Rocketeer Feature: Parallel Realities: An Easy Way To Fry Your Brain

Timeline Jumping and the Mandela Effect

Disclaimer: you’re in no way obligated to believe anything in this post unless, of course, you want to. Then, by all means.

I’m going to be perfectly honest with you, Time is never as obedient as you think it should be. It’s curvy and brain-buckling, changing speeds unexpectedly and never with the right amount of  warning. Time shrinks or expands to fill a space depending upon your mood and the level of engagement you have with what’s going on. That’s why a favorite TV show is over in the blink of an eye but a dreadful article you have to read for work takes all afternoon.

Time is an enormous tangle of tree roots creating new paths under foot for each step you take. The paths extend eternally and in a quantum number of directions. You can only follow one at a time, unless you have a wide-open consciousness and recognize that you’re a quantum being living in a clay body. And even if could do that, it’d be hard to keep track of where you were, since you’d be existing in multiple realities at once.

Parallel Realities & Nelson Mandela

The parallel reality scenario is a staple of science fiction. It’s a Time Travel/Butterfly Effect/Let’s Kill Hitler/Back to the Future Parts 1 – 3/Flight of the Horse type of story.

Recently, there’s been a new twist on the old tale.

In 2016, something called the “Mandela Effect” became popular. It’s named after South African civil-rights activist, Nelson Mandela. He died in 2013 but some people are sure he died earlier, in the 1980’s. It’s as if the affected people stepped off their original timeline and onto another one, without even noticing.

At this point there are millions of people who’ll go on the record as saying that they remember the past differently from the way it really happened. The aberrations might be small, like the name of children’s TV show, or a big, like changes in world geography.

Here are two more examples of the Mandela Effect:

  • In the Disney movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the Evil Queen says, “Magic mirror on the wall.” People with the Mandela Effect insist that she used to say, “Mirror, mirror on the wall.”
  • Curious George is a children’s book character. Does he have a tail, or doesn’t he? Some people remember that he once did, although he doesn’t now.

These irregularities are troubling. Could they be a failure of memory? Or, are they caused by mental confusions such as cognitive dissonance, or confabulation?

According to Merriam and Webster, cognitive dissonance is psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes (as a fondness for smoking and a belief that it is harmful).

Confabulation is the filling in of gaps in memory through the creation of false memories by an individual who is affected with a memory disorder (as Korsakoff syndrome) and is unaware that the fabricated memories are inaccurate and false.

Mental stumbles don’t explain cultural proofs that are found on old maps, in books, movies, and TV interviews that mention things Mandela-effected people insist used to be true. Here’s a YouTube video that talks about this. If the Mandela Effect is the result of faulty memories then how do you explain these left-over artifacts (Disney movies and children’s books) buried deep in popular culture?

Software Glitch

Perhaps our world is just glitchy. It’s been theorized that we’re living in a computer simulation. If so, then perhaps the Mandela Effect is a glitch in the Matrix. But why would this glitch only affect certain people? So far, no one has an answer for that. One thing seems clear enough, we don’t know all that much about our own reality. Perhaps we’re mighty cosmic beings with a bad case of amnesia, stuck inside the Matrix, jumping across timelines and looking for a way out. I suppose that’s as good a theory as any.

Writing about Time Keepers

The Time Keepers in my short story, Anchor, live outside of linear time. They are timeline jumpers with the ability to cross from one reality to another and make adjustments as they see fit. The Mandela Effect would not concern them as they are living in a constant state of timeline readjustment. I imagine that they live in the far future, but this isn’t strictly accurate. To be more precise, they live in a state of connection to all of time and space, all-that-is, multi-dimensional space/time. They are extremely long-lived because they are not subject to the rules of linear time. Are they immortal? Not precisely, their bodies wear out eventually. They understand that the physical body is a transitory vessel for the spark of life. They once lived in a state of no-time and had no understanding of linear time. A disastrous series of interactions with a cousin species made them realize the necessity of protecting the time roads from interference. How the Time Keepers came about is the subject of a future book.

That Other Now

If you’re having trouble visualizing what a jump between dimensions might look like, here’s an example from Golden Age science fiction author, Murray Leinster (1896 – 1975). The Other Now (1951) begins with Jimmy Patterson grieving for his recently deceased wife, Jane. He gets home from work one night and has a weird Deja-vu experience at the front door. Jimmy turns the key and opens the door, then walks through the doorway…and bangs with his leg on the closed door, then puts his key in the lock and starts to walk in. [In case you think I typed that wrong, I didn’t.] Jimmy stops and thinks…whoa, what just happened?

The next night the damn door does it again….Jimmy opens it and starts to walk through and then bam! He smacks hard into it. What?? He just opened that door! When Jimmy reaches out to unlock it AGAIN the door’s already open. Something really weird is going on.

Inside, he gets comfy on the couch, lights his pipe (this is 1951, remember), then puts the spent match in an ashtray. The ashtray’s already full of cigarette stubs, his wife’s brand, and they’ve all been freshly smoked. Somebody’s been smoking his dead wife’s ciggies! Who’s been in his house? Jimmy storms around in a fury. When he gets back to the ashtray, the cigarette butts are gone.

The next night Jimmy finds his dead wife’s diary left out on the desk. It’s closed but has a pencil stuck between two pages. Jimmy’s never read Jane’s dairy before and he certainly doesn’t want to start now. But, there it is…just sitting there. Jimmy didn’t leave it out, so how did it get there? He opens it up. There’s Jane’s handwriting, and today’s date!

He slams the book shut, but curiosity overwhelms him and he opens it up again. There’s an entry under today’s date where Jane writes about visiting the cemetery and how she’s struggling with life since Jimmy’s death. Jane wishes that she had died, instead of him. Jimmy freaks out. When he gets his head back together, the diary’s gone. He vaguely remembers writing in the diary during the freak-out. He wrote Jane! under her entry. Also, Where are you? and I’m not dead!

The next day Jimmy buys a camera. When he gets home, he unlocks the front door and opens it. At least, he thinks he does. Since it’s dark, he reaches out to check. Surprise! The door’s still closed. Jimmy takes a picture of the closed door. After the flash glare dies away, the door’s open again and he didn’t open it, not this time. A few minutes later, Jimmy notices that the ashtray is once again full of Jane’s cigarette stubs. The dairy’s back, too, and there’s a ruler laid across it to keep the pages open. Jimmy sees his own handwriting in the book, what he wrote last night. Under that’s a new entry, in Jane’s hand. She’s answered him and there’s a tear blot staining the page. He writes a reply with shaky fingers then takes a picture of the page with both their handwritings on it under today’s date. When the flash glare clears the book’s gone again.

Jimmy gets prints made the next day. One is a double-exposure of the open and closed front door. The second shows Jane’s open dairy, with both their writing in it. The words are clear enough to read in the photo. Excitedly, he shows the pictures to his friend, Haynes. Haynes is skeptical but relates a theory he’s heard somewhere — “it’s been suggested — mind you, this isn’t accepted science, but pure charlatanry — it’s been suggested that there may be more than one actual now. Before the girder actually hit [this is how Jane died, in a car wreck], there were three nows in the possible future. One in which neither of you was hit, one in which you were hit, and one [where Jane was hit.]…how do we know that the one in which Jane was hit is the only now?”

Haynes doesn’t see Jimmy for a more few days. When they meet again Jimmy tells him that he’s been communicating with Jane via the dairy. He doesn’t care where she is, or even that they can’t be together, Jimmy’s just delighted to be able to talk to her. They’re still as in love as ever. Jimmy insists that his dead wife isn’t actually dead…well, she is dead in his world, but he’s dead in hers so that kind of cancels everything out. Nobody’s actually dead then, they’re each living in different nows. The barrier between Jimmy and Jane’s world continues to thin and reality bleedthroughs increase. One night, Jimmy thinks he feels Jane’s hand touching his. New cigarette butts appear in the ashtray, while he’s writing in the journal. Jimmy calls Haynes to say good-bye. The barrier’s so thin now, Jimmy’s sure it’ll break soon, then he can be with Jane, wherever she is. Suddenly, Haynes hears another voice in the background of the call, it’s Jane crying out, “Jimmy, darling!”Then the line goes dead. Haynes calls the police. They break into Jimmy’s house but he’s gone, and they never find him.

Jumping Timelines

Jimmy and Jane have created a passageway between parallel worlds and Jimmy’s gone through.

By the end of The Other Now we’ve seen four alternate timelines: one in which Jane has died, one where Jimmy’s dead, another where Jane’s dead and Jimmy’s gone, and one where neither is dead. These realities exist in the same Time, but in different dimensions.

And what about Haynes…? Is he now living in a new reality where Jimmy died in the same car accident as Jane? In the end, Haynes refuses to go the cemetery and find out.

As an epilogue, I have to wonder…now that he’s living in Jane’s alternate reality, will Jimmy start to have Mandela-like effects? I bet he does, because this Jane isn’t really his Jane at all, she’s a completely different person.

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