Photo by Habib Dadkhah on Unsplash

A Link to the Past

Genre / Character / Object

Lost World / Life Coach / Game Console

There’s a warehouse in Sandusky, Ohio which leads to a world where The Legend of Zelda has never existed. I’m sure you’re wondering how I know that, among other things.

The first tip off that I was in another world should have been when my phone had no cell signal. I’d sent a text to Jackie, my client: everything looks the same. how is this a different world?

The abandoned warehouse I’d just exited seemed the same as when I’d entered it minutes earlier. Glancing at my phone, I saw no reply from Jackie, just the spinning circle which meant the phone was looking for service. What the hell? I thought. I never have service issues.

First clue, ding! Obvious in hindsight, but at the time I was “looking without seeing,” to quote a favorite coaching phrase. Jackie was a new client I was trying to retain past the introductory free session by digging into his theory about this alternate world.

The next clue smacked me in the face, as I walked around the building to where my car was no longer parked. Oh, shit! Second clue…ding?

Then I understood that a car parked on an empty street in the middle of a warehouse park was more likely to be stolen than on another plane of existence. Shitty McShitterson. So I walked the empty industrial streets toward the last stoplight I’d passed. There was a gas station there to call the police from. I’d remembered it when driving by, as it was close to the high rise where I grew up.

While walking I thought more critically about whether this world was different from mine. Did I remember these buildings? Was this park even here in my world? I hadn’t been back to Sandusky in years, and that thought hit hard. On the drive over I’d been able to coach it away, but now a familiar ball of despair rolled around in my gut. My pace slowed as my stomach churned.

This physical manifestation of the grief I’d carried since childhood had been locked away only after years of difficult, emotional work. That work had lead to my career as a Life Coach instead of a comedian, though I still employ inappropriate humor…when appropriate. Now, that work was coming undone, in the neighborhood I hadn’t visited since I was ten.

That’s why my mind was elsewhere as I approached that stoplight, and the final clue. It was only upon looking up to cross the road that I saw the sea of identical town homes where the gas station had just been. Ding! Jackie was right!

Then I saw them, beyond those town homes; the real final clue: a row of three high-rise apartments. Still there, I thought dully, as my heart beat loudly in my ear. The ball of despair unraveled, filling me with guilt and sadness. I saw flashes of azure sky, and heard on repeat a child’s scream fade into the distance. This strange, new world was spinning, around and around.

Remembering my training, I shakily covered my eyes with my hands and named other things my senses picked up. I HEARD, not a scream, but cars going by. I SMELLED car exhaust. I FELT a breeze on the back of my neck. I TASTED…well, I never tasted anything, to be honest. But I felt calm enough to take a deep, cleansing breath before uncovering my eyes. No more empty sky, just the edge of the world, where, thirty years earlier, lives had changed forever.

~ ~ ~

Nearly an hour later, I stared at my parents’ names on the directory of our old apartment building. Of course they’re still here, I thought. I hadn’t…given them reason to leave.

Ignoring every sensible thing I’d planned on the walk there, I boldly punched 2310 into the keypad. It felt like both an eternity and a nanosecond before Mom answered, “Yes?”

“It’s me!” I blurted with faked enthusiasm, hoping there would be a logical explanation for the Jordyn from this world to be visiting.

“Oh, hi, sweetie. I’ll buzz you in,” came the calm response. Whew! Alt-Jordyn visits more than real Jordyn, I thought.

In the elevator my hands flitted over my hair and outfit, hoping I looked reasonably like my other self. My mind, meanwhile, beat back my inner Life Coach with a baseball bat. Don’t think about what a mistake this is, how you’re undoing years of therapy…just walk right up, see what happens.

I exited the elevator and tried not to run down the familiar hallway. Our door flew open before I could even knock. “Surprise, Sis!”

That’s when it hit me: the real difference between these two worlds.

Zelda,” I said weakly, as a grown up version of my dead sister hugged the life out of me. “There’s no Zelda here, is there?”

Kaylee pulled away and looked at my face, concern filling her beautiful brown eyes. “Who’s Zelda, Jojo?”

~ ~ ~

You see, I knew Kaylee would be alive because the apartments were still there. The apartments were still there because they were never demolished. They were never demolished because the rickety railing on our balcony had never broken, launching Kaylee into that bluest of blue skies, the sight of which would haunt my nightmares for years to come.

That railing had never broken because eight year-old Kaylee had never run into it while holding our Nintendo console over the edge. She’d never run into it because I had not chased her there, after she’d melted the cartridge for Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past to pay me back for cutting her Barbie doll’s hair.

And so, I had never chased her onto the balcony and killed her, because there was no Zelda in this world.

Hell, I bet there’s no Barbie either.

I won’t miss either one.

And who knows…maybe alt-Jordyn would enjoy a trip to my Dark World.

Copyright 2023 by Melani Weber