THE NEXT WEEK was hell! I had one day off to look for an apartment, and managed to find one, but I had no way to pay enough for their deposit without the settlement agreement from my old apartment. My lawyers had finally resolved that though a couple days later while I was stuck at work. They said that I would soon have the payment in my hands, but the apartment I had found was rented by someone else - also from my old building - days before I got back there! Unfortunately, since then I had been stuck in seven surgeries per day even if I had been able to have the money. Not difficult surgeries, but it was still a long day by the time I did the prep, did the surgery, sewed the small incisions back up, and moved onto the next… What had once been a fun and exciting challenge, was just mundane and stressful anymore.
A couple days later I still hadn’t received the check. That evening the hotel front desk called to say that my credit card had been declined for that night. They were sorry, but I’d have to pack up and leave. I spent that night in an uncomfortable bed at the hospital that was available for us after long surgeries.
The next day I showered at the hospital before I finally managed to pick-up the settlement check for fifteen thousand dollars. I did feel my stress go down a little as I deposited it into my bank account before going back to the hospital. After another long day of six surgeries, and twelve consults, I was finally able to leave to get another hotel room! I fell fast asleep on the bed as soon as I walked in!
Several weeks later I was still in the same hotel room, and didn’t know where I was going to find an apartment or a house at this point. There was a severe shortage of housing in the city due to a booming job market. Since I was working so much it was really hard to find time to look for a new place. The hotel was kind enough to give me a weekly rate, but it was still significantly more expensive than my rent had been. I knew eventually I’d run out of the settlement, and even with some good checks coming in from the hospital, it was definitely not a long term solution!
It was on one of my more exhausted and down days that I clicked on a web ad that took me to the website I had seen on that electronic billboard weeks before. I’d seen it again multiple times in the last few weeks driving back and forth and was morbidly curious about what they offered.
The site had a survey they asked interested users to take that they claimed was ‘100% anonymous.’ Seeing nothing that could harm me at this point, I shrugged and began doing what seemed like one of the many psych profile tests I had dealt with in my psychology coursework in college. I humored it though, and answered truthfully, including to my homeless status and my career. A moment after clicking submit after question one-hundred a screen showed me, ‘You are a perfect candidate!’
A popup texting screen showed up with someone live texting, ‘Hi, I’m Patricia and I’m a real live person with the agency. Would you like to make an appointment to discuss the exciting possibility of relocating to the new dimension?’
I started to type ‘yes…’ but held back. Instead I typed a question, ‘I’ve heard it’s not all it’s cracked up to be?’
‘That’s because not everyone has our agency behind them… We guarantee your satisfaction and that we’ll bring you home if you’re not 100% satisfied.’
‘What would I do there?’
‘They need surgeons your size there,’ she said, ‘I know I could find you a work placement easier than anyone else I’ve ever worked with.’
I grimaced, ‘sure they could…’ I remembered back to my dad’s favorite saying growing up, “Son, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is…”
I looked around the hotel room then with the dirty laundry that I was going to have to again find a laundromat to do and sighed, ‘Can I make an appointment but not commit that I’ll sign up?’
‘Of course! I would want to meet you in person to verify your profile anyway before we could move onto anything else. When would you be available?’
I thought about my scheduled procedures and said, ‘Friday at one?’
A short pause later, ‘We’ve got you down Nick, see you Friday!’
It was only as I pulled the covers of the hotel bed over me an hour later that I thought, ‘Wait, I didn’t tell her my name…?’
FRIDAY CAME BEFORE I knew it and I was a bit on edge as I met with patients for pre-surgical consults all morning. The nice thing about those consults though, was that they were fairly straight forward appointments. It was mainly explaining the procedure to the patient, presenting risks, reassuring them that I knew what I was doing, and having them sign some mountains of requisite paperwork with the staff downstairs. All of the blood testing and everything else we needed was done elsewhere so I could do one every fifteen minutes, and had done my fourteen appointments for the morning by noon. Soon I was heading out to my car, and on the road to the office building I was set to meet with Patricia.
I knew it was nuts to even meet with these people after what I’d read and seen in the magazine… I’d even done some additional research that seemed to make me believe it wasn’t a typical sensationalist news story - but likely to be at least partially true. But life just seemed to be spiraling constantly out of control for me, and I really wasn’t sure what I could do to get back on track.
Something drastic might just be the answer - if I could still have my career…
I arrived and pulled into the large parking lot adjacent to a beautifully designed forty story office building. The building sparkled had been just completed two short years ago to a great deal of fanfare for its architectural design. Instead of a typical rectangular building, it was a work of art with several mind-boggling shapes, that intertwined to somehow support the upper structures - all while seeming to defy gravity itself with holes in the middle of the structure. It reminded me almost as if you took a pair of thick chain-link and stood it up vertically in the air. The entrance area that I walked through was well appointed, with gratuitous amounts of marble and dark hardwoods being used to lend itself a level of class that was luxurious. Just visiting the building was worth the trip I had made! A few receptionists sat at an imposing desk at the back of the lobby to guide visitors.
“Good afternoon, welcome to Portal Relocations, how may I help you?” A tall blonde woman asked. She must have been well over six-feet tall, which made my five-feet seven inches feel short.
“I’m Doctor Nick Benning, I’m here to see a lady named Patricia?”
She looked at her screen and smiled, “Yes Doctor, I have you down here in her appointment book. You’re going to take that elevator to the thirty-eighth floor. Right across from the elevator there’s a secretary that will help you find Patricia. I’ll let her know you’re on your way up.”
“Thanks,” I told her with a smile.
The elevator bank had an impressive number of elevators and I waited patiently for all of about three seconds, before a door opened and I was able to press ‘38’ on the panel. Far faster than I would have believed, the door opened to the thirty-eighth floor. I was surprised on the trip up how unnaturally fast I made it up there, yet I never once felt the feeling of acceleration that I was used to with elevators on high-rise buildings. I looked back at it suspiciously for a second but shrugged it off and walked into a receptionist’s area on the floor.
Another woman, this one only towering over me by about four inches asked, “Doctor Benning?”
“Yes ma’am,” I said politely.
“Patricia is expecting you right this way,” she directed me down a hallway and to a large office that I saw ‘Patricia Lawrence, Chief of Recruitment.’
Another tall woman, definitely near six-and-a-half feet tall stood and greeted me. “I’m Patricia, and you’re Doctor Benning I presume?”
“Please, just Nick, it’s nice to meet you.”
“You as well, please have a seat,” she said. She directed me to a more casual setting of plush chairs around a rug and coffee table on the side of her enormous office. They were set next to huge curved glass windows that opened up the sides of the curved wall, to a great view of the city. The view out her window was truly impressive!
“So Nick, before we begin I want to tell you that we’ve already done a more thorough background check on you. From that I believe you would be a great candidate for relocation by our company!”
“Why do you believe that?” I asked her hesitantly. ‘Just how much background checking did they do after I did that simple survey?’ Given the article I’d read, plus this invasion of privacy, I was getting a bit nervous as alarm bells clanged loudly in my head.
“I know that you are currently living in a hotel instead of your apartment building. By the way, did you hear that old building actually collapsed yesterday?”
I nodded, “Yeah, I’m more than a little glad I wasn’t still living there…”
“I can imagine! But that makes this opportunity even better because you’re already mostly packed and ready to relocate!”
“Just what kind of services do you provide?” I asked nervously.
“Well we have found that the best thing to do is to try and match up our clients with a homeowner that is willing to rent out a room in their house. You then have a built-in guide who can help you get settled into your new job and life there on that side.”
“And if it’s not all roses?” I asked.
“Well when is life ever all roses?” she asked with a smile. “There’s a two-year contract that you sign on the lease with the homeowner. If at the end of that contract you don’t have a mutually beneficial situation then you can choose to come home.”
“How many do that?” I asked.
“How many choose to come home?”
She looked thoughtfully, “Since we opened this building up three years ago, I can only recall one. It was a tough circumstance because the homeowner there passed away unexpectedly. The woman decided that rather than find another place there, she came home.”
I nodded at that, “So people are happy once they go over?”
“Of course!” she smiled, “Why wouldn’t they be?”
“I don’t know, why would they?” I asked, “I still don’t know what else you’re offering here? Why should I feel I want to go?”
“Oh, I guess I should get into that. In exchange for your contract here we’ll be taking ten percent of your earnings in the other dimension during that two-year contract. Once the two years are up, we no longer need to do so. As part of the deal we will pay off any credit card debt, student loan debts, etc. and leave you financially stable for the move.”
“This sounds too good to be true,” I told her.
“I know, it really does, but I promise you it’s the truth.”
“So, I’d be able to practice medicine over there in the new dimension?”
“That’s part of why I’m pushing so hard to get you in all honesty Nick, I have a homeowner who’s a doctor and is looking for a tenant that can go to work with her each day.”
“What’s the process like for getting my medical license recognized there?”
I spent another hour asking questions before I got to my final ones. I opened my briefcase and handed her the article from the magazine, “What about these allegations?”
For the first time I saw a bit of hesitation but she just grabbed it and nodded, “I heard about this story. The person involved seems to have been with a disreputable company, unlike ours, who was involved in some illegal trafficking.”
“So it’s true then?”
“That these people are giants and like to baby adults and travelers just because they’re smaller?”
She shrugged, “Yes it happens.” I was in shock she’d admit it, but she shook her head and shrugged, “It’s not every person who ends up like that though! It’s only people who aren’t mature enough to be careful, mind their manners, or not be situationally aware. There are plenty of people, like most of our clients, who happily live normal lives there.”
“Most of them,” she said.
“And what if someone gets treated that way? Can they still come home?” I asked pointedly.
“We always honor the contracts from adults here,” she told me.
I looked down at the pamphlet in front of me silently for a few moments thinking.
“So, what do you think?” she pressed.
“Let me get back to you? When do you have to know?”
“Well the one homeowner will probably only be available for a few days if I had to guess, so if you want to get in with a fellow doctor who can get you into her hospital I’d recommend signing up by the end of the week.”
I nodded and stood up, “Thanks for your time, I’ll let you know”
With that I walked down to the elevators and left in my car.
PATRICIA LOOKED AT her screen and the face on the other side of the video conference. “Well hello, don’t tell me you already have a match for me? I only signed up for your services yesterday?”
“Hi Doctor Nickerson, as unbelievable as it sounds, I believe we really have! Well... mostly, he’s a fellow doctor, a surgeon,” she said to the woman.
“I know you wanted a girl, but he’s perfect in every other way,” Patricia told the woman.
The conversation went on for an hour, including showing a video from her interview, before the woman said, “I’m sold, get him to sign up and I’ll take care of everything else on this side.”
“You’re okay with the agreed upon price?”
“He’ll be perfect, and definitely a bargain!”
The screen went blank and Patricia Lawrence stood up to head away for a well-earned dinner. Her commission from this guy was going to have her eating at fine restaurants for quite some time!
I SPENT THE next couple of days looking for apartments since I was off of the rotation for the weekend. I couldn’t find anything that seemed like home - or more importantly available. I was sitting in the hotel room trying to figure out what I wanted to do about my housing situation when there was a knock on the door.
I walked to the peephole and saw to my surprise it was Patricia.
“What do I owe this pleasure?” I asked her politely while talking to her through the open door.
“I wanted to let you know that the lady that would be the homeowner you would rent from sent you a video message. I have it here if you want to view it?” She held up a thumb drive.
I shrugged, “Why not just email it to me?”
“I try to have a more personal touch with my clients,” she said with a smile.
Not knowing what else to do, but be polite, I let her in and logged into my laptop. I didn’t make it obvious, but I didn’t log into my regular account on my computer. I had a special sandboxed account in case of something like this drive that I didn’t trust security wise being put in my computer. I loaded it and found a simple video file in the directory.
A woman wearing a doctor’s white coat, with bright red hair, showed up on the screen. Without anything to show the scale of the video she could have been in this dimension, and perfectly normal sized if she stood next to me. “Hi Doctor Benning, I’m Doctor Lillian Nickerson, and I’m sending you this to introduce myself to you. Patricia told me all about you and I think we would get along great! I could even help you get into the hospital where I work so that we can commute together each day. A few things about me…” She spoke for about fifteen minutes and I did learn a lot about her that made me think we would get along well. She specialized in Pediatric Surgery, and like me had music as a hobby that she liked. She even demoed her ability to play piano on the video. It was clear that she or the company had spent a fair amount of time making the video look professional.
“I understand that you’re becoming a respected surgeon yourself in your dimension? I would love to work with you and have you on our team!” I learned a bit more about her from the video, including that she was single, but lived in a large five-bedroom home she had paid for in a nice neighborhood. The camera switched to a view of an impressive and beautiful looking one-story home with a large fenced backyard.
“I hope to hear a ‘yes’ from you soon! Please send your own video if you can!”
The screen went blank after a logo showing Portal Relocations with their traditional overlaid ‘P’ and ‘R’s.’
“So, what do you think Nick?”
‘Almost like it’s just a PR company?’ I noted to myself.
I sighed, “If I could believe it was one-hundred percent legit it sounds amazing Patricia, the problem is that I have this niggling suspicion that it’s not completely truthful?”
“What can I do to make you believe in us?”
I shook my head, “The problem is there’s nothing you can do… I’m just in disbelief that anything could be that perfect.”
She nodded, “Would you at least think about sending your own video response back to her? Maybe if you two had a dialog back and forth?”
I bit the inside of my lip with my teeth knowing it was a bad idea for some reason, but I just nodded, “I guess I could do that…”
“Great, do you think we could have a crew come follow you at work tomorrow?”
“Tomorrow?” I squeaked out, “I have several surgeries scheduled… I’m not sure that the hospital…”
“I’ve already checked with the administration; we’ve done the paperwork and I promise you won’t notice us.”
I shrugged, ignoring the warning sirens in my head, “Okay.”
She smiled and then moved to shake my hand, but hugged me instead, “You won’t regret this!”
As she left the door and I did the deadbolt and chain I thought, “I probably already do…”
I noticed as I logged out of the account there was a program slowing everything down… I finally ended up manually turning the computer off to get it to unfreeze. It worked fine when I logged back into my normal account though, so I just shrugged it off as the large video file eating up memory.
IVY NICKERSON ANSWERED the door and found a well-dressed lady outside that she recognized from the little adoption company she had contracted. “Hi Ashley,” she greeted her and waved her inside.
“How are you doing Ivy?” she asked.
“I’m tired, it’s been a long day of procedures today. Tell me you have good news?”
“Well, it’s a mixed bag. If you want this little, you’re going to have to court him so to speak. He’s a little nervous about some of the information making it back from this dimension to their world.”
“Diapers, forcible kidnapping, you know… the truth,” she acknowledged.
“I wouldn’t be like some of those mothers though!”
“I know that, but I think you’re going to have to work a bit to reel this one in. I do think he’s possible though, so I’d recommend you watch the video he sent back to you, and you send another. Make it a regular pen pal relationship and in six months I all but guarantee he’ll be curious to come!”
“Six months?” she cried. She could feel her biological clock ticking away already!
“Who knows? It might be less! Watch the video, you’ll know why I think he’s worth it. If you decide you can’t wait for him, let me know and I’ll get another one on the line for you to pull in.”
Ivy looked at her and shrugged, “I may do that... but I’ll watch the video first.”
Ashley walked to the door after handing her a small thumb drive. She turned as she left, “Trust me, you’ll want this one. It might even be worth some temporary concessions to get him here.”
‘That’s an odd statement,’ Ivy thought as she closed the door behind Ashley and watched her walk to her car through the peephole.
She walked to her large TV in the living room and plugged the drive into a player to watch it. Sitting down on the couch she grabbed a throw pillow and clutched it like a teddy bear as the video started. ‘Oh my god you would never know he’s a little!’ she thought to herself with a smile as she watched the video.
“Hi Doctor Nickerson, I’m Doctor Nick Benning, but you can just call me Nick. I’m a surgeon here in our dimension, focusing mainly on pediatrics, but some general procedures as well. I’ve still not really settled on one or the other completely. I did extended residency time so that I could be well qualified in both fields.”
The camera view faded to a view of him in a surgical theater working on a little girl. His gloved hands worked a device that looked like an old antique endoscope they used to use forty years before. It was clear he was very skilled with the device though, as she watched the camera alternating zooming in on his monitor view, and him using tools to cut and suture. Oddly it looked like they were removing an appendix.
She started at that, ‘They still remove appendixes?’
He actually explained the procedure in a voice overlay right then, “I was operating on this young girl for an inflamed appendix that wasn’t responding to antibiotic treatments that were tried. Concerned that the organ was likely to burst it was decided to perform the emergency procedure. Fortunately, the procedure went smoothly and the girl should be up and running around in a week or so.”
The view shifted to another surgery and she recognized some urgency going on in the theater even though calm was present just like she would expect in her world. “Nick, what do you think?”
She watched him think something quickly over, “There has to be another hole we missed. We have to open her back up,” he told the other surgeon and immediately she watched nurses provide him a scalpel and after another team member sterilized the area he began cutting back open what looked like a recent incision. “Blood pressure is falling,”
“Give her another pint,” another doctor said.
She watched in fascination as Nick worked an absolute miracle on the patient who looked to be tiny even compared to him. The video kept going and she watched him grimace and say, “There was another of those damn pellets here!”
‘Such language,’ she thought for a second before she watched him hold up some small thing that reminded her of a shotgun shell pellet. To her horror she realized that was exactly what it was. He began tracing back the wound and stitched carefully as he manipulated the little girls’ organs. Finally, someone said, “That must have been it, she’s stabilizing.”
She let out the breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding in, ‘I’m not sure he should come here… that was amazing…’
The video shifted back to Nick in his scrubs, “That was a long surgery. The poor girl was hanging out with her older brothers who had taken a gun they weren’t supposed to have. They fired the shotgun and she ended up with what we thought were four of the pieces of shot that ricocheted into her that we’d already removed. We missed one piece though that we didn’t see initially on the x-rays. Hopefully there aren’t too many long-term effects for her, but we won’t know that until at least when she wakes up in a few hours.”
The video shifted again and Nick was now in what looked like a hotel room, “Like my place?” He asked sarcastically. “A few weeks ago, my apartment manager barged in to tell me our building had been deemed unsafe and I had to be out in a very short time. Due to the huge boom in jobs in the area I’m still trying to find another apartment. I’m going to be honest; I wouldn’t even consider this Portal Relocation scheme if it wasn’t for this making it seem like maybe it’s fated to do so.”
She squeezed the pillow, ‘If he wasn’t a boy, he would be absolutely perfect…’ she thought to herself.
“I’m not sure about this, but I am willing to at least follow the relocation programs suggestion that we send some messages back and forth. Now that you’ve seen surgery in my world, what’s different there? Any chance you can tell me more about what I would expect in your world? You mentioned getting me a position at the hospital there, what would I be able to do?”
The screen went blank after a few more questions and Ivy sighed to herself as she hugged the pillow. Ashley was right, he was worth waiting for. She just hoped he wouldn’t hate her when she was done getting him ready to be the perfect little that she wanted…