I spent yesterday sleuthing and thinking and writing down notes and listing out details about all the strange things that have happened this month. This time it’s not a mental list but an actual one written with blue ink on white lined paper.
I don’t get far at all, but seeds are sewn. Sometimes our subconscious is smarter than we realize. Sometimes we forget how hard it can work, how many hours it spends on the clock. Something deep inside of me gets unlocked, as if someone slipped a key into a slot and turned it.
Maybe it’s the movie I watched before going to bed. The trippy mind-f*** of a film. The one listed on that strange playlist: Fight Club. Memorable quotes ring around my mind as I sleep.
“With insomnia, nothing’s real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy.”
Maybe I should have insomnia, because it feels like I’ve been dozing half this month.
“You wake up at Seatac, SFO, LAX. You wake up at O’Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, BWI. Pacific, mountain, central. Lose an hour, gain an hour. This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time. You wake up at Air Harbor International. If you wake up at a different time, in a different place, could you wake up as a different person?”
This quote and this last sentence is the one that sticks. The one that stings, that shakes, that sounds the alarm.
Could you wake up as a different person?
A different person.
Maybe this is what has been happening. I don’t have amnesia but I’m two characters in one. There is some other me walking around living life and thinking they’re someone else while I’m Nolan stuck in some strange haze.
A different person.
When I wake up, I look at the emailed playlist once again. I look at the sender
I sent it
but the name doesn’t say Nolan Stewart. It’s changed.
I know I saw my name yesterday I clearly saw that I sent this.
Tyler Durden begins to speak up in my head.
“F*** what you know. You need to forget about what you know, that’s your problem. Forget about what you think you know about life, about friendship, and especially about you and me.”
Especially about you and me.
Split personality. That’s what’s been happening.
Nope. Guess again.
That’s it. There are two sides of me.
There’s only one. But keep trying.
It’s the playlist. The playlist. The email. I look at the email on my iPhone and click on the name at the top next to “From”. The first letter isn’t N standing for Nolan but rather T. The name isn’t Nolan Stewart. It’s Travis Thrasher.
There’s an address—no, two addresses, one a home and one an office—along with two phone numbers and an email.
I swear I sent this to myself. I saw my name.
I don’t get it.
“Stop controlling everything and just let go!” Tyler screams at me.
Okay, fine. I’ll stop fighting and doubting and playing mind games and just run with it.
So I Google this Travis Thrasher and the first thing that pops up is his website info. No Wikipedia but just his own page with the description that reads “This has been my dream since third grade, to help tell tales and shape ideas. I’ve been able to do that full-time for over a decade through writing fiction…”
I get a sudden, sinking feeling like I’m falling, yet I keep going. I’m not dreaming. I’m awake. I tap on the link to discover more even though everything inside of me tells me not to, urges me to stop, wants me to just turn the page. I stay on it, at least for a few more moments.
Right away, I have doubt.
Even the name sounds phony.
A guy who writes a novel about a horror writer called Dennis Shore has the name Travis Thrasher?
It’s gotta be a pen name, whoever this moron happens to be.
Also, didn’t he ever think of the nice way his name rolls of your tongue when you say “TravisT”?
Yeah. This is a travesty all right.
Along with the horror novels, there are love stories and Christmas stories and suspense and children’s books. And a lot of co-written books. To say this guy is all over the map is an understatement.
Half an hour passes, then an hour. My research slowly but surely starts to make sense. I write down notes. Names. Places. Book titles. Then I begin to make two lists. One is a list of things that I know are real.
Do you really know anything, Nolan?
The other is a list of fictitious things according to Travis Thrasher.
For instance, Gun Lake is a real lake in Michigan. It’s also the title of one of Thrasher’s books.
Solitary is not a real place, but it is a made-up town in North Carolina.
When I write down the name Ethan Ware, I put it in the real category, but I also put it under the fictitious header. Then I spend twenty minutes trying to find Ethan Ware online, the adventure writer named Ethan Ware, and I find nothing. Nada. Not one thing.
Ethan Ware doesn’t exist.
I’m drunk but haven’t been drinking. I’m high and haven’t taken one drug. I’m flying but somehow I’m sitting on a couch. I’m dizzy but I’m not spinning.
I search for Breathing in the Smokies by Ethan Ware but get nothing. According to what I’m seeing, Ethan Ware is a character Travis Thrasher wrote about in his first novel, a Nicholas Sparks’ knockoff called The Promise Remains.
Go back to bed, Nolan. You’re hallucinating.
Don’t. Don’t even go there.
It turns out there’s not Dennis Shore either. Nor is there a Sheridan Blake who composed the music for one of Shore’s titles turned into a film.
I get another idea.
Don’t. Absolutely not. Just stop.
I search for Appleton, Illinois.
Appleton is a ghost town in Persifer Township, Knox County, Illinois.
Okay. I’m okay. I’m fine. Yeah, sure, they got the wrong info. I’m not living a ghost town in some strange township, but still. It’s real.
I search for Appleton, Illinois and Travis Thrasher. A Facebook post pops up. It shows a picture from a book and then has this note attached to it:
Five years ago when I was working on the final book for The Solitary Tales called HURT, I was thinking ahead to another small town similar to Solitary, North Carolina that was infested with evil. So in that YA series, we had The Adahy Bridge. And in my latest YA series taking place in Appleton, Illinois, we have something known as the Sykes Quarry or “S. Quarry” as shown here. You can’t say I’m just making this stuff up as I write. There is a plan in place. At least a plan of sorts!
I soon learn Appleton, Illinois is from another teen series Thrasher wrote.
“The Books of Marvella,” I say out loud. “What a stupid series name.”
I discover that the last two books of the four-book series were cancelled. Due to sales.
Big surprise there.
So all these things are made up, then. Invented. Figments of this guy’s imagination. So that must mean–
I must be made up, too.
This is insane.
I think of the man who called himself John Ryder coming in and warning me.
“That’s one question you have to answer. I can’t answer it. But I’ve given you plenty of clues already. It’s easy if you simply allow yourself to accept that this—this shop, your average body and face and life—are not, in fact, real.”
He was right.
Everything I know—everything that’s there to know—is not real.
“I can’t promise I’ll be back around, Nolan. That’s your decision to make. But make it fast. Act fast. Make something happen and make it interesting.”
Make something happen.
Make it interesting.
So this insanity—I’m accepting it. I’m going with it. I’m not really sitting in my apartment and putting on ESPN or watching an anti-Trump news station or a slightly-pro Trump one. I could just drink the night away but honestly, there’s no reason why.
I’m living a made-up life in a completely invented town.
They should just cue up the Hans Zimmer score for Inception right now. A guy in a dream within a dream. That’s me. Except I’m a character in a novel inside a story universe. All belonging to one person.
I have another thought. Even more crazy than the last.
Maybe you’ll be canceled, Nolan. Maybe you won’t even come to the end of your sad, pathetic little tale. If you can call it that.
“But make it fast. Act fast.”
The creepy guy was right. I have to do something fast. I have to create some action and drama and do it now.
Not now but now.
Is that a saying I thought of or he did?
Then the strangest, most bewildering thought wraps itself around every single part of me.
Is Thrasher writing my story or am I?
Haunted isn’t the word to sum up how I feel. Hollow. Brittle. Befuddled.
I can keep going but I don’t have time.
I have a solution.
I need to set up a meeting with my maker.