“The Other Morgan” – Chapter One

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NOTE: Some readers of the Parallel Trilogy might be confused, thinking that the other Morgan experienced our world. But if you’ll remember, at the end of Hunted, when Billy tells our Morgan how he ran into the other Morgan at the edge of the forest in Fox Run, our Morgan comes to the realization that the other Morgan was only in our world for one day. So no, she never experienced our world. This story is about what happens to the other Morgan once she returns to her world, after our Morgan has made a mess of things for the other Morgan to deal with.

Chapter One

“This has to be a joke,” I muttered as I finished reading the letter for the third time. The lines of neat handwriting blurred as I thought about the boy who’d handed me the letter earlier.

Billy. That was the name he’d given me when he’d intercepted me at the edge of the forest near my old house in Fox Run. And now I was sitting on the couch in the home of a complete stranger. Was I crazy? Why had I gone with a boy I’d barely met?

Enforcers. That’s why.

When Billy had told me that Enforcers were after me, I’d panicked. Who wouldn’t? Enforcers were a nightmare—always looking for a reason to harass you, happy to drag you away from all that you knew to lock you up. My own father was locked up in a Federally Assisted Thinning center.

When Billy had grabbed me by the arm and told me I had to come with him now, I’d hardly let my mind travel past the thought that Enforcers were after me before I’d leapt onto the back of his motorcycle and hung on for dear life as we’d raced away from my old neighborhood.

Now I was in the home of a man named Nick, and Billy was gone. He’d handed me the letter, sat me in the living room, pulled Nick aside, and that was the last I’d seen of him—or anyone. I’d been on my own for the last half hour and my mind was going in a million directions. A short time before, I’d heard Billy’s motorcycle revving up, then driving away, so I knew he’d left.

Putting aside the bizarre information in the letter, I had my own peculiar occurrences to sort out. I carefully folded the letter into thirds and placed it back in its envelope, then stared at the blank television screen hanging on the wall across from me as I thought about what I’d experienced.

I’d been staying at my friend Rochelle Candee’s cabin when she and I had argued about some stupid thing or another and I’d decided to take a walk by myself. It had been right after breakfast when I’d entered the forest with a bottle of water and one granola bar. I’d been walking for about an hour and had just turned around to head back when dizziness had overcome me and I’d closed my eyes.

To my shock, when I opened them, the previously dry ground was covered with several inches of snow, and the pleasant morning air had become chilled. Confused, I decided I better get back to the Candee’s cabin, and I began walking. Then, even though I thought I was retracing my steps, with my lousy sense of direction I became disoriented and nothing looked familiar.

Afraid I was going to become even more lost, I sat on a log for a while and tried to figure out what could have happened. When no good answer came to mind, I knew I had no other choice but to keep trying to find my way back to the Candee’s cabin.

I walked on, but when I recognized an unusual tree that I’d passed a short time before, I realized I was going in circles. Trying a different direction, I strode on. A while later I had another bout of dizziness. Wondering if I was getting dehydrated—I’d finished my one bottle of water by then—I sat on a boulder and hung my head, then closed my eyes as I waited for the dizziness to pass. When I felt better, I’d been stunned to see that the snow had melted. Or vanished. I wasn’t sure which. All I knew was the snow which had been there moments before was suddenly gone.

Astonished, and more than a little perplexed, I stood and continued in the direction I’d been going before the dizzy spell had forced me to stop. Eventually I saw the backs of houses through the trees and I headed towards those. To my complete and utter surprise, I recognized my old house in Fox Run.

Mystified as to how I’d gotten back to my old neighborhood—my family and I lived in Timber Hills by then, and the Candee’s cabin was at least forty-five minutes away from Fox Run—I stumbled out of the forest and towards the backs of the houses.

That’s when I ran into Billy. I’d never seen him before that moment, but when he looked at me, recognition lit his eyes. Even so, his mouth seemed to hang open in shock at my appearance, which made no sense to me.

“Morgan?” he asked.

I wondered how this complete stranger knew my name, but since I was still trying to comprehend how I’d ended up in Fox Run, I quickly pushed aside any new questions. Instead, I nodded.

He grabbed my arm, and with an urgency that pierced me, he said, “You have to come with me. Right now.”

I balked at going anywhere with him, even taking a step back towards the forest, but that’s when he told me that Enforcers were hunting me. Hunting. That was the word he used. Not searching, or looking. But hunting. Like I was some sort of prey.

“Enforcers?” I wanted to ask why they were after me as I’d always been careful to follow the rules. It’s true that sometimes I forgot to weigh myself, but Mom had always gotten a text when that happened and then she’d remind me to get on the scale. I’d even gotten a waiver for the few days I’d be at Rochelle’s cabin. Maybe they rejected it and I didn’t know. Maybe they’re going to take me to a F.A.T. center for punishment. Just like they took Dad.

Panic exploded within me and I nodded. “Okay.”

“Over here,” Billy said, then he rushed over to a motorcycle parked near my old house.

My heart slamming against my ribs, I swiftly followed, and after a brief glance at my old house, I put on the helmet he handed me, then climbed on behind him.

When we reached the house I sat in now, Billy climbed off the motorcycle, then helped me off. As I handed him my helmet, alarm bells rang in my mind. I didn’t know where I was or what was happening.

“Come with me,” Billy said.

I stepped back. “Where am I? What’s going on? Why did you bring me here?”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out the letter, then held it out to me. “This will explain everything.”

Confused, but curious, I took the letter and followed him into the house. He left me in the living room and I read the letter.

Now, still having trouble processing the message and grasping who’d written it, I slid it out of the envelope, unfolded the sheets of paper, and began reading it again.

Dear Morgan —

That sounds so strange as I’m Morgan and it feels like I’m writing this letter to myself. In a way I guess I am. I hardly know where to begin, but I know you must have a ton of questions.

Let me start by saying how sorry I am that I screwed up your life. Honestly, it wasn’t on purpose, and I hope you’ll be able to forgive me. But at a minimum I think what I’ve experienced may help change the way things are in your world.

I continued reading the letter from this person who claimed to be a version of me from a parallel world. She explained how she’d stumbled into my world, gotten herself locked up in a F.A.T. center, made enemies in high places, escaped their grasp, and was now going to attempt to go back to her world.

Evidently she made it, because I was here, and she was nowhere to be found. Which meant I would have to clean up the mess she’d made of my life. I wanted to wad up her letter and throw it across the room, but there was information in that letter that I might need, so I folded it, and tucked it into the envelope.

“Do you have any questions?” Nick asked as he walked into the room.

Do I have any questions? Like, what is a parallel world? Had I actually been in one? My mind whirled as I tried to digest the information in the letter. Information that seemed too incredible to be true—but it also perfectly explained what I’d experienced.

“I don’t have all the answers,” Nick said as he sat in a chair next to the couch, then he laughed. “I just barely learned about this parallel world business myself.”

Tearing my gaze away from the envelope where I’d placed the letter, I looked at him. He just learned about it? “What do you mean?”

“I mean, this morning Billy and Morgan . . .” He laughed. “Not you, but . . .” He shook his head. “Anyway, they left this morning, and then Billy came back with you. He told me a crazy story about a parallel world, which I never would have believed.” His mouth turned up into a half-smile. “Well, except here you are.”

“Here I am?” I still didn’t know what he meant.

“Yes. You’re not the same girl named Morgan that I spent time with over the last few days.”

Maybe I was the same girl. Maybe I just had amnesia and couldn’t remember writing the letter. Oddly, the idea that I’d completely lost my memory brightened my mood, as if that was a better alternative than what the letter told me. “How can you be sure I’m not the same girl?”

“For one thing, she had short hair. And it was dark. Morgan requested that a friend of mine color it back to her natural color.”

I touched my long hair, then tucked a loose strand behind my ear. It felt strange to hear him talk about this other-world version of me so casually. Like she actually existed.

“Besides, there was something about her,” he continued. “A confidence. Like she’d figured things out.” He shook his head. “No offense, but you’re not her.”

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