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Rated: ASR · Fiction · Contest Entry · #2273917
A mother fights to change one small event that leads to disastrous loss.
1842 words

"The choice is yours to make", the voice repeated in deep sympathy. "There is no promise or guarantee that any choice you make is the right one, the one that will change the outcome. You may continue to try as many times as you want. No one will stop you, no one will aid you, no one will judge you. You alone will need to determine how long, how many attempts, how, when, and where to make the changes that might make the difference." A soft, rhythmic, harmony was emanating from the soul of the Earth. "Or, you can let it go. Move on. Return. Absorb the pain of loss. Grieve. Heal." Finally, the voice repeated for the last time. "The choice is yours."

She wept in her hands. She had attempted to right the wrong several times now. She began to realize that the choice, that had seemed quick and easy before, was now draining her of all her energy and life. How many times would she be able to endure reliving that horrific moment? Each attempt she made had failed and at the end of each attempt, she had watched it happen, again and again. A mother will do anything to save their child.

She had to think clearly. "Stop crying. Think! No, I would never give up! I will not let go!" she demanded of herself. She knew there had to be a change somewhere, someone, someway. A minor change that would lead to another minor change, that would lead to the change she wanted.

The first change was quick. It seemed obvious to her. She had to change the last decision she made right before the crash. "That should have fixed it!" she cried. One last glance at her cell phone. "It was all my fault!" she told herself. "If I hadn't been preoccupied with that stupid phone, it would not have happened." But it didn't change anything. The car still veered to the right, slamming into the big, old trunk of that tree. She heard the glass break, her child scream, and the crunch of the car. She saw the branches twist and reach through the window. She felt the pain as the gnarled branch sliced her cheek from ear to chin. She felt her body pull violently against the seatbelt and her head hit the dashboard. And, finally, she saw her child. Silent. Eyes closed. Not moving. The pain and anguish was repeated. She was yelling for help, screaming in fear, crying and begging that this did not just happen.

So, she tried again, and again, and again. She tried changing the little things, like checking the tires right before they left home. She tried changing where her child sat in the car. She tried changing big things, like the wet road, and the time she decided to leave home. They left earlier, they left later. But, those changes did not work. She wailed in anguish after each failed attempt.

Then, something occurred to her. She had changed everything about that moment she could possibly think of that had anything to do with that moment. She changed the car they were driving into a brand new Hummer, then into a compact Prius. Hoping the Hummer would provide her child enough protection from the sudden impact. Perhaps the Prius' small size would slow the car down enough to not hit the tree. The airbags, the brakes, the tires, even the song on the radio were changed. She changed the road from two lanes to four lanes, and even tried making it curve to the left, then to the right.

She began to come to the realization that perhaps there was nothing she could change. In every dimension of life, in every scenario, every plot, every timeline, this is what is supposed to happen. She was supposed to crash and lose her child. But to what end, to what purpose was it that she had to lose a child? There should be a reason, an answer, a justification for all this madness. How many times could she endure this insanity?

But, then, why was she given this choice of hope? Hope to change it, fix it. Was it hope or just the torture of hope? No, she would keep trying. She would not let it go. The voice said she had infinite attempts and she would use every single one of them.

What had she not changed? And as she looked out into the scene of a mangled car, a damp road, and a cluster of trees, she decided to take this challenge to the next level. The tree.
The tree is the only thing she had not changed so far. That particular tree planted right there, growing, maybe twenty feet from the road. Seemingly, so old and innocent. She had to make the tree disappear.

"I'm ready to try again!" she announced out into the empty, earthly space. And as before, she was taken into a tunnel of swirling colors, flashing lights, and silence. She began to see the day and that scene, come into focus at the end of the tunnel. "No, farther back" she said. She asked herself, how in the world would she know when to stop? How does someone make a tree disappear? She decided she would keep going back until that tree was not part of the landscape, not part of the world yet.

Finally, there it was in front of her. The day the tree was planted. As the tunnel dissipated, she began to get her mind straight and look around for clues. What happened on this particular day that led to the creation of that tree? The scene was not so different. The path of the road was there, but it was gravely and narrow. She could see tire tracks along the path, so that meant she was in a not-to-far past. She heard loud roaring sounds coming from down the road. The smell of burning tar filled the air. Men were yelling in the distance.

As she walked down the path she recognized the small curve in the road. Near the curve was a small mound of sand that looked familiar but bare. It did not have the grassy, purple flower carpeting she remembered noticing on that day. Then she saw a crew of men. They were building the road. The road she drove on many years later. She walked up to the road crew. They were sweaty, hot, and blackness covered their overalls. The answer had to be here somewhere. What does a road crew have to do with the planting of a tree? If anything, they would be taking trees down to make room for the road and their equipment. As she wondered through the mayhem of men she heard one of them, probably the boss, yelling and throwing hand gestures. The motors paused for a moment and the tired, dusty men took ear plugs out for just a minute to hear the man talk. "We'll finish this curve and break for lunch!" he yelled at his men. The workers all gave waves and thumbs up as the motors started up again.

Lunch! When they stop for lunch, they will be very near the spot of the accident. She ran to the location that the tree would eventually grow. How could she stop it? She sat on the ground to think and watch and wait. As she waited she thought about her child, and her family that was still alive. She wondered, "Are they waiting for me to finish this terrible task? Do they know about the crash and it's fatality? How would they feel about me if I don't succeed? Will they hate me if I fail?"

The crew finally broke for lunch. The heavy equipment parked to the side of the gravely road. Hungry men began gathering their bags from the smaller trucks that drove up from behind. Some men dumped water on their heads, wiped their faces and hands with gray clothes, and began looking for shady places to rest. Three men sat closest to her on a patch of long grass. They mumbled words to each other and then became silent for a while. They must be exhausted, she thought. One of the men pointed to the sky and said, "Looks like rain, again." The others just grumbled words of agreement and continued with their lunch.

She watched them closely focusing her attention at every word and motion they made. Nothing grabbed her attention to say, "Aha! There it is!" One man ate, or swallowed, two sandwiches, a bag of chips, and a small bag of cookies. The other two men must have known each other, because they both had similar lunches. Each had two large pieces of cold chicken, a bag of chips, and what looked like big slices of cake, and a couple of red apples. A small ice chest that lay between the three men was filled with ice and sodas. By the time the men finished their lunch, the sky began to darken and the air cooled slightly. A light gust of wind made it clear that the day would end early for the road crew. Rain was coming.

"Well, I guess that's it for today, huh guys?" one of the men said as he took one last chomp from his apple. He reached his hand back in a pitcher's pose and flung what was left of the apple high and far into the fields. They packed up their lunches, and made their way back to work site. And that was it. What had she missed? In her heart of hearts, she was sure this was the change that was needed. As the rain began to drizzle down on her, she put her head in her hands and began to weep. If she had to do this again and again she would. She would come back tomorrow and weeks from tomorrow and pull out every green thing that grew in this spot. Why not? She had eternity to try.

Suddenly, she felt a thump next to her leg. She peeked out through her fingers and saw it. An apple core. An apple core with several seeds staring up at her. Seeds laughing, taunting, teasing her. She looked up to see the last man slowly turn from her as he had just finished tossing his apple core behind him. She turned to grab the apple core as feelings of anger, frustration, joy, and hope came over her. Then, the familiar lights and colors swirled around her as the tunnel enveloped her. All she could hear was her hysterical laughter.

Then, there were noises coming from somewhere in the distance. Different, yet familiar noises. Beeping sounds and hushed talking became clearer. Her eyes opened to fluorescent lights. She groaned and saw that her family was standing around her. She was alive. Her child, with her head wrapped in white hospital gauze and held in her father's arms was staring down at her. Her child was alive.
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