The most precise clocks we have are atomic clocks which are powered by quantum mechanics. Besides keeping time, they can also let your smartphone know where you are.
College life for a fifteen-year-old, no matter how smart, is too consuming. And honestly, no one ever expected Penelope to have children, least of all Penelope. But her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago and tonight is their first anniversary.
Penelope hides in her bedroom at her corner desk after feeding, bathing, and getting pajamas on the two monsters. None of that was hard as the two monsters are both six years old. Her biological sister, Theresa, is playing in her room and Derrick is reading on the couch. Penelope could not know that a six-year-old boy would never sit alone quietly for very long reading on a couch.
Studying in her own bedroom for her first test in her first physics class, Penelope stares into oblivion. Her bedroom is a tribute to strong female anime characters. Centered above her grey metal desk is a poster of a young anime woman with flowing light grey hair streaked with neon green highlights wearing a tight t-shirt over her exaggerated breasts that says ‘NASA’. Penelope had streaked her hair with mostly pink and purple highlights along with a few well-placed baby blue patches.
“I’ve been calling you.” A small voice insisted.
Penelope’s surprise left her choking. She was trying to memorize. “Things used to be so simple,” she says to herself.
“What?” Penelope turns quickly, making Theresa fall backwards. “Can you not give me five minutes?” She picks up her sister and continues in a way too shouty voice. “Five minutes.”
Fighting tears, Theresa says, “I need help.”
Penelope’s stern face breaks. “I’m so sorry, Tessy.” She opens her arms for a hug. “You are my favoritist strange quark.”
Theresa crosses her arms. “What’s a quark?” Their mother was always telling Penelope to stop calling Tess weird names.
“It was a compliment.”
“You said I was strange,” Tess says with a big, fake poofy bottom lip.
Penelope pulls her sister in for a hug. “What do you need help with?”
“He’s done a real bad thing.” She pauses for effect. “He killed everyone in Barbie’s Forest Townhouse.”
With absolute terror in her eyes, Tess slowly repeats, “Everyone.”
Penelope looks at her computer screens longingly, then says to herself, “I am never having children.” To Theresa she says, “I have a big test. Can’t you two work it out?”
Theresa flops to the floor, “all are dead.”
“Can I tell you a story, Tessy? I promise, we will investigate the horrible murder scene after the story.”
Theresa smiles and leaps into the Hello Kitty bed tent and sweetly says, “begin.”
“Once upon a time, there was a special-strange-charm-quark. Do you know what a charm is?”
Penelope flicks the Lucky Charms bobblehead glued to her desk. “You know this guy, right?”
“Are charms marshmallows?”
“No,” Penelope smiles. “His marshmallows are shaped like charms. And people generally agree that charms are lucky and good.” She flicks Lucky’s head again. “So, the most massive of all the particles in the world are special-strange-quarks named Charm and her opposite special-strange-quark named Anti-Charm.”
“Am I Charm?”
“And is Derrick Anti-Charm?” Theresa asks darkly.
“I don’t like this story.”
“It has a magic spell.”
“These special-strange-quarks feel gravity, electromagnetism, and all the weak and strong interactions just the same as all quarks. But the most magical thing of all is that no one even knew the two huge special-strange-quarks were real until the November Revolution.”
“Was that a party?”
“The November Revolution was when, in two different parts of the world, a magical spell was finally lifted, and Charm and Anti-Charm could be seen by all.”
“And then they fight, right?”
“No.” Penelope laughs. “Actually, it was the opposite, silly. When Charm and Anti-Charm come together, everybody becomes calm and happy. It was known throughout the world as a state of Charmonium.” Penelope turns her chair and smiles at her little sister.
“Is that it?” Theresa blinks hard. “Happily ever after in charmonium? You are not very good at this story telling thing.”
“Derrick is sad and angry about his father getting cancer. You need to be nice to him. The two of you are just the same wonderful crazy.”
“No. I’m sad and angry, but I did not kill anyone.”
“You guys are scary-times-ten the same. And we all could use some charmonium in this house.” Penelope takes Theresa’s hand.
“Murder.” Theresa says.
Theresa drags Penelope to her own room. They open the door slowly. Headless Barbie carcasses are everywhere. Theresa starts this really weird chicken dance, waving her arms over all the headless dolls.
“This is disturbing.” Penelope admits.
The sisters gather up dolls respectfully. “Derrick!” Penelope finally shouts.
After no answer, they go downstairs searching for their step-brother. Neither Derrick nor the heads were in the living room. They enter the kitchen. On the breakfast bar is Mom’s monopoly board with Barbie heads glued to the properties like macabre hotels. Derrick is nowhere.
Theresa asks, “Why did he pull out all of Shakira’s hair?”
Their parents suddenly open the front door. Theresa stomps over to the bar, grabs the monopoly board, and swings it to face her parents. Neither would have been surprised if little Tess’ head slowly rotated 360 degrees right then and there.
“There will be no Charmonium in this house. Ever.” Theresa shakes the board hard and none of the heads fall off.