Monday, June 18, 2012

Kevin Coolidge

The Butterfly Effect

Skin prickles, stomach tightens, fists clenched, jaw so tight it aches. I used to love thunderstorms. The gusty winds, the driving rain, the sound of thunder. Now, lightning jolts memories--memories of the past, the future, and my promise to make all of it better. I no longer know where to end. I only know I can’t stop. Only that I need to begin…again.

If you could travel back in time, and kill the man that started it all, would you? You aren’t sure. I knew I could. Evil or misunderstood, I didn’t care. He was the problem, and I was the solution. It sounds easy. The hopeful look in his eyes, the smell of spring in the air, or maybe I just needed something to fill the blank space in the living room. I don’t know where it went wrong. I bought a painting. I’m sorry. I should have killed Hitler…

The butterfly effect—small differences in initial conditions can yield widely diverging outcomes, rendering long-term prediction almost impossible, in essence, chaos. How could I know that making Hitler a successful artist would result in enslaving humanity? Would a bullet have bought a better future for mankind? Should I have just stayed home?

The idea that one little ripple, that one butterfly could eventually have a far-reaching ripple effect on historic events first appeared in A Sound of Thunder, a 1952 short story by Ray Bradbury. The story begins in a future where a time machine exists. Time Safari Inc. can deliver you to the past and give you the severest thrill a real hunter could ask for, a Tyrannosaurus rex. Be sure to sign the waiver because they guarantee nothing, except the dinosaurs.

Bradbury wrote the kind of story that lurked in the corners of your mind. His stories and novels remain long after the pages have closed. I know. Did that glistening green, gold, and black butterfly inspire “the butterfly effect”? It wasn’t until 1961 that Edward Lorenz coined the term. Could killing that one butterfly really be that important?

Bradbury is perhaps best known for his speculative fiction—such as Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man. He is credited with being the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction in the literary mainstream. If not for his lyrical, evocative prose, would we have the films of Steven Spielberg, the haunting short stories of Neil Gaiman, or the wizarding world of Harry Potter? Could the imagination of one man really be that important? Does a flash of lightning bring the sound of thunder?

The lightning? Or the Thunder? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? You too can return to the past at and dig into the archives of columns past. Looking to delve into the past of Hobo the cat? You can read about his early months in “Hobo Finds A Home” a children’s book about a kitten who found a future…

Monday, June 11, 2012

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From My Shelf Books
Wellsboro PA

Nothing to Fear, but Fear, and…

Kevin Coolidge

Keep calm and carry on. There’s nothing to fear here, or at least that’s the official position of the government. “The flesh-eating living dead don’t actually exist”, said a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control. “The CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead, or one that would present zombie-like symptoms.”

I don’t know about you, but when a government agency feels the need to give official reassurance, I’m inclined to trust my own infestation plan, and cold-forged steel. Sure, your house has its own victory garden, you have plywood pre-cut for the windows, and you spent your vacation money on a water filtration system, but sometimes you have to leave the house.

I never leave home without my emergency kit. It contains a roll of duct tape, ten feet of rope, a sturdy knife, two quarts of water, two packages of beef jerky, some dried fruit, a can of bacon, towels, an extra shirt, and small crowbar – just right for cracking skulls, or prying off face biters – and, of course, a napalm fed flame-thrower. It’s good to be prepared.

Unfortunately, after reading John Dies @ the End by David Wong, I learned that a zombie apocalypse is actually the best-case scenario. It’s too late for me. I’ve read the book. I’m in the game. I’m under the eye. I know about Korrok, about the invasion, about the future. It’s too late for me. I didn’t have the chance to say no. You still do.

If you make the right choice and stop reading the column here, I’ll have a much harder time explaining how to fight off the otherworldly invasion that threatens to enslave humanity. I’m sorry to have involved you in this, but as you read about the terrible events in John Dies @ the End, and the Dark Age the world will enter as a result, please keep in mind that NONE OF THIS IS MY FAULT.

It all started one day when I called David Wong and his best friend John. No, not their real names. You might want to change yours. I did. These aren’t the guys to call if you need a carburetor rebuilt. These guys have a unique specialty. My sister’s old boyfriend has been harassing her. He won’t leave her alone. Anyone else would call the police, but the real problem is that the boyfriend’s been dead for months.

Have you ever seen movement out of the corner of your eye, turn, and nothing is there? Ever seen a cat at the top of the stairs, only to remember you don’t have a cat? You’ve always known there’s something else out there, and now there’s proof, but don’t say I ever warned you. We all die at the end…

Courage, the lack of fear? Or the ability to face it? Email me at and let me know. Miss a past column? Visit and see all our past columns. Looking for a bright, cheerful book with a happy ending? Look no further than “Hobo Finds A Home”, a children’s book about a cat who finds a home. Guaranteed free of interdimensional aliens, or fleeting shadows…