By Sencere Tucker
Prologue: The Walk
Bourbon Ridge Street, New York City – 9:40 pm
I’ve walked this road for what seems like eons. At this point it fells like a punishment sent down from the heavens. I go through the same cycle of getting up, going to work, and then walking this road back to my home of isolation, and loneliness. A married man wouldn’t normally refer to himself as lonely, but Lori and I have progressively grown apart. A car races by at top speed. This road would seem so much more bearable if there were more streetlights. This five-mile walk is nerve wrecking enough during the day, but at night the trek seems so much more ominous. The seldom pass of a car or supply truck provides me with enough light to see a few dozen yards ahead, to reassure me that I’m still alone on this road, and that no one is following me. This walk heightens the paranoia. The loneliness of the walk somehow puts my mind at ease, knowing that it’s just me walking this line of darkness. It’s the loneliness at home that troubles me. Lori and I have begun sleeping in different rooms, we hardly talk and we never agree. She says I don’t express emotion well enough, or at all. I don’t talk about my feelings, and I keep her from getting truly close to me. An 18-wheeler comes flying by, the sound is almost deafening. Four miles down, one to go. I look down at my watch, 10:01 pm. Making good time tonight. An SUV about 100 yards behind me is honking their horn, and flashing their lights. I stop and step aside. The SUV is really speeding; I can hear the engine being pushed to the limit from here. Who is this? As the SUV approaches, I get nervous; the headlights flashing and flashing, the blaring sound of the horn repeatedly being punched. The SUV has to be going over a 100 miles per hour! The moment the SUV passes me I see a bright blinding white light, it fills my entire field of vision, I feel stuck in place, and motionless, and in an instant it’s gone. I look around, but the usual darkness is welcomed. The moon acts as a small night-light. But over there, up the street, it’s hard to see because of the darkness, but it’s an over turned car in the middle of the road, an SUV rather, THE SUV. I slowly approach the over turned vehicle. The contents of the car are scattered all over the road. I find a flashlight on the ground and turn it on. The front end of the vehicle is completely caved in and wrecked; this car looks like it was hit by a tank. I shine the light inside the car, by I see no one. No body, no blood, nothing. The car is still running, and the lights inside the car are still on. I look around, and yell out for a possible survivor, but nothing. What the hell happened here? I check my watch again, 1:45 am. 1:45 am!? But it was just ten o’clock, only a few minutes have passed, how could I have possibly lost over three hours? There must be something wrong with this watch. I look inside the SUV at the dash clock and sure enough, 1:45 am. I frantically back away from the crashed vehicle, and manically sprint all the way home. My heart pounds away, as if death was kicking down my door.
PART I: Written in The Stars
Newberry Heights – 2:01 am
I burst through the front door frantically locking it behind me. I quickly check my watch, 2:01 am. Before I can paint disgust across my face Lori is there to do it for me. With gusto.
“Where the hell have you been?” She said with eyes full of rage. “Do you know what time it is? I was about to call the police, where were you?”
Ordinarily I would gladly engage Lori in a lengthy back and fourth of nonsense, and name calling, but given the strange nature of tonight’s events, I’m just not up for it.
“I stopped at the diner on the way home, you know to get my thoughts together.” She wouldn’t have believed me anyway. I sit on the couch, which has become my new dwelling of sadness and inconsistent sleep patterns.
“I don’t believe you.” She said while lighting a cigarette. “But with you I don’t have to look far for answers. You’ll slip up, you always do.” She stares at me while taking a few puffs before retreating upstairs. We’re at the point in the relationship where we pretend to care just enough about each other, to wonder where the other is after showing up too many hours too late. It’s really for show. I could be hit by a car, or killed in a mass shooting, and she wouldn’t even go to my funeral. I can’t say that the feeling isn’t mutual, at least at this juncture in life. I could say that I didn’t imagine married life this way, but I spent the majority of my life alone. I didn’t have any idea of married life at all. In all honesty Lori was the first woman to show me any kind of attention. Before her I was stuck in a hamster wheel of crippling shyness, and suicidal pessimism. She was my first, and will ultimately be my last. This marriage is dying, and neither one of us cares to patch it up, or treat it. I change into my pajamas, and lie on the couch with the clock reading, 2:15 am. I fall fast asleep, trading reality for a better fitting suit of fantasy. The sleep is deep, and much needed. I can feel the serotonin being released like angry chariots in the Coliseum racing for gold and honor. Two things I could use. My sleep patterns have been odd lately, but this time looks promising. The image behind the eyes inside the theater of the mind would reduce the most intricate of action films to mere child’s play. This is the kind of sleep I’ve been begging for, praying even. I swim in a sea of sedation and rapid eye movement. Nothing can wake me, nothing can separate me from the grasp that Morpheus has on my unconscious mind. They say Morpheus had the power to deliver important messages and visions from the gods to your dreams; most being about the future, and pieces of knowledge that could benefit you in your daily life. I could sleep for a million years. Something inside wakes me up. I spring up. I don’t have to go to the bathroom I wasn’t having a nightmare. I don’t get it. I look at the clock, and sure enough, 4:50 am. I have woken up at 4:50 am every night for the past month. What is it that wakes me up every night at precisely this time? I’ve been told about the Chinese meridian clock, a diagram that is supposed to shed some light on this affliction. According to the clock the meridians are like channels that send energy to specific organs in order to promote health and vitality. When there’s a blockage in these channels energy can’t pass through causing stagnation. They say if you wake up frequently at the same time, then there is a weakness in the corresponding organ. I wake up at 4:50 every night, so the organ in question are the lungs, which is where we process depression. So naturally the emotions associated with this organ are sadness, grief, and loss. But I haven’t lost a loved one. Maybe I’m about to. I get up and pour a glass of whiskey. My alcoholism has become an issue that even I can’t deny is causing an ongoing issue. I used to make it to 5 pm without needing a drink, but lately my start time gets earlier and earlier. At 4 pm the shakes begin, and the anxiety sets in, I usually carry a flask. I honestly can’t make heads or tails on why I was able to make it this far into the night without a drink. It’s almost five in the morning and no shakes or anxiety. Maybe all that commotion on Bourbon Ridge Street threw me off. I take seat back on the couch. I sip on the glass of brown gold, but can’t finish it. I set the glass on the side table, half full. Before I can ponder why my alcoholic tendencies have changed, a bright light enters the living room window, and fills my entire field of vision blinding me. This is the same bright hot light from Bourbon Ridge Street… I can feel it. My body, mind, and soul are frozen in place like a road warrior frozen in carbonite. The light terrifies me.
PART II: A Stranger in The Waiting Room
The world around me feels off. I can’t move. I sit in a small rowboat that’s tied to a dock. The rope tying the boat to the dock is at least 50 feet long. My tiny boat sways ever so slightly in the water. I look behind me, nothing but water for as far as my tired eyes can see. The dock is housed in front of a shore filled with tall ominous trees. A large part of me feels safer in the boat. That outer body feeling creeps in. I just sit there. I don’t know where I am, or if I’m completely sure I am who I’ve always been. I just sit there, not even able to speak or yell for help. I feel as if a piece of my brain was removed, and tossed into the water below my boat, sinking down into the depths of Poseidon. I just sit there. No paddles, and no knife to cut the rope. The last thing I remember was the light. A sharp intense pain creeps up from the back of my neck to my skull. I feel a shock, and suddenly I can move. I grab my head with both hands trying to bare the pain. I open my mouth to scream, but nothing comes out. I frantically look around but there’s nothing! Only water! What the hell what that light?! The pain increases; it feels like my brain is inflating to a size to large for my skull. I can feel it inflating… inflating. My vision blurs. A dark figure emerges from the trees and steps onto the dock. I immediately add fear to the excruciating pain. The figure pulls a very large machete from nowhere, and in one swift motion cuts the robe. The figure tosses the machete into the water, and slowly re-enters the woods. The pain subsides. With the rope now cut my boat slowly floats away from the dock. The paralysis sets back in. I float and float until the dock is no longer in sight. Water surrounds me. I just sit there.
Arcadia Park – 12:00 pm
Reality re-enters my mind at light speed. I wake up in the middle of a giant grass field. I can hear dog’s barking and children playing in the distance. I check my clothing, still wearing my pajamas. I check my watch, 12:00 pm. I lost over six hours this time. I walk over the hill and see children playing baseball. How the hell did I get to Arcadia park? Lori isn’t going to be happy. I make my way home. I have no idea what keeps happening to me, but I can’t go on like this. I have to at least try to talk to Lori about my sleep issues, and whatever the hell is going on with me. There’s no way she’s going to believe me; she’ll just chalk this up to my drinking. Could all this be attributed to my alcoholism? There have been times that I’ve blacked out, and not remembered what happened the previous night; but I never saw a light.
Newberry Heights – 12:45 pm
Something peculiar in the front yard catches my eye, but I ignore it and insert my key into the door. It doesn’t work. I try it again, no luck. Did Lori change the locks? If she did that was fast. I knock on the door.
“Come on Lori it’s me.” I see her peek through the blinds before thundering to the door. The door slowly opens.
“You changed the locks on me? Real mature.” I walk in.
I stop in my tracks because I can feel that something is up with Lori.
I take a look at her, and her face is stunned. Her expression is painted with disbelief and utter shock. She looks as if she’s seen a ghost. She hasn’t said a word since I walked in. Something if off; I take a step toward her, she responds with two steps back.
“You… you’re dead. You’re supposed to be dead. I went to your funeral. I was in the car I saw you die.” She said, with sheer horror in her eyes.
“What are you talking about?” I said, completely lost. Lori takes a couple of steps toward me, and I notice something about her, something different. One of those subtle differences that you can’t quite put your finger on. Her facial features, her hair, her eye color all seem different, but that’s impossible.
“Who are you?”
“Lori it’s me. Are you ok?” I said.
“Tell me who you are, or I’m calling the police! Max is dead!” She says as tears rain from her eyes. I start to say something, but I notice something that causes me to stop mid sentence. The pictures on the wall, they’re all of people and children I’ve never seen before. The furniture, and the paint on the walls are all different. None of this was like this last night. Was I even here last night?
‘Tell me who you are!” Lori said, now crying uncontrollably. This isn’t my house. I back away and run out. I can hear Lori yelling after me as I run away.
Obsidian Street Library – 2:00 pm
I sit at a computer with a blank screen, to match my mind at the moment. What the hell is going on? That was not my wife. An old man walks into the computer lab, and sits down directly across from me. The man slides me a folded up newspaper, and pulls out a notebook and pen. I wait. He crosses his legs, and gives me a look, as if to say “go on… read it.” I slowly take the newspaper and open it up. There’s an article on the front page circled in red.
Woman sentenced to life after murdering her husband in his sleep.
Right below the headline is a picture of Lori and me. My eyes grow big with disbelief.
“what is this?”
“The truth.” He said, with a mysterious smile.
“What are you talking about? I just seen my wife, and I’m clearly not dead.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of research on you. There was a time that I didn’t even think you existed. Just a myth or urban legend.” He said with that damn smile.
“Tell me what’s going on!” I yelled.
“Let’s take a trip to my lab.”
Part III: Worlds Away
Harvey Laboratories – 3:30 pm
The laboratory is extremely high tech, and intricate. The security alone in this place would give the white house a run for it’s money. The man who only wants to be known as Mr. X, takes me to an extremely large all white room. Dead in the middle of the room is a black table with a camera, and two chairs. We sit and talk.
“Are you familiar with quantum immortality?”
“No.” I said, quickly.
“It’s a rather far fetched concept in science, that it is until now at least. We live in a multi-verse Mr. Max that means countless numbers of earths with me and you out there, and the first rule of thermo-dynamics state that energy, such as the electricity generated by your brain, and the heat your body produces cannot be created or destroyed, but simply changes form, meaning that the energy force that powers your body must go somewhere when it leaves, and that consciousness cannot be destroyed, but is infinite.”
“What does all that mean? I said praying for a watered down explanation.
“Let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s say we have an experimenter like you who sits in front of a machine which is programmed, with a 50/50 probability, to either discharge a weapon which kills you, or produces a click in which case you, would survive. In the second case, you and all observers see the same outcome a click, and nothing else. But in the first, it’s impossible for you to experience termination of consciousness or true death. While all observers will see you die, the experimenter himself which is you will experience the first outcome, the harmless click, every single time, just in another world in a different universe. Said experimenter which is you can never experience a different outcome, and thus no matter how unlikely it becomes after repeated attempts, you will always survive the experiment.”
“So your saying that when I die people will witness me die, but my consciousness will just switch to another me somewhere in another universe?” I said, perplexed but still lost.
“Precisely! And that’s everyone, but what makes you special is not only does your consciousness change bodies but your memories from the previous universe follow. When you die your consciousness, your soul, your spirt leaves; your memories are still a part of your physical brain, they’re supposed to stay with the body.”
“So that woman back there wasn’t my wife?” I said.
“Yes and no. In this universe you supposed to be dead.”
“If I’m dead in this universe, then how was there a body for my consciousness to enter?” I said.
“I have to say you’re a walking mystery all in all.”
“Look I just want to know how I can get back to my Lori, the one I started with.”
“That’s impossible.” He said with a smirk.
“There has to be a way.”
“There’s an infinite number of possible universes she could be in, and even if out of sheer luck you manage to stumble across the universe with your Lori in it, how would you even know that she’s the Lori you’re looking for. Remember there’s a million billion billion trillion Lori’s out there, some are entirely different from the one you remember, and some are almost identical in every way. And also, who’s to say that the Lori you’re talking about is even the original Lori you want? You could have died and switched universes without even knowing it. Maybe just chalked it up as another drunken night of lost memories.” He said. I leave my seat and head for the door, I’ve heard enough.
“One way to look at it Mr. Max, is that technically there all your Lori’s.”
Newberry Heights – 6:15 pm
I arrive back at my so called house, am I’m welcomed by dozens of police cars and ambulances. I run up to the police tape and see them carrying Lori on a stretcher. A man stops me, but I promptly tell him that I’m the husband. I rush over to the paramedic.
“Sorry buddy we couldn’t save her.” He said. I run until my legs burn with pain.
The top of the Capitol Building – 9:44 pm
The relationship that me and Lori shared was far from perfect, and just as far from dead in the water. Knowing the one you love is away at war over seas carries it fair share of pain, but there is no known unit of measurement that can put into words or numbers how far away my Lori is. I can throw the dice, and shoot myself in the head over and over again until the end of time, and still not know if the Lori I end up with, is my Lori. I didn’t even take the time to study discernable features of my Lori to even have a chance to distinguish. Punishment comes in many forms, and it’s not so much to just stand up and take responsibility for what one has done wrong. Because some punishments are meant to stick. I step close to the edge of the building, and ponder whether or not this game of chance is even worth beginning. Sitting down and accepting my punishment in whatever universe this is, feels like the just thing to do. But there’s a part of me that needs to pursue the truth, and punishment or not, according to Mr. X I have all the time in the universe. So I jump. Falling from such a height is almost heavenly. The wind pushes against me like invisible hands of the soft. At first everything goes by fast, but then it slows to a euphoric speed The feeling of true power in diving from a building, and falling to one’s ultimate demise. It’s truly beautiful. I close my eyes at the moment of impact, but the light is too intense… it blinds me, I can’t move.
My eyes spring open, and I find myself back inside the small boat tied to the dock. I look around for something different, but it’s the same endless body of water, the same small boat, and the same ominous woods beyond the dock. Before I can investigate any further, the dark figure emerges from the woods and cuts the rope, just like before. I begin to float, and float. No headache this time. I float to a point where the dock and the small island are no longer visible. I look around, but it’s nothing but water. Everything fades to black.
Arcadia Park – 12:00 pm
Reality pieces itself back together as I awake in a large open field. Arcadia Park I presume. Dogs barking, and kids playing baseball, the same old same. I climb to my feet and reluctantly make my way home. The feeling is indescribable, going to your house and not knowing who is going to be on the other side of the door. This person will look exactly like the person I remember, but will undoubtedly be different.
Newberry Heights – 12:35 pm
The anxiety begins to set in as I ready my key, for the door. I get to the door and it’s slightly open a jar. This can’t be good. I slowly push the door open. I walk in, and a part of me wants to immediately start picking apart the furniture and décor to check if it falls in line with what I remember, but I see Lori in the kitchen with her back to me. I don’t she heard me come in. the anxiety rises. I look back at the front door, I left it open. I go back to close it in a way that she’ll hear me. I put my hand on the door. I take a deep breath before slamming the door. The slam startles Lori.
“Max… you’re home early.”
It’s over there… I can see it… the end of the world. Not in a sudden firestorm of damnation as the bible teaches us, but in a slow covering blanket of snow. First the moon and the stars will be lost in a dense white fog. Then the rivers and the lakes and the sea will freeze over. And finally, a wolf named Skoll will open his jaws and eat the sun, sending the world into an everlasting night. I think I hear the wolf at the door.