Of All The Worlds In All The World.

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They shaved her hair as soon as they got her inside. Grown-up fingers pressed bruises into the flesh of her upper arms, held her aloft as they carried her from one room to the next. She would count them later. Ten. One for each finger, one for each test, one for each year she had been alive.

The scientists took her blood, clipped her nails, wiped sour tasting swabs against the inside of her cheeks until her whole mouth tasted like licking pennies. No one spoke to her. Their eyes were hidden behind goggles and their mouths behind masks and yet somehow she was the one treated less than human.

“I can’t find her prime,” someone called across the room.

“You must’ve made a mistake. Check again,” another one barked.

“Maybe she’s…”

“I said: check again.”

They put her in a room with a thin mattress and no windows. The walls were metal and high and cold. She pressed herself into a corner, felt her heat leeched by the metal, and let her chin fall atop her knees. She thought of home, wherever that was because she knew enough to know it was far from here. She thought of the water well in the backyard, the way the grass grew high along the outside, the way the gravel path was always slippery and weak by the edges where the water sloshed from its bucket. She thought of Pa who told her stay away from that, words hissing between his teeth as he grabbed her and left her to count her bruises. The last time it was five. Just the age she’d been when Ma died.

“Find the prime?” The Coordinator asked when he got to the lab. He crossed his arms over his chest, stood in the middle of everything, made sure no one forgot they were here on his whim. “More or less,” one of the scientists answered.

“DNA match to a stillborn. Prime’s been dead for ten years.”

“So why did she turn up now?” The scientist moved to scratch his head but the gesture was muddled and slow in the bulky protective layers they insisted on wearing. They were all so squeamish about radioactivity, but it was multi-dimensional viruses and total breakdown of the quantum world they should have been worried about. He didn’t think a lead lined rubber suit would help them then.

“I was able to check her against some of the other ‘verses we have contact with. For the most part she’s either long dead or never born, but in D13 a match came up for a girl who was found dead yesterday at the bottom of a well.” The scientist raised his shoulders in the rough approximation of a shrug. “It’s possible there are other versions of her in places we haven’t fleshed out yet, but as of right this moment, based on the information we have, it appears she doesn’t exist anywhere.”

“She exists here,” he commented coolly. The scientist shifted nervously, no doubt sweating hard and heavy underneath his layers.

“It’s easier for outside entities to travel here because of its position as the Prime. When people teleport the way she did, hop through the various alternate dimensions, it’s random, mostly.” He fought back a frown and felt a muscle tick in his jaw from the pressure. He didn’t need a lecture. He knew enough, enough to understand that little girl had managed to make her way thirteen ‘verses up and out from a far-off bubble of reality here to the originator of it all. “They wind up wherever their particles can get a foothold, and here in Prime someone’s always to answer the call.”

“You’re mixing your metaphors but I get the idea.”

“Good morning,” a voice wormed its way inside her head until it pushed against her eyelids and she couldn’t help but wake up. She blinked the sleep stuff from her eyes, everything blurred around the edges for a minute or so. “I hear you’ve had a very long trip. What’s your name?” She stared at the man sitting on her bed in his straight pants and buttoned jacket. He smiled at her young and friendly, not like the scientists who had poked and prodded, not like Pa who had been white haired and bitter.

“Tara,” she said because something in his straight posture told her it’d be bad to do otherwise. “And it wasn’t a long trip. It only took a second.”

“Where did you come from?” He pressed on in that tone he seemed to think made him more approachable. “Home,” she answered, purposely precocious. “And where’s that?” She thought about it, or maybe she only thought about thinking about it. In the end she shrugged, bones shifting under muscles that were tight from sleeping pressed into the corner of a metal room not made for comfort. It reminded her about the bruises on her arms. She rolled her sleeves up and pressed her fingers into the purple-blue splotches. If the straight edged man noticed or cared about the roughness of his colleagues he didn’t give her any indication. “Do you know where you are?”

“At the bottom of the well,” she answered simply, eyes still tracking the bruises, catching the layers of green-yellow that tinted her from older marks from other hands.

“Why would you jump in?” She looked up because his voice had shifted, he had shifted. His elbows were on his knees and he was leaning over, hands dangling loose between his legs as his face turned tight with actual interest. The room was dark so she couldn’t tell if he was looking at her arms or at her face or at her as a whole.

“I wanted to leave.” He smiled, small this time and not so young or friendly.

“Well, congratulations. You did. I’m the Coordinator.” He held out his hand without making a move to move closer. Tara did the same, fingers splayed slightly against the empty space. “Welcome home.”

About the Author: 
Shana Creaney is a full time administrative assistant and a full time student at Fordham University. In what little spare time she has she writes science fiction and fantasy, reads a lot of comic books, and plays too many video games.