May 2024


Alice Gauntley

Play Audio
read by June Angela

art by Cara Search

I can explain.

Now that universe-hopping is possible, most people want to meet other versions of themselves. Burnt-out 30-somethings are curious about who they’d be if circumstances were different. Scientists are enamored with a new natural laboratory in which to study the effects of nature vs. nurture. Pornographers are excited about their newest genre: virgin teen meets her evil doppelganger.

Me, I’m not interested in any of that.

I just want to meet different versions of you.

I never told you this, but when we first got together, your mother warned me about you. She said you were hard to love, that she hoped I understood what I was getting into. I told her not to worry, because I knew you were worth it.

And yes, I still believe that, despite everything.

But I’ve found a way to make it easier to love you.

What I do is, I go to these other universes. The one with the pink sky, the one with the warlords, the one with the crabs. I take a piece of your hair—there’s always some on your pillow—to set up the locator. And then I find that universe’s version of you.

There’s a universe in which you never left home, never learned what a cruel place the world could be. I like you there, small and naive, full of untapped potential. There’s also a universe in which you’ve killed so many people you’ve lost count, which puts the things you’ve done here into perspective a bit. There’s a universe in which you found religion, and a universe in which you hurt yourself instead of me, and a universe in which your father never told you that story about the horses, so you never learned that particular lesson and thus never put it into practice.

So I meet all your other selves, and I find something to love in each of them. A smile, a moment of softness, a righteous tinge to your anger, a wink. I breathe it in, the fullness of my heart as I look at you, the love pushing out the fear. And then I carry that feeling back to our own world, and I think about it when you lose control, when you lash out, when you are hard to love.

Please try to understand. I’ve been doing it for us. I’ve been doing it for you.

About the Author

Alice Gauntley (she/her) is a writer caught between hope and despair. She is the winner of the 2023 Toronto Star Short Story Contest, and her short stories have previously appeared in Dread Machine, Drabblecast, and Best Canadian Stories 2021, among other publications. She lives with a wonderful partner and a terrible cat in Toronto, Canada, on the traditional territory of the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe, the Wendat, and the Mississaugas of the Credit. She dreams of the day when she’s swept off her feet by her evil doppelganger from a parallel universe. Find her at or on Twitter @alicegwrites.

About the Reader

June Angela received Broadway’s TONY Award and Drama Desk nominations as Best Leading Actress in a Musical for “Shogun.” Numerous stage and TV credits include starring opposite Danny Glover in the 2 character play “Yohen” and co-starring as Tuptim in the Broadway revival of “The King and I” with Yul Brynner. A regular on three series including “The Electric Company” with Morgan Freeman and Rita Moreno, she won a Grammy and Emmy Award for her work. She’s recorded many books for Audible and several plays for L.A.Theatre Works including “Leocadia” in which she is British. On the TV series “Fresh Off the Boat” she was the family psychic and currently she’s working on 2 NDA projects. Shhh….

About the Artist

Cara Search (she/her) is a freelance illustrator based in Brooklyn. Cara brings a tactile sensibility to digital illustration, infusing her work with painterly textures, uneven lines, and an inviting sense of movement. Whether hand-lettering a series of scalding hot New York Times Cooking comments (“Gorgeous! I made this the night my wife and I got divorced”, etc.) or illustrating historic buildings, Cara renders artwork with narrative, humor, and character. Follow her on Instagram or visit