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Five Days to a Better You with Parallel Worlds (Executive Edition)

Erica L. Satifka's short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Shimmer, Clarkesworld, as well as previously in Daily Science Fiction. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband Rob and three needy cats. Visit her online at ericasatifka.com.

Slide a steak knife up your sleeve. Smile when you enter the office through the plate-glass window that faces the sidewalk. The glass will shatter, but it cannot harm you. Because you, my friend, are a Winner.
Mandy the receptionist will press the alarm when you burst into the room, but that doesn't mean you should be alarmed. In the real universe, the one you come from, her name is Sandy. She loves cats. Flash those pearly white teeth of yours.
Your doppelganger will be easily dispatched. You can slide into his position as easily as a dislocated joint slides back into place.
Throw the knife away at this point. You won't need it again.
Spend the rest of the day putting together a PowerPoint presentation on your recent visit to Milan. (It does not exist here. They will be enraptured.) When they hand you a bagel, don't be surprised by the greenish tint. It isn't poisoned. That's just the way bagels look here.
Above all, enjoy yourself! This is why you came here, after all: to escape the pressures of modern life with a therapeutic vacation into fiction, a safari into imagination. The fellows back home will be so jealous when they see your pictures!
One small thing: have you written down the location of the return portal? Very good.
Take a morning jog. Eat a fiber-rich breakfast. Have a banana.
When you get to the office, you see that Mandy and some of the gang from Marketing have built a golden statue of you in the atrium. They can sense your Realness, your three-dimensionality, and they love you for it.
Take a short power nap then check your calculations. In roughly seventy-nine hours, this pocket universe will collapse around itself. Do remember where you placed the portal that will allow you to return to Reality. Do not be caught using it.
Tonight at the gym, do sixty push-ups then sit in front of the mirror. Repeat the Daily Affirmations as outlined in your Workbook.
You are Real. They are not. You are a Winner. This is a fragmentary parallel world pulled out of thin air by the power of Your Mind and a portal constructed for you by some of Singapore's finest engineers, and is no more consequential than a newborn mayfly.
Not everyone will love you here. The janitor, in particular, might have something to say about the body of your doppelganger, as he was the one who found it rotting away in the compost heap. You will wish for your knife, but that's the coward's way out. Show those pearlies. Make soothing gestures with your hands. He will be easily placated.
Celebrate a birthday: your birthday! It was last month, actually, but in this best of all fabricated worlds, you can have as many birthdays as you wish. The cake is a little sour, but that's how they like it over here.
Do take care that you do not become so entrenched in their culture (so close to your own, yet with its own particular quirks) that you forget who you are, or lose essential information. The name of your spouse, if you have one. The location of the portal. A list of any medication you may be taking, including the dosage.
Jot it down if you have to. Writing things down doesn't make you any less a Winner.
Spend most of the day searching for the portal. Collapse onto your California King bed. Cry.
Inventory time! What have you learned?
A. Self-confidence.
B. Determination.
C. Good oral hygiene.
D. All of the above!
The plaque your team presents to you is made of the cheapest tin, and the cupcakes you are given taste like rutabagas. You may at some point seem to recall a different life, one very similar to the life you lead now, but then Mandy sticks her tongue into your ear, as lovers do.
You have now completed the Five Day Plan to a Better You. Tear your Workbook in half as the world around you melts into oblivion.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

Author Comments

I wrote this as part of a contest to replicate another writer's style. However, my usual tropes (evil businessmen, list stories) gave me away instantly. I was still quite pleased with how the story turned out, and I hope you are, too!

- Erica L. Satifka
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