Me vs. the Multiverse: Pleased to Meet Me is a part of the Me vs. the Multiverse collection.
What if you suddenly met someone who's you--only better? That's what happens in this hilarious new series for fans of Stuart Gibb's Moon Base Alpha and quirky sci-fi animated shows like Rick and Morty and Regular Show.
It all starts with a note folded into the shape of an origami octopus: "Hi, Me. Yes, you. You're me, and I'm you." If you believe this and the other origami notes that follow--which middle schooler Meade Macon absolutely, positively does NOT--the concept of parallel dimensions is true, and there is a convention full of alternate versions of Meade waiting for his RSVP. It's got to be a joke.
Except . . . the octopus is an origami fold Meade thought he invented. And the note writer has a lot of intel on him that nobody else should know. I mean, he's told his best friend Twig a lot about himself, but he's definitely kept mum about that time he sleepwalk-peed into his Lego container when he was six. Could Me Con be a real thing? And should he go?
An Excerpt fromMe vs. the Multiverse: Pleased to Meet Me
The Origami Stalker
So this one time when I was six, I went sleepwalking and peed in my tub of Legos. I never told a soul, and no one in the world could have possibly known. But seven years later, the ugly truth was right there, scrawled on a note inside an origami octopus. I found it first thing in the morning hanging by its arms from the sill of my bedroom window:
Yes, you. You’re me, and I’m you.
Don’t believe me? Here’s proof. This is stuff only we would know:
1. After peeing in our Lego container while sleepwalking when we were six, we dumped the pieces in the dishwasher. Lego Yoda’s lightsaber broke the dishwasher pump, and we got in serious trouble.
2. Since age three, we’ve had a recurring nightmare about an otter forcing us to do push-ups and climb ropes in army boot camp.
3. We’d never fess up to anyone that greeting card commercials, pet-adoption pop-up stands, and the friendship pictures on Girl Scout cookie boxes always make us a little weepy. So do most Pixar movies. Except maybe Planes.
Anyway, learn more about what we have in common by coming to the Janus Hotel South anytime today. I’ll explain more soon.
Though I’d never seen this note before in my life, it was written in my handwriting. Not the “neat” writing I attempted for teachers, but the unreadable scrawl I used the rest of the time.
It only got weirder from there. Whoever had made the octopus used a special fold I’d invented and thought nobody else knew how to do. I’d dreamed it up from the picture of a real-life Atlantic pygmy octopus I saw in one of Dad’s National Geographics, where I got most of my origami ideas. I must have made it hundreds of times, but I’d only ever shown my best friend, Twig, how to do the folds. Smart as she was, she’d never gotten the hang of it.
If she hadn’t folded it, who had?
I looked out the window and saw no sign of anybody. Maybe this was Twig’s idea of a joke. She could have swiped one of my old octopus folds and mimicked my writing easily enough. But that just didn’t seem like something she’d do. Besides, how would she have known my deepest, darkest secrets? I’d told her a lot about myself, but I’d stayed mum on the Legos and the pee. And the greeting card commercials, for that matter.
Then there was the Janus Hotel. Why would anybody want to meet at an abandoned building like that? I was pretty sure my parents had met for the first time at some conference there way back when, but the place had been out of business for a few years now.
I reread the note a half dozen times as I got ready for school and headed downstairs to breakfast. It was one of those mornings when Mom sat at the table and Dad stood at the counter so they didn’t have to talk to each other. That was how they fought--arguing without actually saying anything.
When I walked in, they strapped weak smiles on their faces. They weren’t very good actors. Before either of them could start in with the public service announcements (“Use a fork, not your fingers,” “Chew with your lips closed,” “Fart in private, not at the table”), I asked a question: “Didn’t you used to go to some conference at the old Janus Hotel?”
Dad’s face turned dreamy. He always got this way when he remembered the early days of Me Co., the fitness-watch company he’d started before I was born. “Why, yes, Meade, I had a lot of great conferences there.”
“Ahem,” said Mom. She actually said “ahem” instead of just clearing her throat. “It’s also where we met.”
Dad’s smile faded and he straightened up. “Right, of course.” Then the smile crept back. “Your mom was at a physics conference going on in the hotel at the same time as mine. The two conferences double-booked the ballroom for a party, but nobody minded and we all mingled. I didn’t go in for parties much, so I was off in the corner trying to fix a busted processor. Then I heard a voice say--”
“ ‘Excuse me, do you know anything about laptops?’ ” Mom recalled. She smiled too. “I had motherboard issues.”
For just a minute, the ice between them melted and they gazed at each other in a really embarrassing way. Two nerds in love. Then they seemed to remember they were mad at each other and got back to sulking.
“Right,” I said. “I’ve heard that story before.” Like a zillion times. I just hadn’t known it happened at that old hotel.
“Why do you ask?” said Dad.
“Just curious.” Could the note writer have possibly known that my parents met at the Janus, or was that reading too much into this? All I knew was that I could never show them the octopus. I didn’t need them thinking I’d been writing stalker notes to myself. They were already on my case enough as it was.
I polished off my breakfast in the fewest bites possible and headed for the door. That’s when the MeMinder ratted me out. “Reminder!” said the watch in its stupid robot voice. “Full dress rehearsal at drama class. Basketball practice after school. Science fair project only one percent complete. Must complete science fair project for Student Showcase Night tonight!”
Me Co. made one product, the MeMinder, and I wore the latest version on my wrist. I couldn’t have told you if it was the MeMinder 8 or the MeMinder 9. As the company’s lone product tester/guinea pig, I’d started losing count after the MeMinder 4. It had been bad enough when earlier MeMinders tracked my exercise and sleep, but this new model made things even more torturous by keeping tabs on “personal goals.”
“Is that thing glitchy, or are you really that far behind on your project?” Mom asked.
As former science fair winners themselves, Mom and Dad were a little too keen on me placing in the contest. I wanted to place too, if only to get them off my back. Plus, I figured they might not fight with each other so much if they had a son who’d actually accomplished something. The only problem was, I stank at science like I stank at everything else, and no idea for a project had come to me. It was like my brain had locked up from the pressure. Now I’d have to scramble after school to get something together. Worse came to worst, I could mount some origami on a poster and call it geometry. But I’d wanted to do so much more.
“Nah, it’s all done.”
“Lie detected,” said the MeMinder. “Achieve-O-Meter shows one percent completed on project.”
“When did this thing get so smart?!” I said.
“It works!” Dad did a dorky dance but stopped when Mom glared at him. “Never mind that. You need to get moving on your project. It’s a big goal.”
Mom and Dad always talked a good game about achieving goals, but it’s not like they spoke from experience. Mom was still only an assistant professor, and Dad had to work a day job at a tech company that actually made money, since Me Co. didn’t. So who were they to harp on me about achieving stuff?
Before they could harass me more, I grunted a goodbye and headed out the door.
Where I found another oragami waiting for me on the doorstep.
It had taken me weeks to perfect the origami honey badger, my second-favorite creation after the origami octopus. I’d felt proud knowing that this, like the octopus, was a unique fold that nobody could duplicate unless I showed them how. That’s why it wasn’t just scary to see one of my honey badgers sitting there outside my house; it was infuriating. Either somebody was stealing my origami, or my origami weren’t so unique after all.
I nearly unscrewed my head from my neck looking around for whoever had left the new note. No sign of anybody. My hands shook as I picked up the honey badger, unfolded it, and read a note inside. Just like the first, it was written in my handwriting, but with words I had never put to paper.
Making the schlep to school on a bike again? Lots of Mes across the multiverse own an electric scooter. Learn how you can get one too by coming to the old Janus Hotel South after school.
Multiverse? Now, there was something that finally made sense. Mom had studied the theory of parallel dimensions for her PhD work in physics. She’d even done experiments back in the day to prove that alternate Earths existed. The experiments had failed, and nobody wanted to publish her ideas, but she’d never stopped loving the subject. She’d still go on and on about the science behind mirror realities whenever they came up in TV shows and movies. I’d been tuning out most of this talk all my life, but I understood enough to know that anybody claiming to be from a different dimension was either deeply disturbed or trying to punk me.
Once I got to school, I darted through the hallways like some kind of nervous woodland creature. I half expected the origami stalker to jump out at any moment, but nobody gave any sign they’d pranked me. Most kids were busy putting up posters and other decorations for the Student Showcase, an event I’d been dreading because it promised to showcase all my failures. First a basketball game (where I’d be benched), then a halftime routine with some songs from the drama class musical (where I’d be stuck backstage), followed by the science fair (where I had no project).
As if the showcase and the stalker weren’t enough stress, voilà, I found yet another note. It fell from the top shelf of my locker, poking me in the neck on its way down. A yellow-headed caracara, another fold I’d invented. All these notes were starting to remind me of the never-ending Hogwarts admission letters in the first Harry Potter book. Except they weren’t funny.
With hands shaking once again, I unfolded the caracara and read the message inside:
At this point you’re thinking, “This is just like all those Hogwarts admission letters at the beginning of Harry Potter.” Why do I know you’re thinking this? Because I would be too, and I’m you. Come to Me Con at the Janus Hotel South and find out how else we think alike.
Me Con? What sort of name was that? It sounded like a convention. A convention of . . . Mes?
“Hey,” somebody said behind me.
I wasn’t exactly relaxed to begin with, and being snuck up on didn’t help. So I did what came naturally: I jumped in complete terror and bonked my head on the locker frame. “Ow!”
Twig laughed as I rubbed the sore spot, but I didn’t mind. I liked her laugh and everything else about her. She had a round face that hid nothing and brown eyes that missed nothing. Her mountain of curly hair defied description because it took on a cool new shape every day. This particular morning she’d given herself a ponytail on top of her head and let the rest of her hair do what it pleased. It looked great, but I was too rattled to tell her that.
“Nice one!” she said. “What’s that in your hand?”
I shoved the note into my pocket. I’d been friends with Twig since second grade and could tell her nearly anything, but this Me Con business was just too weird to talk about. Besides, if she was the one behind the prank, I wouldn’t give her the satisfaction of knowing how much it had messed me up.
“Nothing!” I said.
Twig arched an eyebrow. Only three-quarters of an arch, not the hundred-percent arch she gave me when I really screwed up. “Whatever. So, did you watch what I posted last night?”
I’d been hoping she wouldn’t bring that up.
Twig was big into her video channel and made a new post almost every day. Yeah, everybody has a channel on some app or another, but Twig’s was different. Unlike other kids, who blathered on with their boring thoughts on video games or beauty tips, Twig did actual news stories. Sometimes even investigative journalism. Her post on corruption at the county fair got national coverage, mostly from the novelty of a thirteen-year-old girl exposing a bribery scheme at a farm-animal beauty pageant. She also attracted statewide attention for her report on school funding, though I personally didn’t understand a word of it--maybe because I was the product of underfunded schools.
Other times Twig did commentary, giving her opinion on issues like climate change and voting rights. Her most recent post explored the pressure that gets dumped on middle schoolers, and I was pretty sure she was using me as an example: “I have this friend who’s overwhelmed by the expectation to ‘succeed’ and ‘achieve’ something, and it’s driving him up a wall. He thinks he has to have a ‘thing,’ something he’s good at, to compete with other people. But in the end, all he’s doing is competing with some impossible idea of himself. It’s only making him miserable.”
When I’d opened up to Twig about feeling like a failure, I didn’t think she’d blab to the internet about it. Okay, technically she didn’t blab, since she didn’t use my name. Still, anybody who knew we were friends might have suspected she was talking about me.
I’d spent last night thinking up all kinds of nasty things to tell her, but with this Me Con situation, her video was the farthest thing from my mind.
“It was okay, I guess,” I said.
She was about to press me for more details, when an enormous kid appeared at my side, his huge frame blotting out the fluorescent light.
Nash, the seventh grade’s most popular monster, had arrived to make my life even worse.
“Hey, bro, how are ya?” Nash wrapped a thick arm around me, squeezing my shoulder blades against my spine.
Twig whipped out her phone and aimed its camera at Nash and me. What a couple we made: me with the bad hair and general scrawniness, him with the wavy black locks and action-figure physique. He looked like a statue of a magnificent soldier mounted on a horse. I looked like a goofy little pigeon taking a dump on the statue’s head.
“Perfect!” said Twig. “Just act natural, you two. Do your thing. Don’t mind me.”
Nash smiled with the patience of a parent playing some stupid game with a kid. “What’re you doing?”
“I’m working on an upcoming episode about the different faces we wear. You know, how someone can have a lot of different sides to them. You’re a perfect example, Nash. Can I interview you?”