MR. WAYNE CAME TO the end of the long, shoulder-high mound of gray rubble, and there was the Store of the Worlds. It was exactly as his friends had described; a small shack constructed of bits of lumber, parts of cars, a piece of galvanized iron and a few rows of crumbling bricks, all daubed over with a watery blue paint.
Mr. Wayne glanced back down the long lane of rubble to make sure he hadn't been followed. He tucked his parcel more firmly under his arm; then, with a little shiver at his own audacity, he opened the door and slipped inside.
"Good morning," the proprietor said.
He, too, was exactly as described; a tall, crafty-looking old fellow with narrow eyes and a downcast mouth. His name was Tompkins. He sat in an old rocking chair, and perched on the back of it was a blue and green parrot. There was one other chair in the store, and a table. On the table was a rusted hypodermic.
"I've heard about your store from friends," Mr. Wayne said.
"Then you know my price," Tompkins said. "Have you brought it?"
"Yes," said Mr. Wayne, holding up his parcel. "But I want to ask first--"
"They always want to ask," Tompkins said to the parrot, who blinked. "Go ahead, ask."
"I want to know what really happens."
Tompkins sighed. "What happens is this. You pay me my fee. I give you an injection which knocks you out. Then, with the aid of certain gadgets which I have in the back of the store, I liberate your mind."
Tompkins smiled as he said that, and his silent parrot seemed to smile, too.
"What happens then?" Mr. Wayne asked.
"Your mind, liberated from its body, is able to choose from the countless probability-worlds which the Earth casts off in every second of its existence."
Grinning now, Tompkins sat up in his rocking chair and began to show signs of enthusiasm.
"Yes, my friend, though you might not have suspected it, from the moment this battered Earth was born out of the sun's fiery womb, it cast off its alternate-probability worlds. Worlds without end, emanating from events large and small; every Alexander and every amoeba creating worlds, just as ripples will spread in a pond no matter how big or how small the stone you throw. Doesn't every object cast a shadow? Well, my friend, the Earth itself is four-dimensional; therefore it casts three-dimensional shadows, solid reflections of itself through every moment of its being. Millions, billions of Earths! An infinity of Earths! And your mind, liberated by me, will be able to select any of these worlds, and to live upon it for a while."