From the author: What happens if you're born into the WORST of all possible words? A response to Voltaire's Candide, Candont answers this question!
Trudging to work wasn’t the best decision he could have made, but in a world of wrong choices, it was the best that he could muster, passing a dozen car-wrecks on the way. A drone from the sky alerted him, and he looked up in horror to watch as the third plane this week plummeted into an apartment complex.
Standing still wasn’t the best decision either, as a brick thrown free clipped his head.
His doctors’ decision to operate to relieve the pressure of his concussion wasn’t good. But he survived the infection, though their choice of antibiotics wasn’t the best, either.
On awakening from his coma, he cautiously took a taxi to the local university (surviving two fender-benders along the way), and, dodging students vomiting from dorm windows, turned the wrong way and accidentally found the physics building. None of the professors were in; a host of wrong turns had led every one of them to be late for their classes, which every student happened to be failing.
“Could it be,” he asked, when a physicist staggered in, mildly concussed after a fraternity prank gone awry, “that we’re living in the worst of all possible worlds?”
The professor set her glasses on a stool, and then forgot and sat on them, before ruefully replying, “It’s certainly possible, that in a quantum multiverse in which universes are created by human decisions, by electrons firing and bouncing in different directions, that yes, there must be a world in which every possible decision made is the wrong one. But we’d need to study the matter before we’d know that we live in the worst of all possible worlds.”
“When did it start? It couldn’t always have been, else we wouldn’t have telephones or planes—”
“Ah, but it took us thirty years to attain flight, even after the Wrong Brothers’ spectacular and fiery crash at Kitty Hawk!” she replied. “Perhaps in other universes, they didn’t fail.”
“Yet how can we know?” he demanded.
So they built—with many impressive failures—a device that let them peer into other quantum realities, to worlds with skies unhazed by the smoke of fallen airplanes, burning buildings, and massive wars. “Wait, that reality elected the wrong person—”
“—every reality seems to do that. Even the one where frogs are the dominant form of life—they always elect the wrong frog.”
“So, we’re agreed? This really is the worst of all possible worlds?”
“We’ve only surveyed five thousand realities; the confidence interval, stacked against an infinite number of universes, isn’t strong. But I suspect that the worst universe actually imploded sometime in the indefinite past, causing all incorrect choices to default to our reality for expression.” She sighed. “According to the ancient Maya, the world was supposed to end last Tuesday.”
“We didn’t even get that right.” He exhaled. “I’m going home to lie in bed until it does.”
Which turned out to be the worst choice of all, as she opted to go with him.
This story originally appeared in Grievous Angel.