Technically, this story fits into the Multiverse War. I may turn it into a novella some time.
The car came at Carl…and then he collapsed in a wave of dizziness. A man put his hand on his shoulder, helping him to his feet; there was no car there. He started to move, attempting to dodge the car…and staggered.
“The car,” he said. “Where did it go?”
“What car?” His helper asked. “The road is clear.”
Carl looked up, around the street; it was all deserted. There were a handful of cars parked on the side of the road, but for all the movement that he could see, he and his new friend might have been the only people in the world. There was no one else around at all, not even a pedestrian.
“I don’t understand,” he said. “I saw a car; it was going to hit me. What happened?”
“You probably had too much to drink,” the man said, his tone becoming impatient. “Look; I have to go on to work.”
Carl nodded and let the man go, recognising the signs of the Good Samaterian getting bored with being pulled into the life of a man he stopped to help. He reached the other side of the road and entered the office, passing his car on the way.
“Hey, Carl,” the security guard called. Carl waved as he entered the elevator, riding up in silence to his office, picking up the paper that his secretary had left on his desk. The headline jumped out at him and he gasped.
PRESIDENT ROBERTS ELECTED IN LANDSLIDE!
“But it was President Hasting who get elected,” he said, in outright horror. He’d heard it on the radio before coming into work. Hasting, a middle-aged black man, had been giving a victory speech; he wouldn’t have done that if there had been any doubt at all about the results, would he?
Carl sighed, feeling dizzy again, and logged on to the Internet. A brief search revealed a deeper mystery; there was no sign that President Hasting had ever run in the election campaign. President Roberts had defeated former President Lumbago.
“I’m going mad,” he muttered. He hadn’t been the same since his wife died. “I’m going nuts and…”
He nearly collapsed from another wave of dizziness. “I’m going to have to go sleep it off,” he decided, and left the building. He drove home very carefully, alert for dizziness, and reached his house without mishap. There was someone in the house.
“I closed that door,” he snapped, removing his pistol from the glove compartment. Cold logic and common sense suggested calling the police; fury forced him onwards. He opened the door…and fainted.
“Carl?” His wife asked. She was standing there, bending over him. “Carl, are you all right?”
“Dawn?” He asked. “Dawn?”
“I think you’d better get to bed,” Dawn said, her voice becoming practical. Carl couldn’t argue; seeing his wife alive was more than he could take. She helped him upstairs, into a neatly-made bed rather than the mess he’d left in the morning; he pulled her down into it. She giggled and came willingly.
Afterwards, he wandered downstairs…and stopped. A woman was standing there, waiting for him. He stared at her and she placed a finger on her lips, pulling him into the drawing room and closing the door.
“Mr Havie?” She asked. Carl nodded. “I’m afraid there’s been something of a…displacement.”
Carl blinked. “A displacement?”
She nodded. “I’m afraid, Mr Havie, that this is not your world.”
Carl felt dizzy again. The thought had occurred to him; it had just been so unbelievable that he had dismissed the thought at once. “The President,” he said, and then remembered the most important change of all. “My wife.”
“Indeed,” the woman said. She gave him a dazzling smile. “My name is Sally, by the way.”
“Carl,” Carl said automatically. “What’s happened?”
Sally pursed her lips. “That’s something of a long story,” she said. “Suffice it to say that in a seemingly-impossible coincidence, yourself and your counterpart walked into the same twist in the space-time continuum at the same time. Naturally, you swapped places.”
Carl sighed. “You know, I really miss the days when my life made sense,” he said. “Why is my wife still alive here?”
Sally laughed briefly. “You know, there are people who would agonise endlessly over why one President got elected, but not over the lives of individual people,” she said. “Your wife died at a campaign meeting for would-be President Hasting; your counterpart’s wife never went because Hasting didn’t win the candidacy.”
“My counterpart,” Carl snapped. He mentally cursed himself for not thinking of himself first. “What happened to him?”
Sally’s brown eyes were sad, caring. “Don’t you remember?”
Everything fell into place. “That car,” Carl said. “It was going to hit me.”
“It did hit you – the other you,” Sally said. “Your counterpart died in the accident, after a desperate attempt by the doctors to save him.” She frowned. “Normally, if both of you were still alive, we would offer to exchange you back, but now it’s just you. Do you want to go back to your own world?”
“They think I’m dead,” Carl said. “They will have held a funeral and everything.”
“There’s still time,” Sally said. “It hasn’t been that long; plenty of time for some enterprising young doctor to bring you back to life. You could return to that world…”
A woman’s voice echoed down the stairs. “Carl…?”
“No,” Carl said. “This world has my wife in it. Everything else is the same.”
“No, it’s not,” Sally said. “There will be differences.”
Carl shook his head. “It doesn’t matter,” he said. “My wife is here. I don’t want to put her through thinking that her husband is dead. I want to stay.”
He was prepared to fight, but Sally merely nodded. “It’s your choice,” she said. “Good luck.”
She vanished. Carl heard his wife calling again and walked up the stairs – back into a life he had lost forever. This time, he was determined, it would not be wasted.