“Hello? Sammy?” Margaret answered her phone before the first ring finished. She sat on a park bench on a bright sunny day. She anxiously looked left and right every few seconds waiting for him to appear.
“Yeah, where are you?” Sam asked, though it was difficult to hear him. Wherever he was, it was noisy. “I’m here at the park but I don’t see you. I thought maybe you went somewhere to get out of the rain.”
“Rain?” Margaret asked. “Hold on.” She pulled the phone away from her ear, took a picture of the azure sky, then sent it to him. “It’s a beautiful day, I don’t know where you are,” she said.
“Huh,” Sam replied. A few seconds later Margaret received a picture of a grey downpour and the edge of a white umbrella.
“Did…,” Margaret hated the thought, but it was the only explanation. “…Did you lie to me? Have you been lying this whole time?” Sam sighed on the other end.
“No,” he said, though he suddenly sounded annoyed about something. “Crap, I didn’t expect this,” she heard him mumble under his breath. He went quiet, but she still heard him moving around as if he were looking for something on his phone and walking. “Yes!” he whispered excitedly but still remained quiet. His breathing picked up as if he was running.
“Hello?” she asked after a quiet minute.
“Yeah, yeah. Sorry.” he said through gasping breaths. “Okay, so. I’ll be there in a second. Um. This is going to be hard to explain, but I swear I didn’t catfish you. The pictures I sent you are me, but.. that’s not the me that’s going to show up.’
“What?” Margaret asked.
“I’ll explain when I get there. I gotta hang up. See you in a bit, bye.”
“What the hel-,” she started to curse to herself, then she heard her name.
“Margaret?” a low, gravelly voice said behind her. She whirled around and found a short, hairy, fat man wearing extremely baggy jeans and an old white hoodie. This wasn’t the tall, handsome, brown-haired man she was looking forward to meeting.
“Yeah,” she said with no enthusiasm; her anger at being catfished began to swell. “You’re Sam, I take it?” She crossed her arms and stared at the fat bearded man. Even though she was sitting she was still a bit taller than him.
He nodded and took a step toward her. Margaret immediately wondered if he was disabled somehow. His walk was unsteady and his knees moved oddly in his jeans. She leaned back and put her hands up.
“Don’t come any closer until you explain why exactly I haven’t been catfished,” she said. He stopped, nodded, then took a step back.
“Let’s start with the rain,” he said. “It was raining where I was, but it wasn’t raining here. Even though we were both in the same park.”
“Okay. Why was it raining there and not here?’ she asked.
“We were in the same spot in different universes. It just happened to be raining in mine.” Margaret narrowed her eyes.
“Different universes?” she asked. “And I suppose in your universe you look like the pictures you sent, but in this universe, you look like…,” she gestured at his short, bulky frame. “…a lie.” He laughed.
“As a matter of fact yes, kind of,” he said.
“I’m leaving,” Margaret stood up, but Sam put his hands up to stop her.
“Wait! I can explain! I’m not lying to you about anything, there’re just more steps to the truth than you thought.” She stopped walking but did not sit down again.
“I don’t care about the steps, I care about the truth. If the next sentence out of your mouth doesn’t explain why you’re not lying, I’m leaving,” she said.
“The only way I could get here on short notice was to use my AlterNet character; it’s a good thing your Earth is a server.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Margaret turned away and started walking.
“I’m a druid!” Sam dashed around to block her again. He made an upward motion with both his hands and rose bushes sprouted out of the ground around them. “Your Earth is a game server, and my character is a druid. A Faun druid, actually.” He pulled his white hoodie back to reveal a small pair of sprouting horns. “My body is on my Earth. I can visit here, or you can visit there, or we can visit any other Earth you want. I just need more time to arrange a taxi. The fastest way to get here now was to log in with my character.”
“Earth is… a game server?” Margaret asked. Sam nodded.
“This one is, luckily.”
“Does that mean I can make a character too?” she asked. Sam nodded.
“Of course! If you give me a couple of hours I’ll be back, in person, with everything you need to get started. In the meantime, you can start getting ready.”
“Okay! What do I need to do?” Margaret asked. She wasn’t entirely sure she believed him yet, but for some reason, she couldn’t decide he was lying.
“Start digging a hole in your backyard,” he said.
“How big?” Margaret asked. Sam shrugged.
“About the size of a grave I guess,” he smiled. Then, he stood still. His hairy face and body smoothed out to become a black, featureless mannequin. Then, it disintegrated into dust.