WHAT WORLD IS THIS? – Marilyn Armstrong

When I was first married we lived in an apartment on the second floor of a building that was one of two identical brick buildings. We lived in apartment 2Q, at the far end of the hallway … a corner apartment which had better ventilation than apartments in the middle.

I didn’t drive yet.

One day, having taken the bus home from shopping, I went in through the front and proceeded all the way down the hall to our apartment. As I started to put my key in the door, I realized that there was a nameplate on the door. It said “2Q, Kincaid.”

Not my name. Right apartment, but not mine. Hmm.

I took a deep breath, walked back to the elevator then went back to the apartment. It still said “Kincaid.”

I immediately realized what had happened. I had slipped through into a parallel universe, another dimension. I didn’t exist. I’d been replaced by someone named Kincaid. It took me a while,  standing there and staring at the door before it occurred to me that I was in the wrong building. It was a simple enough mistake: the two building were identical and I just hadn’t been paying attention.

What’s interesting is not that I went into the wrong building but that I immediately assumed I’d slipped into my own personal Twilight Zone. That building today is student housing now, but it was a private rental building back then.

Would most people, finding themselves in such a situation jump to the conclusion that they’d slipped into a parallel universe? Or would think they had maybe walked into the wrong building?

What would YOU think?

I sometimes wonder if a lot of my ability to get through a variety of bizarre and scary situations was because I didn’t relate to life as real but rather as if life — MY life — was a long book in which I was the main character. It was the narrator’s fault.

From when I was perhaps 4 or 5 years old until a few years ago, I lived life in the third person. I had a narrator. She sat on my shoulder and told my story. She added “he said” and “she said” and provided full descriptions of people, places, and events as they were happening. She flushed out experiences by providing context and commentary. She’d always been there, or at least as far as I could remember so it seemed normal to me, though distracting.

This was nothing like “hearing voices.” The narrator was not independent. She WAS me. She didn’t talk to me but about me. She wrote me. She was a mini-me, perched on my shoulder, always watching, then instantly translating everything into a third person narrative. I was detached but watchful. I saw everything and remembered everything, especially what everyone said and exactly how they said it. I was almost never fully engaged, but I was an excellent witness.

Does — or did — everyone have a narrator at least sometimes, or it was only me? I’ve always wondered if it was something to do with being a writer.

A few years ago, I realized my narrator was gone. Did she slip away a little at a time or suddenly depart without so much as a note of farewell? I wonder why she left. For that matter, I wonder why she was there in the first place. These days, she is gone as inexplicably as she arrived.

By the time I sat down and wrote a novel, she had been gone a while, though that was when I noticed her absence. Without a narrator to tell my life story, I find I am more surprised by experiences and have lost the ability to detach.

I’m real. Not the main character in an endless saga, merely another confused soul on the road from somewhere to some other place.

Categories: dialogue, Humor, Sci Fi - Fantasy - Time Travel, Television, Writing

Tags: , , , , , ,

34 replies

  1. I lived life in the third person. I had a narrator. She sat on my shoulder and told my story. She added “he said” and “she said” and provided full descriptions of people, places, and events as they were happening.
    Usually, it’s kings and queens who speak of themselves in the 3rd person. Maybe you were an empress or queen before you became a commoner?! 😉
    I would go crazy if I’d enter the wrong (identical) building and not finding my own door where I’d look for it…. Or I am just suffering from too much imagination gone wrong. Or I have never been in large identical buildings to the point I’d be able to loose myself…. Scary pictures turn up in my soul!


    • That was the only time I lived in one of two identical buildings. Not the only apartment, but the only duplicate buildings.

      My narrator was literally writing my story while I lived it. It was so normal for me, I thought everyone had a narrator. I have since learned that some people do, others don’t. No idea why I would and someone else wouldn’t, but I didn’t really think about it much until I got to writing and I wished my narrator also had a keyboard and and hard drive. It would have save me so much work!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was younger, I would have been more rigid in my view and would have figured factually that I went into the wrong house as opposed to anything fanciful. In the last ten or so years, I can believe anything at all for any reason at all, since a lot of my friends are old-fashioned multiple personality folks, or they are not visible in some ways, and I have been dead a few times, and the outside world has gotten much stranger than it used to appear to be. I’m just doing the ‘things are great’ thing in my corner of the world and stuff does seem to be much better than the news threatens it will be, or than people who pay more attention to some of the mainstream bad stuff. I think selective reality can work best, as long as it is truly chosen and not just avoidance of the distressing.


    • I think it’s just reading too much science fiction. Sooner or later, you expect to cast a spell and actually have something happen.


      • It never bothered me when it didn’t happen. It got strange when as a body empath, other people would get injured and I would physically manifest their injuries in visible ways. I still have to check whether pain I have is ‘mine’ or the spouse’s even if I haven’t heard of any injuries or illnesses and he’s in New York City at work–last week I got pain in a tooth for a few days and didn’t bother to mention it, and this week his tooth in that area is too infected for his dentist to treat until he takes antibiotics and it gets better. It still amazes me when my DID/multiple friends alter physically right in front of me when different insiders come out–they can get perceptibly different in size even, which is always pretty astounding til you get used to it. Just like with seasons: I loved it when seasons were regular, and I loved it when physical manifestations were more reliable than they appear these days in my world.


        • I have a friend who is a physical empath. I’m deeply sympathetic to anyone in pain, but I am not an empath — for which I am grateful. It’s bad enough trying to manage my own messes. I don’t think I could deal with everyone close to me.

          Liked by 1 person

          • It can really be too much in general, and it just got silly when I was having convuslions one time, so my husband kindly dragged me over to the bed. The edge of the bed frame smashed down on his toe as we both fell onto the bed, and he really got hurt, but I was the one whose nail eventually turned blue and black and stayed that way for months until it grew out–his did not. I figured that was fair enough, since he was helping me when he got unfairly injured! Crazyland gets tiring though.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I guess your keys wouldn’t have worked either.


  4. I actually got into a car identical to mine and wondered who stole the dog. I also was confused that the doors were unlocked, while I’m almost OCD about making sure mine are locked. The key fit the ignition perfectly, but that was it. Wouldn’t start the car. Then I began noticing that my distinctive seat covers weren’t in there and the car was actually a whole lot cleaner than mine is. And that’s when I looked south and there sat my car, with the dog in the window staring at me as if I were loopy. I’m glad the owner of the identical car didn’t come out and find a stranger sitting behind her steering wheel looking confused. The police don’t tend to have a sense of humor in these parts…

    Liked by 1 person

    • This happened to me once in England when another customer and I opened our very same cars at the same moment and I started to put my shopping in the trunk of her car. She run over to my and demanded what the fxxk I did to her car when I realised that this car had a child’s seat on the back bench…..
      I decided I didn’t like HER shopping and took it to my car, 2 places further on in the same row! 🙂


    • It really is too much science fiction and probably just too much reading and imagining. Eventually we begin to slip our little cogs about reality. These days, that doesn’t seem like an entirely bad idea, either. Reality is pretty sucky these days.


  5. I would probably think I’d lost my marbles at last. In our small town people don’t always lock their cars and once or twice when I’ve been at the shops with a friend I’ve opened the door to a car only to realise it was not their car after all. I put it down to stupidity but I like your theory better.


  6. It’s all quantum physics – nothing we think is real is real. It’s all a matter of perception. I’ve just read this in the book I’m currently reading. I’m almost getting an inkling of it. Your reaction could thus be the right one 🙂 (If there is such a thing as rightness when it comes to ‘reality’)


    • I would like to think it was my brief entry into the parallel world. I was dreaming of Jerusalem last night. I think we had gone there to live, except I have no idea how we got there … only that I was really glad that there was no Trump in office and I was trying to tell everyone how awful it was in the USA and no one believed me. I think this is the first time I’ve dreamt of Israel in English. Usually, I dream it in Hebrew. Maybe because Garry was with me this time. Another parallel universe?

      Liked by 2 people

      • This sounds fascinating. In Africa they might call it spirit travelling, which is also as real as any. Maybe…


        • I think spirit traveling is approximately what we can afford at this point! I enter a lot of contests and maybe I’ll win one.

          I did win one. Once I won a trip to New York, including plane fare and theater tickets (we swapped the theater and went to a baseball game at the brand new Yankee stadium where we watched our Red Sox beat the hell out of the Yankees (Yay). It was a great 3-day weekend. Both of us grew up in NY, but we had never visited it as guests. It was an entirely different experience.

          Liked by 1 person

          • What a very fabulous win. So very good luck with the contests. We have reached the age where many of our chums seem to spend all their time travelling to far-flung places. Meanwhile, I’m finding I gain a huge sense of enrichment by mentally revisiting the places I have already been to. E.g. I’m not sure I would want to physically return to Kenya, but I find it very absorbing conjuring it in my writing. I learn more somehow.


            • We have friends (with money) who travel. Sometimes I yearn a little, but mostly, I don’t have it in me to do airlines and all that hauling. I need everything to be local. The hauling and lifting and just the PRESSURE of distant vacations is hard on the elderly human within. Cruises are nice — probably why so many of them a full of older people. You get to hang out, go ashore ever few days, then hang some more. Watch the dolphins.

              As long as you don’t hit an ice berg, all is well.

              Liked by 1 person

      • Next time you dream of Israel, take me with you and Garry.


  7. I once spent 10 minutes figuring out why my car keys couldn’t open the door to my car. It was early morning and the neighbour had the same car make and colour as ours. It was also parked on the street parking places, so go figure my mistake

    Liked by 1 person

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