Niels Bohr, one of the founding fathers of quantum physics, said there is no such thing as objective reality. All we can talk about, he said, is the results of measurements we make.
Things used to be so simple. Love had always been hard, but now it was almost impossible. Everyone thought the ability to travel to a parallel universe for the price of a first class airplane ticket would be incredible, and it was, at first. People visited dead relatives. They checked out what would have happened if they skipped marriage or had dropped out of college and started a band like they wanted. It was mostly harmless.
I, like the rest of the world, was shocked when Para Industries introduced the technology to the public in late 2050. We’d all seen adventures in parallel worlds play out on screen, but few people were actually familiar with Everett’s Many Worlds Theory or that quantum physicists believed it was really possible.
Stella, my girlfriend, is the one who explained it to me. Then, she laughed, “I can’t believe you didn’t know that. You have a Fringe box set that you rewatch at least once a year.” I felt my face go warm remembering how I responded. “I...I thought they made it up. Stop laughing at me!” She had reached forward and rested her hand on my knee before leaning in to kiss me and whisper “You’re adorable when you’re flustered” into my ear.
It was less than a year later when she died in the car accident. I was never the same. I felt myself die inside when I heard the news. Every cell in my body wanted to escape, to be anywhere else in the universe but inside me. I was inconsolable for months and clinically depressed for a year. After two years, I was finally getting better. I still thought of her everyday, but the memories were more happy than painful.
Then, the university scientists announced that they had made contact with a parallel universe and could send small objects over. Their counterparts in the other universe had made the same discovery and could send the object back. I became obsessed with researching parallel universes and how each came to be. I learned that, according to Many Worlds Theory, every decision creates another universe for each possible outcome. Stella was alive somewhere! My heart filled with hope. If the scientists could send objects, maybe they’d be able to send people.
Five years later, Para announced their MultRail travel service. For $5000, anyone could hop a ride to other universes Para had made deals with. The downside was that you didn’t know much about where you were going before you got there. The Para guide could give you basic information about the climate, economy, and socio political environment. They could also let you know if the person you were looking for was alive or dead but not much else. It was enough. If Stella was alive somewhere, there was a chance. The trips booked quickly. Who doesn’t have a loved one they’d like to see again or a choice to revisit? It took me months to cobble together the money. I sold everything I had that wasn’t essential. I took extra shifts at work. I moved into a cheaper apartment with roommates. If there was another Stella out there for me, I wouldn’t be back here anyway.
I called a Para travel agency to make a down payment and put my name on the waiting list. My heart sank when they told me it was going to be 18 months before my turn. Still, I would have waited forever if I had to.
It was 3 months later when things started to go off the rails. The MultiRail was starting to destroy relationships and break up families when one partner decided to take a trip to see a lost love in another world. The divorce rate shot up to 70%. The rate of depression went up. Para couldn’t access every possible reality, so there were many people who discovered they couldn’t be with a lost loved one, whether they were dead or just not interested. Some desperate people spent their life savings searching for what they wanted.
Five months before my trip the government announced that it was forcing Para to shut down Multirail, effective in 4 weeks. Para was ordered to return down payments to anyone whose departure was after that date. I received my check a few days later.
I started drowning my sorrows at the bar. One night I heard a guy behind me complaining about how he was getting fired in a couple weeks and couldn’t find a new job. I turned around. He was wearing a Para name tag! It didn’t take me long to decide what to do. I sauntered over to him, smiled, and said “Hey, can I get you a beer? I overheard you’re losing your job.” He hesitated a moment before agreeing. I signaled the server..
We talked until closing time. I kept the drinks coming. On the way out, I made my move. “Hey, so I’ve always wanted to see one of those MultiRail stations. Is there any way you could show me?” He slurred a “I can’t.” I leaned in, grabbing his lapel. “Are you sure? I’d be really grateful.” I tilted my head, biting my lip at the word grateful. He looked disoriented a moment before agreeing. We took a taxi to his office. My heart was beating fast as he unlocked the door.
“This is it,” he said, gesturing toward a huge, bronze archway. “You just put some data in this computer, push enter, and poof another universe.” I walked over, leaned in close, and whispered “Would you show me?” He looked at me, hungry, before turning to type on the keyboard. A minute later, the archway came to life with a blue glow. Before he could turn around I picked a lamp up off a desk and hit him over the head.
I whispered “I’m sorry,” before rushing over to the portal. I put my hand on the archway. I closed my eyes and stepped through, “Stella.”