It’s always a crap shoot finding another reality’s version of Alohahawk, George, Lumpster and Ed. This time stream was behind mine by three months but reading their blog posts would narrow down where they’ll be this day. Pinpointing it to the hour is trickier. Most times I can stalk them from a distance on the trail, then engage at a stopping point for the night. They were on their way down from Emery Peak, making the 7800-foot ascent in 5 hours from the trailhead at Big Bend NP. With full packs no less. If I timed it right, they will spend the night at a communal site on the trail and it was not unusual for another hiker to be sharing it. Still healing from the knee replacement, I didn’t make the ascent rather, I waited for them to pass me as I hid amongst the madrones and mountain mahogany bushes. Staying an unobserved distance behind I waited till they stopped at a campsite then joined them within the hour. A bag of good weed is the best icebreaker and after 37 trips it’s a no-shitter they’ll readily accept my invitation to smoke. The weed puts them at ease, makes them more incline to accept the surreal and unexplained. That’s when I hit them with whom I am. As always, they humor me at first but after ten minutes of answering questions no stranger could know they begin to settle down to a modicum of acceptance. In the earlier realities before I perfected my intervention, they would pack up immediately and move down to base camp. I further settle them down by proving I had no weapons and sit where they have the advantage to overtake me.
Alohahawk 37: Ratt, um I mean Rogue Botanist, you say you are from another reality? The one where you survived being hit by that car in Austin?
Rogue Botanist: Yeah, I only suffered a strained knee ligament which eventually led to a full knee replacement last year. I’m still recovering from the operation and you can’t imagine what a bitch it feels like hiking up a mountain. What happened right after I died?
Alohahawk 37: We attended your funeral with your family in Austin – Randy, Jersey, Martha and Sue, Boo and Jack and several others except Tripp. He said he had an important test to study for. That was the last straw. We all drifted apart from him after that. I guess you’re not surprised.
Rogue Botanist: Not in the least.
Alohahawk 37 stared intensely at me. I saw the conflict in his face because of our shared friendship before I died in this reality. He tried to discern how I would look thirty-seven years after my death. My father’s genes had caught up with me by now, giving me a more bulbous nose and jowls. The balding genes are from my mother’s side of the family.
George 37: I still think you’re full of shit. Some psychopath who has nothing better to do then play mind-fuck games but you’ve broken up the routine of this hike so I’ll play along. Tell me then, how did you get here from your so-called alternate reality?
Rogue Botanist: Well, in my reality I survive the vehicle accident. I got off the UT shuttle bus to walked in front of it. That’s when I was distracted by what looked like a jagged light tearing into open air. I walked to it while ignoring a car that sped past the bust in my direction. The driver hit the brakes just enough to hit the side of my leg and push me into the light. I kept my balance but the light had disappeared. Like an idiot I was more concern with seeing a movie then staying at the accident scene. Throughout the years there were random times when the arm which touched the light would glow slightly and that same jagged light appeared for second or so. I never told anyone because it’s crazy talk. Eventually I joined the Marines and became a botanist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on a refuge complex by the Texas coast. The refuge is a mix of coastal prairies and bottomland forests. The forests are my favorite place to get away for the day especially in the spring when heat and humidity are still low. Only employees and researchers are allowed in most of the bottomlands due to the remoteness and dangerous wildlife. I like the solitude to think and botanize and usually the only man-made sound I hear is an aircraft. I was making my way up a dry slough when I saw that light in front of me. This time it was larger, like a door about ten by six feet wide. I didn’t see the other side of the slough through it, just some weird cascading lights, like large rain drops. By this time, I was more curious than freaked-out. This had to be a doorway to another world so I walked through it. Inside, those lights flickered around amorphous doors which displayed exact copies of the slough on the other side of them. I picked one but stopped short because I might not find my way back. My day pack of survival essentials had a 100 foot of parachute cord. I tied it to an oak tree on the slough bank and let out the remainder as I walked back into the portal staging area and through a door. That’s when my leg started dissolving. It hurt like a motherfucker but reformed when I pulled it back.
Ed 37: Makes sense. From what I know about the paradox of realities there can’t be two version of the same person occupying the same place. It would rip the fabric of time and you to shreds.
Rogue Botanist: Exactly as I thought so I tried another door but was careful in case of another cellular disruption. After the fifth of sixth time I passed through into a reality that didn’t destroy me. Nothing suggested the habitat around me was any different. I tied off the parachute cord to another oak and walked out of the slough into the forest. I didn’t go far because if I didn’t exist here then that meant there was no Fish and Wildlife employee called Rogue Botanist. I also had no means to get very far in that reality. I needed a plan so I followed the cord back into the portal between worlds and back into my own reality.
Lumpster 37: How long ago was that?
Rogue Botanist: About October 2016 but I entered your reality 7 days ago on March 3 my time. Since its January here that makes me a visitor from the future. That’s not always the case though. Sometimes realities are ahead of mine but after 37 trips it has never been more than about a year and two months, future or past. It took a while but I’ve got it down to travel in alternate realities where I don’t disintegrate and I’ve made a few observations along the way. Substances that are not alive don’t dissolve when I carry them over. For example, money and clothes and cell phones. They must lack enough quantum charge inside them to disrupt the fabric of reality. This was confirmed when I tried to bring over a sapling in a pot and ants. They dissolved immediately. It also seems all realities are synced up, give or take. The same events here have occurred thus far in all realities I’ve encountered. Same disasters, same news, same shit head President Trump. All my siblings and friends and even my ex-wife is doing the same thing, mostly. By that I mean even though they are richer or poorer or in a different job they have the same morals and values, same health and end up with the same partner or spouse or alone. I think at the Big Bang a nearly infinite number of universes were born at the same time with the same quantum destiny infused into their sub-atomic matrix. They each expanded out along in their own time streams at the same speed. The differences in the time line for each universe is because they’ve encountered some force which slowed some down if for a quintillionth of a second. Who knows, maybe it was a black hole? After 15 billion or more years of existence any tiny discrepancy in time adds up.
George 37: Wait a fucking minute! Every universe has the same outcome for each person? No one of us in any of the gazillions of alternate universes could be billionaires or president or married to Scarlett Johansson? We are destined to live out the same destiny in every time stream?
Rogue Botanist: So far, yes. No offense but people like you and me are destined to not make a piss-ant change in the direction mankind is going. Please pass the joint.
Alohahawk 37: Then why did you die in other realities if you were destined to live in yours?
Rogue Botanist: Good question. I’m not sure but I’ve got a theory. I think I was present at the right time when the time streams of universes collided at the sub-atomic level, causing a tear in their realities. In some realities I should have come away from that accident with only a damaged knee. In others, time stopped for a split-second to alter that car’s speed with deadly results. That might explain why I can’t enter every universe because the alternate Rogue Botanist survived in them. When I bumped into that light some of it infused into my body. I think that made me a conduit to the portal between other doors. Although the portal may be stable now it is still random but luckily, I’m retired and have the means to travel at a moment’s notice when it appears.
Ed 37: I’m have to ask, did you come here to say one of us or someone close to us is going to die?
Rogue Botanist: No. All of you go about your lives in a fairly predictable and safe manner for at least another 3 months. Remember, I can only see what happens up to one and half years in some realities. I should warn you Ed though to not give diamond earrings to your wife for y’alls anniversary. From what I’ve read she is entering a minimalist phase in her life and you will be a hero when you substitute that present for a trip with her to Vancouver. I recommend the VanDusen Botanical Gardens when you’re there.
Ed 37. What the fuck?!!? How did you about the present? This is blowing my mind, but thanks anyway!
Alohahawk 37: So, I guess, aside from natural curiosity you travel alternate realities to blow peoples’ mind for the fuck of it?
Rogue Botanist: In a way, yes but also, I want to see if I can make life a little better for people who are alternates to the ones I’ve known in my world. I’ve accumulated a substantial amount of money from knowing what sport teams to bet on, what stocks to invest in or when a crypto-coin will skyrocket in value. On my way to the door I’ll leave enough money for my alternate family to care properly for my mentally ill brother for the rest of his life. Maybe that’s playing God but at least I’m not a douche bag god that brings joy while killing thousands of people with a virus or tsunami. Then again, if I’m right everyone I know everyone will live about the same way as their atoms were destined to live from 15 billion years ago. No matter what I do.
George 37: What if the door is not there when you get back to it? What then?
Rogue Botanist: That’s the risk I take. Instead of a parachute cord I now use 10-gauge cable with a carabiner. In reality No. 14 the cord was eaten down to one thread after a rodent tore into it for nesting material. Even though I take financial advantage of realities which are ahead of mine there’s always that unknown future. I don’t know if I will die again in this reality or the door will disappear. I’ve found the doors in all realities decrease in size within about three weeks. In reality No. 23 it shrunk down to around the cable’s diameter. Fortunately, I was able to expand the entrance with my hands to get inside. From now on I limit my visits to ten days to cover my ass.
Lumpster 37: Is it like Schrodinger’s cat between the portals?
Rogue Botanist: Aw, another good question! Like the cat I am in a superposition of states, neither entering or exiting. I figured this out when I scratched myself pretty good before leaving reality No. 11. At that time, I had planned ahead to stay in between portals with provisions to last two days. I noticed the scratch didn’t heal or become infected. It was in stasis until I entered my reality. I also noticed I didn’t feel hunger or any pain. I think I can live forever in between worlds.
Dusk had fallen on the Chisos Mountains. Alohahawk 37 turned on his micro lantern, illuminating the group as they sat in silence for a few moments. The visitor brought conflict to each No. 37. None of them were pious men but darkness brings out primal superstitions nevertheless. Was this a test of faith or is the universe or universes beyond any person’s puny comprehension? Rogue Botanist broke the silence
Hey Alohahawk, how’s Sue?
Alohahawk 37: Oh, you know, spin classes and Zuma. Same old, same old. Just like she was destined.
The group chortled.
Rogue Botanist (looking at Ed): And Karen and the kids?
Ed 37: Doing good. Pretty happy with life and me. Just so you know, if I ever see you near my wife and daughters, I would beat you within an inch of your life.
The others echoed that warning.
Rogue Botanist: Understood. Besides, I’m not coming back because no door has an identifying marker. When I leave this world, the odds are infinitesimal against finding it again.
George 37: I gotta say Rogue Botanist, before I met you, I had occasional thoughts of what life would be like if I had made different decisions. Would I be single now or married to another woman? Maybe the best gift you’re leaving us is even if we don’t control our destinies it all turned out like we wanted anyway.
Rogue Botanist: Good to hear. Listen, I think I should move on down to basecamp. I’ve laid some heavy shit on you all and if you are like the previous 36 you won’t get any sleep tonight if I stay in the area.
Alohahawk 37: Wait. We may not be the masters of our destinies but in this reality, you stay the night and we’ll sleep just fine. Would you guys agree that our livers won’t end up in a plate of fava beans and eggs in the morning?
Ed and George and Lumpster nodded.
Rogue Botanist: Okay, then I’ll have one more drag and sleep under the stars.
In the morning I was gone, leaving behind a waterproof envelope containing a letter with 4 lines of six numbers separated by comas with dates from February through March:
I had to leave early because I “know” I will encounter delays that could make it a little too close for comfort to reach the portal. Thanks for “shaking up” the monotony of this reality. I didn’t see it coming when you let me stay overnight. The line of numbers are for each of you. Their dates correspond to the winning Texas state lottery tickets within the next three months.
Enjoy life – Rogue Botanist.