(inblue) Chapter 13: Sophia & Christopher
Sophia would have never been able to keep track of all the changes as a result of meddling with the past. An accepted reality. The changes would be wide-reaching, immeasurable and incomprehensible. The Butterfly Effect was a theory she subscribed to, a given. It was part of a broader theory created to understand how even the smallest actions can have larger implications, although she was unwilling to fully commit to the bleakly named Chaos Theory. Small changes are sometimes just that, small and insignificant. She assumed there were many other small changes that would be impossible to even find, let alone track. Like not only trying to count every single grain of sand on a mile-long strip of beach, to also understand the significance of each grain of sand. To whom, an ant?
To accept that fact, small versus bigger, insignificant versus meaningful, was the only way she could have made the decision to use her research to right one awful wrong that she spent decades not getting over, never finding another love, fixated on what was taken away. ‘Funny,’ she often thought, ‘how just a few months were more profound to her than the rest of her life.’
Sophia devoted hours upon hours every single day, giving up sleep and social interaction, keeping track of the bigger things. Changed lives, profound differences between the different versions of now.
She observed mostly, intervening in subtle ways and only when it was absolutely necessary. How to define necessary was complicated and often led to regrets and doubts about her actions. She developed strict protocols and regimented methods of observation and analysis, like a good scientist.
The most difficult part was living with the decision to change things in the first place. Sophia was well aware of her own arrogance, that somehow she could decide how to change time, and that somehow she had the ability to keep everything in order and manage the outcome. And for what? For one life, for one young love. Not to go back to reverse climate change, or to kill Hitler. Not some greater good ideology.
Sure, there were justifications for not righting much bigger wrongs. Making really big changes could have unpredictable, earth sweeping results that wouldn’t necessarily be good. No way to tell. Try to stop climate change, and somehow make the devastating problem worse. Kill Hitler and a relative carries the legacy and finds a way to defeat allied forces.
Sophia was big on self-reflection and well aware of what drove her actions. Initially convinced of a self-sacrifice to save him because he could be good for the world, further reflection when the justifications were torn away, that she just wanted to stop her own pain. The pain didn’t stop, he was a mess, so were the others like him.
All that could be done was to keep an eye on the bigger things, manage the implications. What she lost sight of, what wasn’t even on her radar, because there was seemingly no reason for it to be, because arrogance fogged critical thinking, because otherwise she would have had to watch for butterflies and count every grain of sand, was the boy she spent barely minutes with in one reality, and never met at all in another. Christopher.
All of the news outlets were covering the story. Arrested for murder. Not just one murder, as many as thirty-two. Murder always made the news for local coverage. A serial killer who murdered in at least nine states and went undetected for nearly twenty years was days long coverage on a national level.
She didn’t recognize him at first. After all, their paths crossed years ago, he was just a boy then, the interaction was brief, and they were facing a tragic moment. That, and it wasn’t the same last name. She could remember every detail of that horrible day, that happened in one past and didn’t in another. Every word spoken, including the boy telling the police his last name, while she sobbed uncontrollably at the loss. That was in the other past. The fixed past, her and the boy named Christopher never met.
The last name was different, because in the fixed past, the boy’s mother died in the flames. He was put in foster care and eventually adopted, taking the new family’s last name. The news gave the entire back story, which was when she realized she was seeing the boy, Christopher, all grown, suspected of killing, exactly the same way and ending all with a ritual burning. The very first murder believed to be committed by him when he was only fifteen years old. The house fire, when he was a much younger boy, was not part of the list, believed to be an accident.
The news outlets reported that after years of thought-to-be linked cold cases, where the D.N.A. evidence was nonexistent and the only real connection was in the modus operandi, the method of killing and disposal, an arrest was made. For the first time, there was a witness to a man leaving the burning body, and the license plate of the BMW. Christopher.
‘Willful ignorance,’ the thought immediately entered Sophia’s mind. She knew that removing the sacrificial attempt from the past, there was a good chance that the woman in the burning house, Christopher’s mother, would die. Sophia made that choice. She decided who would live and who may die. As sick as it made her to have known she was in full control of the choice, there was no backing away from ownership. It wasn’t a small thing, it was a bigger thing.