We used to believe light was a wave, then we discovered it had the properties of a particle that we call a photon. Now we know it, like all elementary quantum objects, is both a wave and a particle!
** QUANTUM SHORTS 2021/2022: SHORTLISTED
“Freeze if you value your life. Turn around slowly.”
Evan’s hand hesitated on the doorknob and did as he was told. Sarah, his wife looked down at him from the top of the staircase. But this wasn’t his wife. This Sarah belonged in the parallel world he had jumped into an hour ago.
“Did you really think you could escape Chloe’s birthday mayhem today? You clearly picked up the cake in record time. Is it in the kitchen?” Sarah said coming down the stairs, frowning as she looked at Evan.
“Sweetheart, something the matter?”
“No. n-nothing. I for..forgot,” stammered Evan. He had pushed his daughter’s birthday out of his mind to cope with her death two years ago. Chloe, his beloved baby was alive here. His eyes darted around hoping to catch a glimpse of her.
“What! You forgot the cake! It’s that science committee you head isn’t it,” Sarah said in exasperation, softening after a long look at Evan.
“How did I not notice all the weight you’ve lost?” she said, caressing Evan’s cheek and kissing him.
Evan recoiled, trying to ignore the hurt quizzical look on her face.
“I’ll get the cake luv. Back in a jiff.”
Evan cringed as he left, thinking of the number one rule he had broken. Avoid contact or risk altering this world.
He hadn’t found the information on new viral mutations or on vaccine efficacy at the house. Hoping to find it at the hospital, he arrived as inconspicuously as possible. The weekend staff would be busy in A&E or on the wards, so the offices would be quiet. It took him ten minutes to find the data. He tapped his watch and said,
The crackling noise and vertigo were momentary and after a second of discomfort, he was back in his world.
His colleagues from the science committee stood anxiously awaiting Evan’s report.
“Their world doesn’t have the rho variant. Looks like they were able to eradicate the virus during the delta wave last year by combining a triple dose regimen of mRNA with a mixed attenuated recombinant vaccine. They were able to achieve herd immunity with a 93% vaccination rate. Here’s their literature on vaccine development. Lawrence, can you take over while I go home to see how my wife is doing? It was our daughter’s birthday.”
Evan sat at the edge of the bed he shared with Sarah, gazing at her while she slept. It had been six months since he travelled to the other world, but it seemed a lifetime ago. The other Sarah reminded him of the vibrant vigorous woman his wife had been. But the hardships of the past few years had left their scars. The dark circles under her eyes were permanent sentinels of her suffering. Awake, her gaze was unfocussed like a blank canvas awaiting artistic inspiration.
It seemed like a betrayal to this Sarah at the excitement he felt of possibly seeing the other Sarah, but he needed to go back to find a sample of the other world’s vaccine. His team had been hopeful of finding answers to halt the mutations and save this world. The research he had brought back had produced a mixed vaccine but it hadn’t the same effect here. Evan needed to compare the vaccines to determine if the poor efficacy was due to the worlds’ different mutations or if the two vaccine compositions differed. If unsuccessful, their projections estimated human extinction in less than twenty-four months. Evan gave Sarah a light kiss so not to wake her and left.
The ease obtaining the vaccine in the other world surprised Evan. The research lab was deserted. All the guards were at the A&E entrance on an unusually busy weeknight . Evan tried to convince himself to return to his world, but the temptation of seeing his girls was too much. It was late, so the other Evan and Sarah were likely asleep. It would be easy to sneak into the house and catch a glimpse of them.
Shaking the uneasy feeling in his stomach, Evan climbed the staircase in the chilly house to Chloe’s room. At eight, Chloe was a miniature of Sarah. Evan resisted the urge to kiss her cheek. Just then Chloe stirred.
“Daddy? I want Mummy.”
“Shhh. Go to sleep. I’ll get Mummy.”
Evan entered the master bedroom. He would take a last look at the Sarah of his past. He shivered in the cold, dark room and looked at the empty bed.
Where was everyone? Chloe left alone?
Questions flooded his mind until he saw his other self, deep furrows cut in his brow, curled asleep in the wingback chair. The empty Johnnie Walker next to the chair along with a crumpled letter told the story. The letter was written by the Evan in this world, begging Sarah to return. Sarah had died three months ago.
Evan needed to know what had happened. A search on the computer in the study revealed that the Coronavirus had returned. Millions were sick because the vaccines weren’t working. A new variant had arrived out of nowhere. The rho variant was more virulent than any of the previous mutations and looked to have originated in this part of England. Suspicion was directed at Dr. Evan Stewart’s lab whose wife had been the first to contract the disease and die.
Evan staggered back. Instead of finding a cure, he had infected this world.
Back in his world, Evan stared at the drink in his hand. The team had begged him to go to another world, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t live with the possibility of killing another world, another Sarah. As long as he stayed here, even the world he had left could still be alive. Thinking back, he wondered how Covid-21 had started here. It too had seemed to come out of nowhere.
Evan murmured to himself, “It’s a lot to think about.”