“These are totally awesome! I have to get them.”
I pulled the dark metal goggles off the shelf and quickly slipped them over my eyes. The lenses were murky from dirt and grime, but it did nothing to stop me from clearly looking awesome.
Amber Bunn clearly didn’t agree. “You’re such a weirdo, Jen.”
I pulled the goggles off my head and looked at the yellow sticker taped to the right frame. “3.00,” it said in a hastily penned script.
“I got to get these, Amber. They’re totally awesome.”
“Yeah, whatever. Let’s go. We got a party to get to.”
Amber and I walked to the scruffy haired guy with a glass eye that ran the place. I handled him three crinkled bills out of my pocket. He just grunted at me. I took that as a ‘thanks for your business’ and followed Amber out the door.
A blast of cold air hit me as we passed through the door. It was April in Springfield, but it felt more like February. I pulled the zipper on my jacket tight and huddled under it as we waited for the bus to make its rounds to us.
Amber shook her head at me as I shivered beside her. “You never dress for the weather. You’re going to freeze to death some day.”
“I thought it would be w-warmer,” I said.
She reached in to her purse. It wasn’t really a purse so much really. More like a miniature duffel bag. Everyone else I knew carried some kind of micro-mini handbag or just kept their money and junk in their pockets. Not Amber. She liked having everything but the kitchen sink with her.
She rooted around in the massive bag for several long seconds. Just as I began to worry that some small ravenous creature hidden inside the purse may have devoured her hand, she pulled it free. She held a long white scarf, marked with red highlights on each end.
“Here, where this. It will keep you from freezing your ass off too quickly.”
I gladly accepted the scarf and wrapped it around my neck. I scrunched my neck down so it could cover my ears as well. My short scruffy hair was still exposed to the freezing temperatures, but I still felt warmer with the scarf in place.
We waited there several minutes. Amber chatted about some boy she planned to stalk at the party and what she wanted to do with him. It was nothing I hadn’t heard before.
I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and prepared for a long wait.
I opened my eyes. Suddenly Amber was gone and the temperature was at least twenty degrees warmer. Grass bloomed through the cracks of the sidewalks as I watched the bus race down the block towards the stop. It moved way too fast as it approached me. I stepped forward to make sure the driver knew I was waiting. It didn’t slow down. It whisked past me, going at least sixty or seventy miles per hour. I started to curse at the bus.
The explosion knocked me flat on my ass. Fire rained down from the sky as bits of the bus came down. I watched it all in shock as the vehicle I could have been on burned to nothing before my eyes.
I coughed on smoke. It burned my eyes. I blinked to try to clear them.
I was back on the corner. Amber stood over me. I could see the confusion in her eyes as she looked at me.
“You all right?”
“I was just talking and you decided to fall flat on your bony ass. Are you okay?”
I nodded. I checked my body for signs of the explosion. Ash, soot, anything. But it wasn’t there. It was like it never happened.
I knew it wasn’t a dream. Nothing that real could have been a dream.
“Get up,” Amber said. “The bus is on its way.”
“I-I don’t think we should get on the bus.”
“What are you talking about? You’d rather stand out here and freeze to death?”
“I don’t know. I just got the feeling something’s wrong on the bus.”
“Oh girl! You’ve been out in the cold too long. Come on. You can warm up on the bus.”
She grabbed me by the hand and dragged me towards the bus sign. As it approached, the bus slowed down and came to a stop as it always did. I saw no sign of trouble. Amber pulled me aboard.
I yelped in fear which caused the bus driver to look at me like a freak. Considering his enormous egg shaped frame and the eight teeth in his mouth, I don’t think he had a leg to stand on in the freak fight. Still, I very quietly boarded the bus, paid with my pass, and followed Amber to a pair of seats in the back.
I normally would crack a joke about Amber being the only black girl willing to sit at the back of a bus, but I wasn’t in much of a joking mood at that point. The image of the bus exploding only a few hundred feet from me sat etched in my brain.
“What is wrong with you? You’re acting like you’ve seen a ghost or something.”
“Or something,” I said.
Despite my misgivings, the bus traveled its normal route without incident. We reached the downtown transfer station, gathered our transfer tickets, and headed to the connecting bus that would take us to the party. Amber didn’t say much and neither did I.
As our second bus departed the station, Amber decided to become chatty again. “Why couldn’t Zeke gives us a ride to this anyway?”
Ezekiel Bradley was my boyfriend. He was a year younger than me, but towered over my five feet two inch frame by well over a foot. He probably wasn’t much to look at for most girls, but his sense of humor and undying affection towards me made up for it.
And he hated to be called Zeke.
“He’s working late tonight at Family Video. Doesn’t get off ‘til nine. He said he would meet us there after work and give us a lift home whenever we’re ready.”
“As if. I don’t plan on going anywhere tonight accept for a certain hunk’s bedroom.”
“You’re such a slut.”
“And you’re jealous.”
As much as it annoyed me, I was. Ezekiel and I only started dating three weeks before. I didn’t learn until a week ago that Zeke was a virgin and wanted to “wait for the right moment”. Never in my life had I ever had to wait for the guy to jump in the sack.
I loved him, but I was getting frustrated. Old Vi hadn’t got this much of a workout since the week after I bought him in my sophomore year of art school.
“Maybe a little,” I admitted. “Anyway, I think tonight might be the night we actually hook up for real.”
Amber smirked. “Girl, that’s awesome!”
“Don’t you know it.”
Even though it was only approaching six, the cloudy sky above us made it seem much darker. I didn’t let the gloom bring me down as I stared vacantly out the window and waited for us to reach our destination.
I closed my eyes and thought of Zeke.
I sat in a strange bed. I realized with a start that I was nearly naked. My scarf sat neatly tied around my neck. Both folds fell down my front and covered up at least some of my naked form. I felt the tightness of the goggles around my head as well. When I reached up to grab them, I realized they were bound against an iron bed frame.
“Jenny, Jenny, Jenny, how good to see you again.”
The voice seemed to come from nowhere. The lights were bright in the room, but outside the bed, my body, and the mirrors that covered every wall, I seemed to be alone.
“Who are you? What is this?”
“I see. I see. I’ve caught the wrong Shifter, have I? You barely even know who you are yet, I think.” He sounded male, but the voice was slightly distorted, perhaps through a machine. I couldn’t be sure.
The voice clicked off. I searched the room in panic for the source of the voice, but I could find nothing.
“This won’t do. I can’t well kill you before I meet you. Even in our realm that could pose certain…dangers.”
“Please, just let me go. I don’t even—”
“Shut up, temptress. Just shut up!”
The room fell dark around me.
I jumped from my seat as I felt something on my arm. I quickly realized it was Amber waking me up.
“Come on, girl. We’re here.”
I shrugged off the strange dream and climbed up out of my seat. The bus driver looked back at us. From the look at his face, I could tell he was tired of waiting for us.
I hustled off the bus and towards a three bedroom house on the edge of the ghetto. Amber ran ahead of me and knocked on the door. Even over a dozen yards away; I could already hear the steady drum of hip hop from inside.
Amber disappeared inside as I was still on my way to the door. Her potential new man was on her mind now. She and I both knew I would just be dead weight slowing her down.
By the time, I did make it inside I could tell the party was off to an early and wild start. Though it was only a little past six, the house was already nearly full. Beer flowed freely from a keg in the back of the living room.
I pushed my way through the throng of dancers and headed straight for the beer table. With the level of energy around me, I began to wonder if this party would even still be going by nine when Ezekiel arrived. At this level, I could see the cops being here by 7:30 at the latest.
I tried not to focus on that thought as I reached the kegs. An utterly wasted blonde guy was serving up from the tapped keg. He wasn’t quite sloshed enough to spray the alcohol everywhere, but he wasn’t having much luck getting it all in the plastic cups. I waited impatiently for him to fill my drink.
He handed me the cup. “Yoush alone tonigh’, baby?”
I shook my head and walked away before I could hear any of his drunken attempts at a pick up line.
I kept to the edges of the room to avoid the dancers as Fat Joe mixed in to P. Diddy. The dancers didn’t lose a step, but I tried to ignore them as I tried to find a path away from them.
I finally stumbled around the kegs and into a small dining nook. The nook connected directly to a kitchen where several couples had moved to make out. I ignored them and went for the fridge.
My hope to find some food was quickly dashed when I found it already ransacked. I closed the fridge door with a sigh.
“There you are!”
Amber came charging at me with a hug.
“Hey, I said.”
“Look I have a big favor to ask you.”
“There’s this weird goth chick hanging around Jess today and I need you to run interference.”
“Yeah,” Amber said. “You know. The hunk.”
“I wasn’t aware he had a name.”
“This is serious! He’s clearly not interested but this pasty faced diva won’t back off at all. I need to get in and make my move, y’know?”
“I know. I’ll go have a chat with her. You go find your hunk.”
Amber squealed as she hugged me again. “You’re the best, Jen. I owe you big time.”
“You owe me big time several hundred times over. Just have fun. I’ll take care of this girl.”
Amber pointed me towards the hunk and his female protector. She wore a heavy sweater and a pair of bell bottoms, both jet black. The black made her alabaster skin stand out even more. The garish mop of purple hair on her head and her matching lipstick were the only hints of color on her body.
I took a deep breath and headed over to talk to her.
The crowd seemed to part as I made my way towards her and Amber’s would be boy-toy. Her back was to me as she seemed to survey the crowd. She really did seem like a bodyguard as she stuck close to Jess and scanned the room.
She turned towards me just as I reached them. She gave me a sly grin. She struck me as very familiar, yet I knew I had never met this woman before in my life.
“It’s about time you showed up,” she said. “You are Jennifer Evers-Werth, aren’t you?”
“No one’s called me that in years,” I said. “I dropped the hyphenation when I was eleven, after my Mom dis—”
I stopped short. The woman met my eyes and would not release them.
“Disappeared,” she said. “I’ve heard this story before. I need you to come with me before it is too late for your timeline.”
“My timeline? What are you talking about?”
She grabbed me by the arm. “Just come with me.”
She pulled me away from the crowd. Despite her skinny frame, she surprised me with her strength. She quickly shifted me towards a door at the back of the house.
Panic mode set in. I turned and waved at Amber, the fear clear on my face. But she was already moving in on Jess. She gave me a smile and a wave before her attention turned to lover boy.
“Let go of me!” I yelled, but my words seemed to fade away from me as we walked.
The lights twisted around me. Darkness suddenly engulfed me.
We suddenly stood in an empty field. The sky was a radiant blue and the grass was green and vibrant.
“You’re already able to sense it,” she said. “You’ve already started shifting involuntarily, haven’t you?”
“Shifting? What are you talking about? Who are you?”
She laughed. “You really don’t recognize me?”
I looked at her face and it finally dawned on me. Her eyes were straight and her hair was a little too long, but I realized why she looked so familiar.
She looked like me. Or me if I was white, at least.
“How? Are we related or something?”
“Something,” she said. “You’re not going to believe this. I know I didn’t when I first met another one. But my name is Jenny Evers-Werth, only most people know me as Jenny Everywhere.”
“You have my name, but how—”
“More than your name, Jenny. I am you. Or you’re me. Whatever. Did you ever study quantum mechanics?”
“The universe is a vast place, but it isn’t the only universe. Decisions and changes big and small create an infinite series of alternate universes where things play out differently than your base line reality. Every once in a while someone learns how to break their way through the fields that separate each dimension. But you and I and all the alternate Jennies across the multiverse are different. We can shift just by will power. We can take anything or anyone in close proximity with us.
“The Jenny that found me called us Shifters. Usually it takes another Jenny to show a Jenny how to do it. But you’re a rare breed. You shifted on your own.”
I shook my head. “I’m not sure I understand. Are you telling me that you are me? Just a me from another dimension where I happen to be a white goth chick?”
She nodded. “It’s a strange incongruence of all us Shifters. Thousands of us exist in all colors, makes and models. It’s like it doesn’t matter who our parents are. Invariably one will vanish and we will start down the path to becoming a Shifter.”
“So you’re white girl Jenny and I’m black-white-Asian mutt Jenny?”
“So this shifting thing; I’m not saying I believe it, but how does it work?”
The other Jenny laid her hand on my shoulder. “Close your eyes,” she said.
I closed my eyes.
“Now think about being somewhere else. It can be a thought of somewhere you’ve been before or someplace you’ve only seen in your dreams or imagination. Think about it and visualize both of us there.”
I nodded, even as the perfect place appeared in my mind.
“All right, open your eyes.”
I opened them and we were back in Springfield, right in front of a massive tree nestled in the corner of the Lincoln historic area. I ran my hands over the heart carved in the tree. I smirked at the “JE & PI” I left in the tree when I was only fifteen.
“You can go anywhere you want,” the other Jenny said. “But there’s one condition. You can never shift inside one dimension. It just won’t work. A few Jennies have managed it, but it nearly destroyed their bodies in the process. Any that lived only did so for a few hours after at best.”
“So I can’t just use this to teleport to Abu Dhabi?”
“You can,” she said. “Just as long as it’s not the Abu Dhabi in your baseline universe. There’s an infinite number of Abu Dhabis out there. Your power will naturally take you to one in a nearby dimension.
“Crazy,” I said. “I never imagined—”
“Not even once.”
I thought back to my childhood. I remembered all the dreams I once had. Dreams of adventure, dreams of visiting strange lands, dreams of discovering new worlds. All those dreams seemed to be laid before me.
The other Jenny pulled a pair of goggles out of her pocket. Hers appeared a bit darker and a bit older than my own. She pulled the dark belt from around her waist as well, and for the first time I noticed it was more of a scarf.
She smiled as she put them both on. “One thing we all seem to have in common is our fashion sense too,” she said. “Keep those goggles and that scarf close. You will find they both come in handy some day.”
She patted me on the shoulder. “Good luck, Jenny. Be safe.”
“Wait! You’re just leaving. I thought maybe you could tell me about some of your adventures.”
She shook her head. “My adventures are my own, just like yours will be yours. It’s time to live the adventures yourself, Jenny, not just absorb them from others around you.”
“I knew you would.” With one last grin, the other Jenny disappeared.
I already missed her, but I knew in my heart she was right. It was time for me to live and to maybe finally find the answers about what happened to mom all those years ago. Or maybe to run in to the creep that tied me to that bed.
With a grin of my own, I closed my eyes and was gone.
The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.