Zero Humor

Lenny turned the burner off, grabbed his plate of flapjacks, then sat down at the table. After a moment, he sighed and stood up again; he forgot the syrup. Before he made it to the pantry a tall black portal opened in front of him and someone stepped out. The stranger looked like him, but slightly older. He had more salt and pepper in his crewcut than Lenny’s own black, slicked-back hairdo. The rugged, scarred version of him lifted a radio while staring into Lenny’s eyes.

“I found him! The key to our survival!”

“Hold him,” a static-y, commanding voice replied.

“Yes, Sir!” the invader put the radio down, then trained a gun on Lenny. The homeowner’s hands went straight up as if he were being robbed. “I’m not threatening you,” the other him explained while stepping closer with the gun. “But we need your help and this is the fastest way to make you listen.”

“If I promise to listen can I put my arms down?” Lenny asked. The stranger nodded, then shrugged, then finally chuckled.

“I didn’t ask you to put them up. If you’ll listen, I don’t need this,” he lowered the gun while Lenny lowered his arms. Another black portal opened, and this time an even older, surlier version of Lenny stepped out. This version of him sported a bald head, a silver beard, and an eyepatch.

“I’m sure you’ve realized we look like you,” the bald visitor said. Lenny recognized his gruff voice from the radio. Lenny nodded.

“Sure. I’m guessing multiverse duplicates?” he asked. The old man’s eyes widened.

“You know about the multiverse?” He asked. He sounded surprised at first, but then he smiled when Lenny nodded. “Well, that makes things a lot easier. The short version is, we…,” the bald one said. He gestured at the salt & pepper Lenny, then himself. “…have been fighting a war for a long, long time.” The old man grinned. “Hell, I looked like you when I got drafted.”

“You want to draft me?” Lenny began shaking his head, and he took a step backward.

“No need, you can help us end the war today. If you’re willing, that is. We’re you. You know we won’t force you to help.”

“Me? You guys are me, why can’t you do it?”

“Because we’re already involved,” Bald Lenny said with a firm shake of the head. “Cease-fire terms require a non-participant on both sides. I wasn’t sure there were any of us left that weren’t fighting,”  he placed a heavy, cybernetic hand on Lenny’s shoulder. “It has to be you.”

“How?” Something about helping himself appealed to Lenny. If he could help them without having to fight anyone, then he wanted to give it a try.

“All you have to do is read a prepared statement for our camera.” The gruff, greying Lenny said. He pointed at a new portal that opened by Lenny’s counter. A camera rolled out of it, pushed by a lean cameraman that resembled a blonde Lenny.

“That’s it? Just read it? Now? Like this?” Lenny looked down. He was still in his pajamas: sagging, frayed boxer shorts, a white t-shirt, and a loosely tied lime-green bathrobe. “Can I change?”

“This is war, Lenny. Thousands, if not millions of people are dying every minute and you want to take time to freshen up?” The stern, bald Lenny asked. Lenny shook his head.

“No, Sir. I’m ready to read.”

“Good man,” he patted Lenny on the back while the grey-haired Lenny handed him a sheet of paper.

“Just read this for the camera, and you’ll end a war that has been raging across hundreds of universes over hundreds of years.”

“HAHA!” Lenny burst into laughter. “I can’t read this!” He was smiling, but none of the other three versions of him in the room cracked a smile.

“What is your problem, man?” the cameraman asked. “Are you gonna help or not?”

“You’re serious? This is ridiculous.” The cameraman bolted at Lenny, but the bald man stepped in and grabbed him.

“MY WIFE DIED FOR THAT SPEECH!” the blonde Lenny yelled while trying to get passed the man holding him back.

“Calm down, Leonard. It’s not his fault, he doesn’t know.” The greying Lenny stepped closer to homeowner Lenny.

“We don’t have a lot of time, but you have to remember we’re from different universes. This might seem silly in your native universe, but I assure you this speech is important. There’s more to the words than whatever definition you have in mind. To my people, to the war effort, they’re the final inspiring words of the wisest Lenny,” he tilted his head toward the cameraman. “Leonard’s wife was in charge of getting the speech to us. It was her last successful mission.”

“I’m sorry,” Lenny apologized to the blonde man. “I didn’t… hey. I don’t understand how this speech is going to end the war if it had to be smuggled out from behind enemy lines. Wouldn’t they just have given-” His question was interrupted by the sound of the bald Lenny smacking his forehead with the palm of his hand.

“Of course! I should have filled you in on over 100 years of history and political conniving first. It’ll only take a few months,” he gave an exaggerated shrug. “It’s not like billions will die in the meantime.”

“Okay, I’m sorry! I’ll read, I’ll read.” Lenny said. He stood up straighter then looked at the camera. A red light glowed to life on top of the camera, and the blonde Lenny counted down silently with his fingers. Lenny started when the cameraman pointed at him.

“I would just like to let everyone know that I suck. And that I’m a girl, and I like ribbons in my hair. And I want to kiss all the boys.”

“HAHAHAHAHAHA!” All three visiting Lennys burst into laughter.

“You actually did it!!” the greying one said. “You got Zero’ed!” Lenny gave them a confused look for a moment, then he realized the camera was still recording. He was about to say something when the bald Lenny wrapped his arm around Lenny’s shoulder and pointed at the camera.

“You’re on the multiverse’s favorite show “The Zero Hour” where contestants prank themselves. This week’s prank was dreamed up by none other than Leonard the cameraman!” The blonde Lenny leaned forward and waved a hand in front of the camera, then moved it out of the way. Lenny noticed the red light stopped glowing.

“We got it,” Leonard said. A black portal appeared in front of him and he pushed the camera through it, then disappeared.

“Thanks for playing,” the bald one said, then followed Leonard into the portal. The grey Lenny started following him but robed Lenny grabbed his arm.

“Now what?”

“Now what, what?” Grey Lenny asked.

“I mean…. wow! Other universes actually exist! I kind of hoped they did, but I had no proof. But now I met three of my doppelgangers!” he said. Grey Lenny nodded.

“Yes, you did. And?”

“Well… shouldn’t I tell someone? Shouldn’t scientists be exploring… something?”  Grey Lenny patted Robed Lenny on the shoulder.

“Sure, explain it to anyone that’ll listen. Three of your doppelgangers from another universe showed up in your kitchen to embarrass you on a multiverse broadcast, then disappeared again within 20 minutes or so. Good luck,” he waved and stepped into the black portal. Then it disappeared.

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