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The Butterfly Effect

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Competition Entry: A New Years Do-Over

Another New Years Eve, another party. I’m not sure how I got roped into going. I’m not really a party person. I didn’t want to be there, that’s for sure. If there had of been a way to leave without being noticed I would have. Most of the people there were work colleagues with their wives or girlfriends. If I had of been caught sneaking out I’m sure I would have been ribbed at work for weeks. It seemed the only option open to me was to get drunk and allow the evening to pass. That’s when I met her. I was going to get a beer from the kitchen.

Surprisingly, the kitchen was empty, but for her. That is unusual; kitchens are usually full at parties. If you want to hear all about who is doing what to whom, the party kitchen is the place to be. To start with, you have freely available alcohol being administered to people who don’t usually drink. When you couple that with a bunch of people who rarely come together, you have an almost perfect storm. Alcohol's remarkable ability to switch off filters and lubricate tongues is quite outstanding. Watching someone’s wife storming out of the kitchen with mascara running down her face had become something of a highlight for me.

Perhaps you can start to see why I’m not a great party lover. Having reached the point in my life where the highlight of my evening was seeing a woman in distress tells you all you need to know about me. They say that a pessimist is an optimist with experience, that’s me. I can’t remember the last time I looked at a glass as being half full. I always believed that as one got older, a more mellow nature would blossom, just the opposite for me. The older I got the more cynical and grumpy I got. My life had been mapped out; I was a prisoner of my fate. At least that’s what I thought.

Sometimes life throws you a curveball. That’s what happened to me. Remember the lady in the kitchen? Well, as I said, she was the only person in there at the time, this put me off guard. I thought the kitchen would be full. I could just enter with an air of invisibility and help myself to a beer. No such luck. As I made my way to the beer table I was desperately trying to remember the rules of engagement.

Do I speak first? In my worried confusion, I accidentally made eye contact. Shit, now I had to say something. Saved by the bell, she spoke first. She called me by my name as if she knew me. Obviously, she did as she knew my name. Although she looked vaguely familiar, I couldn’t for the life of me place her. It was like one of those awkward moments when someone walks up to you in the street, calls out your name but you have no idea who they are. You have to go into full-on Philip Marlowe mode and try to prize out enough information so as to not appear rude or dumb. Oddly enough, being rude and dumb are probably two of my superpowers.

Despite my best efforts to conceal it, the look of embarrassed confusion on my face must have been obvious. This didn’t seem to bother her though as she just smiled and invited me to grab a beer. Apparently, she had a proposition for me. Happy to oblige, I took a beer from the table. Little did I know at that time that my life was about to change. Not a little change like buying a new TV or joining a gym. No, my life was about to change in ways I never imagined possible. In fact, from here on in my story gets more than a little unbelievable. You probably won’t believe it yourself but I’ll tell you anyway.

Even if you don’t believe me, you’ve managed to get this far so you may as well read the rest. To be fair, had it not happened to me I wouldn’t believe it myself. Such is the strangeness of my story that I find it hard to put it into words. Even though I’ve replayed it over in my mind a thousand times, I still find it difficult to explain. Nevertheless, I shall endeavour to do my best. As a child, if ever something in my life went wrong my mother would say. “Never mind, it was never meant to be.” I didn’t realise it at the time, but she was right.

According to my new mystery friend, the universe has a natural order. An order I apparently broke some years back. She went on to explain about the butterfly effect. How one small almost innocuous event somewhere in space and time can have an enormous effect at some later date. Imagine if you will, Hitler’s mum never met his dad. How different our world would have been. And here am I, a man fast approaching sixty and still unmarried. I just believed as my mother told me, it was never meant to be.

But there’s the rub, I was supposed to be married, or so the universe says. Forty years ago I missed meeting my future wife by a matter of seconds. I’m sad to say that it was all my fault, I’d jumped the queue at a taxi stand. Had I have taken my turn I would have met my future wife whilst waiting in said queue. We would have struck up a conversation, instantly gelled with each other and the rest as they say would have been history. Only it wasn’t, all thanks to my queue-jumping prowess. Incidentally, queue jumping is another one of my superpowers.

So there you have it, or at least I hope you do. I was now given a choice. Carry on with my life as it was, or go back forty years with my mystery friend and attempt to repair the damage I caused to the future timeline. A no-brainer really as my current life sucked somewhat. I was working for a small firm in a small town, my life was going nowhere. Going back in time and reliving my past would give me a chance at a better life. The one caveat however was that my memories would be wiped of all that had happened to me in the last forty years. I would be starting afresh.

Even with this in mind, it seemed like a good option, so I agreed. I wanted to go straight away, I didn’t even want to stay to watch the fireworks at midnight, and I do like fireworks. No sir, my miserable existence was about to take a reboot and I couldn’t wait a second longer. Pleased with my decision, the mysterious lady snapped her fingers. Suddenly there was a flash of bright green light followed by me travelling through the universe. For one brief moment, space, time, and everything else seemed to be at one with me.

This didn’t last though. Before I knew it I was back at the taxi stand. One part of me wanted to jump the queue but a bigger part wanted me to stay. Of course, I thought; I must retain some memory to prevent me from making the same mistake again. What would be the point of sending me back to start over if I just did the same thing and jumped the queue? It was then I remembered that I was supposed to meet my future wife. I looked around but could only see my mysterious friend standing in a nearby doorway smiling at me. I was about to walk over to ask what went wrong when she arrived. By ‘she’ I mean my future wife, she was gorgeous.

We immediately struck up a conversation as predicted. For me at least it was love at first sight. I glanced back at the doorway but my mystery friend had gone, her mission accomplished. Jane, my now wife’s name, shared a taxi with me as it just so happened that we lived close by each other. We exchanged numbers, started dating, and within a year we were married. We are still married and doing just fine, better than fine actually. We have a beautiful daughter, Rose. Rose studied medical science at university and is now working for a very large pharmaceutical company involved in viral research.

Putting a child through university is not cheap. Fortunately for me, I had a bit of luck on the stock market. Back in the eighties, I invested in a little-known start-up company called Google. That did rather well. Later, my wife thought I was a bit silly putting money into Bitcoin, but it too did quite well. Perhaps my memory wiping didn’t go exactly as planned. Whatever the reason, my awakening in this new life couldn’t have been any better.

And why not? It’s a big universe with even bigger plans. I am but the tiniest of tiny cogs in this vast cosmic machine. My existence will undoubtedly go unnoticed. After all, we all know that Neil Armstrong was the first man to walk on the moon, but who can remember his dad? Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin but how many people know who his mum was? Like me, they were but tiny cogs whose only reason for being was to make bigger cogs.

For me at least, I’m happy to remain a tiny cog, the smaller the better in fact. The last thing I want is to be noticed by my mystery friend again. I don’t think she would be very happy to find out that my brain wasn’t completely fried. Having my name crop up in some financial paper as the investor of the year or such would never do. I try and make sure that I make just enough money through investments to appear as random luck. They do say that yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. For me at least, today is the gift that keeps on giving.

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