Imagine if someone you love with all your heart was abducted by aliens. Or faeries. And taken another galaxy. Or the underworld.
And imagine a changeling was left in your loved one’s place.
Querulous. Sickly. Wasting away. Maybe dying.
Elves and Fairies: A Scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream By Joseph Noel Paton, 1850
Resembling the one you love, but with large absent pieces. A version so diminished that it became unrecognizable at times.
Nobody really understands the enormity of the absence. Because your loved one is still visible. Still physically present. And in public, for short periods of time, on a good day, sometimes able to act surprisingly like the person you once knew.
Imagine what it is like to become that changeling:
The Disenchantment of Bottom by Daniel Maclise, 1832
Unable to think clearly. Unable to remember. In pain, all the time. Living in a fog which eats up the life you used to know, until that life disappears & your entire landscape resembles a strange and terrible dream. Where none of the skills you once had are applicable and, in any case, you can no longer remember or apply what you once knew.
If you’re lucky, the people from your old life keep appearing. Fading in & out of view. You know you should be grateful, and you are, but their sense of timing is very bad. And their concerns are extraneous. Alien to your reality. They are unable to perceive, or imagine, the grotesqueness of world you now inhabit.
If you try to explain it, they get uncomfortable. Impatient.
Come back, they say, just come back.
Don’t they know that’s all you want to do?
But there is no path. Just deer trails. Innumerable deer trails, that look promising, but always peter into nothing, deeper in the wilderness.
You gradually learn some some survival skills for your new reality, but the terrain is not stable, and the challenges never end. Epic mythological challenges and horrendously pedestrian ones. Regardless, you battle them alone.
And years go by.
Until slowly, the changeling that was left in your loved one’s place begins to phase back. Slowly. Non-linearly. Comes back into focus.
One missing part at time. In a wiser form.
You know he’ll never be the same again. That from now on, he’ll always live in two worlds: the otherworld is part of him now.
But he can actually see you. He can join you in life. Sometimes. On good days.
And the good days cluster together, until you start to feel like you might be able to rely on them.
Bad days are still devastating, because you just want it to be over & are terrified that a bad day might turn out to just be the end of a remission. A brief reprieve.
But each time, it isn’t. And your life begins to open up again.
Imagine that, 8 months into the AIP.