In the novel I was conjuring as I went up to school and back, I was working with a creature called a vardøger, a Norwegian idea of a premonition, a future version of yourself doing what you will do, some way off.
I'd found these vardøger in the most 21st-century way. I needed a not-quite doppelgänger—an other that invoked alternatives and untaken options, or selves that were just up ahead—for the book I was spelunking, and so I typed up exactly that search. Not only did the algorithm present me with this Scandinavian solution, the earliest explanation I read of this phenomenon was also uncannily close to what I was making my character go through. Imagine you are waiting for somebody to come home. You hear them come through the gate; you hear them walk up the stairs. Then they are not there. But ten minutes later, you hear the same sequence of sounds—and there they are, coming in through the door.
A vardøger: not quite a double, but an anticipative self.
Embret Mo once told how he saw his mother's vardøger when he was a boy.
At the time, they were living on a cotter's farm in the township of Herad. A little way up on the hillside lay a sawmill. His father was the foreman there. It was not very far to walk and his mother would usually go up there during the day with his father's food.
One day when she had gone to the mill, Embret stood by the window waiting for her. Suddenly he saw her walking down the hillside. He thought that she was coming back a bit early; he had not expected her quite yet. But he stood there and watched her getting closer. She had a wooden container in one hand. Walking along the path to the house, she passed right by the window where he was standing and turned into the entryway. He heard her enter and take hold of the door handle. Then it became quiet. He waited for a while, but she did not come. He went out to look for her but she was not there. He thought it was strange that he could not find her. She could not just have vanished into thin air. He searched and called for her but to no avail. So he went inside again and stood by the window. Then he saw her up on the hillside, as she had been the first time. She was walking down with a wooden container in her hand. Now he really got confused. How she could just be coming back now was more than he could understand. He stood there and stared at her as she came down the hill again, walked past the window, and turned into the entryway. But this time she came inside.
"What happened to you a little while ago, Mother?" he said.
"A little while ago?"
"Yes, you came into the entryway, and then you just disappeared!"
"I haven't been in the entryway until now. I just came down from the saw mill, you know."
So he told her the whole thing.
"Oh, you have seen my vardøger," she said.
- Reimund Kvideland & Henning Sehmsdorf, Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend