Featured Story
Recent Stories
Stories by Topic
News
Make the universe a better place! Support DSF with a donation:
small-go-arrowdonate
Take me to a...
Random story
top-rated stories only
Enter any portion of the author name or story title:
small-go-arrowsearch
Sign up for free daily sci-fi!
your email will be kept private

Breaking News
Get a copy of Not Just Rockets and Robots: Daily Science Fiction Year One. 260 adventures into new worlds, fantastical and science fictional. Rocket Dragons Ignite: the anthology for year two, is also available!
Kindle Edition
Kindle Edition
DSF stories are available in monthly digests for Kindle!
DSF for Kindle
Publish your stories or art on Daily Science Fiction:
Submit your story
Check story status
Not just rockets & robots...
What is Science Fiction?
"Science Fiction" means—to us—everything found in the science fiction section of a bookstore, or at a science fiction convention, or amongst the winners of the Hugo awards given by the World Science Fiction Society. This includes the genres of science fiction (or sci-fi), fantasy, slipstream, alternative history, and even stories with lighter speculative elements. We hope you enjoy the broad range that SF has to offer.
close






Analog Signals

Mitch remembered when he had first bought his quantum radio, waited in line for nearly four hours to get the first model. The qRadio ads had promised the ability to listen to the user's multiple realities, as if asking thousands of permutations of the question, "How would my life be different if I had...?" They promised a life-changing experience. Both were true.
The first afternoon of listening, Mitch had discovered that if he had played basketball in college, he would have failed out and never met his wife Bella. He learned that if he had never taken the systems admin job in Washington D.C. that she would have still divorced him--except it would have been three years later. So Mitch recognized that wistful angst he saw in his friend Ashanti's expression. He'd felt it himself many times, too.
"We should get back. Your guests--" Mitch began.
Ashanti held up her hand, like a maestro signaling the start of a musical piece. Ran her fingertips across the qRadio's faux knotted wood, styled like an old Philco model from the 1930s. Its speaker rang with dissonance, strings tuning up. The sound fell into harmony and, moments later, silence. She drew a bottle of scotch from a curio cabinet and poured two glasses.
Mitch felt his mouth water at the sight of the single malt. "You were saving that bottle for a special occasion."
"Do you hear the qRadio? That's me!" She spun, dress lifting in a pinwheel, and fell into an easy chair. Ashanti slowly blinked her dark eyes, as if seeing somewhere else, some other time. "I'm playing the violin in the Vienna Philharmonic for the first time. I hear my nervousness in the violin's strings, small squeaks." She sucked at her lip like an anxious parent watching a toddler taking first steps. "But the New Year's concert--what a hell of a time to get my big break."
Mitch could hear the faintest hesitation, as if he were seated in the first row of the audience, listening to the horsehair bow pulling at the strings. "You made it," he said.
She walked to the window and put her drink on the sill. "It took a while to find the station with this reality. But in some time, somewhere, some version of me really did."
Mitch shook his head. He had seen how listening to the qRadio affected people. They dwelled on past decisions since they could hear how they would play out: the people they would never meet and the lives they had only lived in unreachable universes. Mitch picked up Ashanti's old violin from the bookshelf. Sure enough, fresh fingerprints in the dust. "You once told me qRadios were pointless," Mitch said.
She took the violin and placed it back on the shelf. "I keep listening to this station to hear what happens. Do I end up happy? This is the seventh-generation qRadio. With the new fine-tuned calibration, I can parse thousands of decisions. Every decision creates another station. But even it can't see the future, only rewind and replay versions of the past."
"And every station is a version of you trapped in some other universe like amber." Mitch took a sip of the scotch. He reminded himself to drink slowly, lest he say too much. The qRadio made it hard to be satisfied with your life, harder still to hear uncomfortable truths.
"They say that our generation is the most self-centered of all. Instead of sharing everything, we regress into our own pasts," Ashanti said.
"You can't truly have closure on the heartbreak of a life you'll never live when you can eavesdrop on it every day."
"Mitch, it's not like you to wax philosophical." She paused. "OK. What's the heartbreak of your life?"
He shrugged.
"Let me guess--Bell."
"Bella? No. Not her." Mitch took a drink and tried to look noncommittal. "All right. Maybe."
"I knew it! Bella and you were good together," Ashanti said. "Does it turn out differently in any of the versions you've found?"
Mitch shook his head. He remembered the day he realized he could listen to every relationship he'd had with Bella across the universes. He could mark their beginnings. He could mourn their endings. The times she cheated on him. The times he cheated on her. The break-ups in the rain. The time he broke into her apartment and created a trail of rose petals leading to her bed. The time they lost a baby to miscarriage. Every road twisted differently, but each he had found ended.
"If music be the food of love, play on," Ashanti said, and they clinked glasses.
He remembered that after listening to so many of his and Bella's failed romances, he kept dialing back to the decision when they married and the three years they had together. He was his best self. She was radiant. And yet it was too fragile in the end, undone by jealousy.
"In any reality, did I mess it up for you?" she asked.
"Like--you and me. Together? That'd be weird."
"Right--you're like my brother." She cleared her throat. "So, if I practice, how long do you think before I'm playing with a symphony?"
Mitch tugged his friend's arm. "Practice tomorrow. Tonight, let's make the most of this reality."
She nudged him. "Bella is single. Maybe this is the time."
Mitch had heard a version of Bella listening to their three-year marriage on the qRadio. "I'll call tomorrow. Promise," he whispered. He fought back a smile. Maybe this was the reality--maybe the one in more than a trillion universes--where somehow they finally worked.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, June 26th, 2017

RATE THIS STORY
Please click to rate this story from 1 (ho-hum) to 7 (excellent!):

Please don't read too much into these ratings. For many reasons, a superior story may not get a superior score.

5.0 Rocket Dragons Average

SHARE THIS STORY

JOIN MAILING LIST
Please join our mailing list and receive free daily sci-fi (your email address will be kept 100% private):
 
Copyright Info
Tell a Friend
Send Feedback
About Us