Alternate Universes

Your life, if you’d decided differently.



“Faster!” Fists flew, a pivot, then my heel pierced the air like a spear. Since I was fourteen I’d honed these same movements, harder and faster and more graceful.

“Again. From the start.” I set my feet, taking note of where I stood, and began. I lunged, punched, kicked, and then with the pivot from that kick, stomped. The movements etched the motions into my mind and muscle. Now, using them in these flowing combinations was second nature.

When I was done, I looked around. The movements had taken me all over the room, but when I was done my feet rested in precisely the same place they started, a testament to the precision with which I’d executed every motion. “Damn, there’s no improving on that. We’ll have you tearing that tournament apart.”



I woke up on the floor. My shoulder screamed as I twisted it back into the socket, and I screamed too. Then I rolled over and looked around. I’d had another seizure. The alcohol sure hadn’t helped. It’s probably what set off the seizure, messing with my meds.

I set the bottle of liquor upright, though most of it had already soaked the carpet. The hell with it. It’d evaporate. As long as it didn’t soak through the ceiling of the apartment downstairs and get management knocking again, I could give half a shit. I checked the time and cursed. I was running late.

I stripped down, leaving yesterday’s uniform on the floor, and got another out of the closet, heading for the shower. Another day, another dime, another two days before I could make rent.


I looked down the lines and lines of text, scanning each line. I tossed an empty soda can across the room, and it bounced off the pile of empties in the trash, falling back out. I cracked another Coke open as I looked for the imperfection. Finally, I found the problem. Well, I found a problem, but maybe it was also the problem. I hoped so. I corrected, compiled, executed.

Before my eyes, a world came to life. The icons were simple stylizations, but artistic, representing a lot with simple strokes. The world that lay beneath would be rich, complex, and it had finally run without crashing. This latest build of the game involved an entire ecosystem that the player could interact with; they could feed it or hunt it and the results might strengthen it or bring it crashing down.

I got up, going to the whiteboard, looking at the ecosystem I had planned, and bit my lip. It was running, but what existed now was pretty basic. If the money lasted another month, I might have half of this ready by the release date. If not, I might have to start looking for a loan, or an investor. Two months and I could do it all, but I couldn’t code if I couldn’t eat.

Author: Eric Eshleman

I'm not real.

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