I Met My Brother From a Different Timeline (Short Story)

I think I met my brother from a different timeline. I was hanging out at a cafe in Tokyo, near where I live. I like to study or write there sometimes. My brothers, Colin (23) and Ryan (17) have talked for ages about coming but they haven’t got round to it yet. So imagine my surprise when Colin walks into the cafe.

Of course, I was super surprised and yelled for him to come over. He responded when I shouted his name and he came to sit in front of me. I asked what he was doing here and he looked at me, confused, saying he was getting coffee.

“Sorry, but how do I know you?” he asked.

Now my little brother teased me a lot growing up. He calmed down as he got older, but all through our teen years I was the butt of every joke, he pretended he thought I smelled bad, pretty typical dumb sibling stuff. But this Colin was polite and shy, as though I was a total stranger. I asked him again why he was in Japan and why he hadn’t told me, and he just acted like he had no idea who I was.

It was definitely him, from his hair to his long fingers to the mole on his cheek. And Colin was his name.

“I’m your sister, dude! Why are you acting so dumb?” I asked, almost losing my temper. This idiotic joke was getting old and I was upset he hadn’t told me he was coming all this way. He blinked and said he didn’t have a sister. Well, not anymore. His sister died when he was a baby.

His sister had the same name as me.

I felt weird, like nothing was real. For a moment I just sat and stared at him in utter disbelief. It couldn’t be a prank. My brother isn’t that good an actor. He was nervous and twitchy, the kind of behaviour of someone who’s a bit freaked out, and who could blame him? Some random woman was claiming to be his sister.

Even more weirdly, when I was about three or four I ran around with a pen in my mouth. A dumb thing to do, but I was a toddler. I fell over and the pen went into my throat. My mum took me to the hospital at the time and I was put on a drip and everything turned out fine.

According to this version of Colin, his sister hadn’t made it.

I told him everything about himself, where he was born, where he’d grown up, the shows we liked when we were little. I told him our parents had just moved to Corsica, because they did a couple of months ago. He stopped me and said that his parents (our parents?) were still in Scotland. So it looked like that was different, too.

We talked for what felt like hours. I could tell he couldn’t really believe what was going on. I couldn’t either. This man was identical to my little brother, right down to the awkwardly grown hair on his chin and the way his sharp elbows sat on the table. It wasn’t Colin, but it was.

It was even stranger when he told me our stepdad was completely fine. In my timeline, he’s been ill, very ill, which is part of the reason they moved to the sunnier Corsica. According to this Colin, he never fell and hurt his head which had ultimately led to brain damage.

Colin got up to go to the bathroom and never came back. I waited for ages, then went to look for him. The cubicle was empty. He was gone. I guess he went back to his timeline. I imagine him sometimes, coming back to our table in the cafe and finding me gone as well. Sometimes I wonder if his memory of the encounter was wiped, or if he ever thinks about the time he met his sister who, in another timeline, was still alive.

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