By Amy Fowler
Several years ago, my mom started existing in a parallel but alternate reality. Her interdimensional trips began slowly at first, with the briefest of blips spent on the Other Side. Much more quickly than I care to acknowledge, Mom’s time-space jaunts became more frequent and lasted longer.
A lifelong fan of Star Trek, I’m quite sure she didn’t think this was what Captain James Tiberius Kirk had in mind when he said, “Beam me up, Scotty.” She preferred The Next Generation’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, anyway. I mean, who wouldn’t pick Patrick Stewart over William Shatner?
I know that Mom doesn’t enjoy her extradimensional travels. The time she spends out of this world leaves her frightened and flummoxed. And there’s nothing I can do, but sit and watch as she rockets toward the place where the ionosphere gives way to Outer Space. There’s nothing I can do but await her return, my eye trained on the sky through the twenty-inch Ritchey-Chreiten at Banner Creek Observatory. There’s nothing I can do.
There’s nothing I can do.
The most difficult part of her excursions has to be losing the ability to distinguish Alternate Reality from Actual Reality… losing confidence in what is True. While she’s on the Flip Side, time continues to pass — maybe at a lagging rate, or maybe at an accelerated rate, relatively speaking… who can say? — but the black hole of the senses she experiences leaves her that much more panicked and perplexed when she returns to Actual Reality.
The thing about delusions is that they arise gradually. Pieced together out of odd bits of ephemera and space dust, they are imaginings which seem as true yet as distant as Saturn’s rings. Delusions whisper veracity but remain ethereally intangible. Their shimmering seduction is difficult to resist, even in the sun-bright light of Plausibility. Some part of Mom is aware that the tales of her intergalactic trips inspire incredulity, because she shares the intricate specifics of her missions with only me.
Sometimes, it’s apparent that Mom is getting ready for liftoff. Sometimes, she steps into her equipment before my eyes. Sometimes, I hear the SHUNK of her gravity induction boots shutting around her feet. Sometimes, I hear the metallic ZZZZ of the zipper closing her spacesuit. Sometimes, I hear the crisp, plastic-hard SNAP as she engages the gold Mylar eye shield in her helmet. Sometimes, because I know she’s about to embark on a cross-dimensional hop, I have time to suit up in my own emotional protective gear, switching my mind into Emergency Mode, locking my feelings in a container which is impervious to heat and pressure, and hermetically sealed.
Other times, without warning, Mom ascends, at warp speed, to Infinity and Beyond. These times, I am left fumbling, hopping from one foot to the other, and trying my damndest to fasten the snaps on my protective equipment, like a first responder on an overnight at the firehouse, who’s just been awakened from the deepest reaches of sleep by the klaxon’s bray. These times, I hope she doesn’t crash and burn, and I pray that I’m strong enough to carry us both back to solid ground.
The more often that I have to serve as Mom’s ground crew, the more my protective gear shows the unmistakable signs of wear… the increasing frequency of the tests to its integrity hastens its raveling. I don’t have the emotional or mental capital to replace my equipment at the rate it’s being exhausted. The formerly plush has been worn shiny-thin. The thick weave is now threadbare. My soul is frayed.
My soul is frayed.
Trekking between realities takes a toll on her. There’s no way to predict how long any given extradimensional orbit will last. Each time Mom jumps to Alternate Reality and back again, she leaves pieces of herself There — and There the pieces stay, never to return to Here. One day, it’s probable, so many of her pieces will exist There that she’ll cease to exist Here.
I find tentative solace in the idea that when that One Day comes, Mom will no longer feel frightened and flummoxed, she will be free. She won’t be panicked and perplexed anymore, she will be free. No, when her consciousness ceases to be aware of Actual Reality and exists entirely in Alternate Reality, she will be free. With her gold Mylar eye shield firmly in place, she can hold her face ever toward the warm sun.
She will be free.
Amy Fowler hails from Lawrence, KS, where she makes her home with her partner, sometimes his two kids, and always one surly Boston Terrier and one Scruffy Mutt. She hasn’t quit her day job as an American Sign Language interpreter… yet. Look for another piece by Amy in the August edition of Crab Fat Magazine.