When engineer Michele Besso passed away, his beloved friend Albert Einstein wrote a letter to Besso’s family. In it, Einstein shared his eloquent thoughts on death; that there was no division between past and future, and that life, death and after-life were of a singular existence: “…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”
Einstein’s conceptualized vision of space-time was that it was like fabric; a fabric which could be manipulated or folded in order to travel between past, present and future.
When I spread a quilt on the ground, it is not always perfectly smooth. A breeze may stir it as it descends, resulting in a wrinkle.
I believe that is what I witnessed Monday night. A wrinkle in time.
We had shot an all-nighter Sunday into Monday. I left the facility at around 8:45; I ate breakfast, and stretched out at 10:30 to catch a few hours of sleep. By 1 p.m., I was wide awake and prepping for Monday night’s setups.
A few hours later, it was nightfall, and there we were, camped under the shadow of the Hollywood sign, preparing to shoot the sequence from Episode 3, in which Ted falls in love with a beautiful young woman on the brink of suicide… only to discover that she is the ghost of Peg Entwistle.
The hills have changed since Peg’s last stand. Hollywoodland has been abbreviated to Hollywood; the sign is no longer accessible to the public, due to the long list of copycat suicides by young women addicted to the celebrity of Peg’s tragic exit from this world. Housing additions have sprung up; modern McMansions dot the hills and canyons alongside the behemoth structures of Tinseltown royalty gone by.
A full moon shone in the sky. It was time for the shoot to begin.
I watched, silent, as Peg stood atop the letter “H”. The moon was behind her; it cast an unearthly halo around her figure. Her eyes stared out into the night… I turned to see what she was looking at, and all I could see was blackness… and suddenly, the fabric of space-time had folded. We were there. The lights from the houses disappeared; the landscape dissolved into a black abyss. A marine layer had rolled in; a light fog enveloped us, muting light and sound. I looked back at Peg… she had taken a deep breath and closed her eyes. She trembled… I knew her next movement might well be her last. Her foot moved slightly, as if she were to take a step forward…
…and then, the lone cry of a coyote wafted up from the canyon below. It was joined by another, then another… and soon, came more cries from the adjacent canyons, until the entire region was filled with keening wails… the natural world’s prayer for the dead.
I wondered if Peg heard them that night.
Peg hesitated, and as she did, a man appeared. Ted – on his nightly park patrol. The beam of his flashlight shone on Peg’s carefully folded coat at the foot of the sign. He glanced up – and saw Peg. Shocked, he scrambled around the sign and scaled its back…
There Peg stood, on the very edge of the “H”. She teetered on its precipice. One false move from Ted, and she would plunge into darkness again. And so, he kept his distance. He soothed her with his voice; he was soft, almost paternal. Peg seemed more than just frightened, she seemed truly lost. The wrinkle was passed through again, and there they were, the lights of this modern Hollywoodland. I’m certain that they confused Peg, but in her shocked state, she seemed unable to articulate this.
I watched as Ted talked her down; how she seemed to trust him implicitly, and how, in helping Peg, Ted became the man that he always wanted to be. Strong. Heroic.
I followed the two of them down Mulholland. They were quiet; they shared that comfortable silence known only between lovers. I could tell that Ted had already fallen under Peg’s spell; his life would be irrevocably changed by this encounter. I watched as he struggled with what to do next. I knew that he could not leave this delicate beauty out there alone – and yet, she was a stranger to him. Ted took the next step: an introduction. “My name’s Ted,” he said. “Ted Harper…” as he held out his hand. Peg grasped his. “I’m Peg,” she replied. “Peg Entwistle.”
Shock washed over Ted’s face. Was she an illusion? Or was she real?
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