by Jake Christie

CASH ON DELIVERY.
a story.

Walter signed for the package without giving it a second thought. It was about the size of a shoebox, wrapped in noisy brown paper and tied with twine. He hadn't been expecting a package, but when the delivery man thrust a piece of paper with blocks of tiny text and and a line marked with an β€œX” in his face, he just did what came naturally. It was only after he had gone back inside that he noticed his name was nowhere on the package, and neither was his address.

The package contained one normal-looking business-sized envelope. The envelope contained one piece of paper, covered from top to bottom on both sides with letters, numbers, and symbols. It looked like some kind of formula. He took it to his friend John, a high school chemistry teacher, who couldn't make heads or tails of it. He made a copy and sent it to some of his former professors.

A few days later Walter received a frantic phone call from the head of the physics department at a prestigious ivy-league university two states over. β€œIs this your formula?” the physicist asked.

Walter said yes, and he became a very rich man.

He had no idea what his formula meant, even after explanations from dozens of physicists, Nobel laureates, philosophers, and crackpots, but it had something to do with parallel realities. After receiving some very generous awards and grants for his hard work, he sold the rights to the formula to a technology company for a few million dollars.

Walter bought an island and settled down with a supermodel. He tried to keep track of the company's rapid discoveries, which included teleportation, interdimensional travel, even some kind of time machine, all developed from the formula he kept framed above his desk. Things moved so fast that he lost track, but he had other things to occupy his time, like counting his money.

One day two police officers came to his door and told him that his wife was leaving and taking all his money. Walter, who had for some time suspected that she was only after his wealth, said the he would never agree to such a thing.

Unfortunately for Walter, they produced a wrinkled piece of paper with his signature on it agreeing to just that.


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