I will never forget the day my husband Malcolm aged 1000 years. It was, after all, the quickest shower he had ever taken.
Well, maybe I don’t remember all of it. I’ll concede that the beginning of the day starts a bit fuzzy, but I’ll fill in the blanks as best I can.
It was a dull Monday morning, and the sunlight began to peak through the cracks in the blinds through our curtain-less windows; abrasive, intrusive, as well as any other foul words that end in -ive. Malcolm was always quick on his feet, myself perpetually groggy and slow in the early hours of the morning due to a genetically inherited resistance to the sound of alarm clocks, so it came as no surprise that he beat me to the bathroom on that fateful day. If he hadn’t, I couldn’t even begin to think how different our lives would have turned out.
I rolled over in bed and swore to myself. Malcolm savors a morning shower like my father savors a fine Cuban cigar, taking his time, singing along with his smart phone’s tinny speakers as it plays the same David Bowie live album over and over again on repeat. I estimated it would be at least half an hour before the bathroom would be free from his tyrannical reign, and by then, any lofty ambitions of making it to work on time would have been crushed as the feverish delusions of a mad woman.
Or so I thought.
Fifteen seconds later and he had returned, red in the face and wearing nothing but a towel, looking very much in a hurry.
At that point, I might have asked him what was wrong. Or maybe if he had clogged the toilet again. Those specific details have been forever lost in the folds of a fading memory.
His response could have been, “No, nothing is wrong,” or, “I didn’t clog the toilet, it did that by itself,” but that part wasn’t really that important. What came next was a bit more interesting, because it went something like, “There’s no easy way to say this, but I’ve just fallen through a wormhole in our bathtub and spent the last 1000 years in another dimension.”
Then he walked over to the bed and picked me up in his arms. “And I’ve built something for us there. A new life. Come on, I’ll show you.”
Up until that point, everything was still a blur. What happened next though, remains crystal clear to this day.
Malcolm squeezed my hand. We stood in front of the bathtub, feeling a bit foolish. Well, I was at least. I knew this was all a joke, but for some reason my heart was was hammering like a drum. “Close your eyes babe,” he said.
“Why?” I asked. “I don’t want to miss anything. This whole dimension jumping is not exactly something one does every day, after all.” I could see a spider crawling it’s way across the bottom of the tub, a dark speck in a sea of cream, zig-zagging its way towards the drain.
“Do you trust me?”
I looked at my husband. “Would I be standing in a bathroom like this if I didn’t?”
“You’re humoring me. I get it. But I’m not lying.” One lock of hair fell out of my tight bun and hung loosely in front of my face. Malcolm reached out and brushed it out of the way so that he could stare me in the face. “Hey, I love you. Now close your eyes.”
I took a deep breath. “Okay.”
He clasped my hand again, and I squeezed it until the knuckles turned white. I felt him slip a small piece of paper into my palm. I looked up at him quizzically, but he was already facing forward at the wall. “On the count of three, then we’ll do it.”
He ignored me. “One. Two. Three!”
I shut my eyes and felt a sharp jerk on my hand, and then my navel, and then suddenly the floor was gone and I was flying. I could feel wind and particles whipping by my face. I wanted to scream, but was afraid if I opened my mouth then something might fly in it.
There was a second sharp pull at my arm wrenching my sharply in a new angle, and I was thrust away from my husband. I lost all reservations and opened my mouth to scream his name, but nothing came out, the sound of my voice consumed by the void of another dimension. Then I was alone.
My body connected with something hard, and I lost consciousness.
I could hear them calling to each other.
It had been ages since Malcolm and I had taken a proper vacation to the ocean. It was good to finally be back, except why was I at the ocean again?
“You alright, miss?”
I opened my eyes, and only saw blurry shapes. The world was fuzzy as if I needed a pair of glasses, but I could make out three distinct colors: the dark navy water of the ocean, the bright cerulean of the sky and the beige expanse of sand stretching for miles in two directions before me. The sun was hot on my skin and sand was sticking in bunches to my elbows. I waited patiently for my mind to unscramble and my bearings to return to me.
It came in pieces: Followed Malcolm into bathroom. Different dimension. New life. Flying. Got separated. Hit a thing. Here now.
“Hello? Miss? You a mute or somethin’?”
I looked up. A girl no older then twelve or thirteen was looking down at me. She had tanned skin and short sandy hair fashioned in a pixie cut. She was offering a hand to me, and it was at that moment that I realized that I was sprawled out on my back.
“I’m okay…I think. Thanks.” I accepted her hand and let her pull me to my feet. My entire body ached, as if I had done a work out at the gym for the first time in months. The girl was strong for her size, and did all the work to get me standing again.
I began to dust sand out of my plaid pajama bottoms. I noticed the girl was staring at me with a funny look. “What?” I asked, still groggy.
“That’s a funny thing you wearin’. You’re from the Outside, yeah?”
Is this really happening?
Maybe I had slipped and nailed my head against the bathroom floor. Ignoring the rational side of my brain screaming that this was all impossible, I decided to roll with the situation, at least until I woke up from this concussion-induced fever-dream.
“The Outside? Yeah, something like that.” I looked around. Out past a horizon of dunes, I could see a row of thatched, red roofs, a patchwork plain of mismatched and uneven tiles. It appeared to be some type of shanty fishing town. There were fishing lines dotting the shoreline, propped up in the sand, all facing the sea.
“You must have come for the funeral then. Lot’s of Outsiders will be sailing in the next few days. Guess you must have shipwrecked huh?”
My head was still pounding and I only understood half of what the girl was saying. One thing was for certain; whatever this hallucination was, it felt much more real than any dream I had experienced in my life.
What if Malcolm was telling the truth?
“Funeral? No. I’m looking for a man. Name is Malcolm Reynolds. Apparently he’s lived…uh…here for about 1000 years. You heard of him?”
The girl shook her head and kicked at the sand. “Don’t know anyone by that name. It’s a big world miss.” She took a step closer and peered a bit closer into my eyes. “We should get you to a doctor. We only got herbalists in the fishing village, so if you want a real one you have to head into the city.”
I shook my head. “I can do that later, after I find my husband.”
She shrugged. “Suit yourself. You said he lived here a thousand years, yeah? Well anyone that lives that long would have to have a record in the city library.” She began to walk over to the fishing lines by the sea to check them. “I’m heading up that way for the funeral, you can join me if you like.”
It wasn’t like I had any better ideas. I looked in both directions as far as I could, craning my neck as I did so. No sign of Malcolm anywhere. “Okay,” I said. I held out my hand again. “I’m Jill, by the way.”
She clasped in with bony fingers. “Pleasure to meet you, Ms. Jill the Outsider. I’m Ko’sa.” She pointed back towards the village. “Let’s head back to my cottage. We can stop and get provisions before we head into the capital. If we leave now we can get in before the lines at the city gates get too long.”
I nodded. “Must be quite a funeral.”
“You could say that.” Ko’sa grinned. “It’s a funeral for the queen, after all.”
The queen? Guess even alternate dimensions are ruled by royalty, I thought.
“She was a good queen then?”
Ko’sa bowed her head. “Yeah. She’ll be missed, at least by most of us. Some of us… wonder about her death. Whether it was really natural or not. The Queen and the King were an arranged marriage you see, didn’t exactly fancy each other. Some say he had it in for her, loved another.”
As Ko’sa prattled on about the royal family, I realized there was something pressed against my left palm, now slick with sweat. I opened my hand to reveal a note. The same note that Malcolm had thrust into my hand back in the bathroom.
It was tiny and rolled up neatly, like a scroll. With fingers that were slightly trembling, I unrolled the tiny piece of parchment and read the words in my husband’s hand writing.
If you ever need to find me, just ask for the King ;)