“I don’t know what I did to deserve this…,” Scott stood on the front porch of the imposing house; it was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. The early 20s college student twirled the key in his hand to drag out the moment longer. “But, thanks Mrs. Scott,” he beamed a smile at the solid double-wide doors and inserted the key.
Scott was always polite to the old woman, but he never went out of his way to befriend her. He’d heard stories about how crotchety she was from others but he never saw it. He guessed it was because of their similar names. Scott made the assumption when he was six; and, he never bothered to correct it once he learned that’s not how names work.
“Whooooaaa…,” He never visited the inside Mrs. Scott’s house. He imagined dozens of doilies, tea cozies and pictures of cats. Scott did not expect a makeshift shrine to him. Dozens of his pictures, cut from different sources, lined the living room walls.
“What the hell?” Scott recognized his own brown curls in a soccer uniform. He recognized himself in another picture wearing football pads, a smile, and a black eye. He looked around at all the pictures of him participating in different activities. Some with trophies, but all with smiles. He went from picture to picture growing more confused. “… I never played sports,” he mumbled out loud. He was suddenly less positive about his inheritance.
Scott made his way to the kitchen; he was relieved to find a normal, big kitchen. The stove, dishwasher, and refrigerator all gleamed in brand new stainless steel. He saw a door and realized it must be the garage; he opened it and stepped into the dark room and felt around the wall for a light switch. The moment the lights came on, Scott’s doubts flared again; he came close to switching the light off and walking out of the house. He only saw three things, but they were enough to worry him.
The first thing that drew his attention was a large CRT TV. It looked to be a fairly small 32″ inch screen, but the TV itself was so large it was sitting on a rolling cart connected to a VCR. The next thing he spotted was digging tools: sledgehammer, shovel, and pickaxe.
The third thing was a shallow, empty grave dug in the garage. Someone broke through the cement floor to reach the ground and dug a six-foot-long trench. After a brief debate, Scott moved toward the TV. He noticed there was a tape in the VCR and he pushed it in; it played automatically.
“Hi Scott!” Mrs. Scott’s wrinkled face appeared on the screen. The old woman gave a playful sigh. “Well, I’m dead and you probably have some questions.”
“Let’s see,” the old woman pretended to give Scott an appraising look through the TV. “You came in through the front door and living room.” Scott nodded out of habit. He always felt like she liked having someone to talk to, so he often let her talk and nodded his head occasionally.
“I left the pictures up because I wanted you to see what I spent my life doing. You probably saw all those pictures of you and got confused,” Mrs. Scott said. Her lips grew into a broad smile. “You thought they were you.”
“What!?” Scott blurted out in surprise. He turned, intent on bringing a picture to show her proof, then caught himself and turned back around.
“They’re you, but not you,” she said. “They’re different versions of you, from alternate universes. After this tape, you can go look at the pictures again. Look at the date and newspaper of publication. You don’t have those papers on this Earth, and some of those dates haven’t even happened here yet. They’re all versions of you that I’ve met. Right about now, you’re wondering what an old lady like me is doing meeting alternate you’s.” Mrs. Scott smiled again, but it wasn’t as bright as the first time.
“When my Earth discovered alternate universes, it was amazing. Our technology, our world transformed almost over-night. Unfortunately, there are some things technology can’t fix. I lost my grandson when he was 9; his name was Scott,” despite the somber subject, she giggled.
“I think it broke me a little bit,” she said. “The world was changing too fast, and I couldn’t catch up. So I fled to a different Earth to try and start again. As it turns out I met another version of you, but your mom wasn’t my daughter. I watched him grow up and become a good man; it made me so proud that I wanted to do it again, and again.” A stray tear followed the wrinkles down her face.
“It’s almost kind of magical, really. I get to see you try and be good at so many different things. Every time I think I can’t be proud of you, I find myself surprised again. This is my last time doing this, so I’m giving you something special.” TV Mrs. Scott pointed at the digging tools in the garage.
“You were never into sports like some other versions of you; but, I found out you like video games.” She pointed downward at something below the frame.
“Check under the VCR, then go…” she pointed at the hole. “…over there. Alternate universes are real, and their video games are virtually real. Play with the node; it’s like a cellphone, you’ll figure it out. Lay down in the hole, and be ready for the best game you’ll ever play. I know you’ll be great at it and make me proud.” TV Mrs. Scott smiled and the screen went black.
Scott lifted the VCR and found a glass pane the size and thickness of a playing card. As soon as he touched it, the screen lit up.[Welcome to the AlterNet!]