If I Had Gotten On That Train, Fiction Sketch

Words

Wait.

What?

Where was I?

I shook my head.

Didn’t help.

I was standing in the middle of a kitchen that I didn’t recognize.

Oh, shit. Not again.

Looked around. The kitchen was small but sleek. All of the latest appliances. Probably never used if this was in fact my kitchen.

“Hello?”

It didn’t feel like anyone was in the apartment (condo?) with me, but what did I know.

No answer.

I opened the freezer. Packed bottom to top with high-end frozen dinners. So, I was in charge of feeding myself. Or someone else lived here also and neither one of us cooked. All were brands and varieties I liked. Well, they would be wouldn’t they?

Enough kitchen.

I walked out into the living room. A view. A really, really nice view.

I was high up looking out over water.

A beach?

No, looked more like a big lake.

Lake Michigan?

Chicago?

Wow. If I had a lakeview condo. I was doing well.

Doing well at what?

I closed my eyes.

Crickets.

Oh well, it would all filter back.

Meanwhile, continue to gather clues.

I recognized the oil painting of a flower bouquet that came from my Grandmother’s house. The shelf of old books from my other grandmother.

Things I didn’t recognize. A poster from Provence. I mean, yes Provence, but I didn’t recognize the event in question, nor why the poster would have been framed and still on display. Clearly it meant something to me. But what?

A key turned in the lock of the front door.

Sound of a door opening.

“Hi. Mom. I’m home.”

Mom? Mom! I had a kid? Maybe someone younger who called me Mom ironically?

“I’m in the living room.”

A young woman walked from what I assumed was the location of the front door into the living room.

Nope. That was my kid.

“Why are you staring at me?”

“It’s a mom thing. (Was it?) You look so much like me when I was younger.”

“Dad says the same thing.”

My lip curled into a sneer without prompting from me.

“Don’t be like that. Dad is a nice guy. He’s just a little ….”

“Feckless?” (Was he?)

This brought out a disapproving stare.

“Sorry. I’m glad you get along with your father.” (Was I?)

She gave a non-committal grunt. I gathered this was an old argument between us.

I searched for some feeling to connect to the phrase, Father Of My Child. Nothing. But then, no memory of having and raising a kid either.

The blankness was annoying.

I looked at my hand. No ring.

Was I single? Married and not wearing a ring? Living with a roommate?

I shook myself. Returned my attention to the person in the room with me. To my daughter. (Daughter?!)

“Feeling a little foggy this morning.” (It was morning?)

“You never were a morning person. It’s a wonder I ever got to school on time.

‘You always were a self-starter. (Was she?)

“I came by to help you get ready for the interview”

Interview. Was I looking for a job? Conducting the interview? Giving the interview?

“They said to arrive at the TV station with your make-up already done.”

TV station? Someone was going to grill me on some part of my life and I had no idea who I was. That sounded fun.

~~~

I should probably explain.

Remember the old TV show Quantum Leap? Every week, the main character shows up as a different person. He looks like Dr. Becket to the audience, but looks like the new character to everyone within the show.

That’s my life. Only without the wise-cracking sidekick. Or time travel. Or being someone else. Or with the mission “To put right what once went wrong.”

Okay, so not so much like Quantum Leap.

The “leaping from life to life” part. That happens.

Every so often, I find myself in a different life. Same age. No changes noticed by anyone around me. Terry Pratchett would say that I had fallen down different leg of the Trousers of Time. Except these trousers belong to Sollasina cthulhu of the 45 tubular tentacles.

The life is recognizably mine. I prefer my coffee black. I have way too many books. Somewhere along the life I zigged where I had previously zagged. I moved as a kid. Or didn’t move. Or went to different school. Or took a different job. I’m not a stranger. I’m me. My life. My parents. A different end result from a different life choice.

I am often married, usually to Dan. One time I was married to a woman.

If I’m not married, or seeing anyone, sometimes I look Dan up. Sometimes it works out. Sometimes it doesn’t. It’s hard to meet someone for the first time after you’ve been married to them for 20 years.

How did I adjust? If I didn’t think too hard, reactions come, as they had done about my kid’s father. I can get through the first few days by falling back on routine. After a while, it is my life. The other lives hang around as particularly vivid memories.

Did people notice? Not as much as you’d think. We all have memory gaps, or say weird non sequiturs from time to time. By the times anyone might notice, I’ve usually settled in.

Clearly this version of me involved a kid, a good job, an upcoming TV appearance.

This should be interesting.

~~~ curtain ~~~

Note 1. Virtual Chocolates to Liz Goldsmith. Comment a few weeks ago lead to here. [Pondering A Fork In The Road, Non-Fiction]

Note 2. What’s going on, in case I wasn’t clear. A person surfaces in different version of their own life. Circumstances change. Tastes modify but doesn’t radically alter. It is them, but on a different path. They remember living the other versions of their life.

Why? I have no idea. Possible explanations. Protagonist is in a simulation (it’s all a dream). Protagonist is in bed hallucinating/imaging/undergoing a psychotic event (it’s all a dream). We all do this, most of us don’t remember/aren’t aware of it. We all do this but the shifts are so subtle we don’t notice. Aliens. We have trod where we should not and weakened the walls of the multiverse. A specific scientific malfunction weakened the walls of the multiverse for this one individual.

All of these could work, although cliche would make the dream explanation a hard sell.

Mechanics question. As with most of the fiction sketches I post, this is all I have. No idea what happens next, nor why this is happening at all. Strikes me that the author needs to know the underlying logic of a story. It may never be explicitly stated. The characters may never know why this is happening. But the author needs to know why to produce a coherent story. Same goes for Quantum Truck. Before the pieces can turn into a story, I have to have an plausible explanation for why this weird thing is happening. Thoughts? Any fiction writer out there want to chime in? [QT I, QT II]

Note 3. Contributing Stories

Obviously, Quantum Leap.

Walls of the Universe by Paul Melko. Maybe. The first part of the description sounds familiar. The rest less so. Perhaps I read a story the novel was based on? Macmillan: Walls of the Universe

Two where I remember the engine of the story but not enough of the rest to find the story.

Unknown story that features a pit in the center of town. Protagonist keeps searching for an acceptable version of his life.

Unknown story where in a scientific accident pushes the protagonist into a different version of reality. Keeps happening. As he gets “farther” away, reality gets less and less like the one he started in.

In most of these stories, leaving home is never good. Ring any bells for anyone? Surfing has failed me.

Not an influencing factor here (AFAIK), but definitely of the genre, Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers by Lawrence Watt-Evans. Escape Pod 413: Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers

Belated note 4. Friday evening. Full drafted this yesterday. Planned to proof & schedule today. Ended up having a SSF lesson, driving all over half the county to get hay, and then knocked off 3 miles on the Virtual Tevis. Got the hay. Rode the horses. Got the post up. Proofing, not so much. Enjoy.

Onwards!
Katherine

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