Something else happened...
This time, it was in the lunch room, about two weeks later. His team mate, Ade, was making herself a cup of coffee and was clearly in a hurry. She had grabbed the coffee, spun around to head for the door when she tripped over the feet of a co-worker who was also having lunch and went flying towards the ground.
Mark blinked twice to make sure his eyes were working properly, but it was still happening right in front of him. Ade was falling to the ground in slow motion. In the movies, everything would slow down, the noise would quieten and the actor would watch everything slowly play out. But it did not happen that way; everything and everyone continued as normal, as though Ade was not falling, as though time had not slowed down for her, as though he was not watching her fall to the ground so slowly that it would take about twenty seconds for her body to hit the floor. Twenty seconds.
He walked towards her and grabbed her before she hit the ground, then turned towards the cup of coffee that was also performing its slow-mo fall. He caught it, picked off droplets that had spilled out of the cup, droplets that were also part of this bizarre slow dance, and then got to his feet. Ade looked at him, clearly surprised, slightly embarrassed to be in his arms. Then she looked at his other hand where the coffee cup was held delicately and her eyes widened in shock.
“Wow! How… How did… That’s quick!”
People turned around to look at them and he could not help the smile that was about to light up his face. Then it froze as realisation dawned on him; she had been falling right in the middle of the room, in slow motion, people had been walking around them, many people should have seen what happened - but it looked like no one had seen the event that just played out. Like he and Ade had waltzed into some bizarre time dimension that everyone else was oblivious too.
Now, he was sitting quietly on the balcony of his self-contained apartment looking down at the sprawling city below him. He lived alone. It was easier this way even though he was in his mid forties, sometimes missed company, but overall enjoyed being alone. It was easier to manage the ache that had plagued him in this way than having to explain to anyone about his constant feelings of a sense of longing for something he could not put his finger on. Sometimes, he felt like “going home”, but what did that even mean? The last few days had been particularly bad.
To make it worse, he was increasingly seeing things: he had seen a car vanish as he drove home to work; had seen a co-workers head disappear for a split second and then re-appear; had heard strange whisperings as he slept that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere… Recently, while at work, he had heard what sounded like hearing the thoughts of the co-workers in the room for about 2 minutes, right before they would respond. He had never done drugs but he was beginning to think he needed to see a doctor for his head.
“You’ve been on that for a while. Want to try something else?”, the familiar voice behind him said.
He spun around, but there was no one. He knew that voice but he could not place where he had heard the voice.
A frown creased his face. Now that he had looked around, the voice could not have come from behind him because he had been leaning on the corner of his extended balcony looking down at the city below. Behind him was, well, nothing…
So how come he knew the voice was right? How come he knew the answer?
Mark shook his head trying to clear it. What was this all about? What is going on, he thought to himself? What voice? What answer? What the heck?!
For a split second, the world seemed to go gray, then it came back into focus. He looked around and then looked at his drink. Was there something in his drink, he thought to himself. He had been drinking this brand forever, so it could definitely not be his drink.
“Come on, Emanwen. You’ve been on that for a while.”
“Da…” he found himself saying, but the world got fuzzier and he started to feel light headed.
“Come on, Eman…”, the voice faded in and out of his consciousness as he fought the darkness that seemed to be descending. He shook his head vigorously, trying to hold on, trying to make sense of everything, trying to…
“You’ve been on that for a while, Emanwen….”
You’ve been on that for a while, Emanwen.
The name, Mark, suddenly felt strange. Unusual. Borrowed.
Understanding slowly began to dawn on him as the lights began to go out, the city lights slowly going gray, his bottle of beer increasingly becoming more transparent, or was it more like fading? Everything was fading. The building, the world, everything around him as though all he was watching was a screen that was being pulled away.
Emanwen stood with his Dad. Both had very wide grins on their faces. As always, it felt so good to be here, to be constantly happy. It felt so good to be home. They were the only ones in the room at this time; he knew the others were up and about in various rooms, doing whatever they were meant to do. Right now, he was content to bask in the moment and enjoy it, which was something that happened from moment to moment.
“So how did you find it?” Dad asked.
Emanwen removed the glasses from his eyes and looked around.
“First word that comes to mind is weird. There is the constant heaviness, like you are walking about with weights, but then you get used to that after a while. Just like the smells. After a while, you don’t notice how bad they are, which is fine. It helps you get along and do what you need to do. And gosh, it is so limited! And so limiting!”
“I know, right?!” Dad responded and they both roared with laughter.
“You literally have so much of yourself locked away and you’re constantly having to just make do, even when you are tackling an issue or relating with people." Emanwen continued. "It’s just a really clunky set up. It was interesting for a while, but at some point, I just wanted to leave - but then the whole point of the program is that it makes you focus a lot of your attention on being there. And yet, after a while, you miss home and just want to “go”, which will seem like a contradiction because you’re thinking to yourself, at the same time, “go to where”?”
“Hahaha. I know!”. Dad replied, still laughing.
Emanwen was quiet for a moment, then he reached out, pulled his Dad close and said,
“I really missed you”
“Me too, son”
“I didn’t know what it was I was missing, but I really missed being home”
They stood in silence, looking at each other, smiles still on their faces. Emanwen had missed that smile; fact was, Dad smiled almost every time.
“Do you want to try something else, then?”
“I think I should get some food and play, for now”
“Sounds good. I’ll just file this away”.
“Go for it, Dad. See you around”, Emanwen said and began to make his way out of the room.
“Yup”, Dad replied with a smile.
Dad reached for the large disc that had stopped spinning when Emanwen had removed his glasses earlier. He set it away, carefully. Then He took one last look around before finally walking out of the room of the brightly lit mansion.
On the disc was the well-crafted inscription in gold lettering:
Life as Mark Emery.
His body was found on the balcony of his apartment. They said it might have been a heart condition or something related to depression because he had scribbled, "my heart" in his diary on the day he died. But before he was bagged, they couldn't help noticing the body had a faint satisfied smile