“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” Carson mumbles grumpily as she pulls her comforter over her head.
If she had to hear those god forsaken birds chirp obnoxiously outside her window at exactly 6:06 in the morning one more time she was going to murder someone.
It was day 27 of April 3, 2016. She didn’t know how much longer she could take it.
“It’s punishment,” the old witch bitch had said. Oh, wait. No. She said “karma.” Karma.
I mean, honestly. Who says karma seriously in a sentence anymore? She thought bitterly.
She tosses her blankets off herself, sleep a lost cause, and hisses at the cold air invading her warm bubble. She grabs her book from her nightstand and decides to move to her window seat to read.
She looks up from her book a while later to see that nearly two hours had passed. Standing up and stretching her legs, she stumbles sleepily to her bathroom, grumbling angrily to herself about the day to come. Her reflection mocks her. Her mane of chestnut curls is a rat’s nest that she struggles to tame and the bags under her green eyes contrast sharply with her fair skin. She closes her eyes and takes a deep, cleansing breath.
This is the last day, she thinks to herself, you only have to find one more butterfly. Make this day your bitch.
After nodding resolutely at her reflection and brushing her teeth, she marches into her bedroom, glances at her clock – 8:12, 13 minutes to get dressed to the kitchen to see her mom – and hurries to get dressed and ready for another long day, waiting for her cue.
She hears a muffled call for breakfast downstairs as she is hopping around, trying to tie her second converse. Ah, there it is.
My time to shine.
Checking the time – 8:25 – she opens her door and rushes down the stairs and into the kitchen where her mom has prepared her favorite, chocolate chip pancakes. Though, they weren’t nearly as appetizing on the 27th consecutive day in a row. But, she must grin and bare it so as not to confuse her mother, disrupt her train of thought, ruin her day, resulting in a sleepless night, blah blah blah, ultimately leading to her untimely death, or something along those lines.
Her mom leans across the counter in front of her and studies her sadly.
“How are you feeling today?”
“I’ve felt better,” she mumbles.
“It’s okay to miss him, Carson. He was your dad. If you want, we can go to the cemetery to-”
“He was a dead-beat drug addict. That’s not my dad,” she interrupts quickly.
She quickly eats as much as she can possibly take, looks down at her Batman watch, and sees that if she doesn’t leave now, she’ll miss it.
Swinging her bag over her shoulder, she kisses her mom on the cheek in goodbye, pops in her earphones, and is out the door and on the way to the coffee shop a few blocks away, right on time. Passing the local library, she begins to feel tense, preparing herself for what has to happen next. Her hand comes up and rubs her shoulder where a mean dark purple bruise had formed from the repeated abuse it had endured over the past 26 days.
Alright, Carson, don’t pussy out and move out of the way. It has to happen. Look down at your phone and send the text to Olive…now.
She’s flies backwards and the ground rushes up to greet her; her bag sliding off her shoulder and spilling its contents. She lays on the ground for a moment, blinking harshly to clear the stars from behind her eyes.
“God damnit,” she says as she slowly sits up and gathers her bearings, beginning to collect the books and tube of chapstick that escaped her messenger bag. I never get used to that. A groan comes from her left and she cringes, remembering who she body slammed into. As if ramming into someone wasn’t embarrassing enough. It had to be this guy. This really pretty guy.
“I’m so sorry,” the boy rushes out, quickly getting to his feet and holding out his hand to help her up.
And, God, does she want to take it. To say: “No, I’m sorry. I wasn’t looking.” But, she can’t and she’s painfully aware of it. Because, that’s not how it happened 27 days ago. In fact, it went in quite the opposite direction. She tried to change it one day. She really did. But when she did her whole day changed and she didn’t get a chance to see the witch and didn’t get a chance to find a butterfly.
So, she gets up without his help and says the dreaded words with likely very forced looking malice:
“It’s fine, just watch where you’re going next time.”
He blinks at her in surprise. She looks just past him, ignoring eye contact, and quickly walks away, ejecting herself from the situation. She wishes she could snatch all the words back. But if she was kind to him, it would change literally everything. He would think differently about her. Changing his day in even the most minute way could ruin everything. So, she skulks away, rubbing her bruised and throbbing shoulder and bandaging her ego as she goes.
Karma really is a bitch.
She continues on her journey to the coffee shop; all the way, looking for a butterfly to take her out of this misery. On the way, she jaywalks across Vernon Avenue, effectively, much to her pleasure, pissing off an old man in a red Kia. She drops her candy wrapper, likely for some turtle to choke on in the future. And, finally, she slightly redeems herself by holding the door to the coffee shop for a woman who, of course, doesn’t thank her. Her friends, Olive and Izzy, wave her over and she winds through the multi colored tables to reach their booth after ordering her cappuccino.
Her butt barely touches the seat before Olive starts babbling on about the new fortune teller in town that they just had to go to. She plays her part, acting skeptical. Izzy is skeptical, too. But after much pleading and convincing, the three make plans to meet at the fortune teller’s shop that evening at 5:30.
The rest of Carson’s day passes slowly. She sees no purple butterfly, much to her dismay. But not for lack of trying. She nearly walked into oncoming traffic on her way home from work. Now, that would have been bad.
She comes home and has two hours to spare in her room before going to the fortune teller’s. She usually allots this as the time where she can wallow in self pity as well as hatred for the “fortune teller” who did this to her. She has learned her lesson: Be careful who you piss off.
She thinks back to the day where it all began:
The fortune teller’s shop- Marissa’s Truth – was shabby to say the least. It looked like one would imagine it to look like. Colorful tapestries hung from the walls, windows, and ceilings. Old, worn rugs overlapped each other on the floor. Lit candles were covering every inch of the table space that didn’t have weird, antique trinkets. The three girls had to wrinkle their noses at the heavy smell of incense invading their senses and burning their nostrils. Carson had been grumpy all day from having been woken up so early and was even more dissatisfied to be in this shop where a phoney would surely rip them off with fake fortunes. She grumbled and pouted behind her two friends as they spoke with the short, frail, old women with long grey hair, loose fitting purple robes, and rings adorning every finger.
“You will each come in separately,” the woman – Marissa, Carson assumed – said dreamily, large grey eyes looking between the three of them in a daze. “Payment is expected up front. Forty dollars each.”
At this, Carson stepped forward.
“Now, hold up.”
Olive jabbed her in the rib and gave her a threatening look. She shuts up and steps back, letting the other two girls swipe their cards first. The credit card machine seemed out of place amongst all the dust and colorful fabrics. When it was her turn, Carson stepped up to the woman and reluctantly handed it over to her. She noticed the old woman staring and she raised her eyebrow sassily.
Problem, old bat?
She and Izzy sat on the cushions outside the back room and wait for Olive to come back.
“I can’t believe I let you guys talk me into this. It’s a waste of money.”
Izzy studied her for a moment.
“What’s with you today? You’re awfully pissy.”
“It’s April 3rd.” She fidgeted with the hem of her t-shirt.
Izzy’s eyebrows drew together in confusion.
“It’s April 3rd? I don’t – Oh. Shit. I can’t believe I forgot.”
“Don’t worry about it. It isn’t something I like talking about anyways.”
April 3, 2013 was the day Carson’s dead-beat father had overdosed and killed himself. He wasn’t a good father but he was still her father. And, no matter how much she liked to pretend otherwise, Carson loved him.
Just then, the door opened, revealing a beaming Olive. Izzy was ushered in. She paused by the door and glanced back at Carson, who was avoiding her eyes, and then turned to enter the room, shutting the door behind her.
Olive explained to her that the woman predicted that she would find love soon and that it would, much to her excitement, last through college. She seemed pleased, so, Carson couldn’t find it in herself to crush her with the reality that the woman was likely lying through her ugly yellow teeth.
By the time it was Carson’s turn to enter, she had decided that she just wanted to go home and crawl back into her warm bed and not get out ever again. She entered the room and plopped down onto the big, fluffy, tasseled pillow across the table from the Marissa. A crystal ball sat on the table between them. Within the crystal ball were, oddly enough, butterflies. All of which were fluttering around happily.
Oh, come on. A crystal ball? Really?
Without preamble, the woman hunched over the ball, mumbling to herself, eyes flitting over it’s surface as if watching a movie play within it. Carson sat there impatiently, waiting for the woman to spout her lies so she could leave. The woman sat back lazily, eyes roaming Carson’s face curiously.
“What?” Carson snapped.
“You’re a tough cookie to crack, my dear. A dark past, you have. A dark, murky past.”
“What the hell are you talking about? You don’t know me.”
The woman smiled crookedly.
“Oh, I do. I’ve seen your past. And, I’ve seen your future. If you can’t learn to move away from the past, your future will be just as dismal.”
“Who do you think you are? Giving out fake fortunes for profit. Giving people, who are naïve enough to believe your shit, false hope or false fear.”
Marissa sits forward, leaning her elbows on the table and linking her hands, rings clinking together softly.
“Carson, dear. I help people. I’m helping you by telling you that you need to forgive your father and move on if you want to be happy. People are going to tire of this ‘pity me’ act. And then what will you be? Besides, he wants you to forgive him.”
Carson reeled backwards, sputtering incoherently, eyes wide and blinking furiously.
“How did you-? What is this? Is this some sort of joke? I don’t need some old hag like you to tell me how to live my life. You’re a liar. This isn’t real. This is all a fucking joke.”
In a fit of rage, Carson picked up the crystal ball and smashed it to the ground.
Marissa scrambled over to it, picking up the pieces of the ball desperately, nearly hysterical. Her eyes, no longer glazed and dreamy, snapped up to Carson who was backing up slowly, an apology already on her lips.
“You’ll regret that, stupid girl. You owe me.” She closed her eyes and waved her hands in what looked like a very practiced motion, eyebrows drawn in in concentration.
And the ground underneath Carson’s feet felt like it shifted.
The woman came towards her, wrinkled hand raised and pointing menacingly at her.
“This day. Your worst day. It’s karma. Punishment. You must relive it until you can find 13 purple butterflies to make a new crystal ball. They’re hidden within this day. Bring them to me by the 30th day or stay stuck in the today forever.”
Carson continued to back up, for, just then the woman’s grey hair was crackling like electricity. Her anger seemingly oozing from her in sparks. She didn’t question the witch’s credibility anymore. She just wanted to leave before anything else happened. She turned and fumbled for the door knob. Marissa’s voice stopped her.
“You musn’t change anything about today in the days to come. Doing so will alter the fate of anyone who experiences you differently. The butterfly effect, girl. You know it? Every decision you made today matters for tomorrow.”
Carson fumbled with the doorknob before swinging the door open and fleeing the room, bypassing her confused friends and waiting for them to catch up outside.
“Carson! Jesus, what happened in there? We heard lots of yelling,” Olive said, breathless from chasing her out of the shop.
“That crazy lady fucking-.” Carson stopped herself in the middle of her outburst, remembering the witch’s threats and assumed that she can’t tell anyone. “She just gave me a bad fortune. That’s all. I just, uh, I just didn’t need to hear that today.”
It was partially true. She didn’t need to hear that today.
This is literally the worst day of my life.
That very thought crossed her mind every day she woke up to her phone calendar glaring the date at her. April 3, 2016. Those first few days were very uncomfortable and awkward. She felt odd deliberately slamming into the boy. She felt weird, not to mention stupid, walking into traffic on purpose. Some of the days she wished she had walked out just a second later and let the car hit her. Admittedly, she spent those first few days begging the woman to take it back. Not just the saying “please” begging. This was the full out hands clasped, knees on the floor, tears in eyes begging. The witch had made her resort to becoming a blubbering fool and her pride was severely bruised from it. She wanted nothing more than to go to bed at night with the promise of an actual tomorrow. She eventually mastered the exact timing of everything so she didn’t have to lag behind and wait for everything to take it’s course. However, she, believe it or not, grew to treasure her time in Marissa’s shop. For, Marissa was the only one aware of Carson’s state, having put her in it, and she was the only one Carson could have an actual new conversation with. She found it oddly rewarding when she found the butterflies and brought them to Marissa. Not that rewarding, though. It was enough to get her through the days. She never knew when she might accidentally spot one. It was a pleasant change in a day full of sickening déjà vu.
But, here she was, 27 days later, and she couldn’t find the last damn butterfly.
He’s a sly motherfucker. She thought bitterly as she walked up the path to Marissa’s shop after meeting Olive and Izzy.
Carson doesn’t have to pretend to sulk while in the shop. She’s pissed that she didn’t find the butterfly to end all of this. It’s her turn to go in.
“Got anything for me?” Marissa questions hopefully.
Carson shakes her head glumly and slumps down into the pillow with a huff.
They sit in silence for a bit before a thought occurs to Carson.
“Has time gone by outside of this? Are you stuck here too? What will happen if I don’t find the last butterfly?”
“Time has passed. But, if you find the butterfly, you’ll still start as you would have. On April 4th. There are many realities other than your own. You just happen to be stuck in this loop. I won’t confuse you with it all. However, if you don’t find the last butterfly, your life will go on in your original reality, you just won’t know about it. You’ll live your life forever in the today wondering what you would have been like until you die in your original reality. Make sense?”
Carson blinks, stunned.
“Not really, no.”
The woman’s dazed gaze looks away from her and towards something behind Carson with a secret sort of smile. Curious, Carson looks behind herself and out the window. At first, she sees nothing and thinks the old bat had lost it. Then, however, she notices the slow flapping of a butterfly’s wings on the ledge just outside the window of the shop.
Carson looks quickly back to the old woman.
“Really? There’s been one here the whole time? Why didn’t you say anything?”
The woman raises her shoulders and drops them in a shrug. “Thought I’d prolong the punishment bit longer, dear. And, it seems, it must last a day longer. Our time is up.”
Carson, who is halfway out of her seat with the intention of going to the window to snatch the butterfly, pauses. “Wait, what? It’s just right there,” she says and the witch is suddenly ushering her to the door and away from the window, ignoring her protests.
“But, but-, ” Carson sputters, looking longingly at the window.
“Ah, ah. There’s always tomorrow.”
And, with that she is out in the entry hall, where she plays her part for her friends. All the while wondering: Would the five seconds it would have taken to grab the butterfly and give it to the woman really, truly have changed the fate of the world too terribly much? No, she decides, it wouldn’t have.
That night, however, she goes to bed hopeful. Because, finally, the promise of tomorrow is in her reach. She finds it funny. She no longer resents April 3rd. It’s just another day.