HAM0101042019-04-15T00:12:24+00:00

01.01.04

Anya brushed her teeth and rinsed her mouth out several times until the worst of the sour bile taste was gone. She dismissed the AI just by telling it to go away, then fell onto her bed.

Aliens.

Beyond the Triangulum Galaxy.

Wherever the hell that was. Maybe she was crazy. Maybe life in the city had driven her mad. Any second she’d look down at her body and it would return to its normal, short, somewhat schlubby state.

It never did.

No matter how many times she closed her eyes, counted to ten, and glanced down, she still saw the new her.She was also reminded of her new height and stature every time she moved around her tiny apartment. It looked even smaller than before, and she had to been aware of the lights hanging from the ceiling and the bathroom doorframe or she would bonk her head on it.

This happened when she would lie down in bed too: she was so much taller than she had been that she misjudged how far down she needed to be to avoid smacking her skull on the headboard. She started to think she might be hallucinating all this due to repeated head trauma (though this would mean she was tall enough to hit the top of the doorframe and everything else, which would mean it wasn’t a hallucination, but she brushed that thought aside).

Anya spent almost half an hour making her menu system appear and disappear. Tap. Bright orange menu. Tap. Nothing. Tap. Menu. Tap. Nothing.
“Hey, AI!” she said to her empty apartment.

The AI appeared at once in a flash of orange light beside her. “Here I am!”

“Go away!” Anya said.

“You got it!” the AI replied and vanished.

Anya stared at the empty space in the air where it had been and grit her teeth. “AI!”

“Reporting for duty!” It said with a salute as it appeared once more.

“Disappear again,” Anya said.

“Poof!” the AI said as it winked out of existence.

“Well if they’re hallucinations, they’re reliable,” Anya said as she covered her face with her pillow. She felt another wave of nausea welling up in her stomach and rising into her throat, but managed to force it down.

She needed to know.

If nothing else, she needed to know if she was really seeing things. She picked up her phone and opened her contacts list and selected “TORI.”

The phone rang several times before it was finally answered. There was a thump from the other end of the line, a curse, and then a mumbled, irritated, “Hello?”

“Tori?” Anya asked.

“Mmmfff,” Tori replied. “Anya? What time is it?”

“It’s a little before noon. How much did you drink last night?”

“You sound like my grandma,” Tori said. “What’s up?”

“I know you’re hungover, but I need help. Can you come over to my place?”

“What’s going on?” Tori asked, her voice a a fraction more alert than it had been a moment ago.

“Something’s wrong with me. I don’t wanna say over the phone. Just…please. I don’t think I can go outside like this and I need some help. It’s not an emergency but something’s going on with me.”

“Oh god. The subway with a hangover,” Tori said and groaned.

“I know, but Tori, please?”

“You owe me big,” Tori said. “I’ll be over soon.”

“Thank you,” Anya said and hung up. She spent the next hour with her face in her pillow and only looked up when her phone buzzed with a text from Tori.

TORI: Stopped to get coffee. At your building now.
ANYA: My door is open. Just come in.
TORI: ok??????

Anya got out of bed long enough to unlock her door and then hid under her blankets again. If this was all real, she didn’t want to scare Tori off upon seeing her.

“Anya?” Tori asked as she opened the door. She was wearing large sunglasses and held a cardboard container with two coffees in it in her free hand. Her voice cracked when she called out and entered the apartment. “Why are you hiding under your blankets? What’s up with you? Call with your mom not go so well last night?”

“Yeah, uh, something happened,” Anya said. “I think I’m going crazy.”

Tori raised her eyebrows as she locked the door behind her and set Anya’s coffee down on the counter. She took a sip of her own and then sat on a barstool near the counter. “Okay. Crazy how?”

“Just…tell me what you see, okay?” Anya asked. She took a deep breath, then stood up and dropped the blanket.

“Holy shit!” Tori shouted and fell of the back of the stool. Her coffee fell to the floor and spilled in a creamy brown puddle around her. “Who the fuck are you?”

“Tori,” Anya said and put a hand out as her friend scrambled to her feet and lunged for the door. “Tori, it’s me.”

Tori looked back over her shoulder, her eyes wide behind her glasses, her hands frozen over the door locks. She stared at Anya, then focused on her face before looking her up and down.

“No,” Tori said. “No, no way.”

“It’s my voice, right? That’s the same? And my face? It’s just thinner,” Anya said and pointed at herself. Horror and relief welled up within her in equal measure. Tori was panicking just as she had, so Anya wasn’t crazy and she wasn’t hallucinating. It was real.

“Jesus Christ,” Tori said. “What…what?” Tori’s mouth wobbled around the words and her lower lip quivered when she was silent.

“It’s me. It’s Anya,” she said. “Something happened last night.”

“No,” Tori shook her head. “You’re like, her twin sister or something.”

“Tori…” Anya said, then sighed. “AI, get out here!”

The AI appeared once more with a quick bow and said, “At your service!”

“You can see this too, right?” Anya asked and pointed at the AI. Tori’s sunglasses slid down her nose as she gawked at the luminescent orange figure floating in the air beside Anya.

“Hah!” Tori said, then slid to the floor as her legs gave out from under her.

“Tori?” Anya asked.

“Who?” Tori asked and looked at Anya. “What?” she pointed at the AI. She shook her head, laughed again, then took a deep breath and rubbed her temples.

“I can explain,” Anya said and knelt down on the coffee-soaked floor. Over the next several minutes, she did her best to explain and had the AI confirm what she said. Tori’s face remained slack for most of this, her wide eyes flicking between her friend and the floating AI. She demonstrated how she summoned the menu, dismissed it, dismissed the AI, and summoned it again.

Anya was able to get Tori up off the floor and into her armchair while she cleaned the spilled coffee and gave her the other cup. Tori’s hands shook as she took it, but she managed to hang onto it. Anya sat on her bed across from her and waited for her friend to respond or do anything but stare in numb silence.

“Tori?” Anya asked.

“Yeah,” Tori said with a nod, her voice flat.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Tori said again in exactly the same way.

“Are you just saying that?”

“Yeah.”

Anya sighed. “I’m sorry for putting this on you, but I thought I was hallucinating.”

“Ye——” Tori started to say then shook her head. “I’m…I don’t know what to say. I’m not hallucinating?”

“No,” Anya said and shook her head. “Neither of us are.”

“I’m not hallucinating either!” the AI said.

“This is…really, really, really weird,” Tori said as she studied the AI then Anya. “That’s really you, isn’t it? Same face, same freckles, same voice, even same…I dunno. Mannerisms? You move the same as…well, as you.”

“Yeah,” Anya nodded. “It’s really me. And believe me, it’s just as weird looking at myself.”

“And this thing,” Tori reached out to the AI and stuck her hand through its rounded tummy and out its back. “Honestly, if it wasn’t for this thing and that menu popping up I’d think that you were just Anya’s secret buff twin sister she never mentioned. But…floating hologram guy here kinda doesn’t fit with that.”

“No, I do not,” The AI said and grinned.

“Cool,” Tori said, but the quaver in her voice made it sound like it was anything but. “So, I think I’m psychologically scarred for life, or something.”

“Me too,” Anya said.

“Can I touch you?” Tori asked.

“Uh, sure?” Anya said. Tori pinched Anya’s cheek, then poked her in her abs. Anya flinched and let out a laugh. “That tickles!”

“Sorry. Holy shit it’s like you got rock implants in your stomach or something. This was six points?”

“Yup. Took about two or three seconds,” Anya replied.

“Jesus,” Tori said and let out a breath. “Aliens.”

“Aliens,” Anya shrugged.

“Aliens!” the AI cheered.

“So what now?” Tori asked.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean,” Tori said and gestured at Anya with both hands. “What the hell are you going to do? If you go into work like this on Monday, people are going to flip right out. Assuming they believe you. Assuming anybody believes you. Hell, just assuming you can even find anything to wear. You’ve torn those PJs to shreds.”

“Believe me, I’ve noticed,” Anya replied. “I’m gonna have to use some sick days, and then…I have no idea.”

“Shouldn’t you call the government or something?” Tori asked.

“The government?” Anya arched an eyebrow.

“Shit, I don’t know! The cops? NASA? Somebody? You’re living proof of alien stuff! That’s an alien right there!” Tori jabbed a finger at the AI.

“Actually, I didn’t exist until I merged with Anya, so I was born right here on Earth! Hello, fellow Earthlings!”

“You’re a floating, tangerine, computer, baby thing,” Anya said. “Calling you an Earthling is a stretch.”

“A baby thing from Earth!” the AI said.

“You’re from the Triangle Galaxy,” Anya said.

“Triangulum Galaxy,” the AI corrected.

“Whatever!” Anya snapped. “Look, I just don’t know what to do. If I go to the government, won’t they just lock me up? I don’t wanna be shoved into Area-51 or Guantanamo.”

“That’s true,” Tori said, then leaned forward and put her head in her hands. “Can I lie down on your bed? I’m still really dizzy.”

“Yeah, of course,” Anya said and got up. She reached to help Tori to her feet but her friend pulled away from her. Anya winced and Tori looked away before she got into the bed.

“Sorry. Sorry,” Tori repeated. “It’s just really weird. Not used to seeing you like…this.”

“No, I get it,” Anya nodded. She went to the kitchen and started making a pot of coffee.

“Plus, hearing about aliens and weird technology just kinda falling out of the sky is some pretty heavy stuff.”

“No kidding.”

The two stayed silent for a while, the only sound the quiet percolating of the coffee machine. The AI floated in lazy circles, casting its halo of late afternoon light around it like a tiny sun.

“So what are you going to do?” Tori asked.

“I honestly have no fucking idea,” Anya said. “There’s some kind of ‘reallocation’ tokens I can get somehow that might make it possible to change back, but I dunno how to get them.”

“What about the rest of those points? You gonna use them?”

“I dunno. Kinda scared to. What if raising my intelligence makes my head huge?”

“That won’t happen,” the AI said. “Unless you really want it to.”

“Well I didn’t want this to happen!” Anya gestured at herself.

“You didn’t have the menu system set to keep your body in its original form despite physical skill changes,” the AI said. “Otherwise it would have.”
“What?” Anya snapped. “What do you mean? Of course I didn’t! There was no option to do that anywhere on the menu! Look!”

Anya pulled up her menu and pointed at it. It only showed the same basic information it always had. The AI smiled and floated next to her as Tori sat up in the bed and eyed the two of them.

“That’s because you’re just on the main menu,” the AI said. Anya started to say something and then felt her skin prickle. “You gotta make a sliding motion like this!” The AI swiped its tiny mitten-hand to the side. Anya raised her right hand, touched it to the menu until she felt the familiar tingle, then swiped to the side.

The main menu slid to her left and became more translucent until it was almost invisible. It was replaced by a second menu. This one showed a picture of her, head-to-toe, on the left side of the display. On the right were a number of options like “HAIR,” “HEIGHT,” “BULK,” and a number of others related to her physical appearance. The list went on and included more unconventional options such as “AURAS,” and “EXTRA APPENDAGES.”

The menu also had a section at the top labeled “STATUS,” and then something like an EKG meter showing her heart rate and a message that said, “NORMAL: MODERATE STRESS.” At the bottom were other basic bodily readings like her temperature, BMI, height and weight, blood sugar levels, and more scrolling past slowly. A flashing message in the bottom right corner read, “MAINTAIN CURRENT PHYSICAL DIMENSIONS DESPITE CHANGES TO STATISTICS AND SKILLS,” beside which was an empty box. Anya tapped the box and a check mark appeared inside of it.

“There you go! Now your body won’t change unless you specifically alter it using this menu. But that requires Reward Allocation Currency.”

“What the hell is that?” Anya asked. She continued to stare at the status menu.

“Reward Allocation Currency, or RAC, is used to make adjustments to your physical form and purchase items from the RAC menu.”

“Another menu?” Tori asked.

Anya swallowed and faced the AI. “How many menus are there?”

“There are nine primary menus and eighteen sub-menus, with several hundreds of thousands of smaller nested menus within those,” the AI said. “Just swipe to the side!”

Though she felt numb, Anya managed to raise her arm and swipe to the side once more and revealed what else the menu system had to share.

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