Riley’s eyes opened to an orange and maroon sky with three suns. He was flat on his back and had no idea where he was. The last thing he remembered was being in Doc Himmel’s lab, magnetized to an old dental chair. He sat up and saw Rachel a few yards away, lying in the grass.
Two arms suddenly wrapped around his waist from behind. “Hey!” Riley looked back, but didn’t see anyone. He tried to pull the arms lose, but they were latched on tight, so he got up and ran around like a maniac and then flopped down and rolled wildly in the grass, and came to an abrupt stop, face down, on top of a mound. He opened his dizzy eyes and realized that was lying on top of Rachel. His head was nestled between her breasts.
Rachel’s eyes popped open. “Get off of me!” She pushed him to the side.
“Take it easy,” Riley said. “I wasn’t trying to make a move on you.” He stood up.
“Look out!” she said. “Somebody’s behind you!”
Riley spun around, but didn’t see anyone.
“Oh, my God,” Rachel said.
“What? What?” Riley rotated frantically.
Riley stopped spinning.
“It’s you,” she said. “You’ve got four arms.”
Riley looked down. “What the hell?” The arms that were still wrapped tight around his waist were his own. His body had two extra arms, attached at the hips.
“No, no, no. This is icky weird.” Rachel stood up. “I’ve got them too.” She held out her four arms and started crying. “What happened to us?”
“Doc did this,” Riley said. “I’m gonna kill that bastard.” With his upper hands, he released the lower arms from his waist and began flailing them, as though he could fling off the unwanted appendages.
“It’s no use. We’re stuck with these things.” Rachel began to regain her composure. “Doc’s experiment must have worked.” She looked around and then gazed at the sky. “Because I don’t think this is Earth.”
“You really believe he made copies of us and zapped us onto some distant planet? No, it’s got to be a trick. He probably put us into some kind of dream state. Although, I’ve never had a dream that seemed so real.”
“And I’ve never had a dream with you in it,” she said.
Riley didn’t respond.
“I feel lighter,” she said. “Maybe this planet has less gravitational pull than Earth.” She jumped up six feet off the ground before coming back down and landing gently. “Whoa.”
“We’ve got to be dreaming. But hey, I guess we might as well enjoy the dream.” Riley jumped even higher than Rachel had. “This is nuts.” When his feet touched down, he said, “And you know what else? I feel taller.”
“I think we are taller.”
“And it’s a good thing, because otherwise our lower hands would be dragging the ground.” He walked around in a circle with his arms dangling at his sides. “This looks ridiculous. I feel like a gorilla.”
“A gorilla with four arms,” she said.
“Doc really screwed us up.”
“Well, it could be worse. At least we don’t have two heads.”
Rachel examined the white jumpsuit and shoes she was wearing.
Riley’s outfit was similar, but in black. He bent down to check out his shoes. “These shoes feel like gummy bears. They’re comfortable.”
“I wish Doc had given us better clothes,” she said.
“I guess it’s hard to shop for people with four arms though.”
Rachel giggled. “I suppose we should just be thankful we have something to wear,” she said. “I didn’t really think his experiment was gonna work, but if it did—I was afraid we’d be naked.”
“Hmm.” Riley grinned as he gave her the once-over.
“Quit looking at me like that.”
“I was just thinking that these extra arms could come in handy.” He walked toward her with his four arms extended. “How about a hug?”
She held up her four fists and sneered at him.
Riley put his arms down. “So, even in my dreams I get rejected.”
“What’s the matter with you? Why are you acting so weird?”
“I guess it’s because I can’t believe this is real. Maybe it’s the difference in the gravitational pull. I may be kinda light-headed. Or Doc might have scrambled our brains a little. He said he was only sending part of our brains.”
“Well, mine’s working just fine,” she said.
Riley looked up at the sky. “Is it just me or is it getting darker?”
“It’s definitely getting darker.” She pointed to the suns. “All three of those suns are going down fast. We’d better look for shelter. Who knows what kind of creatures may come out at night.”
“Yeah, and we don’t know what will happen to the temperature. Right now it feels like seventy degrees. But nightfall could put us below freezing, for all we know.”
Riley heard a humming noise and ducked.
Something silver and very large flew over their heads at a low altitude.
“Was that a plane?” he asked.
“It was moving so fast that I didn’t get a good look at it.”
“Flying that low—it was probably about to land. I think we should go the direction the plane went. There’s probably a city over there.”
“That makes sense,” she said.
They started walking.
Riley said, “Hey, I wonder if we could get there faster if we got down on all six and ran?”
“All six? Funny.”
“Okay, even if this isn’t a dream, are we really copies?” he asked. “I mean, how could that be? I feel like myself—except for these extra arms.”
“And being lighter and taller.”
“Yeah. Hey, I wonder how far we could jump with a running start?” He took off.
“Wait for me.” She ran after him.
“Wow,” he said, “I must be doing twenty miles per hour. I’ve never run this fast.”
Rachel ran up alongside him. “This is amazing.”
“Now, for a jump.” Riley leaped into the air and landed fifty feet away and continued to run. Then he slowed to a stop and turned around to watch Rachel.
“I’m coming!” She jumped nearly as far as Riley had and then ran up to him and stopped. “Imagine what we could do if Doc had given us wings.”
“I do not want wings.” Riley looked up at the sky. “Can you hear me, Doc? Do not give us wings. And I don’t want these freakish extra arms either.”
“He can’t hear you.”
“I know he can’t hear me now,” he said, “because there’s a delay. But in ten minutes he’ll get the message—assuming everything works the way he claimed it would.”
“So, he’s gonna hear and see everything we do?”
“Supposedly. He might even be able to tell what we’re thinking.”
“No, don’t say that,” she said. “That would make me crazy. If it’s true, then I don’t want to know it. And I can pretend I don’t know it if you quit talking about it.”
“Yeah, that is creepy.”
They started walking.
“Wonder how long Doc is gonna leave us here?” she asked.
“Until we’ve spent enough time mixing in with whatever weird humanoids are living on this rock—at least, that’s what he said.”
“But what if something goes wrong?” she asked. What if…we die here? Does that mean Doc can’t bring us back? If our copies die, do we die too?”
“He didn’t say.”
“And how do we know he wasn’t lying about bringing us back?” she asked. “He tricked us into coming to his house. Maybe once he’s got all the data he wants, he’ll just pull the plug and leave us here forever.”
“But we’re just the copies, remember?”
“Yeah, but we’re using part of our real brain according to Doc.”
“We must be using most of our brains,” Riley said. “How else could we be functioning normally like this?”
“So, if we die here, our real bodies will never their full brains back,” she said.
“I don’t even want to think about that.”
“It’s getting dark. But I can see lights over there.”
“Yeah,” he said. “So, at least we’re headed in the right direction. But we need hurry up and get there while we still have enough light to see where we’re going. So, let’s make like kangaroos and get hopping.”