I wrote this story, “Alter Ego,” many years ago as an experiment to try to integrate the narratives of several iconic characters David Bowie either created or portrayed. Bowie meant so much to me as a musician, actor, and artist, and the news of his passing today is deeply saddening. This story was first published in my 2012 limited edition chapbook, Ages and Aliens, and now appears in my collection Grinning Cracks, along with another story semi-inspired by Bowie called “Encounter.”
“Alter Ego” blends some backstory of Walter Tevis’ The Man Who Fell to Earth, the film version of which marked Bowie’s leading film role debut in 1976 and is my attempt to combine in with the Major Tom character that winds his way through several Bowie songs (“Space Oddity,” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Hallo Spaceboy,” and, I think, “Blackstar,” as well as other artists songs like Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” and, arguably, Elton John’s “Rocket Man”). I also wanted to provide a hint of reference to Labyrinth, perhaps the favorite Bowie role and soundtrack for folks of my generation, as well as some hints of Ziggy Stardust and Bowie’s own life. Enjoy.
WITH MY HAND ON THE LEVER, I take one last gulp of precious air before flinging the panel up. The rushing, hissing sound fills my ears, and then just as I open my eyes wider to take in the beauty of the stars, I feel pulled, pushed, sucked, and beaten all at once. Full, inky blackness saturates my field of vision, and I lose consciousness.
When it finally dawned on me what to do, I was calm. Not the pre-occupied, lethargic calmness that I used to fake, but actual happiness. This time I had a plan, and it worked perfectly.
The hardest part was pretending with Jennifer. She was the only one who ever filtered through my haze, even a little bit. I had to actually lie to her, which I’d never done before. “When will you be back?” she asked before I boarded.
“In eight days.”
She waved. I smiled. Eight days from now, I thought, will be the worst day of her life. But because my pain was greater than my love for her, I went ahead.