The door to your house/flat/apartment/abode has come unstuck in time. The next time you walk through it, you find yourself in the same place, but a different time entirely. Where are you, and what happens next?
As usual, I’m leaving late for work. I was up at 2am, wide awake and unable to get back to sleep; the curse of the newly widowed, middle-aged women and guilty people. I fit two of the three categories. Which meant that by the time I finally got back to sleep my sleep cycle was off and when it was time to wake up I was still tired and ended up sleeping for another 15 minutes. Which is why I’m racing out the door at 7:45am instead of 7:30am.
I locked the apartment door and ran down the two flights of steps; it hurts my knee but I could hear the elevator was busy and I didn’t have time to wait. Got to the front door and pushed it open while still buttoning my coat. It’s been a cool spring and the temperatures are still chilly early in the morning. As the door shut behind me, I realized that everything seemed a bit odd. The air felt thick, like walking through fog, and everything seemed a bit hazy. I pushed forward and there was an almost audible snap I could feel; suddenly whatever had been holding me back was gone.
Well, that was unusual, I thought; and then stopped. Somehow, some way, everything seemed different and I couldn’t figure out how or why. The first thing I noticed was that the construction on the street corner looked to be about a week further along than it had yesterday. Then I realized that the day was a lot warmer than forecast. And the trees – those same trees that were just budding yesterday afternoon – had fully opened leaves on them. I stopped, unconcerned about work. This was odd, really odd. Something strange was going on.
Still standing on the front steps of the apartment building I started looking at everything carefully. I realized that, while most of what I saw looked the same there were differences. The cars going by were mostly familiar, but about every fourth one was a kind I’d never seen before. A lot of the cars were painted bright colors, purples, greens, pinks, that looked almost fluorescent. There were fewer SUVs, more bikes and people walking.
Something had happened and I wanted to learn more before I went any further. I turned around and went back inside. The hallway of my apartment building looked reassuringly the same. I took the elevator up to my 3rd floor apartment and then stopped to stare. There, outside my door, pushed into the corner was my pair of rain boots. Next to them was a pair of men’s snow boots.
My husband died last year. The boots were his. But he had died at the end of last summer. I’d brought a big bag of his winter clothes, including boots, to Goodwill at the start of the winter. Those boots weren’t outside the door when I left this morning. But they were there.
It was too much to take. My legs were shaking; I could barely stand. I started to put everything together; the only explanation that fit was that I had somehow made it to a parallel world. One where more people rode bikes, where the cars were a little bit different; where my husband hadn’t died. I could hear the public radio station playing from inside the apartment; the radio that I never played in the morning, but he always had.
With trembling hands I brought the key up to the door handle. What would I see when the door opened? Would he be there, smiling, asking me if I forgot something? Would he be the same person I knew or would he have changed, be slightly askew the way everything else seemed to be? If he hadn’t died, what else had changed? Was our relationship in this world better, or worse, or just different?
It didn’t matter. It was a chance, a chance to fix everything I regretted, right every wrong, appreciate every moment, a chance to get the life back that I missed so much. I turned the key in the lock, and went through the door. To my new life.
This weekly challenge fit well into a recurring idea I’ve written about, but haven’t yet shared. Everyone has those moments wondering “what if”: what if you’d made made another choice at some crucial life moment, “what if” some of those major events, either in your personal life or of greater import to all of society, had happened differently (or not at all). I’ve been writing a series of vignettes on the idea of being able to visit different versions of yourself in parallet worlds. This challenge seemed perfect for that idea.