“Why so sad?” Tessa flinched at the sudden voice, but she did not look up from her misery. She recognized genuine concern in the strange woman’s voice and continued to sulk with her head down. She came to the park wanting to be alone and hoping the brilliant sunshine worked its magic to cheer her up. Tessa kept her head on her arms but turned her head just enough to give her mouth room.
“He dumped me for someone younger,” she mumbled to the stranger. In the back of her mind, Tessa suspected she’d be more guarded if a man was trying to chat her up while she cried her eyes out. Somehow, she found it extremely easy to chat to this stranger, probably because she didn’t know her. It warmed her heart a bit to know that people out there still cared. The world was essentially burning itself to the ground. Her failed relationship seemed unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but it was important to her. It meant a lot that a stranger was concerned enough to stop by and check on her.
“What an ass,” the stranger said. “Well, don’t worry about them. I just made their life more complicated, on your behalf,” the stranger giggled. “The question is, what are you going to do now that the Earth is ruined?”
“Huh!?” Tessa finally looked up. She gasped when she saw that the woman she’d been chatting with had a pair of bone-white horns spiraling out of her head. She panicked briefly, then remembered her guard had been down for several minutes already. If this horned woman wanted to kill her, she would have already. Instead, she asked why Tessa was crying. “You have horns!” Tessa felt obligated to comment on them but had nothing else to add, then she looked around the park. “What do you mean the Earth is ruined?” The woman smiled.
“My name is Ballisea. I usually conquer Earths, but you’ve made this one personal for me; I decided to try something fun. You know, out of spite,” Ballisea grinned. Tessa thought Ballisea’s claims were all at once unbelievable and entirely possible. Somehow she knew this woman was entirely serious.
“But… I live here…,” Tessa complained with the only defense she could think of. For whatever reason, this stranger took a liking to Tessa and she hoped to use it to her advantage.
“You shouldn’t,” Ballisea said. “The sun’s gone, and I think the change of scenery will be good for you.” Tessa looked up; the golden sun hung in the azure sky.
“Are we talking about the same sun?” she asked. Ballisea nodded.
“It takes about eight minutes for light to travel from the sun to Earth. In about 6 and a half more minutes you’ll get to see the sun disappear; then, you can go to any Earth you want.”
“How many Earths are there? What are my choices? How do I know what I want?” Tessa asked.
“If you try and limit your choice to what you think is available, you’re missing the chance to decide what you actually want,” Ballisea said. “There are infinite universes out there. If you can imagine it, it exists. You are an Estrella, you can travel to any universe your heart desires.”
“Can I find a version of him that loves me?” Tessa asked, then shook her head. “Of course, he’s probably already with a version of me.”
“There is no other version of you, Estrella,” Ballisea said. “But since you and Mundo are the only Uniques on this Earth I guarantee there are other versions of him out there. A word of advice though, Zeros are finicky. He might look, act, and sound like the man you loved. Trust me…,” Ballisea reached out and placed a hand on Tessa’s shoulder. “…he won’t be.”
“Why do you keep calling me ‘estrella’? Who’s Mundo?” Tessa asked. Ballisea rolled her eyes, though she managed to do it in a way that Tessa knew it wasn’t directed at her. It felt more like frustration with the situation.
“I’ll drop you near a Mundo on the next Earth; I hate giving the talk, it’s boring.” The two women sat quietly in the park for a moment while Tessa wondered what to talk about next. As she searched her thoughts, Tessa realized she wasn’t very concerned. She believed Ballisea 100% and had little doubts she would be walking on an alternate Earth within the next 10 minutes.
She wouldn’t mind leaving her job and coworkers behind. Ever since she could remember, Tessa did her best to stay disconnected socially. The one relationship she did try just ended horribly. The way Ballisea spoke made her feel like she’s been special all her life. She wondered if keeping her distance was done subconsciously for this moment. She was an only child and her parents were gone; she had nothing keeping her here. And she could go anywhere she wanted. The moment Tessa decided she was very okay with the way things are going, Ballisea spoke up. Tessa had no idea she’d been lost in thought for so long.
“It’s time, watch!” Ballisea said. Tessa looked up, though not directly at the sun. Tessa saw a black dot appear in the center of the sun in her peripheral vision. She watched it grow to envelop the sun. Within seconds the sun was gone and the bright blue sky turned black.
“You.. you did that!?” Tessa asked.
“I did,” Ballisea grinned. “Now I’m going to go watch the panic for a little while. Off you go,” Ballisea said. Before Tessa could say anything else a hole opened under the table and swallowed it whole along with her.