What a Wonderful World

“Well, at least it moved,” Julio shrugged at the tiny digital clock. The bright red ’22’ displayed on its face was different from yesterday’s 23. He grabbed his phone to check the time and realized he was running late for work. The panic pushed his nightmare to the back of his mind and it did not resurface until lunch time.

He sat in a quaint employee break-room with an action movie playing on the TV. Julio ignored the movie to focus on his meal: cold fried chicken with a side of potato salad. Gunfire erupted from the TV and Julio nearly jumped out of his seat at the sound. He managed to hope for a split second that nobody saw him; but, that hope was crushed by a familiar giggle behind him.

“It’s just a movie, Julio. It’s not real,” she said between the laughter. A short, plump woman with long neon red hair sat down at the table next to him with her own lunch bag.

“Hey, Mundo,” Julio smiled at the woman. “It wasn’t the TV,” he shrugged. “I remembered a hell of a dream from last night. Someone gunned me down and it felt way too real,” he explained. “I guess it stuck with me more than I knew.” Mundo listened while unpacking her sandwich with purple jelly dripping out the sides, and chips.

“Maybe it was,” she smiled at him then took a large bite.

“Nah. No way they’d let you into heaven,” he smiled at her. She shrugged as she swallowed the bite of food.

“Meh, it got boring so I left,” she said. Julio gave her a confused look, but she winked at him and continued. “But, what I meant was maybe it really did happen to a version of you. You know how alternate universes are a thing, right?” Julio leaned over and lowered his voice to a near whisper.

“Are you high right now?”

“Oh shit, is it obvious?” Mundo opened her pink eyes wide, then squeezed them shut several times. “Are my eyes red? I used eye drops and everything.” Julio burst into laughter.

“Hah! I knew it,” he shook his head. “Well, if the only side effect is you making up some pretty crazy things, it’s not a big deal,” he smiled at her.

“Oh, no. Everything I said was real, I just happen to also be high right now,” she shrugged. “They’re unrelated.”

“Right,” Julio nodded. “See ya Monday, Mundo.” He waved at her, then made his way back to work. The rest of the day passed uneventfully and Julio glanced at the red ’22’ as he climbed in bed. That night he dreamed of his death again. This time he was decapitated instead of shot. He sat up in bed and realized he woke himself up with his own screaming. He glanced at the nightstand as his breathing recovered. A bright red ’21’ glowed in the dark.

“Goddamnit,” Julio rolled his eyes and sighed. He reached for his phone and glanced at the time while he searched through his contacts. 2:04 a.m. He found Mundo’s number and dialed.

“If this is a booty call I expect breakfast in the morning,” she answered on the first ring. “A good breakfast, not just a biscuit sandwich.”

“It’s not. Wait, are you awake?” Julio asked.

“Yeah, I don’t need much sleep. What’s up?” she asked.

“I had the dream again,” he said. He felt silly calling her with only that in mind, but she was one of his closer acquaintances from the office. Somehow the dream felt more real this time. He subconsciously rubbed his neck while he talked.

“Oh? Good, then you’ve got nothing to worry about. Assuming it was an alternate you getting killed, there’d be differences, no matter how minor. If you dreamed the same thing twice, then it’s just a dream.”

“About that. When I said, ‘I had the dream again,’ I meant I had another dream where I died. But, this time I got decapitated, not shot.”

“Uh oh.”

“Uh oh, what?”

“Nothing. I’ll be over in a bit. In the meantime here are some questions I want you to answer for me when I get there. When did the dreams start, and does that coincide with anything else changing in your life? Bye,” she hung up. Julio set the phone down and stared at the red ’21’.

“Well, that was easy,” he chuckled to himself, then went to get dressed. 15 minutes later he let Mundo in. She’d been there a handful of times before and made herself at home on his couch.

“So? Any ideas about what’s different?” Julio nodded.

“Yeah I bought a clock at a pawn shop a couple of days ago, that first night is when the dreams started.” She looked around the living room.

“Where?” Julio tilted his head toward the bedroom.

“And you couldn’t have brought it out here?” She sighed as she stood from the couch. Julio shrugged.

“Didn’t think about it.” He followed Mundo into the bedroom, but she stopped at the threshold. He bumped into her from behind. She backed out into him and closed the bedroom door.

“Yeah, that’s your problem. We need to get rid of it. Did I see a 21 on it?” Julio nodded.

“Yeah, it had a 23 when I bought it. After the first dream, it changed to 22, then tonight to 21.” Mundo walked to the kitchen and pulled a bottle out of Julio’s freezer.

“I hope you appreciate what I’m about to do for you,” she said, then took a deep swig from the bottle.

“Sure, I guess finishing my vodka is kind of a favor.” She smiled.

“No, idiot. I’m about to call in a favor I never planned to cash in,” she reached into her pocket and pulled out a shiny, black business card.

“Wait. Do you know what’s going on?” Mundo nodded.

“Yeah. Short version, that thing’s kind of like a lure. Once you have it, it sends out a signal to let you know you found it. Not you you, an alternate you.” Mundo threw the black card against a wall in Julio’s kitchen. It grew into a tall, oval-shaped pitch black portal. “ANGEL!” She yelled into the hole, then she looked at Julio. “Seriously. You owe me big time.”

“Man, I always knew I had crappy luck…” Julio complained. Mundo shook her head.

“No, that was meant for you specifically.”

“C’mon. There’s no way to guarantee I’d buy it.” Mundo turned to the hole and yelled again.

“ANGEL!” This time a deep male voice replied from the abyss on the wall.

“WAIT A SECOND!” Mundo rolled her eyes, then looked at Julio.

“Actually, yeah. That’s how it works, you’re compelled to buy it.” Mundo reached into her pocket again and pulled out a stick of gum.  She unwrapped the flat strip, threw the gum in the trash, and held out the wrapper to Julio. “Wanna buy this for a dollar?” she asked. Julio scoffed.

“No. I’d rather keep the dollar, thanks.” Mundo nodded.

“But you’d rather have a broken ‘clock’…,” she used air quotes. “…that only shows one number, than whatever you spent on it, right?” Julio’s eyes narrowed.

“Point taken.” Mundo turned to hole in the wall.

“Damnit, he’s already making me regret this. ANGEL! GET YOUR ASS OUT HERE!” A pitch black card flew out of the hole and landed in front of Mundo.

“Tomorrow, probably.” The disembodied voice said, then the black portal disappeared.

“Well shit,” Mundo chuckled. “It’s a good thing you’ve got 21 days left. This might take a few.”

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