Hanna was walking her dog in the field when she saw herself. The other her was coming back towards her, holding a worn red lead, at the end of which was a soft brown dusty dog, exactly the same as the dog Hanna had.
This Other Self came through the long grass, which swished like the ocean. She looked five years younger, as though she had just come back from holiday. “Oh, there you are,” said Other Self. “I wondered when you would appear.”
“What is this,” said Hanna. It was Monday lunchtime, and she had to be back at work in half an hour. She had come out of the back of the garden and up the little track towards the field. She had planned to throw a stick for the dog twice and then take him back indoors, and go back to work. “I must be seeing things.”
“Not really,” said Other Self. “I’m you, and you can ask me – yourself, that is – anything.”
Only one problem pressed Hanna’s mind. She had thought of little else for a year. “What should I do about my son?” she asked. “Almost thirty, and he won’t leave home.”
“Ah yes,” said Other Self. “I remember.”
Other Self closed her eyes for a moment. Hanna said to herself, I must be having some sort of episode, that I think I’m talking to myself in a field. She led the dog off the lead, and he walked away, sniffing the grass.
“What do you think the answer is?” Other Self said, eventually.
“I don’t know. Why do you think I’m asking? If I knew the answer, I would do it.”
Hanna’s grown up son was a problem. In theory he should have been a decent adult.
In practise, all he did was go to work, then came home, where he played on his games console and chatted to strange people on the internet. He had no girlfriend, no ambition, and never did anything around the house.
“It’s our own fault, you know,” said Other Self. “We make his life too easy.”
“Well then,” said Hanna. “If you say so.”
She put the dog on the lead and went back to the house.
In the days after encountering herself in the field behind the house, Hanna did the following: she disabled the boiler, so that there was no hot water. Removed all of the plates from the kitchen. Took the kettle and coffee machine to her workplace. She unplugged the wireless router from the wall, took it to a nearby scrapyard, and put it into a car that was being crushed.
As the car disappeared into the crushing machine, creating a fearful symphony of 1 Meet yourself, coming back grinding, she said to herself, Problem solved!
At first, her son used his data to chat to his internet friends, but stopped when that ran out. He said she was the worst mother ever.
“I’m going out,” he said.
They lived in a small village, but if he caught a bus, he might be able to get free wifi at one of the cafes in town. At least it got him out of the house.
Hanna found she liked the silence, at first. It seemed quiet, but after she had sat for a while in the house, with no wifi, no son, and no creaking pipes, she soon started to hear things, through the open door that led to the field at the back of the house.
She could hear:
Her neighbour, digging into the soil to plant herbs.
A fly buzzing at the pane, trying to get out.
Somebody riding a bicycle along the front street, their little bell ringing.
A carer arriving to help Mrs Gondall, the elderly lady who lived across the road. “Hello Kath,” the carer called. “It’s only me, don’t get up.”
The sound of a stroller being pushed along the street, with a child inside babbling a tune.
After a moment the dog perked up its ears, and started barking. Hanna clipped him on the lead, and took him up to the field.
She waited there a long time. Hanna threw a stick for the dog, and kept on throwing it, long after the dog had lost interest in the game. She was waiting to see whether she would see herself again.
Wind rustled through the grass and the overhanging trees, whispering as though it knew a secret. The dog lay down in the grass, panting.
Hanna waited until it was almost dark. She still hoped that her Other Self would appear. That she would come almost out of nowhere and surprise her, as she had before. But by the time the stars started to come out, when her Other Self still hadn’t come, Hanna called the dog and went back to her quiet house.