Jeff leaned over and kissed me on the lips. I responded by pulling him into me and the kissing became increasingly passionate. Our hands roamed all over each other's bodies as we explored with our hands, our lips, and our tongues.

Before the evening was over, Jeff was buried deep within me. As his deep, slow and steady thrusts became more and more urgent, my moaning became louder and more frenzied. I spent myself between our bodies as Jeff came deep inside me. I still couldn't get used to the fact that I enjoyed being a bottom. I would never have expected it. After all, I could have never bottomed for my wife, yet here I was doing it regularly with a man who was becoming increasingly more important to me - a man I was coming to love.

As the weeks passed, I became more resigned to the idea that I was stuck in this reality for the rest of my life - not that it was a bad thing - it just felt that I wasn't where I was supposed to be.

Finally, after weeks of trying, I managed to reach Dr. DeCamp. It was early in the morning when his call came through. I was in the shower at the time and Jeff picked up the phone. I was singing my lungs out, scrubbing myself down when there was a banging on the door. Jeff barged in and said, "Honey, it's Dr. DeCamp, calling from France!"

I took the cordless phone from Jeff and spoke to DeCamp, dripping water all over the bathroom floor. After I finished my conversation, I hung up the phone and proceeded to clean up the mess I'd made.

"Well?" Jeff asked.

"DeCamp would like to come here to personally interview us," I answered in a rush. I was so excited! "He'll arrive here next Friday and spend the weekend with us. He asked if we would mind if he stayed in our house. I hope you don't mind, but I said yes. He wants to spend as much time with us as possible . . . to get to know us thoroughly. He wants to see how we relate to each other, day and night."

"Really?" Jeff asked.

"Yeah, it seems that my situation is the first he's ever come across in which there was a change in the gender of the partner." DeCamp wanted to study us as a couple, while I got the answers from him that I sought.

I was very nervous that Friday evening as we waited for our guest at the airport. I had no idea what to expect and waited anxiously as each person came out of Customs at International Arrivals. I held up our makeshift sign. After what seemed like hours, a rather young man who couldn't have been older than thirty approached us.

"David, Jeff?" he said. "Is it OK if I call you by your first names?"

"Of course," I replied. "By the way, I'm David, and this is Jeff, and I presume you're Dr. DeCamp."

He laughed and said, "Whatever you do, please don't call me `Dr. Decamp'. I'll have none of that crap from now on. Just call me `Frank' . . . it's a lot less formal than `Dr. DeCamp', and for you Americans, it sounds a lot less stuffy than `François'."

"Sure thing, Frank," I said as Jeff and I grabbed Frank's luggage off the luggage cart. "You know, you're not at all what I expected. . . ."

He chuckled and said, "No one expects the eminent Dr. DeCamp to be a young kid of 29. I was working on my doctorate in particle physics at CERN when my shift occurred. As you probably remember from my book, I went to bed one night, snuggling up with my grey cat, Effie, and woke up the next morning with a calico cat on my bed. Now this may not have been as big a deal as going to bed with a woman and waking up with a man, but it still scared the shit out of me.

"I was going to put up posters offering a reward for the return of my lost cat," he continued as we loaded up our car, "but when I went to my computer to retrieve some pictures of Effie to print out, in all of the pictures I had of Effie, she was a calico. All of the poses were identical . . . she was just a different cat than the one I thought I knew."

"You must have thought you were crazy," I said as I opened the front passenger door for Frank and let him get settled inside. Jeff sat in back, and I sat in the driver's seat.

Once we'd exited the airport complex, Frank continued, "You have no idea. At least in your case, the difference was so striking that you couldn't help but challenge reality. In my case, the change was rather subtle, and there was no hope of convincing anyone that a change had occurred.

"In the end, I went back to the woman who gave me Effie and asked her if she had any pictures of the other kittens in the litter. Sure enough, my Effie, a grey short haired cat, was among the bunch. I asked her how she had given away the others and she explained that the other kittens went to a single family - the parents had allowed each of their three daughters to choose one kitten.

"It was then that I remembered the dream I'd had before waking up the morning of my shift. I dreamt that there was a girl who couldn't make up her mind between taking a grey kitten and a calico. She decided to toss a coin make her decision, and ended up taking the grey one. This is exactly what the woman said had happened. So it seemed I had my very own Schrödinger's cat."

"Schrödinger's cat?" I asked.

He laughed and said, "Sorry, but it's a common thought experiment that's often used to demonstrate the bizarre nature of quantum mechanics, which is the underlying basis of modern physics. The idea behind Schrödinger's cat is pretty absurd, but in a nutshell, if you take a cat and place it in a box, you can't know if it's dead or alive without opening the box. Until you do, the cat is essentially in both states simultaneously . . . it's both dead and alive.

"Well my Effie is a kind of Schrödinger's cat. Before the little girl tossed that coin, she was both grey and calico at the same time. If the girl tossed the coin but no one ever looked at the coin, then the uncertainty would have persisted indefinitely. In particle physics, this sort of phenomenon is observed all the time, and it has a name . . . the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. When applied to multiple realities, I call this the parallax effect."

"Yes, I read that, but could you explain why you call it that?" I asked.

"Sure," Frank replied. "It's like when you look at an object in the distance, and see two images of a closer object . . . one with each eye. You see two of the closer object because each of your eyes sees the closer one from a slightly different perspective relative to the background.

"In the case of my Effie, the two different cats were simply different views of the same event . . . a little girl choosing a kitten to keep . . . viewed from the different perspectives of a coin toss. A slightly different amount of wobble and I ended up with a different cat."

"But something happened that caused a change in the outcome," I offered.

"Yes, something indeed happened," Frank continued. "Something happened that caused the cats to switch places, or so I thought at first. A single change in a `quantum event' and the outcome had been reversed. It was only later that I realized it was just as likely that I had switched places in alternate realities, and not the cat."

"In the field of Cosmology, there are many, plausible explanations. For example, there are some who propose that each time there is a random event in nature, it actually splits the universe into two new universes . . . one in which the outcome goes one way and the other in which it goes the other way. Obviously, since there are an infinite number of random events, this ultimately leads to an infinite number of parallel universes. Because some of the random events, however, have the effect of canceling each other out, the number of such universes will never increase nor decrease and the conservation of matter and energy will be preserved."

"Do you think this is what happens with the parallax effect?" Jeff asked.

Frank chuckled and said "A lot of cosmologists seem to think so, but while it seems plausible when all we're talking about is subatomic particles, life is far more complex. Perhaps I'm just being chauvinistic, but I shudder at the thought that there are an infinite number of versions of me out there, and I cannot conceive of a process by which all those different versions could be brought into congruence. If there was a random event that led to me having a calico versus a grey cat, what other random event could negate the outcome? The only one I can think of is death, and I don't even want to think about that."

"So what do you think happened?" I asked.

Frank chuckled as he started to answer, "You're going to think this is even crazier, but what I think happens is that only one outcome occurs at a time, but there is a kind of a `memory thread' of the event that propagates forward in time, forever tying the present to the past. It's as if a ghost universe is created, right alongside the real one. Then for whatever reason, something happens in the present that tugs on that thread, changing the original outcome and with it, the present reality. . . . It's as if the original outcome never happened."

"Damn, that's spooky," was all I could say as I noticed Frank drifting off out of the corner of my eye. I only knew too well the effects of jetlag from the many trips I'd taken to Europe over the years with my wife. I let him rest for the remainder of the way home, waking him up only as we reached our house. Jeff and I unloaded the car and put Frank's things in the guest room, and then we left him alone to catch up on his sleep.

"So what do you think?" Jeff asked.

"I think he's nuts," I replied. Jeff arched his eyebrows as I continued, "But no one else has a better explanation."

Just then I let out a big yawn - I guess Frank's jetlag was rubbing off on me as well, and Jeff suggested we hit the sack since Frank would undoubtedly be up bright and early.

And early he was up, indeed.

Jeff made a wonderful breakfast with an eggs Benedict look-alike for the entrée that substituted a bagel for the English muffin, lox for the ham, mozzarella capped by a cluster of red caviar on top for the egg, and a rich three cheese hollandaise sauce in place of the traditional hollandaise. To say it was very rich was an understatement. Served with side dishes of smoked whitefish, assorted fruits and vegetables, yogurt and espresso, it was a feast for the ages, and not at all unlike something Mary would have prepared.

After cleaning up, we retired to the family room - the one with the picture of Jeff and me in our cabin in the Adirondacks. Frank looked at me with a crooked smile as he looked at the picture hung over our fireplace and I confirmed that the same picture existed in the alternate reality, but with Mary instead of Jeff. Indeed, nearly all the pictures in our house had analogs in the other reality.

The three of us spent the rest of the day going over everything similar and everything different between the two realities. I spoke extensively about my Mary and her traits. I noted, too, some of the similarities between Jeff and Mary - although some of these could be explained by my influence on either of them - in either reality. There were differences as well, but they were so minor as to have been largely irrelevant - they didn't effect the outcome of my existence or of the universe in any way at all.

In the end, we were left with no clearer a picture than we had before Frank's arrival. We went out to eat that evening at one of the finest French restaurants in the city. As we finished the meal, Frank amused us by saying, "Not that I don't appreciate it, guys, but given the choice, I prefer Italian."

That earned him some retribution the next morning, as he awoke to find a single place setting at the kitchen table along with an assortment of dry cereals and a note that said, "There's milk in the fridge and Folgers instant on the counter. We'll get up when we get up. Just thought you'd like to observe us in our natural state."

But sleeping in was not in the plans, as we awoke to the most amazing aroma, permeating the entire house. Jeff and I put on our robes and headed downstairs to find the dining room table set with our best china. In the kitchen, Frank was slaving over the stove.

"Hi, guys," he said. "I had to do some scrounging around for proper ingredients, but I think I found enough stuff to make a proper breakfast, instead of the Rice Krispies you guys seem to think is a healthy meal," he said with a smirk.

What Frank had put together from what we had on hand was amazing, particularly since we'd planned to take him out for Sunday brunch and hadn't bothered to pick up anything special. From spaghetti, eggs, butter, milk, cream cheese, mushrooms, bell peppers and bacon bits, he made a carbonara that was unbelievable.

After we'd cleaned up, Frank sat down with us and discussed what he thought had happened to my Mary.

"When you and Mary stood together at that bus stop," he said as he faced Jeff, "you effectively created a point of spatiotemporal convergence. For reasons we may never understand, the two of you were irrevocably bound at that point. Only one of you could occupy the universe after that point in time, and which one was largely determined by a string of random variables affecting a car crash.

"When the Porsche careened into the bus stop, it could have hit either of you, neither of you, or both of you. If it had hit both of you, the outcome would have been radically different and David would have never met either of you. His life and all the lives they touched would have gone in a different direction and the realities would have diverged."

In that instant, I experienced what I could only describe as a vision. I pictured myself reading a story in a newspaper about a police chase gone tragically wrong, in which two innocent bystanders had been killed. I then saw myself living today, alone as a very lonely man. My life was empty and I often thought of suicide. And then in an instant, I was back in the present reality. I wasn't sure if what I'd just experienced was an echo of a reality that never was, or just my wild imagination. I felt so . . . disoriented.

Frank continued, "Had the Porsche hit neither of you, both of you would have competed head-to-head for the job, and for David. Whichever one lost either or both competitions would have gone on to do other things and touch other people's lives and, once again, the realities would have diverged. Obviously had either of these situations occurred, there would have been no switch and we wouldn't be here, pondering the question.

And again, I felt as if I was transported back in time. It was not long after I'd met Mary, and we were making plans for our wedding. As we walked along the street, talking about this and that, I spotted Jeff walking on the other side. Our eyes met, and I had a vague sense of recognition. I was intrigued by this young man and I instinctively knew that he was someone special. Mary asked me what was wrong, and I told her I thought I'd seen an old friend. Somehow, I just knew that Jeff and I were destined to meet.

I wasn't really paying attention as I crossed the street to introduce myself to him. Suddenly, there was the sound of a loud horn and I turned my head just in time to see a city bus barreling towards me. The bus driver applied the brakes, but there just wasn't time for her to stop, nor for me to get out of the way. I felt a sickening numbness overtake my body as I suddenly became airborne. I saw more than felt my body slam into the pavement below - it was almost as if I was looking down on my body from above.

I heard Mary calling my name, and I saw Jeff peering over me, but it was almost like hearing and seeing them through a long, dark tunnel. And then, once again, the vision faded and I was back in the present reality.

My mind tried to wrap itself around what I'd just experienced, but the visions lacked the clarity of the dream I'd had the fateful morning of the switch. They seemed more like daydreams - perhaps nothing more than my imagination running wild, but I couldn't shake the notion that they were the distant echoes of a nonexistent past.

"Honey, are you alright?" Jeff asked.

"Yeah, I'm just a bit . . . dizzy. Please go on."

"So in order for there to be a parallax effect, we are basically left with roughly equal chances of the Porsche hitting Mary or Jeff. The crash split the universe into two realities - one with Mary in it, and the other with Jeff in it. That event constituted a fork in the road of time. Depending on whom the Porsche hit that day, the other one went on to interview for the job the next day, and ultimately met and fell in love with David.

Frank turned to face me and continued, "Your existence and your life with Mary, and alternatively with Jeff, kept the two alternative paths bound together and parallel. Such parallel paths probably exist all the time, but they rarely come to light except for the existence of a pivot point. Again, I can only guess what it is that makes a pivot point, but the fact is that they almost always occur when the person who shifts realities is asleep.

"David, you described dreaming of the car crash and waking up to find your life had changed. This is something that has been reported by nearly all my subjects. My best guess is that there's something about the unconscious state that allows the brain to interact outside of normal space-time. Through the mechanics of your dreams, you become aware of the existence of an alternate reality."

Incredulously, I asked, "Do you mean I actually caused the switch?"

"I'm not saying that at all, David, although I cannot entirely exclude the possibility. I'm just saying that your unconscious mind managed to discover the existence of an alternate reality. It's as if your mind somehow re-randomized the past."

I was shaking as I asked my final question. I know Jeff could sense it, and he lovingly took my hand in his. "Frank, do you think a person might actually be able to learn how to make reality shift back and forth?"

"That's something I'm not going to even speculate on," Frank replied. "We know people can train themselves to control their dreams, and if they could use their dreams to create pivot points at will, the implications could be frightening indeed. In effect, the uncertainty principle could be violated, and I shudder to think about what that would mean for the universe as a whole."

"But wouldn't those pivot points still be random?" I asked. "After all, just because you can dream-up the existence of a pivot point doesn't mean you can control the outcome of a random event."

"And so the event would remain random, and uncertainty would be preserved!" Frank said, finishing my thought for me. "Of course, you're right about that. I'm not sure why I hadn't thought of that. David," he continued, "You've just made my trip across the Atlantic worth far more than you can ever imagine."

"I'm glad I could help," I said in earnest, "but it still doesn't change things for me. I'm not sure if I really want to know if it's possible to create pivot points at will. Would I take a chance on creating one if I could? If I did make the switch, could I make it back, or would my tampering alter the parallel paths enough to cause them to diverge?"

"A very good question indeed, David," Frank added.

"And if I thought I could create pivot points, would that only serve to delay my grieving process for my wife and my acceptance of my life with Jeff?"

"Now that," Frank replied, "is a question for theologians and philosophers rather than for scientists."

It was not long after Frank's visit that I started having dreams about the day Mary was killed. It was totally outside of my control and I usually awoke suddenly with the sheets drenched. No matter how hard I tried to put it out of my mind, I couldn't stop thinking about the parallax effect, and I couldn't stop the dreams.

Jeff and I spoke about it and I could tell he was terribly worried for me - and I knew he could tell this was eating me up inside.

Finally, one night after I had woken up screaming, Jeff said, "David, I love you more than anything. Just know that even if reality switches back and you spend the rest of your life with Mary, I won't love you any less if it happens because you want it to, or because it just happens. Hell, I'll have died twenty years ago, so I won't even know the difference.

"What I'm trying to say is that your happiness means more to me than life itself, literally, and that I don't want you feeling guilty in the process. So stop fighting these dreams. They're trying to take you somewhere you're frightened to go, so don't be frightened. See if you can control your dreams and, when the time comes, you'll know what to do."

I hugged Jeff tightly as I cried on his shoulder that night. Jeff was truly an incredible man who was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in the name of love. How many of us could say that?

Although I slept restlessly after that night, the dreams never plagued me the same way. When the dreams occurred, I allowed myself to become aware of them - to bring them into my consciousness. In time, I did learn how to exert a degree of control over them, but they always remained dreams, and nothing more.

But then one night I realized I was in complete control. I could literally see myself looking down on two different realities. Creating the pivot point was easy . . . it was as if I'd opened a door and walked into the past, but the moment I crossed the threshold, I was no longer in control of events as they unfolded.

When I saw Mary and Jeff together at the bus stop, this time it was real. I could see and feel every detail, down to the color of Jeff's socks and the scent of Mary's perfume. It was almost surreal, seeing the two of them together - something I'd never seen in real life. This was in fact, the only time they ever were together, but it was more than twenty years ago!

My heart raced as the seconds ticked away. Neither of them was aware of what was about to happen, even as the sound of the sirens drew near. Seeing them standing there, I realized that I loved both of them equally, but in different ways. Mary truly was my soul mate, and I loved her with all of my heart. Jeff, on the other hand, was very masculine. He was a great lover in bed, but he was also sensitive, and nurturing. What I felt for him was more than just about the incredible sex we had together, but there was genuine affection on both our parts. No matter what the outcome, I would miss either one of them terribly.

Suddenly, a red Porsche came out of nowhere, pursued by several police cars. In horror, I watched as the Porsche veered out of control, heading directly toward the bus stop.

The author gratefully acknowledges the invaluable assistance of Graeme, AJ and Carl Holiday as beta-readers, David of Hope for editing and Trab for proofreading, as well as as Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Codey's World for hosting this and my other stories.

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