But some people think it’s the most exciting trip you can take. The Hendersons down the street took the whole family last summer, kids and all, on a tour of three different universes. That seems like child abuse to me, but it’s a free country. Marsha Henderson said it was ‘educational’. I’d rather just watch a documentary about it on T.V.
They’ve figured out that the other universes, at least the ones people can get to, are fundamentally the same. They say that we all started as one plane, then some particular thing happened here but it didn’t happen there, and poof! Another branch on the universe tree. As time went by, every subtle difference going back though history led to greater and greater differences between the planes. They say that some of the atmospheres in the other planes would be deadly to people from here. The trip through the rift does something to you though, and basically turns you into whatever people are over there. Also, not something that appeals to me that much. I’d like to keep my organs exactly where there are. There are plenty of places to visit here in this plane, I say.
“That sucks,” is all I say to this guy, though. I’m not sure if he even hears me.
“And once you get though the rift, the bastards at immigration are no walk in the playground, either. It took me months to get my resident’s card here, even though I had all the paperwork ready before I left.” His eyes catch mine in the mirror again, and I nod. I don’t even know why they let otherworlders stay here. I mean, they’re just taking the jobs and resources away from people who were born and bred here. It doesn’t seem fair.
As if he can tell what I’m thinking, this guy says, “And trying to get a job – oh, what a pain in the elbow that was. I had a good job back home.” He looks at me again in the mirror, and I make some non-committal noise. “I had high status in the community, made a good, good living, had some nice savings buried away. You know, they don’t even let you in here without six months worth of cash to live off. And the trip isn’t cheap either. Not that the money was a problem for me, not then. It goes pretty quick on this side, though. The exchange rate is terrible.”
I can’t help myself. “So, if you had it so good over there, what made you want to move here? It couldn’t be for the glamourous life you have now, eh?” I tried for a joke, but it didn’t seem to go over. Maybe humour doesn’t translate well.
“You’ve never been through?” he asks again, and I shake my head. “Things are different there; I guess they are different everywhere. Here, you have your two moons. Where I come from, there’s only one and you can hardly even see the blessed thing. And even though I studied about this plane before I came, I never really understood what real poverty was until I saw the people here living in their own filth, eating whatever garbage they could find. Terrible.”
I thought about explaining that we have the concept of merit here, and that people can’t just get a free ride on the backs of the others who work hard, but there’s no point of trying to reason with these people. They just seem to think that everyone should be entitled to a good life without having to work for it. Pathetic. I squirmed a little in my seat, but he just carried on.