I was heating up a cup of ramen noodles when another version of myself popped out of a wormhole in the trash can of my kitchen. The trash can had started shaking as if a small critter had stumbled into it and was rifling through for scraps. More curious than scared, I removed the lid and looked inside. There was no trash bag full of trash, just a layer of undulating space/time that had filled it like liquid. It was bright and swirling, a celestial bucket of weird soup. The portal glowed and lit up the kitchen in a strange, green light. Then, a hand reached out from beneath the layer of swirling mass and out climbed myself.
“Oh, hey. What’s up?” Other Self said after tearing through the fabric of reality and climbing out of my garbage. Other Self looked a lot like me, except his skin was a pallid blue and his eyes lacked pupils. Other than those minor differences, it was pretty close. He wore a black shirt with a skull on it like a real badass.
“Not much,” I said. “Just making some ramen. You’re me, right? Are you from another reality or something?”
Other Self scratched his chin in contemplation. “No, that’s not exactly right. You’re not far off, though. I am you, in a sense. In order to accurately explain what’s going on here, I will have to ask you two questions. One, are you familiar with the concept of cellular death and regeneration? And two, can I scoop a bite of them noodles?”
The microwave beeped and I removed my 39 cent cup of noodles. Steam was rising out of the paper cup. I blew on it to cool it down and considered Other Self’s question. It was kind of a weird thing to ask me after showing up out of nowhere. I handed over the paper cup of cheap noodles to Other Self, which he graciously accepted.
“No, I can’t say I know too much about cells. What does that have to do with anything, though?”
Other Self swirled up a chunk of noodles onto his fork. He took a bite before they had properly cooled, burning the hell out of his mouth. The noodles dribbled out of his scalding mouth and down his chin back into the cup like a cascading waterfall of worms. He yelled “shit” very loudly several times before answering my question.
“It’s like this,” Other Self finally said after letting his tongue cool down. “The idea is that every seven years, all of your cells gradually die and are subsequently replaced by new ones. In theory, this would mean that the you you are now isn’t the you you were in the past. Cell for cell, strand for strand, a different creation altogether. At least, that’s the common belief. It’s sort of an urban legend. It’s not exactly true, but it’s close. Not all of your cells die and get replaced every seven years. Most of them do, but never all, and not in seven years. Still, the idea is pretty interesting, don’t you think? You’re basically an entirely new being every several years.”
I leaned back against the kitchen counter and took a good look at Other Self. “I think I follow. But what does this have to do with you popping out of a wormhole in my trash?”
Other Self blew on a forkful of cheap-ass noodles and shoveled them, successfully this time, into his mouth. “Cause that’s what I am,” he said with his cheeks full, pointing the fork back at himself. “I’m a version of you that is made up of old, dead, replaceable cells. All of those cells die and go to a realm where we form into Other Self’s of You. I’m an amalgamation of a bunch of your Past Self. A blended up, mix-matched, schmorgesborg of old cells that took this form.”
“That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard,” I said.
“Dumb stuff is cool,” Other Self said with a straight face. “But you’re missing the point. I teleported through your garbage to deliver a message to you. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t important.”
“Alright. If it’s so important, and you traveled all this way, I will hear you out.”
Other Self opened our fridge and stuck his head in. He certainly liked to make himself at home. I heard some items being shuffled around recklessly as he searched for whatever it was he needed so badly. Other Self emerged with a can of beer in each hand. He cracked one open, letting it fizzle loudly before taking a large, slow glug. He emptied the first can in one go and let out an exaggerated sigh like the cheap piss-water he just downed was the most refreshing cup of life-giving nectar he had ever tasted. Then he moved onto the second can.
“You’ve forgotten something important,” he said, leaning against the fridge. “You remember me very well, actually. You remember all the little, stupid, embarrassing things I’ve done. You remember the mistakes. Those random memories of wholly insignificant moments that drive you nuts when they wash up on your cognitive shore like trash. You remember the confusion, and trying to figure out who you were. Who you are. But you’ve forgotten this: you’re not me. You can learn from me, from those mistakes, but you’re not me. You’re literally a different being altogether, remember? And if I have to show up every now and then to remind you of this, I will.”
I stared back blankly, my mind scavenging around for the appropriate response. Other Self waited patiently while I processed everything that had happened in these past few minutes, trying to find the right words.
“Give me that beer” is what I landed on.
Other Self handed it over and I took a swig, letting its icy coldness burn my throat. It tasted like acid rain that traveled through city gutters directly into a metal can.
“Why do we even drink this?” I asked Other Self.
“Because a 30-rack costs like five bucks and we’re broke,” he responded, burying his head back into the fridge to grab more. He was right.
“I’m glad you showed up,” I said. “I think I needed to hear that.”
“Of course you did. That’s why I showed up. You know, like I already explained.”
I downed the rest of the alcoholic gutter water and put the empty can next to growing collection on the kitchen counter. “So what are you gonna do now? Just head back to whatever dimension of Past Selves you came from?”
Other Self shrugged. “Nah, I think I’m gonna stick around for a while. You wanna get drunk and play video games?”
“Obviously,” I said.