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A Million Little Pieces Of My Mind

Parallel Earths

By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 5/27/2024
Posted: 4/10/2006
Page Views: 8149
Topics: #AlienAbductions #ParallelEarths
High strangeness brought to a whole new level.
Alternate timelines

In the Spring of 1995, I experienced my next bit of high strangeness.

The central hub of this experience was Key West, where I had made arrangements to spend another full week's vacation at Light House Court. I'd been working more weeks out of the month than usual and was really looking forward to some time off.

Although my mother was still in Florida with my sister, I wasn't alone in the house as my ex-wife, Mary, had asked to stay with me a few months until an inheritance from her late mother had come in. So she was sleeping in Mom's room and watching the apartment for me when I went away to teach.

The last class I had scheduled before my vacation was a local one: I was teaching Intro to Visual Basic at the branch of Boston University just across the Massachusetts border, about a forty-minute commute. Monday's class had gone well; when I came home Mary asked if she could borrow the car and I loaned her my keys, then went straight to my computer and got online with the Abductee Support Group. I'd been online more and more as dozens of new members joined the forum each month. The new folks were generally terrified over the experiences that had been thrust upon them and it was up to us old-timers to try and help them understand that they could—would—survive.

Finally, knowing I had to get up early for my class, I went to bed. I used to read a magazine article or two in bed on my way to sleep; this evening it was an article from Discover magazine but I was too sleepy to focus and tossed it on the floor beside the bed as usual, turned out my bed lamp and promptly fell into a deep sleep.

—From which, sometime later, I awoke, paralyzed. It had been months since I'd been awakened this way, and for some reason I was annoyed. This paralysis seemed different than the hypnotically-induced state the visitors usually imposed prior to dragging me off my bed. In this case, it almost seemed as if the air around me had solidified. The sensation of terror that usually accompanied the paralysis was also absent. I was able to fight the immobility and succeeded, slightly, turning my head.

The moment I did so, I had the bizarre sensation of being in a million places at once. —Yet the places were mostly the same. In them, I was in a bedroom, often my bedroom—but sometimes alone, sometimes sleeping alongside someone; sometimes nude, sometimes wearing pajamas; sometimes fat, sometimes thin. It was as if awareness of all the possibilities of Paul had opened up to me and that these possibilities were, in fact, each realized in some other timeline.

The sensation was profound, yet I promptly fell back asleep.

Stack of magazines

When I awoke in the morning to the beeping of my alarm clock, I had forgotten the experience. But as I rolled out of my waterbed my eyes fell on the magazine I had tossed onto the floor the night before. It was the current issue of Men's Health, to which I (also) had a subscription; and it was with the smallest puzzlement that it occurred to me it should have been Discover.

I stepped into my bathroom to pee, and noticed the book on the back of the toilet. There are two places in which I read books: airplanes and the bathroom. The thing that caught my attention was that the book on the toilet tank was one I had purchased, and intended to read—but had not yet started. Nevertheless, the book was lying open, as if I had been reading it.

I picked it up and looked at the page to which it was turned. The paragraph trailing from the previous page sounded, at the same moment, familiar and unfamiliar. I put the book down uneasily, flushed the toilet, and continued with my morning rituals.

When I got downstairs I found Mary having breakfast and asked for my keys. She said she didn't have them; so I reminded her she'd borrowed the car the night before and wherever she'd put them when she got back, would she please return them so I could get to work?

"I didn't take the car last night," she said. I knew better than to argue with her; she would stick to her story whether she'd borrowed the car or not. Besides, now I wasn't so certain she had taken it. It was very odd; I simultaneously recalled that she had—and that she hadn't!

She did help me look, and eventually we found them in between the cushions of the sofa. "They probably fell out while you were watching TV," she said in that annoying tone that really means, See? I was right and you were wrong. I was certain I hadn't sat on the sofa after coming home from work; but what could I say? Unless Mary was trying to gaslight me, I must have sat there; I saw her pull the keys out of the cushions myself.

But by now I was running late and couldn't afford the time to stay and argue; so I jumped into my Toyota and hurried toward Tyngsboro.

On the way, something in the sky caught my attention. It was just a flock of birds, but there was something strange about them. At first I wasn't sure what it was. There was a jet plane descending to land at Boston's Logan Airport that should have been far behind them, as I could see individual birds in the flock and make out the movement of their wings.

But the jet passed in front of the flock. The birds I was looking at were enormous, each one nearly the size of the distant jet itself. This is, of course, impossible; but I was seeing it with my own eyes. The harsh blast of a car horn forced me to pay more attention to the road as I realized what had caught my attention to begin with: The birds were flapping their wings slowly, far too slowly for normal birds—but appropriately for aircraft-sized creatures.


I took a breath and filed this as just another "high strangeness" event—interesting, but of no immediate concern. At that point I also recalled the previous night's paralysis. Clearly, something was going on but I had no idea what.

I arrived at the campus on time, entered the classroom, connected my laptop to the video projector and began teaching Day 2 of the Visual Basic class. About 10:30, one of the students interrupted me.

"When are we going to start talking about C++?" he asked.

C++ is another computer language. I do teach classes in it, but sometimes students want to learn things outside the current syllabus and one of my jobs is to keep them on track. "Well, I guess I can mention something about it," I said, "but after all this is a class in Visual Basic."

"No, it's not," the student declared, and then whipped out his Continuing Education catalog, already turned to the correct page. On this date, the catalog announced, Paul S. Cilwa would be teaching a class in Visual C++.

"But you have class materials for Visual Basic," I said. I knew that, because the week before I had emailed them to the university to be printed. I also work that way because I am constantly tweaking my materials; no week's materials are identical to any other.

The student opened his binder to reveal the cover page: "Introduction to Visual C++".

Moreover, as I glanced at his copy of the materials, I found they included corrections I had intended to make—but hadn't, in fact, made. Just to be sure I opened the Visual C++ PowerPoint presentation on my laptop. The printed pages contained the corrections; the pages in my laptop did not.

I was, of course, terribly embarrassed. It did not occur to me that anything weird had happened other than I had somehow become confused over which computer language I was to teach. I made up some cockamamie story about how the Visual Basic modules I'd been teaching were just to familiarize the students with the concepts of object-oriented programming, which is common to both languages; and that we would finish the current module and then switch to C++.

Of course, in the back of my mind I couldn't help but wonder why the students had waited until 10:30 on the class's second day to bring this up.

On the way home, I decided to take a different route than I usually did, for no obvious reason, and was promptly involved in a car accident when another vehicle rammed mine from behind. Amazingly, my car suffered no damage whatsoever; yet the car that hit me was totaled and had to be towed away.

Shaken, I stopped by a McDonald's drive-thru for a Diet Coke and a box of McDonaldland cookies. When I opened the bag I found they'd given me chocolate chip, instead. Just another miscue on a day of them.

Somehow I got through the week. I even managed to get sterling evaluations from my students. As soon as class was over, I hurried home so that Mary could drive me to the airport. I was tighter than a violin string until I was finally in the air.

Lighthouse Court

By now I had stayed at Light House Court four or five times. The staff there had become friends. I joked about their names: Terry, Barry, Harry, Gary and Louis. I could quickly march from my arrival gate in Miami to the regional flight that took me on the last leg of the journey. I had called Terry to let him know I'd be arriving late; he took a moment to look up my reservation, and then promised to wait up for me.

When the cab dropped me off, I entered the compound through the gate and, sure enough, Terry and Harry were standing on the veranda of the main building. I put down my suitcase and gave Terry a big hug and kiss on the cheek. "I am so glad to be here," I said, but even then I realized something was wrong. Terry returned my hug in that half-hearted way reserved for strange kids who come up and ask if you would like to be their friend.

But I was too tired to care. I let Harry carry my suitcase to my room, pulled off my clothes, and fell into bed.

In the morning I awoke feeling much better, and walked into the courtyard to have breakfast. They had a cozy little café right there, which was open for breakfast and lunch. You could eat inside it, but no one ever did unless it was raining. I ordered French toast, bacon, juice and Diet Coke and when it arrived dug in.

A good-looking blonde man was doing light landscaping work as I ate. He wore short shorts and a tank top and was great fun to watch. I'd seen him once or twice before, on previous visits, but didn't know his name. I was trying to decide between "Cary" and "Larry" when he walked directly to my table. "Hi, Paul," he smiled. "How's your air conditioner working?"

I was mildly startled, but the staff there had always been most solicitous. "It's working fine," I assured him.

"Well, I'll be by to check it in a few," he replied, and winked.

The staff isn't generally that solicitous!

But, true to his word, after I had returned to my room, he stepped through the open door, closed it, and stepped on a chair to adjust the wall-mounted AC unit. Then he returned to the floor, grabbed me by the shoulders, and gave me a kiss I could feel all the way to my toes.

The staff is never that solicitous!

Before I could protest, he had shucked his top and shorts and stood before me in glorious 3-D. Through the head of his penis was a large, thick, silver ring—what is commonly known as a "Prince Albert". I had heard of them but never before seen one.

I am no virgin. My great preference has always been to be exclusively intimate with the person I love; only if there is no such person am I willing to accept pleasure that serendipitously appears. But I am not attracted to penile piercings and was absolutely certain I had never been with this guy before. Nevertheless, he acted as if we were long-time lovers. He even knew things about me, things I enjoy, that only someone with whom I had been intimate could possibly know.

After he left, I hunted up Barry, described the guy, and asked his name. It was Ken. I didn't want to get him into trouble so I didn't say why I asked. But it was definitely the strangest encounter I'd ever had.

To shake off my feeling of something's not right here by doing something, I got on the phone and made reservations for a coral reef snorkeling tour with Captain Tom. I had done this on every Key West visit. Tom was an awesome guy, beautiful to watch and extremely knowledgeable regarding the sea life that lives in and around the reefs. I once saw him snatch a poodle-sized nurse shark from under a rock and bring it to the surface to show us, before hurling it away. On one of the trips I'd made with him, I'd been the only passenger and we spent the time to and from the reef talking about how and where he'd grown up; how he became interested in boating and ocean life, and how he felt about Key West's shift from a 1970s gay haven to a 1990s family-oriented vacation spot.

Today, however, he shook hands with me as if we'd never met. When I said, "Tom, it's me—Paul!" he apologized for not being able to recognize every returning passenger; but it was clear he had no idea who I was.

The pattern continued over the next two days. I stepped into a gift shop I didn't recognize, but the owner knew my name and where I was from. A guy on the street waved at me and ran up and kissed me on the cheek and asked how my classes were going—but I'd never seen him before.

Finally, Tuesday night I felt I had to talk with someone. I had intentionally not brought my laptop to force myself to have a real vacation, so I couldn't contact anyone in the Support Group. But I recognized the Tuesday night bartender, a guy named Tony. When I realized no other guests were using the combination TV room/bar, I decided to talk to him.

"How are you, Tony?" I asked, wondering if he'd remember me. He did.

"Great!" he replied. "It's so nice to see you back."

With a sigh of relief, I asked how his move had gone. On my last visit, he'd told me he was moving into a new apartment and was very nervous about it.

But he looked at me blankly. "What move?" he asked.

"Uh—I thought you told me you were moving into a new apartment last time I was here. It was going to be your first time living alone."

His eyes widened. "Oh my god," he said. "I was thinking about moving. I almost signed the lease. But then I chickened out. I swear, I never told anyone. How did you know?"

We sat on the sofa as I related the whole story—I had to include the abduction aspect, or the story made no sense at all. Not that it was very believable either way. As I talked, he kept moving closer, forcing me to slide over to maintain a comfortable, conversational distance. By the time I had ended my narrative, I was perched on the arm of the sofa.

There was a moment of silence. Then Tony said, "So you don't remember you and me being together, do you?"

"Ah…" Could there ever be a worse insult than not remembering having sex with a person? Still, I couldn't lie; and Tony was very much not my type. "I'm sorry," I said. "I don't."

His shoulders sank slightly. Obviously my alter ego was having a lot more fun than I did.

Because, by now, science fiction fan that I am, there was only one possible conclusion I could come to. Somehow, presumably beginning with that night paralysis episode in New Hampshire, I had shifted from one Earth—the one I assume I'd always lived on—to another, subtly different one.

Science fiction is filled with stories about "parallel earths". My two favorite examples are Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert Heinlein and The Coming of the Quantum Cats by Frederick Pohl. The TV show Sliders which debuted years after the occurrence of these events is another example of the subgenre.

The concept is that there is not one Universe, but many universes—a multiverse. Each is, in theory, completely separate from the others; no particles or energy can move between one universe and the others and therefore communication between them is impossible. If that were actually so, it wouldn't matter whether there really were multiple universes or not; we'd never be aware of any of them in any case.

However, in my "night school" I'd been shown that our universe is a four-dimensional structure that exists in a five-dimensional continuum. The "Big Bang" that is supposed to have created the universe, is actually part of an oscillation that brings both space and time into existence; and in the fifth dimensional continuum there are actually a chain of universes, each looking like a flower on a vine, each the result of one "bang". The flowers are very nearly identical since each of the universes possesses precisely the same amount of energy and explodes the same way. So they develop identical natural laws and properties. There are an infinite number of them, so in many of them (remember, half of infinity is also infinity) galaxies and star systems have evolved similarly so that there is often a one-to-one mapping—not only do many of these universes possess an Earth, but many of those Earths possess a New York, a Manchester, New Hampshire—even a Key West, a Paul Cilwa, a Captain Tom.

Parallel Universes

And even though particles and conventional energies cannot move from one universe to another, my lessons had shown that "spirit" can. Just as Einstein proved that matter is formed of energy, my lessons had showed that energy is a form of spirit. And in its natural state, spirit can move along the chain of universes.

Thus, though my physical body hadn't gone anywhere, the spirit animating it—me—had shifted to a parallel universe where Paul Cilwa had been scheduled to teach Visual C++ (not Visual Basic); his ex-wife had not borrowed the car; he'd gotten very friendly with Ken the handyman but had never gone snorkeling with Captain Tom.

I tried asking questions about the world in general, to see if there were any geopolitical differences. However, at the time I had little interest in politics; I had no idea who was Prime Minister of Israel or who President Franklin Pierce's vice president had been or even the name of the current Secretary of State. Things could be significantly different, and I would never have known. (I subsequently developed an intense interest in politics and can now answer all those questions.)

On a whim, I thought of Vincent, the alien I'd met at Lighthouse Court the previous year. If anyone could explain all this, he should be able to. Since he'd told me he frequently came here on assignment from the Navy, I asked Tony if he had ever heard of him.

"Vincent?" Tony repeated. "You mean, the security guard?"

"Yes. Wait. Security guard? You mean, he works here?"

"Sure. Every Tuesday night, and I think Wednesday and Thursday, too; but I don't work those nights. A well-built, swarthy fellow, right?"

"That's him." And he would be here tonight! I'd be able to ask all the questions I hadn't thought to ask before.

Most of the guests stayed out at the bars and clubs until they closed at one; I soaked by myself in the Jacuzzi for awhile, then dried off and relaxed in a chaise lounge, enjoying the scent of the tropical flowers that grew profusely all around the courtyard and the glimmer of the stars in the pink, street-light lit sky.

Tony closed the bar at eleven, and I continued to wait.

Promptly at midnight, a wiry figure entered the courtyard and checked the locks on the bar and the café. I jumped up and approached. "Vincent!" I called.

The man turned around. It was Vincent, and it wasn't. The face was very similar, but this man was a lot shorter than I—maybe 5'5"—and, while his shoulders were tattooed, the tattoos were not the same ones Vincent had worn the previous year.

"Vincent?" I asked.

"Yes, that's me," the man replied. "And you are—?"

"Paul. Paul Cilwa. Pardon me, but—I met someone here, also named Vincent, who looked very much like you, a year ago…"

The man laughed and shrugged. "If I had a dollar for every time I've heard that story." As I looked at him, it was plain that his skin, while swarthy, was not green; and his eyes, while wide-set, were not inhumanly so.

"I don't suppose you know who the other guy is, do you? He said he was in the Navy."

"Oh, I'm in the Navy. This is just a part-time job," Vincent 2 assured me.

"But your tattoos are different."

"So my wife says. Scares the hell out of her."

"Your wife?"

"Yeah. She doesn't like to talk about it."

"Look," I said, "may I talk to you for a few minutes? I'm in the middle of a really bizarre, metaphysical sort of experience and there's a possibility you might be able to shed some light on it."

"Metaphysics is my middle name," Vincent 2 replied, nodding. We sat on the edges of adjacent chaise lounges, where, for the second time that night, I told the whole story—including meeting Vincent's taller twin the previous year, who seemed to be an alien visiting Earth.

Vincent 2 listened quietly to the whole tale. When I was done, he was silent for a moment, then said, "Well, this is very interesting. It gives me some clues to a few puzzles that have surrounded me my whole life."


"There was something odd about my birth," Vincent began. "The whole pregnancy. I'm from South America—"

"From Suriname," I supplied.

"That's right," he agreed in a surprised tone. "Most Americans have never heard of that country. Anyway, my mother is superstitious, and there are a lot of things she doesn't like to talk about. But she will not discuss her pregnancy with me. And every time I've brought up the topic of my birth, she gets positively terrified. Trembles and everything. Will not talk about it."

"What does your father have to say?" I asked.

"He died when I was young," Vincent replied. "My grandmother will say that there were 'peculiarities' surrounding my birth, but no more. Anyway, I have seen many UFOs and other strange things through the years. As far as I know, I've never been taken and I've never seen an alien up close. But there's something strange about me, personally. To me, I always seem like me. But when I wake up and put on my clothes—clothes that fit me the day before—sometimes my pants are too short, or too long. Sometimes my collar is loose, sometimes tight. And I have to wear a long-sleeved shirt at home, because my wife swears that my tattoos change every few days and that scares her."

"As if she was seeing one alternate version of you after another," I suggested.

"Right. And as if the various versions of me were not all identical. You are not the first person to tell me I had appeared to be an alien during a previous encounter," he added. "All this has inspired me to make a study of metaphysics. But I've never found an explanation for my experiences in anything I've read."

"For some reason," I said, "I feel as if the car accident I had is related to this phenomenon."

"I'm sure it is," Vincent agreed. "Whenever I seem to have shifted realities, I've found it takes a day or two for me to synchronize with my new surroundings. Until then, I seem to be at odds with the whole world. Like when Mercury goes retrograde."

Just then, a great flock of flamingos flew overhead, lit by the light of the street lamps below. There was something peculiar about the way they all wheeled about.

Robert A. Heinlein's 'Job'

They had caught Vincent's attention as well. "Birds don't flock at night," he observed calmly. I suddenly realized that the flock itself was in the shape of a perfect disk. With that understanding, I suddenly saw that we were looking at the bottom of a flying saucer, on which was projected or displayed the flock of unlikely birds. Vincent gave me a wry grin and said, "I gotta work. Enjoy your stay."

"But wait!" I cried. "I can understand how spirit can slide from one universe to another. But how can your body change?"

"We create our bodies, along with our realities, as we go along. That's a real, fundamental New Age concept; you must have heard of it. I figure I create my body to match my expectations of it, as do each of my alternate selves."

The poor guy was a living demonstration of the protagonist in Robert A. Heinlein's Job.

When I returned to New Hampshire, I couldn't get online fast enough. As soon as my friend Holly also logged in, I caught her attention. "Um," I typed, "it's possible you've never actually chatted with me before…"

"What do you mean?" she replied promptly.

I told her what I'd experienced. When I was done, she said, "You're right. You aren't the Paul I know."

"How do you know?" I asked.

"Because when you—he—told me about meeting Vincent the first time, there was no wife. Vincent was gay."

"No," I corrected. "I didn't know about the wife, but he told me that his people don't have gender the way we do."

"You told me he was gay, because you slept with him."


"What?" I asked. "Good grief, is there anyone my twin didn't sleep with?" I paused, then asked a favor. "Please," I said, "find out what Grandmother has to say about this."

Grandmother is Holly's spirit guide, an alien female with the appearance of being elderly. There was a pause, then Holly typed, "She indicates this is something that people do all the time. She showed me a person putting down a pen, shifting into an alternate world in which the pen doesn't exist, and looking frantically for it."

"But my experience was a lot more elaborate than misplacing a pen," I insisted. "There must have been a reason for it. It seemed to start with an alien contact. Why would the visitors want me to have this experience?"

There was another pause, after which Holly typed, "They wanted you to know it was possible. And the corollary—that there really are other universes."