It happened again. The Metro stops changed to places that didn’t exist in Derek’s world. Passimon Center. Davis Plaza. Morton Station. Montana Ave. Buric Park. Passengers carried newspapers with headlines about some U.S. president named Banyan and a critical summit with Siamese leaders.
Derek counted this as the seventh time this happened to him since repairs started on DC Metro. Most times he just stayed on the train until it came back to a known stop in Washington D.C., but twice now it had taken him all the way to the end of the line without getting him back to his world.
Just ride it out, Derek told himself. He sat by himself, but the other passengers were clustered, whites, blacks, asians, all sitting together except for a rough looking guy in a jeans jacket scrolling through an iPhone a few rows down. The train stopped at a place called ‘Leed Arena.’ A young man with olive skin and a full beard stepped on and looked at the cluster and the other two of us, confusion on his face, then sat next to jeans jacket.
Jeans jacket looked at the passenger, made a face, then looked around. “What the—” He stood and looked out the window. “What the hell is Leed Arena?”
This was new. Derek hadn’t seen anyone else switch worlds with him before. Usually he would be reading a book or dozing off, then suddenly he would realize he was at a strange stop and the people had changed.
“It’s all right,” Derek said. “It’s happened before. It should get back to our world by the end of the line.”
“Whattaya mean, it’s happened before? I must have gotten on the wrong line, but that’s—”
The doors closed and the train started to move.
“It’s the right line. We aren’t in our world right now. The trains are passing between universes.”
“You’re out of your mind,” he said, but sat across from Derek. Mr. olive skin arose, glared at them, and joined the cluster. “We should be coming up on Metro Center.” He introduced himself as Johnny.
When the next stop turned out to be Dixon’s Corner, Derek had to talk Johnny out of fleeing the train in a panic. Eventually he listened as Derek told him about the six previous times.
“This is fantastic. What is the government doing about it?”
“I don’t think they know.”
“You haven’t told anyone?”
“Who would believe me?”
“True, dat,” he said, and started to take photos of the next stop. “Wow. This is big. This is great. It changes my entire perception of reality.”
He dropped his hands. “What do you know about this world? What have you learned.”
“Not much. I’ve been to scared to go too far from the Metro. I only went when I had to. There president is some guy named Banyan. Seems they elected a tree.” Derek laughed at his own joke. “That’s better than what we have, I guess.”
Johnny chuckled. “Yeah, but we might have wound up with Al Gore. He’s as good as a tree.”
Derek nodded. “Sure. Plus he could body slam anyone who opposed him. Another thing I noticed is they let pigs wander the street.”
“Yeah,” Derek said. “I even saw one in the station once. Plus, they have tons of liver bars.”
The two got on well until the conductor announced the end of the track at Martin Gardener Station.
“Don’t worry. I’ve actually been here before. We’ll just catch the train back. It will eventually shift.” Derek wasn’t sure if he was trying to convince Johnny or himself more.
They started to worry as the stops went by. The conductor announced Rosslyn Station. They looked around and realized the passengers were no longer clustered. One newspaper headline said, “Obama to Make an Appearance at the Kennedy Center.”
“Ha-hah! Let’s get out of here,” Derek said.
Johnny puffed out a breath like an open tire valve. “Finally. Not that I lost faith in you, man, but, yeah, I was losing faith.”
The train slowed down and they hopped off.
“Hey, maybe we can share a cab,” said Johnny.
“Sure, where are you going?”
They stepped onto the long escalator to the surface.
“Manor Park,” Johnny said. They reached the top, ran their passes over the turnstiles, and went through.
Derek shrugged. “I pretty much stick to the middle of the city.”
“That’s cool, brother.” They stepped into the street. “I’ll see—” Derek stopped in his tracks.
“Shit, this ain’t my world man!” He pointed to a billboard advertising ‘Barack Hussein Obama the Great,’ world class magician from Las Vegas.