I come from a culture that firmly believes that on Halloween and All Hallows, the world is close together to “the other world.” It is more or less assumed the other world is the world of the dead, but that’s not necessarily true, since anything supernatural or weird was also supposed to have come from “another place.”
It was on Halloween when I was six. In Portugal we were not quite as crazy as in Mexico about the whole day of the dead thing. There isn’t much about skeletons and that whole “death is cool” thing. (Which always creeps me out a bit.) Instead, you go to the cemetery (true) but you just light candles and talk about the people buried there. (Or you used to. I think that’s changed too.) Of course this being a small and enmeshed area, everyone ended up competing on the grave with the most candles and all that.
Also because it was a time a year when everyone in our area came to the same place (this covered for instance both where I grew up and where mom grew up, both quite different) there was a lot of talk and discussion of old times. Think of it as a massive quasi-family reunion.
I have issues with faces. I still do. Every time I’m about to see a friend I haven’t seen in years, I’m afraid of not recognizing them. I’ve gotten better over the years because mostly I DO recognize them. Now casual acquaintances is a little different. If I haven’t seen you in oh, three or four years, and we shared a moment at a con, you might want to lead with the moment. Or not. Because at cons I tend to be overwhelmed and everything blends together.
When I was little, though, I had really serious problems. Not recognizing my own parents problems, particularly if we were going to be in a crowd. So every morning, I memorized the clothes mom was wearing, so if we went out in public, I would be able to find her.
Now in the cemetery everyone was wearing black clothes, and a woman who looked like my mom (size, hairdo, that type of thing) gave me her hand and started booking it towards the entrance, when mom and dad noticed, ran after and rescued me.
Now there are several “Normal world” explanations. Several children had died in an epidemic in the area, and this woman had decided I was just like her lost daughter and I’d do. But in a small community (or area) it was impossible for her to think she’d get away with it. Of course emotionally disturbed people might not think clearly, but think of how to explain it to your neighbors? In a tightly connected community? Impossible. Even if I had been a dead ringer for her daughter it would be impossible.
However, from what I remember — and yes, the incident made a huge impact on me, partly because of this — the adults acted like this woman intended to take me away and I’d never be able to come back/never be seen again.
Indulge me for a moment. Perhaps I wasn’t mistaken that night, perhaps it was my mother… or a close enough analog of my mother. Imagine she stepped out of her world accidentally, and saw her daughter who had died in the epidemic three years ago, standing there, staring at candles on her cousin’s grave. And she thought she could change it all. Somehow.
Of course it’s fanciful. But the idea of crossing between worlds and where little things change perhaps, but the world is the same is a science fiction trope and it’s enshrined in the Mandela Effect.
If you follow that link, you’ll find that most of the time it’s trivial things that you could have forgotten/reformed in your memory. I’m so not going to take in account spelling, since people might hear something and learn to spell it wrong.
I also have this theory that whether you remember a public figure’s death wrong has to do with whether you follow that particular field. For instance, you could never get me to tell you when celebrities died. I spend a lot of time coming across things and going “I wonder if he’s still alive” about a singer or actor, but it’s not of major significance to you. I can however usually tell you when science fiction writers left this vale of tears (okay, not always) and also when political figures died. I would never, for instance, suffer from the literal Mandela effect.
This is similar btw, to being a gateway writer. If you aren’t paying attention to that particular universe, you’ll remember things wrong, but you remember them as always having been. This is either because gateway writers attune to that universe, or because — of course — we have fallible memories around the edges.
But there are other incidents, at least in my life, that have the force of the Mandela effect. For instance, I remember when we found Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax, the way I remembered it was that its number was 1974, which is associated with very “strong” events for both Dan and I. But then suddenly it was 1962, the year of our birth. And it had ALWAYS been that. I don’t think it’s possible for me to confuse that, because who the heck forgets the year of their birth? I’d immediately have remembered it as such.
There’s other things, like titles of books changing. Dates when movies came out moving around. Or books, because I swear to you I read Have Spacesuit in Portuguese at 8, but apparently it didn’t exist there.
Sometimes I wonder if you know those ridiculous mistakes parents make? Like when they confuse your actions with your siblings? Or your favorite foods/places? Sometimes those are things that you really couldn’t confuse, particularly for people like my brother and I almost a decade apart, and I wonder.
There were two other moments, when I felt like I’d ALMOST gone elsewhere. One was when I had a really bad fever. I was sitting in my office, and suddenly everything but my desk changed. Instead of being in the half of my bedroom I used as an office for 15 years, I was in a circular tower, as you’d find in a Victorian. There were stairs right beside the desk, and I could smell the ocean and hear seagulls. And then it was back. It was the moment of a blink. But very clear. Yes, I had a fever.
However, later, when I hadn’t a fever, some months after, I started heading down the stairs to go grab coffee. It was early morning, the kids were at school and Dan was at work. But I heard people talking in the living room and one of them was Dan’s voice, the other a girl I knew was my not-yet-in-school daughter, and one of my sons. I don’t have a daughter. The whole thing felt wrong. The bottom of the stairs looked like always but also wrong. I walked back to my office, then walked back, and the house was in silence, and I went down the stairs, and everything was as normal.
Yes, I know, writer. Lost in a brown study.
Some years later, one of my sons came in shaken, from college. He’d gone into his normal class, it was a test day. his class has desks arranged in the normal way, and he was a little late, so everyone would be there. But he stepped into the class, and the desks were in a square and it was empty. Also “it looked/felt wrong.” He stepped back out very quickly, then back in, and it was his class.
I told him of my experiences, and I’m not sure he was reassured. I mean, I AM a writer.
But I wonder if there are indeed those things we play with: worlds, extending to infinity, as close together as the leaves of a book, as far away as another plane. And if sometimes we do cross between close ones unawares. You know, all those times when your aunt’s favorite sweater is no longer green but brown? And was always brown?
I understand all my experiences are debatable, and it might all be a widespread case of bad memory. Maybe. Part of me wants it to be all nonsense and missremembering. After all, that world where my office was somehow by the sea had to be pretty far away, and I’d hate to wake up one morning and walk off into a world where I didn’t marry Dan.
But I understand that the universe doesn’t have to follow the rule of “what Sarah likes”.
So — have any of you guys had that experience from the mundane “but I remember it always being different” to almost walking into another place?
And what could it all mean, if you have? Other than brain glitches or momentary memory slips?