Road trips and ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ – what’s not to love? Let’s a peek at Randy Ribay’s An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes!
In An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes, four friends try to figure out their life through their weekly ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ game. Archie is coping with his parent’s divorce. Mari may want to contact her biological mother. Dante wants to come out to his friends. Sam’s clinging to a failed relationship. They decide to go on a cross-country road trip.
An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes releases from Merit Press on October 16.
Her Hidden Multiverse
On second thought, Mari decides to destroy the world. She crosses out the final paragraphs and brainstorms how she will do it.
It is late. A light in her room is the only one on in the entire house. Her door is closed, and an instrumental track set on repeat plays through her headphones. She lies on her stomach across the floor.
She pauses, pressing the tip of the pen to her lips, and searches the walls for inspiration.
A storm of pictures and pages surround her. Faded colors, curling corners, and thumbtack holes mark the age of each. There are postcards from cities she’s visited and cities she wants to visit.
There are pictures of people and animals and buildings and clouds and trees and lakes and campfires and statues and streets and cemeteries. There are posters of famous paintings enhanced with handwritten verses taken from some of her favorite lines of poems and songs. There are drawings of fantasy creatures and landscapes. There are yellowing pages removed from forgotten books bought from garage sales, the passages of which contain no particular significance to her.
There is a photo of her younger brothers at the beach. They crouch in smooth white sand while forming a castle. Their pale skin stings with sunburn. The photographer’s shadow reaches for the water next to them.
On the same wall, high above her mirrorless dresser, there is a photo of her parents on their wedding day. Her dad stands behind her mom with his arms around her waist. Both stare slightly above-camera and smile blissfully with love and forever.
And opposite her dresser, there is a picture of Mari’s best friend who is also adopted. She smiles at the camera, pale pink tongue lolling out to one side over white fangs and black lips.
Macadamia, the nine-year-old chocolate lab mix in the photograph, now lies on the floor next to Mari. She yawns and stretches her legs, pressing her back into Mari’s side.
The right ending suddenly comes to Mari. She starts scribbling into her notebook, pen lifting and dipping like flames licking at the sky.
Mari puts the period on the final sentence and then reads through the entire story. Satisfied, she tears the pages from the notebook and staples them together. She walks over to her closet and pulls out the milk crate she uses as a filing cabinet.
She breathes in old paper and ink as she thumbs through the file folders, which are labeled according to their subjects. There are folders for her D&D stories and fan fiction, and a few attempts at original fantasy and sci-fi. But the thicker folders are those labeled with the names of her family members and friends.
Among the innumerable words are such worlds in which Dante is a midget, Archie’s an orphan, Sam never meets Sarah, and her brothers are girls. One folder contains the various adventures of Macadamia lost in the wild. Another holds pages wherein Mari is adopted by different families, ranging from the abusive to the loving, the affluent to the poor, the animal to the robotic.
But the thickest folder is the one labeled “Biological Mother.” One of her very first stories, only a few sentences long and written in crayon, describes the woman as an exiled alien from another planet who had to abandon Mari to protect her from evil aliens.
And there are others in which she is a mortal who slept with a god. A famous artist. A drug addict. A zombie. A rape victim. A politician.
But in none of these worlds does the woman keep Mari.
This is the folder into which Mari tucks her most recent story of a world destroyed. She then slides the crate, her hidden multiverse, back into her closet and closes the door.
She hits the light switch, joining her darkness to that of the rest of the house, and then slides beneath her covers. Macadamia hops onto the bed and cuddles next to Mari. Mari kisses her on the nose. Macadamia grumbles because she cannot purr.
Mari closes her eyes but does not fall asleep. A fire burns in the forefront of her mind, a fire that refuses to be extinguished.
Copyright © 2015 by Randy Ribay and published by Merit Press, an imprint of F+W Media, Inc. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.