Author : Courtney Raines
As I watched myself falling down the hill, I remembered that fairy tale from physics class; the one about the cat in the box.
I had been walking home through the wilderness that separated my cul-de-sac from the grocery store, it was a walk I had taken hundreds of times over the past five years, when I tripped. The pack of groceries on my back had nearly slipped off my right shoulder, and I shuffled mid-step to adjust it. That’s when it happened; the quantum flash.
A ‘quantum flash’ is what the ubiquitous ‘they’ call it when you experience a moment of your life from another quantum reality before returning to your own. Mine happened in that instant between when I knew my foot was coming down wrong, and when it actually hit the ground.
I stood there for a millisecond frozen in time, watching as another me somewhere didn’t manage to regain her balance. I watched as the other me’s foot came down and twisted on a root. I heard the crack of bones. I felt the snap in my shin. I watched as the other me fell backwards towards the ravine, and wondered for the millionth time why the path was so close to it.
It was me, and it wasn’t. I felt it, and I watched it; both inside and outside. It was still me. The soft, moldy puff of dirt when I crashed backwards. The citrus thumps as my groceries began to tumble from my pack. The uncomfortable stab of cold plastic wrapped in polyester as I hit the milk jug before the inevitable flip.
The inevitable slow motion flip; my back arching, my pack sliding further down my arm, the milk, the bag of oatmeal, the kiwis and apples plopping to the ground, my feet creating the circle I could never draw. I felt my neck bending but not, quite, snapping. It radiated pain and there were spots before my eyes. As my body came around an almost elegant 360 degrees I saw, from both above and to the right, the pile of grapefruit and lemons that had first fallen from my pack.
Then my knees hit the ground, and I began to slide downwards. My pack was gone, what little cushioning it might have offered rendered nonexistent. Dirt and leaves began push their way up my shorts; I felt the leaves break and crinkle against my thighs. I slid in a slow motion second until first my feet, then my stomach, and finally my head bucked over a knobbled rock, smashing in a rhythmic serpentine motion. I barely had time to register the explosion that was my shattering kneecap, or the loss of breath following a rock in the gut, when the hard surface thrust my chin briefly upwards so it could better collide with my forehead.
Pain circled my head, blood trickled coppery in my mouth, and darkness called until the clock ticked into the next millisecond and my foot came down awkwardly on the dirt.
With a little hop, I regained my balance. I shifted my pack so that it was squarely on both shoulders, and muttered a prayer to the God of physics that I had been born to this quantum reality.