“Open Up” (short story) by Akira Hori
English Publication History: Speculative Japan 2 (Kurodahan Press, 2011)
Original: Japanese (開封 , 2008)
Translated by Roy Berman, 2011
Synopsis: Their ship entering the warp channel with its inertial drive, a pilot feels the twinge of a bowel cramp and, thus, enters the toilet. Being the only person aboard, they are quite surprised to hear a knock at the bathroom door. Inside, they ponder upon the spaceman’s tale of the “space doppelganger” when in the warp channel, a similar yet sinister ponderment of the same pilot just outside the bathroom door, who hears someone within. They each consider a stowaway; each considers themselves as Schrödinger’s cat. 4 pages
Pre-analysis: I remember when I was young—around 13 or 14—when I tried an experiment. While looking at strangers passing by, I tried to think of my father as a stranger: What if he were just another face? What would he look like? Would he look like Dad? To my astonishment, I was able to see his face as not my father’s. I remember a warm wave of reality like a tide rush over my mind, yet without the foam of uncertainty… only the wet settling of experience. It’s hard to put into words as it was an absolutely jarring moment that I’ve never been able to verbalize, but since then, it has put so many thoughts about perception in my mind: objectiveness, aesthetics, and love among them.
As a science fiction reader, many parallels of the same theme have crossed my mind: What if I see myself on the street? What if I wake up next to myself? What if I had an hour to spend with my exact twin? What if see my female counterpart? All are variations of impossible speculation, yet the shadow of the thought remains. Thankfully, speculative fiction addresses these same questions in different lights, yet they all share the same form of shadow: What would happen when confronted with my counterpart?
Aside: The synopsis skirts the narrator’s gender as it’s unmentioned in the story. So, for the sake simplicity, I will assign the male gender (though any would be equally as valid).
Analysis: The narrator stands on a fulcrum between two counterweights: himself as functionally human (in the bathroom, as human nature has intended) and himself as conceptually human (in the cockpit, as human society has dictated). As he faces the impossibility of confronting himself, which form of self will continue to exist and which will vanish from reality? According to Schrödinger’s experiment, there’s a 50% chance that either will occur… but what if, when confronted with the actual situation of confronting one’s own doppelganger, that subconscious impetus could push probability beyond the precipitous bell curve? When the conscious choice must be made, would you identify yourself as a flesh-and-bone human prone to error and luck, or would you identify yourself as role-and-command pilot adaptive to pitch and speed?