Kelly has pretty black hair, a sweet sense of humor, deep worry lines across her forehead and dark circles beneath her eyes. Wrung out describes her best.
I spoke with her over Zoom so I got a glimpse of her home office. Lining the wall behind her were medium height bookshelves crammed to the gills with books and topped with all manner of houseplants. Above them hung a triptych of canvas prints, a scene of birch trees in winter. The walls were lined in a subtle geometric wallpaper in black and white. It was really pretty.
In her initial email she apologized at least four times for bothering me with what she described as the “oddities plaguing [her] new home.” She knew of me through Janet who knew me through Nick Sayre’s wife Maeve. I was hesitant. I wasn’t in the mode to deal with the type of woman who I assumed ran in that crew. The pandemic if nothing else has allowed me space to offer up my “no thank you” with much greater ease. If only because I only have so much energy to go around.
But as I read on I found that Kelly was looking for me to “simply point her in the direction of someone who deals with time warps.”
I wrote back immediately and asked if she could chat as soon as possible.
Time warps, you guys. I’ve heard just about everything at this point, but time warps? Not so much and I’m here for it. The only thing I know about weird time stuff is that it is more prevalent in extraterrestrial cases than it is in supernatural ones.
I know this because one afternoon during the holiday season I spent a day wrapping presents and bingeing alien documentaries. Halfway through Two-Faced I picked up my phone, hopped online and joined MUFON.
If you’re wondering whether I think the whole violent aliens doing reconnaissance on earth now so they can find our weak spot is a government conspiracy put in place to bring on the new world order, well… I’m not totally sold, but I’m listening. Anyway… MUFON is a whole vibe and it’s kind of been the only thing that’s gotten me through the past two months.
So… reading those two little words “time warp” made my heart sing.
I think I was expecting Kelly to share an abduction story. But I got nothing of the sort. Zero aliens.
What she told me made me wonder if everything that’s been happening this past year is changing things. Not in the way we’ve watched obsessively on the news. It’s bigger than that, we’re fucking up on a much higher level.
We’ve been at war before, or I mean constantly. There have been earthquakes and ongoing famine and poverty and more war, and on and on forever. But sickness and lack of resources and natural disasters have been contained to certain parts of the planet. And war, even the world wars, discharged an immense amount of energy. Even if it was all sadness and fear, even hate. Everyone cheered and grieved and felt loss and determination and despair together. They all agreed upon their hellish circumstances.
But it’s totally different now. It’s as though we’ve gotten ourselves stuck in this round robin of gas lighting the shit out of one another. We can’t agree on reality anymore. Some people don’t believe there’s a problem, that everyone is overreacting while nurses and doctors have literal sores on their faces from protecting themselves from the disease that’s required freezer trucks to store our dead. There are pretty pictures of tropical vacations on social media alongside go-fund-mes for a family who must raise money for a triple funeral after Covid ripped through. Scientists say the fourth wave will be THE wave while legislatures are removing mask mandates.
It’s like being in a war and half the people scoff and say of the casualties, they were [insert age or pre-existing health condition here], if the bullet didn’t get them they would’ve died soon at some point anyway.
This is not a rant about right and wrong even though it probably sounds like one. I haven’t completely figured out what I’m getting at… It feels like these opposing forces are so out of hand and there is no way all of this won’t have a significant energetic fallout. It’s like when you white knuckle it through the holidays, doing all the things and being everything to everyone and meeting all the expectations and then having to take to the bed for all of January because every ounce of your energy is just spent. You went too far.
There’s this saying that I try to keep in mind when I’m spiraling out and making bad choices like eating all the food and drinking all the drinks and let the devil intervene, please when I’m clicking add to cart for just one more pair of jeans from JCrew – the saying is:
Extremes create their opposite. The wise avoid them. I think it’s attributed to Carl Jung but I first read it in a book called Essentialism by Greg McKeown.
Anyway, my mind is a scattered mess, but that phrase just keeps pinging because the thing is, we haven’t just gone to one extreme – we’ve scattered to all of them. So what exactly is the opposite of this?
Time will tell. And maybe that’s why I feel as though my conversation with Kelly might be a small clue about where we’re headed. Or it could have nothing to do with anything. It could just be another weird little story from this weird little town.
I’ll let you decide for yourselves.
“It’s going to sound fishy, but our divorce really was pretty amicable. We just chose a really shitty time to go through with it. It hasn’t been easy to split up and divide all of our things into two new homes, not to mention selling our old place during a pandemic. The kids wanted us to wait until things settled down, but thank the Lord we didn’t. Can you imagine? If we’d waited we’d still be waiting.
“It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. If it had been we’d still be together. There wasn’t some inciting event we just grew apart. I was the one who brought up divorce, but we were both thinking it. I was worried about him. I still am. We were together for thirty two years. He isn’t used to doing things on his own.” Kelly chuckled. “I still take care of all the bills, how’s that for co-dependence? He’s a good man, he was – is an incredible father. I just needed space. He needed it too, I just had to give him a nudge to realize it.
At any rate, we sold the big house and bought two smaller places just a couple streets apart. It was easier for us. We couldn’t live together anymore. With the kids out of the house and no shared cause it just seemed to drag out the cranky old foggie in both of us and we are too damn young for that. I got controlling and manic and he got passive and lazy.
“I’m simplifying, but that’s the Cliff Notes version. I don’t want you to think that our relationship had something to do with what’s been happening in my home. He’s not the kind of man to play practical jokes.”
“What exactly has been happening?” I asked.
“I’d had my eye on this little neighborhood for years and the stars aligned and we scooped up two little cottages. I wondered if I’d feel spooked all by myself in the woods like that, but no. It’s wonderful. Of course, Mason’s ended up on my couch more than once. He gets spooked easily, checks the locks at least five times before turning into bed – especially if he watches anything remotely scary before bed.
“We’d always lived in one of those kid centric neighborhoods, but neither of us ever really felt at home there. Don’t get me wrong, we had a gorgeous house with a pretty good sized yard for the area, yada yada yada. But I hated how the house never got completely dark at night because of the streetlights. The constant traffic in a busy young neighborhood, the fucking leomonade stands every which way in the summer.
“I just wanted a little peace and quiet. We’d raised the kids, I wasn’t in the mood to cater to other people’s children. I sound like a witch, but you’ll see. It gets old.”
“Trust me, I get it.”
Kelly snorted. “Where do you live?”
I told her.
Her smile vanished. “How long have you lived there?”
“Uh, about four months. We did a Covid move too and I don’t have another one in me. Please don’t tell me we’re on top of an ancient burial ground or something.”
“No, no, it’s just… We’re neighbors. I’m on [name of street omitted] and my husband is on [again omitted].”
“Sorry, I’m awful about paying attention to my surroundings…”
“It takes time to learn a new neighborhood, but we’re closeby.”
“Okay… so why did you all of a sudden look really worried?”
Kelly took a long moment before answering. “I’m pretty sure that what is happening is focused on my property for whatever reason, but I would hate to think of children being anywhere near it. I had a fence put it to keep people out, but-”
“I’ve got a pretty good antenna for weird,” I assured her. “I haven’t noticed anything off about our place yet.”
“Good. Just keep an eye on your kids, those woods…”
“Don’t worry, I’m a helicopter.”
“Do you know about the Baker Estate?” She asked.
“Look it up, you’ll get a kick out of it. Your house is definitely on that land.”
I made a note to do so.
“All right, I’ll stop stalling,” said Kelly. “Okay, what I’m talking about here is not deja vu. At all. It’s not just a feeling – things actually happen. It could have been going on before I actually paid attention to it, I was pretty stressed out with the split and Covid and everything. Regardless, the first thing that happened – that I noticed, anyhow, were the kayaks. We have two kayaks and I ended up with both of them by accident in the move. Mason needed his one weekend so I dragged it out of my garage and put it in the driveway for him to make it easy for him to grab.
“I put that kayak in the driveway. I know that I did. I had a nastly scratch on my arm to prove it. It was buried beneath some boxes and I scratched myself on one of the grill tools as I was trying to get it out. I was in a rush to meet my friend for a walk. That kayak was in the driveway when I left.
“I got a text from Mason while I was on my walk, he wanted to know if I’d hidden a key outside so he could get into the garage to grab the kayak. Long boring story short, the kayak wasn’t in the driveway. We assumed someone had stolen it. It was the only thing that made sense. It didn’t even occur to me to look in the garage because I knew I’d dragged that damn thing out and besides, the house was all locked up.
“I didn’t realize until about a week later that the kayak hadn’t been stolen at all. It was in my garage. In the exact same place, under the exact same boxes near that stupid grill fork thingy. I’d gone out to grab paper towels – that’s where I keep the extras. The back stock.
“Wait, have you watched The Home Edit?”
I told her that I had and I’d gone through a brief obsession with organizing over the winter holidays.
“Me too! I dove in this past fall and bought all the special plastic bins. Now I have all my extras nicely organized in the garage on some metal shelves. It’s so nice, isn’t it? The control of it all. That’s what I do love about that house, as weird as it is, it is my own perfect little fiefdom. What I say goes.
“Anyhow, it was the darndest thing. Gave me the biggest shock to see that kayak in the exact place I knew that it couldn’t possibly be. I just couldn’t figure out how it happened. The D-word began stomping around my mind immediately. Wouldn’t that just be my luck? I get divorced, organize my little cottage just so and get wacked with dementia. Not that it’s completely off the table at this point but I really don’t think the problem is my mind. It’s the house, or more accurately, where it is located.
“The kayak was weird. If it was a one off, I could have chalked it up to a fluke. Mason swore up and down that he wasn’t playing a prank or anything of the sort, and I believed him. We don’t have keys to one another’s homes – it’s a boundary we agreed upon when we split up.
“Probably because I was paying closer attention, but I started to notice things were off around the house. Out of place. I’d wake up and the curtains in my bedroom would be wide open. Now that was spooky. I don’t drink, if that’s what you’re thinking, so it’s not as though I was suffering the wine forgets. My bedroom is on the first floor, there is no way I would tuck into bed with the curtains wide open. I feel safe in my home, but the woods around the house can feel a little ominous at night, especially with the amount of true crime I watch.
“It wasn’t just the curtains, other things were out of place too. I would make a coffee at the Keurig, press the button and walk away and then when I came back there was no mug beneath the machine. One time the machine was unplugged and I knew that I heard it do that thing when it sort of spits at the end of the brewing cycle. Oh! And oh my God, this one time, I would not have believed it if it hadn’t happened to me. I swear on a stack of Bibles dipped in truth serum – I woke up. Went to the laundry room and pulled a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt out of the dryer. Took a shower and changed.
“After breakfast I went to the bathroom to pee and almost fell over when I caught my reflection. I was in my pajamas! The ones I’d worn to bed. And I had bed head! It was as though I hadn’t showered or changed or anything. I checked the dryer and there were the clothes I’d changed into. That day I climbed right back into bed and binged three seasons of Schitt’s Creek.”
“Get out of here.”
“Really really, I swear. I’ve tried to explain it away – like maybe I dreamed about getting ready that morning, but I know that’s not right. It was real and somehow I sort of slipped back in time to before I’d done it. But that doesn’t make sense either. I experienced my morning in detail.”
“That is really freaky.”
Honestly, at this point in our discussion I felt pretty skeptical. The kayak thing was weird. But I have half cups of coffee all over my house and there is forever one left cooling beneath the Keurig because I get distracted and forget that I brewed a cup. The fact that he thought she got ready for the day and then realized she hadn’t made me worry for her mental state. But it just didn’t sound like anything truly wonky was happening to her. And then she told me about the book club thing.
Kelly continued, “It occurred to me that maybe I was losing my grip on reality because of the whole quarantine situation coupled with the stress of my divorse. Perhaps living in such isolation was doing a number on my brain. Maybe I was just losing track of everything because the days bleed into each other and nothing much changes from day to day.
“I have asthma. It never really affected my life in a negative way until this stupid virus came along. But now I have to be so careful. I haven’t seen the kids in weeks. When the weather was good we visited outside and we were able to do the same for the holidays, but now I just don’t think it’s a good idea until the weather shifts. I don’t like the sound of these new variants.
“Mason carries a little extra weight and if he were to get sick… I just, I want to be sure I am healthy enough to help him if need be. So isolation. Lots of isolation. I do still walk outside with a friend who is equally as cautious because her son has a heart condition, and I have a couple zoom meetups with friends every week. I’m only working part-time right now, I manage a handful of portfolios, but that doesn’t require much interaction with clients, so… I can go a while without interacting with anyone. I have the groceries delivered too.”
Kelly shook her head in frustration. “I’m sorry. See? I’m losing my social skills too. Here I am rambling on about grocery delivery.
“Okay, so I tried my best to shrug off these little quirky one-off incidents. The clothes in the dryer situation, really weird but it could have been a dream. And the coffee thing – I drink it constantly, constantly, so it’s quite likely that I would get a little forgetful or scrambled.
“But the reason I reached out, the thing that prompted me to try and find some sort of answer to this, is what happened last Thursday. It isn’t just affecting me anymore. I’m the only one noticing it, but it is starting to involve other people who aren’t anywhere near my home.
“I had book club last Thursday night. We have it every Thursday night at the same exact time, have been for years. Only now it’s over Zoom. We read Gone Girl for this particular meeting, have you read it?”
“It’s one of my all time favorites,” I replied. “I had no idea what I was getting into when I picked it up which was a real gift.”
“I’ll bet. I had a pretty good idea of the plot, but it was still a great read. Our Zoom chat about it was fun, everyone liked the book which isn’t always the case and we even planned to have a watch party for the movie. I signed off and went to bed, everything was normal. Until the following evening. My friend Eve texted me at seven-fifteen “Are you joining us tonight?”
“I didn’t know what she was referring to, though I assumed I hadn’t written an event in my calendar. When I texted her back apologizing for spacing on plans she texted, ‘It’s Thursday silly, book club! Hop on now, need me to send you the link?’
“I… I was certain there was a misunderstanding. How could it be? It was Friday, I mean I was pretty sure that it was Friday, I hadn’t really checked. I’d done a little work that day, texted with the kids, watched a movie while I ate lunch. There was no reason to think it wasn’t Friday, but there was that text from Eve.
“I joined the Zoom call with the same exact link I’d used the night before. My friends were all there. Only, they were wearing different clothing and some of them had set up in different rooms. Eve was in her kitchen but the night before she’d been in her office. Even weirder, they were talking about a book we hadn’t read yet. The week before we’d talked about reading Murder on the Orient Express. But Gone Girl won out.
“That was a simple fact. I know like I know that we chose Gone Girl and pushed Agatha Christie off. We’d all discussed the damn book already!
“I was able to keep up with the conversation, but it was like an out of body experience. At the end of that call someone came up with the idea of having a virtual watch party – for the new movie based on the book. You know, the one with Johnny Depp?”
“I loved that movie.”
“Me too. Michelle Pfeiffer can do no wrong.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Do you see how strange that is? It was a repeat of the night before, but it wasn’t. It was like what might have happened in an alternate reality, just a slightly altered one though. Nothing earth shattering, just a tiny difference of choice. Agatha Christie instead of Gillian Flynn. A book club reads one book instead of the other one. What’s the point of that? What am I supposed to glean from it – if anything.”
“I don’t know.”
“Me either. I had a drink that night and I hadn’t drank in years. There was a bottle of champagne buried in the fridge, a housewarming gift from one of the neighbors and I poured two glasses in a pretty crystal champagne glass that we got as a wedding gift. I couldn’t blame the book club incident on dreams or even dementia. I don’t think that’s how memory disorders work.
“The next day was Friday. I called my husband first thing and asked him what day it was and then I checked the television because I didn’t want to trust that my computer wasn’t somehow off. It was a normal day. I asked Mason to come over for dinner that night. I just didn’t want to be alone.”
“Did you tell him what was going on?”
“No, I didn’t want him to worry until I knew exactly what he should be worried about. No need in both of us hashing out the what ifs. I made an appointment with my doctor for next Wednesday, but I’m afraid she won’t be able to do anything for me. When the whole book club thing happened I was just about numb with terror that I’d somehow jumped all the beginning stages of Alzheimers and tipped straight over into the point of no return.
“But I can’t even be sure that’s the problem. My Amazon Prime is all messed up too. I go to finish a movie I’ve ordered and there’s no record of me renting it. Meanwhile other movies show up in my feed that I know I haven’t seen in years. Sure that could be a computer glitch, but with everything else that’s going on I just can’t trust that it’s as easy as that.
“It’s affecting my work too. I finished a report Saturday morning and sent it off to the client. I triple save my work, one to the computer, one to Google Docs, one to the flash drive. It’s overkill, but I’ve been burned. In this case, I should have had the email attachment to go back to.
“Gone. All of it gone. The client emailed me asking when she might expect the information. She’d never received the email and I had no record of it in my sent folder. The file did not exist on my computer or anywhere else. How far is this going to go? I had to redo all that work. It’s maddening. I can’t count on anything. A day or two will pass and it’s fine and then all of a sudden there’s another blip.”
“That’s awful. I’m sorry. Do you have any idea at all what might be causing it?”
“I don’t know, maybe a time warp? I don’t know if that’s the right phrase for it though. It’s almost as if I’m slipping in and out of different versions of my life. Maybe because I’ve been so isolated and everything is so damn monotonous right now, maybe I’m slipping in between options.
“Either that or there’s a portal on my property. But if that’s the case then I don’t understand the rhyme or reason of it because I just seem to zoom forward through some mundane event and then return back to do it over. As if one day of quarantine isn’t enough, I have to repeat things. It’s maddening.
“The mail carrier came twice yesterday. Twice. The second time I saw her walking away from the mailbox I rushed out. It was the same exact mail, but when I went to look for the pile of the first batch, it was gone. That’s what’s so weird. Sometimes I think I’m just repeating and other times it’s like I’ve slipped into this slightly tweaked version of my life. But who knows at this point which version isn’t the tweaked one.”
“I’ve never heard of anything like this. It’s kinda like Groundhog Day, but not really.”
“That’s the worst part. Grabbing the mail twice is one thing, but I mean no offense, this could just be the first go ‘round for us. I might have to do this again tomorrow. Or, I might meet up with you and you want to talk about the time I saw a ghost in my grandmother’s potting shed.”
“Wait, did that really happen?”
“Yes. It was the neighbor from down the street, he’d been hit by a car while he was riding his bike home from school. It was awful.”
“Sorry,” I said, uselessly. “I’m not sure what to suggest. Maybe you should talk to a scientist, or like a math person?”
“I’ve thought the same thing, but what scientist would believe me?”
We talked in circles about her situation. My usual bag of tricks – blessed medals, ex-ghost hunters, messages from beyond – offered nothing. I did offer to put her in touch with Judith, hoping she might have some experience with Kelly’s situation.
I couldn’t get Kelly’s story out of my mind. I half wanted to ask if I could sleep over in her home to see if I could experience the time slips for myself. How amazing would it be to glimpse an alternate reality?
But the more I thought of it the less appealing it sounded. With my luck I’d end up in a loop of remote learning with the kids, or the witching hour between three and five o’clock when I shuffle around agitated and exhausted. Trying to dredge up the energy to make dinner and interact with the kids, when all I want to do is put on my pjs and read.
Yeah. I don’t want to time slip just to redo a load of laundry or tidy the fucking kitchen one more time.
Once around is enough for me right now.
All my thinking about Kelly’s situation is what led to my earlier rant about reality. We are all stressed to capacity in a million different ways. What if Kelly’s stress reaction tore a rip in time. Or charged a portal that was already there but needed the right amount of energy to set it loose. She was playing it down, but a divorce and a major move during the pandemic? That ranks way up there on the life stress scale.
What if the time slips are Kelly’s fallout from all this insanity.
I can’t help but wonder what mine might be.
Fear and stress and change affect all of us differently, right? But for most of us, when it’s prolonged it leads to hypervigilance, which healthline.com describes as “a state of increased alertness. If you’re in a state of hypervigilance, you’re extremely sensitive to your surroundings. It can make you feel like you’re alert to any hidden dangers… Often, though, these dangers are not real.”
But when none of us can agree on reality, who is to say what’s real and what isn’t.