As little old men went, Johnny had seen nearly everything – except for what he’d beheld only moments before. He had to shake his head and blink twice after seeing Miss Travers, the newest Governess, draw a lengthy coat rack from her carpet-bag.
“Odd,” he muttered as he leaned over to have a peek inside the thing. Nothing but ordinary to the eye, so he took his investigation a step further reaching into it with both hands.
Without warning the children’s new puppy-dog dashed into the room, slamming into Johnny. The force caused the old man to lose his balance and he tottered over head-first into the satchel.
Before he knew it, Johnny was dropping through a dark void. He yelled, “Help me,” but the emptiness swallowed up his sound.
Forever and ever Johnny dropped through the blackness of nothing. To him, it was as if all time and space had coagulated in one spot and had sucked him into a certain death.
However, bit by bit, heartbeat by heartbeat, the dark abated, becoming gray and then colored like the rainbow. Johnny was certain he was no longer in London, England, 1910 as everything seemed familiar and yet alien.
No longer falling, if he ever had been, Johnny was certain he was floating – but to where, towards what, he did not know. Suddenly, he heard a distant sound, a beautiful sound, that came from nowhere and yet was everywhere at once.
Voices, singing, music – nothing like he’d ever heard before came to his ears — and the magnificent sound intensified. His fear left him and his curiosity had taken hold and Johnny found he couldn’t get enough of the mosaic of colors and the otherworldly music.
In each splinter and jag of light, Johnny saw images, moving pictures, seamlessly fashioned together as if it were his own memory, flashing before his eyes. At first he tried not to watch, but he couldn’t help himself – Johnny, like a moth pulled to the street lamp, found himself drawn to the flashing images.
“Is this knowledge, a dream or am I dead?” he asked himself as the images came to him at a pace faster than he could think.
He saw two great wars, where millions upon millions died, with one being cleansed by a great fire. Following this came yet two more wars, but not before seeing a tree, its branches overshadowing the earth, with powder blue apples, growing it’s roots like tentacle’s into humanity.
His curiosity intensified as he reached out, touching the light. It was clear and bright, like rarefied water, his finger sending concentric ripples emanating throughout the glittering material.
Johnny watched in fascination and horror as nation’s rose and still other’s faded, some in their own violence. He saw bad and good men come, and these same men go and finally a great bloody battle in which a white falcon slew a great brown and red dragon.
In what may have been a lifetime, or mere seconds, Johnny found himself bathed in the warm glow of a multifaceted and color-filled light, one that beamed from a single crystalline being in the midst of a swarm of what he believed to be butterflies. But before he could investigate further, a dog-paddling dog bumped him away.
“What is it about dogs?” he asked in frustration, though there was no one to hear him.
The impact sent the old man careening away from the lighted and sparkling being and the scores of butterflies. Instead, he tumbled head-over-heel into a chasm made of shiny rock, much like a mirror, only clearer.
As he stabilized himself and looked up, he saw himself – a younger man than when he first fell in the carpet-bag. The change made him cry out in surprise.
As he continued through the cleft, he saw himself change to an ever-younger self, until he was a mere lad of three or four. That’s when he noticed the youngster next to himself.
“Where’d you come from – did you fall in Mary’s bag, too?” Johnny asked.
“No,” said the child, “I’ve been here all along.”
“You don’t say!”
“I’ve been waiting on you.”
“You don’t say!”
“That’s not my name.”
“It soon will be.”
“Then who are you?”
“I’m your twin, Michael. I’m Mitchell.”
“I don’t have a twin — and my name is Johnny!”
“Look,” Mitchell said as he pointed towards the chasm wall.
There in the reflection of the opening were Johnny and Mitchell, side-by-side, looking identical in every way. Furthermore, they were growing younger by the twinkling and the sight left Johnny gobsmacked and unable to utter a word.
Mitchell smiled, “Soon we’ll be nothing more than a life-spark.” He continued, “And then my job will be done and I’ll return from where I started and you’ll be on your own to begin again.”
“But what about my life up…” Johnny started as Mitchell interrupted him.
“There? Shortly, you’ll remember nothing – not even this.”
“There’s no way I could ever forget this.”
Suddenly, Johnny realized his cockney brogue had vanished and he was no longer physically speaking – he was talking and hearing, but it all came to his mind with out a single vocalization. None of it was making sense, if any of it ever had.
“You’ll forget most of it,” Mitchell smiled at Johnny, “I’ve been through this many times. Believe me. Heads up!”
Without much warning, the pair slipped quickly into a bubble of very warm, gelatinous soup. “Dear, God!” Johnny choked, “We’re being boiled to death.”
“It’s okay, Michael.”
“No it’s not – and for the last time – my name’s Johnny!”
Months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds may have passed by– he couldn’t tell as he felt a sudden constriction, a tightness that promised to squeeze the life from his now chubby body. He watched as Mitchell disappeared through a narrow gap into another bright light, all the while instructing him, “Come on, follow me.”
Without warning, Johnny came cascading out, coughing and sputtering, and into waiting hands. Also without warning, he heard himself screaming in panic as he found himself being passed from one person to the next.
“What the devil’s happening,” he shouted. But something was wrong, his words were like gibberish, garbled and non-nonsensical, which added further to his fright.
“We’re so sorry,” a voice thundered over head. “He’s still-borne and there’s nothing more that can be done.”
“What was his name again,” a female asked. Another answered, “Mitchell.”
“Poor, sweet baby boy, never had a chance,” yet another woman stated. “But the second baby boy is certainly lively – screaming and kicking like the dickens.”
“I’m so confused,” Johnny cried. “What’s happening and where am I?”
“Welcome to the world, little man,” cooed the first woman’s voice. “Michael is a strong name.”
“I’m Johnny!” the once old man cried as he found himself in the arms of yet another woman. She tucked him in next to her chest and introduced him to her breast.
“I’m Johnny,” he gurgled, “I’m John…hey…this is… good… I…I needed this…thank you.”
As he continued to suckle, Johnny grew more and more content until he no longer had any wish to remember the world he had left. And thanks to Miss Travers’ magic carpet-bag, Johnny, now named Michael, would soon enough learn of the world he had entered – New York City, USA, 1960.
From somewhere on the street below a dog started barking.