Jan jumped in her seat when a sudden knock came from the door. She sat in her living room waiting for her brother; but, she had not yet heard his lifted 4 x 4 truck driving up the path. His arrival was usually accompanied with a roar of an engine and the sound of his giant tires crunching gravel. She padded to the door and peeked through the peephole.
Her brother stood on the front porch smiling. His dark hair was the same shade of black-brown as hers, but his was cut short almost to the skin; her hair hung in a loose ponytail. He looked considerably leaner and more athletic than the beer belly that had settled around his waist the last time she saw him. Jan pulled the door open and smiled at her brother; in the back of her mind, she noticed a distinct lack of transportation. His truck, nor any other vehicle, was nowhere to be seen.
“Simon,” she said using her ‘big-sister’ tone of concern. “Where’s your truck?” Normally, they spent the first few minutes getting caught up with polite chit-chat but the curiosity was too much for her. “How’d you get here?” As she asked, she noticed he did not have any luggage with him either. “Where’s your stuff?” she added. Simon shook his head and gave Jan a large grin.
“The world’s changin’, Sis,” he said, then took a step back. “C’mon out here so we can talk about it.” He gestured to one of the wood and wicker rocking chairs on her front porch.
“You remind me every year,” Jan said as she sat on the edge of the rocker. It rolled forward with a creak when she rested her weight on it. “Last year you were raving about a new phone,” she said with a heavy dose of sibling condescension. “Did it change the world?” Simon nodded and gave her a broad grin.
“It really did, and it’s called a node,” he said. “You’ve missed a lot this year.”
“Like what?” Jan asked.
“Like the fact that alternate universes exist,” Simon said. Jan’s eyes widened, but she did not say anything. Even though he was the younger sibling he often played pranks on her. As soon as he mentioned alternate universes she realized it was probably a prank. His truck was probably parked somewhere down the path while he made up some story about why it wasn’t there. “It’s true,” Simon added; he recognized the suspicion in Jan’s eyes. “But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.” Jan knew she was in for a doozy of a prank if something that unbelievable was just the lead-in.
“Go on,” she said. Jan leaned back in the rocking chair and relaxed as if she were in for tall tale. It didn’t count as a prank if she did not believe him, but he obviously put a lot of planning into it; she encouraged effort wherever she could.
“So, the node…,” a transparent glassy rectangle appeared in his hand but Jan did not see him reach into a pocket for it. “… is kind of like a cellphone, except it can communicate with other Earths,” he said. Simon smiled the whole time he went through the explanation. “Well, it turns out these…,” he held the node up. “…are actually from another universe. A company called Sharp Development produces them. But that’s not all,” the corners of his mouth almost touched his ears. “They also run an internet for all the Earths called the AlterNet. It’s like a real-life mmo. Once you log in to another Earth it feels real. It feels like you’re actually your character.”
“Alright, I’m gonna stop you there,” Jan said with a smile and stood from the rocking chair. “You can tell me the rest over dinner if you really want. For now, let’s go get your truck from up the road or wherever you hid it and get you settled.” Simon shook his head and stepped off the wooden porch.
“I didn’t bring my truck,” he said. “Didn’t need to.” Simon took several steps back until he was standing on the dirt path that connected the dirt driveway to the wooden porch. “Once Sharp Development showed us everything they could offer, the world leaders actually came together.
“So, what?” Jan shrugged. “World peace means you don’t have to drive anymore?”
“Kind of,” Simon chuckled. “The world leaders decided to join the AlterNet; our Earth is considered a “Server” now, and that comes with some neat benefits.” Bright, white, feathered wings appeared behind Simon. “Like the fact that I can use my AlterNet character to visit you.”