Sharp Decline

“Esteemed U.N. representatives…,” Dr. Saenz addressed the few countries that bothered to show up. He stood at the center podium with his heart beating a mile a minute. “You all entrusted me with the salvation of humanity,” he said. He gave a small sigh of relief knowing he accomplished that; but, he did not know if they were ready to hear how. “You tasked me to find us a new home among the stars. Within three years,” he shook his head; the grey curls surrounding his bald spot bounced with the movement. “There’s not a habitable planet within 100 years of us, that’s impossible.”

Murmurs of concern and ran through the gathered attendees. Dr. Saenz felt relieved when no one dragged him away from the podium despite their displeasure.

“However,” he said with a cheerful tone. The room quieted down instantly. “There is another way to survive.” A soft rustling filled the quiet room as all the representatives sat up straighter in their chair. “I’ve brought a guest that will elaborate further.” Dr. Saenz nodded at the pale woman in a white suit sitting nearby. “I don’t think it would be too far off to call her our savior. I yield the floor to Ms. Dana Sharp.” The old scientist stood aside and the woman in white stepped up to the podium.

“In three short years this planet will be uninhabitable by humans,” she said. “But not by trees. The exponential increase of carbon dioxide will outpace what your flora can process and suffocate humanity. Luckily…,” Ms. Sharp smiled at the attendees. “…I can help you all adapt to this new world in less than three years.”

“How?” One of the representatives asked with a heavy accent. Ms. Sharp turned around and pointed upward at the presentation screen. An image of a young woman laying on a soil bed appeared. Her eyes were closed and she seemed to be asleep.

“This woman’s consciousness is connected to a network known as the AlterNet. She is living a full, fun life that she chose; she created her own character down to the smallest details. She lives as that character in a fantastical world filled with dragons, knights, and wizards. But that’s not all,” Ms. Sharp pointed at the screen again and the picture changed. This time it was a man laying on a soil bed. “This man created his own character too, but he chose to live in a futuristic sci-fi world. Every human that joins can choose the type of world they want to live in.”

“How is an MMO going to save the world?” a different voice asked. The image on the screen changed, Ms. Sharp heard several gasps. The new photo looked like a zoomed out picture showing the man and woman in adjacent soil beds. They each had small red saplings growing out of their chests.

“As the tree grows it absorbs your life force,” the image changed again. It showed larger saplings growing out of the man and woman though they still looked asleep. “It takes in your soul for safekeeping.” The image changed to show an even taller sapling. The man and woman now appeared to be drained, dried corpses. “But your consciousness is still alive and well living as the character you designed.” Ms. Sharp raised her hand at the air in front of her and a tall black portal opened in front of the podium. Two figures walked out and waved at the U.N. members. The portal disappeared behind them.

“Hi!” the woman said. She pointed at the screen. “That’s my body, but…,” she twirled in place, then bowed. “I’m still around.”

“That’s me too!” the guy said. “The AlterNet is awesome! I signed up and my Earth wasn’t even in danger like yours is. You guys should totally do it!”

“Your Earth?” a voice asked. “How do you have this technology, Ms. Sharp? Where are you from?”

“I am from an alternate universe. They are too, different universes.

“You can travel between universes on a whim and you want to turn this Earth into a forest? Why don’t you move us to your Earth? Any of your Earths? It sounds like you have access to several; it would be easy to divide our population between them so as not to strain your resources.” One of them asked. Ms. Sharp smiled and a black portal opened.

“Beggars should not be choosy about the help they get,” Ms. Sharp said. “As you said, I travel between universes on a whim. I also help people on a whim.” She waved her hand at the volunteer pair and they immediately disappeared into the portal. Suddenly, I’m over this particular whim.” Ms. Sharp stepped off the podium and walked to the portal.

“Wait! I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! I was just offering other courses of action!” the representative had a whiny, regretful tone in his voice.  Ms. Sharp pointed at Dr. Saenz.

“You’re smart and useful, come along,” she told him then she disappeared into the portal. Dr. Saenz followed.

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