Author: Jenna Hanan Moore

What began as an ordinary morning walk with the dog did not remain ordinary for long. As usual, Thomas was oblivious to his surroundings. He didn’t notice the coolness of the breeze, the birds chirping, the pink and gold hue of the eastern sky, or the smell of the wildflowers.

Maggie, his golden retriever, was anything but oblivious. She didn’t care about the sunrise or the flowers, but her ears and nose drank in the sounds and smells of the birds and critters flitting about nearby. This path through the woods was her favorite walk.

When they reached the wooden footbridge near where the path curved towards home, a bright flash appeared in the sky, followed by a “whoosh!”

They stopped in their tracks. Maggie growled softly. Thomas looked at the sky. “Couldn’t be lightning. No thunder, and not a cloud in the sky.” He shortened Maggie’s leash. “Let’s go home. Maybe there’ll be something about whatever that was on the news.”

They crossed the footbridge and rounded the bend. Standing in the middle of the path was a sleek, black cylinder, about four feet high. A man dressed in silver stood beside it. “Your world will soon end. What will you do?”

“Excuse me?”

“Your world will soon end. What will you do?”

Thomas looked at Maggie. She’d stopped growling, and was wagging her tail at the stranger. He looked back at the stranger. “Who are you and how would you know a thing like that?”

“Pardon my lack of manners, but you haven’t much time and I didn’t want to waste any of it on pleasantries. My name is Aldous Alterian, and I saw your world end in a parallel universe.”

Thomas stared at the man, lost for words.

“I use Universe B62 for intergalactic travel. It physically parallels our own universe, but its laws of physics allow for travel faster than the speed of light.”

“That’s not possible,” Thomas stammered.

“It’s quite possible. I’ll show you.”

Aldous Alterian twisted a dial on the cylinder. Another flash, another whoosh, and they were in a spaceship with windows on all sides. To the left was a planet identical in appearance to Mars. To the right was the smoldering remnants of another planet.

Another twist of the knob, another flash, another whoosh, and they were back on the path through the woods.

“I discovered the time shift between universes on my last trip to your galaxy. I could explain, but you haven’t much time left. Do you really want me to waste it on the details of inter-universe temporal dynamics?”

“I guess not. How much time do we have?”

“That I cannot say. Could be months, could be weeks. It could be as much as a year or a little as a day. The important thing is to use it well. Will you do that?”

“I’ll try,” Thomas said.

“That’s all I ask.” With that, Aldous Alterian twisted the knob on the cylinder. A flash and a whoosh, and he was gone.

Thomas walked towards home, thinking of ways to make the world a better place. By the time he reached the house, his thoughts returned to the mundane tasks ahead of him. He abandoned his lofty plans, convinced they’d never work.