Switch Twitch

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I'd gotten it off some old guy with shifty, suspicious eyes and a wallet full of gold and formulas. I knew that it had to be something special. I'd studied some, before realizing it wasn't going to feed me while sleight of hand could. Besides, I'd swotted for years and taken the test to become a world-jumping pilot before they told me I couldn't qualify 'cos my folks didn't have the money for the 'application'.
With a pocket full of gold, and the world-jumping gidget, I could Switch Twitch my life, not just a pocket. The multiverse was my oyster. I'd be stupid not to search for the pearl.
Once I'd figured out the sequence this little bracelet used, I jumped just a little way--just to familiarize myself with things.
There was a hint of nausea when I stepped right into the parallel world two strings away--not so much the switch as much as the air quality. Crowded city, stinky air with thick particles. I might well have jumped in time to my string's Industrial Revolution. No pearls here. I ducked into an alley and switch twitched with a smile at the homeboy who was reaching for his gun.
I jumped further this time, hoping to get better air, and better looking people. My old textbooks had said that the third world Jonas Kirby had jumped to during his testing phase had been pure hell, while the fifth had been pure heaven. That's where he'd eventually disappeared to, hiding the co-ords so none could follow him. I'd have done the same if the Feds had been after me too.
The world seven strings away from my former home was too green. Green air, but breathable. Green people with shocked expressions. Blue cops with puce faces pursuing. Too hard to Switch here. I jumped strings while running; an absolute no-no in anyone's textbook.
I found out why in the thirteen world from my home string. Velocities don't match. I ran straight through a stone wall and into a barn. Bucolic looking world--may well have been a pearl. I'm a city boy at heart. Even those four-horned hairy cows could see it; too hairy for me. I waved at the farmer's wife screaming, “Witch! Witch!”, and the farmhands running over with pitchforks. Pity. The air was so pure...
I kinda liked the twentieth world, but the dragons didn't like me. And the twenty-fifth? Too lonely with its whole dystopian film-set look. The thirty-first world? Heavy, man--gravity ruled with an iron-fist. I almost didn't make it out of that one.
I got to tell you, I was getting desperate now. A pocket full of gold and a gidget to Switch Twitch anywhere in an infinite number of worlds, and I still get stuck with the duds. I had to turn the lemons into lemonade, as my mum used to say.
It was the fifty-third world that decided me. Nothing but tardigrades munching or keening, and hydras free-wheeling all over the place. I'd came, I'd seen, I jumped to too many conclusions. It was time to head back home.
I almost didn't make it back.
There was this one string...so beautiful and pristine—and this one girl... I stayed two years and turned my pocketful into a disgusting fortune with one of those formulas. But, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get used to the purple sky and lighter gravity. There's no place like home, as they say.
Home felt strange at first. I felt...different, too.
I stood for a few moments, taking everything in—the milling people, the heavy air, the haves and the have-nots with barely concealed hostility...
Someone bumped into me, so I stepped to the side against a store, and felt for the gidget one last time, to say goodbye like.
It wasn't on my wrist. I checked my pocket. Empty.
I should have guessed. Slowly, I turned to look at the store window. There, reflected like my future, I stood—an old man with shifty, suspicious eyes.
I grinned at myself savagely. There's no place like home.

About the Author: 
Leenna almost failed Physics at high school, and has hankered to study physics further ever since. Her novels include Settle Down Now and Here Be Monsters. Incident At Wolfe Creek, her current wip, is set on parallel worlds because her favorite theory has strings attached. Her blog is www.leennanaidoo.wordpress.com