Worlds Are Like Conkers

by James Story

So six days between posts isn’t great, but I did write this while at work a couple of days ago and needed to put it down on here.

First, there was a creak. A long, winding, rising creak that shied away from ending. This woke Mark, but he chalked it up to nothing more than a ‘midnight noise’. Directionless but no cause for concern, a noise that the regular hassle and bustle of the day would’ve drowned out and he turned in his bed.

Then another, louder creak, bookended by a bang. This had to be something real, surely. Had Mark left a tiny crack of a window open? We’re the neighbours once again failing to sneak around their house in a vein attempt to not incur Mark’s nighttime wrath again? He rose from his bed in a huff and checked each room from the hallway. Kitchen, check. Living room, check. Bathroom, check. Nothing was wrong and Mark gave up his quest.

He slid back into his bedroom, hoping to regain some sleep. Suddenly a crash, beckoning the room to shake and Mark bounced from his mattress as soon as he made contact with it. Lights flickered, pictures fell and a voice could barely be heard over the racket enveloping Mark, who was now cowering by his bed with his face pointed at the ground and his hands shielding his head.
“What?” he cried out.
“-, going on?” Said a familiar woman’s voice.
“Are you alright?”
It was at this moment that, as peculiar as your bedroom suddenly deciding to collapse down on you is, Mark experienced an even more peculiar thing. He had the thought, the words formed and he heard “I’m alright, just try to stay calm” but Mark did not actually speak them.
“What’s happening?”
Again, Mark heard the intended “I don’t now, just stay here” but he was not the source. It was as if the room had shook his voice out of him and it was now reassuring Debbie without any of the regular physical presence that one has when comforting someone that, despite knowing nothing of the situation unfolding, things will be fine.

Eventually the shaking stopped. Mark opened his eyes and looked at the walls. They were fine. He flipped over and saw the ceiling. Also fine. Slowly he got up, regained composure and asked “Debbie are you alright?”

There was no reply. Then Mark realised there shouldn’t be. Not that he was expecting Debbie to have ran away in fear or been crushed by the seemingly falling room, but Mark suddenly remembered that, despite his best intentions and hopes, Debbie had not slept at his place this night. She had gotten a taxi back home and would see him tomorrow. This fact raised two very difficult questions when Mark turned around to see who occupied his bed. The first being who is this person who looks, talks and acts like, but, by the generally reliable laws of physics, could not be Debbie? The second being why was there an identical copy of Mark sitting in bed next to here?

Before anyone could collect themselves, a knock at the door. The three of them darted looks between themselves and the door, no one moving.

“You now, I don’t actually have to wait but I believe this is the polite thing to do.” Said a slightly agitated voice through the door. The Mark from the floor walked over and opened it. There stood a man in a black suit and tie who immediately walked into the bedroom. Debbie almost spoke, but was cut off by the man’s hand raising at the first syllable. He surveyed the room a little, inspecting it and then stood between the seated and standing Marks.

“Alright, nothing too bad. I mean, considering. Could’ve been really messy but we kind of lucked out. I’m gong to guess you’re the odd one out here as you’re not in bed?” Said the man, gesturing towards the standing Mark, who didn’t know where to begin an answer.

“It’s alright, I wouldn’t expect you to understand. Neither of you actually. We rather hoped that no-one would have to know but when a level 5 shift happens someone’s going to have to spill the beans aren’t they?” Chuckled the man, swapping his gaze between the bewildered couple and the supposed ‘odd one out’.

“Right well, better get this going. Debbie, Mark and well, Mark. There’s been a sort of accident.”
“I think we can see that” blurted out Debbie, finally.
“Yes, well, bullet to your head you’d probably say that was an earthquake, right? But what earthquake only affects the bedroom of a eighth story flat? Exactly, none of the ones I’ve seen either. So, what actually happened is that two worlds have collided. Namely yours” started the man, pointing at Debbie before spinning round at point at the standing Mark and finishing with “and yours”.

This left everyone concerned in an even more bewildered state before the man in the suit had another realisation. “Of course, right, you don’t even know how the worlds work. Permit me to explain. Worlds are like tennis balls”. The man then produced two tennis balls from his inside suit pocket, which strangely caught the people in the room as of guard as when the room seemed as though it would collapse. The man bounced one of the balls of the ground then snapped “No, that’s not it. That’s not it at all. Ah! Yes. Got it.” The man placed the balls back into his pocket and from the same one produced two conkers tied on seperate strings.

“Worlds are like conkers,” began the man, giving one to Debbie and the other to the standing Mark, “you have yours, Debbie. And Mark, here’s yours.”
“What about me?” Questioned the seated Mark.
“I’ll get to that,” said the man in a slightly concerned tone while dragging the standing Mark next to the bed, “so, yes, you both have your worlds. These worlds are yours, you see them through your eyes, you do what you want and so on. And what’s happened is that Debbie’s world has smashed,” the man explained, as he guided Debbie’s conker into Mark’s, “into yours, Mark. And by the looks of this room Debbie’s won.” The man smiled a smile of a job well done.

The standing Mark finally managed a few words out in what felt like hours, or perhaps it was just the lesson-like delivery from the man.
“So my world is…” Mark faltered, only to be conversationally saved by the man.
“Destroyed, yes. Terribly sorry about that.”