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by Luc Reid

It only took Henry eight lives to figure out who the people were that he needed to help. There were fourteen of them.

One was the housewife from Ontario who, given the chance to start a late life career in diplomacy, had finally brought peace to the Middle East.

One was a blind, retired marketing prodigy, who had turned zero population growth from a second-rate idealist cause into a worldwide obsession. He later said it was because he'd needed a hobby.

One was the guy who invented Sip Cars. One was the astronomer who detected the 2040 meteor in time. One made four movies about addiction and violence that turned those problems from shadowy worries into clear tasks people cared about working on. And so on.

Before those eight lives, it had taken Henry seventeen more to figure out what he should be doing with himself. Saving the world was not something that came naturally to him, and he had been trying to enjoy himself. Only after three times around from beginning to end had he begun to think that his repetitions might be something more positive than a cruel joke. The fourth life he'd gotten filthy rich, and hadn't been any happier. The fifth life he'd been very happy, but he hadn't made a difference in anyone else's life. The sixth life he'd made a difference in a few people's lives for the better, but they resented his meddling, and anyway, it was small potatoes compared to what someone like him should probably have been able to do.

Now it had been twenty-eight lives, ranging in length from 19 years (the ill-fated "experience everything" life) to 87 years (the happy life). Always an accidental or a natural death, never murder or suicide, always born in the same body, growing up nearsighted and gangly in the same neighborhood in Malvern, Pennsylvania at the same moment in history. Twenty-eight lives, and the world was beautiful. By the time Henry was 42 in his twenty-eighth life, those fourteen people had turned around the world's worst problems, from pollution and climate change to war and poverty and waste and ... well, not everything, but pretty close. It was a damned good world this time. Any more changes would just be fussing with it.

Henry put the barrel of the revolver in his mouth and hoped to God he wouldn't have to go back and do it all over again.

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