Last week I finished Stephen King’s new novel 11/22/63. It is quite the lengthy tome about time travel and an attempt to change the past. One critique of the story was about its length, that perhaps it was too long, too wordy and with too much explanation and description. I was momentarily obstructed by the thought of wading through a diffuse yarn by an author who appeared to be a bit outside of his genre. Maybe therein lay the intrigue. I must admit that I have not perused a King novel since nearer my high school days but that does not diminish his expertise at the craft of novel writing. He approaches prolific. I focused on the criticism only briefly in the first few lines. As the story moved, the criticism disappeared. It became painfully clear that the only way to rectify life from the future surviving in the past was to talk about those things that are different and must be considered. In this way it is a masterful tale. Sure the idea of time travel is muddy at best and leaves a lot to question but the subtle and powerful devices used throughout overcame these questions, if only enough to make it believable.
There are 2 lines from the story that stuck in the recesses of my brain, poking out periodically and making me rethink the adventure. “The past is obdurate. The past harmonizes.” If the past does not want to change that is fine. So far as I know time travel still only exists in the arguments of well-read theoretical physicists. But the idea that the past harmonizes makes me take pause. I don’t believe in fate but King discusses the butterfly effect and what it can do to the unfolding of events. So I wonder not about life being planned but the decisions we have made in the past planning our future paths even if we are unaware of the connections. It becomes our own personal butterfly effect trajectory.
If nothing else, as an ongoing thought experiment I have been paying a bit more attention to what happens around me and how those events could have been different based on different decisions in the past. Nothing has approached notability until today.
Stefanie called me at work and said I need to come home. This is when time appears to slow and the brain gets to work on scenario based reactions to the events looming on the other side of the phone. Anyone who has experienced a traumatic event and had their “life flash before their eyes” has experienced what some theories say is a blast of adrenaline which allows the brains filters, which normally don’t take in all thoughts and stimuli to absorb everything that is happening and being thought of in that moment. Time appears to slow because we are remembering many more thoughts than normal and we cannot reconcile how that happened in the same amount of time it usually takes to say “um.”
After a moment, when my high functioning startle response settled, I could hear her say something about the car horn. Apparently after they got home and started up the stairs, the horn began to bleat on its own, continuously. Imagine a fresh castrato yelling the letter “E” or a sheep being slowly flattened by a large unyielding object. It was going on its own once again and I needed to rush home to disconnect the fuse before the neighbors undergarments began to bind. So I did. Then I began to recall the last time this happened.
Almost exactly a year ago we were both awoken in the middle of the night; let’s say soon after midnight, to a dull thumping noise. It ceased and for a moment and as we dismissed it as an anomaly, the soft thud of flesh against metal started again. Being quite upset at waking from a solid sleep and not having the foresight to think anything was amiss, I stumbled down the stairs to the backdoor and was met with more thumping, a flashlight to the eyes and that hollow high-pitched “E” wailing in the distance. I was greeted outside by a police officer, and a sheriff’s deputy and soon another police officer. Slow night. For no reason the horn was in full honk. I stumbled to find my keys and because both cars were there bumper to bumper could not decipher which vehicle was creating such an offense. Of course it was the white one, the roller skate of a car that runs fine but offers little in the way of, well anything else. Still a bit dazed from sleep, I fumbled for the lever to release the hood. It popped open and one of the officers propped it up. I stood there, unable to think what to do. The officer asked for pliers, which made sense. I returned with them and he pulled the fuse. We laughed a bit and I returned to my sleep. Was this just an event? Most likely, but it also came just before one of the biggest life changing events of my life and kicked off a year that I hope goes into the archives and eventually becomes nothing more than a slightly disturbing memory.
One year before this even, we had just moved to a second floor apartment and I got a call for Stefanie as I was heading home. She told me I needed to come home right away. The smoke detector in our brand new apartment sounded. I could hear it in the background and chuckled and went home to shut it off. That year and possibly that alarm preceded another astonishingly eventful year. So I say to this alarm, what have you in store for us now? Is it coincidence or some ominous sign of a blossoming event? If so why am I cursed with the sound of that horn as my alarm? In Stir of Echoes even Kevin Bacon got a buzzing red light. Much more pleasant I think.
Anyway I am as prepared as I will ever be which is to say not at all prepared. So I’ll shrug my shoulders and carry on. And special thanks to Stephen King for enlightening us that the past very likely indeed does harmonize.