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The Multiverse of Michael Merriweather

Stephen S. Power is the author of The Dragon Round, now out in trade paperback from Simon & Schuster. This is his seventh appearance in Daily Science Fiction. He is also an executive editor at Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of St. Martin's Press. He tweets at @stephenspower, and his site is stephenspower.com.
In all of Michael's futures they get married. Love is funny that way.
They meet in their first class of grad school and leave together, still arguing. She says Oedipus was doomed because larger forces in the world strip us of our agency. Michael says, No, Oedipus made the right choices given what he knew. Only coincidence made them seem otherwise. Cute as he is, even in cargo shorts, she gets a bit fed up, so when Michael starts to cross University Ave, she does not. He turns and blurts, "I'm sorry. I'd rather be wrong and walking with you than right and not." She will take him up on that, she says, then holds out her hand.
In one of Michael's futures they quit grad school, get certified to teach English and spend twenty-nine years in adjoining classrooms at Columbia High in Maplewood, New Jersey. Their students pretend to gag every time he opens the door to blow her a kiss. Once she asks him whether he still wants to finish his degree. He says, No, he cast his die, and pulls her close, which is how they come to have a third child.
In another future they get their doctorates. While she ends up at Columbia University, Michael has no luck finding a tenure-track position. There is no future in being an adjunct, so he takes a job at a private school in Summit, New Jersey. He hates it. Most of the kids are too rich to care about learning, let alone literature. They just want As for their college applications. So Michael becomes the toughest of graders. Let them earn it, he says. He cuts the scholarship kids some slack, though.
A third future finds Michael at Columbia too, an associate professor. His book on how Shakespeare ruined the West by displacing Marlowe's celebration of action with a glorification of anxiety, strikes a cultural nerve and becomes a surprise bestseller. Apparently readers have been waiting for a good kick in the ass, Michael says. She never tells him that departmental jealousy nearly costs him full tenure till she steps in.
They have no time for kids in two of Michael's futures, but still they are happy, just differently happy. They travel a lot. And read a lot more. They can afford a summer home, which they fill with friends. And books.
In all of Michael's futures, he loses his hair, but keeps his waist and health. He sings in the shower, tells awful jokes, and farts with pride. He mows hundreds of miles of lawn, vacuums thousands of miles of floor and changes exactly zero sheets. He rubs her feet.
And in all his futures, Michael sees the school bus speeding toward him on University Ave, and she sees him leap back onto the sidewalk.
Then Michael takes her hand, shivering, and his lives stop flashing before her eyes.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, November 5th, 2018


For Steve and Betsy, as well as for J. Peter, whom I did not know, but wish I had.

- Stephen S. Power
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