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When Reality Bends
“Wait, say that again?”
I asked, looking confused as I tried to grasp the enormity of her statement.
“Reality bends, or at least you can play with the math and the rules regarding the universe and all that. I can’t really explain it.”
Anne stared at me after finishing and I found myself fumbling for words. Then I remembered, I had asked her what she did.
“So…what does that have do to with what you do?”
She blinked at me, pushing her nerd chic glasses up as she considered my question for a moment.
“I thought you said you took a Physics course…well its like this…”
Anne takes the wrapper from the vending machine sandwich she just ate then bends and creases it slightly, putting it up to her eye as if it were a telescope. Her dark brown eye blinks at me from the bends and slight tear she created in the wrapper and she giggles. The sound is wonderful. I feel my heart race and endorphins flow and my meager physics education comes back, some desperate plea by my body to have my mind impress her so it can keep the feel-good chemicals coming.
“Oh! You can look through it if you bend it and kind of make a lens out of it. But what is there to see if you look through it?”
She shrugs and crumbles the wrapper up, dropping it onto the table.
“Everything? Nothing? I won’t know until I look. And- I’m very close.”
She pauses before she adds the last part, looking around the deserted cafeteria and whispering it conspiratorially.
“Do you want to see?”
Anne looks up at me, habit causing her to push her glasses back up her nose even though they hadn’t moved. This was supposed to be our second date, I even had movie tickets. I wasn’t hoping for a crash course in physics, at least not this kind. But, whats a guy to do. I smile at her of course.
“Lets go, show me all your secrets.”
She rewards my devotion with a carefree grin and grabs my hand, leading me out of the cafeteria and to her lab. It looks like every b-movie’s generic science lab ever, there is even a most certainly misplaced anatomy model of a heart serving as a paperweight on her desk. She waves distractedly at nothing in particular as we enter.
“Here it is, my stuffs over here.”
I spend the night listening to her talk about her research and letting her show me various devices and tools with mystical functions I will never figure out. We part ways with a kiss and a promise to do it again. And we do. We spend the next few weeks in a routine. She is absorbed in her research, I am absorbed in her. During one of our late night sessions it comes to her. We had been listing our favorite movies in between her waiting for results and myself waiting for her to stand still long enough so I could steal a kiss.
“I’ve got it!”
She yells it like she wants the whole world to hear her and respond. The silence of a university at night is all that greets her. Undeterred by the world’s lack of enthusiasm for her discovery she continues her calculations, moving between her devices like a conductor. Finally her manipulations cease and she taps what I had previously assumed was an extra computer monitor. She hits a button and plops back into my lap.
“Watch close, because you’re about to see what lies on the other side.”
I encircle my arms around her and we watch static fill the screen, then a shaky image fills it, becoming clearer second by second. It fills in and I realize we are looking at the lab that we’re sitting in right now. But….its different somehow. The anatomy model on the desk, it has six chambers instead of four. The pictures on the wall aren’t the same either, and some of the devices Anne has are missing. She sees it all as I see it.
“What lies beyond our reality? Other realities! I knew it! This was my theory, they said it was crazy. That the math didn’t work. But there it is!”
The next couple of weeks go by in even more a blur than the last four. We both ditch classes and spend the majority of our time in her lab. She adjusts the numbers and we look in on other realities, other Earths. Places where dinosaurs still roam, or the sun gives off blue light. We see wonders beyond all wonders. Anne records it all as we survey the myriad of other realities, cataloging them. It is the most amazing thing I have ever been a part of. And she did it all. In a second rate university, in a lab the size of large closet. Amazing, just like her.
At the end of the two weeks we are once again in her lab. We just witnessed an ocean world. Teeming with life abundant and varied, but nothing that could be termed human. An idea strikes me as she gets the coordinates of the next reality ready.
“Hey, what about that first one? We never saw more of that, just your old lab here. I don’t want to be missing something spectacular. Like giant cat people or something.”
Laughing she pulls up the numbers, directing her device back there but this time to what we’ve termed our neutral location, the universities plaza. She punches it in and sits back on me, recalling memories of that fateful night. What fills the screen is not cat people, it is simply wrong. The world is bent and twisted, the sky is a rainbow of colors and broken. There is no sound to the image but something tells me if there was I would be hearing screams. It chills me to the bone. Anne is unconcerned at first, checking her math, checking her dials, and then finally coming to the realization nothing is wrong on her end.
“This…this isn’t right.”
She bites her lip and then hurriedly inputs it all again, this time moving it slightly. It gives us the same hellish vision, only this time the twisting and broken sky seems to be worse. Suddenly the screen goes black and no matter how many times she inputs the numbers she can not recall it. Anne is stumped, there is nothing in her research that provides for this. I have an idea and it makes my stomach turn.
“Anne….put in the coordinates for the second one we looked at.”
I break into her distracted thoughts and she turns as if to reply, then I see realization dawn on her face. I can see the hope and the fear there. She punches them in and we wait breathless, the screen filling with static before becoming crisp and full of a view of another world turned mad funhouse.
She says only those two words before she breaks down sobbing. I hold her in my arms, not having any words to sooth her.
What redemption is there for those who destroy everything in existence? Is it alright because it is not our own, perhaps simply a shadow of of our reality? These are questions I can not answer. Instead at this dark hour my limited knowledge of physics is what comes back to haunt me. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. You can’t observe something without changing it. Or in this case, destroying it…
by Nicholas Byrley
Is it still flash fiction if its over 1000 words? I got on a roll tonight, so we’ll just pretend it counts. I’ve had this story bouncing around my head for awhile, just hadn’t found a way to come out yet. Not quite how I imagined it, but the feel is right. Just a tale of science gone wrong and the consequences that follow. The idea of multiple realities is a fascinating if pointless one. Our reality would still be the only one that mattered. But, it’s a fun thought. I hope you all enjoyed it, please comment and forgive any grammar errors. I tend to miss them when I get on a roll.