Well, of course you're wondering how we got to this spot. We're surrounded by beautiful wildlife, the sun is shining outside, and it pretty much looks like we're in paradise. No, not paradise, just Australia.
It all started on Thursday, when Jos sent that weird email ...
"Subj: Our Trip
To: MadLucy@juno.com, RosesWWJD@aol.com
Do you guys know the name of the hotel we'll be staying in Orlando? I need to know, so I can tell my parents where to call if there's an emergency. Oh, and what time does the plane leave? I have to know, so I know when I need to call the cat-sitter to come get my cat, Dave.
"Subj: Re: Our Trip
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Jos, what *are* you talking about? We're not going on any trip. Ummmm, in fact, it's kind of illegal to be traveling during a nuclear missile crisis. Remember? Nikita Brinkhov? The USSR?
I'm going to go watch Face/Off. You're all weird.
NO SOUP FOR YOU!
"Subj: Re: Our Trip
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, RosesWWJD@aol.com
Ummmmmmm, guys, I don't know what *any* of you are talking about. We're *not* going on a trip. And, Rose, there is no nuclear missile crisis. The USSR has been broken up for years! Are both of you feeling all right?
Hanson would never do this to me.
"Subj: Re: Our Trip
To: RosesWWJD@aol.com, MadLucy@juno.com
OK, what planet are you guys from? This is a joke, right? Our plane leaves for Florida in two days, and you're telling me that you know nothing about this? Hello? We've been planning this trip for months! MGM, Disney World, EPCOT (yes, Rose, we're *going*), Sea World (yes, Rose, you can *finally* pet a dolphin), Kennedy Space Center, Busch-Anheiser Gardens, Universal Studios ... Any of this ring a bell?
You guys are scaring me.
I need to go feed Dave.
"Subj: Re: Our Trip
To: RosesWWJD@aol.com, email@example.com
Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute! I want to go to Florida! Don't say those things, Jos. Maybe we can *someday* go to Florida, but right now I just don't have *time*.
Maybe someday, I can go to Florida with Hanson. But not in two days. Although it would be nice. Really nice. Maybe I'll have a nice dream about it tonight.
AAAAAAAGHHH! "Hanson Hilarities" is going to start in 2 minutes! Boy, I love that show. But you guys didn't know that or anything, did you? See ya!
"Subj: Re: Our Trip
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
All right. Obviously something weird is going on.
There's a nuclear crisis in the USSR, and you guys think that the Soviet Union has been broken up for years. Jos thinks that we're going on a trip to Orlando, Florida in two days, and is panicking because we haven't gotten the tickets yet. And Lucy, well, Lucy thinks that Hanson finally got that TV show. Although that's not as crisis-oriented as everything else, I've never heard of a Hanson TV show.
This could mean one of several things.
A) Lucy has gone completely Hanson crazy and is spending the next half hour staring at static on TV thinking it's Hanson.
B) Jos has gone completely crazy, and will be "flying" to "Orlando" in a cardboard box with drawn on wings.
C) I have gone completely crazy, and will spend the next three years protecting myself from a Soviet nuclear bomb on the country by running around with a seive on my head, shouting, "Strike against the Reds!"
D) Somehow, for some bizarre reason, we're all right, because we all live in parallel universes and somehow are sending the wrong email to the wrong people.
If that's the case, you know what that means. Our *real* nonparallel earth friends are sending email to each other, too. I just hope my other two parallel earth mes are smart enough to figure this out.
What should we do about it?
Through a few other emails, we agreed to all meet on ICQ, which, strangely, both parallel earth Lucy and Jos had. Or maybe the parallel earth people were Lucy and me. Or maybe they were Jos and me. We're not sure. Anyway, the three of us met online in ICQ room "We Love Hanson Especially Taylor Because He Is The Best" (because Lucy insisted) (some things are still the same between parellel universes) that night. Here follows our conversation.
Rose: OK, guys? To make sure of what's going on, say the thing that the other two of us don't agree with. The USSR and the US are in the midst of a nuclear missile crisis.
Jos: Dave is my favorite name.
Rose: Jos! We know that. You know sixteen of them or something. It’s fascinating, really.
Jos: I know. I was just making that clear.
Rose: Yes. Continue.
Jos: Ahem. We are going to Orlando, Florida in two days.
Lucy: Hanson does *too* have a TV show. I'm not looking at static.
Rose: I think you were. :)
Rose: Nevermind that. So, the three of us are from parellel universes. I wonder what else is different.
Jos: Well, I like MST3K.
Rose: So do I, and so does the real Jos.
Jos: Hey! I *am* the real Jos!
Lucy: Not to me, you're not.
Rose: And me.
Jos: Well, you guys aren't the real Lucy and Rose.
Lucy: I am so. I'm the *real* Lucy. Forever. Hanson 4-Ever.
Jos: Some things don't change.
Lucy: Hey! I'll bet you're not this mean to the real Lucy. Er, *your* real Lucy.
Jos: You'd lose that bet.
Lucy: Well, *my* Jos and Rose aren't mean.
Rose: Well, good for them. Do I care? No.
Rose: <---- doesn't care.
Rose: <---- likes arrows.
Jos: This is getting us nowhere. I suggest--
Just then, another person entered the room. The question running through everyone's mind was: Who is this? And how did they get the name of the room?
Rose: Hello? Who is there?
Jos: Yes, speak up!
Lucy: Guys, I don't think--
ScragglyOldFortuneTellerLookingUglyWoman: Yes. You *are* the three, aren't you?
Rose: The three what? Stooges? No.
SOFTLUW: No. The three with the bit of a ... mixup. Eh? :::::SOFTLW grins a toothless grin:::::
Rose: Yes. There was a mixup. And because I watch a lot of movies, I have conspiracy theories, and I know that usually scraggly old fortune teller looking women who come into private rooms uninvited asking cryptic questions like that know something about ... mixups.
SOFTLUW: LOL! That's quite amusing. And quite correct.
Jos: Nice. So Rose puts her movie obsession to use. Meanwhile, *what* are you doing here? *Who* are you? And *what* have you done with my friends?
SOFTLUW: I have but one request: If you want to straighten out this mixup, you must all agree to meet at the fountain in the middle of Perry tomorrow at 7:00 am.
Lucy: What? There is no fountain in the middle of Perry.
SOFTLUW: You will meet there. When you get to Perry, you will find it. Agree. Or you may never be able to email your real friends again.
Rose: I agree.
Lucy: I agree.
Jos: I agree.
SOFTLUW: It is done!
With that, SOFTLUW disappeared. A couple seconds later, all three of us were booted offline. None of us could get back on for the rest of the evening. We all sat in our houses, wondering what 7:00 would bring ...
As I drove through Minburn, I started to think that it probably wasn't a good idea. Maybe it's not so bad, not being able to email your real friends. I mean, email isn't life. And some scraggly old woman we met on the internet certainly didn't know about this. Or did she? This is just too weird.
When I got to Perry, I was compelled to drive past the Masonic Home. As I stared at it, I wasn't watching where I was going. Things went hazy, and suddenly, I jerked upright.
Right, before my very eyes, was a fountain! A beautiful, crystalline fountain. In the middle of Perry! Except, where was Perry? I looked around.
My car had disappeared and I was standing next to the fountain. Everything was surrounded by clouds. I turned from the fountain and walked away. Somehow, inexplicably, the world rotated around me, and I was walking towards the fountain again. I tried it again. Same thing. I tried walking past it, same thing.
"Fine." I said. "Whatever." I went to sit by the fountain. Then, I noticed the words in the water.
"No." I told it, and sat down.
There, on the ground in front of me, it said, "Drink me."
"No." I looked at the sky.
In the clouds, the words appeared. "Drink me."
Feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland, I dipped my hands into the fountain and drank. Everything went black.
The next thing I remember is waking up, covered in a blanket. I was in a simple room, with white walls. There, in the beds next to me, were Josephine and MadLucy.
I jumped out of bed, and immediately wished I hadn't. My head pounded. "Sure. Drug us, you stupid SOFTLUW."
I limped towards the bed, and whispered, "Jos! Lucy! Wake up!"
There was a rustle, and both sat up. "Where am I?" They said, simultaneously.
"Rose!" "Jos!" "Luc!" "Jos!" "Rose!" "Luc!" "Luc!" "Rose!" "Jos!"
After the excitement of seeing each other calmed down, we looked at each other.
"Guys, I hate to be the one to break this to you, but ... Luc, are you married?"
"Ummmm, no, Rose, I'm not. Why?"
I squealed. "Yay! In the parallel universe, that Lucy was married to *Taylor*! I thought I was going to die laughing when I heard that, because I thought it was really you ..."
"Hey! What, do you think I'm not going to marry Taylor? I *could*, you know." Lucy looked sad.
"All right, I know. I'm sorry." Jos and I rolled our eyes.
Lucy saw it. "Well, *my* Rose thought she was married to Tiger Woods."
"Well, no. She thought that her cousin was married to Tiger Woods."
"Yep. And Jos was convinced that she was one of the Jars of Clay."
Jos laughed. "Wouldn't that be cool? But I don't think so. Mine was funnier. Rose thought that the Soviets were going to drop a nuclear bomb on us, and Lucy thought that there was a Hanson television show."
"WOULDN'T THAT BE COOL???"
Simultaneously, Jos and I said, "No!"
I laughed. "In my universe, Jos thought she was married to Steve Taylor, had a kid named Steve Jr., and owned a gerbil breeding farm. You know how she numbered them? Steve 1, Steve 2, Steve 3, Steve 4 ... She said it was just because they needed a name, not just a number."
Lucy and I laughed uproarously.
"Hey! I don't find that funny!"
It made us laugh harder.
Just then, a man in a white coat walked in.
"Take them, sir," said Jos. "You seem to have forgotten the strait jackets, though."
The man looked a bit confused, then said with an Australian accent, "There has seemed to be a mixup. SOFTLUWs 1, 6, and 18 have informed me that email lines were being crossed over. They sorted out the problem, though. You must be group 18."
"18??? How'd our universe get a lousy number 18???" I asked. "Why can't we be something cool, like 42?? Now, there is a number. 42 is the answer to life, the universe, and everything, you know."
The man looked at us very seriously, and said, "I know."
I cocked my head to the side, and Lucy and Jos snickered into their hands.
"That's why no mixups ever occur there. It's ... well, never mind that. Right now, you're at our headquarters in Australia. My name is Archibald Julian David Cornelius Caesar Heinrich the Eighth ..."
I whispered under my breath, "*Eight* people have been named that? It must be a family curse."
"... but you can call me Dave for short."
Lucy and I snickered behind our hands.
"Because this horrendous mixup occured, your Orlando trip was cancelled, obviously. You've been here for three days already, just sleeping off the parellel universe jumping primer. Nothing like this has ever happened before, so the serum wasn't quite ready for human usage yet. We made it a bit stronger than needed, but it's better than waking up in the middle of a space-time continuity jump." He shuddered.
"What happens then?" Lucy asked.
He glared at her. "You *don't* want to know."
Lucy looked at the floor.
"In apologies to you, we have given you all special powers. I will tell you about them now. Oh, and here's a handout, in outline form, in case you need to refer back to it. There's a pie chart on the back. I made it myself. We just got some new software yesterday and I was playing with it while you were asleep--"
"THE POWERS?" I asked.
#1: For the next 5 years, you will be free to do whatever you want. Travel anywhere in the known universe, visit museums, go home, if you want. Your parents will not miss you, and once the 5 years are up, you will be returned immediately to the night before the whole mixup started. You will, of course, be able to remember everything, but you will not be able to talk about it with anyone but you three. If you try, the words will not come out of your mouth. If you write anything down, the ink will fall off the page. So, don't even try.
#2: You will have the ability to travel anywhere in the world, with the snap of your fingers."
Dave held out a device. "You click the two pieces of this together, thinking of the place you want to go. It was invented last year by a scientist who, alas, was killed in a space shuttle crash three days later. His name was 'U.R. Fingers.' We named it after him."
I took it. "Very clever," I mumbled. "U.R. Fingers. Your fingers."
But he was continuing. "#3: This purse here is a bottomless money pit. You can use it to buy souveniers, food, anything you want. But remember, at the end of five years, you will not be able to keep any of the tangible things you bought. It will all disappear, except for one thing each of you had set aside. You each will be able to keep *one* thing from your journey. When you've picked it out, you place it back in this purse. It will disappear until the end of five years. But remember, only *one* thing. If you try to do more than that, you will keep nothing. And it must be small, so it will fit in here."
"There is one exception to rule #1. As you travel, you may each choose two people to tell about this. If they agree to travel with you, that's fine. If they don't, they will not remember ever meeting you. You may tell them this. If they choose to travel with you they get most of the same priveledges that you do. The same things will happen. Except, they won't get this exception. You will be in charge of the Your Fingers and the bottomless purse. They will not operate these, but you three can get things for them and they will be transported with you. And they each get to keep one thing."
"The last thing I give you is a warning: You will be living in the real world. You will be going through life as if you are living it, but no one will remember you. When you walk by, after you're out of sight, it's as though you've never been there. You will see history unfold for the next 5 years, then will be returned to the past, unaged. Now, go. Have fun."
He handed the purse to Jos, clicked my finger together so the Your Fingers clicked, and we were standing on a beach.
The three of us looked at each other.
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