“I don’t hate you,” a woman said behind Aaron. The sudden voice startled the mid-30s businessman; he thought he was alone on the bridge. It was 3 a.m. and the streets were dark and deserted. Aaron turned to find a tall, pale woman walk into the pyramid of light cast by the lamppost. A pair of bone-white horns twisting out of the top of her head drew his attention.
“Who are you?!” Aaron asked. He tried to take a step back but bumped into the guard rail. The stranger sighed and a faint look of disappointment flashed across her face.
“You don’t know me?” she asked with mock-offense. Aaron shook his head. “My name is Ballisea, I want you to tell everyone you meet about me,” she said.
“Pffft, yeah,” Aaron chuckled. “Like I’m gonna meet anyone. Sorry, lady. If you want someone to spread your name around, I’m the wrong guy,” he shrugged. “The universe hates me, no idea why.”
“I don’t hate you,” Ballisea repeated. “What makes you think I do?” she asked. Aaron burst out into chuckles.
“So you think you’re the universe? You’re nuttier than me!”
“Obviously I’m not this universe,” Ballisea said. “But this universe can’t walk and talk. As someone on equal footing with your universe, I can confidently say: I don’t hate you.”
“Uhuh.” Aaron narrowed his eyes at Ballisea. This universe? So there’s more than one?” he asked. Ballisea answered with a curt nod. “And you’re on ‘equal footing’ what does that mean?” Ballisea raised a hand to gesture at the dark, star-dotted sky.
“All the energy out there in your universe, all life in the universe,” she lowered her hand and poked his chest. “Your soul is a drop in the bucket, an infinitely tiny speck of the energy that makes up a universe,” Ballisea smiled. “My soul is an entire universe.”
“Prove it,” Aaron said. The blurted demand was part joke, part skepticism. All he wanted to do was contemplate suicide alone in the dark; now, he had to deal with a possibly insane woman whose horns looked dangerous if not real. A part of him hoped she’d leave when she couldn’t prove her claims. Ballisea gave a half-shrug.
“How?” she asked. “I can do almost anything, but I don’t know what proof you’re looking for.” Aaron realized she had a point. How does one prove they are a universe? He decided to focus on something she could fail at proving.
“Other universes,” Aaron said. “You mentioned other universes, can I see one?” Ballisea nodded and was about to speak, but Aaron interrupted her. “Wait! No! Myself!” he blurted. “If there are other universes, then I have a doppelganger out there, right? Show me him.” Ballisea waved a hand at the ground and it changed.
The white, dirty sidewalk that ran along the bridge disappeared. A hole that looked out onto a blue sunny sky replaced the concrete.
“That’s a different universe, but I cannot show you a doppelganger because you don’t have one.”
“Yeah, that’s convenient,” Aaron nodded. “And I suppose this isn’t a real portal, just what a portal looks like,” he stepped on the portal to try and prove it wasn’t real, then fell through. He landed on his behind on soft, warm sand. Ocean waves soaked his tennis shoes and the bottom cuffs of his jeans.
“No, the portal is real,” Ballisea said. She was somehow still standing next to Aaron despite him now being in a different universe. “You don’t have any other versions out there because you’re something called a ‘Unique Soul’, number Six, specifically. If I were inclined to guess, I’d say that’s why you’ve felt like you’ve had a hard time.”
“Felt like it!?” Aaron grumbled as he stood from the sand. He had several questions about what she said, but he despised the notion that his perspective was the problem. “People hated me plain and simple. No mistaken feelings there.”
“Hate takes too much effort. If you dislike someone, why waste more time and energy on that person?” Ballisea smiled at Aaron. “The universe doesn’t hate you any more than you hate a single, individual blood cell. It doesn’t even consider you at any point.”
“What about you?” Aaron asked. “You’re here, you considered me.” Ballisea smiled.
“An accident. I started conquering your Earth when I heard your complaint, and I’m partial to Unique Souls. There’s nothing left for you there, so I brought you somewhere better,” she spread her arms to gesture at the beach. “Find a Mundo if you have any questions,” Ballisea said. “Good luck.” A black hole swallowed her, head first, before Aaron could ask any other questions.