When a butterfly flaps its wings, a new world is created. No wait, that’s not right. When two paths diverge and you chose one over the other– Right now I have a lot of time to think.
For starters, I somehow traveled from France to Mississippi. I landed naked in a field of grass just outside of Keesler Air Force Base. Yes, I’ve watched the Terminator movies. But before I had a chance to rob a biker gang for clothing, I was arrested by the local military police.
After being forcibly dressed in a hospital gown, I was strapped to a gurney (for my own safety). All before being loaded into an ambulance. No one told me where I was going, just muttering about me being a Jane Doe. I was tense, with thoughts of escape running through my mind. It was only when I saw the lights of the emergency room sign did I realize I’d been taken to the on-base hospital.
As I was taken past airmen and their families in the waiting room, I could hear the team of doctors tell the police that I was insane; possibly a danger to myself and others. Somehow, I went to sleep.
I could only assume I’d been drugged since my heart was racing too fast for me to actually rest. I awoke in an elevator. My mouth was unimpaired, but I couldn’t speak or even scream. Vomit choked in my throat, as I struggled to breathe. My heart was racing so hard, I almost didn’t notice how my vision was slipping in and out of focus. I could see I was surrounded by people; men, women, nurses, doctors, black, white, Asian, even Native American- all at once.
The image was layered, like watching a 3D movie without the glasses. I was expecting a headache, but none came. I could hear all the voices perfectly clear. They were talking to me, referring to me by different names; Fiona, Emily, Miss Davis, Mrs. Mercer, Patient Zero, the Female. But the one I kept hearing over and over was ‘the Vessel’.
From what I could make out someone called, ‘the child’ was still missing, possibly destroyed, but they were still looking. At least a few dozen voices were helpful for this individual’s safe return.
As the elevator stopped in, what felt like, a sub-basement level. As my gurney was wheeled into a room, the conversation shifted. Someone called, ‘the man,’ ‘male specimen’, and ‘Project K’, he was still at large. That had to be Kai or maybe even Ken. It had to be.
“We have to send her back,” said a male voice with a Russian accent.
“There’s no place to send her back to,” replied a mousy female.
“What do we do?” the voices layered over each other, rendering them indistinguishable. “What will we do?”
One woman came forward, her silhouette seemed to stand out from the others, casting an oddly neon glow. “We do what we have to.” She had the voice of someone who smoked a pack a day and drank herself to sleep. But this sound was layered over what sounded like my voice. This woman had my voice.
As she came closer, her figure came fully into focus. She wore a lab coat over military fatigues, with her blonde hair pulled back in a messy bun. Her face looked tired, weary, somewhat angry, but also young. She looked about my age. As she moved in close, leaning over me, it became clear; the woman had my face.
“Take samples of skin, hair, blood, tissue, and bone,” she said with cold confidence. “Burn the rest in the incinerator.”
My lip trembled as I started to cry.
This caused her to chuckle. “Oh, f**k you, B***h.” The woman pulled a black glove from her pocket. She snapped it hard as she made a show of putting it on.
“You killed my baby, now I get to return the favor.” She pulled out a knife with a laser blade.
“Please no,” I said in a whisper. “You can let me go. I’ll run, I’ll probably die somewhere on the side of the road.”
“I know you will. But I can’t wait that long.”
I could feel the heat of the blade against my neck. blistered formed as the red light touched my shoulder.
My life flashed before my eyes. I could see my parents, the day my father died, the day I left home, the day I… graduated from college?
I was seeing visions of military training, combat training. And then blood.
The other version of me lurched forward, vomiting blood. The knife dropped from her hand with a clank.
I was still strapped to a gurney, as the other women’s body started to bleed into me, but she wasn’t bleeding, she was melting.
My eyes darted around, trying to see the reactions of the rest of the doctors. Were they going to help their boss?
My vision started to pixelate. They were transforming into something; a dark mass of shadows.
I blinked a few times, causing my vision to clear. The room was getting brighter.
Becca, in full armor, was engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a giant humanoid rabbit.
A wave of energy washed over me. Over and over. On instinct, I reached my arms toward my chest, pulling myself into the fetal position. My hands were free. My legs were free.
With each new reality, my clothes changed, as did my hair even my skin. My final form had tattooed hands and a massive, painfully swollen, stomach.
A furry hand grabbed my shoulder. The massive appendage felt like part of a mascot costume. This hand was fully articulated and scary-strong.
“Get up,” growled a male voice.
“I’m trying!” I couldn’t stand up no matter how hard I tried. My legs were buckling under my weight causing me horrific pain in my back and hips.
The rabbit-man did not seem to care. He dragged me by my shoulder, pulling me through a portal. With a thud, I landed hard on my shoulder. I closed my eyes as pain shot up my arm. I couldn’t move.
I rolled on to my back, as I struggled for breath. When I could open my eyes I saw a bright blue sky. I was outdoors? My shoulders felt wet and cold; I was in a field of green grass, wearing a crop-top and what I assumed were denim shorts.
I couldn’t see my lower body over my massive belly. But I could feel the denim and I could feel that my shorts were soaking wet. “Please help me!” I shouted at the sky. I was in labor, I had to be. But I was alone; no rabbit, no Becca.
I moved like a turtle who had been placed on its back, struggling with my arms and legs. After much trial and error, I managed to wiggle out of my shorts. Gripping them in my left hand I rolled my shorts into a tube shape to bite down on. I needed to push.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I pushed with every ounce of strength. My body felt like I was being ripped in half. I could feel something coming out. I knew I had to keep going. I tried to lift my head, but I could barely move. The baby could have been stuck for all I knew.
Just when I felt like I had no more strength, I saw my husband’s face. “Ken?”
There were wrinkles around his eyes as he smiled at me. He was older, like a kind father or grand-father. But he was alive. “Hey, Barbie-girl.”
I tried to speak, but no words came out. My vision drifted, as the pain washed over me. ‘Please help me.’
“This is your world now, Barbie-girl.”
A massive boot struck me in the face, over and over. I needed to get up, or else I was going to die.
A familiar Lazer knife slashed me across the chest, leaving behind a cauterized wound. My body sat up all on its own, instinctively moving away from Becca.
I expected her to be in armor but she was only in fatigues and combat boots. Not that it made her any less deadly.
Becca spat on my face. “I’m taking the baby. It’s mine anyway.” With her gloved hand, she pulled the baby out, causing the afterbirth to follow.
The horrific pain caused my vision to blur. I rolled on to my chest, leaning on my forearms as I struggled for balance. Only then did I realize, the baby was still attached.
I turned in time to see Becca use the laser blade to cut the umbilical cord. Time went in slow-motion as she held the newborn by its ankle, letting the little girl cry.
“Such a pathetic little creature,” she muttered.
“B-but she’s you.” Was she really going to kill her own form?
“I know.” Holding the child by the leg, Becca swung it like a doll, moving it closer and closer to the laser, not unlike an executioner. “I figure, killing off my original form will reset this world.”
“I’d rather die then-” Becca’s sentence was cut off by a sudden burst of light. The rabbit-man grabbed the baby from her and teleported away. At least the baby would be safe or at least not dismembered by a laser blade.
I would not be so lucky.
Becca screamed an unholy roar. “I am sick of this trickster god b******t! You and your stupid lighter!”
What about the lighter?
Becca charged at me, pinning my already weak body to the ground. Sitting on my legs, she plunged the laser blade into my chest.
I held my breath, waiting for the sweet release of death.
Becca looked into my eyes. “I could stay and watch you die, but I’d rather go rabbit hunting.”
I closed my eyes, assuming that the next breath would fill my throat with blood, but somehow it wasn’t.
“Get up,” said a kind male voice.
Blinking my eyes I couldn’t see anyone. But I felt something solid in my hand. It was a cigarette lighter. Was this Kai’s lighter?
At that moment I missed Kai as much as Ken, if not more.
But it was also at that moment, I realized, Kai never told me how he ‘escaped’ the military medical facility using just a lighter. I flicked it a few times, letting the warmth of the flame burn my thumb. Only it didn’t burn. the tip felt soft, like a marker, but the surface was translucent like a mirror. This wasn’t a lighter this was a portal.
However, it was a portal the size of a small coin. I needed to figure out the next step towards finding the activation switch. I slipped my thumb in the portal, to see what I could feel. I closed my eyes. My mind slipped to visions of calm; apple trees, flowers, sunlight, my first date with Ken. Although I was still on the grass, my legs felt warm. I could feel the hood of Ken’s car, the soothing sun-kissed metal under my bare thighs. My legs hadn’t been completely bare; I’d just been wearing shorts. They’d just rode up my a*s before Ken took them off with his teeth.
We’d made some memories.
The thoughts coaxed a smile across my face. For the first time in a long time, I felt genuine joy. My eyes opened and now my entire hand was in the portal. I tried to jerk my arm back but I was stuck.
I shook my shoulder, to see if I could get more of my self through the slightly larger opening. I couldn’t.
Well, s**t. I needed to figure out how to fully open the portal. I spat blood, my body in agonizing pain. I reached my hand through the portal as if hoping someone would grab me. I closed my eyes, trying to focus on what I wanted. Not Becca, not a monster. I wanted… I wanted to be safe.
Please let me be safe.
I looked at the portal, trying to see what was on the other end. Would I ever get to meet my baby? Or reunite with my husband? Or would I be fighting for my life for all eternity?
The portal rippled like water, so I took a deep breath before falling headfirst. I wanted to go through before I changed my mind (and I sure as hell didn’t want to risk getting stuck halfway). I landed on the wooden floor of a cabin. “Ow!” The fall was not that bad, and next to me was a soft carpet that I easily rolled on to.
I could hear a baby’s coo, followed by a male voice. “Shh, Daddy’s here.”
I entered the room to the sight of the rabbit man sitting on the rocking chair. He wore what looked like an open white bathrobe, with his muscular human chest clearly visible. He was holding a swaddled baby in his arms, rocking the little bundle gently against his sun-kissed skin.
“Shh, she’s asleep,” he said lifting his head. The rabbit took off his mask, revealing a human face. He looked like a younger version of Ken. But as he tossed the mask to the floor, his rabbit ears sprung up. Apparently those were not part of the costume.
“What about your hands?” I asked.
“Is that really a deal-breaker for you?” he asked with a smile, as his paws held the baby comfortably.
“I guess not,” I said nervously. “But, what are you?”
“A fantasy, a dream; I’m whatever you want me to be.” He put the sleeping baby into a nearby cradle.
I was relieved that I could hear her softly breathing. “Is that my daughter?”
“Our daughter.” The rabbit-man looked at me with his dreamy bedroom eyes. His lips were pillowy; soft and feminine. His blond hair, fell in a choppy cut, just shorter than shoulder length.
“Will you lie with me?” he reached out his hand, biting his lip in hesitation.
“Sure, okay,” I took one step towards him, the light from a nearby window caressed over my body. I was naked, that was not unexpected, but the condition of my body was oddly pristine. I was completely uninjured; no blood burns or even scarring.
He cupped my face with his paws. His fur felt silky soft, and the pads of his hands felt like that of a kitten. He guided me to the bed, laying me down on the patchwork quilt made of floral nature patterns. He leaned in to kiss me, his nose touching mine.
I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. His nose was human, his face was human. I ran my fingers through his hair, catching my hand on his ear. It actually started where a human ear would.
He chuckled as he pressed his lips to my earlobe. “Do you like them?”
“Your ears?” I asked as I placed my hand upon his shoulder. I reached under his fur robe, u********g him down top his human body. His back and shoulders had a fine layer of grey fur, creating an elaborate pattern down his body. “What are you?” I asked again, this time more flirty than curious.
I awoke the next morning to the sound of my baby crying. I was naked but clean as if he had washed me in my sleep. Rolling over in bed, I could see I was alone. The room was comfortably warm, as the smell of coffee and cinnamon wafted through the house.
The rabbit-man came in, holding our daughter. Except this time, the child was at least a year old.
The little girl turned to me and giggled. She had her father’s blue eyes and blonde hair. Her hair fell in soft curls but among the doll-like waves were two rabbit ears. She had her father’s ears. She reached out her hand, revealing a paw; five fingers covered in white fur that crept up her arm. “Mama!”
I wanted to reach for her, I really did.
My hesitation caused my lover to take a seat by my side. “Does she please you?”
I happily got out of bed, looking in the closet for something clean to wear. Part of me was expecting to see a rabbit costume or maybe body parts. But there were just bed sheets and robes.
I picked out a white robe. On the hanger it felt like terrycloth; thick and warm. As I put it on, it felt like cotton; cool, comfortable. But as I took a step towards my husband and child, the material felt like shimmery silk.
Ken put the baby on the floor, allowing the toddler to stand.
“I think she’s too young.” I knew she wasn’t, this child was a toddler. But to me, she was just a newborn.
I could see her face morph, growing with her body. Within moments she was standing tall, as a proper three-year-old. Her white dress even grew with her, making her look as sweet as a summer day. “Does this please you more, Mama?” her voice was southern, the way I always imagined it would sound.
The moment was adorable, beautiful, perfect.
Too perfect. It was like I was writing a story in my head.
It was all wrong.
I ran for the door, forcing it open. I didn’t know what my plan was. But it didn’t matter; there was no world beyond the cabin, only darkness. I cupped my hands over my mouth. I wanted to scream but no sound came out. It was as if this part of the world was unrendered.
From behind me, the rabbit-man reached around and closed the door. “You died. Becca killed you, just like the last time.”
I could feel tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. “What do you mean by ‘the last time’?”
The rabbit-man only smirked. “Last time, and the time before that.” He put his arms around my waist, holding me close. “You’re just not very good at this game.”
In the position he held me in, I could not see his face. I pushed away from his grasp, forcing myself to turn and get a good look at the rabbit-man. “Oh, God.”
His face was shifting, morphing. He was aging; transforming from the young, s**y rabbit-man to the battle-weary expression that I remembered on my husband. “You really don’t remember?” his voice was deep, rough, like a smoker. “What you did all those years ago? You killed him.”
This was hell. Somehow, I was fully conscious and aware, to experience my eternal damnation. “B-But I didn’t kill him. Ken committed suicide. He even left a note.”
My daughter looked up at me with her big blue eyes: Ken’s eyes. “Do you remember what the note said?”
I wave of panic washed over me. It was like a dam had broken. “Yes, I read it. I remember everything.” I’d been three months pregnant when Ken’s kidneys started to fail. The cancer was stage two but there was hope if he received a multiple organ transplant before his liver shut down. “Since Ken was already so sick, he was unable to register for any state’s organ transplant list. We needed to find a willing volunteer.”
Becca glared, her eyes narrowing in a way that looked downright demonic. “Really, is that all he was?”
Though one of those DNA kits, I managed to come in contact with a young Marine from Florida: Lance Corporal Jack ‘Rabbit’ Mercer-Krane. According to the DNA results, he was a distant cousin with less than ten percent of genetics in common. But he was willing to fly to our state to get tested. “I have to admit, I was surprised when I saw a twenty-two-year-old man with your father’s face step off the plane. He was a godsend.”
“Humph,” Becca said with a smirk. “Well, that I believe.”
Jack was a match, but I knew organ donation was considered invasive surgery and would likely result in a medical discharge, ending any and all military career aspirations. “Jack volunteered. He wanted so badly to help our family.”
In the next three months, Jack resigned from the military, moving into our apartment. He slept on a sofa while attending the local community college. He was going to be a nurse. He had such a passionate, soul. When I was in my third trimester I was too tired to help Ken. “Jack did everything.”
“Everything but fulfill the promise he made to your husband, my father?”
“You’re wrong!” This part of the story was physically painful. “Jack never backed down from organ donation. It was the doctors who kept claiming your father was too sick; no surgeon wanted to risk him not surviving long term, because no one believed him enough to try.”
Jack was by my side when I went into labor. He held my baby before anyone else; before me, before Ken. Over the next year, we fell in love. We raised Becca together, as a family.
“Is that why you married him on the anniversary of Dad’s death?”
“He told you it was fine, he said you shouldn’t blame yourself for his death. I believe he even wished you well. Father was so kind, wanted you to have all the joy and happiness in the world with your new lover; his distant cousin, the scumbag soldier who conned his way into your bed! Father didn’t blame you, but I did.” Becca’s voice changed, shifting from her childish tone to the menacing adult version. “I do. You robbed me of my real father. Do you even remember how he died?”
“He ate his gun.” At least that’s what the police told me. Jack had been the one to find the body.
“Oh, you do remember. Well, you can dwell on your memories for the remainder of your pitiful exist-
-end Transmission –
Dec 2455, the preceding information was drafted by Barbra-Ann Mercer, my biological mother. I’m somewhat impressed, given her lack of formal education, and the fact that she’s nothing more than a copy of a copy of a brain in a box. Not only did this version of human consciousness manage to keep a detailed journal of her emotions; physical, emotional and even sexual. But she somehow managed to post the story to a primitive version of the world wide web. How quaint.
Oh well, on to trial number four, maybe this time the parameters will work. Maybe this time she’ll do what needs to be done, and we can move on with the next stage of the project.
Memo from the desk of Rebecca Lynn Mercer, Brigadier General, US Military.