The Back of Stars by Jake Teeny




Jake Teeny

Peter once read a very convincing article by a very prominent physicist explaining that we live within one universe of an infinity of universes.

This fact both elated and depressed him.

First, if there were an infinite number of universes, this meant that in a handful of them Peter had climbed Mt. Everest, swam in underwater caves, drank thousand-dollar bottles of red wine and actually tasted the difference.

But having an infinite number of universes also meant that she existed. The woman with long, dark hair and the daisy yellow dress.

He would see her in his dreams sometimes, always from the third person. Peter watching himself be happy with her.

And if those infinite universes existed (truly infinite), that meant every time Peter dreamed of Peter being with her, one version of himself actually was.

Such an odd sensation to be envious of oneself, Peter found.

So without concern, he signed as many checks as needed, hiring gray-bearded gurus to assist him in the way of controlling dreams. But even after he learned to shift the colors of his slumber, summon her from anywhere, Peter found it not enough.

To know that she was somewhere but wasn’t actually here…

So Peter took what spare money he had left and hired a police sketch artist to draw her face for him. Then he hired a private investigator to see if he could find her. Peter knew that although he himself existed in this world, it didn’t mean she existed here somewhere, too.

But one day, Peter’s detective found her.

With the last of his money, he flew across the country to see her. And when he knocked on her door, she answered.

Just like his dreams. The hair. The dress. The love, the love, the love. Like all of Peter’s infinite selves exhaled at the same time. Moments later, however, a young child stepped forward and asked his mother who the stranger at the door was.

But the woman said nothing. Just gave a quiet smile. The kind for when you want to say a thousand words but can only manage two.

“I’m sorry,” she said.

Her voice was different somehow. Lighter.

“It’s too nice a day to be sorry,” he said.

The son got bored and left the two of them to stand there like that, gazing across universes at the single star shared between them.

“In another place…,” she said.

“Another place,” he said.

“But somewhere,” she said.

“Always somewhere,” he said.

He waved farewell, then, and walked slowly away from the house. At the last moment, though, he couldn’t help turning back to look at her. But the door was already closed. The day was already late. And Peter simply couldn’t afford to catch a different flight home.

Food for Thought

Many physicists do in fact believe there are an infinite number of universes in existence. And if there really is an infinite amount, any reality you can imagine exists somewhere for some version of yourself. If this is true, would it devalue the meaning and significance in your own life? Or would it expand your life to greater proportions? This in turn raises a philosophical consideration related to relativism. That is, if in fact it could be unequivocally proven that there were these infinite universes, would it even matter so long as you couldn’t interact with them? Beyond the fun thought experiment, it forces you to consider what it means to exist outside of one’s perception of it.

About the Author

Jake Teeny is currently pursuing his PhD at Ohio State University, where he studies the psychology of persuasion. Be careful. Continuing to read this may convince you to check out his website,, where he has more short stories and life-transformative thoughts on psychophilosophy. Or don’t. You’re free to do whatever you want…

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