Adam froze in place as he walked into the kitchen. He was so shocked at the pink-haired woman eating at his table that he dropped his empty mug. The shattering glass drew the woman’s attention and her eyes sparkled as soon as she saw him. She was an adult version of the young girl he remembered from his childhood. Pink ponytail and clear, sea-blue eyes. Though, this adult version of her had a small, red star tattooed on her cheek with the number 35 in its center.
“ADAM!” She hopped up from her seat, but Adam was shaking his head before she moved very far.
“NO!” he shouted with both his hands out in front of himself. He turned away from her and walked toward the pantry.
“What do you mean, ‘no’?” The woman pouted slightly but sat down at his table again. She resumed eating the bowl of cereal in front of her. Adam opened the pantry door with a heavy sigh. His broom and dustpan set hung on the door; he pulled them down and walked back to the broken mug. He started sweeping it up with his back to her.
For several minutes the only sounds in the kitchen were the sweeping of glass on tile and the woman’s crunching as she ate. He disposed of the glass, returned the broom and dustpan to their hook. He grabbed his box of plain cornflakes from the pantry before closing the door. He grabbed a bowl from the cabinets, spoon from the drawer, and milk from the fridge; but, he kept his back to her as much as possible.
He could not keep his back to her when he sat down at the table, but he poured his cereal and milk without saying a word or making eye contact.
“Cereal first? You’re doing it wrong,” the woman giggled. When she spoke, Adam couldn’t help but glance in her direction. He wanted to avoid acknowledging her but he noticed her bowl was full of a colorful, sugary cereal. Part of him felt better about that; it wasn’t a cereal he had in his house which meant she brought it from somewhere. It seemed ridiculous that someone would carry a box of cereal around with them so Adam took comfort knowing she was indeed still imaginary.
“Some of us aren’t children,” he replied. Adam decided there was no harm in some creative fantasizing as long as he kept himself grounded. She wasn’t real.
“And some of us know what life’s about,” she replied. Adam finally looked up at her properly; she grinned at him while taking another heaping spoon full of rainbow sugar in her mouth.
“So, tell me, Lyra. Why are you showing up again after 20some years?” Adam asked before taking a bite of cereal. Lyra swallowed, then sighed.
“It’s kind of embarrassing, but I want your help,” she said. Her clear eyes clouded over with slight guilt. “I know it’s horrible to show up again after so long just to ask for a favor; but, I also thought it’d be a good excuse to reconnect.”
“Reconnect?” Adam chuckled. “You’re not real; we were never connected.” Despite years of reminding himself that she never existed, Adam wasn’t ready for the very real hurt look she gave him.
“What?” she whispered; her eyes lost all clarity as they watered. “What do you mean I’m not real?” she asked. “You were my best friend!”
“You were my only friend…,” Adam said. “and no one ever met you.”
“I was shy.” Lyra defended herself.
“And that explains how you disappeared every time my parents wanted to meet you? How you always managed to get in my house without my parents answering the door. How you got in my house now, for that matter,” he said. Lyra’s mood flipped as quick as a light switch; she giggled and nodded.
“Kind of, yeah,” she said. “Looking at it that way,.. I’m sorry I was away for so long. There’s just so much out there! I wanted you to come explore with me, but I was too shy to talk to your parents. By the time I got over it I found a job and I didn’t have much time to reminisce anymore.”
“Okay. So explain it then,” Adam asked. He had no idea where “out there” was but he still assumed she was imaginary. He was curious enough to see how inventive his mind could be. “How does being shy make you disappear?” He took another bite of cereal. They seemed to be taking turns eating and talking.
“I didn’t know it then, but I can travel to alternate universes; I’m not even from yours. When we were younger I was only doing it subconsciously. Whenever your parents wanted to meet me I freaked out and went home.”
“Uhuh. So, pretending I believe alternate universes exist. You’re telling me you could travel between them at eight years old. Without any kind of machine or insane power draw?” Lyra nodded as she finished chewing her last bite of cereal. Neon pink milk was all that remained.
“Yep,” she reached over to grab the milk and added more to her bowl. “Pretty much like this,” Lyra wiggled her fingers at the air above it. A small, pancake-sized black hole opened and colored cereal rained out to fill her bowl; after she was satisfied, the hole disappeared. “Obviously, I can make portals big enough to walk through too.” Adam stared slack jawed for a moment. He had no idea what to make of what just happened, but he couldn’t deny it happened. His belief that Lyra was imaginary was based solely on those disappearing instances. If she had an explanation for them, that changed everything. He wasn’t ready to admit it yet and decided to change the subject to learn more information.
“And you need my help with what?” Lyra shook her head with a smile.
“I don’t need your help, but I do want it. Like I said, to reconnect. The company I work for, Sharp Development, is a multiversal corporation. My job is to visit Earths and get a feel for how ready they are for our products…,” Adam interrupted here.
“Those products being… cereal?” he asked in a playful tone. Lyra giggled and nodded.
“Those products being everything, including cereal. Basically, I’m supposed to make a recommendation whether an Earth can handle knowing about the rest of the multiverse. It’s insane how backwards some Earths can be about other cultures on their own planet, their heads would explode if they learned about everything.”
“And where do I come in?’
“I usually get a local to show me around,” Lyra said with a grin.