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Local Perturbation

Arnav is a research programmer at the Vancouver School of Economics. His writing has appeared in Daily Science Fiction and Blanket Sea.

Wasn't sure how to say goodbye, so I'll let someone else do the heavy lifting. Short story from an author on home system, and a small note from me.
The confirmation of multiverse theory was one of the last things ever done.
Experimentally, the work was quite airtight and tidy (and elegant, for that matter.) A single leaf, blowing on a tree near the lab, was observed to have already fallen when viewed through a special sort of window. The early demonstration had several limitations (no viewing faraway events, or times other than the present, or averaging over multiverses. And absolutely no commerce or transit between them.) But it was done.
Over time, the technology was refined. The last thing couldn't be altered; apparently you can't change what's happening through a MultiView, any more than you can change what's happening in a movie. But we could fix the other ones. And have computers distill the distressingly infinite results for our stupid human brains.
...John, so what if in 92.3% of universes where you're two inches taller, we don't divorce? You think we're all just automata? ...This is exactly the kind of depressing bullshit we talked about with the therapist. I'm going to a hotel.
I'm saying that in 87% of the universes where my skin is 12% darker, you wouldn't have decided to have us over for dinner, that first week we moved here. Are you fucking kidding me? My best friend is a fucking racist? ...Yes, yes, it's possible we're in the other 13%, but how likely is that
[Tonelessly, as if spoken by a computer.] "Without radically revising other parameters, there is no measurable share of universes where your parents' final subjective assessment of your career trajectory can be accurately summarized as 'pride.'
These conversations are the absolute last entries in the surveillance satellites, computers, wires, bugs, and other dirty tricks that were floating both on and around the third planet from the Sol system's star (many of the latter, of course, unknown to the natives.) We can only speculate as to the precise nature of the general planetary collapse that swiftly followed.
Or, if you step into the exhibit to your left, you can examine it for yourself. In the MultiView.
Who knows? Maybe in some other place, we would have lived long and well together. The chemicals in my brain might have been better balanced. The local environment sunnier, our pockets deeper, the trees a bit more fragrant--so that the abyss over which I fell would've hung, faint and small and reassuringly far away.
If the aforementioned story's premise is true, this is happening, somewhere. What would you tell those people, my dear Xi-or?
I would tell them to tremble. And they would, if they knew how thin and frail and narrow are the foundations of their joy.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

Author Comments

I was pretty upset when I wrote this story (the first I've submitted or sold.) It was the aftermath of forgetting an important birthday, and I wondered: what minimal change would have prevented this? Maybe if my own birthday was around the corner, or a Hallmark was down the street, or my memory was 2% better?

- Arnav Sood
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