N: I know where I’m going now.
N: It’s something I had to just kind of sit with. A destination. An object. That’s a… novel thing for me.
N: You know, I think about what we mean by object. Like it’s something we try for, we try to get to, but mostly it’s just like… a thing. A real thing. Something you can see and touch, you know it’s there.
N: So this is the first time in forever when I’ve had something like that.
N: It’s kind of fucking amazing. Like I’m still trying to process it.
N: There’s a lot I’m trying to process. A lot is going on. Like how there’s more lights in the sky now, and I could swear they’re bigger. Like how it feels like everything is vibrating at the edges, as if the reset ended but part of it is still going on.
N: I only know I was feeling safe before all this because I feel so unsafe now.
N: It’s crazy how we can start to feel like just about anything is normal.
N: I know where I’m going. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to get there. I don’t know what I’ll do when I’m there. She didn’t tell me before we got cut off, but even if I did know… I still wouldn’t know. I haven’t decided yet.
N: Maybe that’s me being cautious. Maybe it’s just me being scared.
N: I don’t feel scared.
N: I know where I’m going. So I also know that at some point soon, one way or the other… all of this is going to end.
(Sound of cicadas, radio static, birds softly in the background)
N: I forgot how much I loved this noise.
N: In summer I used to… take these long and probably ill-advised afternoon naps with the windows all open, and I’d fall asleep just listening to it. The louder the better. You wouldn’t think a chorus of bugs screaming at you would be soothing, but it was.
N: It is.
N: Usually when the switchover happens I’m trying to get hold of someone, but not this time. I pulled over and sat in the car, waited for it to happen, got out and really just… looked. At everything. At the cornfield across the road, the stand of trees in the distance. Little light blue farmhouse. Old tumbledown barn. The hills, rolling away on either side, green ribbons of what’s left of the forest that was here before… before any of the rest of this shit was here. Before the people.
N: Before the people came along and fucked everything all up.
N: It’s really beautiful. Looks like a postcard. Something about the American heartland. And we’ll forget that a lot of the people out here probably don’t much care for people like me. That’s not me not giving them enough credit, I… I know. Some things you just don’t forget.
N: But it’s beautiful.
N: I’m thinking… I haven’t been paying enough attention to what’s going on on this side. My attention has been… well, it’s been elsewhere. I’ve been so focused on the rules for whatever is happening on the other side, I haven’t focused enough attention on whatever the rules are for here.
N: So let’s take stock of those, shall we?
N: It’s always daytime when I get here. More than that, it always seems like noon. I mean, I wasn’t tracking the position of the sun or anything, but when I think back… near as I can guess, it pretty much always seemed like the same time. Like it is right now. With the sun almost directly overhead.
N: Which makes a kind of sense, because… I’m pretty sure time doesn’t work normally on my side, I’m pretty sure it hasn’t worked normally for a while… and I don’t just mean the darkness, or the reset. But every time the reset happens, according to the clocks I’ve got, it’s midnight. Or real close to it. 12, anyway. Back when there was still any daylight to speak of, it was midnight.
N: Which means… that side and this side are… temporally locked, I guess you’d say. They’re in sync. But they’re also on opposite sides. It’s noon here, it’s midnight there.
N: But I can’t be sure it’ll stay that way.
N: Only… Wait a sec. Wait a sec, I just thought of something.
N: I guess noon and midnight have meanings over on my side, but basically only because I decided they do, because there’s no daylight anymore. There’s the lights in the sky, but they don’t change. And they aren’t… I still say they aren’t lights, not in the traditional sense, although I can’t figure out how to say that in a way that makes any goddamn sense.
N: Bottom line, it’s dark over there all the time.
N: What if it really is the opposite way here?
N: What if it’s never dark?
N: Jesus. I think I… I just need to sit with that for a sec.
N: What would that even be like?
N: Would I want that?
N: How should I feel about the fact that my answer isn’t an automatic yes?
N: Okay, and like… the other thing is the bodies. Which I feel like I haven’t even kind of processed yet. Like I noticed they were there and then I just sort of… moved on. I mean, I’ve kind of had a lot on my plate? Also they aren’t there every time? But when they have been…
N: First time I’ve seen a human being in I have no earthly idea how long and they’re all fucking dead.
N: I never saw a dead person before. Except at funerals, but does that count? I feel like that doesn’t really count. It’s not the same. It’s not the same as… this.
N: They’re the same as their houses on this side. Like they’ve been that way for a while. Not long enough to make them just skeletons, but I mean.
N: What the hell happened to everyone?
N: IS it even everyone? I guess I can’t say that for sure. I guess I don’t have any way of knowing.
N: Feels like everyone, though. I don’t know how to explain that. When I’m here, even when I’m the only human being around, dead or alive, it all just feels… empty. Like my side, only not.
N: Like I’m the only way the world knows itself anymore.
N: I think I should be horrified about all this, or grossed out, or traumatized or something, but I just feel… I feel nothing. I feel nothing about it at all.
N: Like the part of me that was capable of that is gone now.
V: —you. Is anyone there?
N: (tired) Yeah. I’m here.
V: Thank Christ. I’ve been trying to get in touch with you for days.
N: (speaking half as if to herself) Days. So you do have those.
V: What was that?
N: Nothing. Look, I know where you want me to go. The main research facility. I got the address.
V: (long silence) Did she give it to you?
N: Yeah. And she told me not to trust you. So what I’d like to happen now is, I’d like you to tell me why I should.
V: I don’t know how I would go about doing that.
N: You could start by giving me some answers.
V: Answers about what?
N: More than she has. Anything, really. Every time I try to get something out of her, it’s too much to explain or we don’t have enough time. So tell me something. Anything. Tell me something I don’t know. Tell me what’s going on.
N: And don’t tell me we don’t have enough time. If we get cut off, we get cut off. I’m going there either way. I’m giving you a chance to affect what I do when I get there.
V: Have you heard of M-theory?
N: …I think so.
N: Are you saying this is a multiple universes thing?
V: Yes and no. Your wife is right about one thing—this is too much to really explain the way it should be. Anything I tell you is going to be way too simple. But basically, we thought we had found a way to directly perceive dimensions we would never normally be able to measure at all, dimensions physicists had only theorized. It would have revolutionized everything.
N: But something went wrong.
V: To put it mildly. We… I don’t know how to explain exactly what’s happening to you. Or what’s happened in my world… or the slice of it I occupy now. But the whole thing… broke. Or more accurately, it shattered, and many of the shards are distorted. “Barriers” that helped organize everything came down. New ones went up. It’s all a mess now, you see.
N: …You’re saying you… (incredulous laugh) You broke the multiverse. The multiverse is a thing and you broke it.
V: You could put it like that, yes.
N: And I’m stuck in one of these… what, these shards?
V: Something like that.
V: But the shards are connected. Everything is still connected. Only intermittently. And the laws that broke down, they’re still in flux. That’s why things keep changing for you. They’re changing for me, too. I think we can assume they’re changing everywhere, and if the instability gets worse…
N: Can you fix it?
V: I don’t know. (Sigh) Honestly, probably not. But I feel an obligation to try.
N: That’s what you want me to help with.
N: See, that wasn’t so hard. Why the fuck couldn’t she tell me all this?
V: Because she doesn’t want to fix it.
V: She doesn’t want to fix it. She doesn’t want to fix anything. Or maybe she thinks she does, but what she’s trying to do… it’ll only accelerate the rate at which everything is coming apart. And it’ll do something else, something maybe even worse.
N: Which is?
V: You know about them, don’t you. The entities. The voices between.
N: What about them? What are they?
V: In a way they’re caught in this just like we are. But they’re dangerous. Incredibly. (Pause) You’ve seen what they did to this shard, my shard, in just a few seconds of connection.
N: They killed everyone.
V: Maybe they didn’t mean to. I don’t know. There’s a lot I don’t know. But I know they’re lost and they’re pissed off and they’re also trapped, for now, and if they get loose, if they can manifest themselves more fully—
N: They could do it again. To other people. …so there are others. Other people out there.
V: I believe so. I know it doesn’t sound like it makes much sense, but I… I believe everyone is somewhere.
N: What is it you want me to do?
V: Get to the facility. Once you’re there, wait for me to contact you. I’ll tell you what you need to do, but only once you’re ready to move.
N: You still haven’t told me why I should trust you.
V: I know. But I did give you answers.
N: Which may or may not be true.
V: It’s up to you what you want to believe. In the meantime you—but—don’t trust—
(Dissolves into static, reset ends)
N: Okay. (starts car) I guess… What the hell else do I do.
N: What else do I do.
N: What else do I do.
N: That’s something I’ve been mulling over. Listened to the last little bit of that… exchange, a few times now. I just said it at the time, I wasn’t asking it like it was a question that had an answer, but… What else do I do?
N: And it hit me, at some point, that for such a long time it wasn’t a question that had an answer. At least not an answer that felt like it really meant anything. What do I do?
N: I think there’s a lot I haven’t said about myself. There’s a whole lot I’ve hinted at. Gestured at. But there’s more I haven’t said than what I have.
N: I said I got out of my mom’s house. That’s true. That was my initiative, she wasn’t about to kick me out. I went to a college that wasn’t the little Bible college close to home she would have preferred I go to. So those things were… they were agency, sure.
N: Thing is, I sort of feel like those were the last and only choices I ever made for myself. The last ones that mattered.
N: Like… I got a job, right? And then another job. And I met a girl and we got married, and we got a house, and all that adult shit. Sure. Except… I’ve always felt like those were just things that were… they were just happening to me. Oh, I went along with them, I was fine with them, but they weren’t things I was doing, y’know? Do you get it?
N: Someone else was always making the choices.
N: Maybe it’s because I was raised to believe that there was this omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent entity watching over everything, that already knew everything I was going to do and had a plan for all of it.
N: Except how extremely fucking gay I turned out to be, right? Didn’t see that one coming, did you, you overbearing asshole.
N: So anyway, what the fuck did it matter what I did? What I chose to do? None of those choices were even real. Except I stopped believing in that entity, but that feeling… Thing is, it never went away. It just stopped having a clear source.
N: It was just there.
N: She was making choices for me, for us, that was a lot of it. She was… *laugh* I lost God but I got her so who’s keeping score, really?
N: But also it felt like things were just happening. If there was a goal, the goal wasn’t mine. If there was a plan, the plan wasn’t mine. Had my little game worlds. I made choices in those. I was my own god there.
N: When this all happened, it was… terrifying because suddenly I had to make a plan. I had to make my own plan. No one was going to do it for me. So I did. I did, I made plans and I got out and I fucking survived.
N: Only… Not really. Because things were just happening. And then I didn’t have a plan anymore.
N: Got one now. Only it’s not mine. Got a goal, and it’s not mine. I’ve got two people fighting over my loyalty and more than anything it feels like they’re fighting over who gets to be in control.
N: I don’t know if I even can make my own choices. Ones that matter. I don’t know if that’s even in me anymore.
N: But I think about the world outside this, the world where no one is gone but me, the one I might get to go back to if everything goes right, and I think…
N: Just how different is that world, really? How much better?
N: And I think maybe I was always here. And it’s just that I see it now.
N: I see it now.