Waves crash against the cliffside below, beating incessantly on foaming surf and bare rock. It’s peaceful up here: the scent of the sea, the breeze and birdsong, the nascent warmth of the sun at my back. And yet the peace is only skin-deep. As I stare into the photo in my hands I feel cast adrift in the currents, fluttering aimlessly among wind-bound memories.
Chloe’s been dead for five months today.
I thought it would get better, somehow. This is what she wanted, right? This is what was meant to happen, the life I’m supposed to live. How could I go against it?
It’s become routine to stare into the photo, this goddamn butterfly photo that I can’t bring myself to leave behind. I tried to go back already. I’ve tried a hundred times.
I’ve tried to rewind, too. None of it works. Ever since the funeral, the time-traveling powers have been locked beyond a door I cannot breach. I was relieved for a while, when I thought I could move on.
I don’t think that anymore. It’s been five months of going through the motions, of passing through each day without holding on to anything. Every aspect of life had seemed so important before, the grades, the homework, the social interactions and relationships. Now I can’t bring myself to care. It’s all so small and pointless. A distorted afterimage of what life could have been.
It’s been this long and still I can’t stop thinking about her, about the way she died, the person she was in this reality. I can’t get Joyce out of my head, crushed and broken, hardly a husk of who she used to be. I can’t sleep through the nightmares. Jefferson is lurking in every dark corner, even when I know he’s rotting in prison. Chloe dies every night before my eyes, she dies and I can’t do anything to stop it. I left the dark room, but the dark room stayed with me.
And no-one knows. Nobody can know. I wouldn’t believe my own story if I heard it. How can I move on, when every conversation is a crawl through a minefield, each question a tormenting reminder of knowledge I shouldn’t have? I can’t stand the way they look at me, wondering what’s wrong, wondering why I haven’t bounced back. They use words like “brave” and “tragedy” and “healing.” They don’t know any better, but it makes me want to strangle them anyway.
The weight of it all chokes me down. It’s too much, I can’t do it on my own. I just can’t.
So here is where I stand, atop the lighthouse. My legs are over the rail. This is my solution. After what Kate did in the original timeline, the irony does not escape me.
I put the photo away and close my eyes. I’m not suicidal, not really. I need to go back, and this is simply the only thing I’ve left to try, a life or death situation to trigger my powers again. I didn’t imagine any of it, I know they are there. If this doesn’t work, nothing will.
And if the powers don’t trigger...well.
Letting her die was the right choice. I still believe that, despite everything.
I just don’t think I can live with it.
I open my eyes.
I take a step forward.