Dec 4, 2022 • 11M


A crisis of quantum proportions...

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Javier spins his wedding band round and round. A question revolving in his head at each turn, the lone diamond sparkling every few seconds. To remove it or not? To keep the promise or the lie? A pair of arms wrap around his neck and chest, a cloud of perfume following, the scent of his shame. 

“You’re so quiet, tonight,” she says. Prussia, his coworker. His lab-time lover. 

“Yeah. Thinking.” 

She sees him close his left hand, pushing off the question for now. They’ve talked it over enough, but there’s nothing doing until Javier decides what he wants. Prussia isn’t too concerned. She’s got him wrapped around her finger tighter than that ring. And from what she knows of his and his wife’s therapy sessions, things are going her way. 

Javier’s hoping for the choice to be taken from him. A simple solution. 

“The collider’s ready for the next test,” she says, “you have the KPI’s loaded into the database?”


She pauses, hoping for some of that spark she loves about him. “Okay. I’ll go check the tunnel real quick.”


Alone, again, with his questions, watching Prussia examine the collider tunnel. She’s beautiful to him. And super smart. But so is his wife. He hasn’t forgotten why they first got together and how they have loved each other through the years. God, if only he could go back and undo things…

The wide control board, populated by buttons and switches and augmented by a dozen screens, notifies him that all systems are go. The test is ready. They’re looking for a specific range of quantum relationships, hoping to prove that certain particles behave in concert when observed. It’s not a new experiment. Just a verification of a prior one. 

“You have the go-ahead, lovebirds,” Dr. Oliberté says through the one-way speaker. He must see them on the cameras. Javier grimaces, feels sick to his stomach that the doctor knows about them. It’s like Oliberté is an extension of his conscience, the way he’s always looking at Javier and Prussia, making comments like he just did. All because Oliberté dated her once. Or slept with her once. Can’t get the story straight. Another problem Javier wishes he could remove. He hadn’t known working as a researcher would be such a petty soap opera drama. But there he is, being the cause of it.

Prussia, on the camera, trips on something. A stray tool or piece of equipment. Javier stands up fast to look more closely at the camera. She’s fine. He scoffs at himself and looks down. His hands are right next to the collider initiation panel. An easy accident, to ignite the machine. An easy out, certainly, if he could cover for himself. 

“Murder? Really? I’d sooner kill myself.” Javier says. The silence eats away at him after that. He puts his ring in his pocket, thinking, considering what his options are. He doesn’t have many. You’d think with such a large intellect, he could have come up with any number of solutions.

Unfortunately, the human heart isn’t so easily reduced to calculations and rationale.

“You coming with?” Prussia asks, putting on her coat. A coat Javier bought for her. The first of many betrayals. He bought his wife something after that, too. 

“No. Going to finish up.”

She smacks her lips, getting upset with him. “Don’t take out your guilt on me. I won’t stick around for it.”

He spins in his chair to face her, wearing a small and sad smile. “I know. I’ve made my decision.” He shows her the hand without the ring. “It’s not easy.”

“I know, baby.” She takes him in her arms. “I love you. I’ll get you through this.”

He’s tearing up. He lets her kiss him, still reserved. Once she’s gone, he places the ring on the desk, then initiates the collider. The whirring, whooping tunnel flashes with alarms and blaring lights, the energy spooling up. The security doors are easy to disarm, requiring a simple override.

Javier stands in the middle, right where the particles race, invisible. He hopes to be completely destroyed. Elsewhere in the miles-long machine, energy is converted into beams that are shot at each other. The unique parameters of the quantum tests are sure to boil his mind. 

More and more energy builds. More and more, Javier’s heart pounds, but he’s never been more sure this is the solution to his issues. A terrible oversight by such an intelligent man. There’s no such thing as an easy way out. And so the particle beams meet with those of his mind. 

He does not die. 

He finds himself looking at himself - moving fast away from matter and coherence into a different universe. 

He can see all of his memories, a glowing that surrounds him, and even his very DNA, like looking through a macroscope and microscope all at once. A kaleidoscope, too, as the collider and the world around it become a mishmash of soil, trees, concrete, people, animals, shops. He’s among it all, separating and vibrating. 

He finds threads in the liminal space around him that he, with the hands of his mind, can grasp on, follow along. 

One strand leads to Prussia’s apartment. She’s there, cleaning the house, her jaw clenched in focus. Another, to his home, where his wife reads in the bedroom, a cup of wine on the nightstand. Both exist in their monotonies. 

The threads go deeper, though, into the past, where two branches of time rise out of the whorl and into focus.

There’s the first time his wife catches his eye. The first time he and Prussia met, too, as if both occurred in the same instance. They exist in two fields of vision, branching pathways. Then there’s an evolution, a playing out of all his choices and ideas once he chose the two women. His mind feels like it’s going to split. His soul quakes at the depth of fidelity in these visions, which persist in concert with the overwhelming sense of the world. Is this what it’s like to be God, he wonders?

The word God echoes everywhere. God, God, God, God, God. A church appears. An image of Christ on a candle. Christmas Mass with his family, all in a row, wearing starched shirts and not trying too hard to be good. 

A sermon delivers itself into Javier’s mind:

“Sin is in all of us. Sin is us. So is Christ, who is goodness incarnate. But sin and Christ often look the same when we’re living. God does not color our choices for us. It’s not clear what will be good or what will harm us. But what is easier to see is what will destroy others.”

And so Javier sees something else. Things that he could never have seen. How when he tells his wife he’s working late, she’s so alone she’s drinking and drinking and so lonely it hurts, so upset that the strings of her devotion are fraying, proving to her that love is fleeting and the only thing you can do is to take it when you can. She scrolls through an online forum, reading stories of eternal love. Prussia, still cleaning, is so full of desire for a love she’s never had she’ll take it from someone else. 

There’s so many threads Javier is split into a thousand of himself, his vision like a fly’s, the kaleidoscope kaleidoscoping endlessly. Iterations of his life splitting like hairs. 

Sin is us. We can’t tell what destruction we bring. 

A ring revolving, a question spiraling like a galaxy, pulling in all matter and destroying it and recreating it, ejecting it back out into endless eternities. 

Throughout all of his choices, Javier has denied ownership. Like he’s been stumbling through life and gravity just happened to land him in the next situation. Falling in love. Falling out of it. Falling into another person’s arms. 

All we do is trip into the next thing, he tells himself. He lies to himself. Everyone lies to themselves. 

He finally hears his own screams. 

The hospital smells sterile. Then there’s the scent of home. And that of guilt. He awakes. His family, his colleagues, and a team of doctors are there.

Dr. Oliberté notices first. “Look. Look! He’s alive. He’s awake!”

So I did not die, he thinks. I’m still left with what I had before. Plus this intolerable clarity. 

Somehow, his ring made it back to his finger. Somehow, his wife is still there for him. Her eyes are puffy. So are Prussia’s, and she looks on with envy, it seems. 

He thinks, I created this darkness, this sin. I made it possible for entropy to enter Prussia’s heart. I played God with her and my wife. I played God with myself, seeing what I could gain without paying for it. 

Dr. Oliberté says to him, with disdain and awe. “You should have lost everything…”

“I should have.” He remembers it all. The threads. The spiraling universe. His choices. His questions. “I’m sorry,” he says to his wife and again to Prussia. “I don’t want to hurt either of you anymore…”

A question for you readers:

If you saw your life splitting in the quantum realm, what two big decisions would play out?

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