Lunch in Mongolia
by Luc Reid
I didn't think about it until weeks later, when Meg was doing the bills. Even then I didn't think about it until she walked in the living room, where I was flipping through an automatic car brochure with the dog sleeping on my feet. She trailed a little hologram of a credit card bill behind her as she came, and she'd put a red orbiter around the offending item. Trouble.
"Honey," Meg said. Our real endearments were "baby" and "whiskey" (long story). "Honey" was a pretend endearment, like a mother using a kid's middle name. "Honey" meant "you are screwed."
So ... "Honey," she said. "Did you go to Mongolia?"
"Oh," I said. "Didn't I tell you about that, whiskey?" Weak, but what else did I have? "It was just for lunch."
She frowned such a tight frown that her lips went pale. She looked madder than I’d ever seen her. Madder than when I got drunk on our first anniversary.
"You asshole!" she finally shrieked.
"Oh come on, baby," I said. "Everybody teleports these days. I'm sick of being stuck in a backwater while everybody else goes wherever they want, whenever they want."
"What do you think teleportation is? What do you think it is?" she said. Her voice was so loud it hurt my ears. "It's not you at the other end. It's a copy of you. The real you gets destroyed. The real man I married is dead! Who the hell are you?"
"You don't have to make a big deal out of it, whiskey--"
"Don't call me that!"
At that moment the front door opened, and we both froze. The door was on auto-lock, and it only opened for me and Meg and her parents and maybe the police or something. A figure emerged from it, a figure with recent burn scars and most of his hair singed off, wearing a hospital giveaway suit. A figure that looked like ... me.
"Baby!" she cried out, in a strangled voice. "What happened?" And she ran to him and threw her arms around him.
He shook his head, wincing at the pressure of her hug on his injuries. "Malfunction," he said in a raspy voice. "It didn't clear the original."
"I hate you!" she screamed, and she began hitting him on the chest, but she was crying, and he gathered her into his arms, and she stopped. All of a sudden I felt like a third chopstick.
The dog woke up and started barking at me.