A Short Walk to the Other Side

"Bravo! More!" from Ray Bradbury for Matthew J. Pallamary's short stories. A Short Walk to the Other Side is a second short story collection of supernatural, metaphysical, science fiction, and horror stories following "The Small Dark Room of the Soul" by multiple award winning author Matthew J. Pallamary, which examines the shadow side of human nature. Who are we really? What or where are the boundaries between what we believe to be real and what we imagine? Ancient tribal cultures gave equal credence to dreams, visions, and their waking worlds, treating them all as different degrees of one and the same all-encompassing reality. Do we in fact know ourselves or our true nature? How many times have we reacted impulsively, only to regret our actions later, often with the apology, “I’m sorry, I’m not myself today,” or “I don’t know what got into me.” In these moments of intense feeling, if we are not ourselves, then who or what are we? Where do we really live? The fact that the question arises makes the “other” implicit within ourselves. What is this “other”? Duality? Plurality? Divided self? Are we possessed by something other than ourselves or are we in denial of our other selves because we find their behavior unacceptable? Do we possess them or do they possess us? This quandary became the theme of an old time radio show that started with: “Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” How well do we know our shadows as individuals and collectively? Better still, how well do our shadows know us? Regardless of who is “running the show” at any point in space and time, every choice we make can change our life forever, along with the lives and destinies of others. A momentary lapse of attention while driving can cripple, maim, or bring swift and sudden death. One moment of careless passion can leave you responsible for another life or bring the imminent end of your own from any number of ghastly diseases. A brief moment of passionate anger can land you in prison for the rest of your time on this earthly plane. What doors do we pass through when we choose and what are the consequences of our actions? Better still, where do they leave us? Coincidences, synergistic moments, timing, attitude, emotion, and attention can all change in the span of a single breath. What really goes on in the human heart and mind? We cringe when we hear of, or witness heinous behavior and inhuman cruelty, yet human beings murder each other with endless and ingenious weapons of death, often in the name of a higher power. Such disregard for life is difficult to comprehend, yet humans kill each other more than any other species. We are all human, so all of us are capable of making that one life altering choice that brings us someplace alien and unexpected. Most people stay deeply entrenched in the cultural mainstream. Feeling safe and sane in their routines, they avoid those living on the fringes, believing that they could never sink so low and never think or act in such odd and terrifying ways, but we are all human, living within the same realm of possibilities. We all have our shadow selves. How much does it take to send us over the edge? The truth is that it is a lot shorter walk to the other side than we like to think.