Flash Fiction 1st Place: What Went Through my Mind when I First Read About the Butterfly Effect in Chaos Theory – the Phenomenon Whereby a Minute Localized Change in a Complex System can have Large Effects Elsewhere by Jan Kaneen
What if the lady at reception hadn’t been the White Witch from Narnia, and reception hadn’t been made of dark secret panels and a spidery staircase? What if the waiting room hadn’t smelt of Dettol and goblins and been full of pale-faced ghosts coughing and wheezing and straining for breath? What if time hadn’t stretched, making seconds into forever like it does when you’re four-and-three-quarters, or there’d been music playing like there is nowadays, something off the radio at home that dad knew all the words to, something by The Beatles or The Seekers so I couldn’t hear the magazine pages rattling brittle as bony fingers turned them over and over and over? What if I hadn’t jittered nearly out of my skin when the white-witch-lady called out my mum’s name?
What if Dr Young had been smiley-faced with a kind-warm voice like Grandad Alec and not an ancient ogre with slicked-back silvery hair? What if he hadn’t peered at me from behind his troll-bridge desk and asked in exactly the same voice as the Child Catcher if I was the sort of nice little girl that liked sweeties? What if I’d shaken my head as mum went behind the screen instead of sitting there on the too-big chair letting him press six Smarties into my hot little hand?
What if there’d been a bin or a purse or a pocket to put them in so the candy colours hadn’t run into a sickly rainbow when he followed my mum behind the screen? What if their voices hadn’t talked in magical spells as the Smarties melted into a sticky goo, and I hadn’t pulled my hand up into the sleeve of my coat as mum came out still tucking her shirt into her baggy black slacks? What if Dr Young hadn’t bent down to whisper at the surgery door with breath that smelled of Uncle Joe’s mint balls, now you will be a good little girl for your granny won’t you, whilst your mummy’s in hospital?
What if I’d raged and wailed and writhed and bitten and scratched and thrashed and spat and screamed, I won’t be good, I’ll never be good then my mum’ll stay at home with me where she’ll be safe from goblins and monsters and you?
What if I hadn’t just nodded my head and walked toward the stained-glass panes in the grand front doors that lead out onto the busy main road, and mum hadn’t reached down to take my hand and shaken her head as she took out a starched hanky from her big brown handbag and wiped me clean with spit and smiles? What if she hadn’t helped me climb into the passenger seat of our blue Ford Anglia and driven us off into the same-old future, raising a protective hand in front of me every time we stopped at traffic lights and junctions as if she knew something bad was going to happen, as if she knew what was coming?