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I may have read this book some time in the 80s or 90s. I don't recall the cover or author. However, I recall that what happened to him was similar to what happened to Worf in that episode of Star Trek: TNG, "Parallels." He would without warning or preamble shift quantum realities. This had been happening to him all of his life or at least as long as he could remember. I'm not sure.

He would leave his house and things would be constantly changing. People who had died would be alive and vice versa. He thought this was just how the world was. I'm not sure if he knew he was the only one experiencing this.

I believe there were a group of people who either detected him or theorized that someone like him must exist and were looking for him. Or perhaps they were just researching a phenomenon and encountered him. I believe he was some type of fulcrum for the phenomenon. It's possible that every version of him was experiencing this shift or that he was the only one. I'm not sure. There was some outward signs of the phenomenon, but I'm not sure what they were. But I believe that's why the group existed.

I remember him being skittish and nervous because life was so uncertain for him. He never knew when his mother would be alive that day or not. He could never be certain of anything. I think even the clothes on his back would change. He either encounters these people or they catch up with him somehow and with their help/guidance he/they end the phenomenon and for the first time in his life things stay the same.

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    Are you sure it was a novel? It's a partial match for "The Safe-Deposit Box" by Greg Egan, a short story. In that story a man wakes up as a different person every day and has lived that way his entire life, thinking it completely normal.
    – Moriarty
    Aug 7, 2023 at 2:20
  • Makes me think of the Reluctant Dimension Hopper from the SCP foundation, but he starts from base dimension and returns there, instead of constantly moving among different ones.
    – K-H-W
    Aug 7, 2023 at 15:48
  • Safe Deposit Box doesn't sound familiar. But the web says it's a novelette included in Axiomatic, which was definitely a book my brother owned and I'm sure I would've taken a look at it, because I'm a fan of Greg Egan. I'll see if I can get a copy and post back here if it's the one. Thanks a bunch.
    – HyperNym
    Aug 7, 2023 at 17:14
  • I'm pretty sure it's not SCP, unless SCP has ever been in written novel or novelette form.
    – HyperNym
    Aug 7, 2023 at 17:15
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    @Moriarty I tracked down an online copy of Axiomatic at archive.org. It's an interesting read. I recall skimming through Axiomatic but it didn't grab my attention back then. Not sure why since I was really in to Egan at that time. I'm sure that's not the story though. The one I remember he was actually switching universes, not just bodies. And he was a lot less together than this character. I think he was younger. This dude has a handle on his situation. I found another lead that sounds closer to what I recall. I'm going to find a copy. I'll post it here if it's the one.
    – HyperNym
    Aug 7, 2023 at 19:49

1 Answer 1

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Possibly Damon Knight's novelette "What Rough Beast" (1959)

Quoting from a discussion on the blog MPorcus Fiction Log (abbreviated):

"What Rough Beast" first appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and is the story of Mike Kronski, our first-person narrator. Mike is an immigrant to New York City, has some kind of accent and a speech pattern which under uses articles, and is working as a bus boy in a crummy diner. Before long we learn that Mike has amazing supernatural powers - in fact, it seems like he can do almost anything with his mind from curing cancer to making money appear out of thin air to vaporizing people or buildings. Mike has come to our dimension from some dimension in which Russians colonized North America.Mike always tries to help people, curing their ailments and giving them money and so forth, but there are always people trying to betray him or take advantage of him. Mike tries to keep his powers a secret and to keep a low profile, but when he has to interact with the authorities they see through his deceptions and begin to investigate him. After he helps some pretty ladies, he exposes his astonishing abilities to some working-class brutes who try to kidnap him and exploit him to get rich. Mike isn't fully in control of his powers; while he sleeps at night any injury or illness, even a pimple, is cured autonomically, and when he gets scared his powers can lash out to protect him, even against his will.

This mostly fits. Mike is shifting himself and other things between realities, but he is generally in control of this process. He is investigated by the authories - the group you mention? He is also very afraid of people who want to explot his powers and what he might do if he loses control.

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  • I don't think the story was that old unless it was reprinted sometime in the 80s. I'm also pretty sure he wasn't in control, certainly not to the degree that he had superpowers. He may have been inadvertently or subconsciously in control and maybe that's how he stopped shifting at the end, but I can't recall.
    – HyperNym
    Aug 7, 2023 at 17:19

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