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As you guys may have seen from my comment, I decided to visit Axel and see what he had to say.

The psychiatric ward - not the insane asylum, as some of you redditors pointed out - was hardly even 10 minutes away from my college and on my way home; I figured I’d stop by and pay Axel the visit he deserved. Being the dick I am, I’d only visited Axel once before this (as I mentioned in my last post). I just couldn’t stand that place - his screams, the smell, everything about that place just made me uncomfortable. It’s enough to drive anyone insane.

Today wasn’t much better. The overly friendly receptionist (I recognized her voice to be the one over the phone), the unnaturally white walls, and the stares of the other patients didn’t exactly help calm my already jumpy nerves.

The receptionist directed me to the room at the very end of the hallway. I remembered it very clearly - it was Axel’s room, the same one from a year and a half ago. Though this time, I couldn’t hear his screams bouncing off the walls of the hallway.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I opened that door; a mere husk of what Axel once was? Or perhaps something even more terrible? Over past the year or so, I’ve played my fair share of horror games - you can probably guess that I was expecting the worst.

Instead, when I opened the door, I saw the Axel I remembered from two years ago. In fact, when he turned around to meet my gaze, I didn’t see the confused eyes of thousands of souls all trying to fight over the control of one body. I saw him - my best friend.

He raised a hand, waved at me, and said, “Sup?”

That was the first comprehensible word I’ve heard him say in the past two years. And now, it was my turn to be a blubbering mess of unfinished words and sentences. I think somewhere in my spew of emotions, I managed a “How?”

Axel kind of stared at me for a moment, probably pondering whether or not this supposedly 20-year-old man was really his best friend. “Holy shit dude,” he said, offering me a chair as I calmed down, “Is this what happens when I’m not around to save your ass all the time?”

I didn’t reply - I couldn’t. How could I summarize everything that happened in the past two years? Or explain everything I did to him?

Turns out I didn’t need to. “It wasn’t your fault,” Axel said after what seemed like an hour. I didn’t know whether or not to feel relieved over the fact that he already knew.

So I’ll thank you redditors for at least giving me some sort of question to continue the conversation, “Are you really Axel? I mean, like the one I kne - know.” I was scared. Many of you guys mentioned that the “victorious” Axel might not - actually probably wasn’t the “original” one I knew. If he wasn’t “there”... then how was I supposed to react? I couldn’t just walk out.

Thankfully, Axel didn’t seem as hesitant to answer at least that question. “That’s actually kind of offensive, Erik. I spent two whole years trying to get up here in control, and you can’t even recognize the guy you’ve lived next to for the first 18 years of your life? Really, Erik? Really?”

I was bewildered. “Then how -”

“Negotiations.” I stared at Axel as he just shrugged. “What, it’s not like I could have punched the guys in my own body, right? It’s basically a city down here, and the majority of us agreed that having me - well, the “me” you know - talk to you would have made the most sense. Took us two years to the shove the psychotic ones back though, goddamn.”

“Psychotic ones?”

“Sure, and convince the ones that hated you that you weren’t too much of a dick in this timeline. Especially Jesse. God, he was horrible.”

Yeah, I was lost. I don’t even know how I’m able to recreate this entire conversation in my head to type out, since I was so confused when it actually happened.

Fortunately, Axel must have noticed it, because he let out a sigh and leaned back on his bed. “You know about parallel universes, right?”

I blinked. “Uh, you mean like the multiverse theory?”

“Sure, that, whatever it’s called. Didn’t have much time to find out the proper term, mind you.” Axel pointed to his head. “So we’re talking about parallel universes here, right? And how there’s our world duplicated an infinite number of times - and each of them are slightly different?” I nodded, but like how I wasn’t really a computer person, I wasn’t really science geek either. It’s amazing how I grew up in Silicon Valley. “Yeah, so the thing you talked to or whatever managed to grab all the different versions of ‘me’ and shove them all into one body, aka mine. So everyone in here is basically a different version of ‘Axel ______ (he said his last name here, but I’ll keep it out for privacy),’ all from different timelines, universes, etc. Though we’re pretty much different people. I don’t know what you did in those other versions of our world, Erik, but you have people here wanting to fuck you or tear your heart out. I’m neither, by the way.”

Was that supposed to be comforting? “So you guys...formed a community in there?”

“Mmm, more like a couple of us sane ones went around trying to convince everyone that working together would be a lot more desirable - especially with one body, millions of souls thing and all. And since we were all ‘Axel’, we had to find other ways to identifying ourselves, right? I was called, Owner, since I was, you know, the owner of this body. Most of the names were regular though - the first guy I actually talked to was named ‘Tom’. There were actually a few prodigies here and there - we call the science geek Haber.”

“Haber...you mean after the crazy guy with nitrogen?”

“Yep, but that’s besides the point. Anyways, since there's basically every version of me you could imagine, there were quite a few crazy ones too. Like, serial killer crazy, psychotic, that kind of stuff. Aren’t you glad that the majority of the me’s in here are sane?”

I wasn’t really sure how to reply to that. “So long story short, you’re the Axel, I know?”

Axel glared at me. “Well, if you want to cut out all the important details, sure, let’s just say that.” A glimmer of hope sparked in me with those words. So there still was a chance. For us to, I don’t know, be ‘normal’ again. Whatever ‘normal’ was in a situation like this.

I swallowed. “...How many of you are in there?” Axel blinked.
“How many ‘Axels’ do you have in there? You said there was an infinite amount of ‘worlds,’ so…”

Axel didn’t seem as bothered at the question as I was. “No idea. Some idiot decided to try counting. I think he’s at 500 thousand right now. Most of us are pretty similar some way or another, so it wasn’t that bad after the first few months.” 500 thousand. I had shoved more than 500 thousand souls into Axel’s one body. I couldn’t even deal with chatrooms sometimes.

“And you just managed to sort everything out,” I finished for him. “After two years.”

Axel’s next statement surprised me, however. “More accurately, I was able to function pretty well a month ago. I might actually be able to leave this place pretty soon.”

I stared at him. “A m-month? And you never bothered to…”

Axel held up his hands. “Hey, hey, I was busy and everything, alright? My throat was so raw the first few days, I couldn’t even whisper. Besides, there was no point of having you or anyone else visit me early. I wouldn’t have been able to do anything.”

I actually really disagreed with that statement, though I kept my mouth shut. After everything I did to him, it was understandable that he hadn’t wanted to see me. “So why now, then?”

“Right, I was getting to that.” Axel grabbed a piece of paper on his desk and handed it to me. On it was some address closeby to my old house. “I said there were a few smart people in this body,” Axel offered as I looked over the paper. “We think we’ve found a way to return everyone to their original bodies. The catch is,” he said before I could say anything, “we need your help.”

My entire body stiffened when I heard his last words. Ever since that chatroom, I hadn’t been a big fan of that phrase. I even had a panic attack the first time I heard it again when my roommate asked me to help him move some boxes. “Why?”

Axel sighed again. “Because you were the one who started this entire damn thing, remember? Something about needing the start to end.” He beckoned at the piece of paper. “I got a pass to leave the building for the day tomorrow. I can meet you there at noon and explain a bit more.” I glanced at my watch - visitor’s hours had almost ended.

“Alright,” I heard myself say as I stuffed the piece of paper into my wallet. “Noon it is.” I blinked when a terrible thought came to me. “Uh, Axel?” He blinked. “Your…” I swallowed. “Your parents are dead. They died in the car accident two years ago.” I don’t know why I said that. After all, he had just recovered - albeit one month ago. Why was I trying to remind him or something even more horrible? I don’t know, but at the time, it seemed right to let him know the truth.

“Oh, yeah.” Axel didn’t meet my gaze. “I figured. The doctors never mentioned my parents anyways.” I tried to look for something in his eyes, maybe a tinge of sorrow or sadness. But there was nothing. No emotion - no nothing. And admittedly, I found that a bit strange. Axel had been close to his parents - being an only child and all.

There isn’t much more to say after that. The nurse came in and told me that visitor’s hours were over, so before I knew it, I had given Axel a big hug and was back out at the front of the ward, staring at the sign on top of the building. It was too good to be true. Axel was there. The Original Axel - the one I knew. And he had found a way to fix everything I had essentially fucked up on.
I reached into my pocket to grab my car keys when I felt the piece of paper Axel gave to me. Sighing, I reached in and pulled it out. It was all crumbled - though when I smoothed it out, a tiny shiver ran down my spine.

I hadn’t looked on the back of the paper Axel had given me. There was something else written - written in a much messier handwriting.

HE’S LYING.

So now, I’m in my house in my old bedroom, still staring at the piece of paper in my hand. Both the address and text on the back were in Axel’s handwriting - just one much messier
and...desperate. It wouldn’t make sense for Axel to tell me himself that he was lying. Maybe it was just one of the psychotic versions that Axel was talking about - something to scare me. If not…

Whatever the case is, I’m going to go to sleep now. I guess I’ll just have to find out tomorrow when I see Axel at noon.

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