A Chance Encounter
By Biku

Firouz walked around the marketplace, observing all of the stalls, keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary.

There was the knife stall, where he picked up an economy tub of small knives for Rongar, since it was his birthday next week.

There was the crystal stall, where someone had tried to tell him that a certain variety of quartz had special properties that could be used to tell the time--but Firouz hadn't bought any of it for a second. The worst part was when the crystal seller tried to convince Firouz that the quartz was an application for Science! That was almost a personal insult!

He continued on his way, killing time, whistling absent-mindedly to himself when he noticed a bright flash appear in the corner of his eye. He turned, and walked down the small alley-way that the flash had appeared from.

There was a man at the end of the alley, looking around him in confusion.

"Excuse me," Firouz said. The man turned and stared at the Scientist as if he had never seen another human being before. "Excuse me, but where did you come from? I passed this alley-way only five seconds ago, and further more, there is no way to get in with brushing past me."

"Oh dear." was all the strange man said. He was dressed in black pants, and a kind of red robe that Firouz had never seen before. He began to search around the alley, examining where he was.

"Are you a Helvetian?" Firouz asked, curious. "I've never met someone of that type before."

The man looked at Firouz confusedly. "No, not that I'm aware of--but I don't seem to be aware of a lot at the moment. Could you tell me where we are exactly, please?"

"Of course--you're in the port city of Abmis. Are you a sorcerer?" Firouz continued.

The man started to laugh until he saw that Firouz was serious, and the man sobered up immediately. "No..." he said hesitantly, tugging a bit on his ear lobe as he thought to himself, " But for the life of me I can't explain how I got here--at least, not by any scientific methods..."

Firouz perked up instantly. "A Scientist!" he exclaimed. "Wonderful! You'll have to come back with me to the Nomad so--"

"The Nomad?" the stranger asked.

"My ship. It's docked here. You can stay with us if you like, until you figure out where you are."

"Thank you kindly, that's very generous of you." the man replied, smiling a bit. " I'll need to find out how I can get home."

"Of course," Firouz said. He turned his back to the man. "Look, there's the Nomad right there..." he added, pointing. He turned when the man said nothing in reply, and to his astonishment, the stranger was gone. Vanished. Into thin air.

"How very odd." Firouz remarked to no one in particular.

He stood for a moment in the alley, pondering the situation, before he shrugged and continued on his tour of the market place. There was really nothing he could do now about that strange man, and at any rate, it seemed that what ever mystical force had brought him here, had taken him away.

He barely cleared the alley way when there was another burst of light. Right in front of him, five women appeared. They too seemed to be strangers, and were wearing even more bizarre clothes than the foreign man.

"Oi!" one of the women said, angrily. She was tall and very dark, and she was wearing what seemed to be leopard skins.

Obviously a wild woman from the south of Africa, Firouz decided in his mind. "Where's the studio gotten to?!" the savage continued.

"I don' know," replied another of the women. She wasn't black, like the first one, but she was still obviously a savage--she had a piece of metal through her nose.

"Some one is going to get hell, that's all I can say." the first woman said.

"Hey, look--there's some one." another of the women said. This one was wearing a strange white dress that was indecently short.

"Can you help us?" asked the fourth woman, who was in a shiny, sparking dress. Her hair was flaming red, and she seemed to be addressing Firouz.

Firouz just opened his mouth and closed it again. He was worried about what to say to the savages. It was hard to understand them, since they had such strange accents. And the strange hair colouring and tattoos on some of them might mean that they practise witchcraft. He would have to be careful.

"Look, mate--" the wild woman said, stepping towards him, but before she could finish, they disappeared again.

Firouz sighed with relief. He wasn't sure what was going on here, but he decided that the best thing to do was stay in the market until Sinbad and the others finished their business at the docks.

With that in mind, he continued to poke among the myriad of booths, he came across one that sold baggy pants. Firouz was extremely delighted, since his favourite pair had shrunk a bit in the wash, and now they almost fitted him. It was a disappointing loss, but a new pair would make up for it.

He was rummaging through the pairs when someone bumped his arm. He looked up to see who it was, and got a rather nasty shock.

It was himself.

"Hello." said the other Firouz. "Bit of a shock, isn't it?"

"I'll say." Firouz answered. He paused. "Have you come up with a good scientific explanation for it?"

"Nothing definite yet," replied his double, "But I think it might have to do with a force in the market place that is somehow opening up time-lines that were created by different choices made by different people creating different out-comes and therefore different realities."

"I was just thinking of that, actually." Firouz replied, astonished. "I wonder where we diverged."

"I think it was this morning when you had breakfast. By the minute crumbs on you shirt, you had ships biscuits. Whereas I," he paused for dramatic effect, "Had fish."

"Wow." was all Firouz could say in the face of this stupendous intellect.

"I know." his double smiled. "What do you say we go to the tavern to catch up on all our fascinating theories that we came up with since breakfast."

"Sounds good!" Firouz exclaimed.

"Firouz!" Doubar boomed. "We've been looking all over for you!"

"Boy did you miss out on a good time." Sinbad said. He sat down at the bar next to Firouz. He noticed the two empty glasses in front of the Scientist. "Hey, did you meet somebody?"

"Just an old acquaintance." Firouz admitted.

"Well, we had the most interesting time." Sinbad continued. "We met--guess this--three people from our old neighbourhood in Baghdad!"

"No!" Firouz exclaimed.

"Yes! I know it's a huge coincidence, but..." Sinbad trailed off, shrugging with his arms raised. "Sometimes weird things happen."

"That story completely beats mine." Firouz admitted. He thought of his double, the savages, the strange man, the fire-breathing reptile in the bay and the strange teenage girls who had popped up and insisted on following Firouz everywhere while shrieking "Omigod! I can't believe this is happening! Teeheehee!" before running off. "I wish I'd had such an exciting day asyou two."

"Don't worry, Firouz." Doubar said, clapping him on the back, causing the Scientist to stagger forward. "You'll get your day."

The End