I sat alone in my office, in the chair that my patients should have been sitting in, looking out the window at the clear blue skies. A few years ago I would not have had a break at all during the day. My receptionist would have had the next patient prepped, and I would be running from office to office. But now, only 10 short years later, lasik surgery, and implantable lenses had taken their toll on all the optometrists I had known. Most of them had left the profession, but I was too stubborn. I knew that someone had to be here to take care of all of the children under 18 who had vision problems. I had a number of patients, but since these were children of school age, my practice didn’t get busy until after 3:30, and I was booked solid most days right up until 6:00 pm. It paid the bills, but I had mothballed all my equipment from the second office, and I no longer employed a receptionist. This was a far cry from what I had anticipated many years ago when I had graduated.
Three men standing by a light pole caught my eye. They all were identically dressed in medium brown trench coats, and they all appeared to be of the same ethnic background, as their hair coloring, and the shade of their skin indicated a Mediterranean appearance. One of the three left the group, and walked towards my office building.
A few minutes later I heard footsteps on the stairs leading to my second floor offices. The door opened, and one of the dark skinned men entered.
"Are you zee eye doctor?" he asked in broken English.
I hadn’t noticed any of the men wearing glasses, but this man had on a pair of well worn and taped up high minus glasses. This was very strange, as our government offered lasik, or free lens implants to anyone of this gentleman’s age.
"Yes, I am the doctor. How may I help you?" I asked in reply.
"I am in need of new glasses, and contact lenses. I have the means to pay. Can you help me?" he asked.
Well, it had been some time since I had a customer who paid cash instead of government health insurance, so I replied that if he showed me the cash, I was the man for the job. It turned out that it wasn’t real money that this man had, but he had a bagful of gorgeous diamond that looked to me to be of the finest quality.
"Well, I can’t be sure that those diamonds are real, but I will examine your eyes, and I will order you a pair of glasses as well as a supply of contact lenses. However, you must pay me the full amount, and I will have a jeweler friend of mine check out the diamonds. If they are fake, you will not get your glasses or contact lenses." I told him.
"They are not fake. You will be very satisfied with the value of these gems," replied the mysterious stranger.
So, true to my word, I examined his eyesight. His prescription for his glasses was exactly –15D in both eyes, with no astigmatism present. He selected a frame, and I also ordered the appropriate contact lenses. I measured his base curve, and the diameter of his contact lenses, and I realized that my own contact lenses were the exact power that this man required. Yes, I know, all adults were encouraged, no actually required to have surgery, but I had managed to slip through the cracks. I liked wearing glasses, and when I was home I would take out my contacts and wear my glasses.
I had a spare, new pair of contact lenses, so I showed the mystery man how to insert and remove the lenses. I also showed him how to keep them clean. He insisted on paying me with far more of the beautiful diamonds than I thought fair to take, however, until proven otherwise I could be fooled if these were fakes. Finally the man, who had told me his name was Peter, left.
Shortly after Peter had left my office another one of the 3 men appeared at my door. This gentleman was not wearing glasses, but in semi broken English he told me that he required new contact lenses, and a new pair of glasses.
Surprise, surprise. This man, who told me his name was George, when he had his contact lenses out, had exactly the same prescription of –15D for his glasses that Peter had required. And, he had no cash money, but he did have some small gold bars.
"For you, take what you think is fair." George told me.
I took 2 bars. I knew what the price of gold was, and these 2 bars were more than enough to reward me handsomely.
George reinserted his contact lenses, and left the office.
Within a few more minutes the third man appeared at my door. Again this man, who called himself Ivor, required an eye examination. He also was wearing contact lenses, and I had a suspicion that Ivor and George had just changed contact lenses with each other, because Ivor had the same prescription as Peter and George had. This was really strange. And when it was time to collect my fee, Ivor offered to pay me in silver, which he did.
All 3 of the men were supposed to come back the following day to collect their new contact lenses. I had given Peter my spare pair, but I had also ordered Peter another 2 pairs. I then ordered 3 new pairs for myself and 3 pairs for each of the other 2 men, which made an order of 11 pairs of –13D contact lenses for my supplier. Theoretically, no one over the age of 18 was allowed to wear glasses, or contact lenses, but there were enough young children in the age 16 to 18 age bracket that required a –13D prescription that I could usually order an extra pair in someone else’s name for myself. But, when I placed the order I wondered if this order would cause me some future grief.
It took a few days for the lenses for the glasses to come in from my supplier. I had not needed to give any information other than the –15.00D prescription, so I felt I was safe there. When they arrived I spent some of my spare time fitting the lenses to the frames. I had told Peter, George and Ivor that I expected to have their glasses ready for the following day.
Peter was the first to arrive at my office. He removed his contact lenses, and I placed his glasses on his face. I fitted them, and when he was satisfied with the fit, I told him to go out and get George and Ivor, and I advised Peter that there was no reason for him to stand outside. The diamonds that Peter had given me had been worth far more than the price of the contacts and the glasses that I had supplied him with. And the gold and silver that I had received form George and Ivor had rewarded me handsomely as well. I had actually been able to pay off all of my outstanding loans, and I was now debt free again.
Once I had fitted George and Ivor with their new glasses, I looked at the 3 of them standing there, all wearing glasses with identical prescriptions.
"Well gentlemen, which one of you wants to be the one to tell me what is going on here?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" Peter blustered.
"Oh, come now. I am not as stupid as I look. All 3 of you look like you come from the same place. All 3 of you have identical prescriptions, and I don’t think you are from this solar system, because you know that on Earth the wearing of glasses by anyone over the age of 18 is frowned on. Oh, you won’t be sent to jail or anything, but if you do not accept the free surgery, everyone looks at you as if there was something wrong with you. So, tell me, where are you from, and why are you here?" I asked.
Peter realized that I was curious enough about this that he should tell me the truth.
"We come from the other Earth." Peter said.
"What other Earth?" I asked curiously.
"There is another solar system exactly like this one. And everything in this other solar system is parallel to your Earth, as you know it. There is a doorway between the 2 Earths, but it is almost impossible to find. And, then once you find it, there is only one way to return. You have to go back through the same doorway, at precisely the right time, or you will have to stay on this Earth forever." Peter said.
"Well, I can accept that. But what about your eyesight? Is everyone on your Earth as nearsighted as you 3 are?" I asked.
"No, this is punishment. The 3 of us are what you would call political prisoners. None of the men normally require glasses. However, anyone who opposes the government is placed in front of a special machine that robs the person of their good eyesight. Then instead of being placed in a jail, we are forced to wander around, unable to see properly." Peter told me.
"What about thieves and murderers. Are they also left highly myopic?" I asked.
"Oh no, they are put to death. No one steals or kills anyone else anymore." Peter replied.
"You said that none of the men require glasses. What about the women?" I asked.
"Oh, that is how we got the glasses that we used to find our way here. All of the women are very nearsighted, and have to wear strong glasses. We were able to wear my daughter’s old glasses from when she still had a weak enough prescription." Peter told me.
"So let me get this straight. All of the women on this parallel Earth are extremely myopic? How strong a prescription are we talking about here?" I asked.
By the time a girl is 21 she is around –30D, and she remains there during her working and childbearing years. Then after she retires her prescription increases considerably to as high as –60D." Peter replied.
Now I was excited. I had been engaged to a very nearsighted, pretty young lady, but when the government had required everyone to have their vision corrected, she had done so, and my interest in her had waned. I had not dated for the past 10 years.
"Could I return with the 3 of you?" I asked.
They looked at each other for a few minutes, and George finally said that he could see no reason why I couldn’t. So, I questioned them as to what types of optical equipment was available on their Earth. Apparently they had all sorts of testing equipment, but there were no contact lenses available. So, I placed an order for a number of pairs of contact lenses in the correct prescription for the 4 of us, and as soon as they came in, we set off for the doorway to their world.
And, doorway was exactly what it was. When we found the right place, at the right time a doorway materialized out of thin air. We all walked through it, and I was in a world where I wanted to be, a world of very highly myopic ladies.
As we walked around I was enthralled by all the lovely lasses wearing strong glasses. This would be great.
I had never asked my 3 companions why they had been punished, so I decided that it would be interesting to know the reason.
"Why did the government punish the 3 of you?" I asked Peter.
"It was because we protested them making all the women so nearsighted. We felt that this was not right." Peter replied.
"And do you still feel that way?" I asked.
"Oh yes, even more so since they robbed us of our eyesight. Now that you have helped us see again we can get back to work, and convince the women to rise up against the government to stop them making them so nearsighted!" Ivor exclaimed.
In this world the punishment for murder was death, but this didn’t matter to me. I killed the 3 of them with a knife I had in my pocket. As I stood in front of the firing squad I wished I had asked the question a little sooner.