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The Greeter

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Welcome to the Travel Post, Wanderer! I see you’re a new arrival.

Yes, yes, it’s all very distressing, a minute ago you were safe at home, doing whatever it is that you presumably do, and now, suddenly, you’re here. 

Just to get things out of the way: no, you’re not quite dead, no, you certainly aren’t dreaming, and this isn’t some elaborate practical joke. What’s happened is, you’ve been displaced. Do you understand? Someone’s gone and done something in your home universe – maybe deliberately, but funnily enough, these things are usually entirely incidental – and erased you from existence. Most likely with time travel. You take a jaunt through history and bump into someone’s parents and interrupt their evening, and, well. It’s not a common occurrence. Usually fate is resilient enough to resist this kind of thing.

But it happens from time to time, so here you are. Lucky for you, there’s the Travel Post. We’re a sort of magnet for Wanderers who wind up in the Inbetween – er, that’s where we are, right now. No, don’t look out the window. The Void can be a little unsettling the first time you see it, and as we’ve only just gotten you to stop screaming, I don’t think you’re ready for another shock yet. Just take some deep breaths. In and out, there we go, that’s not so bad. You’ve still got your lungs. The fellow who arrived before you managed to leave his behind. Shady case of interdimensional portal use. He didn’t last nearly this long, of course, so that’s twice today that you’ve beaten the odds!

Now. Where are you from? Earth? Oh, lovely. Do you know which one? …Only one Earth? Not quite, I’m afraid, but that perception does narrow it down a bit, so we’re off to a strong start. Keep taking those breaths, while I get your Reality Signature. What? No, no, Reality Signature, it’s a sort of imprint that your native universe and timeline will have left behind. It’s not invasive. There we go, see? Didn’t hurt at all. And it would appear that you’re from Earth 6577b. Well, look at all that water! What a nice place. And on a decent technological trajectory, too. Plenty of satellites, I see, and infrastructure. Not much magic. That’s a shame. Still, you should be very proud. Quite a respectable place of origin.

Hmm? Get back? Ah, yes. Well, that’s going to be tricky. It doesn’t look like your world has discovered extra-dimensional travel yet, nor, officially, time travel. Even if some clever soul figures it out tomorrow, it will probably be centuries before they open a stable gateway of any sort, especially if they have to go about doing it the long way. Try not to be too disappointed. Only a few places have actually managed that, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But you’re not going to be getting back any time soon.

Yes, I can see that you’re upset. No, I’m afraid I don’t know who’s going to look after your… “cat.” Perhaps a neighbour will call a plumber for you. Do you have any friends? Relatives? Well, not to worry. None of them will even recall that you existed. So at least you won’t have to worry about upsetting anyone. Cheer up! You’ve got a roof over your head, a friendly face close at hand, and… hmm?

No face?

Oh, oh dear, that’s embarrassing. I was supposed to put on a body before I came to talk to you. I am so very sorry. You know how it is, sometimes you’re in the middle of things and then the alarm goes off and of course new Wanderers are usually unsettled to begin with, so the screaming never seems out of place – again, I apologize most sincerely. But you, look at you! You’re taking this like a champion! Just give me a moment, I’ll go slip into something a little bit more work appropriate, and I’ll be back before you know it.

Here, you focus on this nice picture of good old familiar Earth 6577b while you wait.

There we are, I – oh, dear. What did I say about not looking out the window? Yes, I know, it’s not what you’re used to. Let’s let go of the curtain, shall we? Just unhook those pesky fingers. Remember to breathe! Here we go, back in the nice, safe middle of the room. And what’s this? Why I do believe it’s a glass of water! Bet you had lots of these back home. Nice, familiar glass of water, like mother used to make. Take tiny sips, now, one at a time. Well done! Look at you, drinking water, breathing. Under the circumstances, I am most impressed. You’re ahead of the curve.

What was that? Ah. Gibbering, I see. Fair enough. Best give me the glass of water back before you drop it, we wouldn’t want to make a mess. Yes, yes, the ‘eyeless stare’, that’s nicely poetic, if wholly inaccurate. There’s nothing staring at us from out there. There’s nothing at all out there, that’s what’s so unsettling for you. You’ve never seen nothing before. But don’t worry, the Travel Post is here, and the Travel Post is quite something. Don’t you think? It’s very hard to build something into nothing. Took us ages to get it all sorted out, and we’re always looking to improve things. Accommodations and whatnot. We’re still working on the windows, though. Personally I’d prefer it if we didn’t have them, but a lot of the more established Wanderers refuse to give them up. I suppose I’m biased, what with dealing with new arrivals and all.

You want the glass of water back? Alright, here we go. Yes, of course it’s real water. It might be hard to build something into nothing, but obviously we’ve managed it.

Oh, dear. I see we’ve progressed towards tears. Would you like a comforting hug? Alright, alright, it was just an offer. Some people find it helps. Hmm? What do you mean, frightening? I’m a what? Oh, no, no, this was supposed to be a human body. How embarrassing. Again! You know they think they’re so funny, messing around with the labels on things, just because they know I’m not good at telling physical forms apart. They’re probably laughing upstairs right now. Oh, hilarious, let’s play tricks on the Greeter, yes let’s forget completely that it won’t be funny for the poor, traumatized newcomer who is expecting a kindly figure and instead gets a… what did you call this? A ‘grizzly bear’?

Do you want me to change again? Because to be honest I don’t really see that much difference.

That was the wrong thing to say, wasn’t it? No, no, I promise I wasn’t trying to be offensive! Look, it’s just that it’s got roughly the same number of limbs, and eyes, orifices, organs, that sort of thing. I mentioned I was bad at bodies, didn’t I? Or… is this a thing that eats you? It’s a thing that eats you, isn’t it? Oh dear. Alright, I’ll go change – and believe me, I will be having words with the people behind this mix-up – and you just stay there with your lovely glass of water and your picture of home and cry and gibber as much as you want to. But don’t look out the window again. Then I’ll come back and we can have a few hugs and sort this whole disaster out.

There we go! Quick as a wink.

Oh. Right. Clothing.

Well I’m just messing it up left and right, aren’t I?

There. A good old-fashioned clothes-wearing human, at your service. It’s almost like you’re back on Earth 6577b! Now, would you like a hug? Still no? No, no, it isn’t compulsory, don’t fret. It’s supposed to help you feel better, not make things worse. Are you remembering to breathe? Spectacular! It’s amazing how quickly things can go south when you forget to breathe. I can’t tell you how many bodies we went through in the beginning. One time I forgot how it was done right in the middle of exchanging introductions with a new Wanderer, around about the same time she seemed to forget, too, and that… didn’t end well.

Introductions! Oh, how stupid of me. The very basics and I almost forgot. I am the Greeter. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance! Would you care to tell me your name? Or provide a suitable alias for personal use during your stay here?

Hmm?

What a wonderful name! It matches your eyes. I especially like the composition of the syllables.

Now that that’s out of the way, why don’t we start going over your options? We can just hop into my office. Ignore the other patrons, if you happen to see any. Most of them have been here for too long, and they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be new. It’s made them a little insensitive. Now, now, don’t fret – I said you had options, didn’t I? We’ll get everything sorted. You’ll see.

It might be unexpected, but we’ll make the best of it. Just don’t forget to breathe.