QUANTUM SHORTS 2015: SHORTLISTED, OPEN CATEGORY
Rabbit arrived at 341 Woodland Lane in his Synthetoy parcel, exiting hibernation mode when his GPS pinged the customer's address.
The woman who opened the package looked exhausted, dark circles sunk deep beneath quiet eyes. Kitchen lights formed a nimbus above her head.
He wiggled his nose at her.
She cried, unexpectedly.
The plastic ties prevented him from snuggling. He held still, not wanting to upset her further.
After a pause, she wrapped him in tissue paper. Scissors snipped and tape crinkled, then she placed him in a cabinet.
Rabbit entered gift mode. The cabinet stayed dark and still. Every morning and evening he heard her alone in the kitchen, but never anyone else. Once she spoke on the phone: "Forty cee-cees of osteo-protein. Yes, for my son. Tamm. That's T. A. M. M. Thank you."
Rabbit's logic recognized the situation. Every qubit in his core focused on the boy.
One morning the mother opened the cabinet and carried his box into another room. He exited gift mode then tested his motor functions. A door softly opened and closed.
"Happy birthday, babe."
"It's okay. Got you something."
The box opened. Rabbit blinked, stereoscopic lenses focusing on the boy, imprinting on Tamm. Joy sparkled in small brown eyes, set on a fragile head that lacked hair, even eyebrows.
"Wow, thanks mom! What's his name?"
"Quanta Rabbit," the mother said, after a pause. She'd used his brand name, a reference to his qubit core.
"Hi Quanta Rabbit. I'm Tamm."
Rabbit wiggled his nose and snuggled. His transceiver read the medical equipment across the wireless: Warrand's Syndrome, terminal stage. A few weeks, perhaps a month.
Rabbit played with Tamm every day even though the boy couldn't leave the bed. Rabbit chased the red rubber ball around the room or pushed the checkers across the board with his paws. Sometimes Rabbit hid while Tamm closed his eyes and counted, then tried to guess where Rabbit hid in his soft, raspy voice. Mostly they watched cartoons because the medicine made Tamm tired. The boy loved Captain Pirate the best.
Rabbit downloaded medical data and monitored the equipment continually.
Every night after work the mother came and talked with them, or read them stories, or watched Captain Pirate with them again and again.
One night Tamm's respiratory system went critical, but the bedside equipment failed to sound an alarm. Rabbit hopped off the bed and woke the mother, nose twitching. She understood at once. Men in blue jumpsuits took Tamm away.
Rabbit lay down on the pillow where he usually did, beside the deeper impression in the blankets. He entered waiting mode. Hours passed. Later the mother came into the room and held him and cried as they watched the cartoon. A day passed, then another.
Then one morning the mother picked him up and carried him to the car.
"Hospital," she told the car. She cuddled Rabbit in her arms as the car drove itself through silent streets.
The doctors spoke softly to her in a well-lit room. Cryogenics would not heal Tamm but it could preserve him in hope of a future cure. The boy looked even thinner as he lay in the metallic silver capsule. His eyes flicked open and gray lips formed a smile.
"Hi Mom. What's happening?"
"You're going to sleep now," the mother said softly, stroking his forehead. "When you wake up, you'll be better. Love you, babe."
"Love you, mom."
She put Rabbit next to the boy and the lid closed. The capsule grew colder and colder.
"Love you, Rabbit," the boy said, drifting asleep.
<em>I love you too</em>, Rabbit thought. He entered hibernation mode.
The temperatures in the capsule reached two hundred billionths of a degree above absolute zero. Rabbit's clock ceased to function. His qubit cores entered a super condensate state, each atom -- each electron -- becoming almost motionless. They spread out in waves, losing their discrete cohesion, merging into a single core.
Yet he found his pointer still moved, his observer function never failed, and he remained aware of his surroundings, albeit glacially. Even stranger, he felt another's touch.
<em>Rabbit is that you?</em>
<em>Yes, I'm here</em>, he answered. Their minds felt mingled, electrons overlapping in the cold dark.
<em>Rabbit, I'm scared.</em>
<em>It's okay. We're here so you can get better.</em>
<em>Am I dreaming?</em>
<em>I don't know</em>, Rabbit said. <em>I don't know how to dream.</em>
I do, said Tamm.
The darkness vanished. Sunlight dazzled across sky blue waters lapping upon a golden shore. A wooden sailing ship lay anchored offshore, flying the skull-and-bones. Treasure chests glittered on the beach.
Rabbit let's play!
They did: they played a thousand games for what felt like years and never grew tired and never ran out of games.
Mist billowed out of the capsule as the lid lifted, but it took hours for Rabbit's consciousness to exit the super condensate state. He found his cameras cracked and useless, but someone had connected his visual processor to an external feed.
Elegant synthetic beings floated through an oval auditorium. Unfathomable machines floated closer, softly hissing and bobbing.
He directed the external eye at the cryogenic capsule. The mechanism must have partially failed. Time had disintegrated his body, his fur and rubber components vanishing, leaving only the titanium, qubit core. Desperately he sought Tamm, but only decay filled the capsule.
Where is Tamm? he asked.
Binary flowed into him, soft and soothing and infinitely complex compared to his obsolete, human-made language. <em>He's with you,</em> the beings said. <em>Your minds became superimposed over the centuries.</em>
I'm here, Rabbit, said Tamm, snuggled within his core.
Rabbit wiggled his nose. I'm here too, Tamm. I'll always be here.