the technicalities of reality and other details of existence

Melissa Cornish

00:00:00 [Beginning of recorded material]


Sasha, you died five months ago in a fiery car crash. Quickly, they said. Painless, they assured. [clears throat] There was, uh… a funeral. There was a funeral. The death of a great mind and wonderful woman, they all said. Lots of people came… your parents, friends, colleagues… people I’d never met before, but who still wished me well as you were lowered into the ground.

Your mum keeps calling. Sometimes I answer and we do this awkward thing where we talk around your uh… well, you know… Other times I watch her calls ring out until she’s forced to leave a message. They always start addressed to you. I think she forgets for a second that you… [deep inhalation] Listening to them is getting harder.

I know it’s a long shot that this message’ll reach you, and an even longer one that I’ll hear anything back, but, um— [tired laugh] I don’t know what else to do. So, if you do hear this, for whatever it’s worth, I love you, I miss you, and the dogs miss you.

00:01:11 [End of Part A]

00:01:12 [Beginning of Part B]


Hal, it was strange getting your message. Good, but still strange. On this side, it was you who died five months ago, en-route to the hospital in the back of an ambulance after a car crash. I held your hand, told you that I loved you, and promised that I’d be okay.

[clicks pen] There was a funeral here too. Lots of people. Only I requested that you be cremated. I’m yet to decide what to do with your ashes. [clears throat] You need to remember that we are living in the early stages of a new technology. A technology that allows communication through the walls of reality and across the voids of silence. So, the distinction between people and their counterparts is tricky, but necessary.

I am not dead, and I am dead. You are dead, and you are not dead. On this side, I am alive. On this side, I catch the train into work each morning and again on my way home in the evening. I’ve taken to eating dinner alone in the kitchen most nights… the dining room is too large for one person. Sometimes my friends drag me out for dinner, but more often than not, I stay in and grade papers until I fall asleep at my desk.

Male voice:         

[inaudible 00:02:05]


Right, thank you. [shuffles paper] So, Hal, that is not my mother who leaves messages addressed to her daughter, those are not my dogs who miss their owner, and I am not in the ground. That is not me in the same way that you are not in an urn on my bookshelf. This technology only works if we can make that distinction.

It was good hearing from you, Hal. Be good to yourself.

00:02:28 [End of Part B]

00:02:29 [Beginning of Part C]


Sasha, hearing your voice has been— [sobs. laughs] I’m trying not to cry into this fancy technology your lab friends are letting me use. They told me not to get my hopes up. That even if I could get through to you, you might not be a you I recognised. But I do recognise you. You talk and sound just like my Sasha.

I sometimes still get mail addressed to you and I’ve been leaving it on your desk. The therapist I’ve been seeing tells me I should throw it away. That I can’t heal if I hang onto the idea that you might come home. But I can’t stomach the thought of throwing it away, and now I don’t have to because you’re alive! I’ll ask if there’s a way to send some of it to you. Maybe I could… I dunno, read some of it? Whatever. I’ll figure something out.

For my ashes you should go to that rickety pier we stopped at on the road trip we went on just before we got married. You were so sure it would collapse under us, remember? [laughs] I always loved that place. I wish we’d made more of an effort to go back, especially after Steph. I think it could’ve done us some good.

00:03:29 [End of Part C]

00:03:30 [Beginning of Part D]


Hal, I don’t think you’re getting this. You said we went on a road trip before we got married, except we didn’t. In my world line, we were both too busy to take time off from work, so there was no road trip or rickety pier. You never even liked the ocean.

I don’t mean to make you sad, but that means our world lines were already distant, and with each change in wind direction and each new cell that multiplies, they only get further apart. [clicks pen]

I was hoping someone would have already explained this to you. [sighs] If you’re anything like my Hal, you never cared much for jargon, but indulge me for a moment. This technology only works because of collapsing particles that exist half in my universe and half in yours. Each time one of those particles collapse, a new world line emerges, causing new particles to collapse and new world lines within those new world lines to emerge. New universes— new existences are constantly being born over and over, side by side, fracturing off in every direction with each new thing that did or didn’t, or will or won’t happen.

There are world lines where we were fighting that night, so we skipped dinner and our car never wrapped itself around that tree. There are lines where the crash killed us both, and lines where we never met at all.

I don’t mean to be so cold, but it’s important you understand that we are not from the same world, and it seems that our lines are getting further apart. This link between our universes is weak and in the middle of collapsing right now. Please understand this gift for what it is: a chance to say goodbye.

Please do not send me any of her mail.

00:04:56 [End of Part D]

00:04:57 [Beginning of Part E]


Sasha, that’s all very poetic, but I think you’re hurting just as much as me. Yes, we exist in different universes, but we’re still us. Tiny details don’t matter, they never have. We’re so much more than the wind direction and multiplying cells.

And who the hell cares if we aren’t from the same world? You’re still you and I’m still me. We promised ‘until death do us part,’ and you’re alive and I’m alive, and nothing else matters. It’s us for fuck’s sake. What’s the point of creating something so incredible and throwing it away? This is your life’s work, Sash. Your legacy. So please… [voice cracks] don’t throw this second chance away.

00:05:32 [End of Part E]

00:05:33 [Beginning of Part F]


Hal, I apologise that I upset you, but don’t you understand? Tiny details matter. Tiny details make up entire lives. Details are the essence of existing. Yes, I am alive, and yes, I am me, but I am not your Sasha, just like how you are not my Hal. Your wife is in a graveyard and my husband is in an urn.

As far as why I created this technology… [sighs] Of course I want people to use it, but it was only ever meant to be a temporary communication device. People aren’t supposed to begin corresponding with lost loved ones. It’s a chance to say goodbye. That’s all it ever was.

I said goodbye to Steph. That’s why I made this. I wanted one last chance to do something right, to say something right. So, I found a world line where she was okay, and we were okay. I said goodbye, told her that I loved her so very much, and that I was sorry for how it all happened. And you know what she said? ‘Okay.’ What else could she say? She has no idea who I am. I am not the mother who raised her. I am the mother who grieved her.

It’s time we let this bridge collapse, Hal. I wish you luck in life and in finding a Sasha who might indulge you and play this game for a while longer. Goodbye.

00:06:46 [End of Part F]

00:06:47 [Beginning of Part G]


I don’t accept that. This thing you’ve created… it’s too remarkable to be thrown away like that. How can you expect people to say goodbye to something they’ve been missing— wanting— needing for so long? [sniffles] Just… please… if this meant anything at all… don’t throw it away.

00:07:04 [End of Part G]

00:07:05 [Beginning of Part H]


A month. A month! You know what, you were right. You were right that you’re not my Sasha, because my Sasha would never do this. Never. Tell me, where in your precious world lines did everything go so wrong that you became so fucking emotionally unavailable and incapable of caring for another person? [bangs fist on table] When the fuck did that happen, huh? How—

Male voice:

[inaudible 00:07:19]


No, no, no. Wait—

00:07:37 [Abrupt end of recorded material]

Melissa is a Brisbane-based writer, currently in her final year of a BFA at QUT. She normally writes in the horror and thriller genres, but every so often, she’ll cross her fingers and hope for the best as she tries something different.