Recently there has been a humorous account on the Internet concerning alternate realities with the proof being various memories of TheBerenstain Bears. Funny stuff, and interesting in that it illustrates a curious element of human memory and the theory of the alternate universe.
However, I once had a most confusing experience that goes beyond just an addled memory of the spelling of a cartoon/children’s book character.
The master of the alternate reality was the brilliant science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick. The man was just amazing in so many ways. When he wasn’t particularly trying to be, he was a phenomenal visionary. (When he was actually trying to predict the future of technology, not so good.) In the world of his imagination, made almost real by way of his fiction, the results were often unsettling and mystifying.
One of his most well-known and positively received novels was THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. It relates an alternate history in which the Axis powers emerged victorious in World War II. The story focuses on life in the USA which has been divided between Germany (east coast) and Japan (west coast). I will not here delve too deeply into specifics of the plot, except to mention a couple of elements:
Within the novel is a second novel written by a man who claims that there is another reality in which the Allies won the Second World War. And he lays out that proposed reality in his novel, THE GRASSHOPPER LIES HEAVY. There is a further element that seems to suggest that if enough people believe it, or if the right conditions gather, one can pass over from one of these realities into the other.
I was fascinated by the book. So much so that I read it very slowly. I did not rush the process, going over each passage and every sentence one careful word at a time. The book is just an amazing work to me. I read it carefully over the course of two days (although it’s a short novel and could easily be read in a sitting). At the end of the second day I read the last bit in bed. I finished the book, considering the story, and put it carefully on the table on my side of the bed and turned out the light.
I went to sleep.
Some few hours later I woke up. It was very dark. I had come completely and utterly awake with none of that confused grogginess that sometimes hits you upon awakening. I was just there, eyes wide, staring into the night. I looked up at the window to my right. There were a few stars visible. Where was I? Was I at home? Or somewhere else? What book had I been reading just before falling asleep?
Or at least I thought that I was awake. Then I realized that I was dreaming very vividly that I was lying in my bed in my own house. And I dreamed that I had just finished reading a book that I had placed on the bedside table before turning out the light. That book was, I realized, THE GRASSHOPPER LIES HEAVY.
I was so filled with the horror of that thought—that the book I had read and placed on the table before going to sleep was THE GRASSHOPPER LIES HEAVY that I was filled with a sense of panic.
My heart was pounding.
Without pausing I reached over and turned on the light and grabbed up the novel and stared at the cover.
It was with a pure rush of relief that I saw that it was THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE.
Yes…some writers are just that good.
Or had I, as one of Dick’s friends once suggested to me, crossed over very briefly into the world where the Allies were on the losing end of that titanic struggle?