Author: Glenn Leung

“I’m sorry, what?” I gave the man my ‘I don’t believe you, but I’m intrigued’ face.

“Perhaps I should use visual aids,” said the man as he set his drink down. He proceeded to grab a napkin from the counter and whip out a pen from his shirt pocket. In quick strokes, he drew two lines from the same point but at an angle to each other.

“See this line? Just imagine it’s nicely lined up with the bottom. That’s your world. This other line, is my world.”

I looked at his sketch with interest. They were rather straight for a man who has had three stouts. He drew a third line down the vertical of the napkin, slowing the pen as he crossed the first two.

“Now, see your world cuts this vertical line at a right-angle, correct? And my world cuts it at a smaller angle. Tell me, which line is longer between the starting point and the vertical?”

I put down the tray I was holding and leaned over the counter. I am always looking for good stories to share with the kids.

“The line that is your world?”

The man slammed his pen down victoriously.

“You got it!”

I looked up at his drowsy eyes and crooked smile.

“I really don’t.”

He laughed as he swayed in his seat, shaking his head.

“Of course! Details! These lines…are timelines!”

I thought it best to remain silent. It was clear that he had a mental script developed after many explanations.

“Our worlds started out from the same Big Bang, following nearly parallel paths in time save for a small angle. Some call them quasi-parallel universes. The angle is much smaller than what I drew here, so we’ve only gained a hundred years on you since the birth of the Multiverse.”

He took a gulp of his drink and looked at me expectantly.

“And the vertical line?”

“Ah!” another gulp. “The slider of perception. It moves along the direction in time some call the Entropy Axis. Your world’s a rare one because it’s exactly along its path, so time passes at the same rate entropy in the Multiverse increases. For my world, time passes a little faster. It is small enough so you wouldn’t notice though.”

He finished that sentence along with his beer. I handed him a glass of water which he swallowed a little too quickly.

“So…’cough’, you…’cough’, got it?”

“I think so,” I said as I wiped up his mess. “You’re from the future, just not my future.”

He gave me a thumbs-up before unceremoniously coughing into his sketch. Most bartenders would have left the man to his fantasies by now, but he gave me a feeling I just couldn’t shake off. Was this curiosity or just boredom?

“So, what brings you to our world?”

“To get away from it all,” his expression had suddenly become more solemn. “There’s nothing but conflict and strife in mine. Honestly, if you all don’t do something soon, it will be your future too.”

The chatter and music in the bar came more into focus after those words. We looked at each other in silence, the cheer gone from his face for several seconds before making an unannounced return.

“Ha! Look at me drowning the mood. You’ve still got some time, buddy! Live on strong!”

I never saw the man again after that night, but I will not be forgetting him any time soon. Whenever I read the news, the drawing on the napkin comes up clear as day.