Sharp Tower

“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.”

Death & Spiders

“Have a good shift!” Betty stood by the sink putting the finishing touches on two cups of hot chocolate. She waved from the kitchen as Elsa stepped out the door, black cloak and scythe in hand.

“Thanks, see you in a bit,” Elsa replied and shut the door behind her. Betty blinked. Then, the apartment door opened again to admit a noticeably wearier Elsa. The ponytail she left with was gone; her hair was down to just past her shoulders. She wore the cloak and the long handle of the scythe dragged on the ground as she gripped it high on the hilt close to the obsidian blade.

“How long?” Betty asked and walked out of the kitchen holding both mugs. Elsa dropped the scythe. It sliced a thin, pitch-black gash in the air as it fell, then disappeared into its own portal. She collapsed on their couch and eagerly accepted the mug from Betty.

“I don’t even know,” Elsa blew on the chocolate to cool it down while she replied. “It could have been a month,” she shrugged. “It could’ve been a century.” She blew on the drink again. Betty giggled to herself as she sat down next to Elsa.

“Must’ve been a hell of a shift, you’re not even cooling it down with time,” she said, then took a big gulp of steaming hot chocolate. Elsa sighed and nodded.

“Chase said it gets easier to keep track; I hope he’s right,” Elsa blew on the mug one last time, then took a soft, slurpy sip. She closed her eyes and breathed a warmer, happier sigh. “Why is mine never this good?” Elsa asked, then slurped another sip.

“Secret ingredient,” Betty winked. Elsa rolled her eyes.

“You already know I’m Death, no fair keeping secrets,” she said.

“You didn’t have to tell me,” Betty playfully stuck her tongue out at Elsa. “I never would’ve noticed if you didn’t.”

“That’s why I told you,” Elsa sighed. She used her thumb to point at the front door behind them. “In and out just now; but that first week was miserable. I had to hide out in the library for eight hours to convince you I was at work,” she blew on the mug again.

“I don’t have the energy to cool down a cup of chocolate by a few minutes, much less fast forward another eight hours on top of my shift. Although…,” Elsa nodded. “…it was easier to tell you once I saw your tattoo.” Elsa held her left hand up showing the number 14 scarred into it to clarify which tattoo she meant.

Betty’s body was decorated with several tattoos that were all hidden under her clothes. Elsa asked her about it once and Betty explained that she liked to surprise anyone that got to see them. The specific tattoo that Elsa referred to was a spiny orbweaver spider inked on the outside of Betty’s right breast. It had the number 33 in black on its back.

“I hoped that after a whole year rooming together, you could trust me enough to give me your chocolatey secret,” Elsa sighed. Then, she stuck her tongue out at Betty to hint that it was a joke. Luckily, Betty laughed.

“If I tell you, you’re going to stop drinking it. Do you really want to give up something this delicious?” Betty took another gulp.

“Why would I stop drinking it?” Elsa asked. “It’s not like you’re putting spiders in it, or something,” she giggled. After a moment she realized she was giggling alone. Betty held an amused, “I’m not telling” look on her face.

“Right?” she asked for confirmation, then lowered the mug down to her lap when the answer didn’t come right away.

Well…,” Betty said. “…kind of?” she asked her answer.

“What do you mean, ‘kind of’? Are there spider bits in this hot chocolate or not?” Elsa wasn’t all that upset; she liked the drink enough to accept some unexpected extras. A as long as they were minimal.Fortunately, Betty noticed that Elsa wasn’t upset.

“When I learned I could summon spiders from other universes, I spent a lot of time trying to find different types. One day I was really hungry when I was practicing, and I kept thinking about snacks instead of spiders. Then,… this happened.” As she spoke a small, glossy, chocolate brown spider crawled out of her ear. It crawled onto her face, then toward her lips, and into her mouth. She started chewing on it with a smile.

“I found chocolate spiders.”

Elsa narrowed her eyes at Betty while she processed the situation. She glanced down at the mug in her lap, then back to Betty.

“How much?’ Elsa asked. Betty shrugged.

“Not counting the milk and cinnamon… all of it.” Elsa sighed.

“Yeah, okay,” she lifted the mug up and blew on it some more.