“Good morning,” a pleasant voice followed by a loud metal clang pulled Cesar out of his sleep. He woke with start, then sat up on the uncomfortable cot facing the ruckus. A short broad woman with a tight chestnut bun atop her head wiggled an aluminum clipboard close to the cell’s bars. “Congratulations, your story checks out,” the woman said. She put her hand on the bars and pulled the cell door open. “You’re a free man,” she said.
Cesar didn’t jump to his feet right away. He briefly wondered if each of his friend’s story checked out too; before they went missing.
“I can go home?!” Cesar asked. He finally stood from the cot with a tall stretch. His 6’4″ frame towered over the short woman.
“Not exactly,” the woman replied. She stepped back to give Cesar room to step out of his cell. “You’ve stumbled into some major secrets; this is top level stuff that we can’t risk the public knowing about.”
“So, I’m not free, I’m just in a bigger cell?” Cesar asked. He appraised the stocky woman. She looked like she could give him real trouble before he knocked her out. If Cesar was going try an escape; knocking her out would be his first priority.
“Follow me,” she said. She walked to the door, scanned a card, then opened the door and walked through. Cesar was right behind her.
“We’re not bad guys, Mr. Lopez. I’m sure you’ve heard all sorts of rumors but you are safe here,” she said while she led him through several narrow hallways.
“Yeah, my buddies disappearing is just a rumor,” Cesar grumbled internally. He continued to follow her hoping she’d lead him to where his friends were being held. He had no idea if they were still on the premises, the last one disappeared months ago. She led him to an office door and walked in. The name on the door and on the desk plaque said ‘Alicia Johnston’.
“Have a seat,” she gestured at the chair then sat behind the small desk. “You’ve discovered something we don’t want getting out. Short of killing you, which we won’t do, the only way we’d be comfortable letting you go is by sending you somewhere our secret doesn’t matter.”
“This Earth is one of many,” Alicia said. “The people in charge like the way things are going. To avoid you blabbing about the outside world that isn’t there, we just have to send you to a different Earth. Luckily you have a large variety to choose from.”
“You can send me to an alternate Earth?” Cesar asked in disbelief.
“Whichever one you prefer,” Alica said. She placed a photo album on the desk between them, then opened it to the first page. It looked like a flyer for a renaissance fair. A large castle sat in the center of the sheet surrounded by different pictures of knights, wizards and dragons.
“This one’s been popular with the snoops that’ve been coming through here lately,” Alicia said.
“Wait. You’ve sent others to different Earths too?” Cesar asked. Alicia nodded.
“Of course. You don’t think you’re the first one that’s snuck onto the base because of curiosity do you? You won’t be the last I’m sure.”
“And you’ve sent them all to different Earths? Can you tell me which one my friends went to?” Alicia shrugged.
“I don’t know who your friends are, and I’m not allowed to give out any information about previous clients. But like I said,” she tapped the picture of the castle. “This one has been popular lately. Lately being about six months.”
“Alright, I’ll take it. So, what now? Do I have time to go home and pack?” Cesar asked. Alicia shook her head and wiggled both sets of fingers at Cesar.
“No time, you’re already there,” Alica smiled as Cesar felt the floor disappear from under his chair. He and it fell straight down; he landed on a hill side of soft green grass. In the distance he spotted the same castle from the photo album.