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April 5, 2018

Flash Fiction Challenge – New Life

Filed under: flash fiction challenge — Eva Therese @ 7:54 pm

The prompt for this week’s challenge is “New Life” and is as always given by the bearded sage, Chuck Wendig.

”So,” Sophie asked, with a nervous laugh, “is there one where I’m married to Brad Pitt?”
The woman at the desk – she had introduced herself as Lucy – wore the carefully neutral expression of someone who has heard the same joke way too many times.
“No,” she replied. She pushed a small stack of manila folders across the desk. Her nails were short but immaculately manicured. They made Maggie selfconscious of her own chipped nail polish.
Lucy spread out the folders like a card dealer in a casino. An elegant, practiced move. There were eight of them.
There had been a long and very technical explanation as to why there were only eight. The bottom line had been that nine worlds were connected in a sort of cluster, making them relatively easy to get to, while the rest of the infinite number of universes out there were far away and very difficult to reach. Maybe she and Brad Pitt really were a couple in one of them, but Maggie would never know.
She took the folder to the utmost right and opened it. Her heart fluttered as she read the dossier of her life as it could have been if only things had been a bit different. She had a slightly better paying job. She was a married to a man who looked both kind and handsome, even if he was starting to go bald. She stared at his photograph trying to picture waking up to that face every morning for the rest of her life. The butterflies in her stomach raced another lap. She read about hobbies, some of which she had herself contemplated, but never gotten around to trying, like ice skating.
Finally, she put the folder down to one side with a sigh and picked up the next to see what that had to offer. She put it down again quickly and to the opposite side. Her in this version had children, twin girls, and Maggie found herself unable to contemplate separating them from their mother or her from them. Apparently, there was a limit to even her selfishness.
She read the next two, which were about as good as the first one. Better jobs than the one she had now. A fiancee in one, a boyfriend in the other. They both looked like the kind of people she would have liked to go on a date with. But deciding to be married to?
In the fifth, she had a girlfriend. Maggie stared at the woman’s picture for a very long time. She had never openly come out as bi. She had told herself that if she ever ended up with a woman, she could come out then, but it was so much easier to find men to date. She wondered how much she had missed out on, as she looked at the woman with the dark brown hair, full hips and an infectious smile, before finally putting the dossier aside with the others.
She opened the next one and blinked in surprise before looking up at Lucy.
“Dead?” she asked. “Why do you give me this?”
“We want you to know all the possible outcomes,” Lucy replied.
“But you could just have told me, that in one of the worlds I died two years ago. I don’t need a dossier on that.”
Lucy shrugged. “We don’t want you to get the impression that we’re hiding anything.”
Despite herself, Maggie began reading the dossier. In was sad and uncomfortable. Unlike the other Maggies, nothing about this one had been better than her own life. Maggie wondered if this Maggie would have been as envious of her life as she was of the others.
She put the dossier aside and picked up the seventh, the second-to-last.
“Here, I run my own company,” she said. “I don’t know if I can do that.”
“We’ll do extensive training to help you prepare for whatever situations you may face,” came the smooth answer.
“Sure.” Maggie ended up putting this in the rejection pile. She told herself it was because the her in this version was single and not because she shied away from the challenge of being a boss.
She took the final folder, almost holding her breath as she opened it. Her eyebrows soared as she started to read. “I’m a criminal?” she said.
“And a very proficient one,” replied Lucy. She leaned forward slightly. “We try to avoid steering our clients in any direction, but I do believe the life of a crime boss would be prohibitively difficult to adjust to.” Her voice was friendly, confidential.
Maggie didn’t know if she was being mocked. She closed the folder, but not before glimpsing the picture of the man this version of her was married to. He was a knockout alright. Made all the others look almost plain in comparison. Now there was a face she could definitely say she wouldn’t mind waking up the next to for the foreseeable future.
With a small sigh, she put the folder in the small pile before turning back to the five potential ones. How to pick between them?
“You don’t have to make any kind of decision today,” said Lucy. “You can go home, sleep on it and come back tomorrow.
You should also keep in mind that just because you take on a new life, doesn’t mean that you can’t ever make changes. You can change jobs or get divorced.”
“Or I can get fired or get dumped,” said Maggie.
“That too,” replied Lucy evenly. “We help you get started, but in the end, it’s your responsibility how things work out.”
“I will … I will go home and … mull it over.” Maggie got up and immediately felt a bit lightheaded after sitting down for so long. She leaned against the table.
Lucy smiled sympathetically. “A glass of water?” she asked.
“I’m fine.” Maggie straightened up. “I’ll be fine. Just my circulation. Ought to exercise more.”
“You can make an appointment with the secretary on the way out.” Lucy shook her hand. “So nice to meet you.”
“You too,” said Maggie then turned and stumbled out, head still spinning from all the possibilities.


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