What would you do if you fell in love—with a person who’s your husband in an alternate reality? Things only get stranger and more confusing, not to mention more dangerous, from there for the protagonist of A Fractured Infinity, a new queer sci-fi book from author Nathan Tavares. io9 has a sneak peek to share today!
First up, here’s a plot description for some context.
Film-maker Hayes Figueiredo is struggling to finish the documentary of his heart when handsome physicist Yusuf Hassan shows up, claiming Hayes is the key to understanding the Envisioner—a mysterious device that can predict the future.
Hayes is taken to a top-secret research facility where he discovers his alternate self from an alternate universe created the Envisioner and sent it to his reality. Hayes studies footage of the other him, he discovers a self he doesn’t recognize, angry and obsessive, and footage of Yusuf… as his husband.
As Hayes finds himself falling for Yusuf, he studies the parallel universe and imagines the perfect life they will live together. But their lives are inextricably linked to the other reality, and when that couple’s story ends in tragedy Hayes realizes he must do anything he can to save Yusuf’s life. Because there are infinite realities, but only one Yusuf.
With the fate of countless realities and his heart in his hands, Hayes leads Yusuf on the run, tumbling through a kaleidoscope of universes trying to save it all. But even escaping into infinity, Hayes is running out of space—soon he will have to decide how much he’s willing to pay to save the love of his life.
Here’s a look at the full cover, designed by Julia Lloyd, followed by the excerpt.
And here, in the cerebral sci-fi movie—not a blockbuster, not my style—based on the next year or so, the title card will roll. SOMETHING EVOCATIVE IN ALL CAPS. Cue the score, the swelling bwahhh bwahhhh chest-rattling synth undercut by tinkling wind chimes as the blackness fades. CUT to HAYES FIGUEIREDO on a beach in the furthest part of the multiverse you can dream up, staring out at a sea strewn with stars.
I’ve seen a million versions of myself, on a million different worlds, so who knows who’d they’d cast as me. Hopefully some unknown who could say he got all Method and really mined his darkness to tackle the role of troubled filmmaker. Troubled, sure, even though the studio will cut most of the depressive bouts of self-medicating, and the functional alcoholism, and the MDMAeuphoria bonfires with the pack of other lost queers I lived with in my twenties, in that crumbling co-op we all called Saint Homo’s Home for Wayward Boys. All to focus on the story of the man I love and the futures I’ve seen where he has to die, again and again, so the world isn’t smashed to bits by an asteroid, or swallowed up by a rogue black hole, or nuked until it’s a glowing pile of ash.
HAYES (VOICE OVER) Do you see all the stars out there?
All the possibilities?
SLOW PAN out, following HAYES’S eyes out to sea, then the camera angle flips upside down and vaults into space, where an unassuming asteroid floats by the screen.
There’s nothing quite like the sunrise on the beach in this corner of the multiverse.
The juicy lemon wheel of the sun rises over the ocean and torches the horizon with the colors of fruit punch I used to drink as a kid. I rustle on the leaky air mattress, which sends a rubber balloon fart across the pink sand, towards the copse of beach grasses that thicken into what looks like ferns the size of redwoods. That graceful wakeup call would’ve gotten a smile out of Yusuf, not long ago. Before he left. He hasn’t been smiling lately. Just his dark, downturned eyes, and his short sentences.
I mean, of course I get it. It’s tough to tip your head to the sunlight when you know that billions of people have to die because you’re alive. And the man you love kept that from you.
I putter around the camp for a while, with our ring-of-rocks fire pit and our improvised refrigerator that’s a shallow hole covered with palm fronds. The dunes of pink sand and the tropical forest of ferns with their coconuts that taste like bananas and their bananas that taste like coconuts. I’m alone on this island and the whole planet, as far as I can tell.
I knew the end was coming, so I woke up the past few mornings before Yusuf and tried to memorize every detail of him. The shadows on his cheeks from his beard. The swoops of his sooty eyebrows. His halo of black curls. The moles dotting his body like he’s a constellation of some ancient hunter.
SCENE: A sad man alone with a bunch of junk that seems washed ashore from a shipwreck.
I wish, sometimes, that I never crossed paths with that fucking machine. But then I never would’ve met Yusuf. The Envisioner— the huge, dark gray box with all its facets and spindly metal spider legs—sits about a quarter mile down the beach. You know how spiders can feel anything that brushes against their webs because all the strings give off a different vibration? I can feel the other universes like glowing threads when I press my hands against the machine.
I don’t know how the thing works exactly. Every sci-fi movie I’ve ever loved has had some hand-waving here and there. Let’s just take this premise and go with it, deal? I mean, I don’t know how airplanes exactly work either, but they do.
Anyway, the thing is a predictive device. It’s a gateway, sorta. It’s also a plague. A time-bomb fucking with reality on a multi-universal level. Yusuf talks a lot about knots in the fabric of multidimensional space-time, with each Envisioner a point connecting different paths. When he talks like this, words get all crammed together and I can’t make much sense of him or anything else.
The thing crunches a bunch of numbers and spits out predictions. There you go. You’re all caught up.
Yusuf tutored me in physics when I first arrived at the Compound, and I was still interested in not feeling like an idiot around the global brain-trust of the research staff. I use tutored loosely since the sessions were him doodling on his bedroom window with a marker and me wondering at what point in his talk about quarks I could slide his underwear back down and get him to swear in Arabic under his breath again.
“In nature, quarks exist in twos and threes,” he said one session. “You can’t ever find a solo one flying around.”
“Because the force that binds them actually increases the farther you try to pull them apart.” He squiggled a wavy line between two circles on his window.
“How in the hell does that even make sense?”
“It’s like an invisible umbilical cord connects them. Quarks can’t exist on their own.”
When he told me he was leaving, I wanted to say something about how we’re bound together, too. Except it would’ve been shitty of me to hold him emotionally hostage.
I know it’s small-picture thinking to focus on Yusuf breaking up with me with all we’ve done—surfing across universes and messing up timelines. And I know it doesn’t sound self-determination-y to say, but he is what makes me feel the most myself. He makes me know that this me is not a random jumble of molecules or events or whatever. Maybe my life is less my own and more an expression of how I love him. That’s why I’m supposed to be here.
He bickers with me a lot on the meants and the shoulds and the supposed tos—anything that sounds remotely like a bearded, white director set this whole universe up for us and we are just bit players hitting beats in the script. He’s all, in a multiverse where literally every possible version of every possible event exists simultaneously, nothing is meant to happen, and nothing is important, and… Which is usually when I have to anchor him with a tug on his hand and a joke. Like, jesus, lighten up. I just asked if we should get dinner.
I’m aching, like the thread between us is tied to one of my ribs. And this thread pulls tighter with every breath, now that we’re drifting farther apart.
This flash-forward teaser is running a little long, but give me a break because with all my universe road-tripping and Envisioner scrying, my sense of time is fucked. Maybe I’m also stalling because I’m not really looking forward to getting into how all of this was my fault.
I pull Junior, my hand-held camera, from the supply stash by the air mattress and plod over to the shade of the fern forest. I rest Junior on a rock, point her lens at me, and flick her little video screen around so that I can see my face during my seaside confessional. I tap the red “record” button and settle on another rock across from the camera.
I look too thin. Sunburned, with green shadows under my eyes. My therapist ex, Narek, told me once that my docs and films are all vanity because everything I make is about me. But he’s wrong—also an asshole—because I already exhaust myself with my constant thoughts so I don’t need to make whole films devoted to myself. My filmmaking is more about record-keeping and storytelling, as proof that these people existed or these things mattered. A middle finger to entropy.
This isn’t about me, I guess is what I’m trying to say. It’s a warning. Or something.
“Welcome to Hayes’s Disaster Drive-In Theater,” I say to the camera. “You already missed the coming attractions, but that’s okay. Sit back and I hope you enjoy the show.”
I suck in a deep breath, close my eyes, and trace the threads back to the start.
Excerpt from A Fractured Infinity by Nathan Tavares reprinted by permission of the author and Titan Books.
A Fractured Infinity by Nathan Tavares will be out November 22; you can pre-order a copy here.
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