Imagine waking up one morning and seeing everything look exactly the same as you remembered it the night before, with the exception of just a few seemingly unimportant things. These unimportant things don’t seem big at first. It might be the color of your walls or the color of your eyes. You think you remember them being brown but now you’re looking in the mirror and they’re definitely green, and now that you think about it, you have an equal amount of memories where they are green. You just now remembered, they’ve always been green. And your favorite song that you’ve listened to 40 times in the last week, you get on the same phone you’ve had for over a year and go to play that song, and it’s gone. You search for the lyrics and that song isn’t anywhere to be found. It’s never existed, not here anyway. So you start getting this creeping feeling settling in….
Then you might leave your house which is a few feet too far to the left than you remember it being, but you look a second time, and now it looks fine… you think… you walk down the road to your best friend’s house only to see that they do not live there, or they never did. Maybe this time they don’t exist. People you barely know are your friends this time. People you never speak to you just remembered have been your best friends since you graduated.
You can’t find your favorite shirt or your cat or anything else you remember having for maybe even years, because they don’t exist here or they just weren’t yours here. Maybe now that’s your neighbor’s pet or that shirt just came out yesterday and you haven’t even gotten it yet. The memories of you putting on that shirt time after time after time, planning your day around your outfit like us girls like to do, it seems to have never happened here. Nobody else remembers it that way.
Panicking now, you start flipping through the same books that have always been on your shelf. A history book seems wrong because you remember the Declaration of Independence being signed in a very specific year, but this book says otherwise. Presidents you remember clearly didn’t become the president ever here. They did something else entirely or aren’t even mentioned in this book. Scientists are usually the same but sometimes their inventions are swapped.
Some person you hardly know comes in claiming to be your significant other and kisses you. It feels strange and unfamiliar but as soon as it happens the memories of you getting together and being together hit you. Where is the significant other you thought you’d had? Sometimes they don’t exist here. Sometimes they’re with someone else. Sometimes they’re in your life but never played a loving role to you. The memories usually hit you as each new thing happens to you.
Sometimes there are only slight differences, and these might seem terrifying at first, until you wake up again and you’re in a place where this time, everything is different. Maybe people evolved differently here. Can you imagine what that’s like? Horrifying. Sometimes they have different or too many limbs or different shapes to the eyes. Sometimes you look in the mirror and you don’t just have a different color of eye, sometimes you look like a monster and this is what is normal here. Sometimes we walk differently and not just on two legs and you have to figure out how to do that in just a few seconds to appear like nothing is wrong. Forget the Declaration of Independence…. You are in hell now.
Sometimes the world isn’t the way you remembered it. Sometimes there is heavy war going on just outside your home and everyone has fear or joy painted on their faces at the thought. Sometimes, just when the sunlight hits your eyelids and you open them in this world for the first time, before you’ve even had the chance to realize you’ve jumped yet again, an explosion hits your house and you jump awake. You see bombs going off and people are screaming, the sister you apparently have is wrenching you out of bed and grabs a cat you’ve never seen in your life before, and throwing the cat into your arms, tells you she’s going back for her cat. And just then in that moment you suddenly remember her, this girl you’ve never seen before. You get hit with so many memories of her at once that you really love her very powerfully, and so you just can’t let her go alone. You dive back into the flames and help her survive at any cost. You might get involved in hand-to-hand combat that you actually have training for somehow all of a sudden, with the people who set your house on fire because everything is different now and there is no freedom of religion, a law you’ve apparently been breaking. They’re screaming in another language you don’t recognize. Because where you are from, that language doesn’t exist, these people belong to a completely different country, and the United States didn’t manifest here the same way it did where you are from. So you get heavily involved in this war, it’s cause, saving your family, fighting, not completely sure what started the war but knowing you’re a part of it now… and then you wake up one morning, and you’re in a completely different world again. The plans you made for war will be carried out by someone else who is you but also isn’t you….
After you’ve done this hundreds of times, woken up so many times in a completely different place, you feel yourself starting to give up on living the same way you did before. Why plan college when you might not be here tomorrow for it? Why see this movie when you’ve seen 8 different versions of it? (Although seeing this completely new version of Dead Man’s Chest I saw last night was absolutely epic! However I did prefer the one where I am from with more comedy and Jack and Elizabeth together) When everyone insists this actor is famous and everyone knows everything about their life but they’ve never existed in any of your other worlds before. These worlds, they seem distant and out-of-touch with you. Why get to know these people that are supposedly your friends here, when you’ve lived through worlds where every possible outcome to every single little thing they all say and do is all completely different? Sometimes you honestly can’t remember their eye color in this world or their favorite things or their personalities because you have met this same god damned person a million different ways and you can’t decide which one you like better anymore. The things about them that made you want to be their friend, you can’t remember. Now, what you remember is all their different possibilities.
Imagine being in a world where your absolute favorite person ever no longer exists… Imagine finding out the love of your life is dead. Or that you never knew them but lived completely separate lives. That your home town or country isn’t real anymore.
For the most part, I’ve learned to control where I jump much better than I used to. Now I typically get to the “almost exactly the same but not quite” worlds over the “terrifying and different throughout all of history” worlds. I usually can get to the ones that are mostly the same so I don’t have to re-learn how to do everything or speak my own language. I made it easier. Then, I learned to only jump to the ones where the people I care about are mostly all still in my life. Now I know how to only get to the ones where I’m dating the same person. And now, I have figured out how to get back to my original “home” timeline or reality. Before I knew though… it was truly hell.
One time, I couldn’t get out of this one world. I usually stay in one world for a few hours or days and then I jump out. It’s usually simple. But here, physics was a little bit behind and somehow that ended up making things more complicated… the world also spun a little bit differently if I recall correctly and that made the powerful days of the year just a bit off, which affected my jumps. I was stuck, I couldn’t get out no matter what I did. So I settled there… I lived there until I was 35 years old. I was married and had a daughter. I was taking her to second grade for her first day one morning, and promising her ice cream after school if she remembered to bring her homework home this time, and I took a nap after I got back home. I never woke up there again. I never saw her beautiful face ever again. I don’t know if she remembered her homework or if the other me got her ice cream. I have never again seen a person with her exact color of eye, her exact laugh or smile. I never saw my little Alexandra again. So I got her name tattooed to my body to always remember. My boyfriend thinks it’s for him, but honestly that turned out to be a coincidence. (I started dating him after I left her)
It’s been a few years since I was with her. Here, it’s been a few years. I wonder how much time has passed for her sometimes. I wonder if she crushes on boys yet or stopped tormenting the babysitter. I wonder if she got her English grade up. My hands shake sometimes when I remember her. It feels like I’m mourning a loss, even though I know with all the people who loved her, she’s got to be happy and fine. It just hurts that I’m not there to see it.
I wonder if my sister and family are still safe in the Warzone timeline. I wonder if our bombs worked well in the freedom fighter timeline. I wonder if my house got rebuilt in the timeline where I lived in Colorado. I mourn each world that I get too attached to when I leave….
Why try to be a writer in this world when the last time I did that, my house got blown up because of the themes and messages I wrote? When someone died because of something I created? Why try to be a scientist when I lost my job to fight for the people and cure them and I was only supposed to cure their symptoms and give them new ones? Why try to be a director when I lost my family because I got sucked into my career? AND Tim Burton didn’t even like my work, the entire reason I become a director. I have lived a thousand lives and I don’t know which one I want to try here. Will it be different this time? What am I supposed to learn from this? What am I supposed to do with it?
Maybe they’re all just dreams.