After walking along the snowy road for two hours, Jerry spotted houses in the distance. Not only houses, but occupied houses; streams of black smoke billowed from several of them. The excitement gave Jerry a second wind and he ran towards the cluster of houses.
As he got closer, he noticed the temperature warming up and the snow disappearing. By the time he reached the nearest house, Jerry stood on a bright green lawn. All the other houses in the neighborhood also sported well-cared-for lawns. He took a deep breath to steady his nerves, then Jerry knocked on the door.
A mousey, middle-aged, blue-haired man opened the door. He gave Jerry a broad smile when he recognized the bright orange jumper that identified him as an Exile.
“Welcome, Exile! Come in, come in!” The stranger opened his door wider and stood aside to let Jerry enter. “My name’s Mundo, what’s yours?” the blue-haired man asked as Jerry took slow steps into the house.
“Jerry,” he answered while looking around Mundo’s home. The decor was sparse, but Jerry got the impression it was by choice, and not a lack of decorations. A coffee table rested next to a single leather recliner. On the other end of the living room, a 6′ sandbox was filled with soil. Though, Jerry did not see any plants. A large shallow hole took up most of the space in the sandbox.
“You hungry, Jerry? How about some food while we get you sorted? Pizza okay?”
“P-PIZZA!???” Jerry sputtered in surprise. “You can’t be serious.” Mundo laughed.
“Sorry, I forget what the Southern Hemisphere was like,” Mundo shook his head. “Don’t worry about it, pizza isn’t just for the rich here. The North is way better,” Mundo said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small rectangular pane of glass; it was about the size and width of a playing card. Jerry watched Mundo tap and swipe at the glass for a few moments. “Pizza’s ordered,” Mundo said when he was done.
“What’s that?” Jerry asked.
“This?” Mundo held up the glass. “This is a node, you’ll have your own by the time we’re done, but first we should talk about what you want to do next. Come on,” Mundo tilted his head, then walked to the kitchen. Jerry followed; the pair of men sat down at Mundo’s small, round table.
“What do you mean what I do next?” Jerry shrugged. “I was exiled. There’s nothing for me to do.”
“Wrong,” Mundo smiled. “You were exiled. There’s nothing you have to do. Which means you can do anything; you’re not bound to their rules anymore.”
“This isn’t what I imagined at all,” Jerry said. “The North is supposed to be a snowy wasteland. How do you have a nice house? How do you have food?” he asked. As if in answer to his question, a young, silver-haired girl appeared in Mundo’s kitchen. She hopped out of a tall black portal and smiled at Mundo.
“Pizza?’ she asked. He nodded. She set the pizza on the table then extended a hand to Mundo. He dropped a small golden cube on her palm; she closed it, then disappeared into the portal again with a “Thanks!”
“That girl and that pizza are from an alternate universe. While the South tries to keep itself rich, the North has established trade with multiple universes. That also means you don’t have to stay here if you don’t want to. We’ve been allowed to set up homesteads on different types of Earths. Everything from old-west to futuristic sci-fi. You’re welcome at any of them as long as you carry your weight.”