The duffel practically falls off Angela’s shoulder and onto the floor with a thud. Straightening herself with an audible crack of her spine, she shuts the apartment’s front door as she calls out, “Hey! I’m back!”
Clatter from the kitchen. “Hey, Angie! How was the traffic?”
"Brutal. Everyone is taking the side streets as a detour because of the construction on the other side of town. Took me forever to get through the light on 700." There's no way Angela is lifting her 1000-lb. duffel bag again, so she starts dragging it alongside her as she trudges to her room.
She can just barely hear her roommate's reply now that she's at the other end of the apartment. She elects to ignore it because she knows if she gets sucked in to an hour-long conversation with Jenna rehashing the weekend, her duffel bag will be forgotten for the rest of the day, and then she'll never want to unpack it.
Its contents get dumped unceremoniously onto her bed - hairbrush, mascara, sunscreen, and more loose items nearly rolling their way to the floor. She pushes all the air out of the bag and half-heartedly rolls it up to make it a little more compact so it won't take up quite as much space in the hall closet.
Stepping around the corner of her doorway, she yanks open the closet door.
And is met with a black void.
It takes one second to register that she's not looking at the inside of a closet. It takes another second to realize it's not just black nothingness.
It's the bathroom, just lit barely enough from the light of the hallway to make the edges of the counter and toilet visible.
Angela shuts the door, putting it on the receiving end of her confused stare for a few seconds, and then turns around. She opens her mouth to call out to Jenna but stops before making a sound. What is she going to say? Hey, Jenna? Did you switch our bathroom and hall closet over the weekend? What kind of question is that? But it's all she can think of right now. The bathroom has always been on the opposite side of the hallway from Angela's bedroom and is right next to Jenna's. And now as Angela looks in that direction, there isn't even a door there.
Okay, maybe she's just tired. After all, it took her a total of three hours to make the drive back her from her parent's, and it usually take an hour and a half at the most.
No. No way her mind has conjured this out of exhaustion. She has never felt wider awake and aware than she is right now. Their bathroom is now at the end of the hall, and their closet is just...gone?
She imagines herself never speaking a word of this to Jenna. Or maybe she'll let years go by, and the one day as they're watching a movie together in the living room, she'll blurt out, "Hey, remember when our closet disappeared, and the bathroom took its place?" She can't do that.
Before she can keep overthinking, Angela drops the duffel in front of the door and marches to the kitchen. It smells like Jenna is making spaghetti, Angela's favorite. Now she's a little more okay with the longer drive. If it means she made it back just in time to eat, she'll take a little traffic.
Stop thinking about food. The closet.
Angela pauses in the doorway and leans against it, watching Jenna stir the meat sauce. "Hey, Jen?"
"Yep?" she says, without turning around.
"Did you... Where is, uh-"
"Yes, I stole your weighted blanket. Sorry, I totally forgot to put it back in your room."
"No, it's not that."
Jenna must hear how Angela's voice is starting to shake because she finally pauses her cooking to face her roommate. Brows furrowed, she asks, "You good? What is it?"
"This is about to be the dumbest thing I'll ever ask you, but you have to promise not to laugh."
"No promises about laughing." Jenna's definitely telling the truth because she's already chuckling. "But you know I'll always answer a dumb question. Shoot."
"What happened to the closet?"
Jenna's smile freezes and then slowly dissipates. "Closet?"
"The hall closet. By my bedroom. It's just gone. I mean, we- we had a closet, and now we don't. And now the bathroom is there instead of by your room."
Angela wrings her hands. "You don't know what I'm talking about, do you? This is insane, right? Have I just gone insane?"
The silence becomes almost unbearable. Now Angela wishes Jenna would just laugh at her. Before Angela can tell her to just forget it, Jenna shoves off the counter she's been leaning against and snatches Angela's wrist before guiding her through the living room and down the hall.
They stop in front of the closet-bathroom. "So you're telling me...you think this was a closet." Jenna opens the door and turns on the light, revealing the stark white of the bathroom's walls and floor. "This bathroom, you're saying it was a closet, you left for the weekend, you came back, and now it's the bathroom?"
Shoving the heels of her hands in her eyes, Angela groans. "I know. I know how it sounds, but I'm not... When have you ever known me to joke about something like this? Or about anything really? You know I hate pranks. You think I just all the sudden decided, 'Hey, you know what's a good idea? Lemme prank Jenna and tell her our imaginary closet disappeared.' You know I don't do that."
"Yeah, I know, I know. I just... What do you want me to say, Angie? There's never been a closet." Jenna leans her weight in the doorframe and wipes a hand over her forehead, mussing her bangs.
Angela doesn't respond. There's nothing she can say. She doesn't agree. But she'll let it go with Jeanna, at least. She's not about to let the existence of a room be a weeks-long argument between them.
No way is she fully letting this go. She'll get answers, one way or another.
After a very embarrassing conversation with the building manager, Angela shuts herself in her room.
"You really think I just have blueprints for the gargantuan building laying around? Even if I did, I definitely wouldn't just hand 'em to ya so you can tear 'em up. You're one of those true crime nuts, aren't ya? Listen, no one has died in this building. No one fell down the elevator shaft, alright? Now get outta here, I got stuff to do."
She won't be talking to him again for the foreseeable future.
She's not sure where to go from here. She doesn't think there's anyone else she can confide in about this. Jenna hasn't fully stopped talking to her, but she's definitely been quieter for the past few days since Angela came back. Who else would be on her side anyway? They haven't lived here long enough for there to be other people who are as familiar with it as the girls are. Angela's parents have been here once, and it was only for about an hour. They glanced around the place and then chatted in the living room until they left.
If she's going to be alone in this, Angela will do the only thing she can think of. Take to the internet.
She has no plans of personally reaching out to any strangers to see if any can relate, but there has to be other people out there who have already asked similar questions. She knows Reddit is a gold mine for that kind of stuff, but she'll leave that as a last resort. It may be a gold mine in some parts, but in others, it's a hell hole.
Angela snatches her laptop from her desk and sits cross-legged on her bed. A blank Google search bar blinks at her.
room in apartment disappeared
Of course, the first result she gets is a Reddit post. She scrolls past it. A couple people ask about missing items from their apartments, some mention how something completely disappears if they accidentally drop it. Nothing she wants. She nearly clicks on a question about someone's entire apartment building vanishing but scrolls away when she sees it's on a video game forum.
She really doesn't want to, but it seems like Reddit is calling her name.
The first result takes her to r/Glitch_in_the_matrix. It's an old post, but it's short so she reads. Two siblings are the only ones who remember a bedroom in the house they grew up in. The parents have no memory of it. It doesn't give her any insight, but she can't help but wonder if stuff like this happens more than one would think. After all, it wasn't just one person who discovered a missing room - two people remembered it.
Glitch in the matrix. Is that what this is? She's never really paid much attention to ideas of other worlds or other realities, but she's never completely written them off either.
She goes back to Google and makes another search.
slipped into parallel universe
Again, the same r/Glitch_in_the_matrix is staring right at her with the title, "Slipped into parallel universe?"
She clicks immediately.
The author describes a drive home where they believed they switched with another version of themselves. For a moment, they were in a world where they were driving home from work, but then they snapped back and were driving home from school just as they had been initially. Quickly perusing the comments, she sees nothing but agreement and similar stories being shared. These people really believe there are parallel universes out there, and sometimes the lines between them can blur.
Angela mindlessly watches the Friends rerun currently on the TV. "What do you think about parallel universes?"
Jenna looks up from her phone where she's perched in her chair. "What?"
"Do you think there are parallel universes? Like alternate realities?"
"Uh, I mean I've heard people talk about that kind of thing, but I don't really know much." Jenna goes back to scrolling on her phone.
"It's not just a conspiracy theory anymore. There's lot of science to back it up, like quantum theory stuff. There's so much we don't know about the universe. It honestly doesn't seem that unlikely, ya know?"
Jenna hums in agreement, still looking down. The conversations between her and Angela used to be endless. They could talk about anything and everything for hours with hardly any beats of silence. And with zero judgment.
This is what they've become the past week. Jenna doesn't even bother to entertain Angela's questions anymore.
"I'm taking you to the doctor tomorrow."
Angela pauses mid-crunch of her cereal. "You're taking me to the doctor?"
"Yep." Jenna sips her coffee.
Angela stares. "How did you even make me a doctor appointment? What doctor?"
"Just the regular doctor. And it wasn't hard, I'm your emergency contact, just like you're mine."
"So what, you're my mom now? What the hell is the appointment even for?"
"Just a checkup."
"I don't even know if I can take the day off from work-"
Jenna picks up her fork. "Already talked to 'em. The appointment is at 9, so we're leaving at 8:30."
Angela sits back in her chair. She's not hungry anymore.
The drive is quiet. Jenna doesn't even turn on the radio. They usually blast music and sing at the top of their lungs whenever they're in the car.
Angela stares out the window and watches as people go by on their bikes and walk their dogs.
They stop at a redlight.
Just then, a man in a green shirt walks in the crosswalk in front of them with his little beagle mix on a leash in front of him. Angela smiles at the cute pet.
In the opposite crosswalk across the intersection, someone walks through with their dog. A man in a green shirt. A beagle mix.
Angela looks to Jenna. She's picking at her nails.
Angela doesn't say anything.
"Any life changes recently?"
Jenna clears her throat.
Angela looks at her, but Jenna pointedly does not look back. "Well, not really, but kind of."
Doctor Stephens raises his brows. "Kind of?"
"Yeah, um... I visited my parents for a weekend, and when I came back... This is gonna sound ridiculous."
"The hall closet by my bedroom... It wasn't there anymore."
Angela waits for the confused stare and the thousands of questions. But Doctor Stephens just nods and starts scribbling in Angela's file. "Were there any other changes, or anything else missing that you noticed?"
Angela folds her hands together to stop them from shaking. "No. Everything I kept in that closet was stored somewhere else."
Again, there's nodding and scribbling. "I'm going to have a quick chat with one of our specialists, and I will be right back." He gives a tight-lipped smile and leaves the room.
"That wasn't so bad, huh?" Jenna says, finally looking at her roommate.
Angela rubs an eye. "You already told them what this was about when you made the appointment. Right? That's why he wasn't surprised."
A sigh, and then, "Yeah." More silence. "I'm just worried, okay?"
A few more minutes of awkward shuffling and clearing of throats go by before Doctor Stephens finally returns. "Okay. So we've got a couple options." He plops in his rolling chair and faces Angela. "You can decide what you'd like to start with..."
The rest of his spiel goes in one ear and out the other because Angela can see a mole above his upper lip that definitely wasn't there before.
Angela stares at the sad beige of the machine millimeters from her face as she tries to not focus too much on the loud clunking. She grasps the red button in her right hand but not too hard. She doesn't want to accidentally press it. She's not freaking out. Yet.
What will they even find in her brain?
They'll find nothing, and this will all be a huge waste of time and money.
But what if there's something different about her brain that people in this universe don't have? Then what? Will they just call her crazy and give her a bunch of medication to take? Or will they believe her when she says she's not from here and that's why she's different?
The faint radio station in the headphones they gave her crackles a bit. She picked alternative radio, but so far she hasn't heard any songs she knows.
Just as she silently begs the itch on her nose to go away, she hears a faint whisper in the crackles of the music. "Angela..."
It's definitely not the nurse. Angela's only been in here a few minutes. She's nowhere near being done.
Will these slips never end?
Angela finds herself sitting in front of Doctor Stephens like no time has passed at all.
"Alright, I don't believe in beating around the bush, so if it's okay with you, we can just get right to the results."
"Please." Angela braces herself for what she's been expecting since yesterday. We didn't find anything...
"Well, Angela, I'm so sorry, but...there's a tumor."
First, this was written for Mother Combs' Twisted Endings challenge.
Second, this story is based off of a Reddit post from r/Glitch_in_the_Matrix. This post has haunted me for a while because there has been no update since OP stated they had a brain tumor. They haven't even been active on their Reddit account since then. No one has been able to find out if they are doing better or not. I sincerely hope and pray they are okay.
I also want to emphasize that me writing this story was not meant to make light of their situation. I felt that because they made the post in a subreddit about "glitches in the matrix," they likely initially believed they witnessed an overlap of two realities or universes. How terrifying is it to be so sure of something, to have our minds convince us we are right, only to find out we can't even trust our own memories?
Because of the harsh reality of this all being because of a brain tumor, I'd like to encourage everyone to donate to or at least spread the word about Stand Up To Cancer. It is an unfortunate truth that most, if not all, of us have been personally affected by cancer in some way, whether you were diagnosed yourself or you have a loved one who was diagnosed. I invite you all to join me in making an impact through this amazing organization.