Thursday 23 August 2018

Dark Fiction - Quantum Suicide

Dark Fiction - Quantum Suicide

By Casey Douglass

Quantum Suicide

(This story is about suicide. If you are struggling with mental health in this way, it might be best that you don't read it.)

The multiverse had finally been proven, a universe of universes, each with its offshoots, variations and duplicates, placing humanity in a kaleidoscope of possibility. It was early days with regards to what humanity might do with this knowledge, but for Elliot, it all seemed so bleak.

He tapped at his lab machine, the deep vibrations of the facility humming beneath his feet. It had been two months since a way to make contact with our “other selves” had been established, rapidly increasing the rate of research in a previously unheard of form of collaboration. Think how things would be if Stephen Hawking had been able to work with hundreds of other Stephen Hawkings on the same project. Sure, there would be some blind-spots due to the same mind chewing over the same problem, but heck, it was still a leap forward compared to working with lesser intellects.

Message number three-hundred arrived on Elliot’s screen. Another thumbs up.

People hearing about how their other selves are doing is a mixed bag. Some, naturally, will be having far better lives than the enquirer. Others will be struggling. In Elliot’s case, they all seemed to be struggling, not one in three hundred enquiries came back with a hint of promise. He’d have loved to come across an Elliot that had made it, that was happy, even simply content, but no. The Elliots of this existence seem doomed to suffer misfortune, ill health and misadventure, no matter how hard they try. He didn’t believe in God or a creator, but if he did, it would have been hard for him not to have suspected some kind of conspiracy against him. To what end, he had now idea. Maybe if he’d been left to his own devices, he’d have become a giant threat to the universe, a bit like a Bond villain having their teddy taken away when they were seven. It didn’t matter, his mind was made up, or rather, minds.

The multiverse is said to have branching events. That apple you eat in this universe not being eaten in another. Most people can understand this state of affairs, and most would expect that life decisions and events playing out in two directions, either happening or not, could lead to quite different lives. Elliot found it beyond aggravating that his own branched self just seemed to suffer wherever and however circumstances allowed him to be born. He wondered if he was in a kind of Hell, finding no peace or joy wherever he went.

Message number three hundred and one flashed up, another thumbs up. He felt it was pointless to delay any longer. He selected “Reply All” and replied: Schrödinger Imminent. Nice knowing you all.

Elliot had been collaborating too. A brilliant physicist and researcher, he’d linked up with many of his other selves and discovered something that nobody else had, so far at least. He had discovered the way that we are connected to our counterparts. It was a small quantum chord, maybe even the silver cord mentioned in those old books about astral projection and etheric bodies. It snaked off into quanta a few feet from the body, and this, it seemed, was our link. Not to anyone else, just our namesakes in other verses. Elliot, well, the Elliots, had decided that it might be time to stop their suffering, to use the equivalent of quantum scissors, and to cut that chord.

Experiments had been conducted on a variety of creatures, and across the board, severing the thing had meant death. So far, so good, but what about the way the universes work? If someone kills himself in one, another will split off where he didn’t end things. It was a tricky problem, but nanotechnology and its ultimate form, Schrödinger, saved the day on this point.

Schrödinger’s Cat is the thought experiment about putting a cat in a box with some poison that will release at random, and then sealing the box so that no one can see inside. While not knowing if the cat is alive or dead, it is said to be both at the same time. Basically, Elliot’s Schrödinger nanobot functioned by destroying the box, and subsequently taking the cat, whether alive or dead, with it. Across the multiverse, this seemed to halt the formation of a derivative universe, and promptly removed the subject from the one in which Schrödinger was administered. The nanobot would then travel along the quantum cord, sever it, and move on to the next universe, repeating its kill command over and over and over. It did this by phasing down, using some kind gap in space-time to make itself insubstantial enough, and small enough, to engage at a quantum level. Elliot wondered when this kind of thing would be called a quantobot. That's what he'd call it anyway.

Elliot barely even heard the hiss as the gas-powered injector shot Schrödinger into his neck. He didn’t know if Schrödinger would eliminate him from every universe, but with at least three hundred of his companions launching it too, and with the way that it duplicates and spreads, it stood a good chance of success, even if it took an infinity to do it.

They knew it was risky, that it could malfunction or fall into the wrong hands, but there was only so much you could do. Maybe he was a threat to the universe after all. They had each agreed to wipe their research as a precaution. It wouldn't disappear completely, as they could find no way to Schrödinger non-living technology, but they tried to destroy it as best they could.

Elliot felt a sharp pain in his gut, an opening, a flare of peace, and then felt nothing at all. Across the multiverse, Elliots dropped to the ground, like so many flowers being dead-headed by the most efficient gardener in history. Nothing new would be growing from these roots, and if the multiverse cared, it showed no sign of it.