There are zombies, or enemy fighters, or aliens coming at you and you’ve been here before. You know precisely which way their blood will pool, the red spreading in a crenellation of ones and zeros. There is no doubt whether this universe is deterministic; it is, in fact, determined, each zombie springing up precisely where he did before, eyeball lolling just as you remember it before you blow him away. You have memorized the steps to take before you get to the door. Three tries, seven, nineteen—no one gets it the first time. Life here is recursive, an accretion of small progressions.
You’re at the door now. Terra incognita. You touch the handle and explode.
Strategize. Regroup. Press “go.”
In real life, you don’t get do-overs.
Or maybe that’s not precisely right. The sun rises each morning, just a little earlier or later. The cat yowls you awake, wanting his breakfast. As soon as you stir the dog snorts and starts rubbing against the bed. The kitchen has the same early look, except sometimes the light is blue-white, sometimes brown, sometimes gray, depending on whether it’s snowed or thawed or rained.
Each day you resolve to do it right. Buy kale and actually eat it. Talk to your husband. Stop yelling at your children. Clean out the basement. Get to the point you can afford a basement and something to put in it. Maybe you make progress; maybe you don’t. The next morning, sunrise shifts by a minute, and the cat yowls you awake.