Alternate Family: Part One

Jason did not realize that he was different for many years, but the first indications began when he was six.  His parents had fought and his mother had left her son and husband.  Yet Jason continued to see her.  She came home just like she always did, made dinner, and kissed his father.  What made Jason different is that no one else could see her.

His father both stopped to kiss her and walked right through her.  He sat down in the living room, while the version that walked through her went to the kitchen to make another dinner.  Both came and read him bedtime stories, but neither seemed to notice that they were talking over each other.

Jason knew that he didn’t understand everything about adults, and his father – the one who made him dinner – got upset whenever he talked about his mother.  So he tried to pretend he didn’t see her, either.  But this seemed to make her sad.

Before long, Jason’s father decided to sell the house and move.  He tried to explain that he thought it would help both of them move on.  Jason only knew that it meant he wouldn’t see his mother any more.  She cried the day they left.  Jason’s father had to drag Jason away, telling him that he needed to quit pretending she was still there, that this is why they had to move.

Life returned to normal after that.  Taken away from his mother and the house they had all shared, he slowly forgot about seeing her when his father didn’t.  Details of what she looked like faded, and she began to occupy that magical space in memory where truth and imagination blended together.

Thus it was an unconscious impulse that sent Jason back to his early childhood home when he was home from college one summer.  He thought it might be fun to see his old house once more, to see how it matched his memory of it.  At the time, he chalked it up to nostalgia and nothing more.

He just intended to drive by, to see if it still looked the same.  As soon as he saw the house, however, he stopped.  There were two cars parked in the driveway, but rather than being parked one behind the other, they appeared to be overlapping, one superimposed over the other.  If he focused his attention on one car, the other blurred to almost nothing.

Even stranger, two men walked out of the house towards the cars.  They were so close, they should have tripped over one another, but instead seemed oblivious to each other.  As one of them got into one of the cars and drove away, the other stopped when a woman on the porch called after him.

“Jason, don’t forget to stop by the store on your way back!”

“I won’t, Mom.”

There he was.  Jason was staring at himself getting into the other car, his mother – older now, but definitely her – going back into the house.  The sight was disorienting, and the light-headedness he felt nearly overwhelmed him.  Steadying himself, he considered following the other Jason, but his mother was in that house.  He needed to see her.

She answered the door with a confused look.  “You’re back?  Did you forget…”  She stopped herself and looked at him closely.  Her eyes widened and she clasped a hand over her mouth.  “It’s you, isn’t it?”

The question confused him.  “Mom?  What is going on?”

“I…  I think you better come in.  Have a seat on the couch over there.”

He followed her into the living room and sat where she indicated.  “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t think I do, either.”

“You left.  I remember that.  Dad won’t talk about it, but you left.  Then we left.  But now you’re back?  And who was that other Jason?”

She was quivering a little.  “I’ll tell you what I know, but I don’t think I have answers to your questions.  I don’t have answers to my own.”

“What do you know?”

“Years ago, you must have been about six, you started acting a little…  I don’t know.  I thought you had an overactive imagination.  An imaginary friend, even.  But it was like there were two of you.  One of you carried on just like always, but the other one…  You began talking about me as though your dad and I had fought and I had left.  Most of what you said didn’t make sense.  Then one evening, you came up to me and said you were leaving.  You were so sad.  But I couldn’t stop you.  When I woke the next morning, you were still here, so I thought it must have been a dream.  The odd behavior stopped after that.  I had just about forgotten about all of that.  Seeing you now, it all came back to me.  There really were two of you, weren’t there?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t remember two of me.  How could there be two of me?  And why couldn’t Dad see you?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t understand this, either.”

“Is he my brother?”

“No.  I only had one child.  I thought…”

“So what do we do?”

She frowned.  “I don’t know.  But Jason will be home soon.  Maybe you should…”

Right then the door opened, and the other Jason walked into the living room.  “Are you talking to someone, Mom?”  He walked over to the couch and sat down right where Jason was sitting.  It looked like a ghost returning to its body.  His mother gasped and fainted.  As one, they leapt up and sprung over to her, both yelling “Mom!” as they did so.

The other Jason did not notice him.  He was so flustered by all of this that he broke from the other and ran out the door.  He quickly got into his car and drove away, stopping only after he had put some distance between himself and the house.

The shock of seeing the two of them overlap must have been too much for his mother.  It had been almost too much for him.  What was he to do?  His copy did not know about him, could not see him?  His dad hadn’t been able to see this Mom.  Was there another one of her somewhere?  If so, how could he find her?  And how was any of this possible?

He made up his mind to talk to his father.  There was nothing else he could think of to do.  If he could find his mother, maybe she could help him make sense of it all.

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