It was 4:00 A.M in the morning, and I was awake with torment. I was once again staring at the mirror cracked into a thousand pieces. These were the one-thousand worlds that I would rather be in, but somehow I was trapped here. The smell of blood and bourbon crept secretly from my mouth up to my nostrils. The faint question of "how did I get here?' lingered in the air like the cigarette smoke that traced the chalk-formulas in the back room. It was the fourth night that I had become possessed with an idea.

The idea was elegantly simple. And the simplicity became a frightening realization to the team of theorists called "Imaginaticians". Me and Teak didn't always fit into the group with an unofficial and unannounced dress code of collared-shirts and awkward nerdy social moments. We were perhaps the only two that still believed sometimes mathematics was too stunningly logical; and perhaps sometimes made too much sense for our own good.

My name is Logan, and I believe in chaos. I study the field of statistics, or as I like to call fondly: "fake math". My man, Teak, is an engineer with the nickname "The McGyver Kid". We joined the Imaginaticians two-years ago because we thought the play on words of Imagination and mathematicians was a tongue-in-cheek jab at fun. The group was much more formal and serious than we first gave it credit for, but we stayed anyway. It may have been because Professor Z. was a charismatic character with unorthodox ideas. It may also have been because of two attractive females who spoke the lingo. One was a computer-scientist by the name of Nalia; and I began prepare for the robot apocalypse as Teak greased his gears of flirtation.

The other went by the name of Misha. She was a graphical artistic who learned of the Golden Ratio some time ago and somehow got hooked on the math train. My gears of flirtation were unfortunately not as sleek or as well-kept as Teak's. So I blundered onward like a blind donkey as a thousand distractions threw themselves at me. I noticed the curls and natural highlights in her hair, the glint of tangled metal clutching a blue bead on her ear, a thin silver pendant slithering into a low-cut purple shirt, soft contours, honey and jasmine-scented perfume, and a light-skinned forearm bearing a thin, delicate silver wrist-watch.

These were the things I noticed before daring to meet large hazel-colored eyes. I watched on as she watched me. And I threw my arms and meaningless phrases to the wind. Then, she smiled. And I smiled roguishly back.

This was, of course, before the idea.

It started as an innocent conjecture. There are parallel worlds with unique instances of existence. But the issue remained identical to the one with other minds. How do you prove existence, if we are only running one instance? Teak, being the gear-head he has always been, proposed to build a machine. If you could build a machine that travels to a parallel instance, you prove existence.

However, the ever presence of paradox lurked in the dark corners. If we simply break the boundaries, then there would essentially be two worlds with identical entities. Two people with the exact same DNA and essence. This, we believe, would cause a contradiction and the instances would stop. What happens then? Let's just say we prefer not to find out when existence contradicts itself.

And then I had an epiphany: Essence Swapping.