Araminta was dawdling several paces behind her husband for no reason other than that she was window-shopping and he wasn’t. Nor would there have been any reason to mention it, other than that, on this particular day, while contemplating the possible purchase of an item in the shop window, Araminta fell through a crack in her own thought processes.
“Should I, or shouldn’t I?” she thought. “I should. Shouldn’t I?”
Her head felt a bit dizzy and the air around her juddered as if she was clinging to a spinning top just as it was starting to wobble into a slower, more unstable revolution. As the spinning top dipped to graze the well-trodden sidewalk, Araminta slid off and found herself in a parallel universe.
At first, there was little enough to indicate her plight. Realisation dawned only gradually, as it usually does in these circumstances. The shops and the goodies for sale were sufficiently familiar to arouse no suspicion in Minty’s still slightly split-skin thoughts. That her husband was nowhere in sight was something to celebrate rather than rue. That the street was more crowded with fellow-shoppers than she was used to, barely infiltrated her admittedly unreliable thinking system. But the feeling that something was indefinably different fired Minty up more than normal. The unusual but clearly fashionable clothes on the life-like models in the shop windows (were they real people?) called to her irresistibly and with no sense of impending danger, she plunged, head still spinning slightly, through the revolving doors into the heady depths of the Ladies’ Latest Lingerie store.
An hour or so later, with her shopping basket full of ladies’ latest, Minty joined the line of chattering, cosmopolitan ladies waiting for their turn at the pay till and pack ’n’ wrap desk. All this was as familiar to her as the tingle of satisfaction at shopping well done. And in such a diverse group of people in the middle of such a great metropolis, her own appearance and somewhat exotic accent blended in well and caused no comment.
Not so her credit card.
It took at least five attempts to swipe the piece of plastic through the scanning mechanism of the international, but not inter-universal, computer system before it became obvious to everyone, including the increasingly anxious Minty, that it wasn’t going to work. A parallel system is by no means the same system and computers are far less easily deceived than people, whatever planet they are on. Detecting an alien presence, all systems seized up.
Readers well-versed in modern technology will have no difficulty imagining the impact this had on the whole para-universe and will well be able to appreciate the chaos which was especially visited on the unlucky planet Minty’s stylish high heels now stood upon. The planetary pay system was rendered unprofitable. Holding systems held no longer and tottered to a halt and the entire monetary system barely muddled through.
The police were called, inquiries were made and checks were carried out. But ultimately a para-universe is exactly that – parallel, not adjacent or consecutive – and all details pertaining to Minty’s financial status (status: not as wealthy as she would like) had transferred with her. So no fault, blame or even crime could be laid at her elegantly clad feet and it was assumed that a dormant thousand-year-old bug had bitten inexplicably late. The population promptly and enthusiastically returned to using coins and paper money and brown cardboard folders to keep their important documents in.
There was some confusion, not to say incipient trouble, when Minty was released by the police and went home to where her home would be, if she were still at home. Unfortunately, it seemed that in this para-world, her husband had no parallel. But by this time, the cracks in Minty’s thoughts were healing over fast and she grasped the complexities of the new situation quickly enough to talk her way out of any embarrassment.
Stories ought to have a happy ending, although many don’t, leaving us to ponder what it is that is humankind’s true inheritance. If there are any doubts about this, a quick visit to a certain illustrious department store in London (England, Europe, Earth) will allay them. Minty is to be found nowadays working assiduously and contentedly in the famous food department there. Indeed, there is reason to believe her other-worldly face has been chosen to grace yet another healthy-eating advertising campaign.
And if readers (if readers there are) are wondering what happened to Araminta’s husband and what steps he took to search for her, there is no need to be concerned. On Planet ~^~<*>~^~x of Universe 29344x (the lower case x is significant because lower case universes are known to be spin-offs of capital ones), as soon as Araminta slipped through the crack between her own thoughts, she simultaneously left the minds of everybody else on ~^~<*>~^~x, that is, she was erased from their consciousness as if she had never existed. Which is just as well, given what would have happened in due course had she remained there…
But that is a story that cannot be told – for the very good reason that it never happened.
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