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Train of Thought

So, a funny thing happened on the way to the Magic Kingdom.

I'm at a tube-slash-light-rail station inside of a larger structure. I've been here before, but I can tell that the actual mass-transport vehicle is not the one I'm very familiar with, so ... check. I'm not there. Ergo, I'm somewhere else.


I only have partial control, too. My memories belong to my primarily observed eigenstate. In other words, I recall what I had for dinner last night -- and not what I'm bloody doing here, or where I'm even going. I can only glean what's happened before, or why I'm here at all. Your dreams are likely too outlandish for proper articulation, or too logical and prosaic to warrant remark.

Mine? Mine are like Memento: The Legend Continues. Or Quantum Leap: Apocrypha.

I have no clue where I am, where I'm going, or why. I also have a really, really bad feeling that I've done this very, very recently. That's bad because it means there's a high chance I bungled something. Public transport in these situations is binary: it's either totally uneventful -- or deadly. There's rarely any middle ground.

So, step one is build a cohesive timeline. Past events. Yeah, I have no idea what they were, nor am I going to ask someone, because that always goes off well. (I got so tired of having to ask people what year it is, I instead made a routine of finding a grocery store and checking milk cartons. Then they stopped stamping the year. Of course, if they were still doing so, I knew it was prior to 2000. Hah-hah! ... It's the small victories.)

There's this conveyer belt; the likes of which are more often seen in airports. A woman is taking tickets while the rest of us wait in a queue. Nothing out of the ordinary thus far. The odd bit is the rather official scalper, offering discount tickets from surplus with, it would seem, the transport authority's blessing. ... Strange. Hardly the oddest I've seen, though this is definitely curious. Looking down at the navy-and-white paper square in my hands, it occurs to me that I can cut through the mall.

Because ... Broadway. 'Not the Magic Kingdom; the one on Broadway.' See, I said that, so it has meaning. Trouble is, I didn't say it now, or within the last several minutes. It's recent -- but forgotten -- history. If events happened, but they've been forgotten, did they happen at all? Only if there's an omniscient view. And if there is, it's not mine.

No wonder fellow TV writers can't understand episode structure when it follows this pattern. There is no structure! But, I digress.

Broadway? So I'm off to New York. That 'Magic Kingdom' thing is throwing me, though.

Well, sod this.

'How do I get to fifty-fifty Broadway?'

I've learnt to carry my iPhone. (Towels are far too cumbersome; we miss you, Douglas Adams. Respect.) Now I know that Siri doesn't possess multidimensional capabilities, but I'm hoping for something. Though, at this rate, it will direct me to the restaurant at the end of the universe. Not where I need to go. Right now. Today.

I'm soon informed that 5050 Broadway is the Rockridge Shopping Centre. In Oakland. California.

Okay, hang on. Have I always been bumbling around California via thoughtspace since my teens? Or is this because even then I don't like travelling too far from 'base-camp'?

I am my utterly amused sense of irony.

See, one is almost fateful. The other, well, that's just funny.

Armed with this information, I take off for what very clearly leads into the mall. It's not the mall with which I'm most familiar, but I've been here before. I should be able to find my way.

And it's up the rosy-brown steps, through one of the department stores, past the first-floor exit to the outside (good to know; always be aware of all exits) past the elevator bank and ...

... this area is very, very dark.

The power's not out. It's just the overhead lights are off. There's another exit nearby, and dusk is visible through the glass doors. Right. So, just because I'm at 5050 Broadway, doesn't mean I'm at that 5050 Broadway. You get used to that over time.

There are kids in costumes. Younger and older teens. Okay, it doesn't feel anything like Hallowe'en. Nice costumes, though; there's a definite theme to them. Fantasy. Elves and goblins and faeries and wizards and monsters.

Someone's putting on a play. Ooookaaaaay.

I don't recall coming down these stairs into a large basement sort of room; nondescript. Short-pile industrial carpeting, grey, with equally drab white walls. The public isn't supposed to be down here, so why am I? And why is it empty? And why are the lights off? There are parents -- presumably of the costumed children. They're friendly enough. I'm not getting an Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe, and nothing has signalled that something awful and supernatural is about to happen, so I think I'm okay.

Then it hits me. This is definitely a play; a collaboration between Neil Gaiman and ... Disney.

Neil Gaiman and Disney?

Oh, we are so not in Kansas. I'm not so sure we're even in the Rockridge Mall anymore -- or this Bizarro version of it. Reflecting upon it, a colleague's off-handed advice comes to mind. This place, he once said, is a kind of waystation. And he cautioned it can become 'confusing'. At the time, I didn't quite get it, but ...

Uhh huhhhh. Now I see.

Rowling, is that you? I'm joking. But only slightly. Really, we all bandy about the same places -- whether or not we know it. Bradbury (rest his soul), Alan Moore, Gaiman (Sandman, hello!) and countless others who've contributed to the genre we know and love, that is science-fiction-slash-fantasy.

A waystation. Huh.

An even stranger thought hits me ...

I wasn't familiar with the intended vehicle for which my ticket bought me passage.




This thing works in the same manner as your mind! It's ... it's a train of thought!


You think about where it is you're intending to go, walk into the mall -- boom! You're there!

A literal train of thought!

'Oh, that is brilliant!'

... I have got to work on my internal monologue. (Though, in all fairness, this might be why I was once told I'd make a fantastic Doctor. I'd have to agree.)

Right. So, I took a train of thought. (Love that.)

Thing is ... how did I get here? Unless I took a thought-train to a dimensional waystation? But why?

First things first. I take the stairs back to the first floor. If all is as it should be, I'll find myself back in the ... what's masquerading as the Rockridge Mall. (We'll leave it at that.)

Survey says ...

Waystation. Definitely a waystation.

This is a theatrical auditorium in which I've seen many -- and even been in a few -- plays. Okay. I have no idea what I'm doing here, but at least I know how I got here. That's progress.

It's a different vantage, though. I'm usually on its top tier, seated there. It's an atrium, and it goes all the way around the stage. I've been behind it before, seated with who I assume are also involved in production.

But today, I'm just an onlooker from the first floor. And I still have no idea why I'm here.

Clearly, I should've taken a left at Albuquerque.

This is feeling a bit like Existentia. I never finished that project. It became, well, like this. I wonder if you can miss an event entirely; fail to be where it is, and never quite get there so that it becomes a moot point. Obviously, no writer in their right mind would pen an episode or story like that. That's because there's an uncomfortable truth nobody quite explores.

Time travel can be ... anticlimactic. Boring, even. Disappointing.

Oh, I'm not saying that's what this is, but whatever it is -- this happens. With enough regularity to where I've kind of prepared for it. Contingency plans. I guess I'll apologise to the universe, or whomever or whatever's 'in charge' of 'these things' later.

Besides. I love Gaiman. And Disney. I'm not so sure about the two together, but ... why not? Looks like I've got some time to kill, so ...

'Know where I can get tickets to this thing?'

Greatest irony is how easy it is to talk strangers when I'm travelling. But, should I encounter someone I know, there's always this overwhelming sense of caution; it's almost as if you have to be very, very careful in your interactions with those with whom you're acquainted in your primary eigenstate. (I have no idea why. I wish I did. Much of this are just things I've learnt over time. Trial and error. I hope to understand the underlying principle one day; I'll be eager to share it.)

I'm half expecting to look at the ticket I'm already carrying and find that it's for the play. Nope. No such luck. It was, indeed, a different ticket.

I don't recognise the ticket counter here, either. Or the snack area. I think this may be the first time I've been in the audience, or actually attending the show. Normally, I'm, well, I'm busy; doing things. Usually big and important things. Really.

But today ... I'm going to catch a play.

I think.

I'm getting that feeling, though. You may recognise it from a time you've had hypnagogia; you know, sleep paralysis? You're exhausted, and you've got to get up for work. Then you think you've risen; you're having coffee and selecting your outfit. Then the alarm goes off again, and you realise you half-dreamt the whole thing. Your brain was enough in the now that it created a version of it which you dreamt.

But you want to know a secret?

I mean, do you really want to know what's happening there?

It'll give you membership to a very, very exclusive sort of club, so I'm not sure if you want to take the red pill, Neo.

... do you?

Well, okay.

Clever people, far more so than me -- Hugh Everett, Erwin Schrodinger, Einstein -- to name a scant few, devised that all possible paths are taken. Our decision-making tree must follow a linear course as we're observing it. We can't observe every possible path, because we are only capable of observing a linear timeline, in which time is only moving forward -- from the past to the future.

Are you still with me? Fabulous.

That's mostly true. But the bits that've been left out are very, very important to understanding the complete nature of time.

Now, according to Everett's many-worlds hypothesis, Schrodinger's 'until the wave-function collapses, all eigenstates are occurring simultaneously' and Einstein's special theory of relativity ...

No, I don't think you're ready for this. I'm just going to tell you I had a lovely time watching the show, (which, I did, but not like you -- or I -- would imagine I had) and we'll leave it at that.

... Are you sure? Red pill?

Are you really, really, really sure? Because there's no going back after this.

Okay. If you say so. I ought to be getting this in writing, but ...

You didn't dream that. It happened.

Had to go bold for that; it's important. Crucial. Pivotal. The brain is a fascinating, really relatively undiscovered thing. Perception, and especially how we perceive reality -- it's actually in its infancy.

You didn't quite go back to sleep. Nor were you quite awake.

Michael Talbot, who pioneered the holographic universe theory in the Eighties, expresses this as 'the hidden layer' of reality, for lack of better. It's where paranormal events are said to occur, and all manner of kooky things. We can't readily perceive it because our brains are rather dogmatic; we believe very staunchly in what our eyes tell us, thank you, and little beyond that. ( ... unless we're schizophrenic, but that's neither here nor there. Fascinating subject, however.)

In what we'll call this 'in between' area, reality is very ... malleable. Perception is ... dodgy. The bulk of it can be best understood using the combined theories of the aforementioned physicists. We'll even go with a Newton formulation -- just to be cheeky.

For every decision or action, the opposite action or decision occurs in a separate eigenstate.

Returning to the previous example, you didn't dream that you were up and making coffee and getting dressed. You actually were. Just not here. For a few minutes, your brain allowed you to peek behind the curtain and glimpse into another timeline. A trip through the looking-glass, if you will.

You got to see what happened elsewhere.

And it really is quite boring, isn't it?

Here, you stayed in bed. There, you got up. But there are major events, too. Here, you got married. There, you didn't. Or to this person, rather than that one. Here, you got the job, there you didn't. You moved over there, but here, you stayed put.

It's all relative.

And it's no different for me.

Wherever I am, whatever I'm doing, I can always get a sense that I'm not going to be there much longer. It's not physical, as much as it's ... perceptual. I don't feel it, but I know it.

Just as I was purchasing a ticket, ( ... with what, dear Liza? I never know,) I knew my cat was approaching. Logic allowed me to deduce that at any moment, he'd pounce. Because it's morning, where I actually am.

I'm here, and I'm there. Quantum nonlocality.

( ... don't stress on that one for now. We'll get to it later.)

Before I know it, my eyes pop open. Not even like I'd been asleep.

And ...

Hello, Cheshire.

Oh, don't tell me you're surprised. And, of course, he'll maul me in that loving way cats do -- especially sixteen-pound Bengal mixes -- with voracious appetites, because, well, it's morning. Nearing ten, to be exact.

Ah, well. Bet it was a good show, too.

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