Another grave. This one says “Daniel T. Carey, 1963-2008.” There’s a little heart underneath; no need to ask what killed him. I survived that heart attack, mostly because I was with others at the time. I make a note: Number 274, cardiac. He’s the hundred and twenty-first of those.
They say that big decisions change your life; my experience is that the big decisions come with so much force and baggage that no major change is possible. No, it’s the little decisions that’ll get you. Like a quarter-century ago, when I pulled the job notice for a lab assistant off the board rather than a nice stable administrative job. It was a moment’s impulse, but it led me here.
I’m testing the Stepwalker device; it’s a funky little machine about the size of a cell phone that allows you to travel to parallel universes. For some reason it keeps dropping me out at or near the location of that world’s version of me. What’s a little scary is how many gravestones I’ve found. Heart attack, infection, blood sugar, neurodegeneration. All medical, except for the two that had been shot and the one I won’t talk about. Life is precious.
Don’t get me wrong; I’d found about a half-dozen versions that were still alive. They all followed the same pattern – living alone or with friends, a job that had lots of stress but little or no intellectual stimulation, minding a thousand health issues. It was more than a little depressing.
There’s still no sign of the kid that invented this thing. That’s right, a kid. He’s a twelve year old autistic savant named Billy, and he’s wandering too. Looking for a new father because his died. My official duty is to find traces of him. Checking on my own fate is a side project.
Number 85, one of the live ones, got me started on the journal. He reminded me of my younger days, when I fancied I’d become a writer. About a year ago he’d taken up writing again after a twenty-five year absence. Mostly light stories; he said it helped him deal with the crushing weight of real life. Now that I’m doing it too I can say he’s right.
I sit down cross-legged on my grave and wait for the sensors to determine whether Billy came through here. After a few seconds I’m reminded why cross-legged is a stupid idea and stretch my feet out. This is the boring part, but it allows me to take some time and work on my next story.
I think it’s time for another story with Tim, Steve, and Jenny. I like those characters. It’s an old prompt from Writers’ Digest: “Three Wishes”, the first one they ever posted. And so here I sit, exploring infinite universes while exploring infinite universes. I decide to focus on Steve and the words start to flow.
Steve smiled ##### self-consciously at [Jasmine?], the Mediteranian [check sp] beauty sitting across the table ...