Zero Marketability

“Alright…,” Cliff said to himself. “He’s me, he should be open-minded enough to listen.” The middle-aged scientist stared at his doppelganger. The slightly younger, less gray version of him sat alone in a coffee shop working on a laptop. “No matter how crazy I sound,” he added with a sigh. “Right, and I’d totally believe him if our places were reversed.” Cliff gave his head a sharp shake to clear the negative thoughts, stood, and walked to his other self.

“Hi!” he stood across the table from the seated man and forced a smile on his face. “You’re not going to believe me, but-” Cliff was interrupted by a heavy sigh from the other him.

“Long lost twin or Zero?” he asked.

“I’m not your twin. I don’t know what a zero is, but I’m probably not that either,” Cliff said. The fact that his doppelganger seemed open to possibilities gave him hope. He sat down across from the man and leaned over the table. “It sounds impossible, but I’m you from an alternate universe.” The younger him laughed.

“That’s what a Zero is, dumbass,” he replied. “You’re my Zero, and I’m yours. So, let me guess,” he looked Cliff over. “You found yourself in this universe and you have no money, hmm? You need money to get back home to your universe?”

“Ye.. yeah! How’d you know?” Cliff’s excitement rose. “I know what I did wrong, and I can fix it so I’m not stuck any-” his explanation was interrupted.

“Yeah yeah, no thanks. It’s the oldest scam in the multiverse. I’m not giving you any money.”

“We’ll both be rich! Me in my universe, you here. I’m from a different universe! THIS IS HUGE!”

“Wait, you really think so?” he asked. Cliff nodded vigorously. “It’s mind-blowing! If you believed me, you’d be more excited too.” The younger man chuckled and a broad grin grew on his face.

“If you believe that, then I believe you,” he said. “Because no one that pulls that scam would get so hyped about it.” He stood, reached into the pocket of his jeans to grab something, then sat down again. “I’m not giving you any money, but if you’re serious about getting home, I’ll give you this.” He placed a black business card on the table. At least, it was the size, shape, and thickness of a business card; but, it looked like a solid, rectangular hole.

“What’s that?” Cliff asked.

“Free taxi ride,” the younger man shrugged. “I get more than I use, so you can have this one.”

“Taxi? To where?”

“Where are you trying to get to?” he asked. “Damn, for being me you’re kind of an idiot.”

“Do you understand that I’m from a different universe!?” Cliff asked sharply. The stranger laughed again.

“Do you understand…,” he said. “…that that was my first question to you? And I told you it was the oldest scam in the multiverse? You think you’re going to get rich because you can travel between universes?” He lifted the card from the table and threw it on the floor. It expanded to a five-foot black circle. “Do you really think you’re the first?” he asked.

“Taxi?” someone asked. Cliff turned toward the voice; a brown-haired teenage girl rose out of the black hole as if on an escalator.

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