It was an ordinary day.
Of course, it was an ordinary day for me. Ordinary, as I understand it, is a subjective term.
I mean, you probably wouldn't consider a citywide (not to mention fruitless) search for any thing that reeks of the supernatural because you were press-ganged into a school club whose purpose (as far as I can discern) is to conduct citywide searches for any thing that reeks of the supernatural by a girl who's the clinical definition of a psychopath part of your weekly routine. If you do consider it part of your weekly routine, seek help as soon as possible.
But, of course, this is exactly what I was doing.
It was a few days after when I had to get a heater for the SOS Brigade clubroom. The school festival had come and gone, and despite how recent the events were, they were already archived in my long-term memory, next to when I met Haruhi Suzumiya herself. Come to think of it, we hadn't gone searching the town for supernatural stuff in a while. I guess Haruhi was either too tired or to enrapt in making her movie to bother.
Now, Haruhi is probably unlike any girl that you've ever known. And if you do know a girl like Haruhi, your life is probably a living hell right about now. Looking at Haruhi superficially, she seems like she'd be a great person to know. It's true that she does have a lot of brains, beauty, and athletic talent. But, when she was being put together, her creators seemed to leave out a few tiny details. Empathy, humility, manners, common sense, those sort of things.
But Haruhi is a person with one drive, and one drive only: to make the world a much more interesting place. That's the purpose of the SOS Brigade; that actually stands for "Saving the World by Overloading it with Fun Haruhi Suzumiya Brigade". Now, with a name like that, you could expect us to do things that would actually make the world a more interesting place, like pick up trash or do volunteer work. But Haruhi probably would not only fiddle if Rome was burning, she'd be sending us to comb the ruins for artifacts after the fires went out.
Of course, she doesn't give a damn about anyone else, or their concerns. It doesn't help that nobody else voices any complaints. Koizumi has yet to disagree with her, Ms. Asahina is too scared of Haruhi and her roving hands (not to mention she'd be ignored if she did say anything), and Nagato doesn't say anything, period. And when I told her that we haven't done this in ages (so there's no reason to do it now), her reasoning was thus:
"Well, that's exactly why! Stuff could easily have happened in that interval. A gang of vampires could have moved in, or a UFO could have landed, hidden on a rooftop, or a mysterious curiosity shop could have appeared out of nowhere!"
Okay, I admit, that wasn't my best argument against doing stupid Haruhi things, but that's still a textbook example of Haruhi.
Now, normally, when we search the city for the supernatural, we go in pairs. Not today, though. I was never told why, but something tells me that she doesn't want me to get distracted or flirt with the other party. I'm not complaining, though.
The sun was high, the air was the warmest it's been this week, the sidewalks had a smattering of pedestrians on them, and I was alone. I don't know what god I've pleased, but the circumstances are absolutely fantastic. I didn't even bother looking for the supernatural. I did absolutely nothing, and I enjoyed it. I wandered around the city, doing nothing.
Of course, I wouldn't be talking about today if I really only did nothing. Around me, peace and quiet have a way of being replaced by chaos and adventure when I'm not looking, and sometimes even when I am. Today, my adventures (if you would even call them that) started off with the human body's - mine, in this case - need to relieve itself of excess waste.
Yes, it started with me making a trip to the bathroom. Har har, toilet humor, et cetera. I'm just telling it how it is. Everyone has to go to the bathroom (although I'm not sure if Nagato abides by this), myself included. It's just that, this time, it was the first step towards a very un-ordinary day.
Anyway, I entered the nearest commercial establishment in search of a bathroom. In this case, it was a McDonald's bathroom. (And before you say anything, no, it wasn't really a WcDonald's. That was simply a cosmetic change by the people in charge of the anime to avoid paying money. And besides, WcDonald's has worse food.)
The bathroom, well, while it wasn't the sort of bathroom that has an inch of grime on every surface and smells like someone got disemboweled by a dying skunk, it wasn't really clean. If it wasn't an emergency, I'd have gone elsewhere.
It was only in retrospect that I really noticed anything odd about the bathroom, like how the light flickered and the slight rumble that wouldn't register on a seismograph. Personally, for what occurred, I'd have liked a nice "BWOOAAM" or something else that sounded like it came from Inception or Doctor Who. At least I'd have been warned.
I finished my business and I headed on my merry way. At the time, everything was fine. Wandering about with no destination in mind meant that I paid no attention to landmarks or my location. I figured that I knew my way around my home town well enough. Of course, if I wasn't in my home town...
I first realized that something was amiss when I looked at my phone for the time. It was three in the afternoon. For reference, we were supposed to meet at the train station at two, which means that I should have gotten the screaming call from Haruhi at about 1:30. I decided to start heading back, seeing as Haruhi was going to give me both barrels, and I didn't really want the entire arsenal.
Only then did it hit me that I had absolutely no idea where I was. The streets, the shops, the people, all of them seemed unfamiliar. I didn't panic. I was more annoyed than anything else.
However, after a bit of backtracking, my steps weren't adding up. There was something off about the city. Sure, it looked normal enough, but there was something wrong with the streets and the shops that I couldn't put my finger on. They looked familiar, but they... weren't. I guess you could equate it to the concept of the uncanny valley that you use when talking about humanoid things, but for a city.
After I backpedaled to where the train station should have been, I decided to sit down. My feet were sore, and the subtle wrongness of the city was starting to give me a headache. I decided to sit on a bench, shut my eyes, and rest for a bit.
A few seconds later, I heard someone speaking to me, so I opened my eyes.
It was a girl. She looked about Haruhi's age. She had her brown hair up in a short ponytail. She had a small, friendly smile and warm brown eyes. She was, well, while she wasn't a goddess like Asahina-san, and she didn't have that raw beauty that Haruhi has, she was pretty, in a cute way. Think about Audrey Hepburn's beauty and you'll get a good idea of how this girl looks.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
She reached out a hand. For the sake of not seeming like a jerk, I took it and let her pull me up. The girl was petite and slim. She had a vaguely familiar look about her, but I had no idea what it was. Maybe she went to school with me when I was young, I don't know.
"Are you lost?" she asked.
"What makes you think that?" I said.
"You seem lost, that's all."
"Well, yeah, I'm lost. Do you know where North High is?"
I know I need to get to the train station, but I figure I'm so lost, she might lead me to a different one.
She blinked, and then smiled again.
"I'm sorry, but I don't know where that is at all. I haven't even heard of a North High. I know of a South High, but not a North High."
"Yeah. It's where I go to school."
"Well, I haven't heard of South High, so I guess it evens out."
She laughed. I think I know what's so familiar about her. She has that friendly air that Ryoko Asakura had. Except, this girl is... more down to earth? More real, so to speak? Then again, Asakura's kindness was a complete facade, with absolutely nothing underneath. This girl feels like she's kind to the core.
"So, why are you in town?" she asked.
"I live here."
"You live in the city? Interesting. I'm actually a bit surprised that you're lost."
"Well, right now, I'm not even sure I'm in the right universe."
We laughed. I realized that all this talking and walking has made me-
"Thirsty? C'mon, I'll buy you a drink," she said.
Okay, that was just weird. I'd claim that you read my mind, but I didn't even get that thought out.
"No, no, I'm just really good at understanding people. At least, that's what my friends say."
"Well, yeah, a drink would be nice."
We went into a cafe. I swear, I've been in here before, last summer. But this isn't that cafe at all. So... where am I?
"So, I'll pay for it," said the girl. "Um, unless you want to, of course."
"No, no, you offered, so if you want to pay for it, go right ahead. Besides, it's nice to have someone else pay for it once in a while."
I got an ice tea. The girl got a water.
"So, you have to pay for your friends' meals a lot, huh?" she asked.
"Well, it's less of 'friends' and more of a club that I'm in. The leader tends to leave spontaneously, everyone else follows her, and I'm stuck with the bill."
"That's too bad. I'm usually the one who pays for my group. That's what a leader should do, right?"
"Leader, huh? Of what?"
The girl laughed.
"I'm sorry. I can't believe that we've been talking so long and I haven't introduced myself. I'm Haruhi. Haruhi Suzumiya."
I choked on my tea when she said that. The girl, this "Haruhi", simply tilted her head and blinked.
"Is there something wrong with my name?"
"Oh, no, not at all, it's just that I have a friend with that exact name."
Although I use the term 'friend' rather loosely, and probably wrongly at that.
"Actually, they're probably just pronounced the same, come to think of it," I said.
"Haruhi" pulled out a pen and wrote down her name on a napkin.
Yeah, it's the exact same name. She even writes out your first name in katakana, like the 'real' Haruhi does.
"Well, what's your name?" she asked.
"Well, everyone calls me Kyon, but my name is-"
"That's what everyone calls my best friend. But you don't really remind me of him."
"Well, you're nothing like the Haruhi I know either."
"So, you're a guy called Kyon whose friend is a girl named Haruhi, while I am a girl named Haruhi whose friend is a guy called Kyon. That's really interesting."
I'm not really sure if that's interesting or unsettling. Especially considering that this girl is so unlike Haruhi, she's practically the mirror image of her.
Hold on. Mirror image...
I looked around at the cafe, and I realized why it looked so damn familiar. I wasn't sure what axis it was rotated around, but it was a mirror image of a cafe that Haruhi's taken me to before.
"Now, this club you're a part of," I asked, "what's it called?"
"The SOS Brigade. Why do you ask?"
I tried thinking of another final question to ask her, one that has an answer known only by one other person, but one that wouldn't make her too suspicious of me. Her ponytail gave me the right inspiration.
"Has anyone ever told you that you'd look criminal with your hair down?"
Her eyes widened for a second, and she looked quite surprised. Then she tilted her head slightly.
"But... how do you... yes, yes, someone has."
Then, a flash of inspiration crossed her face. It looked like she'd come to the same possible conclusion that I have.
"Well, I'm thinking that you're not just a girl named Haruhi Suzumiya," I said. "I'm thinking that I've stumbled into a mirror universe or something along those lines-"
"-and I'm this universe's version of Haruhi Suzumiya." The alternate Haruhi smiled again. "I see. So, you're a slider, then, in your universe?"
"No. That implies that I can do so willingly. I've just gotten stuck here."
"Yes, I see."
"This is really interesting. I never thought that two universes could have people from each one interact. Or that they'd be so different from one another."
Then she did something that was particularly unusual. She closed her eyes.
"Yes, I see it. There's another universe near this one. It's intersecting with this one, in - yes, considering everything that goes on, of course it'd be here... huh."
She opened her eyes again.
"I wouldn't have thought a bathroom would be a way to travel from one universe to another..."
I gave her a relatively confused look. There was a beat before she blushed and looked really embarrassed.
"Never mind, never mind! I'm sorry, just forget I said that, okay?"
That was when I remembered an important teritiary detail about Haruhi. See, Haruhi is more than a beautiful and completely sociopathic girl. I don't care what you call her: next stage in evolution, time-quake, deity, what have you. Point is, she's powerful, and I mean "destroy the world with a stray thought" powerful. The only reason that the world as we know it is still around is a combination of a boatload of effort on my part, dumb luck, and the fact that she has no idea of her powers.
Where this leaves the girl sitting in front of me is a mystery. There's a fair number of ways that that aspect of Haruhi could be reflected or inverted. Well, might as well be blunt about it.
"Are you a god?"
That is, hands down, the weirdest question I have ever asked a girl. Now, if Haruhi - the one from my universe - was asked this by me, she'd either laugh in my face, call me crazy, make a snarky response, give me a weird look, or probably all four.
This one, though, looked shocked, then terrified and embarrassed for a few seconds, then she realized something.
"So, you know. You know about my-I mean her, well, her powers, in your universe."
I nodded. Then it clicked.
"Wait, so not only do you have phenomenal cosmic powers, but you're fully aware that you have them?" I asked.
"Well, yes." She smiled at me again. How can a girl be this sweet, even without omnipotence? This is unreal. "She doesn't?"
"Oh, believe me, if she knew that she had them, the world wouldn't stand a chance.
"Ah." The alternate Haruhi smiled again and laughed a bit. "I try not to think about it too much. I guess it helps make me who I am. I mean, I don't want the world to end, even though I'm sure I could make it happen. The world is just too interesting, you know? I like this world."
"So you have full control?"
"Well, I mean, there's the occasional weird thought or dream, but..."
I choked on my drink again. This time, it was because it suddenly had none of the properties of iced tea and all the properties of root beer. It was even fizzy. I looked back at "Haruhi" and she smiled and chuckled. Hm, maybe the two Haruhis aren't complete and utter opposites after all...
"I'd say that I have a good grasp on what I can do."
"So, can you, say, slide me over to another universe?"
"I'd say so. You mean yours, correct?"
"Yeah, and if you can take me along-"
"Of course. How would you like to do it?"
"Well, there's a lot of ways you can go from one universe to another in fiction, and I'd get to choose. You know, portals, teleportation, special vehicles, that sort of thing."
"Huh. Never got the option before. How about..."
I leaned over and whispered the idea I had to her. She tilted her head.
"I never thought of doing it that way. Interesting."
The waitress gave us our bill. "Haruhi" paid for it, and we headed out.
"So, should we just do it here?" she asked me.
"Yeah, this is fine."
She grabbed my hand. I closed my eyes, and the sounds of the traffic and the people nearby faded away.
There was silence, and then the only sound in the universe was Haruhi's sigh.
The sounds of the world slowly filtered back in.
"Okay, you can open your eyes," said "Haruhi". I did so. "Did I get it right?"
I looked around. The street was fundamentally identical to the one I was standing on a few seconds ago. But the shops were on the other side of the street from where they previously were. I knew this street.
"Yeah, I think we're-"
Look who just showed up. Haruhi Suzumiya. The 'real' one, with the SOS Brigade in tow. She was giving me a look that could make a rabid bear cower and back off.
"There you are! What the hell were you doing? I called you a thousand times! Penalties among penalties for you! Do you have any idea how long we've been searching for you?"
It seemed like only then did she notice that there was a rather cute girl holding my hand.
"And who the hell is that?"
The alternate Haruhi smiled and released my hand.
"Oh, I'm sorry." She bowed. "I'm-"
I loudly cleared my throat and stepped in between the two Haruhis.
"This is Haruhi Suzumiya," I said.
The alternate Haruhi nodded, then blinked a bit. She leaned over to me. "So, that's your version of me?"
"Yep," I said.
The alternate Haruhi looked at the real Haruhi (man, parallel universes are murder when it comes to differentiating the two) and offered her her hand.
"Nice to meet you."
The real Haruhi shook her hand begrudgingly. It was almost bizarrely normal. I felt vaguely disappointed that they didn't merge into one being or pass out or cause the universe to rip asunder or something like that.
"Come on, Kyon."
Haruhi grabbed my arm and pulled me down onto the ground and across the sidewalk. As she dragged me away, yammering about penalties and punishments, the alternate version of her waved at me before being obscured by people.
That was my first experience with the alternate universe, and with a person who was a complete mirror image of a person that I knew. Of course, Haruhi wasn't the only person who had a duplicate, and that "date" wasn't the last time I would be going into that universe.
There's a lot more to see in that world, believe me.