Although the The Twilight Zone was cancelled in 1964 and Rod Serling died in 1975, the ideas didn’t die, they weren’t cancelled. For decades we’ve all lived in The Twilight Zone. I can prove it.
Close your eyes … take a deep breath … exhale … then ask yourself a simple question. A question you might ask someone to test their memory after they’ve received a serious blow to the head:
Who is the president of the United States?
Now open your eyes. That’s the signpost up ahead—your next stop, the Twilight Zone.
Imagine this (It helps if you imagine it in Black and White):
It’s election night 2008. You’re watching television. Barack Obama has just been elected president. You’re about to switch over to Fox News to see how they are covering this momentous event and … the power goes out in your house. You look out the window and see that your block is … dark. Your phone doesn’t work. You turn on your battery-powered radio … nothing. You turn on your fully-charged laptop but it won’t boot up. Your emergency flashlight doesn’t even work. You open the front door to see how your neighbors are dealing with the possible city-wide blackout. You hear … nothing.
In the dark you walk over to your neighbor’s house and call out. Silence. You go up to the front door to knock and see the door is ajar. You slowly push it open and call out again … nothing. You wonder if you should go inside the darkened house to check on your neighbor but … what if the house is empty? What if no one is home? You nervously look at the dark silent houses up and down your street. What if all the houses are empty? What if everybody is … gone?
This is ridiculous. You talked to your neighbor just a few hours ago. He was getting out of his car as you pulled into your driveway. He came over and you talked about watching the election returns. Unlike the neighbor across the street who had a huge McCain/Palin sign proudly placed in the middle of his yard, you both had Obama yard signs. But now … Where is everybody?
You race back to your home and shut the front door. And lock it. You try your phone one more time but while you punch in … 9 1 1 … you see a bright light shining under the closed kitchen door. The light builds until you can see the outline around the door streaming bright white light.
You don’t notice dropping the phone as the kitchen door opens … there silhouetted against the light is a human figure … the features obscured by the brightness. The light abruptly cuts off. The darkness is complete. It seems the only thing you can hear is your own beating heart. You’ve never been this frightened in your life. You are not alone in the house. There is someone else with you. You can’t see a thing and the intruder is silent in the dark. You hear a sound … a match strikes and lights … a candle. You can finally make out who is standing at the threshold of your kitchen.
It is you.
It’s not a person that just looks like you … it is you. You recognize the shirt you bought a couple of weeks ago … he’s wearing your shirt. It is you … standing in the kitchen doorway … holding a candle. You stumble backward into your living room and fall into a chair. Your doppelgänger enters the room, places the candle on the coffee table, and sits in the chair opposite you. You notice he’s carrying a briefcase. Your briefcase. He speaks.
Eight years from tonight … Donald Trump will be elected president of the United States. The Republicans will control all three branches of government. During his first year in office, you will think about Donald Trump at least once every day. Sometimes more. You and the people you know will talk about what the Republicans and the Trump Administration are doing every single day. Because what they will do … is horrendous.
He opens the briefcase, takes out a bundle of newspaper clippings and puts them on the table.
This isn’t everything … these are just some of what the Republicans will do once they get into power.
What do you want me to do? you ask.
I don’t know if there is anything you can do, he says. But you have to try. There isn’t any time …
He reaches over and blows out the candle. The momentary darkness instantly dissipates as all the lights come back on in the house. The television, and the radio you turned on, blare into life. Your visitor … is gone. You go to the front window and look out. The streetlights and the houses on your block are lit again. You see on the coffee table the sheaf of newspaper clippings. You pick it up. On top is a New York Times editorial: 100 Days of Horror. The next clipping is the front page of The Boston Globe from Sunday April 8, 2017. The headline: DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN, President Trump calls for tripling of ICE force; riots continue.
As the television shows crowds of people celebrating Obama’s election … you begin to read …
I was sitting alone in a chair.
But of course I was.
In a chair.
Because two people wouldn’t fit in one chair. But that’s the phrase my mind kept telling me over and over.
I was sitting alone in a chair.
I was reading through a sheaf of newspaper and magazine clippings. The television was on. The radio was on. All the lights in the house were turned on. It was Tuesday night, November 4, 2008. Barack Hussein Obama had just been elected president of the United States.
And I was holding the front page of The Boston Globe. The headline: DEPORTATIONS TO BEGIN, President Trump calls for tripling of ICE force; riots continue. The date on the masthead said Sunday April 8, 2017.
I was reading a story that wouldn’t be printed for 9 years. Where did it come from? The future of course. Who gave it to me?
This is where everything breaks down. I can’t explain the “how” of it. I can only describe what I saw. And what I saw was this.
While standing in my living room I saw myself appear in the kitchen.
In shock … of course it had to be shock … I stumbled backwards and fell into a chair. This chair.
The “me” in the kitchen came into the living room and sat in the chair opposite me. He took from his briefcase … I forgot to mention he was carrying a briefcase … my briefcase … he also was holding a lit candle.
Did I tell you it was dark when I first saw him – me? That’s why he had a lit candle. The power had gone out. That’s right. I remember it clearly now … there were no lights anywhere. Just the light from the candle.
He put the candle on the coffee table and took out newspaper clippings from the briefcase … my briefcase … and put them on the table. Then he said … I said … Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States. No … I’ve got that backwards. First he told me Trump would be elected president and then he took out the clippings. That’s right. That’s what happened. It’s important to get things in the right order.
Then he blew out the candle and for a split second it was as dark as a tomb … and in the next instant all the lights and the television blared back on. And he was gone. I reached over and picked up the newspaper clippings and began to read.
I was sitting alone in a chair.
And now I’m back where I started.
I wish that was where the story ended. But it didn’t. I was holding pieces of the future in my hands. Where else was I to go? It seems obvious to me now. Everything on Earth, down to its last atom, is destined to go into the future. So I went too.
I can’t tell you specifically, day by day, minute by minute, second by second, what it was like to go into the future. That is I can’t tell you how it happened in Real Time. It would take too long. Time takes time. But I can tell you how it felt … how I perceived going into time.
There I was … sitting in a chair … Tuesday night, November 4, 2008 … reading about Donald Trump in the year 2017. I had just been told, by me, that Donald Trump would be elected president in 2016. The reason I kept reading was I did not want to lose focus. The pieces of paper in my hands were more real to me than the images of Barack Obama on the television screen. And as I continued to read everything around me began to lose its substance … its “there-ness.” I began to go into the future where passing through time is silent … if the wind is silence.
It is hard to keep everything in order. Once disengaged from time I no longer raced from one moment to the next. Time does not pass. It just is. Everything that has happened and everything that will happen is happening right now … simultaneously. It’s hard to describe because I’m used to events happening one after another. But I’ll try …
Imagine reading a newspaper column about something that happened in 2017 … in 2008. The “event,” whatever it was, happened, a reporter wrote about it, and it was published in the newspaper. By the time the newspaper hit the stands the event is in the past … it already happened … but when I read the article, 9 years before the event occurred, it’s an article recounting a future event. The past, present, and future, have lost their meaning … their anchor in time. Everything in time, with all the angels and demons, are dancing on the head of a pin.
It’s hard to keep everything in order after seeing everything occurring simultaneously. And let me clear up something right now. I do not have a god’s point of view. That implies a complete understanding … and that is one area where I am positive I do not have a clue.
How to distill events of the future in a manner so they can be clearly understood by someone, someone like me, from the past? I can’t. Everything I write about future events ends up sounding like a slogan on a bumper sticker. Here’s one:
You can never rely on the institutions that allowed a dictator to rise to power to protect you from the dictator.
I can be more specific …
You can never rely on the institutions that allowed Donald Trump to rise to power to protect you from Donald Trump.
I can be even more specific …
The institutions that let Donald Trump rise to power …
allowed families to be ripped apart and the children were locked up in concentration camps.
allowed an unchecked pandemic that in less than 6 months infected over 5 million Americans and killed over 160 thousand of them.
refuses to help 40 million Americans facing eviction.
To put it bluntly:
The institutions that let an authoritarian rise to power will never come to the aid of the people.
Here’s another slogan:
Focusing on one symptom will never solve a systemic problem.
I could go on but I don’t see the point. There was and is something so fundamentally wrong about America’s past and present, it’s almost impossible to avoid its inevitable future.
A possibility for change that will never be taken is just like having no options at all. Because all I have seen, all I have ever seen, is a relentless march towards where the country was headed in the first place.
There are rules, though.
I can never again return to Tuesday night, November 4, 2008. Nor can anyone.
I am sitting alone in a chair. In the dark. I have been so frozen by time I can not even move the smallest of muscles to blink. Passing through time is silent … if the wind is silence.
Submitted for your approval August 12, 2020