It’s a question that keeps ringing in my ears ever since I finished reading Stephen King’s latest hit novel ‘’11-22-63’’. Normally, when Stephen King’s name is mentioned, one would have this quick image of horrors but funny enough, it’s more like an alternative reality fiction kind of book.
Basically, it’s a novel about time travel and attempts to change events in the past. In the story, there’s this guy, Al Templeton who finds that the pantry in his diner has a gateway or rather a portal that connects to 1958. So one day, he walks through this portal, leaves his 2007 life behind and stays back in the 50s.
You may ask why? Why would he leave his present life to stay in the past? Al’s main goal was to stay for about 5 more years leading to November 22, 1963 to stop Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating the late President John Kennedy. Well, he believed that by preventing the late president from dying, the world in the future would be a better place. He didn’t quite succeed, he comes back to the present and finds out he’s dying of terminal lung cancer because of some fatal dose of radiation.
Al realizes he is dying much quicker than he expected. He summons his friend, Jacob ‘’Jake’’ Epping to see him, he then tells him all about this portal to the past and implores him to go through. Jake finds the use of this odd time slip always leads him to Lisbon Falls as it existed on September 9, 1958 at 11:58 am.
To cut the long story short, because the use of the portal gave one the ability to change things in the past, he agreed to Al’s request to prevent late President John Kennedy from being murdered. However, the trick was that whenever he used the portal again to visit the past, the event previously changed will reset automatically along with consequent alterations to the future. This implied that if he wanted to save the president on 11-22-63, it had to be done once and for all.
Well, he succeeded. He prevented it. However, even though he saved the president’s life, how little the change may seem caused major life-altering changes in the future, 2011 to be precise ---- Domestic terrorism, environmental collapse, death of thousands in a massive earthquake in California, the world was full of chaos and lawlessness and most of the world’s population was wiped out. There and then, he realized the past is ‘’obdurate’’ – the more significant the event you want to change, the more the past throws up obstacles to prevent that change. Figuratively speaking, the little ripple he made in the pond caused a big splash in ocean. Mr. Time sure does not like being played with.
After reading this book, wild thoughts began to emanate in my head. What If slaves were not taken from Africa in the early era? Yeah I know there would be no black Americans, but how great a difference would that be in the present if by some odd means too, I went back to the past and tried to change all that? Would the past also try to throw obstacles at me to prevent me changing the event? What If I didn’t attend University of Jos but went to some other university? I wouldn’t have known the great friends that I have right now but then I wouldn’t know what I was missing. What If 9/11 had never happened? Those who lost their loved ones would not be feeling the enormous pain that lingers on in their hearts because they would be right there with them living. The thing is if the past is obdurate, does it mean they were destined to die in a terrorist attack?
What If I had the means to go back and prevent my childhood friend from dying to some deadly ailment? Would there be a ripple effect? Would saving my friend cause an equal and opposite reaction? Would she still die by some other means just after I saved her?
What If there was never a first and second world war? Would there be world peace? What if there was never an incident of crisis in Jos? Would it still be known as a peace-loving state? What If there were never terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda and Boko Haram? What If our leaders’ right from independence were honest, never corrupt, developed Nigeria to its fullest? Would we be living in a utopian Nigeria now? Are our lives following a set script that ends when we die?
As I asked myself this questions, it began to dawn on me that things happen for a reason. However, the present is here to make decisions or change things that will affect the future positively. So, in the future, these decisions would not create an arena for regrets or endless thoughts of how you wish you could go back in time to change those decisions. The past is the past; we can’t change it. Still, the question lies therein ‘’What If’’?