Chapter 1: Confused
Sometimes my ordinary life gets interrupted with extrodinary events. It’s as if the boring old Madison Roberts gets thrown into the middle of a Fantasy Movie, but only for a little while. It may sound strange to some, but I know one specific place where my reality met absolute fantasy. It was just a grey box of a room. That is what my eyes took in one day when I woke up from my afternoon nap. I expected to see the floral wallpaper border of my apartment, but instead I was looking around at an empty, bleak space. All the walls were heather grey—beautiful in that they were clean and neutral, yet haunting because they were absolutely unfamiliar. I expected to pull off my old heirloom quilt and roll out of bed, but instead I found myself absorbed into a sleek, black leather recliner. It reminded me of chairs that I used to envy when I’d pass the furniture store. I had never owned a chair this big or expensive, and more than that, I knew I didn’t fall asleep in one.
I realized my glasses were strangely still on my face. Taking them off, I rubbed my eyes to see if that’d make a difference—it didn’t. I felt my head to see if there were some kind of injury or bump—there wasn’t. It wasn’t until then I looked over and saw her.
I don’t know why I didn’t notice her immediately. I was too distracted by the new space, or maybe my mind was more concerned about deciding whether or not I was in a mental ward. The room was probably three times the size of a standard elevator, and the sleeping lady was curled up in a chair a little over an arms length away. There was a silver pole between us, sticking up from the ground and about 3.5 feet tall. She was definitely fast asleep; her frizzy, dark, curly hair acted like a blanket covering her head and shoulders. Just like mine did when I slept. I wondered who she was.
I stood from the chair, still a little wobbly from my deep sleep. I had an unexplainable feeling that I needed to wake her. Maybe she had answers to my questions. She was wearing her pajamas—I had a pair just like them in college. Her striped, oversized pants reminded me of hours I’d spend in the dorms curled up on friends’ futons studying. She was wearing a loose-fitting blue sweatshirt. I looked down at myself, what were the chances that I was wearing a sweatshirt that looked identical? I pulled down my sweatshirt and adjusted my leggings; as if I was pointing out to myself that our entire outfits weren’t the same.
I reached out towards her and poked her arm. She only twitched. Her head rolled from one side of the recliner towards the center. Her frizzy locks fell off her face. The cream skin, dull nose, pink lips, and big eyes quickly gave away her identity. I knew that face. I had that face. I gasped and took a step back, realizing I needed to awake this…other version of myself?
“Oh Maddy,” I spoke to her, even though I knew she couldn’t hear me, ”please don’t freak out.” I looked around the cave of a room. It felt as though we had been dropped into a metal box of some sort, for there were no windows or doors. I wondered if the few things in this room had a purpose. I mentally took a checklist: the strange shiny lever between the chairs and a small screen and dial on the far wall. That was all I could see. I stepped forward and gently shook Maddy’s knee. I waited a few seconds and then shook it a little harder.
Maddy opened her eyes slowly, blinked, and then jerked her eyes wide, “Who are you?” She brushed the hair out of her eyes, and then took a glance to her left and right, “Where am I?” She reached her arm out, as if trying to find a blanket she knew she had fallen asleep with, but no blanket was there.
“I know you’re scared. I am too. I just woke up a few minutes ago.” I swallowed hard. She didn’t recognize me. Maybe it was my glasses or tanner skin. Or maybe she was too confused to realize who she was looking at. The confusion and shock were making me speechless as both of our breathing grew in intensity.
Maddy broke eye contact with me as if a wave of sadness just swept over her, and simply looked around the room. She looked like a textbook definition of depression. I tried reminding myself that she just woke up, and no one looks stunning in the first moments of their day.
Her breathing gradually slowed down. Figuring we were in some sort of dream or odd practical joke, we both looked into each other’s eyes in the same moment.
She was the one to finally break the silence, “Do I know you?”
“I know who you are.” I said with a tinge of laughter. I looked into Maddy’s eyes to see if she was putting any of the pieces together, “You don’t recognize me?”
Maddy cocked her head as she squinted her eyes at me. The bags under her eyes were dark, her bottom lip pouty, even her skin looked sad. As she stared at me, I knew the moment it hit her who I was. Her eyes flew from squinted to the size of a balloon.
“What the heck?” Maddy put her hand to her mouth. It was as though everything that her eyes were taking in absolutely blew her away. She stared at me—her eyes now squinted again and lip quivering, “What is going on here?”
“I was hoping maybe you’d know.”
“I’ve always wondered what I’d look like when I was older,” Maddy pulled herself out of the chair and stepped closer to me, as if I was a statue or some artwork on display, “Ooo, when do I get that watch?” Her voice was flat.
I refocused to the issue at hand, “I don’t know if this is a dream, or some weird way God is trying to teach us something, but…” Not knowing what to do, I paced to the far wall. I was lost for words when I saw the note on the screen, “Woah” was all I could get out.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard of God trapping people into rooms with aged versions of themselves.” She followed me to the wall. “What are you looking at?”
“Aged? How old do you think I am?” I grabbed the note off of the screen, trying to change the subject as I shoved the note into the pocket of my sweatshirt. I wanted the upper hand, if there was such a thing with our current scenario. “By the looks of it, you are just in our last year of college…21?”
“Lucky guess.” Maddy teased then sighed. She didn’t notice me grab the note. “Now that I look closely, we really don’t look that different I guess. I don’t know why I didn’t recognize you right away.” Maddy leaned against the wall, now staring at me.
I tried to keep the mood light, “I don’t think anyone expects to ever be woken up by a 23 year old version of themselves, so it’s ok.”
“You are 23…” Maddy repeated; I could tell the wheels in her mind were turning. Her blue eyes were starting to shine just a little bit, “Is there any chance you are here to tell me what to do with my life?! I’m seriously clueless, and I graduate in 4 months.” She looked at the ground. “I’ve barely been sleeping lately because I can’t take all the stress and decisions, ever since the breakup…”
“I know.” I whispered. It hadn’t been long since her emotions were my own.
“Maddy,” Maddy sounded like a small child asking their mother for a drink of water, “are you my answer to all of those prayers?”
I gently put my hand on her arm, “If it makes it less weird for you, you can call me Madison. After college you kind of grow into your full name.”
“Really?” Maddy still waited for me to answer her question.
“I don’t think that’s why we are here.” I felt badly to deliver such news. It was too easy to remember what it felt like after the Frank-breakup. Maddy was in a rather desperate place. “I’m only 23. I know some details about after graduation, but if God wanted you to know your life plan, he would have stuck you in a room with a much older version of us.”
“God, huh?” Maddy’s brow furrowed quickly.
“I guess I’ve never heard of God doing anything like this before.”
“Me neither.” Maddy looked around the room slowly, “I’m still not sure this is even real life. Or that you’re real life.” She looked at me, as though I could give her some sort of proof that I wasn’t a figment of her imagination. I honestly half expected for her to do the same for me.
Finally, when no words were given, Maddy’s head dropped in disappointment. She glanced down, “I guess that empty finger tells me one thing.”
I knew she was referring to lack of engagement or wedding ring. “Yeah, definitely nothing there. Like I said, I’m only 23. Be patient.”
Maddy walked slowly back to her chair. It looked like she was already giving up on figuring out the purpose of the room. “I guess it would just make me feel a little better to know that eventually it will stop feeling like someone tore up my heart with an electric mixer.” Silence fell again. I knew that Maddy would one day be okay on her own. In the mean time, I had a moment to get a glance at the mysterious note I had found. It was on white cardstock, and with dark grey letters it read, “PULL DOWN THE LEVER.”
I pushed the note back into my pocket. I walked back to the chairs, getting closer to the lever. “So,” I said, dragging out the oh as I decided how I was going to phrase my question, “Are you from… January of that year?”
Maddy looked up at me. She answered slowly “Yeah, why?”
I searched for the right way to put it, “When I went to bed last night it was June fourteenth.” I quietly sat on the chair. I felt like I was putting together a giant puzzle, while blindfolded. What was going to happen if I pulled down the lever?
“We aren’t even from the same date?” Maddy’s face scrunched up. “This is all so confusing. And I don’t get … this room! That dial and stuff over there…” Maddy flung her hand in the direction of the wall, “and then this lever.” Maddy placed her fingers around the top of the silver pole. Her hand fit comfortably around the padded handle. “What is this?”
“You should pull it.” I suggested casually, not wanting to give away that I had a note in my pocket that explained our need to do that very thing.
Maddy squeezed her fingers out of anticipation. She lifted up her eyebrows, as if she was saying, Well why not. She then pulled back. It made a loud popping sound, and then pulled itself into the upright position as every wall in the room turned into static. After a second it turned into a recognizable scene.
It felt like we had been transported back into time, and we were now a fly on the wall of our past. I wanted to ask Maddy if she knew what was going on, but I couldn’t speak; my voice was silent. All I could do was watch the scene that was all around me.