Quantum Shorts 2013 – Entangled Up

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In October 2013 Chris entered what would become one of his first published pieces to the Quantum Shorts competition – a contest he discovered while reading an issue of the Scientific American. As noted on the 2013 website: “This competition is an initiative of the Centre for Quantum Technologies (CQT) at the National University of Singapore. CQT brings together quantum physicists and computer scientists to explore the quantum nature of reality and quantum possibilities in technology. Outreach and education are part of its mission.” Each year they host a new shorts competition, and they are definitely worth checking out. You can read Chris’ entry directly from their site here. We have also included it (along with screenshots from the listing) below in case that site is ever closed.

Entangled Up
 
            People think I’m a prodigy.  I’m eleven, and I can make things inexplicably disappear.  But it’s not a mentalist trick like folks think.  Somehow, I can manipulate the fabric of reality.
            So far, I’ve managed to make cards and coins disappear, a magician’s act that’s fun at family get-togethers.  And one time I eliminated my sister’s Ice Age DVD.  (She made me watch it over and over…Geez!).  But last week was my best act yet.  I made my neighbor’s dog, Killer, vanish.  Killer was a Chihuahua.   He looked like a big turd with feet, but had the temperament of a T-rex.  He bit everybody.  The day he bit me was his last day in this dimension.
            Bite.
            Ouch!
            Poof!
            Gone went the killer turd.
            That particular feat gave me more confidence.  Unfortunately, I soon learned that confidence can be fleeting.
 
                                                                        ***
 
            Roger was a bully.  Mean.  He’s HUGE, with tattoos and everything.  He did time for assault.  Now he’s out and picking on guys half his size.  My friend Pete wasn’t scared of him.  If you ask me, Pete’s too stupid to be scared.  Stupid or not, he’s my friend.  And friends look out for each other, right?
            “I’m not afraid of him,” Pete said as we walked to the ball park.  The setting sun made our shadows look like giants, an illusion I wish I knew how to use to our advantage.
            “You should be,” I said.  “Roger is dangerous.  If you fight him, he’ll kill you.  I know it.”
            “You don’t know it,” he argued.  “My dad says win or lose, I’ll get his respect.  He’ll leave me alone.”
            Seeing I couldn’t win, I attempted to make my legs quit shaking, focus on what I had to do.
            The baseball park was empty except for two guys in the bleachers smoking cigarettes.  They stood, dropping their smokes as we approached.
            “Come for your whoopin’, Pete?” Roger said.
            “This the guy?”  Roger’s friend was as big and scary looking as Roger.
            Roger gestured, I know, right?  “I’ll kill him, Tray.”
            Uh-oh.  My legs betrayed me, shaking visibly.
            Pete scowled, then held his fists up toward Roger.
            Roger towered over him.  He shoved Pete hard, following with a haymaker punch.
            Crack!
            The blow knocked my friend to the ground, groaning, eyes rolling wildly.  He had no chance to move before Roger pounced on top and started pounding away.
            Ohmygodohmygod…He’s killing him!
            Courage.  Focus, man…
            I closed my eyes, breathed, trying to ignore the sounds of Pete’s face being pulverized.  I pictured the neurons in my head, billions of nerve cells firing electromagnetic forces at blinding speed.  My brain wasn’t like yours.  Shoot, it may not even be human.  It emitted an energy field that linked to and influenced other forces.  I’ve studied tons of science trying to figure out what’s, uh, wrong with me, determining I have control over strong nuclear forces, the cohesion of fundamental particles like electrons and quarks.  I’m proof that M-theory isn’t just a “theory.”  It’s REAL.  There are other dimensions.  And they curl up on a scale so small that they’re invisible.  My, um, ability, dismantles the electromagnetic bonds of molecules, breaking them up into smaller components – fermions – and dissipates them into the invisible dimensions.
            But, I now realized, I couldn’t do it when terrified.
            “Get him, Roger!” Tray cheered.
            Smack!  Smack!
            I peeked at the fight.  Pete’s face was a bloody mess.  And Roger just kept pounding away, grim, evil.  Intent.
            Come on.  Come on!  My face heated for a moment, then cooled.  I trembled.  I couldn’t do it.  “Crap,” I muttered shakily.
            Opening my eyes, I took a breath for resolve, crouched, gave a warbling yell and ran at Roger.  My terror-stricken legs refused to cooperate.  My skinny body rammed into Roger’s beefy shoulder and bounced off comically.  I crumpled, breath gone, black spots swirling sickeningly.
            “Ha!”  Tray pointed and laughed.
            Smack!  Smack!
            Pete hadn’t made a sound or move since the first punch.  He was being murdered.  If he lived, he would have brain damage.  I had to do something!
            “Get up,” Tray growled.  He grabbed my shirt, tearing it nearly in half.
            “Hey!  My Grandma gave me that!”
            He kicked me.  “Ha!”
            Grunting, I looked at my ruined tee.  Grandma gave it to me for Christmas, just before she died.  It was the only thing I had…
            Rage replaced the fear.  Suddenly, my trembling turned into vibrating, the sensation enveloping my limbs, empowering them, tinting my vision scarlet.  Face heated, head pulsing, I had a focus like never before.  I looked at Tray, his stupid grinning bully face, and made it disappear.  His entire head just vanished, neck pulled into a long tapered shape.  I concentrated harder.  Tray’s body bucked, spasming, radiating glittering photons, the particles of his being dissolving to pass through the quantum event, reality’s fabric rippling like a reflective lake.
            “Get him, Tray!  Get Pete!” Roger looked around.  “Tray?”
            “He’s gone.”  My voice was alien.
            Roger stood, expression stunned.  He looked beyond ignorant, glancing around wildly, fists wet with my friend’s blood.  He realized something weird just happened.  The unknown frightened him.  “Where’s Tray?” he demanded.
            “Entangled,” I growled.  “Where all bullies should go.”
            Baring his teeth, he ran at me.
            I bared mine in return, head emitting dizzying heat, focusing  on Roger’s legs.  His run abruptly faltered, Nikes vanishing – poof!  His face hit the ground hard, grunt expelling loudly.  He looked back at his missing feet and screamed.  I concentrated.  His legs elongated.  He slid along the grass, glowing eerily, molecules breaking apart, quantum vacuum sucking faster…
            I blinked.
            He was gone.
            Exhausted, I collapsed, breathing raggedly.
            Minutes later, I crawled over to Pete.  He moaned, opened a swollen eye.  “…happened?” he croaked.
            I sighed.  “You got your respect.”
            “Where…They?”
            I smiled, fingering my torn shirt.  “They got entangled up.”


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