Here's my entry to Quantum Shorts, a quantum-inspired fiction competition, written around September 2015.
"The Quantum Shorts competition has run annually since 2012, calling for creative content that draws inspiration from quantum physics. This year's competition is seeking flash fiction - stories no longer than 1000 words - inspired by the quantum world."
I chose to write an emotional time-capsule for my future self, using a wave-particle duality theme, not that I know what that means.
I am Everywhere
She was a knowing observer with brown eyes deep and rich, mesmerising, dizzying with life. When we met, those eyes brought me together, held me in place, held me together. All of me was there, with her.
Two days since and I am diffuse, a disembodied presence. I try to concentrate but a lapse in focus and I am everywhere at once. I am at breakfast where we met, eating under her gripping gaze. We are under that tree, spotting funny-looking dogs. We are watching the water’s surface, bubbles and sediment manifest from diving birds below.
Tonight we’re seeing each other at last, for dinner. Hours between responses, her texts are sparing and I can’t bear it. I’m at work pretending, clicking haphazardly on the page, minimising, maximising, minimising, skating the mouse. My body is here, but I’m not. I’m with her.
A minute after work and I’m walking to the bar where we’re meeting. Now I’m skipping. My mind lifts and flits again to moments, some real, some not. I wonder what she’d say about the article I just wrote. I spring up a gutter, press a crossing button, laugh at nothing, giddy. I diffuse again.
We’re sitting watching the water still. It sparkles in the late-morning sun. We talk about absorbing every moment. That’s all we have. Light caresses my face. I place my hand over hers. I had never felt something so soft.
The sun has gone down and it’s dark as I enter the bar. Candles flicker. She’s not here. Surges of doubt interfere. She forgot. We only mentioned it once. I’ve only seen her once. I’ve only seen her once.
It would make sense if she doesn’t show. She is a woman, gorgeous and flowing, tender but rapier. I am a child smelling the air as she walks through me. And she does take time responding to my messages. I get it. I try to recall her face but it’s vague now. Just that one moment with her, one glimpse by and my mind smears, leaving me a mess. A man’s constitution — I thought I had it together by now.
I withdraw my phone: nothing. I slip it back in my pocket and lift my gaze. She’s sitting at my table gleaming, ‘surprise’.
That’s what she looks like…those eyes. They melt into mine, bind and consolidate me. We start talking and my inner life joins me now, floating down, grounding itself. Its misgivings collapse; its peaks and troughs settle. With her I’m all here, present in each moment. My thoughts, feelings, and senses hold hands around this warmth.
We drink and talk in the dim. My mind softens from drinks. Her smiling eyes fix to mine as she sips. Candle light glimmers in them, vivacity glows.
We talk about our research. We joke about our bodies. We romanticise our cells — those microscopic versions of our selves working in concert; colonies of clones living together, sharing secrets and secretions; every thought, a whisper between neighbours; every feeling, a chemical heralded through the colony, uniting us for the cause. And when we find the one, the one emergent entity that sets our being alight, it’s time to start afresh, a new symbiosis.
Our feet press into one another’s. Her perfectly soft hand touches my knee and glides to my thigh. Her palm radiates warmth outwards through my muscle sending cascades of cells ablaze.
We move to dinner, sharing anecdotes. Entering the restaurant, our sides kiss, our palms press, our fingers entwine. She is a continuation of me. Impishly, we pick food and wine; hand in hand beneath the table, elements of us transpose and settle as we settle in our seats.
Hours pass and we emerge into the cold. Our insides roil with pleasure and warmth. Our minds short and start with glee. Bundled in my arms she looks at me with mischief and intrigue. I guide her in the chill, my hand snug around her side, our arms entangled in folds. I kiss her hair, her temple, her cheek and lips. We hold so tight. She is me, and I am her.
It has been nine days since then. I have not seen her, but I have survived. I’ve been everywhere, fragmented and warring with the bits. Does she know I’m a nebula when she’s not watching? We’re seeing each other again tonight at last. I’ll have coherence.
Nine days and alone, I have spent months with her. We have feasted, joked, eloped, had cosmic conversations and enveloping intimacy — intricate scenes of moments that never happened — fantasies nucleated around two meals. My brain made a soul mate from itself, for itself.
I’ve discovered my imagination is an ocean. It suspends me in elation, submerges me in shame, and nobody sees a thing. I was a sure-footed man; now I am a buoy, hapless in my own turbulent fiction.
Resistant, I disappear in daydreams again: I’m smiling at our cell conversation. I can see her pretending not to notice my texts. I’m holding her in my arms in town. I can see her eating with someone else. I can see me fabricating scenes now. I wince.
We’re eating at hers tonight. I’m at the store picking wine. I contrive an aloof text to confirm the date, as if every second hasn’t been a pained countdown. She responds immediately.
Words bleed from the screen: “don’t entirely know…can’t shake the feeling…isn’t compatible in each other...second thoughts about us”. The words aren’t real so I don’t finish reading them. My throat constricts; my face glows hot; my stomach surges its innards upwards; my eyes give in. I unravel and evaporate.
I appear at home. I walk through the door. I reach the bed and fall, fall through the bed and am gone.
Days pass and I find myself in the bathroom. A functioning whole now, I’m looking in the mirror. I wave, laugh with disbelief and stare at myself — a knowing observer.