By Amanda Pizzolatto (Rated G)
You’re walking towards a slightly busy street. Cars zoom by at the intersection. A trolley dings as it too goes by. People are walking past, some chatting on their phones, others talking to a companion. The scents of the wares of street vendors fill the air, popcorn, nuts, tacos, and hot dogs. One such vendor seems to be looking at you and humming. You notice that he’s standing in front of a theater, selling popcorn. You then realize he’s humming “A Whole New World” from Aladdin. You smile at him. He stops humming and smiles back, the smile going all the way into his electric blue eyes. The joy in his face is so genuine, so bright, that it only makes you smile all the more. He waves as you come to a stop by his stall.
“Well hello there! New to these parts?” he asks.
You tilt your head. “Why yes. Is it that obvious?”
He chuckles. “A bit, I’m afraid. It also doesn’t help that I’ve memorized every face that’s come down this way. What brings you to this part of town?”
You shrug. “I wanted to see everything. I wanted to travel and see the whole world!” Your face falls. “But that will never happen, so I’m seeing everything in town, just so I don’t miss a thing.”
“Well, traveling just to different parts of town can be more productive than traveling to other parts of the world,” he says.
You blink. “Why do you say that?”
He waves his hand towards the busy intersection. “Because you actually get to see more of one place and come to know its people better than your typical, stereotypical world tour that just shows you the bare minimum, if even that.” He turned back to you. “Of course, when most people travel the world, they do just want a taste of the sights and sounds of the land. But to actually stay long enough to get to know its people? Now that’s a real experienced traveler. See, the sights and sounds of the land aren’t the only thing that makes the world a beautiful place; it’s the people as well.” He shrugs. “Besides, we now have the internet. You can travel from the comfort of your own home.”
You sigh. “It just isn’t the same. Not the same as actually being there, getting the feel of the place.”
“Ah, and there’s the dilemma. Getting the feel of the place also includes getting to know the people, so, you know, that kinda proves my point.” He grins.
You look at him, bewildered. “You are kind of odd.”
He chuckles. “Oh you have no idea. But that’s part of what makes me, well, me.” He winks.
You chuckle nervously. “Yeah, so I can tell.”
“Oh you can, can you? But you haven’t gotten to know me very well,” he says with a slight tilt of his head.
You open your mouth to answer, but pause. He has a point. You’re just basing this off of this first interaction, the things he’s only just said. You lean on the stall. “You have a point. How would someone get to know you better?”
He smirks and nods at the theater. “Come back here at seven. Just tell them Matthew Bleu sent you.”
You blink, feeling kind of disgusted. “You have a show about yourself?”
“Eh, I wouldn’t say that, though I will be talking about myself. With as much as I’ve seen in all my travels, a little bit about me won’t kill you.”
“Where have you traveled?”
“Oh, hundreds of places! Spent a few months at each, so I’ve got quite a few stories to share.”
Your mouth drops in shock. “You’ve spent months in hundreds of places? But you look like you’re only twenty-five!”
He laughs. “Oh, I’m definitely older than that, much older than that. I know, I know, I don’t look it. Guess I’m lucky in that regard, got some good genes.” He shrugs.
“So, this . . . thing tonight, you’re going to show us what you’ve seen or something like that?”
He gives you a mysterious smile. “Why don’t you come and find out?”
You purse your lips. You do kind of want to find out, but you don’t want to stay around if this guy really is narcissistic. “Will I be able to leave whenever I want?”
“Oh sure, but I hope you will stay.” You blink, the way he said that made it seem like he knows you’re going to stay.
You narrow your eyes. “You’re sure?”
“Oh positive, I own this place. If security won’t let you out, I’ll suspend them. Sounds good?”
You nod slowly. “Alright, tonight at seven.”
He grins. “Great! I’ll see you tonight then!” He waves as you walk away. You give a friendly wave back, but as soon as your back is turned, you begin to wonder if it was a good idea after all to accept his offer. But you do have to admit that you are slightly intrigued. After all, if you don’t like it, you can always leave. With a nod of your head, you have made your choice. You’ll go back, just to see what he’s talking about.
You arrive at the theater promptly at seven. The theater looks almost completely different than it had earlier. The popcorn stall is gone, a couple of lights illuminate the sign outside as the sun finishes setting in the west, and two big, burly men stand outside the doors with their arms crossed. You gulp, but walk up to them.
“Um, Matthew Bleu sent me?” You ask more out of curiosity if it will work rather than if you remember his name. The men nod and step aside to let you in. You let out a breath of relief as you walk through the brightly lit corridor. That was a little easier than you thought. You notice posters out of the corner of your eye, and blink. What the heck? One is titled “The Laurel of the Caesars Trilogy” and has the image of a dark-skinned fairy with white butterfly wings reaching for a shimmering, golden laurel wreath. The one next to it has what looks like a leprechaun holding up a sword with a snake-like dragon flying in the sunset behind him and the words “Charms and Challenges” placed just above the sword. You look at the other posters. “Hunchback of Ethael”, “Of Djinns and Dinosaurs”, “David Turner”, “Adventures of Dixie Johnson”, “Letters and Lace”, and many more, all showcasing shows, movies, and books you have never heard of before. Is this Mr. Bleu’s way of trying to advertise his own books, and movies? But that doesn’t make sense. Some of these look like they are well-made and the public would adore them. Now your curiosity has peaked. Determined to know more and to find out exactly what’s going on, you head on into the theater. A stage at the far side of the room is well lit, but only red curtains can be seen. You see that other people have shown up. You can hear a few conversations about the posters seen in the corridor. As you thought, there is interest in many of them. Perhaps Mr. Bleu will show one tonight? You glance at the stage as you sit down. Speaking of Mr. Bleu, where is he?
“Ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your horses!” Everyone jumps at the sound of Mr. Bleu’s voice as the lights directed at the stage turn around. They pause as the curtains part and Matthew Bleu comes out. You join in the applause. He bows as the curtains close behind him. “Thank you, thank you! You look like a wonderful crowd tonight! And you sound like one too. I couldn’t help but hear your enthusiasm over some of those posters in the hall.”
Several voices cry out “yes!” and “I want to know more!”
Mr. Bleu presses his fingers together. “Wonderful! I’ve got you all intrigued.” He waggles his eyebrows and then a smile spreads on his face. “I shall give you a little bit more to whet your appetite as I have a lot of ground to cover and can’t do it all tonight. Come back here every week if you want to know more. But first, those posters, ah yes, those stories, well loved by many generations!”
You blink as murmurs spread through the audience. What? Well loved, by many generations? You have never heard of those stories before!
“That’s because these aren’t from your world,” Mr. Bleu says softly. The murmuring stops and your eyes widen. He’s been to other worlds? “You heard me,” he continues, “these aren’t from your world. Would you like to see the worlds where these come from?”
You join in the unanimous chorus of “Yes!”
He grins. “Fantastic!” He grabs a hold of the curtain and pulls it back, revealing a starry backdrop. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my world.” You gasp as Mr. Bleu holds out his arms. His skin has started turning blue. “Welcome to my universe!”