I awaken fitfully and spring up, fearing I’ve been violated somehow while asleep.
I’m surprised – and relieved – to find my original bed, original bedroom, and even my original wife – as far as my original “human” memory goes.
It takes a stunningly short time to convince myself I dreamed every other Earth I’ve lived through for the past 100 days. And that I only imagined that I was actually a quantum computer in the deep recesses of multiple realities.
I get ready for work as usual then I discover that our backyard pool is missing.
“Honey? Where’s the pool?” is met by my wife’s puzzled grin. She reminds me that it is now our emergency shelter and that I hadn’t wanted a pool around ever since “the incident.” A little coaxing gets her to “remind” me that I had almost drowned 15 years ago.
“How could I forget almost drowning?”
That’s when my wife executes a notable change.
An almost diabolical contempt breaks through. “Don’t contradict me. I won’t put up with it.”
In our many simulated years together I’ve never seen her like this.
I consider telling her what I experienced. But every time I imagine telling anyone about other earths I see dismissal and denial. How can I expect anyone – even her – to understand? I’m not the me she thinks I am.
She presses herself to regain composure. “I’m sorry. I know how traumatic it was. I just get worried when you have these memory blackouts. It could mean…well…”
“Oh? I suffered brain damage?” I indelicately respond. “What, I’ve been a blithering idiot for 15 years?” When she doesn’t shrug off the self-deprecating characterization, I know something is seriously wrong. Instead, she smiles sympathetically.
But something is amiss with this brain. Maybe she’s right.
I snap. “Somebody is fucking with me! This is crazy! Have I been drugged or something? Shit! We had a fucking swimming pool two days ago! I swam in it!”
“Stop yelling,” says the missus, holding her ears. “You’re gonna wake the cat up!”
“Fuck the fucking cat!” I find myself screaming, throwing my arms up and feeling bad for involuntarily saying that.
Then I look out the front window. Something grabs my curiosity…
Fear. I sense fear. And now I see him…
Efwurd Enwerd had a sense of destiny. He saw himself getting shot in the back of the head one day. He wasn’t sure why that would happen, but the image stuck strong once it popped up there. So Efwurd was living for today without a fret about tomorrow. He was doing real well as a boss, the projects were his, uncontested, and his was the name deferred to as the real local authority.
But lately now Enwerd has been plagued by someone in a cat-like mask who appears outside meetings Enwerd attends, shows up at odd hours outside Enwerd’s house, and has been glimpsed following at a distance behind Enwerd walking down the street at night. The fuck of it is – Enwerd is deadly afraid of cats.
His intense fear of cats went back to a childhood incident that his mother was aware of but refused to talk about. There was a whole lot she refused to talk about, being a madam and all. Who could know how rattled this would make him? Who cared enough to fuck with him like this? Some do-gooder whose kid OD’d on Efwurd’s goods? How did anybody even find out about the cat angle unless his damn mother told?
“Please sit down,” the wife demands, tugging on my arm. There’s something off about her voice. When did she become so aggressive? “Goddamn it, you’re having another episode! Didn’t you take your pill yesterday?”
She isn’t putting me on. She believes what she’s saying.
I slip into shock and sit back as this stranger who looks like my wife tends to me with medicine I don’t understand, my alleged “favorite” refreshments that I don’t like, and music that I’m supposed to find therapeutic.
There’s a chilling screech from nowhere.
And there’s light and I watch through the window as the man with the gun who fears cats sees the scariest feline he can imagine, its surreal claws coming at him as its eyeballs gaze wildly. The gun is knocked out of his grip as he’s pushed to the floor. He blacks out.
I come around. I feel like I’ve been out for a long time.
I’ve been sleeping like a kitten.