- Pub. Date:
One minute Danny was running from the cops, and the next, he jolted awake in an unfamiliar body—his own, but different. Somehow, he’s crossed into a parallel universe. Now his friends are his enemies, his parents are long dead, and studious Eevee is not the mysterious femme fatale he once kissed back home. Then again, this Eevee—a girl who’d rather land an internship at NASA than a date to the prom—may be his only hope of getting home.
Eevee tells herself she’s only helping him in the name of quantum physics, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about this boy from another dimension . . . a boy who makes her question who she is, and who she might be in another place and time.
And don't miss Duplexity, Part II: While You Were Gone flips this story on its head and tells the tale of the alternate Danny and the alternate Eevee, living in Danny’s parallel world.
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Read an Excerpt
There are two basic principles in chaos theory. The first is that every system has an underlying order, regardless of its complexity. The second is that even the smallest variance in a system can cause seemingly unrelated behaviors or events.
A butterfly in the Congo flaps its wings and causes rain to fall in Belgium.
A boy shows up at my door and sets off a series of events that shatters everything I understand about the universe.
And my place in it.
Germ parks under a tree in front of Frankie’s Fritters and kills the engine. “Here we are, Ogden.” He leans forward to peer out the windshield, his hands still gripping the steering wheel. “The last gig.”
I look out the passenger window. People gather along Port Royale Way, setting up blankets and chairs. Beyond them, cars stream into the mall parking lot. “The Patriot Day parade? Really?”
“You saw the instructions.”
“Yeah, but why? So many people.”
Germ shrugs. “They want to get their message out?”
“Or they want us to get caught.” I crane my neck to look through the back window. Compliance officers must be patrolling. Unless they’re going solely Spectrum, but that’s not likely. Too late to back out now. Just need to get it over with and be done. “We’ll have to work quick. Stay out of sight.” I point down the road. “I’ve got from ShopMart to the gallery.”
“I’m on the other side,” Germ says. “Fifth Avenue Fashion around to Mission Tire.”
“All right. Let’s do this.”
We bump fists, grab our bags and head out, covering our faces to avoid cameras. At least it’s cloudy. Low light and shadows help confuse the facial recognition.
Germ skates north, and I go south, my board rumbling over the asphalt as I weave between parked cars and people. Last month the target was the Del Mar Country Club. The month before, Phoenix Harbor Supply. Always a different location, but the job stays the same: paint symbols on the sides of buildings and don’t get caught.
We used to only do random drops. Courier underground goods from one person to another, or pass memory sticks along an information route. For those, we never take money. It’s cool just doing something to help. Like, maybe there’s information about someone’s family on that drive you’re carrying. Most times, though, we’re in it for the dosh. Doesn’t pay much. Just enough to buy paint.
But then we got recruited to do bigger jobs. During a routine drop at a market house, this old lady handed us a letter saying street artists were needed to paint the city. So of course we signed up.
The agreement was simple. Pick up the stencils and directions, do the job, return the stencils, get paid. No big.
Until we put two and two together and figured out it was Red December calling the shots. Then we backed off. I mean, I hate the system as much as anyone, but you’d have to be crazy to get involved with those kinds of extremists. I’m through risking my neck. After today, we’re done.
I skate around to the far side of the strip mall, away from the crowds, and crouch between two cars. Rest my back against the chain-link fence. Behind me is the service road. A woman stands at the back door of the beauty-supply store, risking an illicit smoke. She takes a drag, looks around, takes another.
A car passes and I crouch lower. Make sure I’m hidden. A second woman pops her head out of the door and the two talk.
Finally, the smoker crushes the tip of the cigarette into the metal door, brushes away the ash with her hand and tucks the butt into the cuff of her jeans. The door closes behind them and I’m in business.
Two cans of red and my shirt pulled up over my nose, I go to town. Work my way across the strip mall, moving like a ninja, spraying the stencils about twenty feet apart. Same bunch of nonsense. Crown. Cockroach. Skull. Rocket. And a new one: mushroom. Clearly, it’s some kind of code, but hell if I know what it means. That’s someone else’s job. If I had my way, this wall would be covered in real art.
When I reach the end of the building, the paint nozzle gums up for the millionth time. I pick at it with my fingers and teeth until it finally comes clean. My hands and shirt are covered in red. The acrid smell of paint hangs in the air.
The rumble of an engine stops me, and I duck behind a dumpster in time to avoid a patrol car. The camera on its roof trolls for baddies. I tug my hood down lower, just in case, and try to blend in with the shadows. The car slows almost to a stop, then pulls away. There’s no way he didn’t see the symbols. I look at the wall, and check the stencils in my hands. Didn’t get the last one up. Oh well. Too bad, Red December. I’m out of here. I stuff the junked-up cans into my backpack and take off for Frankie’s.
That took way longer than it should have. Germ’s probably sitting there waiting for me.
Back on the main road, people line the street, filling the sidewalks and spilling over into the parking areas. Events like this are always the same: everyone wants to be seen, everyone has to make sure it’s clear they’re on the right side. I pop my board up into my hands and walk. Best to try and blend in. Music carries over the crowd from the PA system, that song we learned in third grade. Something-something we will stand, for brother, sister, motherland. I keep my guilty hands in my pockets as I wind through people and picnics and children chasing each other and stabbing their little flags like swords.
Just as the Frankie’s sign comes into view, the music cuts to the jarring blare of a siren. Everyone stops, freezes, listens. Flags are dropped as hands cover ears. From the speakers, an automated female voice says, “This is an evacuation notice. Proceed to the closest secure zone in a calm manner. This is an evacuation . . .”
I have to get to Frankie’s. Have to find Germ.
The wheels of my board slap the blacktop and I push off, trying to weave through the crowd as the happy carnival turns to chaos. Everyone clambers for escape.
Maybe going the long way around the back of the stores will be quicker? I dart between the dry cleaner’s and the bike shop, back to where I was working.
The fence. Damn. Forgot about the fence. I’ll have to brave the crowds.
I do a 180 and slam to a stop. A security guard in a golf cart blocks my path. Our eyes meet and everything slows. He’s big. Mean-looking. Cold spreads across my shoulders, down my arms. I blink first, and like that he’s after me, yelling into his radio.
I whip around again and skate hard for the fence. On the other side is freedom. My hood flies off. There’s no dodging Spectrum now. I aim for the dumpster at the far end. Just before I face-plant into the metal, I pop the board up, smack all four wheels against the dumpster’s side and launch myself at the chain links. My fingers make contact, gripping the metal while my feet search for a hold. The guard’s right behind me, reaching for me. My feet slip down again. I’m not gonna make it--
The first explosion shakes the ground, rattles the fence, blows out my eardrums. The security guard stumbles back and falls. My fingers scrape the metal, trying to hang on. Smoke engulfs the sky.
The second explosion crashes through me, pins me to the fence, squeezes the air from my lungs. Then suddenly, somehow, I’m flying. Blinding white heat swallows me, spits me out, slams me to the pavement. Pain explodes in my chest. I crumple as the ground gives way and I’m falling through, my legs kicking at nothing but dark, empty.
Numbers are safe. One is one is one. One will never be two. One will never be one thousand. Numbers don’t change, which is why I like them. It’s also why I like Warren. Not like like. But it’s why we’re friends. He doesn’t change. With Warren, I know what to expect. I think he’d say the same about me, too. He knows I’m not going to play the drama queen or go girl psycho on him.
“I’m leaning toward the long-term effects of gamma radiation exposure.” Warren swaps out his history book for calc.
The mirror inside my locker catches the reflection of Stacy Farley (cheerleader, blond, perfect) flirting with Justin Campbell (footballer, tall, dumb as a box of rocks). When they start kissing, I grab English and close the locker door. “I think we’re better off doing something more tangible. Like Phoenix temperature variances over the last hundred years.”
“Solomon,” Warren groans, “Moon Mountain AP ran that one last year.”
“I thought it sounded familiar.”
I squint against the sunlight as we leave the locker bay. It’s a perfect morning, and students crowd the sidewalks winding around the buildings of Palo Brea’s open campus. Warren and I navigate our way through the best we can. An upperclassman bumps into Warren and growls, “Move it, bug-eyes.”
Warren shrugs it off and adjusts his ever-present goggles. “Consequences of illegal dumping on desert ecology?”
“Effects of climate change on the migration patterns of the monarch--”
“I said no animals. Bugs are animals.”
“You’re making this really difficult.”
“The deadline for the science fair is over a month away.” I step aside to allow a gaggle of Goths to slink past. “We’ve got time.”
“It’ll be here before we know it. And this year we actually stand a chance of winning. If we can come up with a killer idea. Mac said so.”
“We have time. We’ll figure it out.”
“What, like the idea’s just going to drop out of the sky?”
“You never know.”
“Asteroids.” Warren looks up. “Improved detection and tracking methods of Potentially Hazardous Asteroids.”
“Too big. And we’d have to partner with NASA or something.”
He shrugs. “We have Mac.”
We’ve reached the fork in the sidewalk. Math building to the east, English to the west.
“Hi, Warren.” Missy Bivins holds her books across her chest and her braids sway with each step.
Warren blushes. “Hey, Missy.”
“See you in math.”
We’ve been going to school with her since forever, but she and Warren never seemed to notice each other. Until this year. Now whenever she comes around, he loses his ability to speak. Or reason. I clear my throat.
“Huh?” He blinks. “Oh, where were we? Bugs--no, asteroids!”
“How about we take this up again after school?”
“It’s Friday. Chess club.”
The bell rings.
“Tonight,” he says. “Cheese crisps up on the roof.”
“Can’t. Mom’s taking me to the ballet. Geocaching tomorrow?”
“Make it so.” He holds up his hand in the Spock sign. “Live long and prosper.”
I meander to English, timing my arrival for just after second bell. No one hurries to Ms. Fischbach’s--The Fish’s--class. Most students linger outside and slip in just before the last bell. Some come in late just to tick her off. Long before I got to Palo Brea High, someone scratched beware the fish into the paint, right at eye level. Janitors are always spackling over it, but the next day it’s back--like a virus. The Fish hates it, which makes it all the more brilliant.
I wait for a few more people to show up before following them inside, keeping my eyes down and slinking through the aisles to my desk. Far right, near the back.
The Fish uses an alphabetical seating chart. She thinks, even as sophomores, we’re not mature enough to handle sitting where we want. A-to-Z puts me behind Sarah Ranston and in front of Kyle Stiplar. Sarah wears too much perfume and flips her hair around so that her stink puffs up in my face. Kyle insists on putting his feet on the bar under my chair and he never stops moving. My only consolations: the wall on my right, and Danny Ogden on my left.
Danny is like another wall. He never moves or says anything. Just sits like a lump, with his head down and his moppish hair draping over his arms.
I pull out my notebook, open to the English section and continue the box fractal I’d started in class on Wednesday. Sarah flips her hair onto my desk and my pen slips, scratching a line in the wrong direction and ruining the symmetry. I clear my throat and push against her chair to scoot myself away. Kyle’s feet push back. I’m trapped.
The late bell rings and The Fish rises from her desk. She’s wearing the purple jumpsuit with the zipper running up over her bulging belly. The green scarf around her neck and the scowl on her face make her look like an angry eggplant.
“An update, to begin with,” she says, holding up the baby book. The class gives a silent-but-visible groan. Ever since The Fish learned she was having a baby, she’s taken every opportunity to turn the pregnancy into a teachable moment. Never mind she teaches English, not science. Never mind it grosses us all out. “This is week twenty-eight. Our baby is fourteen inches long and weighs approximately three pounds.”
The door opens and Danny trudges into the room, his high-tops squeaking against the linoleum. The Fish watches him sit down. If her eyes could shoot lasers, Danny Ogden would be fried.
“Her eyelashes are developing, and if she were a boy, her testes would start descending.”
This time the groan is audible. The guys sink down into their desks. Danny lays his head on his.
A voice pipes up from the back. “Maybe she’ll have ’em anyway.” Shock ripples through the room as everyone searches out who dared to speak against The Fish. Brian Finney’s arms are crossed over his chest and he’s wearing a smug grin. Clearly, the idiot has a death wish. No one moves. Brian looks around, disappointed he didn’t get a single laugh. “What? It happens sometimes. I saw it on TV.”
The Fish snaps the book closed. “I will not be disrespected in my classroom, Mr. Finney. Out.” Then she gasps, puts her hand over her stomach and takes several deep breaths.
Please go into labor. Go. Go now.
But The Fish’s moment of drama passes as soon as the door shuts on Brian. “Turn to page 774 in your anthology,” she says. “Randy, you may read aloud while I return last week’s essays.” She waddles up and down the rows, stopping at each desk to shuffle through the papers cradled in her arms. Poor Randy clears his throat and begins reading in a slow, stuttered dirge while the rest of us fantasize about being anywhere else.