“Good Morning,” Dr. Fredrickson bowed his head as they did and returned the greeting. It wasn’t until after he said it that his groggy mind had a realization. “You speak English?” he looked at the small crowd of men and women trying to pick out the one that spoke. They all wore loose rags as loincloths and the women also wore bikini tops. Little more than what might be considered bathing suits in the civilized world.
“Sorry, no questions,” one of the women at the front of the group said. She gave him an apologetic smile. “All newcomers must meet Mundo; she will answer the questions we cannot.”
“Oh.. okay,” Dr. Fredrickson nodded at her. “Can I meet this mundo person then?” he asked. Considering the fact she answered in perfect English, he didn’t think his question was all that important anymore. The woman stepped away from the group and waved at them.
“I’ll take him to Mundo’s, you guys go ahead. I’ll catch up after,” she said. “C’mon,” she encouraged Dr. Fredrickson to follow her and she walked off the beach. He followed her in silence; not wanting to ask questions they already told him they couldn’t answer. He assumed she was leading him to her village. He expected palm huts and sand. His mind flooded with questions as soon as he saw the village; it looked like a perfect, idealized 1950s TV neighborhood. Small houses with neat yards and white picket fence. Several homeowners were in their yard tending to gardens or watering the grass. Many of them waved at his guide as they walked by.
Dr. Fredrickson was astounded that they wore comfortable, contemporary clothes, not at all like the first group he saw on the beach. He spotted overalls, sun hats, jeans and other modern clothing.
“Here we are,” she suddenly turned onto a walkway that led up to a large, pastel green house. She knocked once they reached the front porch, then she waved at Dr. Fredrickson and started back down the concrete path.
“Wait, that’s it?” Dr. Fredrickson asked. She nodded.
“She sleeps in sometimes. Just keep knocking every few minutes until she answers.
“Okay,…,” he replied. On his fourth round of knocking, an hour later, the door finally opened. A short, sleepy woman with messy short green hair opened the door and stared at Dr. Fredrickson for a moment, then she sighed.
“Hold on,” she said and shut the door. Almost five minutes later she opened the door again and this time she held her hand out to offer something to Dr. Fredrickson.
“This is a node,” she placed a small glassy rectangle about the size of a playing card in his palm. “It’s like a cellphone, but better. Learn how to use it. When it asks for your Unique number tell it you’re #34, El Soldado.” She placed a pitch black card on top of the node, no matter how he looked at the card it looked like a hole in reality.
“Think about your home universe then throw this on the floor or against a wall. Good luck,” she said then moved to close the door. Dr. Fredrickson blocked the door with his foot.
“Someone told me you would answer my questions,” he said.
“What?” she relaxed from pushing the door and narrowed her eyes at him. “Who did?” He shrugged.
“A group found me at the beach and she brought me here. The said you would answer my questions.”
“Ohhhhh,” Mundo said. “Are you shipwrecked?” Dr.. Fredrickson nodded. Mundo sighed again.
“Okay, hold on,” she shut the door again. When she opened it she handed him a clipboard with several forms on it.
“This island is considered private and top secret on this Earth. Either you stay here permanently, or you can choose another Earth to be moved to. Sign here,” she pointed at the bottom, “to indicate you understand. The next page is a list of available servers if you decide you don’t want to stay on the island.”
“There are other Earths!?” Dr. Fredrickson asked. He marveled at the concept the first time she mentioned ‘this Earth’. Mundo nodded.
“And I can pick one to move to!? What does it cost!?” Dr. Fredrickson had been looking forward to retirement for a few years now. He decided that this round of field research was going to be his last.
“Free,” Mundo shrugged. “We’re trying to keep a secret, we’ll gladly ship you off to another Earth if we don’t have to worry about you anymore.”
“I’m in,” Dr. Fredrickson said as he flipped the sheet over to the second page.