Root Problem

“See you in a bit!” Lena grinned at the message on her phone. Then she felt pangs of disappointment as a minor detail suddenly came to mind.

“You don’t know my address?” she typed to the group. They’d been chatting for almost a year. She stumbled across the group and joined on a whim. She was glad she did, she’d never been able to find the group by searching for it. She could only visit the group if she used the group bookmark. The group, “AlterNet Enthusiasts”, were friendly and Lena quickly found a group she clicked with. They seemed to have a static group and talked about their in-game adventures as if they were real. As they grew closer she mentioned her state and city; but, she never gave an exact address. The fact that they were on their way to her house, without knowing where she lived made Lena think she’d been catfished somehow.

*DING* Lena heard the notification but it didn’t come from the phone in her hand. She looked up and saw a tall black portal in the center of her living room. A short girl in a long black robe walked out while staring at something that looked like a phone in her hand. She looked up from it and smiled at Lena.

“Don’t need it. Hi!” She stepped forward and offered her hand to Lena. “I’m Wilma.” As she introduced herself two more teenagers about the girl’s age stepped out. Twin girls, one wearing heavy silver armor that jangled with every step. The other wore a long white robe.

“What’s going on?” Lena asked then she took a step to the side and let herself fall on the couch. She recognized them immediately, after Wilma introduced herself. Their classes were obvious enough to match what she knew about them. The one in the robe was Sarah the healer and the armored girl had to be Samantha the knight.

Despite the surprise of them coming from nowhere, Lena was more embarrassed about the age gap than anything. “You’re just kids?” They were gamers and she assumed they’d be younger than her 40 years. Their posts often hinted at adult freedom to come and go. They were almost always playing and often talked about getting together. Not once had any of them mentioned needing parental permission for anything. They looked 14 at most. They all grinned at her, and Wilma shook her head.

“We’re not just kids, we’re Uniques.”

“Unique what?” Lena asked. The three visitors burst into very kid-like giggles.

“Unique Souls,” Wilma shook her head. “Don’t worry about it, we’ll get you caught up later. Right now we want to invite you to join our group.” She shrugged. “We wanted to invite you sooner, but it was a pain to find out which Earth was yours.” Lena’s confusion blossomed again; she tilted her head at Wilma.

“Which….. Earth?” she asked. She was glad the kids didn’t laugh at her again.

“I knew it,” Wilma nodded, then joined Lena on the couch. “Your Earth was hard to find because you’re not connected to the AlterNet yet. I don’t know how you found the group, but it was probably a glitch.” She shrugged. “We are from different universes,” Wilma paused for a moment in thought, then started again. “Well, I’m from a different universe, and they…,” Wilma pointed at Sarah and Samantha. “…are from a different, different universe. There’re tons out there.”

“So… wanna come play in the AlterNet?” Wilma asked. Lena’s eyes grew wide. She saw their posts to the group in a new light now.

“That’s… it’s real? All your adventures.. you really did them?”

“Yep! Come play with us,” she smiled.

“YES!” Lena jumped off the couch and ran to Sarah and Samantha to give them both hugs.

“Great, let’s go make your character,” Wilma said. She stood from the couch and wiggled her hand at the air to open another portal. Sarah and Samantha walked in and disappeared; then, Wilma encouraged Lena.

“Go ahead, it’s safe,” she smiled at the older woman.

“Thanks!” Lena dashed forward into the black hole. She went through it and ran into one of her living room walls.

“OWWwwwww….” Lena turned around already rubbing her nose. She looked at Wilma; the young girl sighed.

“Shit, I’m sorry. I should have asked this first; what’s your favorite number?”

“Ten,” Lena said automatically, then she stopped rubbing her nose. “Hey, I didn’t know that,” she added. “Why?”

“The bad news is you can’t leave this Earth. The good news is, you’re a Unique Soul too. #10, El  Árbol.” Lena’s face fell; her eyes began to water at the corners.

“I can’t play with you?” she whispered in disappointment. She’d received a lot of information in a short time, and now she wouldn’t get to explore with her new friends. She doubted they’d make time to visit an old woman when they could go anywhere. She wasn’t sure how to deal with her emotions. Wilma rushed forward and hugged her.

“Of course you can,” she said. She withdrew from the hug and looked Lena in the eyes with a smile. “You just have to let us dig a hole in your living room.”

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