“Hello, neighbor,” Betty turned to see a young man in jeans and a t-shirt approaching her with a big grin on his face. He extended his hand once he was close enough. “Name’s Jorge, I just moved in next door.” Betty left her key on the door long enough to shake his hand.
“Betty,” she said. “Welcome to the building.”
“Thanks,” Jorge said. He noticed her white uniform with the name ‘Sharp Scoops’ embroidered in red on her sleeve. “So,.. uh.. what’s the scoop on the community here?” he grinned at his own joke. Betty smiled politely at the attempt; it wasn’t the worst one she’d heard.
“They’re friendly enough,” Betty said. “But most keep to themselves. It feels like a lot of time they only use this exit to go to work.” Jorge didn’t know what she meant, but he quickly realized she was coming home from work and probably tired.
“Oh man, I’m sorry. You’re probably dying to get in, and here I am chatting away,” Jorge chuckled to himself; he took a step back to hint that he was leaving. Before he could say anything else, Betty nodded.
“I’m pretty beat. If you’re not doing anything later come over around seven. You can meet my roommate and we’ll have some pizza and tell you more about the building,” she said.
“Yeah, that sounds awesome, thanks!’ Jorge nodded, then turned around to return to his apartment. Betty walked through the door and made a beeline to the couch to relax for a few hours.
At 7 p.m. on the dot, Jorge knocked on Betty’s door. She opened the door still wearing the same white uniform but looking much more chipper.
“Right on time, pizza just got here,” she said. She opened the door wider to invite Jorge in; the moment he stepped into her bright apartment, something felt off. He couldn’t pinpoint what it was at first. He noticed two pizza boxes stacked neatly on the counter by the kitchen; but, it was a restaurant he didn’t recognize. He’d never heard of Mundo’s pizza despite living in the area all his life.
“Thanks,” Jorge handed her a bottle of red wine once she closed the door.
“I forgot it was my roommate’s game night, so it’s just us,” Betty said. “But she’s looking forward to meeting you next time.”
“Me too,” Jorge said. Betty pointed him at the small round table and encouraged him to take a seat while she grabbed the pizza box and a couple of wine glasses. As she moved to the table, a stray sunbeam caught the light and flashed in Jorge’s eye. he blinked for a moment until it passed. He looked toward the balcony and noticed a golden sun hanging in a deep blue sky.
“What the hell?” he said aloud. Betty was about to sit down but stopped; hovering her bottom above the seat.
“What the hell what?” she asked. Instead of answering, Jorge stood up and walked to the glass door to peer outside. Betty stood and followed him.
“It’s 7 p.m. When I left my apartment, the sun was down.” Betty giggled.
“Well, that was in your apartment,” she said. “Out there it’s…,” Betty pulled out a small transparent rectangle and tapped the screen. “…3 p.m.”
“What? That’s not possible,” he said. Betty’s smile dimmed slightly.
“What’s your favorite number?’ she asked.
“What?” Jorge took his eyes off the blue sky to give her a confused look. “How is the sun out?”
“Huh.” Betty replied. “Well…,” Betty spun around to return to the table, but kept talking along the way. “…I’m not sure how you made it into the building, but you’ve got a lot to learn.” She sat at the table and gestured for Jorge to join her. After a moment, Jorge walked over and sat also.
“So, the short version is, each apartment is in a different universe,” Betty said as she grabbed a couple of slices from the box. Jorge did as well.
“How?” Jorge asked. He did not immediately believe her, despite the evidence. But, if she had a reasonable explanation, it would go a long way to convincing him. Betty shrugged.
“I couldn’t tell you, that’s all Sharp Development at work,” she said. “But, uh, I can prove alternate universes exist, if that helps?”
“It would,” Jorge nodded.
“Great,” Betty stood from her seat. “Let’s go back to your place.”
“Okay…,” Jorge was confused but he stood and followed her out of the apartment. He noticed for the first time that there were no windows in the hallway. She reached his door first, but he was right behind her with the key ready. He let her into his darkened apartment then turned on the lights. He glanced at the balcony and saw a full moon high in the sky. He felt a minor embarrassment at his mess of unpacked boxes, but there were other things going on.
Betty walked straight to the balcony and opened the sliding door to step out.
“Come on,” she said. “Pizza’s getting cold.” Jorge walked onto the balcony into the cool night air. Betty held up a pitch-black card.
“This is a traverse card,” she said then slid the glass door closed. She threw the card against the glass and it opened a tall black hole. “This is a portal,” Betty said. She walked through it without another word.
Jorge entered the portal and found a sunny day on the other side. As he got his bearings, Betty opened a glass sliding door. Once she went in, he realized they were now on her balcony and he followed her back to the table and to their slices of pizza.
“Whoa…,” Jorge said. He was trying to process everything. “I’ve been to another universe!” he said.
“Two,” Betty corrected him.
“Two?” he asked. She nodded.
“The hallway is on one Earth, and every apartment is in a different universe.”