All Stories, General Fiction

Try, Try Again by L’Erin Ogle

The thing about parallel universes is that there might be somewhere where you exist where you are a better person. But then there has to be another place where you’re the worst version of yourself.

There’s a place where your mother didn’t leave and there’s somewhere out there where your father loved you, but it’s not here. I’m sorry. I know it’s been hard for you this time around.

There’s the world where your Facebook cover photo displays a six-year-old boy smiling so big it sets the sun on fire. That’s two years more than you got to have him in this one.

And the one where he has his own page. Strangers follow him through his chemo treatments and the radiation to click like and share when he’s smiling, when he’s at home, thin and bald and a shadow of a boy, but alive, so very alive. They comment with crying emoji’s when he’s admitted to the children’s hospital tied up with tubes and wires, shadows the color of hopelessness drawn under his eyes.

There’s even a place where the tumor never existed at all.

You hunch over your computer researching the multiverse theory. You looked into time travel but you’ve been here so long. Everything that’s happened here is woven together in a tapestry of tangled threads. You aren’t even sure which one to pull to begin to unravel the canvas of fuckery spread across the landscape of your life.

But what if there’s somewhere else you could go, where your son lives and your liver isn’t a hard mass palpable through your abdominal wall? Not like this, where you’ve already died inside but the physical part is so goddamn slow and painful, where you don’t have the courage to hurry it up, then maybe it’s worth the price of the admission ticket. What’s left for you here?

Imagine, a world where you put down the bottle.

Imagine, if you started over now, tried to alter your destiny.

But you can’t. You had to do things to survive, that formed you as person, that fundamentally altered the neural pathways in your brain. You don’t know how to erase the damage. There are things done that can’t be undone. You can pick up the pieces of a shattered person but they never fit together the same way. They will break again, and again, new scars patterned over the old. This is the nature of your existence. You’ve learned better than to reach for the stars. You’re just trying, and mostly failing, to stay out of the gutter.

There’s a lot of bullshit on these websites.

There’s also a chat room where you meet Massari.

She says she knows how to go places. There are worlds other than this one, she types. I can prove it.

Listen, before you buy that Greyhound ticket, just for a second.

I told you about worlds better than yours.

I told you there were worse.

There are worlds where you sell yourself. There are worlds where you sleep under bridges. There are places where you are hollow and you aren’t even real anymore, just a shell, brittle and empty and cracked all over, chasing the pipe down a back alley where something even more horrible happens. There’s a knife that splits the skin on the right side of your face from your temple to your chin. You’ve got to do more things for less money when you’re disfigured.

There’s a world where your son never existed.

There’s a world where he did, and you did not care for him, and to carry the weight of that, even in your current state, you cannot comprehend what that does to a soul.

You’re going to buy the ticket anyway.

It was always going to happen like this, here.

In every world, you will bear the same scar on your face eventually.

Some things remain constant. The path to get to them, the way the map is drawn, that can be different. Even the implement used to mark you can change, but the scar always remains the same.

It’s a ten-hour journey. The cold wind drifts around the edges of the window and you will never be warm again. You brought a bottle of Perkies to stay numb and you pop them like the Pez you used to spill out from a Cinderella dispenser. Always with the fucking fairy tales. Maybe Wonder Woman would have set you on a different path.

You can feel the cold, but it doesn’t bother you. Opiates soften the sharp edges of the worlds. The wounds don’t sting quite as bad and time spins by without you noticing it.

You don’t eat. You have a liter bottle of Diet Dr Pepper that’s half full, but the cotton texture of your mouth soothes you, it lets you know you’re still protected by the cape of pills.

Massari isn’t at the station.

She isn’t answering your messages.

Her phone goes straight to voice mail.

You did meet her in another world. She has long dark hair and a ring on every finger and she fed you and you got high and went to bed, and a whole plethora of new pathways fanned out like spokes of a wheel.

Not here. Here you’re alone, flat broke, in a strange city, almost out of Percocet’s, but you know how to survive. You’re a master of getting by.

You start walking.

I wish you heard me. I’m here. I’m here. I won’t leave you.

If I could have built a door before this, I would have.  I am waiting for you where things are soft and warm and you can see everything exactly as it is, how it came to be.

The end is coming. In every world, there is an end. If there is a beginning, there has to be an end.

The monster with the knife comes up behind you. I am here, but I close my eyes. I will not bear witness to this.

Every moment stretches out before you. Pain lasts the longest of anything you can feel. There is your face, split open. There is the hole in your chest where blood bubbles froth, where your fingers reach not to cover the hole but to pry at the entrance to your heart.

Your heart is strong. Your heart was always strong.

You are in the gutter, and you are dying.

I have seen your death in this world.

You die in a gutter but I am here to wrap my arms around you and lift you out of this world.

Maybe next time we’ll do better, you and I.

Come along, my child. There’s another world beyond this one.


L’Erin Ogle

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay





10 thoughts on “Try, Try Again by L’Erin Ogle”

  1. L’Erin excells at showing the run of the mind yet at juuust a bit off the center of it, thus providing an objective view of the subjective.
    No matter what kind of universe you wander into there will always be someone in there with false hope on his tongue and a blade in his hand.


  2. I’m back. The multiverse possibility has presented itself in my tawdry excuse of a life:
    My two cats adore empty shoe boxes. So much I use it as an excuse to buy no less than two pairs (shoes, not cats) at a time. All should be well. But shoe box envy always rears its ugly head. Cat A will enter one of the two equal in every way shoe boxed, so, naturally, Cat B assumes that Cat A has the superior shoe box. Much drama unfolds, most of it involves empty threats of violence. According to the multiverse theory there are places with no cats yet plenty of empty shoe boxes in it, conversely there are lands with infinite cats and no empty shoe boxes. Even so, they would just find something else to fight over.
    This might come off as a pointless ramble, but since there are LS stalwarts out there who only make comments in other universes, I thought I would graciously take up the slack.


  3. Story seems a bit scattered but I guess that’s the case with parallel universes. What was the whole bit with Massari? There is a poetic and surreal sense here though, in the style. Takes a few readings to understand the details and how they fit, and maybe it doesn’t really matter if they don’t. That’s the case with parallel universes. The theme might be “Could have been worse.”


  4. This was an incredibly powerful story. The son with a tumor touched me on a visceral level. I lost my husband to brain cancer. Reading this, this morning – made me wish for another universe where there is no suffering and I hope he’s there. I was very touched by your words. Beautifully written.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ll add my voice to all the comments here. Off center says it best. A true evoking of grief, I think.


  6. Hi L’Erin,
    Hope is a wish for better that reality seldom delivers.
    I’m not sure if it is of any comfort to think that somewhere else we are doing better. Heartache is too insular and resentment is understandable.
    This is a very thought provoking and emotional piece of story-telling!


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