Earthquake #flashfiction

The year after Samantha left the military, she found herself in a one-bedroom apartment waiting for an email from a corporate recruiter. She was in the middle of a prestigious MBA program. Her boyfriend thought it was a stepping stone. Samantha thought it was a shortcut.

“If I get into this program, it will funnel me to that kind of job, and if I get that kind of job, I will have made up for lost time.”

“Lost time for what?” her boyfriend had asked.

“Lost time in the military.”

And so, the race was on. But rather than start the race late, Samantha was going to travel to the alternate universe. In the alternate universe, Samantha hadn’t joined the Air Force but went straight from undergrad to her prestigious graduate program to corporate. The alternate universe and reality would meet on Samantha’s 39th birthday at a top-tier executive position.

Samantha moved with her boyfriend to Sacramento. Every Monday, she said good-bye and boarded a plane to the alternate universe. But things were different there, and standard rules of physics didn’t apply. Time moved faster. Samantha had to work harder than the others who weren’t operating in an alternate reality. She became a tiny factory pumping out spreadsheets, slide decks, emails, and white papers. The only interruptions to output were sleep, food, restroom breaks, and travel.

“So, when are you coming home?” her boyfriend would ask.

But it was difficult to come and go from the alternate universe, and eventually, Samantha brought it home with her. And since the rules of physics are different, she couldn’t see or hear anyone on the outside very well. In the alternate universe, only spreadsheets, slide decks, emails, and white papers made sense.

Samantha broke up with her boyfriend and spent all her time in the alternate universe. No one outside of it called or bothered her anymore. She moved into a small apartment where she had an Ikea dining table for late-night work sessions and takeout. One night, in Sony headphones behind the glow of a laptop, a shallow fault earthquake rumbled. The building around her collapsed. It wasn’t until the paramedic removed her headphones and shut her laptop that she realized what had happened.