I’ve read a lot of interesting theories online about Lost and this whole flashforward/alternate timeline concept.
My own immediate theory was that the Island had somehow affected a series of alternate timelines.
The original timeline is only theoretical since no one ever experienced it. In this timeline, Flight 185 leaves from Sydney and arrives in LA without incident. Kate goes to jail. Jack’s father is dead. Charlie lives or dies of a drug overdose or whatever. Hugo travels to West Virginia, buys Putnam County and offers it to me as a gift. Yada yada yada. And, oh yeah, Desmond keeps punching in the numbers.
Alternate timelines occur because of Desmond’s little system error on September 22, 2004. The plane crashes as a direct result. I believe that 2 timelines were birthed as a result. In Timeline 2, the electromagnetic forces unleashed by the system error cause the plane to crash at sea. No survivors. Confirmed by video feed from dive robots. The end. But because Flight 185 was at the edge of the Island’s influence, I believe that Timeline 3 was also created [the timeline we’ve been watching].
By turning the key at the end of Season 2, Desmond gained sporadic insight into the future of Timeline 3 as well as possible obstacles to its completion. All of his flashforwards are centered on Charlie [“See you in another life, brother.”– I love foreshadowing.] and what happens if he does or doesn’t die at certain points. His visions seem to end with Charlie’s death. I think his gift has vanished because Charlie was NEVER supposed to die in order for Timeline 3 to see its completion.
Now that whomever is on that boat knows the location of the Island, we have entered Timeline 4 [Dark Future]. Jack’s father is alive. [The Rite Aid pharmacist objected to fulfilling the prescription because it had run out and there were no refills left. It’s interesting to note that when a doctor dies, his prescription pad is worthless since the deceased is automatically wiped from the system to prevent post-mortem fraud. Yet the pharmacists doesn’t cite this as the reason for not fulfilling the prescription. That’s shaky, I’ll admit, but Jack also references his father later as being alive and probably more high than he is.] Kate doesn’t appear to be in jail.
A few notes on these timelines:
It’s possible that we’re not just dealing with alternate futures, but entire alternate timelines complete with alternate pasts and futures. This is important. There are two possible ways to illustrate this theory. The first way is the typical branching graph, like the charts we use for family trees and the playoffs. Each decision creates a tangent with a different future for each decision made. The only way to change the timeline is to retrace the timeline to the point of the “bad” decision and make the other choice instead. The second way is to imagine a train yard with zillions of parallel tracks. In between each set of tracks [our timelines] is a series of switches. Intersection points. To switch from one timeline to another, even a timeline you’ve previously been on, it is not necessary to go back to the point of decision that got you there. All you need to do is find another intersection point that gets you back on the right track!
Desmond, thus far, has been the one [in my opinion] who has been solely responsible for switching tracks. He’s destined to save the world, after all. I think that by letting Charlie die, he screwed up royally. I think he’s the key to setting things aright. Not Jack.
One last note on the flashforwards. The newspaper Jack is reading in the Season 3 finale is dated April 5, 2007. Compare this to the date they crashed [September 22, 2004] or even the date that Locke was shot by Ben and left for dead in a mass grave [December 21, 2004 – day 91]. A significant period of time has passed between the time of Charlie’s death and the flashforward of Dark Future.