Self-Correcting by Mark Joseph Kevlock

Self-Correcting
Mark Joseph Kevlock

“I’m afraid you haven’t been a very exciting sister-in-law, Miranda Koslock. Or daughter-in-law, or wife. So you’ve been voted out.”

Men without features escorted her down the temporal corridor to the complaints division.

“Arrow” Henderson, a twenty-year vet, handled the case.

Miranda didn’t know what was going on. “Who are you people? Where is this? What happened to my life?”

Arrow closed the file folder before him and threw his legs up on the desk and crossed them and leaned back in his chair. “We are the Tick-Tock Police,” he said. “This is one of our branch headquarters. As for your life, you failed it. You bored everybody to death, so we’re assigning a temporal replacement for you.”

“I’ve been happily married for twenty years!” Miranda stated one of the few realities she was still certain of.

“Not anymore,” Arrow told her. “There was a family meeting at the end of your last probation period. Everyone decided that your husband’s first fiancee, from many years ago, would’ve been a better choice for the role. So we’re making the change. Nara is in, you’re out.”

“You people are insane!” Miranda began to panic.

“Here, eat this,” Arrow Henderson said.

“A gumball?!”

“It will make you remember the terms of your contract on Earth,” Arrow explained.

Miranda ate the gumball. It went up her throat, through a passage she hadn’t known about, and exploded in her brain. Then Miranda Koslock remembered a little more than nothing.

“I wanted a family to fit into. I caught Devlin late in life, past his mid-thirties. He had to get married soon or be a bachelor forever. I came along and said all the right things.”

“Maybe at first,” Arrow said. “But back in his early twenties, the man wanted adventure. And Nara gives it to him.”

“All they ever did was argue,” Miranda cried. “That’s why they called off their engagement.”

“No, they didn’t,” Arrow corrected her. “They got married and led the life they were supposed to.”

“Who are you to decide?”

“A higher authority,” Arrow said.

Miranda examined her rapidly-dwindling arguments. “I did the best I could!”

“It wasn’t enough,” Arrow said. He did not always take such a heartless approach to his cases. Each situation dictated its own requirements. Miranda just wouldn’t accept how bad an actress she was.

“Everyone is cast by their oversoul into the realm of probabilities,” Arrow said. “You should’ve made more of your chances.”

Miranda turned toward the temporal corridor… and went on the run.

Arrow heaved a sigh. “Can’t anyone ever just accept their shortcomings?” he said to no one. Then he went after her.

#

The corridor led wherever you wanted it to, which was tricky.

Miranda had nowhere to go, really, with Nara already in her place. She wanted to argue that the tiniest change in the timeline might ripple outward to alter all of history, but that was a self-important lie. Intentions mattered more than anything. Life corrected itself around any obstacles. Everything that was going to occur was going to occur anyway, with or without her. An impossible conundrum.

Miranda ran alongside her Devlin’s existence. She saw him wed, saw him challenged, saw him triumph. She saw a man forged by inspiration, like none she had ever provided. Miranda saw her mistake in every avoided opportunity. When it came to the passion of life, she hadn’t made herself indispensable. Just the opposite.

“I can’t exist like this!” Miranda shouted.

Some sort of funnel appeared, eating up all of the moments in front of her. Arrow backed off in his pursuit. There was no helping her now. Miranda Koslock had run out of time.

#

Nara tossed and turned. “I’ll be a better wife,” she mumbled. “Just give me a chance.…”

Devlin woke her.

“It was… some kind of bad dream,” Nara explained. “Another woman had tried to take my place. She was your wife. But she never made you happy. She just… existed.”

Devlin embraced Nara. “You’re the only woman for me,” he said. “Anyone who came before… is best forgotten.”

#

Back in his office, Arrow marked the file: CLOSED.

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