They told me that there was a cliff just off the motorway past Staples Point where you could travel back in time, if you drove off of i...

   They told me that there was a cliff just off the motorway past Staples Point where you could travel back in time, if you drove off of it at exactly midnight. I laughed at them at the time. I laughed and I told them to stop being so ridiculous. That’s not even possible, I said. But that night, there was nothing in the world that could have kept me from finding that cliff, and driving straight off of it at top speed. 

   That’s where I was going when I was weaving in and out of traffic on the M46, blasting my horn at the slugs crawling along in the fast lane, and the speed cameras just after the Fairbrook Interchange caught me travelling at 116 miles per hour. That’s where I was headed, when the lights down the centre of the road stopped and I was driving into blind blackness with just the three metres ahead of me visible, lit by my headlights, and the fox’s eyes appeared off to the left and I was travelling so fast that I had no time to react so I ploughed through it but I heard no impact so I don’t know if the fox was a hallucination or it just turned to mush in my grill. That was my destination, when that first police car caught wind of my kamikaze journey and slotted itself into my slipstream, sirens shrieking and lights blazing, and called its two friends to join the chase.

   The speed I was going by then, they had no chance of catching me. Even the helicopter bathing me in a heavenly spotlight as I ripped my beeline in the chilling night air was struggling to keep up. Without regard for my safety, on a mission to put my life and body in jeopardy just to see Jenny again, I pushed the car past 150 miles per hour on that pitch dark road, searching for Gatsby Services, where the metal barrier that I had to smash my way through sat waiting for me.

   When I reached it, I lost the two most cowardly police cars along with my front bumper and headlamps as I demolished the aluminium fencing with my jet black BMW. The third panda car continued its pursuit, following me onto the rocky path to the cliff, through the shrubs and the wildlife I murdered on the way, until its driver worked out where I was going and skidded to a halt. Left alone to meet my fate, I ploughed on through the debris to my glorious destination.

   Haloed by the light from the police helicopter, my front wheels left the cliff edge at exactly 23:59, and I went into freefall.

   For the first few seconds, time stopped and started like I was living inside of a strobe light, as the rocky beach below and the waves that broke against it drew themselves closer to my windscreen by the millisecond. I experienced a soul-crushing disappointment, as I realised that I had gone on nothing but a suicide mission, believing a rumour that was never designed to be truth. I was falling to my death at terminal velocity, and there was nothing I could do now to atone.

   But then it happened. At first, too quickly to control, the images flashing past my eyes with such disorganisation and confusion that I wasn’t sure whether I was experiencing some kind of pre-mortem highlights reel or just fitting in panic; then, as my brain tuned in to the blurry images more accurately, bringing it all into focus, more slowly and easier to affect. I soon realised that I was being transported to all of the moments in my life where I had done something that I regretted. All of the times I felt guilty or wronged or like my life had taken a wrong turn, they were rushing before my eyes, begging to be tweaked.

   Wetting myself at primary school. Cheating on tests and being caught. Cheating on schoolyard girlfriends with meaningless kisses. Arguments where the smartest, most biting retort had only dawned on me the morning after, over breakfast with my parents. Jokes I had tried to make in front of rooms full of new people, only to watch the joke fall flat and those strangers give each other pitying looks. It all zoomed past, as I disregarded the chaff to get to the crux, so that I could change my past, and in doing so, change my future too.

   I saw her face before I realised I had progressed that far through my life, and the stream slowed right down as I took her in. Here she was: Jenny, my beautiful ex fiancée, grinning at me with her thin nose and large eyes and full lips revealing paper white teeth. The face I hadn’t seen in two years had appeared in my eyes again and took my breath away with its beauty, almost making me forget what I was even doing here, physically falling through the air at a million miles an hour, but spiritually reliving a past I yearned to correct.

   I lived in that past for the entire duration of the relationship we once had, changing everything. The way I treated her, the way I thought of her, it was all renovated by the knowledge of what I had, which was only informed by the fact that in my previous future, she was gone. Every morning, I told her she was beautiful. I hugged her and I kissed her and I slept next to her with complete and utter contentment, worshipping her for being the most beautiful human being I had ever chanced upon.

   Where before I had criticised her taste in music or literature purely for the sake of contradicting her views, which I thought of as overconfident and ill thought out, this time I agreed wholeheartedly. I grabbed her hands and danced with her around her bedroom to Paramore songs and kissed her neck while she read cheap crime books, because I realised then that life was too short to disagree over such trivial matters; and also because if I was honest with myself, we shared so many of those tacky tastes anyway.

   I took back all the times I had been snappy and uptight. When the urge overcame me to shout at her or cut her down nastily in the middle of one of her uninformed rants, I chose this time to resist it. I heard her out, I let her finish, and then I grabbed her shoulders and kissed her mouth and told her that I loved her because that’s all that matters and heated debates are made for ponces in suits, not young lovers. I never told her she was wrong even when she was, I never took her for granted, and I never let her think she was anything other than perfect.

   And most importantly of all, I stripped away all that jealousy. All the insecurity I’d felt at the time, weighing me down like the world’s heaviest gelatine chainmail, I deemed to be completely useless, and left it locked in a time capsule in the past. I let her talk to whoever she wanted to talk to and flirt with whatever she felt like flirting with, because I knew that deep down, she was devoted to me, and everything she did was for me all along. Having the gift of hindsight made it infinitely easier to watch her throw herself around the dancefloors I could never navigate, and our relationship blossomed under the sunshine I allowed it to bathe in, as I blew away the clouds I had manufactured the first time.

   After we made love on her birthday, Jenny dressed in one of the kinky costumes she always loved to wear for my benefit in the bedroom and I burning with desire and love for her stronger than I had ever felt, after that, I felt that my work in the past was done, and decided to fastfoward to the present day, to my new future that awaited me like a light at the end of the tunnel. I relinquished my hold on the past, and let the images zoom past once again.

   But they went too fast. The memories that I couldn’t remember because I hadn’t lived them yet, they sprang past my eyes like an elastic band pulled too tight and suddenly released. I lost a grip on the past, and it all passed me by, until I woke up in a car, falling off of a cliff.

   I had changed nothing. Or at least, what I had changed hadn’t mattered. It had all ended up exactly the same. At some point, it had all gone wrong again, despite all that I had edited out in the footage of my lifetime; and I had ended up right back where I started: falling through the air, headed toward a cold, hard death on a pebbled beach. But this time, I felt a warm satisfaction as I drifted through the beam of the police helicopter’s spotlight toward the rocks and the waves, because I had seen Jenny again, and fixed it all. The fact that our love had eaten itself alive sometime since and left me just as distraught as before was a shock that was easily assuaged by the knowledge that this time, I wasn’t completely to blame. I had loved and been loved, and to feel that again was all I had needed.

   With my soul still swimming in this feeling, my body disintegrated against the beach, along with the scarlet Audi it had arrived in, leaving only ashes and smoke in that helicopter’s beam.