June 21, 2021 You wake up a normal summer day. Everything feels normal until you check the date. 32.07.2021.
Oz felt relief wash over him now that Ballisea was gone. He relaxed and finally took a moment to take in his surroundings. Minutes ago, he was at a park on his home Earth. It was a cool December day; but, now he could feel sweat beading on his brow. He was now at the same park on an alternate Earth. The trees lining the park path had a slight blue tint to them. Now that he could appreciate the differences of a new Earth without running for his life, he wanted to take advantage of it.
“Why’s it so hot?” Oz asked Astra. She shrugged.
“I dunno. It’s a hot day, I guess?” she said.
“In December?” Astra shook her head and pulled something out of her jeans pocket. Oz had seen plenty of technology while in training; but, Astra was tapping and swiping at a card-sized pane of glass. It was more advanced than any of the advanced phones his organization used.
“It’s July,” she said. “I think.” She showed the small display to Oz and he saw the date: 32.07.2021.
“But..it was December a little bit ago…,” Oz asked. Astra smiled and nodded.
“Yeah. On our Earth,” Astra said. “That doesn’t mean it has to be December here. Winter on our Earth doesn’t have to be winter here, and time is just humans keeping track of things. Each Earth starts doing that at different times in different ways.”
“Oh boy… I need to sit down,” Oz replied. He moved to the nearby wooden park bench. “I was not ready for today.” Astra giggled and joined him. Ben padded behind her and sat on his haunches by her feet.
“When traveling the multiverse it helps to just kind of go with the flow,” Astra said. “I mean, I wasn’t expecting to get kidnapped today either, you know? Things happen.” Oz chuckled
“You’re not going to let that go, are you?” Astra smiled and shook her head.
“Not yet,” she said. Oz nodded and returned the smile.
“So. Time is different on every Earth. What else do I need to know?” He looked around the park again. A part of him was hoping to see whether humans from this Earth were any different. But, as scenic as the blue trees were, the park was empty.
“You’re going to need a Mundo to give you the talk,” Astra replied.
“What’s a moon-doe?” Oz asked.
“Mundos are Uniques that usually love to explain the truth of the multiverse.” Oz nodded.
“What’s a Unique?” Astra sighed but smiled.
“Okay, I’ll give you the lite version. Most people you meet are known as ‘Zeros’,” she said.
“Yeah, Ballisea called me that; what does it mean?”
“It means you’re worthless,” Ballisea’s voice echoed around them with a light laugh. Oz froze. But, Astra put a hand on his shoulder to put him at ease.
“Oh yeah. That’s something you need to know; she’ll almost always hear her name. No matter what universe you’re in.” Oz instantly decided he’d try to avoid speaking her name again.
“But, it doesn’t mean you’re worthless,” Astra said. “It’s what we call alternate universe doppelgangers. Unique Souls have no Zeros. I am Unique Soul #35, La Estrella,” she said. Then, she clarified when Oz’s brow crumpled in confusion. “It’s ‘star’ in Spanish. No Zeros means I’m the only me in all of infinity.”
“#35? How many of you are there?”
“There are 54 types of Unique Souls, but I’m not the only Estrella.”
“Can they all travel between universes like you and…” Oz gestured at the empty park path in front of them to avoid using Ballisea’s name. Astra shook her head.
“The 54 Uniques are separated into six tiers. I’m not going to go into all that; but, the top tier is a group of Uniques called Celestials. Those are the ones that can Traverse universes.” Oz had a sudden insight and then turned to focus on the large white wolf sitting patiently next to Astra.
“Animals can be Unique too?” he asked. Astra nodded and reached over to pet it.
“Ben is Unique Soul #33, La Araña. The spider.” Ben chuffed at Oz, then dozens of small, moving, black dots appeared in his fluffy white fur and began crawling around like fleas. “La Araña can summon spiders from other universes through their pores and control them.”
“But what about that giant one that appeared behind me?” Oz asked. Astra pointed at the park path. Oz turned and noticed a horizontal, saucer-sized portal hovering three feet above the ground, then placed a hand on Ben’s head. The portal rained out half a dozen black widow spiders onto the cobblestones. After a moment, a portal appeared under them to swallow them again. “We can use our powers together,” Astra explained.
The sudden sound of footsteps distracted Oz from his next question. He turned toward the sound and was slightly disappointed to see a normal human jogging their way.
“Morning!” the stranger smiled and waved as he jogged by. “Happy Sun day!”
“Happy… Sunday,” Oz replied. “It is the best day of the week,” he added. The stranger slowed and turned back to them, then grinned.
“Traversing, huh?” Oz turned to Astra in surprise, and she nodded at the stranger. “Sun day only comes around once a year here. Ballis 7th, is when we celebrate the Sun with a giant festival in town. If you’re not rushing through, you should give it a look.” Oz tilted his head.
“Ballis 7th?” he thought back to the date on Astra’s device. “It’s not July?” The stranger chuckled and shook his head.
“Not with this heat it’s not. Around here, Ballis is the 32nd month of the year.”