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The modestly-sized horse-rider attire store that sat between a gelato stall and the private pool in the posh, classy national polo club was the one and only shop that my best friend would frequently visit for her horse riding attire. After finishing her weekly horse riding class, I’d followed Claire and her father down to the polo club that was a good 5-minute drive from her class’ location. Her competition was coming up, and she was in a good need for a new pair of pants that fit the criteria.
As soon as we reached the archaic store,Claire and her father got to work looking for pants right away, but I continued looking around, amazed by the design of the store. I found a fitting room and a store room on either side of the grand stairway, that was so wide it left little space on either side. I marveled at the golden statues of horses and their riders, and I pressed the soft fabric of new clothes on my skin. I sat down on one of the big leather chairs and let my head fall back, closing my eyes and enjoying the chairs of the upper-class.
When I finally opened my eyes, Claire was still looking around for clothes, and finding myself useless on the topic of horseriding attire, I wandered up the stairs that echoed with my every step, and onto the second floor. On both sides of the store, more racks of comfortable and pricey clothes hung in the cold air. I walked forward to the end of the platform, putting my hands on the wooden railing and looking at the entrance and the front part of the store below me.
That was when I looked up and noticed the two large mirrors.
They were as large as life and hung on the wall that sloped above the entrance. Framed by curled golden frames, they reflected both levels of the store, and I moved to stand in front of one of them.
What was reflected in the mirror was something I hadn’t seen coming.
I wasn’t in the reflection.
“Parallel universes,” My English teacher had told me simply, walking to and fro in front of the white board. She was my favourite English teacher because she brought lessons outside the classroom – she loved to look up new things that were related to English but could still become general knowledge.
“What are they? Parallel universes emerged from myths, legends and religion. It’s a topic widely used in fiction, and that’s why we’re focusing on it today. There are two main categories of parallel universes – the first is known as a diverging universe. People believe that every time there is more than one possible outcome for a certain situation, the universe diverges and parallel universes are created, diverging from that single situation.”
I looked up, curious and strangely interested in the idea of a parallel universe, or even a diverging universe, as she went on speaking, writing key words on the whiteboard in blue and finding fascination in what she spoke of.
My mind couldn’t even wrap around the idea that maybe I’d stumbled upon a gateway to another parallel universe. Was this what it was in like in a parallel universe - One where my mother might have had a miscarriage and never had me? One where my parents might have never even met? Or one where maybe my parents had never even been born?
The very possibilities of all these parallel universes were unending. Did parallel universes really exist then, if I could look up at a mirror taller than me and see everything but myself? Was every other mirror a reflection of a parallel universe where I did actually exist, but didn’t know about?
I pressed myself against the railing, extending my arm to the mirror. It was impossible to reach, but the reflection hadn’t change. Was I dead in that universe? Had never existed? Or was I hallucinating? In that moment I’d felt very much alive. I was here. I was me. I was present.
But in that reflection, I was not.
I backed away slowly from the mirror, possibly afraid that I might suddenly realize I was in the reflection all along and that I’d been hallucinating. I moved to the mirror on the left, and what was in it possibly only added to my theory of parallel universes existing.
In that reflection, I was lying on the floor, a tangle of hair and blood and breathlessness.
In that universe, I was dead.
“Diverging universes – perhaps if you stumble upon a 5-dollar-note on the road, your universe diverges. Into one universe where you did pick it up, and one universe where you didn’t. And if you did pick it up, it splits into more universes – one if you decided to keep the money, and one if you decided to return it. And it goes on and on and you don’t even realize it’s happening.”
In the mirror, I could see the store around me – it looked exactly parallel, like it was supposed to. All the clothes matched and I could still see someone else browsing the clothes downstairs. But I was dead.
And, perhaps, in every other mirror I’d seen…I was alive. I’d been alive in all those universes, so I’d never noticed a thing. It made me wonder how many people had wandered upstairs and seen themselves missing.
Probably not many.
And it occurred to me that I couldn’t do anything about it. A parallel universe was a universe by itself, and I had no business meddling around with it. I counted myself quite lucky that I’d even got a chance to see it.
“Elena,” I heard Claire’s voice calling me softly, nudging my shoulder. “Elena, wake up. I’ve gotten my stuff and we can go.”
I murmured something unintelligent and opened my eyes, the bright daylight looking through the glass doors of the entrance temporary blinding me. “What?”
“You fell asleep. But it’s okay, I’m done now,” she explained.
“I…fell asleep?” But it’d felt so real.
She nodded, studying me weirdly. “What’s wrong?”
“Wait…hold on,” I got out of the leather chair, heading in big, brisk steps up the echoing staircase. “I just need to check something.” I grabbed my way up the stairs, going three steps by three, wanting so badly to know for sure if what I’d seen in that supposed dream had been real.
I stopped on the second last step, freezing in my tracks. I stared into the mirror on the right, and I didn’t see myself. I saw a girl with the same black hair, the same fair skin and the same blue outfit on the staircase, lying on the staircase and not moving.
And she was dead.
“Are you okay?” Claire asked, as we left the store with her shopping bags, pushing past the glass doors. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Not even close.” –