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Short Story

The Two Dennises

Hannah Mortimer observes a close encounter of the same kind.

Dennis had just poured milk over his cereal when there was a knock at the door. He went to answer it.

“Hello,” said the man on the doorstep. He had a strangely familiar voice. “I am here to take you to our universe.” He smiled and gestured, as if in explanation, first to the tall woman standing next to him, and then to the giant spaceship that was parked in the middle of the road, creating a line of cars either side of it. It was only when Dennis gave his uncertain “Hello” back to the man that he realised where he’d heard his voice before: it was Dennis’s own voice. ‘My voice sounds much less posh than his does,’ Dennis thought. “I don’t think you can park there,” he said.

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” said the other, “those cars won’t be bothering you much longer.”

“Sorry,” he said eventually, “Who are you?” He had to speak up over the honking horns.

“Why don’t we go somewhere a little quieter, hmmm?”

The man led their way through Dennis’s house, towards the living room. Dennis sadly eyed his now soggy cornflakes as he walked past the kitchen table. The man sat in Dennis’s armchair, crossing one leg over the other. “Dennis,” he said: “I am you.” He smiled as if that explained everything. Dennis leaned forward from his seat on the sofa, waiting for a better explanation. “What?” He said.

“I am you. I am also Dennis –”

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Silhouette profile © Ian Remsen 2023 Public Domain

“Dennis Hargrove 6771365.” The woman spoke for the first time.

“And you are also Dennis. Obviously,” said Dennis 6771365.

“Dennis Hargrove 1764378,” said the woman.

The Dennis with the higher number continued, as the first Dennis looked confused: “Basically, I’m you, but from a different universe.”

“Basically,” said the first Dennis sarcastically.

“Yes. And my universe is much nicer than yours, so I thought I’d come and take you to mine. I want all the ‘me’s to be happy.” He smiled again, enthusiastically.

“But you can’t be me. We don’t even look like each other.”

The first Dennis wasn’t wrong. The other Dennis was taller – maybe 6ft 3ins – with thicker hair, longer arms, muscly calves, and a flat stomach. His jawline was defined, his cheekbones were sharp, and he had barely any wrinkles on his face. The first Dennis, on the other hand, was shorter, chubbier, and balding. He also had glasses, while the other Dennis didn’t.

“Of course you don’t look like me,” said the other Dennis. “In my universe we’ve developed gene modifying technologies. My parents – or our parents – changed my genes to make me better. I have a faster metabolism than you, quicker reflexes, I’m taller, stronger, and I’m less susceptible to diseases.” He smiled a strangely familiar smile.

The first Dennis’s brow furrowed: “You might be stronger, and live longer than me, but I don’t see how you’re better than me. Why does a chiselled jawline make you ‘better’?” He rolled his eyes, realising that the beauty standards in Dennis’s universe were the same as in his own.

“It doesn’t matter that my jawline is more chiselled than yours,” said the ‘better’ Dennis, “We can change your genes when you come back to my universe so you can be as handsome as me!”

“Change my genes?” The first Dennis frowned. “No thank you, I’m quite happy with the way I look now. I think I’ll stay here.”

“But you have to come with us.” said ‘better’ Dennis. His voice was beginning to sound urgent. “You’re me, and I’m you. Imagine all the fun we could have, all of the ‘me’s together! All of us, as one.”

The first Dennis blinked. This was a lot to take in, and other Dennis was beginning to sound creepy. “You’re not me, and I’m not you,” he said. “We might have been born on the same day, have the ‘same’ parents, but you are not me. I look different to you, I’ve had a lifetime of experiences different to yours. We don’t even have the same genes, and even if you changed mine so that we did, we still wouldn’t be the same person. Twins have the same genes, but they aren’t the same person, are they?”

Other Dennis stood up, frustrated: “I can make you better,” he growled. “I can take you to a universe where science has made everything perfect. All of us will be perfect: a whole army of us’es!” His voice suddenly changed from angry to sweet. “A lot of other Dennises are already waiting for you, Dennis. You’ll finally be among your people. You’ll be where you belong.”

The first Dennis also stood up: “No.”

A vibrating silence filled the air.

“Vanessa” – other Dennis nodded to the woman – “use the stun gun.” Dennis briefly saw Vanessa take out the weapon and aim it at his head, before everything went fuzzy, then black.

© Hannah Mortimer 2024

Hannah Mortimer is an undergraduate in philosophy at the University of Warwick.

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