I was nine when I figured out I could make things…. unhappen.
It was my sister’s birthday. The whole family was there. And we all had worked so hard to make the day right for her.
So many decisions. What kind of balloon was least likely to trigger her problems. What could we use instead of crepe paper for her decorations. Fresh china bought then boiled in her doctor’s autoclave to make sure it was cleaned enough for her. The special drink two kindly lab technicians had stayed up all night concocting. And finally, the cake. We had been through dozens of types of flour, a half dozen different artificial sweeteners, and so many other ingredients that it makes my head swim just trying to remember them. Even the confetti had to be specially made just for her.
Finally, the day came. We checked her out of the hospital for the afternoon. Took her to the painstakingly arranged section of a local park. Greeted her there with gentle applause. We all had wanted this for her for so long, especially me.
She was my older sister, but I was her protector, the fiercest of her many guardians. I did everything I could to make her life better. Relatives joked about how I was her pitbull. But I didn’t care. Since I was five and she was eight, since the night, in fact, of her diagnosis, I had vowed to do whatever it took to make her happy. I argued with nurses, interrogated doctors, screened visitors, and played the clown for her whenever I could.
In fact, I was playing the clown for her when it happened. The worst moment of my nine years of life. To everyone else it was a total surprise, but I was unlucky enough to see it coming the moment before it happened. A little drop of glue holding together the box on one of her gifts. We had all gone over every present looking for anything that triggered her, and yet somehow we had missed this tiny dot of glue.
Her finger brushed against it, and that’s all it took. Within a second, she was blue in the face and coughing up the crystals that had instantly formed in her blood. I instinctively knew that this time, the doctors would not be able to save her. She was going to die at the age of exactly 12 years, and as her guardian, it was all my fault.
Then a voice within me said NO. This will not happen.
I felt a force within my head that felt like two raging rivers suddenly colliding, and a crack like continents snapping apart, then a terrible burning sensation, then…. I was fine.
Everything was fine. All my relatives were gathered around in their painstakingly cleaned clothes. My sister’s favorite music was still playing on someone’s smartphone, and my sister was as pink and healthy as she had ever been.
It hadn’t happened. She was fine. I was able to rip the offending bit of glue off her present without anyone noticing, and toss it into the barbecue pit before it could do her any harm. The memory of the catastrophe was fading like a dream and my head felt like it was fully of angry bees, but I had done it. I had saved my sister.
I felt weak yet oddly energetic at the same time. I wanted to sleep. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run around the block a thousand times. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and never come out again. But most of all I wanted to know what the hell had just happened… or failed to happen.
I thought about my life so far. People had always said I was lucky. Always in the right place at the right time. Always having good fortune land in my lap. I won school raffles, effortlessly aced every test, and had never so much as scraped my knee playing. The little misfortunes that happened to others never happened to me. I never even had to wait for the bus.
I’d never thought about it very much. I didn’t know why it happened and I didn’t care. My life was about school and my sister, and everything else was just a distraction.
And yet I had always had dreams of bad things happening to me. Getting the flu, falling and hurting myself, getting hit by a car. All my dreams were of misfortune and pain. And I always wondered why.
Now I knew. All of those things had actually befallen me, or some version of me, and I had… unhappened them without ever knowing it. I had the power to avert disaster, to erase events, to edit time itself. I was a god.
They said my sister’s condition was due to a mutation in her chromosomes. Guess I’m a mutant too.
It was all too much for me to handle, so I buried the memory of what I had done (and undone) and went back to life as usual. And for a while, everything was fine. But I could feel that strange energy building up in my head, and sooner or later, some other disaster would happen… then unhappen.
Over time, the intervals between unhappenings shrank. Now my head full of bees is with me constantly, and I have taken myself out of school because I don’t have the strength to pretend to be normal any more. Not with all these shadows of other possibilities flickering behind my eyes.
And now there are people in my head, kind people, beautiful people, perfect people who say they are angels made of time, and that it is time for me to leave this world and come to theirs.
And while I agree with them that I can no longer live a human life, and must leave everything I know behind, I had one stipulations as to the conditions of my leaving.
So I take my leave of this world knowing that one thing is true in all realities :
My sister is perfectly healthy in all of them.