I promise that if I ever step through a ley-line, a weirstone, a swirling vortex, a mysterious portal in the ziggurat I have just unearthed; if I ever fall asleep after whispering “I wish I had her life” while watching a shooting star from my bedroom skylight; if I ever hit my head while watching a movie about the Battle of Dunkirk; if I ever tell an insightful homeless person with surprisingly white teeth and a knowing gleam in their eyes that I’ve always wondered what would happen if I hadn’t taken that job and had instead settled down with the one who got away, I will do the following:
- Keep my head down
- Wait for other people to talk to me before I open my mouth and give myself away with my accent/strange vocabulary/inability to remember my new wife’s name
- Say things like “Yes,” and “I agree,” and “I remember that” and “I also venerate our King, as you do” instead of opening conversations with “WHO ARE YOU” and “I DON’T THINK TREASON IS A VERY BIG DEAL”
- Look for context clues in conversation rather than demand everyone who treats me like an old friend identify themselves immediately
- Start a lot of conversations with “Hey, you” and wait for a third party to drop their name so I can learn it and remember it for later
- People only leave you alone if they trust you; the easiest way to get back to the Portal in order to try to get back to my own reality is to act so normal that I don’t get thrown in jail/handed off in marriage/sedated by a government doctor
- If someone calls me “Mommy” or “Darling,” respond in kind rather than shoving them away and bellowing “WHO ARE YOU?” even if I have never seen them before
- Immediately abandon every single value I have. Whatever this culture approves of; I approve of. Whatever this culture abhors, I abhor. This is no time to invent female suffrage. It’s time to get home, somehow
- If I’m in the past, immediately stop making references to things like air travel, modern medicine, television, or anything that sounds like magic; if the future, refuse to ask “What does this do?” about everyday objects
- Make no waves. Ask no unnecessary questions. Draw no inessential attention to myself. Come up with a decent explanation for why I’m dressed the way I’m dressed, then get changed as quickly as possible. Let other idiots try to bring democracy to Camelot or avert the Battle of Changping. That’s a great way to get yourself burned as a witch or chock full of typhoid. Leave no trace. Take only memories, leave only footprints.
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.