“Hey, did you drop this?” the gentleman asked. He held up a frayed, threadbare purple sock. Sam recognized the rag as one of his socks. Specifically the sock from his right foot. The sock on his left foot was
Sam only stole what he needed when he needed to; and, only from those he deemed “well-to-do”. This was the first time someone caught him throughout four years of living on the street, off the pocket change of the rich. As he ran through the crowd he realized no one seemed to care. There were no shouts of “Thief!” chasing him. He kept running, regardless, until he reached his dumping spot under a short bridge. He quickly went through the other three wallets he grabbed that day. Each of the three wallets contained several hundred dollar bills as well as an assortment of smaller bills. Sam pulled 10s and 20s from each of the three and tossed the wallets on the ground. Then he pulled the fourth wallet out, the one from the gentleman that stole his sock. Curiosity made Sam pull up his right pant leg to check. Sure enough, his right ankle was bare. Sam turned the black leather wallet over in his hand several times. Part of him was scared to open it. Sam debated dumping it without digging through it, but he had always been a curious man.
Sam opened the tri-fold wallet with shaking hands. There was no ID in the plastic window and no visible credit cards. He recognized it as a decoy wallet and chuckled to himself as he opened the bill slot expecting a $5 or $10. He found a frayed red and green sock inside.
“Couldn’t be…,” Sam reached down and pulled up his left pant leg. His left ankle was also bare. “What the hell?!” He yanked the red and green sock out then noticed a black business card fluttering down toward the ground. He moved quick enough to pluck the card out of the air and looked it over. On one side elegant gold lettering showed an address and the text, “Invitation for Samuel Hanson”.
“Well, if they’re inviting me..,” Sam shrugged and started the walk into town, to the address on the card. Being homeless afforded Sam plenty of quiet time alone. He knew himself very well and did not bother trying to deny his curious streak anymore. In the past, he would waste several hours trying to fight his inner self, but he always gave in.
On the way, he imagined what might be waiting for him. The gentleman he lifted the wallet from appeared to be drowning in money. Sam expected the stranger to live in a mansion. After a twenty minute walk through town, Sam stood outside the address on the card.
It was not a mansion. It was not even a house. If not for the same well-dressed gentleman sitting on a stack of milk crates in the empty lot Sam would have doubted he had the right address. The stranger stood and waved.
“Glad you made it!” he shouted as he walked up to Sam.
“What’s going on?” The gentleman smiled and held his hand up. He showed off the black wallet that Sam found the card in. Sam’s hand flew to his pocket to double check, but it was gone. “How’d you do that?!” The stood a yard away, he did not bump our touch Sam in any way. The stranger shrugged.
“Too complicated to explain here,” he spread his arms to indicate the empty lot. “The real question is, do you want to learn how?”
“I can learn that?” The man nodded, but paused.
“I’m pretty sure. First I need to know something. What’s your favorite number?”
“21,” Sam replied without thinking. It surprised him that he had an answer, he never gave his favorite number much thought. The man’s smile grew larger.
“Yes,” he nodded. “You can learn. Not here though.” The gentleman threw a black business card at the ground. When it landed it opened a black hole on the ground large enough to jump into.
“What’s that?” Sam asked. He took several steps away from the black hole.
“Portal to the next Earth. I’ve got a few more like you to recruit.”
“Recruit for what?”
“Don’t know yet,” the gentleman replied with a smirk. “I was told to recruit, so I’m recruiting. You’re invited, but there’s no obligation.” The stranger stepped closer to the black hole and nodded at it. “I’m jumping in. Stay if you want. Come if you’re curious.” He waved then jumped in feet first.
Sam sighed, then jumped into the hole.