We were just out for a nighttime stroll. People always told us not to: the dangers of men wearing trenchcoats in dark alleys are not to be taken lightly, they said. We didn’t listen. We thought they needed to learn to live a little.
I still think we were right, but maybe so were they.
Because there was a man in a trenchcoat in an alley that night. Not a dark alley, particularly (there were quite a lot of lights on in the area, and there was a full moon). Normally, we would have done our best to ignore the presence of another human being. At first, that’s exactly what we did.
Then a door opened—some side door on a building we’d never noticed before, we guessed—and another man stepped out. Except not another man, we realized upon further observation.
The same man.
There were two of him.
As they walked off together into the night, we stood rooting to the spot, curiosity fighting common sense. As the men vanished around the corner, curiosity won, and we slowly crept towards the door that one of them had emerged from.
We hesitated with our on the door handle. A faint humming sound was coming from the room behind the door. Machinery, perhaps? Slowly, the door creaked open. Somewhere at the back of our mind, it registered as odd that the door wasn’t locked.
Immediately in front of us, we saw that the humming was indeed coming from machinery, though not any kind of equipment that we recognized. We reached out a hand and tentatively poked at a screen that looked as though it might be a control panel. Immediately, the screen lit up, filling with numbers, symbols, and abbreviations, few of which we recognized. We tapped something that looked like a power button, hoping to shut it off before anyone knew we were there.
The machine’s humming grew increasingly louder and higher in pitch until it became an ear-piercing whine. We thought there were perhaps a few people miles away who couldn’t hear it. After several long and worried moments, there was a flash of light in a doorway on another side of the machine.
And eight of us stepped out into the room.
I looked around. I had been standing over by the screen, pressing buttons, concerned… and suddenly I was over here in a brightly lit doorway, surrounded by several other people. No, not other people, I realized, shocked. They were all me. Copies of me. Or was I a copy of them?
Perhaps it doesn’t matter. We’re all the same person, more or less. We all remember the same life up to that moment.
But that doesn’t make us one person. I am complete, a whole individual in and of myself.
I am not only one ninth of myself.
The same goes for all my other selves.
So we’ve discussed taking turns. One of us goes to work one day, another the next. We still have to figure some things out, though. We need nine times as much food now, and nine times as many clothes. Nine people are trying to share one bathroom…
This is going to get complicated.