A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 3

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

You can read part 2 here. Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

For the next few weeks, my double visited me in my room at night. He was the identical twin brother I never had. We hung around in the dark until the small hours of the morning, talking about random things.

We often swapped stories of our families. I was fascinated to learn that he had an older brother. I too once had an older brother, three years my senior. Unfortunately, he’d died in a car crash along with my dad when I was five. I wondered if my brother had looked the same as his, if perhaps his own mirror double would have visited in the middle of the night like mine.

In so many ways we were the same. His name was also Eugene.  We laughed at the same jokes. We had similar personalities.

But the reflection was distorted, imperfect.

My otherworldly counterpart had a dark side. For example, during our geneological tales, I learned that whereas I loved my mom and trusted her completely, my twin loathed his own. He would dream up scenarios in which she burned to death in a fire or fell out of his family’s second story window. His eyes would burn with opalescent fire whenever he told such stories, and I would always be struck by the sudden urge to draw the duvet tighter around my shoulders.

But despite this disturbing trait, we became fast friends. He was the brother I’d always wanted, the brother I thought I’d lost all those years ago. I should have known better than to trust him.

“Why do you hate your mom so much?” I asked on the last night I would spend in my own bed.

Mirror-Eugene looked down, averting his eyes. I couldn’t tell if he was sad, angry or both. “Because my mom hates me. She locks me in my room and never lets me out, not even for dinner.”

“Why?” I asked, shocked.

But my twin wouldn’t answer. Instead, he turned to stare out the window, as if contemplating the darkness on the outside.

I decided to change the subject. “What’s it like, going from your world to mine. Is it hard?”

My twin’s head whipped back to me, eyes narrow. “No,” he said. “It’s easy. You just have to know what you’re doing. Why?”

“No reason. I just wish I could see your world.” I dreamed of a universe that was a warped reflection of my own. “That would be so cool.”

My double grew quiet and still. He looked around the room, as if unsure of something. (Later, I would think that maybe he’d been conflicted, that perhaps he’d felt a pang of guilt over what he’d been about to do.)

“You can,” he said finally, “If you want to.”

“Really?”

“Yes,” he whispered, grinning. “I can show you how.”

Read Part 4 here.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 2

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

Reading for the first time? You can find part 1 here.

My mirror double stared down at me, and once again I wondered if this was all a dream. I thought that if only I kept calm, if I could give myself time to wake up, the strange apparition would disappear. But that alter ego of mine never wavered.

“Don’t scream.”

I gazed into his eyes, dumbfounded, too stunned to make a sound. All thoughts of monsters abandoned my head and I found myself grappling with an entirely different proposition. My twin. He had to be my twin. But I had none, at least not as far as I knew.

He looked down at me a moment longer, eyes searching, as if he were struggling to make a decision. Finally, he removed his hand from my mouth and said, “Don’t worry, I won’t hurt you.”

After that, he was silent. He regarded me with a curious expression, and took a seat next to me at the side of the bed.

“You can’t tell anyone about me. Promise you’ll keep me a secret.”

I didn’t reply.

Questions were buzzing around in my head like angry bees. Why didn’t my parents tell me I had a twin, and how could they have kept him a secret for so long? Had he been locked away in the basement, like those horror movies I sometimes watched on TV when my parents thought I was asleep? And if so, why had it taken him so long to find me?

Then a sinister thought wormed its way into my brain like a parasite. What if he was my evil twin? People had evil twins all the time on TV. I instinctively drew the covers tighter around my waist.

“Hey,” he said. “I’m talking to you.”

“What” I started. “Who”  A pause. Then, “Don’t hurt me.”

“Relax. I already said I wouldn’t.” He sighed. “I’m sorry if I scared you. I had to sneak away at night, because it’s the only time my mom isn’t paying attention.”

Hesitantly, I asked, “Are we twins?”

My double’s eyes sparkled, glittering in the moonlight like stars. “I guess so, yeah. In a way.”

“How come I didn’t know about you until today?”

He just shrugged.

“Where did you come from? The basement?”

“No,” said my twin, smirking. A moment later he laughed. “Definitely not the basement.”

“Then where?”

He smiled, then pointed at my closet. “There.”

“You live in my closet? How come I’ve never seen you before?”

“No,” said my twin, folding his arms. “I came through your closet. I live in another world.”

Another world. I thought again of TV. There were shows where scientists had discovered methods of visiting other realities very much like our own. “You mean like an alternate universe?”

He nodded his head, looking pleased with himself. “Yes. There are many other worlds,” he explained, extending his arms for emphasis. “Mostly they’re the same, but there are differences.”

Suddenly, my room, the house, the world, even the stars in the sky, paled when held up to the blinding light of a cosmos much richer than I could ever have imagined. Another world.

“But how? You’re just a kid like me.”

My twin rolled his eyes. “Magic. Duh.”

I stayed silent for a while, lost in a timeless moment of intense contemplation. Finally, I asked,”What do you want?”

He smiled, his face suddenly made sinister in the moonlight. “I want to play.”

Read Part 3 here.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.

A Case of Mistaken Identity, Part 1

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

By the time you read this, I’ll be dead.

After 27 long and painful years, I can hardly believe I’ve reached the end. You always think you’ll live forever, that no matter what happens, something will save you from your own personal end of days. But death catches us all by surprise, especially those of us who expect it the most.

Sometimes, I can hardly believe my life at all. It’s been so strange, so surreal, that I’ll often wake up on the cold stone floor after a restless slumber, whimpering in the dark, and in that eternally present moment suspended between sleep and consciousness, I’ll wonder which of those two universes I’m about to enter.

I don’t belong here. I’m not referring to the prison (though I don’t belong there either) but this place, this world.

My mom used to tell me when I was little that there was nothing in my room that could hurt me, that I would always be safe tucked into my bed at night. She would bend down to kiss my forehead and whisper that she loved me, that she would always protect me.

I believed her lie. I’m sure she believed it herself. But in the end, promises weren’t enough to save me.


He came when I was eight, or maybe it was nine. It’s so hard to remember. All the years preceding my abduction are a hazy blur, an unintelligible smear of colors, textures and sounds. My former life is so far removed from who I am today that it’s barely a shadow of a memory, like an old movie you might have watched years ago, only you weren’t paying attention, and you find when you try to recall the details that you might as well have never watched it at all.

But the abduction itself, that I recall in vivid detail, though I’ve tried very hard to forget. For years, I attempted to convince myself it was a delusion, that in the heat of boyhood fancies and dreams I’d imagined it. But in the end I can’t deny it happened, whatever I would prefer to believe, and when the eyes inside my head aren’t catching reruns, the eyes inside my dreams are preparing to watch it again in the private theater of my subconscious.

I have to tell my story, if only to come to terms with it myself. Perhaps if I possess a written account of what I experienced, indelibly marked in jet black ink, if I can at last snatch it up from the ether inside my head, if I can make it tangible and concrete, then at last I’ll be able to embrace it as the truth. Or not. Either way, tomorrow I’ll be dead.

Where should I begin? I’m not very good at this sort of thing. Writing was never a strength of mine, and I never did have much of an imagination. My abduction. I’ll start with that, since it’s as far back as I can remember anyway.

My name if Eugene Peter Carver. This is my story.


I was laying in bed, burrowed beneath a billowing white duvet. My eyes were closed. I was hovering just above the periphery of sleep, ready to penetrate its somnolent shell, when there was a crash and a clatter inside my closet.

Monster. There’s a monster in my closet.

My eyes popped open. My heart skipped. My chest compressed. I clutched the covers with white-knuckled hands, like a wild animal who’d been cornered in the dark by an unseen predator. I waited, a moment that could have either been a thousand years or a second.

When the sound didn’t repeat, when either minutes or hours had passed and I was forced to conclude that I was alone, I decided it must’ve been a dream. I relaxed. Closed my eyes. Drifted. Sleep returned.

Thud.

I jerked to life once more. It was true. There was a monster in my closet. Convinced by the logic of childhood that the covers represented an impenetrable boundary, I dove beneath the duvet, certain that if I only lay there long enough, whatever was in my room would eventually go away.

Thud.

Then the sound of something pounding on the floor.

Fear paralyzed me. I waited in the dark, rooted to the mattress like the trunk of an ancient tree. Through a crack in the covers, I bore witness to sinister shapes on the walls cast by moonbeams and shadows. That was when the knob on my closet door began to turn.

A swarm of wild locusts vibrated inside my chest. I wanted to scream, but my vocal cords refused to obey.

I lay in the dark, helpless as the knob rotated. As the crack between the door and the threshold began to widen. As a searing white light burst out from the inside. As a man poked his head through the door, trailing sinister shadows like a cloak woven in black. Turned his head. Locked eyes with me from across the room. Padded silently across the floor, a beast in search of prey.

The paralysis that bound me evaporated. I opened my mouth to wail, to produce a tone so shrill and piercing that my mom would be there in seconds. But just as the sound began to bubble up from beneath my lips, a hand flashed in the moonlight and clamped down over my mouth so that I couldn’t breathe.

“Shh…” whispered the man with a finger to his lips. He was smiling.

A cloud outside scudded across the sky. Shadow yielded to the light, and at last, hovering above me, I could see his face fully. I gasped. He wasn’t a man at all, but a boy.

A boy who looked like me.

Read Part 2 here.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.

A Real Magic Power That You Possess

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

The casting of spells is pretty standard fare in fantasy. We read about practitioners of magic, people who have the power to shape the world through the mere utterance of sacred words. Battles are won. Fortunes are found. Lives are forever changed. We find ourselves intrigued, and we idly fantasize about what it might be like were we to possess similar powers.

What if I were to tell you that you do? What if I were to tell you that there are certain words which, when spoken, have the power to change the world?

Words are powerful.

It’s through words that the will exerts its influence over the world. Words, effectively organized and strategically expressed, grab hold of our hearts and persuade us to act in accordance with their desires. Words are forces capable of extraordinary things. They unite people with a common purpose. They give birth to nations and empires. They give wings to scientific and technological breakthroughs that sweep the world, curing diseases and raising the standard of living to new and unparalleled heights.

Can one voice really change the world?

It always starts with a single individual, calling out into an ocean of other voices.

Uttered in isolation, the words wander in the midst of chaos, searching. They soon join with others who are sympathetic to their cause. These other voices soon conform to the will of the original, so that what was once a solitary sound is now a chorus. This chorus continues, tumbling like an avalanche, picking up other voices along the way. Soon these words, originally uttered by a single person, become a deafening maelstrom so fierce in its power that they become difficult or impossible to ignore.

Even words that don’t spread far beyond your circle of influence are capable of great things. Carefully crafted words forge enduring relationships. They give birth to friends, families and communities. They have the power to build people up, to encourage and inspire others in pursuits that, despite your own limited influence, nevertheless have the power to transform the world in unexpected ways.

But words have a dark side.

Like any great and powerful force, words can be used for good or for evil. Words have sparked war and genocide as often as they have inspired peace. They have oppressed as often as they have sought freedom. They have driven people toward suspicion, hate, persecution and murder as often as they have urged tolerance and mutual respect.

With great power comes great responsibility.

We must take great care in what we write and in how we speak. We should avoid gossip, slander and bigotry. We must strive always to tell the truth, to put what we have to say at the service of others. Words uttered in anger and self-interest have the power to destroy lives, relationships, families, communities, even the world as we know it.

Conversely, words uttered with sincerity and loving conviction, with a purpose ordered toward the common good, they have the power to build people up, to heal relationships, to instill fresh ideas and a renewed sense of purpose in a world that has been made better for the presence of your own unique voice.

How will you use this magic power?

The world is full of voices, some changing things for the better, others changing things for the worst. You can use your powers for good or for evil. Which will you choose?

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.

Proof that Magic is Real

Image licensed by Shutterstock.

Magic. The word alone conjures all kinds of extraordinary ideas. It’s the foundation of fairy tales. It’s the stuff of dreams. It’s one of the reasons I love fantasy. Magic is mysterious and otherworldly. It’s a step away from the ordinary, an exploration of the bizarre. It’s a light shone into the darkest corners of existence. Of course, magic is limited to storytelling and the imagination. Isn’t it?

On the contrary, I argue that magic is real.

Wait, hold on. Let’s define our terms. What exactly is magic?

Magic eventually boils down into two categories. There’s supernatural magic, which deals primarily with the conjuring of spirits and the manipulation of a world that lies beyond the physical universe. Then there’s natural magic, which is simply a study of nature and the laws that govern its behavior. When I speak of magic here, I refer solely to the latter.

Merlin, in the 1998 NBC mini-series Merlin, recounts his own instruction in magic thusly: “I studied day and night, learned of those unseen forces that hold this world together.” Those “unseen forces that hold this world together” sound as if they belong in the domain of physics, and why not? At its heart, physics concerns itself with the four known fundamental forces of nature and how they shape the universe.

Yes, that’s right.

Natural Magic is Science.

In any sane fictional world, magic has rules. Thus, the magician is tasked with discovering and refining his understanding of what those rules are. The studious magician of fiction is almost always a seasoned scholar, either of books or of practical experience, and has spent a lifetime probing those secret forces of nature that ordinarily remain aloof of common everyday experience.

The alchemist of old was nothing more than the ancient precursor to the modern chemist. Like the modern chemist, he sought to understand the ways in which materials interact with one another. He ran experiments, made observations and took notes.

That’s science.

But science is so ordinary and mundane! When has science ever produced magical results?

The magician of fantasy and the scientist of the real world have more in common than many realize. Like the magician, the scientist has learned to harness and exploit the laws of nature for technological advantage. In reality as well as fiction, this has lead to mind-blowing breakthroughs. We’ve developed nearly instantaneous visual and auditory communication over significant distances. We’ve developed a means of reliably transmitting incredible amounts of energy, capable of powering great hulking machines and lighting cities at night. We’ve developed a means of traveling by flight. We’ve even developed methods of sending men to other worlds.

Sounds magical to me.

But science is logical. It can be explained. Magic is arbitrary and irrational. It defies understanding.

Well, can the laws of nature as revealed by science be fully explained? True, larger and more general aspects of reality can always be broken down and explained by progressively smaller units of knowledge. Why does an object grow hot when it sits on a stove, for example? Because, among other things, the molecules on the stove, which are vibrating very fast, are bumping into the molecules in the object, which aren’t vibrating as fast. This causes them to bounce around more quickly, which we perceive as heat.

We could break the process of inquiry down further. We could ask why faster moving molecules speed up slower moving molecules when they collide. This would inevitably lead to a discussion of momentum and electromagnetic forces. On and on we could go, descending further and further into ever smaller units of knowledge. But at the end of this long and winding chain of questions and answers is something that must simply be accepted, a philosophical brick wall. Ultimately, why do the fundamental forces of nature exist and behave the way they do? Because they do.

And is magic really all that irrational? On the contrary, a believable system of magic must be internally consistent and obey ordered laws. True, there are concessions that must be made. But that’s nothing new. At its roots, science makes the same concessions. Without an axiomatic foundation on which to build, all of science would crumble to the ground.

The only thing that sets science apart from the magic of fiction is that science is a system of natural magic that happens to be real.

Conclusion

Arthur C. Clarke, in his book Profiles of the Future, wrote that, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I go one step further. I argue that advanced science is indistinguishable from magic because it is magic. The only reason we take science for granted is that it’s familiar. But if the roles of reality and fiction were ever reversed, and some denizen of a far off fantasy world were to stumble across the fundamental laws of nature that we accept as part of our daily lives, they would be mystified. For them, it would not be something ordinary, but something extraordinary. For them, it would be magic.

Enter your email address and click "Submit" to subscribe and receive The Sign.