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How is it possible that Booker apparently remembers the whole Columbia experience?

In the scene he was quite frantic as to whether Anna was in the other room. How is this possible given that about-to be-baptised-booker drowned himself, therefore removing any possible strain of Colombia or Comstock to exist?

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In that scene, I don't think he's actually frantic because he remembers Columbia. It's just as likely that Anna makes a noise that wakes him up from slumber and he's disoriented from having just been asleep. :) –  Shaun Apr 14 '13 at 19:53
    
Related: How does drowning the player fix anything? –  galacticninja Apr 15 '13 at 3:18

16 Answers 16

Temporal paradox (also known as time paradox and time travel paradox) is a theoretical paradoxical situation that happens because of time travel. A time traveler goes to the past, and does something that would prevent him from time travel in the first place. If he does not go back in time, he does not do anything that would prevent his traveling to the past, so time travel would be possible for him. However, if he goes back in time and does something that would prevent the time travel, he will not go back in time. Thus each possibility seems to imply its own negation - a type of logical paradox.

- Taken from the Wikipedia page for Temporal Paradox

...I've come up with a theory that could explain the ending a little better: within the Bioshock world/universe/whatever you want to call it, paradoxes are impossible. This is explained, albeit somewhat vaguely, in one Rosalind Lutece's voxophones:

Our contraption shows us the girl is the flame that shall ignite the world. My brother says we must undo what we have done. But time is more an ocean than a river. Why try to bring in a tide that will only again go out?

Time is more an ocean than a river.

That is easily one of the most important statements in the game. What it means is that time is not linear; everything happens all at once. That is the meaning behind "lives, lived, will live" and "dies, died, will die". Everything that is happening, has happened, and will ever happen, is happening right now, but in a different universe - an infinite amount of universes, for that matter.

So, what does this have to do with paradoxes?

Paradoxes can only occur when time is a "river", meaning linear. Here's what the major events of Bioshock Infinite (and the ones that preceded it) would look like if time were linear As I wrote in the image, a paradox is created when Elizabeth drowns Booker. Booker dies, Anna is never born, Elizabeth doesn't kill Booker. Booker lives, Anna is born, Elizabeth kills Booker. This goes on for an infinite number of times.

But you already knew that, right?

The thing is, as Lutece said, time is not a "river', it is an "ocean". Here is what the events of Bioshock Infinite look like as an "ocean". What this means is that everything that ever happened and will happen happens in a separate universe, totally independent from anything else that has ever happened or will happen. One event does not affect another - at least, not in such a way that it could create a paradox.

Clearly Elizabeth can affect other universes, but a paradox simply cannot be created because in order for a paradox to exist, time must be linear. This is because when time is linear, events that happen in the past affect and determine what happens in the future. When time is an "ocean", there is no past, present, or future, so there is nothing to affect. I know, it's confusing, but it does make a sort of sense.

Now, how does this affect the ending and the post-credits scene? Because the ending scene of Booker's death has absolutely nothing to do with time. Well, that's not entirely true. The only importance time has on the final scene is that Elizabeth had to take Booker back to the time before he finalized his decision on the matter of baptism. Aside from that, time is irrelevant. We know this because the Booker that Elizabeth drowns is not 16-year-old Booker; it is the Booker that we have been playing as for the entire game. It could have been any Booker, really. The only thing that matters is that a choice is never made. Why? Because universes are created from choices. We all know that Booker became Comstock because in one universe he chose to accept the baptism. So, to eliminate Comstock, Elizabeth drowns Booker before the choice is made. He does not choose to reject the baptism, and he does not choose to accept it. When he is killed, he is still in the process of deciding. No choice is made, no new universes are created.

Booker's death does not create a paradox because it does not affect anything else. His death is independent from every other Booker in every other universe; the only thing that has changed is that a decision is never made. His death is a variable, whereas his lack of decision (sorry for the incredibly choppy wording there) becomes a constant.

...Booker's death is not a variable, since that would mean in another universe he does not die. Comstock's death - or technically, his lack of birth - is a constant because he is eliminated. Once all possibilites of Comstock's "birth" are gone, that's it. It doesn't matter if Booker continues to live, because it already happened ("dies, died, will die). Booker's death, on the other hand is a variable in the sense that he gets to live because no paradox was created, even though he technically died. If that makes sense.

[Booker] was drowned before he made his decision. Like I said, the only thing time has to do with it is that Elizabeth took Booker into the time when he is still deciding wether or not to go through with the baptism. Elizabeth kills Booker before he makes a final decision. Since Booker did not decide to go through with the baptism or run away, there are no new universes that are created. This is because universes are created through variables, and Booker's choice was a variable. Elizabeth eliminates the variable by killing him before either choice is made. This is proved at about 15:45 in this video. Elizabeth says, "Smother, before the choice is made. Before you are reborn."

Elizabeth kills Booker, but that is not the constant. She only kills Booker because she has to in order to do what her actual goal was: kill his choice. One Booker in one universe is dead, but all Bookers across all universes can no longer make the choice to become Comstock or remain Booker. If Booker cannot choose to become Comstock, then the only option is to stay in his current state (i.e. as Booker). Think about it like this: you are wearing a black shirt. Someone offers you the chance to wear a blue shirt, but before you decided which shirt to wear the choice is taken away from you. You can no longer choose to wear the blue shirt or continue wearing the black shirt. The only possible path that can occur from this point is that you continue wearing the black shirt not because you chose to, but because you were forced to.

Source: "Theory: Paradoxes do not exist" post at the Reddit /r/BioShock subreddit by Reddit user, lolmaster2000

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I think this is actually the most confusing and difficult part of Bioshock Infinite in that the post credits sequence doesn't really make a huge amount of sense given what has come before. The last words before the drowning are:

An Elizabeth: He's Zachary Comstock

Another Elizabeth: He's Booker DeWitt

Booker: No, I'm both.

We can be reasonably certain therefore that Booker's drowning wipes out all of the Comstock and DeWitt timelines, because it happens before the fatal choice. If Booker DeWitt ever refuses salvation, then Zachary Comstock must accept it. One cannot exist without the other, which is why Booker has to be bought by Elizabeth to a point where he will accept his own death. The Elizabeths must push him under the water and drown him, thus destroying their own existences.

So, who or what then is the Booker DeWitt in the post credits sequence? There is of course a paradox inherent in the fact that if the Elizabeth's didn't exist because they drowned Booker DeWitt, they cannot have drowned Booker DeWitt. His existence after the drowning is in fact a direct negation of what came before the credits - his very need to die to save the multiverse from the monster that is Comstock. Perhaps it is this very paradox that allows him to live, although that doesn't explain why he is returned to the time when Anna was a baby.

I can think of three other possible explanations

  1. The entire Bioshock Infinite experience is simply DeWitt's guilty conscience regarding Wounded Knee creating a fantasy of an alternate Booker. Effectively the "it was all a dream" ending. While logically consistent in that in this version of events nothing happened outside of Booker's dream, this would be a deeply unsatisfying ending, and robs the rest of the narrative of much of its power. It also doesn't really explain the presence of Rapture. I'm therefore going to suggest that it is not what was intended.

  2. This Booker is from a timeline where he never went to the baptism ceremony at all. His life proceeded among very similar lines to original Booker's because, like original Booker, he never accepted forgiveness. It is an indication that in some sense, a Booker survived and stayed with Anna as she grew up. The thing is that such a Booker would have no continuity with the in game Booker, and it doesn't really make sense to show us this stranger.

  3. My preferred explanation is that therefore Booker's Elizabeth and/or the Lutece twins were able to extract the original Booker from the timeline as he died, and give him an existence either outside time and space as theirs were, or shunt him sideways into a reality where he was not able to make his big mistake because Comstock no longer existed. So this Booker both died and didn't, just like the Lutece twins. He remembers all that happened to him, but is given a second chance as a reward for preventing Comstock. Again, this isn't fully satisfactory in that it takes some of the narrative power away from the ending, but I think it does work within the metaphysics of Bioshock Infinite, and furthermore explains why Booker appears confused when he is returned to reality, as he was doubtless expecting it to end.

This answer is necessarily speculative, but hopefully clarifies things a little.

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Personally, I would actually have preferred Infinite to end before the credits, as I see the story as essentially complete at that point. I wonder if the post credits scene was added due to focus group testing finding the original ending too negative. But that really is speculation. –  Christi Apr 15 '13 at 1:05
    
When you say that Booker rejecting the baptism must lead to an alternative universe Booker accepting it due to the "for every choice there is a universe where it was made" thing? Wouldn't Booker accepting his death then lead to a universe where he didn't? –  kotekzot Apr 15 '13 at 3:57
    
That's a good question. The best I can suggest is that by stepping out of his timeline Booker has become a wild card like Elizabeth and the Luteces so the usual rules probably don't apply. –  Christi Apr 15 '13 at 7:16
    
Another possibility which works slightly better. Booker's drowning is a "fixed point", like the coin toss or the lighthouse. It can therefore only happen one way. –  Christi Apr 15 '13 at 7:49
    
Because there are infinite possibilities, isn't there a possibility that one Booker survived the drowning attempt (someone may have given him mouth to mouth for instance), in which case the cycle is not broken? –  APrough Apr 15 '13 at 12:11

Needless to say — SPOILERS!

But the Booker we played was the one that was drowned...right?

"The mind of the subject will desperately struggle to create memories where none exist..."
– R. Lutece

So, throughout the game, we see instances of Booker's memories getting rewritten, as well as some other people. Whenever this happens, it is indicated by dizziness and bleeding from the nose. It's hard to draw a conclusion when only Booker, Chen Lin, and the guards having been affected, but I'll do my best.

Whenever Elizabeth opens a tear, she is moving to a universe that contains the conditions that she wants or needs at the moment. However, her ability also has a small area of effect, bringing with her people around her in a small radius. We can see this shown when Fink's Head of Security is unaffected, despite being dead in the first timeline. Whenever a tear is opened and the people step through, the mind will attempt to settle paradoxes by rewriting memories.

The first paradox we see is the state of being alive or dead, which affects Chen Lin, Booker, Lady Comstock, and two guards. What happens here is that the memories of the dead and the living are in conflict with each other, so the mind will attempt to combine memories of death with life. The effects of this seem to vary in intensity and results. A common ailment is that people will end up feeling traumatized and deeply disoriented, often seen struggling with their deaths. A possibly more intense reaction is the formation of new abilities, although Lady Comstock's situation is a bit special as 1) Elizabeth's powers were forced by the Siphon and 2) the Lady Comstock brought over is the one that encompasses the traits that Elizabeth imagined her to have.

Booker's situation is a special case as he is actually stepping into another universe. Thus the memories that merge will collect in his mind, which is seen in the case where Booker has memories of leading the Vox revolution. What is interesting is how Booker is unaffected when he's jumping from the first to second timeline in The Good Time Club. My guess is that because Booker is stepping into a timeline where there isn't a Booker. However, because the circumstances would've been the same, the mind does not have to rewrite his memories. This idea is tenuous at best, and could simply be the result of an oversight by the developers unless someone can explain this better.

The second paradox is the state of existing or not existing in the timeline, which is what affects Booker and Robert Lutece. Because Booker steps into a timeline where he doesn't exist, Booker's mind is trying its best to rectify that, muddling his memories to fit within this new universe. Robert Lutece also experiences this as well when he crosses over to meet his sister. This is a type of paradox where the memories of the same people will not merge.

Why is it the second paradox people will merge, but not the first type? Well, I can theorize that it has to do with whether or not the memories merging belongs to the same people. The Chen Lin in the first and second universes have the same identity and are practically similar, so their memories will merge. However, Booker, Comstock, Rosalind, and Robert are largely unaffected by the paradox of being in two places at once, with some minor hemorrhaging on the side of Booker and Robert. This may be due to the fact that there is enough of a difference between them that the universe allows them to exist simultaneously. In the case of the Lutece twins, what separates them is their gender, where combining them would probably induce another paradox of being both male and female. For Booker and Comstock, it is mentioned that Comstock's own identity has been eroded due to repeated exposure to the tears, thus making his identity different to that of Booker's.

So, what about Elizabeth? Why is not affected in any way? Again, we have a special case where Elizabeth's power over the tears allow her to retain her identity and memory. We cannot say for sure, as the origin of Elizabeth's powers is simply explained with a hand wave of being in two places at once, and the game doesn't delve deeply into this.

So, what does all of this have to do with the ending? Well, at this point, Elizabeth has the ability to open any tear she wants and can access the infinite doors that lead to different timelines. So, when Booker steps through, he is essentially going back and time, his own self is reverted to that time period's Booker. This can be seen when you accept Preacher Witting's hand for baptism, Booker's own hand is young and has no AD or bandage wrapping around it. This signifies that Booker has merged with his younger self, starting again at the baptism scene. This points to the fact that the Booker that we play through and the Booker that is drowned by the Elizabeths are one and the same person.

Source: Reddit /r/BioShock post by Reddit user awchern
This answer was partly copied (shamelessly) from another answer of mine here.

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I believe that the post-credits DeWitt is a logical bi-product of the impossibility of Comstock. The death of the DeWitt of Infinite means that the eventuality of a Comstock becomes impossible, nullifying his influence on the multiverse. If Comstock never removed Anna, the renegade DeWitt also cannot be possible. Their cause and effect relationship makes their existences paradoxical and recurring. By removing the possibility of the paradox, neither the renegade nor the prophet can exist, rewriting what CAN come to pass. The DeWitt we see in the post credits scene has no debt to Comstock because there is no affiliation between him and the Lutece twins so Anna cannot become Elizabeth and the renegade cannot manifest.

By eliminating Comstock, we are left with an alternate DeWitt outside of the paradox. If anything, the final, confusing scene affirms that the drowning was successful and that Zachary Comstock was vanquished at the most satisfying level; he was made impossible. It was simply possible to do so because the variables were favorable in this quantum timeline, making it the only one that could ever matter and the entire story impossible. Ultimately, BioShock Infinite is the game that is about a story that could never exist because it would always be about a multiverse that would always make itself impossible. The post credits scene is the only scene that could ever manifest a real progressive timeline.

Hope Booker made it count.

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I think the biggest difficulty with this theory that there's no logical reason why a Booker would continue in preference to a Comstock. –  Christi Apr 17 '13 at 0:15

I wonder if everyone is not over thinking it somewhat. The simplest explanation I can come up with is that because Infinite's story is (as far as I can work out) exclusively to do with timelines that derived from Booker going to the baptism, the end scene could simply be from a dimension where Booker never went to the baptism at all and still had a wife and child, which seems entirely possible given that there are "infinite universes".

It is detached from the story and perhaps not as satisfying, but because of the paradox with Elizabeth killing Booker and stopping herself from ever being born so she couldn't kill him in the first place, that whole section of the multiverse timeline with the baptism could be said to be impossible and therefore never exist, meaning the only dimensions that are left (dimensions relating to Booker, that is) are ones where Booker never went to the baptism.

The argument against this theory, of course, is that Elizabeth says the dimensions are all different, but similar, and that there's always a city, and a man. This could mean that Booker always has to end up in Columbia, but at the same time, it relates to the first Bioshock, where the protagonist ends up in Rapture. Theoretically, Booker and Bioshock's protagonist could exist in the same timeline, so that timeline would have its city and man, and thus fulfill Elizabeth's claim, letting Booker live his life in peace with Anna. It could also simply mean Booker being in New York.

Though that could be looking into what she said too far, as it seems strange that in an infinite multiverse with infinite possibilities, there always has to be such a thing as a "man" or a "city". If there are infinite universes, then doesn't everything exist? I don't even know xD

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My answer may seem a little off the wall, and will probably get a lot of nay-saying, but here goes.

I don't think the drowning worked. I believe that the Lutece twins have been grabbing versions of Booker and getting him to go to different versions of Columbia in order to fix the situation, but it never works. At the beginning of the game, the twins row Booker towards a lighthouse. You can't see any of the other lighthouses because of the storm, but the twins speak as if they have done this before, and that nothing ever changes ("He doesn't ROW"). Also, throughout the game, when you meet them, their responses are as if they know what is going to happen, because they have seen it before. The coin toss is the perfect example of this; they even have a tally of how many times they have tried it with Booker, and it always comes up heads.

So, in my opinion, a replay of the game is the Luteces' grabbing another version of Booker and going through the motions again, still trying to get it right. But Elizabeth always drowns Booker/Comstock, and it never works. The events are preordained, and no matter what they do ("don't choose 77"), it doesn't work.

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In my opinion the ending is mostly an "infinite" loop. If Elizabeth kills Booker, then she cannot exist.

So who kills Booker,to stop him from becoming Comstock? You'll say, "Well he's dead..." But if he died, there's no one to kill him, so he doesn't die, so Elizabeth gets born and kills him....now you see the loop? Forever turning like Bookers Skyhook....

And Booker from after credits is just,our Booker from a dimension where baptism never took place the baptism is a variable not a constant the existance of booker is a constant

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Booker is presumably drowned prior to the actual baptism which separates him from Comstock. Elizabeth says outright that the drowning baptism "isn't the same place" as the actual "born again" baptism. So when Elizabeth(s) drown Booker, the baptism decision leading to the universal split between Booker and Comstock never takes place. Booker dies, and Comstock never gets a chance to be created.

Unfortunately, Booker has made some decisions prior to the drowning. For one, he killed a bunch of Indians at Wounded Knee. Each of those killings was a separate decision - or actually, bunches of decisions..."Do I shoot him?" "Do I slash him with my sword?" "Do I strangle him?" "Do I dodge right or left when he swings his hatchet at me?" "Do I let him live?" etc. etc. etc.

Each of those myriad decisions created another "lighthouse" with another universe with another Booker Dewitt. Some of those will be on a completely different life path, and never reach the baptism and the "Comstock decision" at all. But some will still work around to getting there. So Elizabeth's (and the Lutece's) work is by no means done - they still have an infinite number of pre-Comstock Bookers to put down.

The Booker in the after-credits scene is, IMO, one of those Bookers that diverged from "our" Booker prior to the drowning.

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Consider all the infinite universes where Booker exists prior to traveling to the baptism site. The baptism of Booker is a key event leading up to universes where Booker experiences Columbia, either as Comstock himself or as the Booker renegade who fights Comstock. But, since there are infinite Booker-containing universes outside of those that pass through the baptism gate, if Elizabeth kills all Bookers passing through that gate, across all universes where that event happens, Booker may only survive in universes where he made no attempt to be baptized.

My interpretation of the final scene then, is that it happens in one of those universes where there was no baptism attempt.

The scene where you see many Bookers among the merely the nearby lighthouses, coupled with the millions of lighthouses extending toward the horizon is why I can't take seriously the idea that there are only two timelines... The way that you see multiple Elizabeths show up to kill you at the baptism is why I interpret that scene as meaning "Elizabeth kills Bookers in all universes where Booker goes to be baptized". Infinite Elizabeths to murder every Booker in every universe where Booker goes to that key place.

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The only cycle in Booker's timeline that led to him either becoming Booker or Comstock was the baptism. By erasing that choice and event, she erases that loop. Since that loop never happens in time, only Booker before the baptism is left to exist and raise Elizabeth. I think.

Also, did anybody else notice that every time she finds money and throws him a coin its either heads or tails? "Funny, I expected tails?"

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The scene after the credits is him “starting over” again. Remember, the 1-2-2 in the beginning of the game is Booker’s 122nd attempt to get the girl (Elizabeth or Anna). So he goes in and you are either led to believe she’s there in the crib, or in Colombia.

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I really like AProughs answer how the post credits show no matter what the Lutece twins do, the drowning of Booker fails in the end and the circle keeps going. Here's why. The game plays with the idea that one particular event in your life is inevitable and only the choices you make after determine the outcomes. Bookers baptism is that inevitable point in his life. Anna assumes that if she drowns Booker we wont be allowed to make a choice thus preventing Columbia. A lot of people ask why is there still one single Anna right before the credits roll. Well, this is to show how Anna's plan ultimately failed. The other Anna's don't exist which is a direct cause of Bookers drowning. But ONE Anna still exists meaning that something still isn't right. After the credits finish Booker wakes up in his office with the debt slips, empty bottles, says "Anna?", opens the door and sees the crib. What I think that means is that the Baptism is NOT that inevitable point in Bookers life.

Ever notice how all the decisions in the game you make serve no real purpose? The ball throwing, choosing Annas necklace, drawing first or not, sparing lives, etc. It doesn't dramatically effect the game but we always think it will. We play the game and assume our choices will matter but they don't. Then towards the end the twins assume this time they got it right and play with the fact if they take away the last and final choice from Booker only one possible outcome can arise. The irony is, that was the one decision that actually would create a dramatic effect. Right before your drowned I thought the game was going to let me choose. Become Comstock or remain as Booker. But the choice is taken away from you. They rob you of that and because of that the circle continues. The post credit scene to me says "We took your last choice away assuming it would all change but it didn't". The game is in a sense maybe apologizing for taking your last and final choice away. There's a hundred ways you can interpret the post credits further but here are my guesses.

1) Since the circle is not unbroken the baptism was not the inevitable point in Bookers life. The twins failed and the circle keeps going. This could open up to a sequel or a prequel. It leaves a lot of room to find out where in time the inevitable point of Bookers life really is giving the twins the opportunity to try again.

2) And this is my favorite. The inevitable point in Bookers life is going to Columbia. Columbia is inevitable. Comstock is inevitable. Booker is inevitable. It doesn't matter if you choose to become Comstock or choose to stay as Booker. What matters is what you decide what happens to Columbia later on. Do you allow the Founders to crush the Vox? Do you abandon Anna and let her destroy New York? Do you fight for the Vox and allow Fitzroy to become the new Comstock? There are millions of ways Columbia can turn out but the idea is that Columbia will always exist because that's the inevitable point in Bookers life. Its what you choose to do with it that matters. The end makes us accept that. In a sense to me this brings closure. Yes the circle continues but its meant to continue to show you that. And think of it this way. The Twins have done this 122 times already and failed. We only get to play that one 122th time. Its a bitter sweet ending to show us that we once again failed but it reinforces the fact that there are events in time we can not avoid to make a choice. This also shows me why Rapture was shown. Rapture will always exist as well no matter what. But its the outcome, what you choose to do with Rapture, that really matters.

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1) Quantum immortality (look it up); Booker's consciousness continues (as it must) and the entire Columbia incident is remembered as a dream. Of course it actually "happened" as this game asserts that reality is an infinite ocean of possibility, but from after-credits-Booker's pint of view, it may well have been a dream.

2) As stated before, he may not remember the incident at all (because really, that wasn't the point of the last scene). He was excited (as I see it) because he's worried whether or not Anna's really there. Whether that be because his nightmares were real, or perhaps he's been contemplating the "deal" in days prior, and in the daze of waking up, can't remember if he'd made the decision.

"#") In any event, the purpose of the ending scene was to underline the frightening nature of choice/destiny/possibility/crafting your own reality. For a split instant after waking up, Booker doesn't know what's real. Before he can really "come to," the screen cuts to black so that the audience never knows, and thus they are kept in this feeling for much longer if not indefinitely (strengthening the effect). If you've seen Inception, it's really the exact same technique used in the ending scene of that movie.

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I think that the bookers and comstocks and Elizabeth's all cease to exist and the bit after the credits is just a dream or memory as lutece said the mind will create memories where none exist.

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The simplest explanation is: she drowned DeWitt from the timeline, where he becomes Comstock. That fixes everything.

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Except there are infinitely many universes where Comstock is become. That would be a lot of drownings. –  Joshua Shane Liberman Jun 22 '13 at 18:42
    
That's why there are a lot of Elizabeths, that's a metaphor –  DataGreed Jun 23 '13 at 20:44

I would say either it's a Booker in a universe where he never went to the Baptism (as said above), though the "dream" idea is also possible Or where he refused the baptism but didn't get into gambling (there are no gambling tickets on his desk at the end unlike the beginning) so he never had a debt to wipe away.

Biggest question: Why not just go back and stop Booker from being in Wounded Knee??? break a leg, knock him unconscious, etc? Then there's no guilt

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