“Almost!” Scott smiled and leaned all his weight back as gravity pulled him back down from the top. He watched the ground zoom backward under him and shrink while he pulled his weight upward against the chain swing. The ground looked farther than any time before. “This time for sure!” He leaned forward and dropped his weight.
Scott flew past the ground and into the sky, gripping the chains tight. A sudden rush of fear shut his eyes, but his stomach tumbled when he flew upside down and kept going forward. He opened his eyes as he straightened out and saw the ground rushing up towards him. “I did it!” he shouted loudly and kicked his legs to slow down. He jumped off the swing, tumbled once and stood with his arms in the air. “I DID IT!” He hoped to get a bit of his mother’s attention from his new sister in the sandbox, but they were gone when he looked up.
“Mom?” The park looked different. New, purple wood enclosed the sandbox. The sandbox his sister chose was built with ratty pink wood that needed to be replaced. The placement of some of the trees and sidewalks did not look like the park he’d visited since he was his sister’s age. He looked at the sky dropped his jaw in surprise. A light lavender color flooded the sky instead of the deep blue he expected. The sudden realization that he was alone squeezed his chest. He felt fear well up in his gut and made tight fists to get control.
“Don’tpanicdon’tpanicdon’tpanic,” his father’s advice repeated in his mind. “Panic doesn’t help.” He found the nearest bench and sat down to think. He saw a police officer at the edge of the park talking to some kids. “Okay, there’s help if I need it. But what do I say?” he mumbled to himself. Vocalizing helped organize his thoughts. “I’ can’t wait to tell him about this,” he shook his head and grinned. “I stayed calm, dad.” He clapped his hands to center his focus and looked around the park.
“Purple sky aside, this is a different park.” Scott nodded to himself and smiled. “This has to be another universe. Awesome. Forget the cop, I doubt 12-year-olds have more credibility here.” He looked around the park for someone else that might help.
“If you wind up in an alternate universe, look for someone that doesn’t belong there either,” another piece of dad’s advice. Scott realized his father had been preparing him for something like this. He saw a large man in a dark suit sitting on a bench enjoying a cup of coffee. A golden mane sat atop his head and flowed down to his shoulders. His blond sideburns connected with a thick beard; Scott thought the man looked like a lion.
“No one else looks like a cat,” Scott shrugged. He stood and walked toward the man while trying to guess how much he could say. He also kept the cop in his peripheral vision in case he needed to run for some reason. The man looked up from his cardboard cup when he heard light footsteps approaching. Scott locked eyes with the man’s deep golden eyes and he noticed a smile tug at the man’s lips. He stared at Scott in silence for a second, then the boy realized the man wanted him to say something.
“Uh, hi.” He half raised a hand for a weak wave. The man sat up straight, he was taller sitting than Scott standing.
“Hello, young man. Is there something I can help you with?” Scott nodded.
“Maybe? Uh. I’m kind of lost,” Scott tried to keep it vague. The man nodded to the patrol car in the parking lot.
“There’s an officer right over there,” he said. Scott’s stomach sank, but he did not want to give up yet.
“Might as well go all the way,” Scott thought. “Is the sky purple in your universe?” he asked. The man chuckled.
“No, mine was blue,” he said. Scott nodded.
“Mine too. I don’t know how I got here,” he shrugged.
“Ah, you’re not lost. You’re misplaced,” he gave a sharp grin that enhanced his feline features. “You don’t know how?” Scott shook his head.
“No. It happened when I was on the swing, but I closed my eyes.”
“You’re handling it remarkably well,” the man said. “My name is Regal, by the way.” He extended a large hand in greeting and Scott shook it.
“I’m Scott,” he smiled. “My dad always thought something like this might happen to me. I thought it was a fun joke until it happened.”
“Really?” Regal reached up to stroke the front of his beard. “What’s your favorite number, Scott?”
“35,” he giggled. “My dad always asks that too.”
“Really?” Regal repeated. His eyes roamed up and down Scott. “Does your dad have a favorite number?”
“37,” he answered with a grin. Regal nodded and gave a half shrug.
“I’m sure he has his reasons,” he said to himself more than to Scott, then he looked at the boy with a smile.
“Well, it was nice to meet you, Scott. You should get home before your parents start to worry.” Regal held a hand out, palm up.
“Touch my hand and think of your Earth.” Scott gripped Regal’s hand and squeezed his eyes shut.
“Ready to go,” he heard Regal’s deep voice and looked up. A circular, black portal hovered in the air next to Scott. He looked at Regal and noticed him pulling something out of the inside of his coat. He handed a small black business card to the boy. “If you ever get misplaced again, or need help use this to call me.” Scott accepted the card and looked at it. It felt like a smooth piece of black obsidian with the name “Regal” engraved in it in gold letters.
“Thanks, Mr. Regal!” Scott smiled and pocketed the card. He jumped into the black portal. He arrived on the other side and looked up to a blue sky.
“Scott!” He smiled when he heard his mom calling his name.