Window of Happiness
“You are certain?”
She stood there, face pressed against the glass window. The lights of the other life shone in her eyes.
“Yes”, she breathed. “That one.”
The stilled imaged showed a woman similar to her in face and form, if a bit more trim and taut. She had her arms around a man, smiling down fondly at a towhead toddler playing at her knee.
“That’s my life.” She turned to the technician. “This is the one.”
The technician nodded, typing a notation into the computer. “Very well, Mrs. Evans, the Life Replacement counselor will be in to meet with you shortly.”
“I don’t need a counselor,” she said to his retreating back, “ I … “ She turned and looked in the glass window again. “I want this.”
The door closed softly. She didn’t notice when it opened again.
“Mrs. Evan, I am Ms. Shaw, your LR counselor – please, sit down.”
The woman was matronly, short with steely gray hair and dark blue eyes. She gestured towards the corner chair.
Mrs. Evans turned. “I already know what you want to tell me.” She placed her hand possessively on the glass. “It doesn’t matter. That should be me, right there.”
The woman was firm, “It’s a legal issue Mrs. Evans. It must be discussed.”
Her mouth tightened, briefly.
She waited for Mrs. Evans to get settled before she continued.
“I am sure that you think you know what the processes of Life Replacement are, but I would like you to tell me your interpretation of the procedure.”
Mrs. Evans opened her mouth then shrugged, looking behind her towards the glass window. “The only process that matters is I live that life, right there. With a husband that loves me, children that adore me, and a flourishing career as a…?”
Ms. Shaw looked at her notes. “An Art Conservationist.”
Mrs. Evans dimpled charmingly, “Well, I did dabble a bit in painting, and going to museums was a special treat when I could get away. Yes, that will do fine.”
“Right.” Ms. Shaw said, waiting. “And the rest?”
“I honestly don’t care.”
“Mrs. Evans.” She gestured tiredly towards the the glass.
“ Fine. What you implied, that this woman would take my place here in this “universe”, is irrelevant. I could not care less what happens to her. What is important, Ms. Shaw, is that I take her place.”
“Yes, you have made that abundantly clear.” Ms. Shaw said dryly. “Please sign here. Also, I am legally required to inform you that the Life Replacement process is a one time only process per customer and any and all grievances will not be heard nor recognized in any of the known parallel universes including any “mirrored” form of Life Replacement in said parallel worlds.”
Mrs. Evans grabbed the paper and signed it shakily. “Yes, yes – it’s a one way ticket.”
She threw the pen down and rushed to the glass window. ”I can’t believe this is really happening!”
“Yes, I’m sure.” Ms. Shaw inspected the signature and stood, gathering the files in her arms. “How long do you need?”
“How long do I need for what?”
Ms. Shaw sighed. “What week should I schedule the LR? It is customary for our clients to gather with loved ones and family members before the process begins. I understand you have three children, a husband and one living parent? Of course secrecy is of the utmost importance, but our clients usually fabricate a situation where they can – “
“Oh no,” Mrs. Evans gushed, “I want to go now, right now.”
Ms. Shaw blinked. She sat down and opened her files again.
“Your records indicates that you passed the pysch evaluation by a reasonable margin. No past trauma or history of depression…” She rubbed her eyes. “Mrs. Evans, this is not a pleasure jaunt. When you enter that window, you will never see your family, you will never see – “, she picked up a paper, “ Thomas age 13, Jeffrey, age 11, and Shawn age 6, again.”
“Yes,” she said delightedly, “ but they will have a new mommy, won’t they? And I’ll be able to raise this little cutie.” She stroked the glass affectionately, “ Isn’t he just adorable?”
Ms. Shaw shoulders stiffened. The silence was thick, interrupted by the occasional sounds of Mrs. Evans breathing roughly against the glass.
“Very well,” Ms. Shaw said softly.
She entered a series of keystrokes into the desk. “Mrs. Evans, I am not supposed to show you this, and I’m quite sure it will not matter, but – “
Mrs. Evans gave a cry of dismay as the still image was replaced by a selection of video clips. “No, I’ve already chosen, what are you doing!?”
“Just wait, Mrs. Evans.”
Some of the video clips faded to black while other’s highlighted a bright red. A few turned green. “Out of hundreds of your parallel selves the black clips are ones in which you died before your present age, about 29%.”
She clicked another button. “60% of the remaining lives are deemed undesirable for Life Replacement.” She looked at Mrs. Evans, “Meaning, their measurable Happiness Quota was worse then your current potential for Happiness.”
She went to Mrs. Evans. “Which means, Cheryl, that out of all alternate versions of Cheryl Evans, you are in the top 10% for your Happiness Quota. There is no reason to believe a Life Replacement will make you any happier then the available life paths in this dimension.”
Mrs. Evans glared at her, turning again to the window. “Put my new life back up.”
“Please, Mrs. Evans, listen – there is nothing about your life situation that should warrant such a drastic change!”
“Fuck that! Give me my life right now- I paid your fee.” She stepped closer. “ I paid your fee, Ms. Shaw. Now, I want it now.”
Ms. Shaw sighed. She put her palm to the window, said a word, and the glass slid open with a vacuum sealed pop. The picturesque still image returned and wavered slightly.
“Climb through,” she said wearily.
“That’s it, I just hop on in?” Mrs. Evans clapped excitedly.
“Yes, there is a mechanism that will trigger when you cross the threshold…it’s mostly symbolic”, she smiled tiredly.
“Wow! Here I go!”
The still image was replaced with a slightly rounder Cheryl Evans. A different leg dangled in the window.
“Here, let me help you Mrs. Rogers.” Ms. Shaw took her hand and helped her down, guiding her towards a chair. “Please, have a seat.”
Cheryl Rogers looked around in wonder. “Am I… where I think I am?”
“Yes. I regret to inform you that your mirror self, a Cheryl Evans, has opted for Life Replacement. Please note that the contract, as stated in the United Dimensional Replacement Statue, is non negotiable and non refundable. Of course, if you chose not to continue with the life of Cheryl Evans that is up to you – but does not in any way affect the LR contract as is stands.”
Ms. Shaw looked away as Cheryl shuddered and began to cry. “Mrs. Rogers, I am so sorry for your loss. Please know I have the utmost sympathy for your situation.”
Mrs. Rogers nodded, and curled into a ball, her body shaking in great racking sobs. She reached blindly for Ms. Shaw’s hand and Ms. Shaw knelt to draw her into a tight embrace. “I am so sorry, Cheryl”, she whispered.
Mrs. Rogers squeezed back, tears streaming down her face, “Oh no – thank you! Thank you so much!” she whispered.
“I just – really, really hated my life! I can’t believe I have a fresh start – my God, things will be so much better here!”
She hugged Ms. Shaw again. “I am so happy, thank you,” she said cried breathlessly.
“Thank you so much!”