Extract from “Shuffle”

The following is an extract from my NaNoWriMo project, “Shuffle”. All you need to know at this point is that George is travelling across parallel worlds with the aid of ALF, an artificial intelligence inside a box attached to his arm. They are being chased across these worlds by Damron, who seeks to capture ALF and return to his own world with him.

In this world, George’s otherwise ordinary T-shirt has attracted some unwanted attention (an innocent rock band in this universe may be hugely political in another) and he has gone to find something less likely to attract attention. The problem with travelling to a parallel universe, however, is that another version of you may already be there…

It didn’t take long to find a clothing store – the high street held several of them, each with their own style and fashion. George headed for the smallest, least pretentious looking shop – none of the store names meant anything to him, though whether that was because they had different brand names in this world or because he’d simply never taken an interest he couldn’t say.

“Any sign of our pursuer yet?” he whispered, flicking through various shirts on a display rack.

<None yet. We should have at least fifteen more minutes, if my estimates are correct.>

Plenty of time to find a new shirt, thought George. He wondered whether a completely new outfit and maybe a fake moustache might work as a disguise – probably not. Damron seemed to be able to find them wherever they went, at least to a certain point. It was probably the same way that ALF knew when Damron had arrived; some tracking signal on the dimensional crosser, perhaps.

“Sit still, Georgie.”

George looked up from the display of shirts. A woman had entered the shop with a small child in a pushchair, no more than two years old at most. The boy was squirming against the restraints that held him in the chair, which only made it more difficult to get around the display racks.

George picked a pale blue casual shirt from the rack – it looked about the right size, and it was reduced to twenty five shillings (that was okay; George had a fair few twenty shilling notes from the ATM). More importantly, it didn’t have anything displayed on it that might cause offence in this world or any other. He took his purchase to the till.

The small boy was continuing to squirm. “Georgie, I won’t tell you again.”

“Want sweeties!”

“Later, if you’re good.”

“Want sweeties!”

George handed over the money and took his change, politely declining a bag (“I’ll wear it now,” he told the cashier). At least the sleeves were loose enough to fit ALF’s box through with his arm.

He waved to the small boy in the pushchair as he walked by. Young Georgie waved back. There was something familiar about his face.

“He’s cute,” he said to the woman.

She turned to reply, and then she screamed.

George managed to catch her before she fainted, and slowly lowered her to the floor. Then strong hands were pulling him away while other people fussed over the fallen woman. Little Georgie, still strapped into his pushchair, began to wail for his mother.

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