Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Morpho

a short story by Bill Adler

Jason Chien was walking south on Third Avenue between 56th and 55th streets when he went blind. A bright blue and green light that appeared to have been fired from a laser cannon blasted his eyes.

Jason had never thought about what he’d do if he suddenly couldn’t see, but on this day he found out. He froze. The sidewalk was crowded with office workers on the hunt for lunch, and Jason fully expected somebody to crash into him. His last sight was of a tattooed blond woman in her twenties walking two border collies, closing in at a fast clip, which made him think that if he didn’t get tackled from behind, he would become entangled in the retractable leashes and face plant onto the pavement.

Morpho photo by Ricky Wong.  
After standing still for about thirty seconds — Jason couldn’t tell exactly how long because he couldn’t see his watch — he concluded that no one was going to crash into him. He extended his arm and took a tentative step forward. When he didn’t collide with anything or anyone, he braved another step. Light leaked in from the sides of his eyes, a gray glow that resembled a thick, nighttime fog illuminated only by a weak streetlamp. Jason took another step. He could make out shapes now, and while the forms were only rectangular slabs, being able to see anything at all offered hope. Jason shuffled forward another meter.

Though motionless, the rectangular slabs jingled like windchimes in an approaching storm, but with the sound coming from all directions at once.

A shadow to the right followed him. Jason told himself that the shadow was just an aftereffect of temporary blindness, that nothing was there. But with each step, the shadow stalked him. Jason sped up his pace. He wasn’t ready to run lest the shadow attack, like a leopard chasing an impala that suddenly darts, but he tensed his leg muscles just in case. He maintained a steady pace, his arm still in front of him.

Jason moved his head to the right. The shadow still followed. He darted his eyes toward the left, where he saw another ghostly phantom tracking him. He slid forward faster, lowering his arm in case he needed it to defend himself from whatever was pursuing him.

A man jumped toward him.

Jason screamed.

After a few seconds, he understood what he saw. His reflection. If he’d had taken another step, he would have crashed into a mirror. The creatures that had been stalking him were also reflections. I’m in a goddamn mirror maze, he thought.

Jason looked to both sides. He could see again, though in this dim fog nothing appeared normal. The mist seemed to be simultaneously light and darkness.

“Who’s there?” A voice echoed down the maze’s twisting corridors. “Who screamed?”

“Ricky?” It can’t be. But Jason recognized the crisp consonants and mellow tones that defined Ricky Wong’s voice. “Is that you?” Jason pivoted all the way around, trying to locate Ricky.


“What the hell happened? Where am I?”

“Follow my voice. I don’t think you’re far.”

“Is this a mirror maze, Ricky?”

“It is and it isn’t. Come to me. I'll tell you everything I know. I’ll keep talking so you can home in on me. Just walk slowly, your hand in front of you.”

Morpho photo by Jason Chien.
“When I hadn’t seen any posts or messages from you for the past two days, I thought you were sick.”

“Not sick. I was here in this place. Keep going. You’ll find us soon. Hello, hello, hello.”

Jason turned to the left, then left again, then right several times, and finally straight ahead as he closed in on Ricky. It was forward that made Jason most nervous. There should be a turn, there should be a turn, he muttered. Walking in a straight line for too long was like answering a multiple with “B” six times in a row. It felt wrong.

“Keep coming, buddy. I think I can hear your footsteps.”

“Okay,” Jason said. He felt he was closer, too, and lowered his voice. “It’s just like a mirror maze in an amusement park.” Jason rounded a mirrored corner.

“I wish — hey! You made it.”

Jason embraced Ricky in a bear hug. After a time, he released him and stepped back. “So where are we?”

“An alternate dimension.” The woman’s voice came from above. Jason looked up. Another mirror maze with silvery glass panels, each about three meters tall, jutted out from one another at right angles. The woman stood perpendicular to Jason, as well as above him. The entire mirror maze above Jason and Ricky was at a right angle to them, defying gravity. The woman flexed her knees, pushed forward — or up, depending on your perspective — and landed softly beside Jason in his mirror maze. She offered a hand. “I’m Brittany.”

“Jason,” he said.

Ricky turned to the man who’d appeared on his left. “This is Alexi,” Brittany said.

Jason nodded. “Hi.”

“You have a Morpho on, right?” Brittany said. It was a statement, not a question.


Brittany shot her fist into the air. “I knew it! I mean, given that the three of us are wearing Morphos, it was a certainty that you would be, too.”

“I don’t understand. What does my watch have to do with anything?”

“Have you ever wondered why the Seiko Morpho is so rare? And why there’s never been a watch like it since?”

Jason, like Ricky, had spent years looking for a Morpho, with its unique dial that reflected blue or green depending on the angle you viewed the watch from. And it wasn’t just an ordinary blue or green; the colors looked like they’d been plucked out of Saturn’s rings.

“Um. Because it’s vintage?”

Ricky shook his head. Brittany continued, “It’s rare because Seiko recalled them.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“They recalled the Morpho in 1973, the same year that they made them. Somebody at Seiko must have figured out how dangerous the Morpho is. Some Morphos slipped through the net, though, like the one on your wrist.  And on Ricky’s, Alexi’s and my wrists.”

“I’m confused. What does the Morpho have to do with this mirror maze?”

“It’s not a mirror maze. Everything you see around you is the alternate universe, or another dimension, if you prefer. Our Morpho’s blue and green metamorphosing dial isn’t just a pretty picture. It opens a portal to a mirror maze world. I knew that Seiko had done a watch buyback, but I just didn’t know why. Until now.”

“Get out.”

“It’s true,” Ricky said.

Alexi nodded. “Da.”

“How is that possible?” Jason asked.

“We don’t know how,” Ricky replied. “But it’s the only answer that makes sense. We’ve explored for two days. All that’s here in this place, this universe, are mirrors. There’s nothing else, not even day and night. Just mirrors arranged in what looks like a maze.”

Jason swiveled his head, seeing only an infinity of reflections on all sides. “All right.” But there was one other question he needed to ask. Maybe it was relevant, maybe not, but this piece of the puzzle upset whatever balance remained in his mind. “Ricky, why are you wearing Snoopy pajamas?”

Ricky blushed, becoming the only red in the gray reality. “I was in bed when I got transported.”

“You wear—”

“Yeah, yeah. I wear my watch to bed.”

Jason looked at Brittany. “Now what? Can we get back to our Earth?”

“Yes. I think so,” Brittany said. “I read a lot of sci-fi. Doorways between universes are rarely one way.” Brittany pushed up the bridge of her glasses.


“Hold hands,” Brittany commanded. “Organize yourselves into a rectangular shape, like the maze pieces.”

“That’s all?”

“I hope so,” Brittany said. “We’ve had a couple of days to think about this while waiting for a fourth Morpho so that we can create the right geometric shape.”

Jason, Ricky, Alexi, and Brittany held hands. Jason and Ricky stood opposite, slipping their feet backward and arms forward, leaning toward each other, ligaments straining, to mimic a rectangle's long side..

“One thing. If this works, if we get back to our universe, we have to destroy our Morphos.”

“No!” Jason shouted as a blue and green light enveloped them.

Yuki Takahashi ran into Maki Yamamoto's office. He flung open the door as if he were a trillion tons of water bursting a dam. Takahashi bent over, his hands on his legs, his lungs scraping against his ribs as they labored to replenish his oxygen. 

Yamamoto stood at his desk. Watch designers didn’t ever enter the president of Seiko's office without an appointment, let alone nearly break down the door. Before Yamamoto could interrogate him, Takahashi blurted, "The SBGA 993, the new Snowflake, the one with the Antarctic ice blue dial. The one that shifts color as you look at it from different directions. We have to recall it!"


Takahashi spoke between gulps of air. "Morpho. We did it again."

For more Morpho photos visit

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