11:30 a.m. 108
It was raining. Not a warm summer sunshower, but a pounding rain that came down in torrents. This was rain that tore down from the clouds and hurtled against the ground in sloshes. It turned the earth to a muddy soup and made the forest howl and hiss.
Willow awoke in the downpour. Full of confusion and fear, she stumbled to her feet, but lost her balance and fell. She clutched the wet wooden planks of the bridge and looked down. She couldn’t see through the mist, but she could hear the stream. It was just a trickle in the timeline before, but now it sounded like a roaring gorge.
Taking a deep breath and trying to blink the water from her eyes, Willow began to haul herself up.
But the wind was gusting, and the rain poured, poured like a waterfall, and the old broken bridge creaked hideously. She felt like crying, she was so scared, and she clung to the wooden planks and dangled there. Slowly, she tried to lift herself up, numb and trembling as her arms were.
It didn’t work. In a time-frozen second, her fingers slipped and she dropped. The bridge was mossy, after all.
The rain fell all around her, and the river reached up to catch her. Willow had lungs of water and bones of ice, and her hair floated untied and loose, waving like water weed.
? a.m. [Line] ?
Mrs. Song wondered where her daughter could be. Willow had mentioned something about going off to play before the sudden downpour, but hadn’t returned. Mrs. Song had just flipped the store sign to CLOSED when the telephone rang.
“Yuming.” It was Ren.
“Yuming, we have to find our daughter now! Right now!”
“Is Willow in danger?” asked Mrs. Song, and she felt stupid for asking immediately after. Of course Willow was. Mr. Song wouldn’t sound so frantic otherwise.
“No, of course not. She’s in Disneyland.” He meant to sound derisive, but there was a quiver in his voice. Mrs. Song pursed her lips.
“I had been meaning to get her to help me replace the water in the sea urchin tubs,” said Mrs. Song softly. “We will find her. I’ll get a raincoat, an umbrella, and a towel.”
? p.m. [Line] ?
Mr. Song watched the screen. Another line was beginning to form beneath the current one, a small scattering of pixels. He wondered how long it would take for the timelines to converge upon a different fate. He thought, if all outcomes were independent of one another, it would be possible, wouldn’t it, to find a timeline with a different fate? He had been so close once, through preordainment, or maybe through luck. Maybe he would be lucky again. He would traverse multiple parallel worlds until the lines stopped appearing on the monitor.
“And that last timeline,” said Mrs. Song, “will be the outcome we desire, right?”
“Until the lines stop appearing on the monitor, we will have reached the world we want,” said Mr. Song. He tapped on the screen. “Look at where we are. Just finished timeline 108, now we’re in 109. And I can already see another one forming, and another, and another.”
He sighed and buried his head in his hands. A bedraggled rag doll sat beside the computer, the stitching in its smile coming loose.
“Where did this begin, and when will it end?” he whispered. He looked up at his wife. “Did this mess really start with a spilled lunch?”
“Probably not,” said Mrs. Song. “If anything, it’s our fault for making the watch in the first place.”
“So we shouldn’t have done this.”
“Yes, we shouldn’t have.”
They lapsed into silence. Mrs. Song picked up the rag doll and cradled it while Mr. Song looked back toward the monitor. Bright lines streamed across a computer screen.
“Do you know what I think, Yuming?”
“I think there’s no helping it. These timelines can go into the thousands, and they might never stop.”
“I will not stop until Willow is safe,” said Mrs. Song. She hugged the doll close and said, “Let’s continue our work. 110 is next.”
“Maybe this time, it won’t be raining,” said Mr. Song, “that’s what we really need.”
11:30 a.m. 110
Willow awoke by the broken bridge. Her dreams had been full of rain and river, trees and wind. She remembered the clockwork and found her raincoat and umbrella. Unfortunately, her rag dolls and equipment had been swept away. She had been asleep all morning, it seemed. Mrs. Song would need her help at the apothecary. Willow got up and ran back past the shrine, up the steps by the waterfall, and into the village.
 The End
Thank you for reading!
Words by Serina Fang